(A) Autobiography • (C) Children • (F) Fiction • (HF) Historical Fiction • (M) Memoir
(NF) Nonfiction • (Sci-F) Science Fiction • (YA) Young Adults • (YA-F) Young Adults-Fiction
Retired SHHS English Teacher; College essay coach
The first four books I have chosen are nonfiction, pretty unusual for me. However, they each deal with a different part of the world and seem to read like fiction.
(NF) A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin is about a Jew and his life both in Russia and as an emigrant.
(NF) Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto deals with World War II and the strains of both internment and having family in both sides of the war.
(NF) A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard describes what it is like to be an EMT in a big city: shocking.
(NF) Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth. The PBS show is not exactly the way it was.
(F) A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. This novel describes life in Chechnya, and the structure and character development are brilliant.
(F) Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
(F) Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy
(F) Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera
(F) The Good Life by Marian Thurm
(F) The Girls by Emma Cline
Associate Professor of Political Science and Department Chair at Swarthmore College
(M) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (re-reading)
(NF) King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick
(NF) Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets by Debra Satz
(NF) Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
(F) The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver
I finished my reading of Satz and re-reading of Stevenson’s book; and have just about completed Deaver’s. I plan to complete the other two before preparing for the Fall semester and the presidential election.
President and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation
This past year I read several great books, thanks to my husband, Rick Gelman, who did the legwork of reading reviews, reading the books first, and then recommending them to me, including:
(F) The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
(HF) The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
(HF) A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
And courtesy of my 85-year-old mom, Sheila Sheehan, who still volunteers at the Fairfax Country Library in Virginia and is in a book group there:
(NF) The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
(NF) Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson
(F) The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis
(F) The Children Act by Ian McEwan
(M) Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
(F) Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
(F) Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston
Bibliophile by avocation;
Physician by vocation
(NF) The Devil and Dr. Barnes: Portrait of an American Art Collector by Howard Greenfeld
(F) Grimhaven by Robert Joyce Tasker
(NF) Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews by Ted Geltner
(F) Roachkiller and Other Stories by R. Narvaez
(F) The Second Girl by David Swinson
(F) Dark Horse: An Eddy Harkness Novel by Rory Flynn (a/k/a Stona Fitch)
(F) Come to Me by Sin Soracco
(F) Selena, Diesel Therapy, and Suicide Lounge by Greg Barth Not for the weak of heart or easily offended. Parental advisory content; explicit content.
(YA-F) Snow Job by Charles Benoit
Retired High School English Teacher
I’m finally getting around to Alistair MacLeod’s collection of short stories, Island. Beautiful writing, sometimes depressing content.
Slowly working my way through the novels of 20th century English novelist, Rumer Godden. Thus far, In This House of Brede, An Episode of Sparrows, and Gypsy, Gypsy.
And, due to my interest in World War I and its centenary, I am keeping up with the various campaigns of 100 years ago. July 1 begins the anniversary of the start of the tragically useless Battle of the Somme.
For fun, mysteries, of course, especially those of Donna Leon and Henning Mankell.
(F) Florence Gordon by Brian Morton. I’d have to say this was just about a perfect book. From the first chapter I wanted to keep reading, and already felt I understood a lot about the complicated character that was Florence. Beautifully written, as usual with Morton.
(M) The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year by Matt McCarthy. Devoured this book. My daughter interned at Weill/Cornell (as did McCarthy), so the emotional angst of intern year was familiar to me, but it takes courage for a doctor to write honestly (and engagingly) about it.
(M) Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist by Bruce Weber. So calming, ruminative, interesting, well-written, and besides all, that fun to read. Weber was an obituary writer for The New York Times, and the book is a chronicle of his 2011 cross-country bicycle trip. I liked the structure, the way he wove stories from his past and his job into his trip. And the ending, which I won’t give away, was so poignant.
(F) Our Souls at Night: A Novel by Kent Haru. The title alone speaks to how beautifully this book, his last, is written.
