Whether it is the ritual of summer reading as a kid or trips to the beach as an adult, I love the abundance of down time in the summer and eagerly look to fill it with great reads. Working in higher education, the pace of time literally slows down, allowing for the addition of many adventurous and challenging books that would otherwise be difficult to get to. For me, summer is also a great time for me to depart from my traditional list of candidates and read some contemporary fiction and timely best-sellers.
To that end, here is my ambitious list of candidates for summer. I’d love to hear about yours in the comments below and as always, please share your suggestions!
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
I’m starting summer off with a big one that’s been on my list for the last year. This towering work of fiction from Jonathan Franzen for me epitomizes the unique reading opportunity that summer presents: to get deep into a great American novel that explores heady themes of freedom, happiness, and the nature of life.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I know I’m going to need a break after Freedom and I can’t think of a better change of pace than Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants. I’m a fan of improv comedy, SNL, and Fey’s 30 Rock and can’t wait to learn more about her dramatic rise to the upper echelon of the comedy ranks. A good laugh never hurts either.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Ever since reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, I’ve fallen in love with historical fiction as a vehicle for history and biography books. I’m also a huge fan of Egyptology, which makes Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life a perfect fit. Although I’ve never seen Elizabeth Taylor’s 1963 interpretation of the iconic figure, I know enough to assume that we’ve gotten her wrong over the years, which is why I’m looking forward to Schiff’s extensive research and powerful storytelling to help dispel some of the propaganda and present Cleopatra in her true light.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
For as much as I love spy movies (James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan), I’ve never read one of the original paperbacks. I’m starting off with Ian Fleming’s original Bond story, Casino Royale. It’s one of my favorite Bond movies and I love Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the iconic spy.
The Greater Journey by David McCullough
Two of my favorites in life (Paris & David McCullough) collide with McCullough’s latest book about the American artists and scientists who studied in Paris in the 19th century. I devoured 1776 and The Path Between the Seas and can’t wait to get to this one. What a fun way to travel through the historic streets of Paris as well as some of history’s best scientists and artists.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I turned 30 this week and I’m already learning that getting older and growing up isn’t as easy as it I thought it would be. Egan’s newest novel uses some creative storytelling and multiple narratives to drive this message home in what I think will be a timely and engaging read for me.
In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson
Speaking of Larson, he’s at it again, this time with the story of William Dodd, the first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Dodd and his family bear witness to Hitler’s dramatic rise to power in the 1930s in what will no doubt be an intriguing read.
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
Oh why not. After that much Hitler, you’d need a break too.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Rebecca Skloot’s latest is being distributed to all incoming Tulane freshman this year and I thought I would join in on the fun. I first heard about Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman with cervical cancer whose cells were used without her knowledge for research on NPR last month. The book explores some great themes that I know will interest our students and I’m excited to participate in the discussions that will be happening on campus this upcoming fall semester.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This one was recently recommended to me by a friend and based on what I’ve read about it, I’m looking forward to it. As you can see by now, I like to bounce between fiction and non-fiction in the summer. It keeps things fresh and keeps me reading.
The Social Animal by David Brooks
As I have mentioned throughout this blog, I love the exploration of ideas. While I don’t often agree with Brooks, I find his writing inviting and intriguing at times. As a fellow lover of ideas, I’m looking forward to finishing the summer off with this engaging read (if I have the staying power to get through all of this!).