The Stacks

The Stacks at Penn State’s Pattee Library on Nov. 20, 2019.

Summer reading doesn’t have to be a chore — not when you can find the right book. Here are some of my favorites available at Penn State University Libraries that should get you through the summer months.

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson

I read “Just Mercy” in high school and still remember what a great story it was (the recent movie also lives up to the hype).

Stevenson is a young defense attorney who works for a small firm that defends people, many of color, who are wrongly sentenced to death.

The book is a memoir of his work and experiences, and it’s truly touching. It surrounds a few main cases he worked on, and you come to support Stevenson like he’s defending your own family by the end of the book.

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

Calling all American history buffs — Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam veteran who writes powerful memoirs about his experiences in war, is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors.

He also wrote “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home” and “Going After Cacciato,” which are just as good. O’Brien writes things like he remembers them — no sugarcoating and no gushy details to embellish the stories.

He makes it feel like you’re right behind him throughout the war and like you know all the soldiers as well as he does.

“Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin

“Tales of the City” — and both sequels — are definitely good beach reads, telling the story of a young woman who moves to Los Angeles and the new friends she makes there.

Yeah… that’s pretty much it (or at least all I’ll spoil for you). It’s a simplistic read that somehow manages to keep you on the edge of your seat with the complex web of characters introduced and their relationships.

“When Life Gives You Lululemons” by Lauren Weisberger

This book is one I just about started and finished in one beach day last week.

It tells the story of three women who live in Greenwich, Connecticut, who all have different lives but end up needing each other’s help in avenging a wrongdoing.

This is a fun read, but it by no means lacks in substance.


“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

I’m sure you’ve heard of or even read “The Help,” but if you haven’t, run to the library.

This is my all-time favorite historical fiction book and movie, set in Mississippi in the 1960s. The story centers around a white journalist, Skeeter, and a friend’s Black maid, Aibileen, who helps her to expose some of the stories of maids’ treatment in southern white homes.

“The Help” is a classic that I could — and have — read over and over again.

“All the Bright Places” and “Holding Up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven

Both books by Niven are fictional — but feel chillingly realistic.

“All the Bright Places” is definitely a more somber read but a great one nonetheless, dealing with topics of mental illness in teens.

The sequel, “Holding Up the Universe,” deals with similar conflicts and unexpected romances. Hopeless romantics will love these books.

“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway

This American classic is a great book if you’re looking for something with a more complex plot.

Hemingway wrote the novel based on his experiences in Italy during World War I and his relationship with a nurse he met during the war.

Although my memory of it is a little fuzzy, as I read this a few years back, I remember actually enjoying a big school project because of reading it (that says something to its quality).

I hope you can get to the library to check out my list of recommendations. Just in case none of those suggestions appeal to you, here are some books I am dying to read this summer:

“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown

“The Boys in the Boat” is a nonfiction book about a young rowing team from the University of Washington that competed in Berlin’s 1936 Olympic Games. It’s apparently a great underdog success story.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a crime and drama story that has been really successful in its five years of publication.

I’ve been meaning to read this for years, but my best friend beat me to it and loved it.

“American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins

This book catches my eye every time I walk past it in the book section of Target, but I have yet to buy it. The fictional story is about a family that immigrated to America and their experience.

If you’re not looking to melt in Pennsylvania’s humidity, curl up with one of these books and find yourself some much needed air conditioning.


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