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What We’re Reading in Summer 2024: Book Suggestions from Staff, Faculty, and Students

Person reads on white Adirondack chair on Parrish Beach

For the 16th consecutive year, the Swarthmore Libraries released its list of summer reading recommendations from staff, faculty, and students. Dedicated in memory of science librarian and “ultimate book lover” Meg Spencer, who passed away in 2015, the list includes personal accounts of Swarthmoreans’ favorite titles, with an array of authors, eras, and genres.

“The summer reading list is a great emblem of our community — diverse, engaged, and open-minded,” says Research & Instruction Outreach Librarian Abigail Weil of this year’s 15 recommendations.

“Summer is a chance to devote time to pleasure reading and to try something new,” she adds.“Pick up a book by a debut author or venture into a genre you don’t typically read. One thing I love about the Swarthmore summer reading list is, you see that fun means something different to everyone!” 

Read on for more selections from this summer’s list, and be sure to check out the full list and those of previous years. With over 350 recommendations in all, there is truly something for everyone — not unlike the offerings and opportunities that abound in libraries.

Below is a sample of 10 recommendations from the community:

Sibelan ForresterSibelan Forrester, Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages, Russian

Reading: The Boy From Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

“I recommend a fun thriller that has a bunch of Ukrainian history and culture sprinkled in: The Boy From Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach. Extra fun that the main character is a very savvy (and of course Ukrainian American) woman. The downside of the book is that it can't be read at bedtime: it makes your heart pound with all the cliff-hanging moments.”

Planning to read: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle [request from Delco Public Library]

Joey LuknerJoey Lukner ’24, a Computer Science Major from Philadelphia

Reading: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

“The writing style is unlike anything I’d ever read before and the plot is a beautiful, magical realism blend.”

Planning to read: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Liz DericksonLiz Derickson ’01, Associate Dean of Academic Success

Reading: Haben: The Deaf-Blind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma [request from Delco Public Library]

“What does it mean to be a deaf-blind woman navigating different educational institutions and cultural communities? What role do different relationships, tools, barriers, and opportunities play? In the memoir, Haben Girma describes how her multiple identities shaped her life's path toward becoming a disability rights advocate.”

Planning to read: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter [request from the public library]

Moriel Rothman-ZecherMoriel Rothman-Zecher, Visiting Assistant Professor of English Literature

Reading: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“I loved this book the first time I read it, and rereading this book for the second time, I encountered yet another layer of depth, wisdom and insight. A stunning novel about spiritual life, I cannot recommend this one highly enough.”

Planning to read: Other Names for Love by Taymour Soomro

Hannah BreithauptHannah Breithaupt ’26, a Sociology & Anthropology and Peace Education Special Major from Hanover, Pa.

Reading: Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen  [request from Delco Public Library]

“This book is perfect for queer reality TV fans who are into the absurd or grotesque. It’s so funny and weird and unhinged and that’s what made it so perfect!”

Planning to read: Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang  [request from Delco Public Library]

Jeff OasterJeff Oaster, Associate Director, Classroom & Conferencing Technologies

Reading: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

“Award-winning books about some time-traveling historians who get stuck in London during The Blitz in World War II. You know you're reading a good book when the dedication (in All Clear) moves you to tears. They've been read multiple times in the Oaster household.

Karoline HickeKarolina Hicke, Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Languages & Literatures, German

Reading: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a powerful memoir that recounts Clemantine's harrowing escape from the Rwandan genocide, her arduous years as a refugee, and her challenging transition to life in America. Through raw and evocative storytelling, Clemantine shares a narrative of resilience and hope in the face of unimaginable hardship.”

Planning to read: The Empusium: A Health Resort Horror Story by Olga Tokarczuk

Abraham PorschetAbraham Porschet ’25, a Computer Science and Mathematics Major from Geneva, N.Y.

Reading: The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

“In a tale about an imaginary group of poets on a possibly meaningless quest that leads them into the desert, Bolaño plays with multiple inventive narrative styles and is able to balance serious commentary on art, politics, and life with a compulsively readable mix of grit, comedy, and action. The Spanish is incredibly colloquial and lively, and the English translation is able to preserve it nearly perfectly.”

Planning to read: 10:04 by Ben Lerner

Eva NahassEva Nahass ’24, an Honors Theater and English Literature Major from Clifton, N.J.

Reading: The Prospects by K.T. Hoffman 

“Five out of five stars. I absolutely adored the writing style and the depths that all of the main characters had. Additionally, I was very satisfied by the arc of the plot.”

Planning to read: Dear Wendy by Ann Zhao

Anthony WeedAnthony Weed, Academic Web Developer

Currently reading: Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott

“A shorter book written in the 1880s about a fictional two-dimensional world inhabited by geometric figures (like lines, squares, triangles) called flatlanders, Flatland forces you to think deeper about the existence of multiple dimensions, and does so in a clear and concise way. (You don't have to be a physicist to understand it). I'd recommend this to anyone interested in physics and science fiction. It's a pretty quick read.”

Planning to read: Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

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