Books to read this summer
Get reading with these recommendations from members of the Harvard community.
"Spartina" by John Casey
"This is the story of a down and out commercial fisherman struggling to make it on the waters off Rhode Island. As a backdrop is his construction of a new commercial fishing boat in his backyard into which he’s sunk all his hopes and dreams. A rich novel perfect for those looking for a summer read that will take them to the shore, and offshore. Best, though, that you’re not spooked by hurricanes."
"Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women who Revolutionized Food in America" by Mayukh Sen
"Sen’s debut nonfiction book offers a compelling look at women whose work and lives we should all know more about, and how they transformed American ideas about food over the past century."
We Want To Do More Than Survive
by Bettina Love
“I’m currently reading Bettina Love’s ‘We Want To Do More Than Survive,’ which would be a great read for DIB educators and enthusiasts. It’s a powerful appeal to build transformative educational homeplaces rooted in abolitionist pedagogies for liberation.” – DeAnza Cook, Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
"Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science" by Jessica Hernandez
“I plan to read 'Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science' by Jessica Hernandez. I’m really interested in learning more about climate literacy at the intersections of science, environmental policy, and indigenous knowledge.”
"Speedboat" by Renata Adler
"Renata Adler’s narrator in 'Speedboat' would roll her eyes at someone saying this experimental novel does the rarest thing, it unchains itself from all the rules and uses that freedom to explore the heights of joy and sadness. So instead I’ll just quote her: 'There are situations in which you are not entitled to stop' and reading this book is one of them."
"Finding Me" by Viola Davis
"This summer I'm eager to read 'Finding Me,' a memoir by actress and producer Viola Davis. As a filmmaker and minister, I am inquisitive about the shaping of Davis as an exquisite artist, a Black woman creative, and the trek that inspired this 'love letter' to herself."
"A Burning" by Megha Majumdar
"I think the best summer reading is totally immersive, and that’s exactly the word I’d use to describe 'A Burning.' Set in India, it shows how easy it is to get caught up in turbulent forces beyond our control. Cracking it open was like being caught in a swiftly moving stream—the story pulled me along, and I loved every minute of it."
The Moon is Down
by John Steinbeck
“I recommend John Steinbeck’s short but incredibly timely novel, ‘The Moon is Down,’ which was published in 1942. It’s a parable of an unnamed town in Northern Europe, which is invaded and occupied by a foreign army. It deftly portrays the casualties and absurdities of war but also the human lives (and human costs) of war. The characters are beautifully drawn, the writing is exquisite, and the relevance vis-à-vis what’s going on in Ukraine is painful but poignant. I highly recommend it.” – Sarah M. Whiting, Harvard Graduate School of Design
"Living a Feminist Life" by Sara Ahmed
“This book is a generous and grounded meditation on how we create feminist theory by living a feminist life at home and at work. Ahmed reflects on her own experience becoming a feminist and studying the edges and impasses of diversity work in the university. Vital summer reading for all willful subjects!”
"Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence" by Judith Butler
“I've found much of this book to be incredibly relevant to many of the struggles we are facing in the post-pandemic world. It's a refreshingly nuanced reflection on the ways in which who we mourn and how we mourn is intimately tied to power.”
"Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell
"This book is one of my absolute favorites. I don't know much about being a pre-teen boy in England in the early 80s, but there is something so universal about Jason Taylor that I think everyone can relate to him and his journey."
The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness
by Meghan O’Rourke
“Interwoven with O’Rourke’s examination of her own chronic illness is a story about the limits of our understanding of elusive conditions such as autoimmune diseases and long COVID. O’Rourke treats her subject with a poet’s lyricism and a journalist’s curiosity.” – Nora Delaney, Harvard Kennedy School