What to Add to Your Summer Reading List

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Memorial Day was the unofficial start of summer, meaning it’s time for a trip to the beach, the lake, or just to a favorite spot in the back yard — accompanied by a good book or two. 

Several Georgia Tech librarians offer recommendations, which range from a humorous story about a medieval studies graduate who takes a job in a crematory, to a post-apocalyptic fantasy where some people are born with the ability to control seismic activity. 


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory

By Caitlin Doughty, W.W. Norton and Company (2014)  

“What happens if you graduate into the financial crisis with a degree in medieval studies? Doughty’s story of working in a crematory is both funny and engrossing. Her initial curiosity about the funeral industry turns into a compassionate exploration of what the fear of death and dying means for modern Westerners. It is a light-hearted beach/cemetery read for those of us who do have favorite tombstones.”

—Liz Holdsworth, STEM Librarian 

Capital in the 21st Century

By Thomas Piketty, Harvard University Press (2014)

“This important book is a superbly researched addition to the conversation on inequality and wealth distribution. Piketty weaves his interdisciplinary knowledge of economics, history, literature, and sociology with scientific data to write a complex and insightful book with specific policy recommendations that may seem radical now but may be what we need for the future sustainability of democracies. A long book that is still worth reading even for those who skip over some chapters.” 

—Cathy Carpenter, head of Campus Engagement and Scholarly Outreach


The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

By Lionel Shriver, Harper Collins (2016)  

“An economic catastrophe has hit the United States. A head of cabbage costs $20. A fast food lunch is $35.49. Children mug other children for groceries. Tuition at an art school is $400,000. The internet still works.

“The family at the center of the story is the Mandibles. They were considered middle to upper class at one time, but now most of them have been laid off or are working to pay the high costs of utilities and food. However, the rest of the world is doing well economically and visits the U.S. for vacation — until the tourists start getting mugged by hungry people.

“This novel explores how different generations deal with the changes and who has the best attitude to survive the new reality. There are moments of levity, such as when teenager Willing tries to convince his elders to give up something for the survival of the group.”

—Isabel Altamirano, Engineering Librarian 

Humanities Librarian Karen Viars recommended three books: 

Everything I Never Told You 

By Celeste Ng, Penguin Press (2014)

“When the Lee family, living in a small town in Ohio in the 1970s, discovers that their daughter has drowned in a nearby lake, her death illuminates the fault lines running through her family, school, town, and the people who loved her. The narration, compassionate to all the characters, changes points of view between family members, exploring the delicate balancing act that keeps a family and community together — and can tear it apart.”  

The Hate U Give 

By Angie Thomas, Balzer + Bray (2017)  

“Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in a neighborhood where violence is common. After a friend dies in a drive-by shooting, her parents enroll her in a private prep school. Starr balances these two worlds, until she witnesses her childhood best friend Khalil shot and killed by a police officer. Now, Starr is part of the trial — both in a court of law and public opinion —  and has to weigh how telling the truth affects her family, friends, and community.” 

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth)

By N.K. Jemison, Orbit Books (2015) 

“In a world of constant earthquakes, orogenes are the people born with the skill to control seismic activity. While they are necessary for humanity to survive the darkness and famine following a major seismic event, they are hated and feared. Told in three intertwining narratives, this book touches on motherhood, family, government, power, and — above all — survival in a post-apocalyptic fantasy with amazing world-building and characters.”


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