Summer Reading

summer reading THE SUN IS OUT the air is warm, and the lazy days of summer are almost here. Whether you’re lounging by the pool or sipping lemonade on the patio, you’ll want to have a few good books at your side. That’s where we come in: we asked USF faculty and staff to share some of their favorites, from award-winning contemporary fiction and classics worth revisiting, to books to help you bone up on history and current events. While we can’t send you on a tropical vacation, we can give you a great list of books to keep you company, wherever your summer adventures lead you.

Contemporary Fiction

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This post-apocalyptic novel by the author of All the Pretty Horses tells the story of a father and son’s moving journey through a burned America. A finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics’ Circle Award, it is “probably the best book I read in 2006.” Rader

what is the what What is the What is the What by David Eggers
Pulitzer Prize nominee Eggers’ latest novel tells the story of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” who fled war in southern Sudan and wandered over eastern Africa for more than a decade. “The suffering endured by these youngsters is as appalling as the conditions that they were fleeing. This is not an easy read but an important one for understanding the tragedy of present-day Darfur.” The book is a 2006 National Book Critics’ Circle Award nominee. Privett

Saturday by Ian McEwan
Set on a single day—Feb. 13, 2003—this is the story of Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon happily married in London, but troubled by the state of the world. With an analogy from the characters’ actions to the Iraq War, Saturday “is about how a little bit of personal arrogance can lead to terrible events. This is clearly McEwan’s best book and a very good one.” Osborn

The Critics

Dean Rader
A poet and writer, his day job is associate dean for arts and humanities in the USF College of Arts and Sciences

Tyrone Cannon
Dean of the Gleeson Library/Geschke Learning Resource Center

John Osborn

Author of The Paper Chase, a novel published in 1973 that became a silver screen hit, he is a visiting professor in the School of Law

Patrick Murphy
Politics professor and director of the McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

Stephen A. Privett, S.J.
President of the university

Manuel Vargas

Philosophy professor and director of the St. Ignatius Institute

Susan Steinberg
Award-winning author and USF English professor

James Bretzke, S.J.
Chair of the theology department

Jerry Lloyd
General books manager for the university bookstore

Stephen Huxley
Business professor
horse The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
This National Book Award finalist is a “fabulous novel about a woman who passes as a male priest for her entire life on the Ojibwe reservation.” Rader

Straight Man by Richard Russo
“The most humorous book about American colleges,” Straight Man is the touching and hilarious story of Hank Devereaux Jr., the interim chair of a squabbling English department at a small rural college facing big budget cuts. Rader

Silence Silence by Shusaku Endo
Often called the Japanese Graham Greene, Endo writes about aspects of Christian faith and belief in a culture that is often at odds with them. Set in Japan at the beginning of the anti-Christian persecutions, this novel “deals with the crises faced by a young Jesuit missionary.” Bretzke

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
In the latest novel from the popular Chinese-American San Francisco writer, a group of American tourists travels through China and Burma. The novel “is a humorous study in character and culture.” Bretzke

rules for old men waiting Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
An emeritus history professor settles in for his last project—awaiting death—and creates a list of rules for his last weeks. “This is a short, engaging book that has a story within a story” and chronicles the character’s reactions to the inevitability of his pending death. “Written by an academic, the book is an easy read and quite poignant.” Huxley


concrete blondThe Concrete Blond
e by Michael Connelly
Part of Connelly’s mystery series starring Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch, “an anti-authoritarian, world-weary, classic ‘noir’-type character,” this story of a serial killer gives Harry “ample opportunity to display his investigative skills, reflect on the depravity of human nature, and denounce the incompetence of bureaucracy. Connelly’s novels are wonderful beach reading, if not great literature.” Privett

Cross and Step ona Crack by James Patterson
“If you like short chapters, being on the edge of your seat, and wanting to read just one more chapter, Patterson is the one.” In Cross, Alex Cross finally learns who murdered his wife, while Step on a Crack introduces a new character, New York City detective Michael Bennet. “Both are popcorn fun.” Cannon

Suspect by Michael Robotham
Australian writer Michael Robotham’s debut novel about Joe O’Loughlin, a London psychologist wrongfully accused of murder, “provides a complex plot with intriguing, but believable twists. It also offers up memorable, wonderfully flawed characters. This is the most fun I have had reading fiction lately.” Murphy

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova
“The legend of Vlad the Impaler—better known as Dracula—told in a multi-layered, intricate plot full of mystery, extraordinarily believable characters, and a gripping attention to historical intrigue. Set aside a weekend and you’ll lose yourself in this well-crafted mix of fact and fantasy.” Lloyd

