Passion for the written word runs deep at Swarthmore. But in the midst of a busy school year, there isn’t always time to reflect on your favorite novel, or learn about that compelling work of nonfiction your colleague just finished reading.
That’s why the annual summer reading recommendations list has become a beloved tradition at Swarthmore. Now in its 10th year, the list captures suggestions from faculty and staff, including both a favorite recent read from the past year and a book they plan on reading over the summer.
“With the summer reading list, I feel like I'm always getting a recommendation from a trusted friend, even if it's from someone on campus I haven't met yet,” shares resources and scholarly communications specialist Maria Aghazarian, who currently compiles the list. “It gives us a little peek into folks' lives outside of work, and is a nice topic of conversation for the next time you see someone.”
Over the last two years, the list has been dedicated in memory of science librarian and “ultimate book lover” Meg Spencer. For seven years, Spencer organized a web page of reading suggestions from Swarthmore faculty and staff.
“Meg believed in connecting every book to its reader,” remembers Pam Harris, associate college librarian for research and instruction. "She was amazing to behold on a quest for books!” While she passed away in 2015, her legacy of encouraging others to share in the joy of reading lives on.
You can find some selections from this summer’s list below. Be sure to check out the the full list, as well as lists from past years.
Maria Aghazarian, McCabe Library: Transmetropolitan series by Warren Ellis
"Don't make the same mistake I did—do not try to read this all in one sitting, because you will miss it once you're done. With incredibly detailed art and masterful worldbuilding, Ellis creates a bizarre, all-too-believable futuristic world with an eerie political climate. At the center of it is gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem, who would just like people to think for themselves for once, thank you very much."
Planning to read: Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt
Jessica Brangiel, McCabe Library: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
"'I know now that what is tragic isn't the moment. It's the memory.' And with that Woodson sets the tone for one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. August has returned home to Brooklyn for her father's funeral but the tale takes the reader back to the 1970s as August recounts the death of her mother and what it was like to come of age in such a turbulent time for both Brooklyn and our country. This 2018 One Book, One Philadelphia selection is the epitome of a book where every sentence matters and there is not one word too many or too few."
Planning to read: 11/22/63 by Stephen King, because nothing is better than Stephen King in the summer.
Dan Darkow, Campus & Community Store: The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
"This is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt's journey down uncharted waters of the Amazon River after his presidency. It was fascinating to read a piece of history that I never knew before. You will be surprised with how much adversity he and the others in his party had to go through."
Planning to read: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. I heard this was a great book so I am giving it a shot!
Scott Gilbert, Department of Biology: The Overstory by Richard Powers
"When Ghosh claimed that the novel form could not encompass global climate change, he hadn't figured on this book. Enormous in scope, character development, and philosophical interest, this riveting book gets the science right and tells an incredible story."
Planning to read: The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum
Nikki Senecal, College Advancement: Educated by Tara Westover
"Westover earns a Ph.D. after a lifetime of being held out of the educational system by her evangelical Mormon parents. (She doesn't even have a birth certificate until she is 10.) It reminded me of Glass Castle, but with the focus on education. Here she tells the tale of how she grew up and got herself to college and beyond. I continued to think about this book long after I put it down."
Planning to read: Sharp:The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean
William Turpin, Department of Classics: The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese '94
"I read this because it's a first novel by a former student and we're hoping to get to together, but I genuinely loved it. It's informative, timely, and enriching, but also a great story artfully told, so you read it in part because you want to know how it turns out. It's set in early post-Civil War Boston and Louisiana and combines politics, personal relationships, and (sort of) mysticism in a way that I found genuinely satisfying and even profound, and not just because of the personal connection."
Planning to read: Reconstruction, America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner (recommended in Jon Varese's author's note).
Be sure to check out the the full list, as well as lists from past years.