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Student Book Picks! 2020 (SC)

Student library worker book recommendations

Photograph of plants, coffee and notebook. Title reads "Swarthmore Student Worker Book Picks"

Lelosa Aimufua

For the Children?: Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State by Erica Meiners

I love this book. I think it wonderfully outlines the United State's history of racism and its affect on Black children throughout time.

Want to Read: The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

Jissel Becerra Reyes

John Brown by W.E.B. DuBois

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in digging into the mythologies behind revolutionary figures. The book dives into abolitionist John Brown's economic mishaps, his religious fervor, and his private meetings with Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists in the time leading up to his raid on Harper's Ferry. This book is beautiful in its honest portrayal of the controversial John Brown, but it's made even more interesting by Du Bois' speculations and reimagination. There is a reason Du Bois considers this his most incredible work!

Want to Read: Libra by Don DeLillo

Karina Cooper

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

This book tells the story of the female "human computers" employed at the Harvard Observatory in the late 19th century who made amazing astronomical discoveries and created the classifications system of stars we still use today. As someone who has been studying astronomy the past several years, reading the story of these amazing women was inspiring and it gave me a greater appreciation for the history of astronomy research and my astronomy classes. This book is a great read and I highly recommend it, no prior knowledge of astronomy required. Like Hidden Figures, The Glass Universe reveals the hidden history of women who paved the way in a field dominated by men and whose contributions deserve to be acknowledged.

Want to Read: The Odyssey of Homer

Miles Harris

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Rothfuss's world is one of the most detailed within the fantasy genre. His writing rivals that of Martin or Tolkien. Best fantasy book, and my favorite book series.

Want to Read: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Stephanie Lin

When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This book has giving me new insights into what it means to provide patient care, as a physician but also as a patient. It shows the the physician-patient dynamic and how one individual’s illness can affect the people around them. It taught me to be sensitive, to be cognizant of everyone’s experiences. It also taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and not have the power over your body. To live life meaningfully.

Want to Read: The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Alliyah Lusuegro

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

I was introduced to this book during my first semester at Swarthmore and it is the reason I pursued a minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies. It is also one of my favorite books of all time. I absolutely love Audre Lorde's honest prose and the stories of this biomythography, crossing lines between what's real and what's "made up." Real or not, as readers, we take in the experience fully.

Want to Read: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

Vaughn Parts

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

I thought this book was a moving story about maintaining dignity despite injustice. It's also a good reminder of the importance and power of education.

Want to Read: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Alejandra Sandoval

The Dark Bride: A Novel by Laura Restrepo

This book adds perspective to what it means to be a woman, a friend, a partner, and family in a community where prostitution is the main source of income. I would recommend this book if you want to enter a magical world, where the characters are nothing, but complicated.

Want to Read: Rebel (Legend Series) by Marie Lu 

Sydnie Schwarz

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

An empathetic ethnography about housing.

Want to Read: The Art of Defiance: Graffiti, Politics, and the Reimagined City in Philadelphia

Naja Smith

La Serrana del la Vera (The Mountain Girl of La Vera) by Luis Vélez de Guevara

I read this book for a class this semester and was amazed by the rawness of its words and the portrayal of its characters. For a play that was published a few centuries ago, it is all the more relevant in today's society as it explores gender dynamics, sexuality and the consequence of pushing back against socially constructed roles assigned at birth. A very interesting read!

Want to Read: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Shayla Smith

Meridian by Alice Walker

I found this novel in a used bookstore in Philly while looking for The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I had never heard of Meridian before and was so intrigued. The main character and Walker's writing style really blew me away. Meridian changed my life and I sometimes wonder if the novel found me instead of the other way around.

Want to Read:  Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery by bell hooks

Phoebe Whiteside

La voz dormida by Chacón, Dulce

I read this novel, which details the lives and voices of women imprisoned for working against fascism during the Spanish Civil War, for Professor Guardiola's course on memory and identity in Spanish postwar literature. The book, and others on that syllabus, sparked my lasting interest in the politics of memory in Spain. Chacón's novel is notable for its historical authenticity as a fictionalization of real testimonies and for its emotional power as a story of resistance.

Want to Read: The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

Chioma Anomnachi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

This book is a beautifully written work of speculative fiction that reflects on the meaning of the self and the traditions of the past. I read it in my Afrofuturism class and loved the prose and the way it felt incredibly new and old at the same time. Honestly, just a great book.

Want to Read: Black Looks: Race and Representation by hell hooks

Reuben Gelley Newman

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

This first novel by the Vietnamese-American writer Ocean Vuong is a deeply moving and exquisitely crafted story of the narrator's relationship to his mother, his immigrant identity, and his queerness. Vuong, also a poet, has a stunning grasp of language, turning out sentences like this: "My sneakers erupted with silent flares: the world's smallest ambulances, going nowhere."

Want to Read: Hold on to your dreams Arthur Russell and the downtown music scene, 1973-1992 by Tim Lawrence

Consolee Hitayezu

The Stranger by Albert Camus

It is funny and has a lot of thought-provoking plot twists.

Want to Read: The Drama of The Gifted Child by Alice Miller 

Katherine Knox

Violence : six sideways reflections by  Slavoj Žižek

This book revolutionized the way I think about structural violence. It's also quite an entertaining read because Zizek brings in a lot of popular cultural references to illustrate dense economic and philosophical ideas. 