(F) The Lost Daughter and The Story of the Lost Child: Neapolitan Novels, Book Four both by Elena Ferrante. The Lost Daughter was published in Italy four years before the first of her Neapolitan novels came out. I group them here because all five of her novels have the same themes: almost obsessive female friendship, a beach, a doll (and more). My theory is that all of this is disguised autobiography and that her brilliant friend really exists, or existed, and she’s writing and writing to try to find her.
(F) My Struggle, Book Five: Some Rain Must Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Last in the series. I find his writing hypnotizing.
(M) Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
(NF) Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown
(M) Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
(M) Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
Retired professor of computer science, St. Joseph’s University
(F) The Mare by Mary Gaitskill. This is a stunningly good book. It tells the story of the relationship between a girl from Brooklyn who goes to upstate N.Y., through the Fresh Air fund, and falls in love with a horse. The narrative is told from the viewpoint of the girl, Velvet, the hostess, Ginger, and later the host Paul, and Velvet’s mother Sylvia. The portrayal of Velvet and her relationships with others is quite wonderfully managed. The relationship between the girl and her mother is difficult and the girl can be sullen, but she is a horse whisperer.
(F) The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron. A terrific novel that spans the second half of the 20th century. It traces the lives of two pairs of brothers, one white from Alabama, and one black from Maryland. It is not until near the end that the connections between the lives — or more accurately the deaths — as one of the whites is involved in the torture killing of the young black lawyer. The other pair meet only in a hospital room where one is dying and the other is recovering.
(F) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. An incredibly painful book to read. It tells of four friends and their post college lives. Mostly it concentrates on Jude, who is a very damaged person. Reared in a brutal orphanage and taken away to a life of prostitution by one of the “brothers;’’ rescued (but not really), by a psychiatrist, Jude eventually forms a loving relationship with Willem, a film actor. Willem is killed in a car accident and Jude lapses back into the mode where he believes that he is valueless and eventually manages to commit suicide. Sometimes I was furious with Jude for not seeing that his friends wanted to help. Often I found it hard to read on. But the book is a masterpiece. No wonder it was short-listed for the Booker Prize.
(NF) SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. A history of Rome A.U.C. through 212 C.E. when Caracalla extended citizenship to all free persons living in the empire. The book is a somewhat conventional history up through the assassination of Julius Caesar, but then becomes much more a social history. More concerned to describe the nature of the empire than events. It is well worth reading.
(B) The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. Besides being a biography of Alexander von Humboldt the book also places him in the development of ecology as a discipline. He was a polymath and a workaholic. He traveled boldly and climbed mountains while collecting specimens. He wrote copiously. A fascinating book.
(F) The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
(NF) The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine di Giovanni
(F) Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
(NF) Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action and the Embodied Mind by Andy Clark
(NF) The Crucible of Language: How Language and Mind Create Meaning by Vyvyan Evans
10 years old and a rising 5th grader at SRS
(F) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I like these books because they are unpredictable.
(F) The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley. This book, set in World War II, is about a girl who has to fight to survive.
(F) The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. This book taught me many things in this test of loyalty and friendship.
(F) Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. An unbelievable story.
(F) Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt. A book with such good ways of describing dyslexia.
(F) Sorcery & Cecelia: Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
(F) Heart of a Dolphin by Catherine Hapka
(F) Pigs Might Fly by Dick King-Smith
(F) Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
(F) Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Daniel Handler
Rising 7th grader at Strath Haven Middle School
What am I reading this summer, you ask? The question should be, what am I not reading this summer!
I am a rising 7th grader at SHMS and am looking forward to reading these titles, which are from the required summer reading list.
First, the sci-fi book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; the realistic historical fiction book The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; the science fiction book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (and the entire quintet!); and the young adult fiction novel An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.
Books that are not on the list that I will definitely be reading: the fiction book The Misadventures of Max Crumbly by Rachel Renée Russell and the graphic novels, The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet #2) and The Cloud Searchers (Amulet #3) by Kazu Kibuishi.
