Let’s not pretend the world feels normal right now. Things are weird. Sometimes in a good way, as with the civil unrest that promises to bring a more just and equitable society. And sometimes in a not-so-good way, like how the pandemic continues to threaten health and lives everywhere. To help you navigate whatever this summer brings, we present a variety of reading recommendations, presented by topic.
Black Lives Matter
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (2019) This award-winning, bestselling book came out nearly a year ago, but it’s having another moment in the spotlight. If you’re wondering what you can do during these tumultuous times, start by reading this book.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (2018) As a sign of the times, this two-year-old book holds the No. 1 position on Amazon’s nonfiction chart for “most sold & most read.” NPR summarizes it as a “groundbreaking book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality.”
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (2018) If you’re tempted to ask your black friend to explain current events, maybe read this memoir instead, which Publishers Weekly gave a starred review and called it “a must-read for those interested in racial justice within the Christian community.”
The Stand by Stephen King (1978) The horror writer’s classic tale of virus-induced apocalypse has brought so many comparisons to COVID-19, King addressed it on Twitter: “No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. It’s not anywhere near as serious. It’s eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions.”
The Plague by Albert Camus (1947) If it wasn’t on your high school reading list, now’s the time to read this classic story of a plague that sweeps an Algerian city. “Its relevance lashes you across the face,” Stephen Metcalf wrote in the Los Angeles Times in March. “It is vivid, tactile and frankly repulsive.”
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) In this blockbuster novel, a mega-flu wipes out most of humanity, clearing the way for a travelling Shakespeare troupe. The book has seen a resurgence of popularity during the pandemic. Why? “There can be something reassuring about taking in a fictional disaster in the midst of a real one,” Hillary Kelly speculated on Vulture.com. “You can flirt with the experience of collapse. You can long for the world you live in right now.”
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder (2017) For this nonfiction book, the author explores #vanlife for the elderly. In this retirement apocalypse, older Americans take to the road after falling victim to the Great Recession. The New York Times calls it “brilliant and haunting.”
The Battle to Stay in America: Immigration’s Hidden Front Line by Michael Kagan ($28) The lawyer and director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic penned this exploration of American immigration policy through the lens of Las Vegas. The book combines personal experiences with immigrants’ tales.
The Brightest Place in the World by David Philip Mullins ($25) Inspired by 1998’s PEPCON disaster that took place in Henderson, this novel imagines the explosions in 2012, following the interlocking stories of four locals whose lives are changed.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett ($16) We’re returning to this bestselling summer 2019 book by Black Mountain Institute fellow Arnett, because it’s now out in paperback. NPR calls it “darkly funny, both macabre and irreverent.”
Park Avenue Summer by Renée Rosen (2019) Escape to 1960s Manhattan in this historical fiction novel, inspired by the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown.
Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear by Eva Holland ($25) Think of this deeply personal book as self-help for the pandemic era. Journey with Holland as she harnesses the latest science to face her fears.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan ($27) The Crazy Rich Asians author delivers a summer romance full of aspirational living. Publishers Weekly calls it “the literary equivalent of white truffle and caviar pizza.” Yum!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett ($27) This could end up being the book of the summer, so beat your book club to it. In what The Guardian describes as a “generous, humane novel,” identical twin sisters set out on different paths when one decides to “pass” as white.