Libraries summer reading list 2023, part two

sunburst graphic with different colored sunbeams in cool tones

Did you already make it through our June list of recommended books? No worries! We have been busy reading and have additional suggestions for you. This list includes more employee picks from University Libraries’ collections, InterLibrary Loan, and public libraries. Enjoy your continued summer reading!

A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance

by Hanif Abdurraqib

If you liked reading the in-depth, vintage Rolling Stone and Spin magazine articles on pop culture and music, then this would be of interest. Abdurraqib also created and narrated a season of episodes for the Lost Notes podcast (Season Three: 1980) in case you’d like to hear his voice and listen to more stories about popular music.

– Elizabeth Brown, director of assessment

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

by Shannon Chakraborty

It follows a legendary pirate that is chronicling her seafaring adventures. It is a slow-paced story, but it does a great job in building up the characters of Amina and her crew. The story incorporates myths and fantastical elements creating a mishmash of genres: action-adventure, fairy-tale, and horror.

– Aleshia Huber, engineering librarian

Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden

by Camille Dungy

A poet tells the story of her time as a mother, writer and gardener. This book will make you want to rip up your grass yard and start fresh. So much passion, history and hope are within these pages. I listened to the audiobook read by the author and couldn’t stop listening. I finished it in two days and immediately went searching for Camille’s poetry.

– Caitlin Holton, digital initiatives assistant

This is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar and ‎Max Gladstone

If you read one book this summer, spend an afternoon reading this. This is How You Lose the Time War is the most beautiful book I have read. The story centers around two agents on opposing sides of a time war, serving organizations set to determine the future of the world. They are the top soldiers of either side, and in a recent turn of events, they choose to begin writing to each other. At first, it’s just to taunt each other, but very slowly the letters turn into something deeper as banter grows into understanding, into companionship, and then into something else entirely. It’s a gorgeous tale of what it means to be human, to feel, and to be alive.

This is not a book if you are looking for a very simple romance or a crazy sci-fi adventure. The language is very poetic and often reads more like poetry than prose. The best I can say is this book is an experience, and a really beautiful, unforgettable one if you have a couple hours to spare.

-Barbara Blake, resource sharing assistant

Transcendent Kingdom

by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi is so adept at getting at the crevices of interpersonal dynamics and excavating such intense emotions. In “Transcendental Kingdom” she weaves a non-chronological narrative that takes on the loss of a sibling to addiction, the unraveling of her parents, and the alienation of graduate school all while tying it to the narrator’s academic passions. It’s truly a remarkable feat and a lovely book to read. I would recommend it.

– Halie Kerns, digital scholarship librarian


by Jasmin Iolani Hakes

Hula by Jasmin Iolani Hakes tells the history of Hawai’i through the lens of the Naupaka family, who are integral to preserving Hawai’ian culture through several generations, primarily through the hula dance and their advocacy. The narrator is the Hawai’ian community, which was really unique and added a lot of depth to the story. Readers who have been to Hilo will recognize places in the story. While fictional, there are elements of truth / historical events, as well as Hawai’ian myths and legends.

– Megan Benson, assistant head of instruction and outreach

My Heart is a Chainsaw

by Stephen Graham Jones

This is a horror book with a beating, bloody heart; it’s more of a character analysis of a very troubled teen girl coping with her own traumas through her hyperfixation on slasher films rather than a traditional horror story. The story revolves around Jade, a high schooler who begins to notice very strange coincidences happening in her small, slowly-being-gentrified hometown. Given the nature of these events, Jade jumps to the most realistic conclusion: her hometown is about to become its own slasher movie. The problem? Convincing her town of the truth.

I highly recommend this book: the character building/development is simply gorgeous, especially surrounding the main character; there is a lot of wit/humor; Jones knows how to handle a plot twist; and the horror is not over-the-top grotesque like some other popular titles on BookTok. Another plus: this is book one in a trilogy, with book 2, Don’t Fear the Reaper, having come out earlier this year.

Trigger warning/possible spoilers: one of the underlying themes of this book is overcoming trauma associated with child sexual abuse. Jones handles the subject very delicately, but readers who are sensitive to this content might find the book difficult.

– Barbara Blake, resource sharing assistant


by R.F. Kuang

I really liked the issues that this book grappled with. In this book a white woman takes a first draft of a book written by an Asian colleague. She then edits and publishes this work under a variation of her own name. It made me think about the role that authorship plays in the way we perceive media and who is the author of a work that becomes a collaboration of sorts.

– Elise Ferer, instruction and outreach librarian


by Amanda Leduc

This is an interesting non fiction book about disability, fairy tales and the importance of acceptance of all different bodies. Would definitely recommend it, and we have this available in our collection as an eBook!

– Shannon Miranda, reader services coordinator, science library

Remarkably Bright Creatures

by Shelby Van Pelt

This is a very sweet and endearing story about a relationship between a woman and an octopus. It’s about love and loss. I actually listened to the audiobook via the Libby app. I would definitely recommend it to others. Fellow animal lovers will be relieved to know that no animals are hurt or mistreated in the story.

– Shannon Miranda, reader services coordinator, science library

The Singing Hills Cycle (Series)

by Nghi Vo

This series takes you on a number of adventures with Chih and Almost Brilliant as they travel around collecting stories and learning the strange history of far away lands. For fans of the Monk & Robot series by Becky Chambers, this will scratch the itch of storytelling and soul searching that is found in those books… with maybe a bit more weirdness!

– Caitlin Holton, digital initiatives assistant