Summer Reading Recommendations

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Looking back at my favorite reads over the last six months – January to June – I found a wide range of titles.  While I’ve written the book recommendations with your students in mind, I do highly recommend all of them to you as well.  Depending on your own taste, there should be something here to pique your interest.   

The book recommendations span from medicine to comedy, history to science fiction, and a whole lot more.  Although I give heading for specific professions, I don’t think you need to have that job or want to have that job to enjoy the books.  I just use those headings for organizational purposes.  Hopefully, there is something here that your students will want to read and they find themselves curling up with a good book over the summer break.  Send them the link or post it to your online learning platform if you feel so inclined.

David and I constantly strive to provide you with valuable resources on the site: that includes book recommendations to enrich your reading lives and the lives of your students.  Finally, if you are on summer break, may it be a restful and relaxing vacation.


For Doctors: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I was stunned when I read this.  I knew Kalanithi was already dead.  I knew this was his memoir about being a neurosurgeon, cancer patient, and father.  But I had no idea that his writing would contain such beauty.  He is rich in his literary references and insightful in dealing with death.  I can’t stop thinking about it.   

For Writers: On Writing by Stephen King

Written ages ago – in 2000 – I finally got my hands on this book.  Needless to say, I devoured it.  Weaving in personal anecdotes coupled with professional advice, King delves into what aspiring writers of fiction need to do.  It’s wonderful guidance for any young – or old – writer and a must read. 

For Scientists: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

What a wonderful little book!  I thought it would just be about physics.  I was dumbstruck by how Rovelli used modern physics to talk about what it means to be human and what it means to be alive.  I didn’t fully comprehend every lesson, but that wasn’t the fault of the author; his style was as magical as the physics he describes. 

For US Bound University Students: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Since I read it in January, I cannot stop recommending National Book Award winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates to my students who are heading to the U.S. for university.  They are entering a campus community that is rife with discussions about race and class.  For many of my international students, they have not encountered these discussions before and don’t understand the racial context of the U.S. or the Black Lives Matter movement.  Between the World and Me explains race relations in the US better than any other author I have read since James Baldwin.

For Science Fiction Fans: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Brown finishes his trilogy with Morning Star and what a finish!  The last 100 pages were so engrossing – and surprising – that I lost sense of time.  It was a wild finish and made me happy to have read the series.  This same sentiment holds true for every single one of my students who read the trilogy: we all loved Morning Star

For Historians: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

The largest maritime disaster in history (in terms of loss of life for one ship) is rarely discussed.  Ruta Sepetys changes that with her YA novel that follows the story of 4 protagonists as they move from war torn Poland to perceived safety on the Wilhelm Gustloff at the end of World War Two.  Sepetys’s story is gripping historical fiction about the sinking of a boat that killed over 9,300 people. 

For the Budding Short Story Writer: Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

It won the National Book Award for good reason.  Fortune Smiles is a collection of six wonderfully told, immensely complex, and emotionally wrangling stories.  I found the fifth story – “Dark Meadow” – extremely disturbing.  The last short story was also painful to read because of the sheer despair it depicted in the life of one particular North Korean man. 

For Comedians: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This inappropriate and sometimes vulgar memoir is also hilarious.  Be warned: you will find yourself laughing uncontrollably as Lawson discusses sex, relationships, her husband, and her own mental illnesses.  Told with such candor, readers will find themselves transported into Lawson’s world, a complex and complicated place, but one could never call it dull. 

For Artists: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew 

This graphic novel tells the story of a comic book artist growing up in Singapore.  It is exquisitely drawn and pays homage to comic book artists of past and present.  It is also weaves a fascinating commentary about the politics of Singapore.     

For Athletes: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance by Angela Duckworth

You have probably already seen her TED talk about grit.  You may have read some of her research or research by others who cite Duckworth.  And yet, I still enjoyed this book, even though I had heard it all before.  While nothing earth-shattering new, Grit was a great reminder of what it takes to succeed: a lot of hard work, persistence, and passion.  I also enjoyed what Duckworth calls the “hard thing rule.”  It’s worth reading just for that.

Tags: Tim, books, summer reading, recommendations, book talks


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