Check it out: A summer reading list from UO faculty members

Open book in wildflower field

Summertime is here, but even with the desire to get out and play after more than a year of quarantine, many are looking forward to simply relaxing somewhere with a good book.

Along with recommendations from University of Oregon faculty members and staff, Around the O has selected several standout books from authors that have a UO connection.

Book coverThe Sweetness of Water
By Nathan Harris

Landing on both Oprah’s 2021 book club list and President Barack Obama’s summer 2021 reading list, “The Sweetness of Water” by UO alumnus Nathan Harris is a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice and a July Indie Next Pick. Set in Georgia at the end of the Civil War, Harris’ debut novel follows two brothers freed by the Emancipation Proclamation who seek refuge and work at the homestead of a grieving couple who have lost their only son to the war.

Book coverAfterLife, AfterDeath and AfterAll
By Brandy Todd

What are undead space surveyors and why should we care about them? If you’re looking for something fantastical to whisk you away to a realm of impossible possibility, UO’s own triple Duck and illustrious member of the Slug Queen Brandy Todd, in collaboration with her spouse, has written a series of novels under the pen name B.L. Craig. According to Todd, “AfterLife: An Undead Space Opera,” “AfterDeath: An Undead Chronicle” and “AfterAll: An Undead Reckoning,” the three books in the Reanimate Saga series, encompass all the things good sci-fi novels should have, including “drama, trauma, adorable space elves and gorilla art.” When she’s not writing, Todd is assistant director of administration at the Oregon Center for Optical, Molecular and Quantum Science and director of SPICE, the Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence.

Book coverThis Is My America
By Kimberly Johnson

The July 2020 release of UO Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success Kimberly Johnson’s young adult novel “This Is My America” couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment, amid a global pandemic, wildfires raging out of control and Black Lives Matter protesters in the streets in response to the murder of George Floyd and other Black citizens at the hands of police.

Her timely novel about a young Black girl turned social justice activist struggling to win release of her father, an innocent man on death row, while saving her older brother from a similar fate, quickly garnered accolades both within and outside the university.

The book was the UO’s 2020 Common Reading program selection, finalist for Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2021 Book Awards, semifinalist for the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards and winner of the Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Most recently it was announced that it will be made into a streaming television series on HBO Max.

As someone who is tapped into the literary universe, Johnson offers two of her own summer reading recommendations:

Book coverThe Firekeeper’s Daughter
By Angeline Boulley

“The Firekeeper’s Daughter” was named Amazon’s Best Young Adult Book of 2021, a 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List selection, Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021 selection, a PopSugar Best March 2021 Young Adult Book selection, a Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club Young Adult Pick and soon to be adapted at Netflix for TV with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.

“I recommend the audiobook as well for those who enjoy hearing some of the language, which makes the story even more vivid and immersing,” Johnson said. “It’s engaging from every page. It made me laugh, cry and stay at the edge of my seat as I followed the narrator through discovery.”

Book coverBraiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and Teachings of Plants
By Robin Wall Kimmerer

Focusing on themes of diversity and environmental justice, Johnson also recommends the 2021-22 UO Common Reading program selection “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and Teachings of Plants,” a memoir written by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a professor, botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Several UO faculty members also shared their book recommendations:

Here for the Present: A Grammar of Happiness in the Present Imperfect, Live from the Poet’s Perch
Book coverBy Barbara Mossberg
Recommended by Michael Moffitt, Philip H. Knight Chair in Law; faculty-in-residence, Clark Honors College

“I cannot say enough good things about this collection,” Moffitt said. “I wept at her treatment of Raymond Carver’s ‘Late Fragment.’ I found myself surprised to learn that a heron I am sure I have met is named Margaret. I was comforted by her urging that, ‘…  when you wonder, when you worry, when you lie awake, you are asking for something the world will know how to answer,’ and on and on.

“The collection is not easy to read slowly, because each passage, each collection, urges one to find out what’s next. Still, I was mindful not to binge-read the works of one whose work centers on slowing. What a gift Barbara has given to the world. And what a treat to have her as a colleague.”

Book coverPaying the Land
By Joe Sacco
Recommended by Stephanie LeMenager, Moore Endowed Professor of English

“I recommend Joe Sacco’s ‘Paying the Land,’ a remarkable graphic documentary about the histories of extraction, colonization and Indigenous resistance in what is now known as the Canadian North,” she said.

Book coverName of the Wind
By Patrick Rothfuss
Recommended by Elizabeth Wheeler, associate professor, Department of English

“Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘The Name of the Wind’ is a great fantasy read,” Wheeler said, “and it’s 800 pages long, so it will last you all summer!”

—By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications