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Skidmore College

Need a good summer book? Try one a Skidmore community member recommends

July 8, 2022
by Julia Marco

For many Skidmore community members, summer is a time to settle in with a book they’ve been longing to read. Whether that means escaping through science fiction, dreaming with beach reads, expanding perspectives through memoirs and biographies, or researching a topic they’re passionate about, we were curious to learn what’s on their shelves.  

So we asked: “What’s on your summer reading list?” Here are their recommendations.  

“Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler

“Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler

Recommended by Rachel Roe-Dale, director of the First-Year Experience and professor of mathematics 

“‘Parable of the Sower’ is a deeply interdisciplinary exploration of empathy and community in a world falling apart. It will leave you thinking in new ways about how we can survive and even flourish in the face of problems bigger than ourselves.”

“Parable of the Sower” is also this year’s First-Year Experience summer reading selection. 

“Murderbot Diaries,” a series by Martha Wells

“Murderbot Diaries,” a series by Martha Wells

Recommended by Marta Brunner, college librarian  

"This series is written from the perspective of a sentient security robot with human parts. When the initial story opens, we learn that introverted Murderbot has hacked its governor module so it can deviate from the restrictions of its employer: It wants to watch soap operas when it's bored or experiencing social anxiety, which is pretty much all the time given that it has to work with incredibly annoying, super stressful, and perplexingly helpless humans. The stories are sometimes poignant, often hilarious explorations of personhood and social connection.”

“Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin 

“Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin 

Recommended by Chris Arnold ’24, student Admissions ambassador

“A masterful piece of fiction, Baldwin’s reputation as one of the best writers of the 20th century rings true in ‘Giovanni’s Room.’ A heartbreaking tale of gay love, it’s a must read for queer fiction fans.” 

“Will in the World: Becoming Shakespeare” by Stephen Greenblatt 

“Will in the World: Becoming Shakespeare” by Stephen Greenblatt 

Also “Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus” by Leon Kass 

Recommended by Marc Conner, president  

“I have upward of 20 books on my bedside table right now ... it’s frankly turning into a bit of a safety hazard. One I’m especially eager to read this summer is Leon Kass’s recent book, ‘Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus.’ It’s a massive study of the Book of Exodus that focuses on the notions of nation, people, and place, which seem to me to be very pressing concepts in America today. Another is Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare, ‘Will in the World: Becoming Shakespeare.’ I’ve read it several times and always learn more from it. As I prepare to teach the seminar Shakespeare: Comedy and Tragedy this fall semester, it’s helping me rethink the plays, the playwright, and what I want to share with students in the course.” 

“Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood” by Cheryl Diamond

“Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood” by Cheryl Diamond

Recommended by Megan Mercier MALS ’11, director of alumni and volunteer engagement 

“‘Nowhere Girl,’ a captivating memoir by Cheryl Diamond about spending her youth on the run, is the current Alumni Book Club selection. The Alumni Book Club offers the opportunity for members of the Skidmore community to connect virtually with each other over shared readings and interests. Participation in book club is free and completely flexible. Join us!” 

“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

Recommended by Meghan Nicchi, head athletic trainer 

“I always try to take the down time during the summer to get a couple of good books in before things get super busy again. I’m partial to the page-turner beach reads that make you think just enough to keep you invested and entertained, but not too much to make it seem like work! ‘The Silent Patient’ is a great mystery with a medical undertone, which I am always partial to!” 

“Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (A Biomythography)” by Audre Lorde

“Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (A Biomythography)” by Audre Lorde

Recommended by Anita Jack-Davies, deputy chief diversity officer and Wyckoff Center director 

“Audre Lorde is one of the best writers, poets, and thinkers of the last century when it comes to her scholarship on issues of race, intersectionality, identity, and what it means to live as a Black person in America. She was well ahead of her time. Her writing is poetic, unforgiving, complex, and simple at the same time.” 

“Zami was my first foray into Black feminist writing, and I read it years ago as a doctoral student at Queen’s University in Canada. I’m rereading it as I prepare to publish my own memoir, ‘Lawrencia’s Last Parang: On Loss and Belonging as a Black Woman in Canada’ about being born in Canada to a teenage mother who could not take care of me, being sent to Trinidad to be raised by my grandmother Lawrencia, and the drama that unfolds for our family with her passing in 2013. It’s due out this fall.”  

“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan

“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan

Recommended by Bob Turner, associate professor of environmental studies and sciences and political science  

“As an aspiring surfer, I appreciate Finnegan’s obsession with surfing, stories of camaraderie, and the thrill of pushing the edge.”  

“Who Killed Jane Stanford: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University” by Richard White

“Who Killed Jane Stanford: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University” by Richard White

Recommended by Eric Morser, director of civic engagement and the Bridge Experience and professor of history 

Richard White is one of the best historians working today and someone who has figured out how to wed innovative research and artful prose. The book is a history and a true crime story. White explores the murder of Jane Stanford, who founded Stanford University with her husband, Leland, to tell an intriguing tale of hubris, religious devotion, and personal vendettas in the Gilded Age American West.” 

“The Quaking of America: An Embodied Guide to Navigating Our Nation’s Upheaval and Racial Reckoning” by Resmaa Menakem

“The Quaking of America: An Embodied Guide to Navigating Our Nation’s Upheaval and Racial Reckoning” by Resmaa Menakem

Recommended by Jennifer Mueller, associate professor of sociology and director of the Intergroup Relations Program

“The book is premised on the idea that we need more than ‘cognitive’ political strategies to counter the increasingly antidemocratic and threatening racialized political forces around us. Instead, we need somatic practices that help us temper and condition our bodies so that we can stay present in/with the body in the midst of conflict, more clearly discern when we are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of alignment, work toward healing racialized trauma and internalized dominance, and build a living, embodied, antiracist culture.” 

“The Judge’s List” by John Grisham

“The Judge’s List” by John Grisham

Recommended by Robert Resnick '88, Alumni Board of Directors president  

“I’m headed out on a two-week vacation and have the latest from John Grisham in my bag. I enjoy those types of thrillers. They take me outside of the daily grind, and I use reading mostly as an escape.”  

“Gold Diggers” by Sanjena Sathian

“Gold Diggers” by Sanjena Sathian

Recommended by Angela Valden, strategic communications editor 

“I’m currently reading ‘Gold Diggers,’ an extremely clever, funny, and imaginative novel that follows Indian American teenager Neil Narayan and centers on themes of community, immigrant identity, and the pressures of living up to family and societal expectations and pursuing the American Dream. Described as ‘a magical realist coming-of-age story,’ it’s endearing and entertaining, with a very creative twist!” 

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain” by Wallace Stegner

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain” by Wallace Stegner

Recommended by Deb Hall, associate professor of art  

“The story follows a constantly moving family through the early 1900s in the upper Midwest, Saskatchewan, Utah, and Nevada. Bo Mason, the protagonist, gets involved in Prohibition activities, and the family endures constant relocation due to money troubles and the law as well as the Spanish flu. It's a dense, descriptive book filled with rich characters and detailed experiences that shed light on a slice of America’s social and cultural history.” 

“Also on my summer list are 'Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’ by Ashlee Vance. Like him or not, Musk is a visionary whose ideas are impacting us. Then I plan to read ‘Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter’ by Ben Goldfarb.” 

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