Want to Read: Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval N. Harari

Mia Shoquist

Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I was touched to the core by Chanel Miller’s poignant and beautiful reflection on her experience as a sexual assault survivor. This book revolutionized my view of sexual assault and abuse in America, and helped me develop more empathy for my fellow survivors, including myself. This book will assuredly leave you quietly stunned by the amount of beautifully introspective images and moments there are. 

Want to Read: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Tiffany Wang

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I read A Tale For the Time Being in the spring of 2018, and I literally have not stopped thinking about it since. The book is somehow a fantastically fun fiction novel that crafts a theory of time - "losing" time, running out of time, existing in time, being a time being... Ruth Ozeki has brilliant word play, and really asks us to think about the connections we have to other people, both across long distances and different moments in time.

Want to Read: Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose

Adora Zhang

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I was supposed to read this for class last year but was only able to get through half of it. Since I have a lot more time now I decided to revisit it. The story sucked me in but in a somewhat gentle way and it was a nice world to escape to during this chaotic time. 

Want to Read: The Night Watchman: A Novel by Louise Erdrich 

Nooria Ahmed

Saga - Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, author.; Fiona Staples, artist.

I remember clutching a copy of Saga, sobbing in the middle of Sci Commons having just completed my second reread. I knew every twist, I knew the fate of each character, yet it affected me all the same.  It is one of the most imaginative and well-written sci-fantasy books I have ever read, with a lot to say on everything from war, to love, to growing up and I think I've grown a bit as a person after having read it. It has many content warnings, so I recommend you look those up online before reading.

Want to Read: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Matthew Koucky

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This book is for: anyone who is entering college and thinks they are having a uniquely bad (or good) experience; anyone who is thinking of studying linguistics, Russian, or other fields offered at this school; anyone who is planning to study abroad for some reason; anyone with a short attention span; anyone who doesn’t know what to do. I found this book made it easier to figure out where I am (a stuffy, self-congratulatory liberal arts college) and the people around me (who come from a lot of different places). It made me feel less alone here.

Want to Read: Death in her Hands: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh 

Rachel Lapides

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

I was lucky enough to read this novel in President Smith's Toni Morrison class this spring. I chose to write two different essays on it because I was so moved by the language, storytelling, and characters.

Want to Read: The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers

Sonia Linares

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

After not being able to read a book solely for pleasure since college began, my first year roommate's mom let me borrow her copy of this book. It sat on the shelf for a while, but I felt guilty about not finishing it and giving the book back. So, during spring break last year I made it a mission to finish the book and it was a great decision. It gave me historical context I did not have, drama, and a warm fuzzy feeling. The book was a reminder of the power that family can hold amidst the turmoil of everyday life. 

Want to Read: Sabrina and Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Sara Asgari

Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

The book changed my view of life. It uses psychological, philosophical, political and even technological concepts to talk about humans' most important issues.

Want to Read: Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval N. Harari

Greg Boatman

Sin noticias de Gurb by Eduardo Mendoza

This was the last piece we read in my fall semester Spanish literature course. I also wrote my final essay on it. And so I spent quite a bit of time with this book. I appreciate it for its humor, and also for some of the commentaries it makes on modern human life (and where empathy and compassion fit into it). A very funny read - and ultimately heartwarming, too!

Want to Read: The one-straw revolution : an introduction to natural farming by Masanobu Fukuoka

Elyse Decker

Braiding sweetgrass : indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As an Indigenous student it's always very special for me to read books by Indigenous authors and the lessons this book teaches are beautiful. This book is a mix of scientific knowledge and cultural history that will make anybody's day better to read.

Want to Read: The Mushroom at the End of the World On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Yeh Seo Jung

Braiding sweetgrass : indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This was a book that I read during my first class at Swarthmore which was a FYS called Religion and Food. Out of all the books I read for that class, this was the most interesting by far. Kimmerer is a Native American botanist, and she discusses things like the land, nature, botany, relationships, gratitude, and indigenous culture and diaspora with honesty and beautiful prose.

Want to Read: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

Elena Lee

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

This book is full of imagination, humor, and zaniness. It is the best kind of fantasy in that it allows you to become completely absorbed in another world. At the same time, it is a well-written, lighthearted story that feels perfect for these times. If that doesn’t sound good enough, the main character is a bibliophilic dinosaur.

Want to Read: Interpreter of maladies : stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

Alex Malcombe

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was a book that focused more on a personal story of growth and change instead of centering around a love story, which I really enjoyed. I also really love Greek mythology and Miller made the story of Circe accessible to modern readers through her full and powerful interpretation of the classic tale. 

Want to Read: Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Haruki Murakami 

Gloria Martinez

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

This was incredibly eye-opening to me, knowing little about the civil rights movement of the United States. It was a touching story and romance that I could read a hundred times over.

Want to Read: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Vladimir Soto-Avina

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Prior to reading this book, I had a narrow view of Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster. In reading the book, I realized how much more horrible the event was. It's not to be taken lightly because the book includes interviews of Chernobyl survivors. However, sometimes we have to learn of others' stories to become considerate and view events in a more human way. 

Want to Read: Hawkeye Omnibus by Matt Fraction

Andrew Sung

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung

The book expresses values and insights that I find transformative. I attribute great inspiration that lies within me to this work. Perhaps other open-minded individuals may appreciate it as well. 

Want to Read: Faust (Part I & II) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Allyssa Wiggins

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

I appreciated the book's unique storytelling structure, it changes protagonists every generation of the family it centers around. Also, I admired the author's reasons for writing the book, since she was trying to piece together her own family history.

Want to Read: Becoming by Michelle Obama