27 Summer Reads Recommended by the Luther Community

Great Summer Reads 2016

Many of these recommendations are available for checkout at Preus Library! If they are not, you are welcome to request your reading material via interlibrary loan. Is there an exciting new fiction or nonfiction release that you think the library should purchase? Send your leisure reading suggestions to [email protected]

Purple Hibiscus
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home-a home that is silent and suffocating. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father's authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins' laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together. Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Fredrik Backman
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

Our Only World
by Wendell Berry
"Includes ten essays continuing his mission to articulate the misfit between our industrial economy (including agriculture) and the natural world. Beautifully written."
The planet’s environmental problems respect no national boundaries. From soil erosion and population displacement to climate change and failed energy policies, American governing classes are paid by corporations to pretend that debate is the only democratic necessity and that solutions are capable of withstanding endless delay. Late Capitalism goes about its business of finishing off the planet. And we citizens are left with a shell of what was once proudly described as The American Dream. In this new collection of eleven essays, Berry confronts head-on the necessity of clear thinking and direct action. Never one to ignore the present challenge, he understands that only clearly stated questions support the understanding their answers require. For more than fifty years we’ve had no better spokesman and no more eloquent advocate for the planet, for our families, and for the future of our children and ourselves.

Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue. 

The Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series
by Colin Cotterill
Set in the 1970s, the new People’s Democratic Republic of Laos is still finding its way and revolution hangover lingers in the air like humidity. Reluctant Party man Dr. Siri Paiboun soon finds himself inundated with dead bodies. As Paiboun investigates, he’s got help from the “other side”—of the material world, that is. Described by the New York Times Book Review as a “perfect balance between the modern mysteries of forensic science and the ancient secrets of the spirit world,” Colin Cotterill’s Siri Paboun Mysteries open a window on a country few Westerners know well.

The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives. This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

LaRose: A Novel
by Louise Erdrich
Late summer in North Dakota, 1999: Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence but only when he staggers closer does he realise he has killed his neighbour's son. Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

The Life We Bury
by Allen Eskens
College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

The Southern Vampire Mysteries (Sookie Stackhouse novels)
by Charlaine Harris
"There are 13 books total and they're funny, sexy, weird and delightfully supernatural."
Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is no typical Southern belle. She can read minds. And she’s got a thing for vampires. Which, in a town like Bon Temps, Louisiana, means she’ll have to watch her back—and neck... The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, also known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries, is a series of books written by bestselling author Charlaine Harris that were first published in 2001 and now serve as the source material for the HBO television series True Blood.

Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy
by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley.
"Heinberg is one of the best authors on peak oil and climate change. Here he outlines the opportunities and challenges on the way to all renewable energy sources."
Energy expert Richard Heinberg and scientist David Fridley explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy. Beginning with a comprehensive overview of our current energy system, the authors survey issues of energy supply and demand in key sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, transportation, buildings, and manufacturing. In their detailed review of each sector, the authors examine the most crucial challenges we face, from intermittency in fuel sources to energy storage and grid redesign. The book concludes with a discussion of energy and equity and a summary of key lessons and steps forward at the individual, community, and national level.

When Breath Becomes Air
by Dr. Paul Kalanithi
"a poignant memoir by a young neurosurgeon who finds himself dying of lung cancer"
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

The Dark Tower series
by Stephen King
The Dark Tower series tells the story of Roland Deschain, Mid-World’s last gunslinger, who is traveling southeast across Mid-World’s post-apocalyptic landscape, searching for the powerful but elusive magical edifice known as The Dark Tower. Located in the fey region of End-World, amid a sea of singing red roses, the Dark Tower is the nexus point of the time-space continuum.  It is the heart of all worlds, but it is also under threat. Someone, or something, is using the evil technology of the Great Old Ones to destroy it.

The Girl in the Spider's Web
by David Lagercrantz
She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution. Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

Don't Think of an Elephant: Know your Values and Frame the Debate
by George Lakoff
"an updated and expanded edition of his seminal book arguing that progressives must learn to frame the political debate in ways that articulate moral values and connect with people where they are"
In this book Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but are often unable to articulate. Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate. Lakoff's years of research and work with environmental and political leaders have been distilled into this essential guide, which shows progressives how to think in terms of values instead of programs, and why people vote their values and identities, often against their best interests.

Uprooted
by Naomi Novik
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Acts of Faith
by Eboo Patel
Acts of Faith is a remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and coming to believe in religious pluralism, from one of the most prominent faith leaders in the United States. Eboo Patel’s story is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people—and of the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.

The Bees
by Laline Paull
The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death. Flora 717, a lowly sanitation bee, is born with unusual features and abilities that allow her to move fluidly between the strict hierarchies of her hive. Through this ability, she witnesses the brutality and beauty that the various castes of bees exhibit to keep the hive productive, all in service and loyalty to the queen. But when Flora discovers she is fertile and can produce an offspring, she must betray her instincts to worship the queen bee and follow an untrodden path that leads her away from her kin.

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel
by Helen Simonson
In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore 
by Robin Sloan
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching
by Mychal Denzel Smith
Mychal Denzel Smith chronicles his own personal and political education during these tumultuous years, describing his efforts to come into his own in a world that denied his humanity. Smith unapologetically upends reigning assumptions about black masculinity, rewriting the script for black manhood so that depression and anxiety aren’t considered taboo, and feminism and LGBTQ rights become part of the fight. The questions Smith asks in this book are urgent—for him, for the martyrs and the tokens, and for the Trayvons that could have been and are still waiting.

When She Was White: the True Story of a Family Divided by Race
by Judith Stone
During the worst years of official racism in South Africa, the story of one young girl gripped the nation and came to symbolize the injustice, corruption, and arbitrary nature of apartheid. Born in 1955 to a pro-apartheid Afrikaner couple, Sandra Laing was officially registered and raised as a white child. But when she was sent to a boarding school for whites, she was mercilessly persecuted because of her dark skin and frizzy hair. Her parents attributed Sandra's appearance to an interracial union far back in history; they swore Sandra was their child. Their neighbors, however, thought Mrs. Laing had committed adultery with a black man. The family was shunned. And when Sandra was ten, she was removed from school by the police and reclassified as "coloured." As a teenager, Sandra eloped with a black man, and her parents disowned her. The young woman, who had only known the privileged world of the whites, chose to begin again in a poor, rural, all-black township, where life was a desperate, day-to-day struggle against poverty, illness, and a legal system designed to enslave.

A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight
by Maria Toorpakai
"Read it a few months ago. It's great!"
Maria Toorpakai hails from Pakistan's violently oppressive northwest tribal region, where the idea of women playing sports is considered haram-un-Islamic-forbidden-and girls rarely leave their homes. But she did, passing as a boy in order to play the sports she loved, thus becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country's fierce battle over women's rights. After years of living on the run from the Taliban, Maria packed up and left the only place she had ever known to move halfway across the globe and pursue her dream. Now Maria is well on the way to becoming a world champion as she continues to be a voice for oppressed women everywhere.

Annihilation
by Jeff VanderMeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. A group of four women make up the twelfth expedition to Area X: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles--and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

 

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