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Swarthmore Staff, Faculty Recommend 6+ Books to Read This Summer

Person's hand turns pages of a book on a table

Now in its 12th year, the summer reading guide compiled by the Swarthmore College Libraries is more valuable than ever as vacations and other outdoor activities have been put on hold due to the global pandemic. 

Dedicated in memory of science librarian and “ultimate book lover” Meg Spencer, the list offers suggestions from faculty and staff from across the College, including both a favorite title from the past year and a book they plan on reading this summer.

Read on for a sampling of personal selections from this summer’s list, and be sure to check out the full list for this year as well as lists from past years. With more than 300 recommendations in all, there is truly something for everyone.

Tristan AlstonLorin Jackson, McCabe Library: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Bechdel is a genius, pure and simple. She has a unique gift of capturing sophisticated human emotion with brevity, grace, and creativity in her comics. Also highly recommend this book for anyone interested in LGBTQ+ identity or for members of the LGBTQ community.

Planning to read: Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha


Samantha BarnesRoderick Wolfson, Capital Planning & Project Management: The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish [request it from the public library]

Here is a good novel for academics. This is the story of a senior history scholar and her graduate student discovering documents from 17th-century Jews in London. It also tells the 17th-century story of the London rabbi and his scribe who were in correspondence with Spinoza and other contemporary intellectuals.

Planning to read: Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are by John Kaag [request it from the public library]


Anuk DeSilvaAmanda Whitbred, Communications: Long Bright River by Liz Moore [also available as an e-book]

This book is amazing. It’s well-written; it deals with a number of complex issues including addiction, family, and love; and it’s set in Philadelphia. An interesting perspective on the city’s heroin epidemic.

Planning to read: The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss, in honor of 100 years of women’s suffrage!


Fiorenza Herrera DiazSteve Wang, Mathematics: Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation by Elaine Gould

Need to notate harp pedal changes or marimba rolls? Here’s 700 pages on how to typeset any kind of music for any instrument.

Planning to read: Barefoot Pilgrimage by Andrea Corr, a memoir by the Irish singer and actress.


Sonia Linares ​Emily Higgs, Friends Historical Library: Monstress by Marjorie Liu

This is an incredible epic fantasy comics series, available in single issues and collected editions, inspired by 20th-century Asia with a magic matriarchal twist. The art and story are both top-notch and will appeal beyond comics lovers to fantasy readers and everyone looking for something a little different.

Planning to read: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin 


Sierra SweeneyRex Hughes, McCabe Library:  Future Noir Revised & Updated Edition: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon

I enjoyed the narrative approach to this film documentary within a book, which provides details from his on-set reports as well as insight into the novel that inspired the film, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? There are some great set photos throughout the book and a few interview transcripts with Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Sean Young, and Rutger Hauer.

Planning to read: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four edited by Neil Clarke

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