Summer Reading

For several years, our “Information for First-Year Parents” weekly message page would end the academic year with a “Summer Reading” entry, where we offered some picks for potential books parents and families (and students!) could read over the summer.  We’ve changed the format of the “Information for First-Year Parents” section a little this year, but I didn’t want to lose the Summer Reading ideas.

We have so many amazing minds on campus, and I have asked just a few of them I know well to offer their best books up for consideration.  If you have a book club and are looking for recommendations, we hope some of these might be interesting.  Or if you as a family want to tackle a book together, enjoy!

Many thanks to my outstanding colleagues for taking the time to send us some titles.


maria-henson-214x300from Maria Henson (’82)
Associate Vice President and Editor-at-Large

Maria oversees our award winning Wake Forest Magazine.  She said this of her book choice:  “The best book I’ve read in the past year is the Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders. How this master storyteller can paint a surreal, dystopian future, strike a satirical tone and still leave this reader feeling Saunders’ compassion for humanity and our heartbreaking connectedness is a gift to behold.”


lynn-sutton-700x400from Lynn Sutton, Ph.D.
Dean, Z Smith Reynolds Library

Lynn is the head of our awesome Z Smith Reynolds Library.  She recommends Lee Smith’s Guests on EarthThis is a beautiful book about the thin curtain that separates us from mental illness, set in Asheville, with the always entertaining Zelda Fitzgerald as a compelling character.”


mary dalton 2from Mary Dalton (’82)
Professor of Communication, Film Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies

Mary is one of our Faculty Fellows and has been very active in welcoming our first-year students to residential life on campus.  She wrote: “As a Faculty Fellow in Luter Residence Hall, I encouraged a group of students to read Flight Behavior as a way to start a conversation across the humanities and the sciences.  Winter, spring, summer, or fall, any time of the year is a good time to read this book!

I have loved many of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels (namely The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer) and put Flight Behavior up there with the best of them.  Some people may quibble that she has crossed the line into polemic with the climate change strand of the story, but I don’t think so.

The story works for me as a compelling examination of what happens when cultures collide, and Kingsolver presents both the perspectives of members of a rural, Tennessee mountain community and scientists who arrive there with understanding and tenderness; there is no condescension toward the indigenous folk and no exaltation of the scientists.

The story is framed around Dellarobia Turnbow, a woman who comes to have a foot in both worlds, and she is an exciting character, a woman who is meant to rise above her circumstances.  I love this (completely believable) story of female empowerment.”


rosalind-tedfordfrom Rosalind Tedford (’91, MA ’94)
Director of Research and Instruction
Z Smith Reynolds Library

Like all of my friends making recommendations, Roz is a prolific reader.  She echoed Lynn’s choice of Guests on Earth, and offered three more options for books:

Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in 20 Objects by Neil McGregor
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Roz also mentioned that the ZSR is keeping a list on Goodreads for anyone who wants to see what the librarians are recommending.


hu-womackfrom Hu Womack (’90, MBA ’00)
Instruction and Outreach Librarian
Z Smith Reynolds Library
and Faculty Fellow, South Hall

Hu recommends Choosing Civility by PM Forni.  He said this of the book:  “[it] is reading assigned to freshmen this summer! I’ve read it and think it is an excellent book for starting discussion about communal living and happiness.”  Hu also recommended the following:

The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, both by John Green
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt


20080829phillips5690from Tom Phillips (’74, MA ’78)
Director, Wake Forest Scholars
Co-Director, Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway to Medicine Program

Right now Tom is at the Flow House in Vienna, Wake Forest’s residential program there.  But he was kind enough to send along two recommendations.

“Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son is a stark and powerful look into North Korean culture and mindset through the fortunes of a young man who must determine what price he will pay to survive in a world in which reality is redefined with the flick of a switch (or knife).  This much-honored book is wholly worthy of its praise.

The City and the City, by Englishman China Mieville, is a genre-bending science fiction detective novel, a gritty and elegant murder mystery that pits a jaded cop against his own past as well as the mind-altering present, itself a dystopian future come to pass.”


Finally, we’ll give you two picks from the Daily Deac.   Neither could be considered high art or groundbreaking literature, but bear with me.

If you’ve been a longtime Daily Deac reader, you’ll know that I err on the side of the sentimental.  My first pick is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  This is the story of a young and dynamic upperclass Englishman, Will Traynor, who had been a big-time businessman and thrillseeker, who became a quadriplegic after an accident.  His new caretaker companion, Lou Clark, is given a daunting challenge in working with him.  This is a sweet and poignant story.  Have tissues.

I also like a good inside scoop, so the second book is in that vein.  Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits goes undercover with eight new graduates who enter Wall Street as investment bankers and go through a rigorous 2-3 year transformation.  They face brutal work hours and capricious bosses but in return they earn ridiculous money and have access to some of the most exclusive places in New York.  Warning: this has a lot of rough language in it, so if you are easily offended, take note.  I wanted to read this book because I wanted to see what some of my former advisees (who are moving into I-banking after graduation) might experience.


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