Harrison Middleton University

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


July 10, 2020

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

It is not often that I get to create my own reading list. Most of the reading that I do is enjoyable, to be sure, but rarely do I get the chance to indulge my own curiosities and curate a full summer list of readings. This summer, which is obviously different than any other that I have experienced, gives me the opportunity of more reading time. Therefore, I eagerly set out to funnel my time into reading books that have been on my shelf awhile!

The following list is what I plan to read over the summer. Though nearly done with some, I have yet to begin others. Therefore, this list is fluid and flexible since things often pop up at the last minute.

summer reading list.jpg

First, I am re-reading Jane Austen’s Emma, which I have not read since high school. I thought it would be fun to read before watching the 2020 film. Purely an indulgence, it is nice to read something light while working in isolation.

Next, I have Natasha Trethewey’s memoir Memorial Drive on order. I am a huge fan of Trethewey’s poetry. I admire the way that she crafts a line as well as the way that she navigates both the lighter and darker territories of the human spirit. She is an excellent guide.

Of course, I am reading through the majority of the Federalist Papers. I chose a handful for the upcoming July Quarterly Discussion, and I enjoyed the conversation so much, that I continued to read through many of them. I have to be honest, it feels like America is at a crossroads and so now is an excellent time (perhaps a vital time) to revisit the discussions of our Founding Fathers in order to better understand where we came from and where we may want to go.

Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch has been on my shelf for far too long. I love science fiction, but have not been able to fit in a good science fiction text in a year or more! I read an excerpt from Akata Witch over a year ago and felt so strongly about it that I bought the whole series! (Which just means, I have a lot more to add to my summer reading list!)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is another book that I read twenty plus years ago. As someone who writes often, I find it helpful to check in with writers on writing. Also, Lamott’s light-hearted, funny delivery and her focus on the imagination serves as an antidote to the bleakness of current realities.

I also enjoy young adult literature, because it is quick to read, carries important messages to our formative youth, and is a booming area of book publishing. I am thoroughly enjoying The Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall. The four young girls remind me of characters in a Jane Austen novel and they make me wish for more books in this series. Currently, I am reading The Penderwicks in Spring, the second to last of the series.

Also for young adults, Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose is a novel in poem form. I always appreciate an effort to get poetry in front of teen readers. This book promises a journey to the new world, and a friendship despite language and cultural barriers, both topics of keen interest for me.

Wendell Berry’s This Day; Collected and New Sabbath Poems contains about four hundred pages of poems that explore ideas of rest, gratitude, hope, and love. His care with words exemplifies his care of the land. On a tumultuous day, his words comfort and settle me.

Language as Object; Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art explores the way that artists use Dickinson’s work and/or themes in their own work. It includes artists such as Judy Chicago and Wil Barnet. It also includes a three essays about Dickinson’s work and the response of musicians and poets.

Since no summer would be complete without finding a new poet to enjoy, I also have set out Eavan Boland’s book A Woman Without a Country. A friend recently introduced me to her work for which I am exceedingly grateful. Born in Ireland, Boland split her time between Stanford University and Dublin. Unfortunately, she died earlier this year, and so we are left with a treasure trove of words.

Finally, I have been working my way through James Baldwin’s Complete Works. His words are timely, and perhaps, timeless. This text couples nicely with the Federalist Papers for a thorough understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be free.

Feel free to share your list in the comments section below.

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