Summer Reading Ideas

Need some ideas for summer reading? We went right to the source of all things books: the Watzek Library staff. Here are their picks for both serious and light reads.

Mark Dahl
Director of Watzek Library

Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen

This book describes the history of the Lakota tribe, whose buffalo- hunting prowess led to a dominant role on the Great Plains for a long stretch in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the Lakota people at the center of the narrative, the book provides a fascinating perspective on North American history.

Beautiful Animals, by Lawrence Osborne

This is a noir thriller involving wealthy Western expats and a Syrian refugee set on the Greek island of Hydra. The author’s atmospheric description of the island and his unsentimental depiction of the char- acters are a pleasure to read as a tragic crime drama slowly unfolds.

Talie Bocci
Weekend Supervisor/Stacks Manager

Tightrope, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

The authors use Yamhill, Oregon, as one of the locations to explore the book’s premise: as good paying jobs leave a community, social chaos sets in. They also give a well-researched blueprint for fixing social problems by describing what other countries have done successfully.

Lock In, by John Scalzi

You could shelve this book under speculative fiction, near-future science fiction, techno mystery, police procedural, maybe even a bit of a thriller … with a nice splash of humor. It has a little something for everyone.

E.J. Carter
Special Collections and Archives Librarian

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser

The first third of this book will be familiar to anyone who’s read the Little House on the Prairie series. But then Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, more or less takes over the story (and her mother’s life). The book is a fascinating reflection on how myths of the American past are created.

A House for Mr Biswas, by V.S. Naipaul

Mr Biswas (based on Naipaul’s own Trinidadian father) struggles with poverty, bad luck, and some very annoying in-laws to make a dignified life for his family. One of the great novels of the 20th century, this book is funny, sad, and full of one memorable scene after another.

Hannah Crummé
Head of Special Collections and College Archives

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca pulls you along quickly as you rush through idyllic but uncanny 1920s Cornwall. An ideal beach read, not least because much of the action takes place on a beach, its many small tragedies lead to a redemptive catharsis—hopefully like our year of quarantine!

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

Also concerned with the ghosts we live with, this book follows seven generations through the overwhelming beauty of a rural town in Colombia. Warmth, color, perfume, and loneliness haunt the inhabitants of a small and isolated village, only to be replaced by the corruption of the outside world.

Erica Jensen
Arts and Visual Resources Librarian

Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gifts of Trees, by William Bryant Logan

Sticks may be an unlikely subject for an engrossing read, but in the hands of arborist William Bryant Logan they begin to seem like the key to human civilization. I haven’t been able to see my secateurs in the same way since.

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, by Mary Norris

Mary Norris, a copy editor at the New Yorker and self-styled “Comma Queen,” shares her longtime fascination with Greek language and culture in an engaging memoir/travelogue—possibly the ideal virtual escape in a time of difficult travel.

Dustin Kelley
Archives Librarian and Project Manager for Vietnamese Portland

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

A profound work, an excellent first volume of presidential memoirs. Barack Obama deftly maneuvers between his childhood and upbringing, decision-making processes, and White House relationships.

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

Rarely does a novel fit the moment like this one. Emira is a great protagonist who’s hard to put in a box, and I think most readers will relate to one or more of the book’s characters. This is not the lightest of beach reads, but still fitting, importantly showing that antiracism is not a destination but a process.