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Arts & Culture

(Almost) Turning the Page on Summer

Terps Recommend Must-Reads for That Last-minute Beach Trip

By Sala Levin ’10

sunglasses on top of stack of three books at the beach

UMD faculty, staff and students offered up their ideas for books to bring on your last-minute beach trip.

Photo by Shutterstock

Maybe this was the summer you swore you were finally going to tackle “Anna Karenina.” Or work through the whole Pulitzer Prize winner list. Or delve into an unexplored genre–speculative sci-fi or magical realism or dystopian fiction.

But now it’s August, the month when we reckon with summer’s end and all we’ve done or failed to do. If there’s a beach trip in your immediate future, you can at least catch up on your literary ambitions, and get immersed in what might be your next favorite book as waves lap at your feet.

We asked University of Maryland faculty, staff and students to share with us which books they’d pack along with the sunscreen and beach umbrella.

“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner book cover
Courtesy of Knopf

“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner
This memoir, by Japanese Breakfast musician and artist Michelle Zauner, explores loss and love associated with a complicated mother-daughter relationship. It touches on themes of race, intergenerational miscommunication, and how food is a potent source of comfort and memory. –Janelle Wong, professor, American studies/government and politics

“Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ” by Giulia Enders book cover
Courtesy of Greystone Books

“Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ” by Giulia Enders
I love talking about poop, and when I saw this book I felt I had to read it. Even if you're not like me, this book is super cool and funny, and presents a ton of fun facts and interesting information about "the most underrated organ," the digestive system! At the end of this read, I felt that I had not only laughed a lot, but I really had gained a huge appreciation for my digestive system, which made me aware of ways to lead a healthier life through taking care of it. Really, really fun and informative book to read during a vacation! –Anahi Espindola, assistant professor, entomology

“Happy-Go-Lucky” by David Sedaris book cover
Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

“Happy-Go-Lucky” by David Sedaris
It's Sedaris' latest book and as always is hilarious, poignant, irreverent, moving and insightful. Sedaris is an "easy read," but his prose is nonetheless beautiful. His stories are easy to get into but the feeling they give sticks with you. Especially on a family getaway to the beach, Sedaris would put you in the right mood, as beach house shenanigans on family vacations inevitably appear. –Kris Reed, Ph.D. candidate, English

“Heaven, My Home” by Attica Locke book cover
Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

“Heaven, My Home” by Attica Locke
The author is a writer on "Empire" and other TV shows. This novel is set in East Texas and features a Texas Ranger named Darren Matthews who is the only non-white ranger. He is investigating the kidnapping of a white supremacist's grandchild. A great read because it ties the past to the present in a way few authors can. –Hardeep Chowdhary, coordinator, career services and alumni relations, School of Public Policy

“The Huntress” by Kate Quinn book cover
Courtesy of Harper Collins

“The Huntress” and “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn
Both are historical fiction centered on World War II, with strong female lead characters, lots going on and some revenge involved. –Cindy Frank, architecture and visual resource librarian, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller book cover
Courtesy of Nelson

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller
It is really for self-reflection in my opinion, just in a less serious way than the word "self-reflection" itself sounds. –Lucinda Botlero, senior business manager, College of Information Studies

“The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson book cover
Courtesy of Random House

“The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson
A fictional portrait of life in North Korea, the novel is about life, reality and the lack of reality in the country–but one can take it as a lesson about the universe. –Sarah Oates, professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism/affiliate professor, College of Information Studies

“Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir book cover

“Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir
The book tells the tale of an impossible collaboration to save the planet and more. While fictional but scientifically sound, it provided me with a message of hope of what can be achieved when nobody can ask "who gets the credit." And as for valuable lessons regarding the topics that I teach, this shows again that improvisation is a key skill for a world that gets more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. –Oliver Schlake, clinical professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Winter Work” by Dan Fesperman book cover
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

“Winter Work” by Dan Fesperman
Dan Fesperman's wonderfully etched espionage thrillers are rich in nuance from his days as a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun in the final years of the Cold War. "Winter Work" is his latest and one of his best. It's set against the chaos of East Germany's secret police in the days after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Everyone wanted Stasi's secrets–the Americans, the Russians and the West Germans–and East Germany's master spies wondered where their loyalty now lay. What a great setting to imagine the moral ambiguities of espionage. If you love Alan Furst or John LeCarre, you should get to know Fesperman's work. These are literate, ruminative thrillers. –Tom Rosenstiel, Eleanor Merrill visiting professor on the future of journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and the author of four political thrillers set in Washington, including his latest, "The Days To Come."



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