Harrison Middleton University
summer reading list
Summer Reading List, image by Alissa Simon

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 7, 2023

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

Summer recess makes me want to … read, of course! I spend hours lining up books to fill my spare time (of which there is very little actual spare time). The library is one of my favorite destinations and most of my summer reading list comes from there. (Thank goodness for public libraries!) As usual, my list is overly ambitious. However, unlike the usual, I have already started to read a few of these and so it might be doable for once. A breakdown of my list follows. I also encourage you to set aside a few indulgences. It is summer, after all!

Process and Reality by Alfred North Whitehead: I’ve been sitting with this book for awhile now. It’s dense and difficult reading. This isn’t really an easy-read beach book, but on the other hand, it helps to read short sections and then use the slower pace of summer for contemplation. This book definitely requires contemplation.

How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) by Barbara Kingsolver: Published in 2020, this is Kingsolver’s second book of poetry. It offers hints and how-tos for all sorts of necessary items like: “How to Get a Divorce” and “How to Love Your Neighbor.”

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: This novella is about a young woman’s interstellar travel to a fine institution of higher learning. The main character has to overcome racism and other challenges. It’s a short fantasy which involves a common human scenario.

Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood: It deals with ancient Greece, mythology and is billed as a must read for fans of Circe (by Madeleine Miller). So, naturally, I’m in.

You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier: Inspired by our recent series on AI, I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be human. What are our unique traits? What makes us different than anything else on the planet. What makes us different even from our own inventions? I continue to read books and articles with this in mind. As the human race increasingly moves towards AI, I dedicate more and more time to understanding what artificial and intelligence even mean.

Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby: This book is a bit of a whim. I liked the title, I liked the idea of investigating what we read and why. And I like humor, so his slightly sarcastic style suits me. In the Introduction, Jess Walter says, “Nick Hornby has created the most intelligent, engaging case for reading you’re ever likely to encounter.” It’s preaching to the choir, but I’m totally in. (Just to be clear, though, Hornby isn’t talking about Adler’s Great Books. Hornby means great literature in general…which in my mind just presents another chance to widen our gaze and open up the canon.)

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan: I’m not sure how I found this book, or how this book found me, but I’m loving it. Each page includes a sculpture accompanied by a snippet of text from a fairy tale, or a synopsis of a fairy tale. The sculptures don’t replace the fairy tales, but enhance them. As Neil Gaiman says in the Foreword: “His sculptures suggest, they do not describe. They imply, they do not delineate. They are, in themselves, stories: not frozen moments in time that a classical illustration needs to be. These are something new, something deeper. They do not look like moments of the stories: instead, they feel like the stories themselves.”

What It Is by Lynda Barry: Maggie Queeney of the Poetry Foundation suggested this book in a recent poetry seminar. She showed a single page of Barry’s elaborate doodling about the nature of creativity. I was hooked. Barry’s book asks really insightful questions about the process of creation. Barry also combines images and narratives in her efforts to come to a better understanding of the question. For example, one page asks: “How and why are there images inside of us?” In answer, she mentions love, a joke about liquid and the fluid nature of just about everything, and then she asks: how do images get inside of us and how do they get outside?

Happy reading! Feel free to leave a note about your current reading list.

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