Ready to find your next favorite read?

June 28, 2021

UM-Dearborn faculty and staff share books they’ve enjoyed this summer and what they are currently reading. Check out the list and find the right read to add to your side table or carry-on.

Graphic illustrating summer reading
Graphic illustrating summer reading
Graphic by Michigan Creative

Whether you plan to stay home or travel this summer, books are the perfect companion. They easily go wherever you do. They introduce new voices, fresh perspectives and interesting ideas. And sometimes they even give a bit of mental escape. 

UM-Dearborn faculty and staff share the page turners that they’ve enjoyed this summer. Check out their latest reads and you just may find a new book that adds to your summer experience.

Got a favorite to recommend? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir by Sara Seagar

Biochemistry and Biology Professor Marilee Benore recommends this book because:
"Sara, the author, is a true genius. She's an MIT astrophysicist who works on exoplanets — planets without a sun. She is also dealing with the immense grief following the death of her husband, raising her sons, trying to get by in life and continue her research. It is a beautifully written work of nonfiction. She is not always likeable, but fierce and honest. Sara finds a tribe of widows — or rather, they find her — who provide support. She makes understanding astrophysics sensible and portrays a life and story of hope. A friend recommended it to me as she knows that in addition to my lab research, I have been working on a book that shares stories of resilience, persistence and success of women in STEM fields.”

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Early Childhood Associate Professor LaShorage Shaffer recommends this book because:
The Water Dancer transcends you into the world of the underground railroad in a way that is magical. Through the atrocity of enslavement of men, women and children, perseverance. love and family overcome the worst in humanity that was part of the Deep South. However, in order to understand his power and gift, the main character almost loses his own life when that power saves him. This book captivates your attention with each page and chapter following the journey to freedom.”

Separated by William D. Lopez

Office of Student Life Interim Associate Director Tyler Guenette recommends this book because:
“It’s about an immigration raid that took place here in Michigan in 2013 and shows the impact that raid had on the community. The book looks at what happened the day of the raid and afterward, showing the effect on families and putting faces and names to deportation statistics. It’s the upcoming year's Community Read, led by the Faculty Senate's First Year Experience Committee.”

The 2021-2022 Community Read program will have events and activities surrounding the book take place starting in the fall. There will be a Books and Brew event from noon-1 p.m. Oct. 28 (location TBD), a faculty panel discussion taking place in early November and an author talk during the Winter 2022 semester. Faculty can reserve a free exam copy of Separated here

Tyler Guenette is also reading 

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

“This book is a great tool for folks in learning to lead courageously.”

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Chancellor Domenico Grasso recommends this book because: 
“This work is a masterfully told story of the six million or so African-Americans who left the states of the Old Confederacy between 1915 and 1970 in the hopes of establishing a new and promising life in the North and West. She follows the treks and experiences of three particular individuals, Ida Mae Brandon Gladney (Mississippi) George Swanson Starling (Florida) and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster (Louisiana). This award-winning book is a moving and eye-opening read for anyone seeking to better understand the American narrative.”

Chancellor Grasso is also reading

Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else by Jordan Ellenberg

“This is a fun and entertaining read about the hidden patterns in space and time that underlie the world (both natural and socially constructed) that surrounds us. Ellenberg is an observant and gifted story-teller.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Human-Centered Engineering Design Program Director and Assistant Professor Georges Ayoub recommends this book because:
“I usually enjoy reading Nobel Prize laureates in literature. Since I haven't read author Kazuo Ishiguro, who was awarded the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, I thought summer 2021 would be the perfect time to discover this talented author. Through his narrator Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF) who's waiting to be purchased, Ishiguro carefully observes and analyzes behaviors like the gestures of people in the street and those who visit the store. His book reflects a strong emotional connection with the world, which is in alignment with many Nobel laureates in literature. Although I just started to read the book, I got attached rapidly to Klara and her extraordinary sense of observation and how Klara explores human emotions through their behavior and interaction with each other.”

Chancellor Grasso seconds the recommendation. Klara and the Sun is the inaugural book for The Chancellor’s Book Club, which begins this fall. More details on the club will be shared later this summer. “Klara and the Sun is a novel that has Black Mirror overtones. It explores the future of artificial intelligence in our lives and the fundamental question: what does it mean to love? I agree with NPR’s Maureen Corrigan who called the book ‘a masterpiece that will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love: in short, the all of it.’”

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Melissa Stone recommends this book because:
“This story is an unexpectedly intense and unforgettable fictional story of family, loss and hope. While it has an element of crime solving throughout, the essence of the story that stays with you is a reminder of how humanity, even-faced with constant trauma, can be so resilient. This novel explores many issues such as family loyalty and love, actions vs. consequences, friendship, secrets, responsibility and redemption.  I was not familiar with this author, but another author I enjoy recommended the book — which I find is a great way to find a great story. I am glad I had a chance to go on this journey, even if it did break my heart at multiple turns.”

Black Women's Yoga History: Memoirs of Inner Peace by Stephanie Y. Evans

African and African American Studies and Religious Studies Assistant Professor Terri Laws recommends this book because:
Stephanie Evans is a scholar of Black women’s intellectual history. In this book, she explores the lives of Black women whose names are often familiar (for example Rosa Parks, Tina Turner and historian Nell Irvin Painter). Instead of just their ideas and the public work for which they are known, Evans discloses practices that sustained them, giving them peace beyond the stress and violence they faced. Their healing traditions and practices include poetry, music, counseling, aerobics, meditation and yoga.

