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Summer reading suggestions from faculty and staff

June  20, 2014

Librarians at Augustana's Thomas Tredway Library, plus some faculty and staff, have a few suggestions for your non-academic summer reading pleasure.


Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Recommended by Steve Bahls, president

The author and his wife skied and hiked a thousand miles across the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness, following the annual migration of the Porcupine caribou herd, numbering 120,000. It is a gripping story of the challenges of traversing the Arctic on foot and of the likely impact of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the grand, but fragile, caribou herds. Readers of the book will find themselves, for precious moments, disconnecting from this hectic world into the magic and uncertainty of the Arctic. I also recommend the film the author made during the journey.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

Recommended by Christine Loula, annual giving assistant

Not particularly high-brow, but perfect for fluffy, quickly consumable, light summer fare. To use a ridiculously over-used phrase, I literally laughed out loud on multiple occasions. She writes about her childhood, her crazy career path that started in Chicago, navigating the treachery and ridiculousness of show business, and balancing work and family, among other things. I think anyone (not just women) will enjoy this, but especially if you're a 40-ish woman, you will appreciate references to special moments of our growing years. Smart, thoughtful, clever, witty, hilarious.


Breakout by Newt Gingrich

Recommended by Gregory Tapis, assistant professor of business administration

In Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate, Gingrich says the country's political battle is not between the left and the right, but between the past and the future. "America is on the edge of a breakout. In fact, we are poised for one of the most spectacular leaps in human well-being in history. Pioneers of the future — innovators and entrepreneurs — are achieving breakthroughs in medicine, transportation, energy, education, and other fields that will make the world a dramatically different and better place. Unless the "prison guards" of the past stop them. Every American must choose a side. Will you be a champion of the future or a prisoner of the past?


Cloudbreak, California by Kelly Daniels

Recommended by Kai Swanson, executive assistant to the president

I've enjoyed Cloudbreak, California by Augustana professor Kelly Daniels. It's a journey memoir that makes you feel like a trusted fellow traveler, and reminds the reader that the extraordinary and the mundane coexist in settings both exotic and familiar, and the line between them is easier to cross than the I-74 bridge (though perhaps with a few more consequences).


The Dinner by Herman Koch

Recommended by Carla Tracy, library director

This is one of those tour-de-force stories with a (possibly) unreliable narrator — like Gone Girl, but with a very different plot. It was extremely popular in Europe before finally making its U.S. debut in late 2013. As puts it, this novel "skewers everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions." If you like to lose yourself in a mystery of this kind, just giving yourself up for the ride, The Dinner is a great choice.


The Manifested Melancholy Magnificent by Eric J. Rowell

Recommended by Eric Rowell, assistant director of admissions and diversity outreach

This unique first-person narrative focuses on the young life of an urbanite known to all as "My Boy." The setting is the south side of Chicago during the late 1980s. My Boy has just married a childhood friend and must make a decision regarding their immediate fates. His story is told by the guests at his wedding, encompassing a collection of madcaps and sages who divulge all they know of him and themselves. The story is humorous, poignant, and moving and unlike anything written in recent times.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Recommended by Christine Aden, head of circulation

Me Before You is the poignant story of Louisa, a young woman who just lost her job, and Will, a 30-something titan of industry who has become a quadriplegic. When she becomes his caregiver, a friendship ignites. Their friendship will change who they are, but neither is prepared for what happens at the end of her six-month contract. The cover art makes this look like a girly, frou-frou kind of book. That is not the reality. This book takes a hard look at very serious ethical issues, and it isn't always easy to read. I fell in love with Lou and Will, I laughed at their snarky comments to one another, enjoyed their quiet adventures. In the end, they broke my heart. Beware! (But do read it, anyway.)


Middlemarch by George Eliot

Recommended by Margi Rogal, reference librarian

On the other side of bookdom from the Little House books is the classic Middlemarch, written, as a matter of fact, during the same late 19th-century period as Laura's childhood. Laura was an American pioneer girl, however, while Dorothea Brooke was, well, a queenly English girl who saw the world through "coloured lamps." If you love immersing yourself in a deep, throbbing Victorian novel, give yourself over to Middlemarch this summer.


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Recommended by Leslie DuPree, director of web services

If you are new to Gaiman's work you will, like many of his old fans, wonder what kind of childhood this man had. He is able to write about things that may not exist, or if they do, float at the edge of consciousness and disappear if we look directly at them. Ocean taps into the feeling we occasionally have of not-quite-knowing something important that's happened to us, and of the pull on our thoughts that a place, as well as a person, can exercise.


One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard

Recommended by Andrew Petersen, assistant director of web services

In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats defied convention and the odds. Led by an hippie English teacher with no coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of 370 teams to represent the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final. There's a dose of small-town cliche, but it's a fun, quick read with great characters.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Recommended by Lisa Huntsha, archivist/librarian, Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

Do you identify as an introvert, or know someone who does? Likely, you do. It's estimated that 30-50% of the population is introverted. Yet, as a society, we seem to value extroverted personalities in business, the classroom, and social situations. Cain explores human psychology, cross-cultural comparisons, and personal anecdotes to increase the understanding of introverts and extroverts alike in this well-researched book. It's an interesting and easy read that will have you reflecting on yourself and your communication style with others. If you're looking for a way to develop class activities that will tap into your introverted students' talents, this book can help with that too.


The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Recommended by Katie Hanson, assistant professor, English and education

All first-year students read a common book during the summer before they arrive on campus.This year's book, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, won the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction. The year is 1988. The place is an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. The narrator is Joe, who has just turned 13. When his mother is the victim of sexual assault, his family must deal with the emotional, physical, political, and legal impact of the crime. Erdrich also asks us to consider the question of revenge as justice. We will have plenty to think and write and talk about after reading this book.


This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Recommended by Amanda Makula, research and instruction librarian

Patchett has pulled together many of her best nonfiction pieces and although some are long and others very short, they are all interesting. She includes reflections on her ambivalent experience touting her books while on tour, escaping to the Hotel Bel-Air in L.A. for a few days of solitude and people-watching, and having one of her books chosen as a common read at Clemson University only to find herself at the middle of a controversy over its "scandalous" content. The title of the book refers to her exploration of the legacy of divorce in her family and how she resisted marriage for years until a medical crisis threatened her significant other. Perfect bedtime reading, this book is like comfort food: familiar, hearty, and nourishing. Enjoy!


White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Recommended by Liesl Fowler, registrar

I just finished reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch, which I hadn't discovered when it was published in 1999. It was made popular by being an Oprah Book Club book and was also made into a move in 2002. It is the fictional, sad tale of a young girl tossed about the foster care system as she grows up in southern California in the 1980s. Really powerful and yet terrifying.


The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

Recommended by Margi Rogal, reference librarian

As a little girl, did you absolutely love Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books? If you are one of the die-hard fans of all things Laura, you must read this funny, reflective, and engaging book about the romance and reality of Laura's world as it was re-discovered and explored by a grown-up girl reader of the stories that have enchanted millions of children, including me!