I would recommend to readers who enjoy a variety of genres: the young adult fiction novel Paper Towns by John Green, because it is an adventure that anyone would love to experience in real life. The humorous fiction novel Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng, because it was a pattering, heart thumping adventure that left me wanting more Molly adventures (and to my good luck, there are five more).
Another great read is the ‘choose your own adventure’ type graphic novel Meanwhile: Pick Any Path by Jason Shiga. With 3,856 story paths, your adventure is sure to be awesome every time you read it.
The fictional adventure/mystery novel Masterpiece by Elise Broach was a lot better than I expected, with a quick turn from reality onto adventure. And one final book recommendation (because I could go on forever if there was no limit) would be the fictional ‘tween drama novel The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner. It had a great storyline and kept me interested all throughout the book, so much that I read it in one night.
These books have had an impact on my reading life because they are all so different, and have given me the curiosity to seek out many more genres of books to read.
Happy reading wherever you are and choose to be!
Library Director at the Helen Kate Furness Free Library
Where will I be reading? On my front porch and while eating lunch at my desk in the library.
(F) Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
(HF) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
(F) Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser
(HF) Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
What I always recommend to others: The Maisie Dobbs (F) mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. There are now 12 books in this historical mystery series that begins in England during World War I, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them.
(F) June: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
(M) Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin by Ann Patty
(F) Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
(F) The Charlotte McNally mystery series by Hank Phillippi Ryan
(F) Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Actor and Director, Players Club of Swarthmore
(NF) Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote. The best dog book ever — well, maybe second to The Call of the Wild, but that’s fiction. Ted Kerasote lives in the foothills of the Gros Ventre range and eats only wild meat; his dog Merle has the run of the town, but if he chases a cow or sheep he will be shot.
(NF) Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable by Paul G. Falkowski. If the idea of genes (and the traits they control for) being swapped among different species makes you a little queasy, or if the mention of Adenosine Triphosphate leaves you groping, you need to catch up. The subtitle tells you that Falkowski is at home with inconceivably small organisms and unimaginably long timespans; in addition, he seems to be personally acquainted with everyone working at the frontiers of microbiology. The 200 pages just zip along, and Falkowski brings to his subject the wide-eyed wonder of the naturalists who explored the Amazon.
(NF) The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman. Part memoir, part literary criticism, wholly entertaining, this book is like a long conversation with a person who tells a good story. The stories range from plot summaries of great novels to Batuman’s own out-of-the-way adventures (Samarkand, really?) to key ideas in her intellectual development and where they came from — her college friends and Tolstoy being equally likely sources. Batuman not only loves books, especially Russian novels, but she takes it for granted that they are useful guides to life and thought.
(F) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. As dark a tale of India as Rohinton Mistry’s great novel, A Fine Balance; a touch of playfulness in the narration that might distantly bring Salman Rushdie to mind; but all on the small scale dictated by the point of view Roy chooses: that of two Indian children. This one really drew me in.
(NF) Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich. An extraordinary picture of today’s Russia emerges from these passionate person-on-the-street interviews by a Russian journalist. Aleivitch has a gift for leading her subjects deep into their trauma: the paranoia of the Stalin years, when a neighbor’s denunciation could send you to the Gulag; the shock of vanished hopes when the Gorbachev reforms petered out, the USSR crumbled, salaries plummeted and pensions vanished because of devaluation; the ethnic strife that broke out in the newly independent states and sent unwelcome immigrants streaming into Moscow. Everybody says: under communism we felt a generous solidarity with all the citizens of the USSR and had great hope for the glorious future; under capitalism people are selfish, amoral, and shallow, with nothing to believe in and no future worth hoping for.
(NF) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I keep hearing how this book changed Western civilization, so I decided to see how far I could get with it. So far so good! I haven’t got beyond the pigeons, but Darwin already has me convinced.
