Summer Reading Recommendations from our Staff

Summer is for popsicles and water slides—and BOOKS! Light-hearted or serious, long or short, brand-new or decades old. Check out our staff members’ recommendations for summer reading!

Cover of Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzu. The dominant background color is green, with blue streaks in the top left and bottom right corners, and yellow and orange dots all around the border. There is an orange-gold outline of a bird in the center.

First up is Journals Marketing Manager Jocelyn Dawson. The book she’s enjoyed the most in 2022 so far has been Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo—not a typical beach read but a good, absorbing novel. It’s the story of Anna, a middle-aged London woman who discovers that the father she has never met was once president of a West African nation. More than anything, Jocelyn loved this book for the mood/atmosphere that hangs over the whole book, totally immersing you as Anna journeys to meet her father. 

Cover of The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan. The cover has a red, left-side border with a floral pattern. To the right is a picture of a lake surrounded by trees and mountains in the background, and a picture of a young Chinese woman superimposed onto this background.

Though arguably a bit heavy for poolside reading, Publicity Assistant Jessica Covil-Manset enjoyed reading Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Other fans of Tan’s will find much about this novel familiar: the split narrative, the excavation of mother-daughter relationships, and the interweaving of collective/national histories with intergenerational familial tales. And with the heaviest elements of this novel—death, ghosts, curses—come poignant reflections on what it means to remember, to lose memories, and to revise or reframe one’s understanding of the past. It’s gorgeous!

Cover of The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner. Forming a border around the cover is a trellis with bight red roses. A woman is walking, her back to the camera, toward a large house in the background. It looks to be dusk, and trees cast shadows across her path.

Perhaps more in-line with summer, Exhibits Manager Jes Malitoris just recently finished the novella The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner, a breezy, sapphic haunted house story by the sea. Strong Shirley Jackson vibes, with a little bit of body horror and a little girl secondary character that Jes would love to read an entire series about.

Cover of The Changeling by Joy Williams, 40th Anniversary Edition. Against a black background are two main figures: a wolf at the top, looking down; and a deer at the bottom, looking up at the wolf's tail. Between them are tall flowers.

Acquisitions Editor Elizabeth Ault recently discovered Joy Williams’s febrile 1978 classic The Changeling in its 2018 Tin House reissue. While Elizabeth can’t precisely say that she “enjoyed” it, she can recommend it as a sort of dizzy replication of what trying to act normal while wading through 95 degree + 95 percent humidity air in a Durham summer sometimes feels like, with occasional flashes of precise humor and observation that she can never quite muster in the heat.

Cover of The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. The cover is taking up completely by an aerial shot of a swimming pool and shows four swimmers training.

Meanwhile, Books Marketing Manager Laura Sell recommends The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. The first section is written in the style of a Greek chorus, echoing the voices of a group of people who all swim at the same community pool, which has developed an unsettling crack in the bottom. The next sections trace the life of one of those swimmers, Alice, and her daughter. Alice suffers from dementia, and one section is written in the second person, detailing the many indignities Alice will face when she enters memory care. The writing in The Swimmers is haunting and unique, and the book is a moving portrait of family, aging, and death. 

Cover of Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm, by Dan Charnes (whose name does not appear on the cover). The book's subtitle wraps around all four borders of the cover, with the the main title in large, capitalized letters at the top and bottom of the cover. In the center is a blue grid with yellow dots outlining the face of a man wearing a hat.

Turning up the tunes, Copywriter Chris Robinson recommends Dilla Time, the first biography of the legendary hip hop producer and rapper J Dilla. Dan Charnas not only tells the story of Dilla’s life and his approach to music, he shows how and why his music was so transformational and discusses the complicated legacy Dilla left after his death in 2006.

Cover of LOTE by Shola Von Reinhold. Cover is pearlescent with the title text in large blue letters around a teardrop shaped ornament with a peacock inside it. Text below the image reads “Ingenious; irresistible; a dazzling first novel.”--Naomi Booth, author of Sealed and The Lost Art of Sinking

You call it cheating, we call it truth: Sales Manager Michael McCullough offers up LOTE, one of our very own books—because he loved it so much, because author Shola von Reinhold is a dazzling new talent, and because he had a blast reading it. He confirms that LOTE is hilariously funny, but that it is also deeply insightful about race, gender, class, and art. This book is going to appeal to people who love high society English romps, people who care about Black writers and trans writers, people who like novels about the art world, and people who need a little glamor in these challenging times.

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