Each year, the English Department's faculty and staff put out a list of book and media recommendations. Known locally as our "Summer Reading" list but packed with titles to be enjoyed all year round, our suggestions offer something to suit the taste of every reader. Check out our most recent picks below, or scroll down to dive into the archive; each year's list is represented by a sample title and faculty comment. Happy reading!
And if you're interested in reading books written by English faculty, be sure to visit our Faculty Bookshelf.
The House Behind the Cedars, by Charles W. Chesnutt. The House Behind the Cedars (1900) is Chesnutt’s fist novel, published shortly after the release of the author’s successful short collection called The Conjure Woman. Chesnutt worked on the novel for close to ten years, integrating a romantic short story with new material to develop a provocative, if somewhat sentimental, tale about crossing the color line in the Reconstruction South. The story concerns the fortunes of two siblings and their efforts to change their identities in order to seek their futures in a white America that doesn’t know—and can never tolerate—the secret of their past. (Joseph Navitsky)
Echo, by Muñoz Ryan. "A 2016 Newbery Honor book, Echo challenges us to rethink about what we know about text structure. With music as a mainstay, the story follows a harmonica (and its musicians) through time and space through a fairy tale-esque narrative. A captivating page turner for sure." (Jordan Schugar)
Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. "I do love crows, and I have a few crow stories. Maybe you love crows and have a few crow stories, too? Well, Crow Planet is a whole book that lets us know that WE ARE NOT ALONE. This is that wildlife book that helps you develop the habits of a “naturalist” no matter what your living environment. It’s not exactly science, and it’s not just navel-gazing personal narrative. Nor is it just some random stories about crows. It’s literally all that and more. An eco-memoir, if you will." (Stacy Esch)
Bad Monkey, by Carl Hiaasen. "Set in the weirdness that is Southern Florida, this thriller is laugh-out-loud hilarious as the protagonist tries to solve a murder while simultaneously engaging in subterfuge against the McMansion being built next door. " (Cheryl Wanko)
Leaving the Sea, by Ben Marcus. "Strange, hilarious, and challenging, the stories in this collection provide a really smart gloss on the twenty-first century short story—its history, its present moment, and to some degree its exciting future." (Christopher Merkner)
Book Was There, by Andrew Piper. "Piper addresses the past and present of reading and does so with a lyrical blending of personal, academic, and tactile experiences." (Eleanor Shevlin)
Reverend America, by Kris Saknussemm. "Take equal parts Flannery O'Connor, John Steinbeck, Pete Dexter, and Thomas Pynchon, and mix and pour into a road story that moves fast, as a preacher of mixed provenance applies an idiosyncratic gospel of pure love to American culture low and high." (Bill Lalicker)
Righteous Porkchop, by Nicolette Hahn Niman. "Last summer while traveling, I read Niman's awesomely-titled book about livestock practices in the U.S. and what happens to our food before it gets to our plates. Worth reading for the manure cannons alone." (Gabrielle Halko)
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. "An award-winning novel—and deservedly so—that traces the interconnected lives of several characters in New York City on the day Phillippe Petit walked the wire between the World Trade Center Towers." (Jeff Sommers)
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. "Part history and part journalism, Roach's book is a witty tour through the uses science has for dead bodies. Sounds gross, I know, but it's actually delightful." (Jen Bacon)