Connection Corner: Summer 2021 Reading Recommendations

Each year, Campus Connections asks faculty and staff to share about the books they’ve read over the summer. Here are what Meredith colleagues have read and would recommend to others. 

Notes are included when the recommended books are available in Carlyle Campbell Library.

Jason Newport, Composition and Creative Writing Instructor: 

“Anyone feeling overwhelmed by the terrifying news about climate change will find a pragmatic yet uplifting vision of human interaction with nature in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. A botanist and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer weaves lyricism and myth with history, memoir, and science to create a mesmerizing view of our place among living beings with voices and lessons we can hear if we choose to listen.” 

The ebook edition is available through Carlyle Campbell library.

Instructor of English Jennifer Suchanec recommends Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

“My little sister and I both read and loved this book. In fact, five weeks after having finished it, we are still mulling it over and applying its details to our own lives. The plot is simple: A family rents a remote Long Island, N.Y., beach home; they grocery shop, swim, relax, sun, and have a perfectly choreographed and relaxing vacation; however, the action takes an odd turn when the family who owns the home appears and things like animals and technology start behaving strangely. This author can write, and he smoothly and intelligently uses the guise of a thriller to tackle such topics as race, class, intelligence, and mortality.” 

The library has a copy available for check out in “New Books” on the main floor (call number 813 AL117L).

Admissions Counselor Julia Norton: 

“A book I read this summer that I recommend is To Live Woke by Dr. Rupert W. Nacoste, Ph.D.  It is a great tool to help educate oneself on how to live in a neo-diverse America, and is a great resource for our anti-racism initiative on campus! A helpful explanation of the contents of To Live Woke is: ‘Using stories from his life and college teaching, in short essay chapters, Nacoste gives the reader think pieces about today’s American neo-diversity anxieties. He lays out concrete interpersonal strategies anyone can use to confront and disempower bigotry in their everyday social interactions’. “

Professor of Education Monica McKinney recommends Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. 

“It was a 2020 Oprah’s Book Club pick and the focus of one of our campus PDCs last year (that I was unable to participate in). Wilkerson argues that in addition to race, class, and other factors, the U.S. is home to a caste system that exerts a strong influence at both the individual and societal levels. She makes thought-provoking comparisons with India and Nazi Germany, and draws upon historical and contemporary examples. While the subject matter is multi-faceted and complex, the style is highly readable.”

The library has a copy available for check out as part of the general collection on the top floor (call number 305.5122 W652c).

Assistant Professor of History Amy O’Keefe:
“I  highly recommend Clint Smith’s new book, How the Word is Passed, which I read this summer. Smith examines public presentations of the history of slavery in the United States, discussing a range of strengths and failings in that public history, and the meaning of history for our society today. Such a powerful read! (I would love to see this as a Summer Reading Program book!)”  

The library has a copy available for check out in “New Books” on the main floor (call number 306.3620973 Sm511h).

Professor of History Dan Fountain seconds this recommendation of How the Word is Passed.I agree with Amy. She loaned me the book and I’m halfway through it. It’s a very interesting read and a thoughtful perspective.”

Admissions Data Administrator Paige Ryan suggests The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. 

“Born in a small French village in 1691, Adeline LaRue makes a bargain with “the gods that answer after dark” to escape an unwanted marriage. Addie willingly trades her soul for immortality, but she doesn’t realize until too late that the price of her freedom is her legacy — for now she is doomed to be instantly forgotten by everyone she meets.”

Professor of Spanish Jonathan Wade:
“One book that I’d recommend is Ser mujer negra en España (Being a Black Woman in Spain) by Desirée Bela-Lobedde. It is a powerful first person narrative that explores the intersection of Spanishness and blackness. I will be incorporating several passages in my fall course, Identities of Spain.”

Research and Instruction Librarian Amanda Sullivan:
“The book that I read this summer that has stayed with me the most is We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper. While this book dissects and solves a murder of a Harvard female anthropology student, it also offers a perspective on the field of anthropology and how women were treated in it, specifically at Harvard back in the 1960s and up until the present. I also can’t stop thinking about, and talking about, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. He looks at the Sackler family’s empire and how complicit they were in heavily marketing oxycontin knowing the side effects. Their complete lack of compassion, and ability to take  responsibility for the epidemic they unleashed, left me dumbfounded (and had me slamming the book shut more than a few times). I checked both books out of the Wake County Public Library.”

Dean of Library information Services Laura Davidson
“The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan was a fun summer read for me. Set in England during World War II, the novel tells the story of a village cooking contest sponsored by the BBC. It is filled with an interesting cast of characters who compete vigorously but show some of the collaborative spirit of the Great British Baking Show. The contest brings the additional challenge of working within the wartime strictures imposed by food rationing. Besides the great story, the book includes some of the recipes created by the contestants. I got the book using Wake County Public Library’s e-book service, Libby.”


Melyssa Allen

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