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Summer Reading Recommendations: 2022

An annual list compiled by the Swarthmore College Libraries

In Memory of Meg Spencer

Meg Spencer

For seven years, science librarian and ultimate book-lover Meg Spencer organized a list of reading suggestions from faculty and staff to highlight some good books to read over the summer. The Swarthmore Libraries continue this wonderful tradition in Meg’s memory.

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The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, audiobooks narrated by James Marsters
First book: Storm Front

I have been devouring this series over the past year, and I've actually had to slow down because I'm running out! Marsters does a predictably good job of narrating -- apparently the publishers tried to switch the narrator at some point due to filming/scheduling conflicts, but fans wouldn't have it. The series is cheesy in all the right ways and explores every paranormal and otherworldly creature and concept you could want, including some original ones by Butcher.

Planning to read:

To Boldly Grow: Finding Joy, Adventure, and Dinner in Your Own Backyard by Tamar Haspel [request it from the public library]
This summer I'm continuing to work on my big plans to get rid of my lawn and create a garden featuring native and cultivated edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms. I'm hoping to gain some practical ideas and advice (though I will not attempt to engineer a turkey plucker..!).

Maria Aghazarian
McCabe Library

The House in the Cerulean Sea
by T.J. Klune
It is such a beautiful read that completely transports you to the island of Marsyas. It is a simple yet good reminder that you cannot judge someone just by the sum of their parts. Everyone deserves a chance to blossom into something beautiful.

Planning to read:
A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee [request it from the public library]

Rhonda Alford
Cornell Library

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Matrix by Lauren Groff [also available as an ebook]

Vastly different from the author's previous works, which I also loved, Matrix is a historical fiction novel inspired by the life of Marie de France. Set in 1158, we follow Marie's life and visions as she is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr [also available as an ebook]

Set in the distant past, the recent past, the present, and the future, we follow "children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope—and a book." Each storyline keeps you in different levels of suspense and the connections that unfold are well done.

Planning to read:
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Andrea Baruzzi
Cornell Science Library

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Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
Patrick Radden Keefe is a master of investigative research. This book is highly detailed and thoughtfully written. It will pull you in from page one and you will find yourself thinking about it long after.  

Planning to read:
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe
His new book is due to be published in June!

Jessica Brangiel
McCabe Library

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A Manual for Cleaning Women
by Lucia Berlin
Stories set in  places like laundromats, hospitals, buses, houses, and grocery stores are elevated through Berlin's incisive intelligence, humor and grace for characters who move through these spaces doing the daily business of everyday life. These stories overflow with jewels of observations and a bottomless richness of incredible writing.

Planning to read:
Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau by Ben Shattuck [request it from the public library]

Caren Brenman
Department of Art and Art History

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Riding the Trail of Tears by Blake M. Hausman
It's written from the perspective of Tallulah Wilson, a young Cherokee woman who works in a virtual reality tourist attraction that simulates the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their homelands in the Southeastern US. Thought-provoking and unexpectedly funny.

Planning to read:
Harry Sylvester Bird by our colleague Chinelo Okparanta
It won't be published until July 12, but I've preordered it!

Rachel Buurma
Department of English

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Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus [request it from the public library]
This book encapsulates with assertiveness, empathy, and humor the inequalities that all women and specifically women in science face. The book takes place in the late 50's and despite some progress it is shocking to think how much gender inequality remains in our daily life. To me this book was relatable, reassuring, inspiring and eye opening. A reminder of the power we all women have inside of us.

Planning to read:
Radicales Libres by Rosa Beltran

Itzue Caviedes-Solis
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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The Boys in the Boat
by Daniel Brown

Non-fiction: a true tale about success of the underdog/s through courage, perseverance, faith, and humility against the odds. Beautiful.

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In the Field: A novel
by Rachel Pastan
The life of an inspirational woman scientist whose determination to unlock the mysteries of genetics led to the Nobel Prize.

Planning to read:
The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

Cathedral: A novel by Ben Hopkins
To keep in the same 12th century theme as Matrix by Lauren Groff [also available as an ebook], which is good.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Pam Harris
McCabe Library

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Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry
Its digestible, charming prose belies the epic nature with which it foments questions of individuality, unrequited love, responsibility and guilt, life and death, among other topics.

Planning to read:
On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Connie Jiang
Class of 2023

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War At The Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire
by Sarah Ellison

It is a fascinating look inside the machinations of one of the nation's oldest newspapers and family businesses and one of the most powerful and controversial corporations which is also a family business. The story was also the inspiration behind the 2nd season of the HBO show, Succession and many of those storylines are pulled directly from what happened at the WSJ. Unlike Succession, Newscorp prevails in the end but at what a cost?

Nora Kelly

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Throne of Glass series
by Sarah J. Maas
First book: Throne of Glass [request it from the public library]
I've very much enjoyed the Throne of Glass series; it reminds me of Game of Thrones with lots of intertwined characters, different chapters and books from the view of different characters, magic, fantasy, conflict, but much less gore. There are eight books in the series, and two slightly different orders to read them in; this article explains the options.