(F) The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Liked it when I was in high school… time for another go! And I’ll have something to say to Elif Batuman, if I ever meet her.
(A) My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Really? We’ll see.
Professor of History, New York University; Author, most recently, of Mourning Lincoln
(F) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. A long, long novel about four men, college friends in New York City, across three decades, filled with tragedy and loss, and utterly engrossing.
(NF) A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd. The story of three young hikers imprisoned in Tehran on false charges of espionage — Shourd spent over a year in solitary confinement, Bauer and Fattal shared a cell for most of their two years there. Told in alternating voices, a gripping read.
(NF) A Body Undone: Living on After Great Pain by Christina Crosby. A memoir about life after a terrible accident, minus the uplift, yet somehow a beautiful story.
(F) The Arsonist by Sue Miller. A deeply absorbing novel about family, community, and love set in a small town in New Hampshire. You can decide for yourself whether the ending is happy or sad.
(F) The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman. New York in the late 1950s. A straight white woman and a gay black man. A novel of family and loss, told by an unusual narrator.
(F) Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney
(NF) Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
(NF) Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own by David Carr
(NF) The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
(NF) The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits
Retired Swarthmorean Editor
(F) The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps
(F) The Past by Tessa Hadley
(F) They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
(F) Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
(F) The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
(A) My Struggle: Book 5 by Karl Ove Knausgaard
(F) The Sellout by Paul Beatty
(F) Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
(NF) Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli
(NF) Why We Work by Barry Schwartz
Carol L. Kennedy
Retired middle-school librarian and an active member
of the Tristate Young Adult Review Committee
I read some great young-adult and middle-school books this year. This summer, I will be reading in and around Swarthmore, as I don’t want to get too far away from my garden!
(YA) Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. “True Grit” meets “Treasure of Sierra Madre” in this rip-roaring adventure story set in the Old West, for young adults.
(C) Took by Mary Downing Hahn. In this spine-tingling ghost story, a brother and sister move to a haunted house with their parents and have to contend with an old witch about whom they have been warned, for grades 4-8.
(YA) Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate. Seven teens exhibit the seven deadly sins as they wend their way to adulthood through high-school addictions, cliques, gossip, and innuendo. Wonderful characterizations abound in this novel for grades 8-12.
(YA) The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. In this wonderful coming-of-age story, a Pennsylvania farm girl moves to Baltimore in 1910 and gets a job with a wealthy department-store owner in her effort to better her life. For grades 8-12.
(YA) All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. A teenage boy is brutally beaten by a police officer who misunderstands his actions, and an entire town is torn apart as a result. Excellent for high-school age and up.
(NF) Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson
(F) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (in English and in Spanish)
(NF) The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
(F) The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie
(F) The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Better Half – Mom – Grandma
I’ll be reading on the porch if it’s nice weather; inside if it’s not.
(NF) Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Hope by Wendy Holden
(NF) Grandma Gatewood’s Walk – The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery
(F) The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas
(A) The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee. An extraordinary story of the many years it took her to escape from North Korea.
(NF) No Greater Friend: One Man, One Dog and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII by Robert Weintraub. Amazing story about a man and his dog and their devotion to each other.
(NF) Buster: The Military Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives by Will Barrow, as told by Isabel George
(NF) A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans. Alaska is the setting for this book.
(NF) Stars Between the Sun and Moon: One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom by Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland
(NF) Angels of the Underground: The American Women Who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II by Theresa Kaminski
Editor, The Swarthmorean
Five of the best books I’ve read during summers past.
(F) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
(F) The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by Gerald Basil Edwards
(F) High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
(M) The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
(NF) On the Loose by Terry and Renny Russell
Five books I plan to read (or finish) this summer, mostly to catch up with other readers in my family.
(F) The Shining by Stephen King
(NF) The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter by Meg Jay
(NF) The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
(M) Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Alison Bechdel
(F) Suttree by Cormac McCarthy