Worth Revisiting

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
“A family, a house, an evening, a painting, a lighthouse, life, death, life again. Every line is perfect. The structure is dizzyingly brilliant. I often refer to it as the best thing ever written, and then I weep.” Steinberg

mrs dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
“On the surface: Mrs. Dalloway is throwing a party. Below the surface: Everything else.” Recommended as summer reading “so you can decide which book is the most brilliant: To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway.” Steinberg

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Written in 1853, this satirical look at the legal system in London is often considered Dickens’ best work. “It is a thousand pages of sometimes obscure English, but it is also the most important novel on the law ever written.” Osborn

invisible man Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Winner of the 1953 National Book Award, this novel focuses on the pain of the black man’s existence in a white world. Shocking when it was first published in 1952, the first-person narrated novel tells the story of an African American man who attempts to make sense of his life and position in American society. Vargas

Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
“Set in sub-Saharan Africa at the beginning of the evangelization movement, the novel deals with the conflicts between a traditional culture and its values, belief systems, and practices when they clash with the forces of an external culture, modernization, and the missionary movement.” Bretzke

collected fictionsCollected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley
A collection of short stories written by the influential Argentine writer. Many of the stories return to Borges’ familiar themes of labyrinths and discoveries of artifacts from other worlds. Hurley translated all the stories and compiled them into one volume. Vargas


negative blue Negative Blue
by Charles Wright
Negative Blue collects poems from Wright’s last three books, Chickamauga, Black Zodiac (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), and Appalachia, completing his unique, career-long project, “a trilogy of trilogies.” This is “some of the best work of contemporary poetry.” Rader


dust bowl The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
by Timothy Egan
This powerful account of the disastrous consequences of faulty, market-driven farming practices in the central plain states during the drought and Great Depression of the 1930s is “the best cultural history of the Dust Bowl years—especially its impact on Oklahoma.” Egan expertly details the grave ecological and human catastrophe resulting from the “black blizzards.” Rader

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
by Alexandra Fuller
This nonfiction story reads “like a novel,” offering an original perspective on an important chapter in world history: the civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970s. Fuller’s account of growing up in a country and family struggling with upheaval “is funny, at times sweet, and always interesting.” She “pulls no punches” in describing the racism of the government or the dysfunction of her family. Murphy

The tipping point The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
The premise of the New Yorker columnist’s book is that little things, such as the actions of a small group of people, can have big effects as those actions spread like epidemics, creating a “tipping point” and changing the world. Gladwell uses this theory to explain such phenomena as an unknown book becoming a bestseller and the rise of teenage smoking. Cannon

Faith of our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition
by Eamon Duffy
The renowned Cambridge University historian of Christianity displays his “extensive knowledge of history, droll humor, and lively literary style” in this engaging and informative read. The book details issues that “challenge contemporary persons of faith and in so doing reclaims and revitalizes the Catholic tradition and clearly shows that those who most vehemently defend this tradition oftentimes do not know what they are talking about.” Privett

The Price of Admission The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
by Daniel Golden
The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter argues that America is rapidly becoming an aristocracy where the richest families receive special access to elite higher education. Based on two years of investigative reporting and hundreds of interviews, the book exposes the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, powerful, and famous. Vargas

Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong by Marc Hauser
Focusing “on how we make moral decisions,” Hauser argues against the prevailing point of view that our moral psychology is founded on experience and education. Instead, he argues that humans have evolved a universal moral instinct. He examines the implications of this theory for issues of religion, law, and everyday life. Vargas

Halls of Fame by John D’Agata
“A book of loosely linked lyric essays on topics ranging from the Hoover Dam to Martha Graham to sleep deprivation in Las Vegas. This book is beautifully written, wonderfully textured, and more innovative than any other contemporary book I have read.” Steinberg

oracle Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler
The story of modern China told through interviews with ordinary people struggling to understand their dynamic, rapidly changing country. Subjects include teachers, migrant factory workers, and ex-government officials. “Hessler lets his interviewees tell their own stories so that the book reads like an extended magazine article. Easily accessible and fascinating.” Lloyd

Taking a road trip? Check out these audio books:

Naked in Baghdad
by Anne Garrels
As National Public Radio’s senior foreign correspondent, Anne Garrels is renowned for independent, down-to-earth, and insightful reporting. She was one of only 16 non-embedded American journalists in Baghdad throughout the American invasion of Iraq. Naked in Baghdad vividly presents the sights, sounds, and smells of the war, while her “observations on the early stages of the war prove insightful and, unfortunately, prophetic.” Murphy

This Just In
by Bob Schieffer
This is a behind-the-scenes narrative of the events spanning more than four decades of U.S. history from a journalist who has been witness to some of the country’s most important moments, including John Kennedy’s assassination, Watergate, and every presidential election since Nixon. “Schieffer’s reflections on being a war correspondent in Vietnam are down right eerie as the Iraq war approaches its fifth year.” Murphy

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