Planning to read:
The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday by Sharon Blackie
From the author: "...enchantment, by my definition, has nothing to do with fantasy, or escapism, or magical thinking: it is founded on a vivid sense of belongingness to a rich and many-layered world; a profound and whole-hearted participation in the adventure of life."

Dierdre Konar
College Advancement

The City of Brass
by S.A. Chakraborty (Book one of The Daevabad Trilogy) [request it from the public library]
We call this trilogy "Genie of Thrones" in my house for the familial/political intrigue and structure of switching between multiple POVs (with a strong emphasis on Islamic mythology and a Middle Eastern setting). I was in a reading slump going into The City of Brass and then I absolutely demolished all three books in two weeks; if you love fantasy but want something a little less centered in western medieval tropes, this is for you!

Planning to read:
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Emily Higgs Kopin
Friends Historical Library

Planning to read:
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee

Patrick Li
Class of 2023

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by Joseph Heller
Read it in high school and loved it, read it after high school and it hit like a gut punch.

Sigrid Lokensgard
Class of 2025

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Ella Minnow Pea
by Mark Dunn [request it from the public library]
It's a very whimsical, sweet, profound story with lots of wordplay — kind of like The Phantom Tollbooth. It is very zany but a thoroughly enjoyable read, and pretty quick to get through.

Planning to read:
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Elena Lee
Class of 2023

A Perfect Cemetery
by Federico Falco

A Perfect Cemetery, by Argentinian author Federico Falco and translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft (one of my favorite translators), is my favorite type of book: a collection of interconnected short stories. Each one is a little haunting and a little unsettling but Falco manages to balance the strange and real perfectly for maximum emotional effect. One of my favorite books I read in 2021 and one that I keep thinking about and going back to.

Planning to read:

Speak, Silence: In Search of W. G. Sebald by Carole Angier [request it from the public library]

I’ve been excited about this, the first biography of W. G. Sebald (one of my favorite writers), since it was first announced. Sebald was a famously mysterious man who often blended fact and fiction when talking about his own life so I’m interested to see what Angier does to untangle all the threads.

Rebecca Michelson
McCabe Library

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When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro
When We Were Orphans is a work that, much like his others, defies a description that does not betray the heart of the book. Set in London and Shanghai in the years leading up to the Second World War, this book jumps to and from various points in the past, and is particularly poignant in its core paradox. The main character, a politically engaged detective, though celebrated for many cases, can’t seem to solve the puzzle that stings and persists over the course of a lifetime. This book is certainly not a light read, but is overflowing with a touching sadness that, similar to Ishiguro’s other novels, reaches at the heart of the human condition, and breaks through the alienation the character experiences by bringing him in union with us: the readers.

Mariam Muhammad
Class of 2024

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by ND Stevenson
It's a short read since it's a graphic novel, but there's plenty of character and story development to pull you in! The story centers around the new sidekick (Nimona) to a villain in a world that is both (medieval) fantasy and modern. Nimona is snarky and not afraid to do things differently, throwing the villain's world into chaos. The writing is a perfect mix of funny, witty, heartfelt, and suspenseful. What a great way to kick off the summer!

Planning to read:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Kristen Recine
Department of Physics and Astronomy

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Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O'Farrell
An interesting fictionalization of Shakespeare's family life and his son's death. Beautifully-written and heartbreaking. Holds a certain relevance today.

Planning to read:
Never Simple by Liz Scheier
After enjoying the ubiquitous Crying in H-Mart, I thought I'd try another Mawrter's memoir.

Nikki Senecal
College Advancement

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Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
“You came here, your parents and their parents and their parents, and you always seem to have just arrived and yet never seem to have actually arrived.”  - Charles Yu
A funny yet touching novel about an Asian-American actor who dreams of making it big. Written in the format of a screenplay, its unique nature along with its absurdist humor is what made me love it. If you liked this book, be sure to check out another by the author, "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe."

Planning to read:
Spread Your Wings and FLI: How to Effectively Navigate College as a First-Generation, Low-Income Student by Jessica Ilayalith Mora

Hoping to kickstart a FLI orientation program for this coming fall semester, Khanh Huynh '25, Lizbeth Zarate-Hernandez '24, and I will be dissecting this book and drawing on personal experiences in order to workshop our programming.

Andres Villalba
Class of 2025

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by Steve Reich
A fascinating series of discussions between the pioneering American composer and collaborators spanning his entire career.

Planning to read:
The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski [request it from the public library]
This was my planned reading for last summer. But I didn’t get a chance to read it, so I’ll try again this year.

Steve Wang
Department of Mathematics + Statistics

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by Dinah Maria Craik
This 1850 novel provides an insightful look at Victorian attitudes towards disability, and presents the case for admirable personal qualities outshining beauty. While the novel is not in the Jane Eyre tier, it has well developed characters; and I appreciated this presentation of Victorian beliefs that have influenced our culture.

Planning to read:
Philadelphia Builds by Michael J. Lewis
I look forward to reading these essays on Philadelphia's tradition of developing world-class architects. His topics touch our campus in themes such as Quakerism and architects such as Robert Venturi.

Roderick Wolfson
Facilities + Capital Planning