“Evans, a flourishing scholar and full professor at a large state university, is clear about her lifelong love for reading, books and writing — and that she has been able to convert those loves to scholarship. She is equally clear about the physical, emotional and other costs of the requirement to achieve in the academy where Black women are only 2.1 percent of the tenured U.S. professoriate, according to a May 27, 2021 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. These costs require ways to sustain oneself through healing traditions and practices. Evans finds wellness in using research methodologies that feed her soul; memoir (her own, and those of her subjects) provides self-care. Evans acknowledges research and writing about Black women is made all the more challenging in that primary sources are so difficult to locate. Women, in general, and Black women, in particular, have not long had lives public enough to produce archived documents. Evans' book is about stress and struggle. It’s also a reminder of the privilege it is to conduct research to, as she notes, try to make the world a better place.”

The Beauty of Your Face: One Woman's Life in a Nation at Odds with Its Ideals by Sahar Mustafah

English Assistant Professor Ghassan Abou-Zeineddine recommends because:
“Sahar Mustafa’s debut and award-winning novel The Beauty of Your Face follows the story of Afaf, an Arab American and Muslim American principal at an Islamic school for girls located in the suburbs of Chicago. The novel opens with a shooting at the school and cuts back and forth between this harrowing incident and Afaf’s upbringing in America. With the exhilarating pace of a thriller, Mustafa dramatizes the Arab American and Muslim American experience, touching on what it means to belong to two different cultures.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Dean of Students Amy Finley recommends this book because:
“I've been trying to read some lesser known books by classic authors. I suspect many are familiar with the Brontë sisters, but may not be familiar with this book (I sure wasn't). It’s the story about a woman who leaves an abusive home with her young son and creates a new life for herself as an artist. It’s considered one of the first feminist novels. It’s a wonderful read — thought provoking and beautifully written. The book is still relevant today despite being published in 1848.”

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Mardigian Library User Services Reserves Coordinator Anna Granch recommends this book because:
“I find Anne Frank's story fascinating and am amazed by her courage, inner strength and lively spirit.”


The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book One by David A. Robertson

Student Advising and Resource Team (START) Director Andrew Beverly recommends this book because: 
“It’s a modern take on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. David Robertson, an indigenous author, creates a world that’s unique and intriguing. The story begins in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where two foster children learn about themselves and discover a new family as they explore the lands of Askí and undertake a grand adventure. The story not only provides vivid landscapes and interesting characters, it also shares a unique experience of indigenous foster children rediscovering their cultural heritage.”

Incompleteness, The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel by Rebecca Goldstein

Finance Lecturer Nick Vlisides recommends this book because:
“This is a biographical sketch about one of the 20th century's great logicians and mathematicians (and arguably, the greatest) Kurt Gödel. Albert Einstein once said the reason for going to his office at Princeton ‘... was just to have the privilege of walking home with Kurt Gödel.’ Author Rebecca Goldstein, a professor of Philosophy who has taught at Columbia University and Rutgers, goes beyond the explanation of what Gödel did in his lifetime and illustrates the basic underpinnings of Logical Positivism, the theory that all genuine knowledge is interpreted through reason and logic, versus Platonism, the theory that numbers or other abstract objects are objective timeless entities.

“She describes how before the Second World War, Gödel attended the Vienna Circle, a logical-empiricist support group led by Logical Positivism Founder Moritz Schlick that included great mathematicians and philosophers like Hans Hahn, Olga and Otto Neurath, and Rudolf Carnap. Although Gödel attended the meetings, he rarely spoke and ultimately came to reject the basic underpinnings of the movement. Later, Gödel left Austria for the United States, joining Albert Einstein at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. Goldstein, captures the poignant relationship between the outgoing Einstein and the highly introspective Gödel. This is a great book about the man who gave us the incompleteness theorems.  Mathematics hasn't quite been the same since.”

The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by Maya Jasanoff

Women in Learning and Leadership Director and History Associate Professor Anna  Müller recommends this book because:

The Dawn Watch takes you into the world of global connections that shaped Joseph Conrad and his novels (Heart of Darkness, Nostromo). Conrad is a world-recognized writer of Polish origins who wrote in English, a language he acquired very late in life. The book combines a close reading of Conrad’s works, biography and a commentary on the contemporary world — especially on globalization. In light strokes, Jasanoff shows not how history repeats itself, but how a critical investigation of the past can illuminate our understanding of the present.

“It is on a British ship that Conrad was learning the global world and participated in the exchanges of peoples, ideas, worlds. It is also here that he encountered cynicism, racism and political recklessness: forces that built the foundations of a global world, which he had to reconcile with his own prejudices of a Polish noble deprived of a home. It’s a fascinating historical global journey, but the book also carries more intimate lessons. For me, as a Polish native, it’s an important book on how being an outsider both sharpens our view and can make us blind.”

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson 

Center for Social Justice and Inclusion Race, Ethnicity, Intercultural & Intersectional Identities Program Manager Jerrard Wheeler recommends this book because:
“Isabel Wilkerson is such an amazing writer. Caste is about racism, but sometimes it's difficult to separate the difficult subject matter from the beauty of her writing. Wilkerson likens America's culture of racism to a caste system based on skin color. As someone who has spent time in Germany and who is looking for solutions, I'm particularly interested in the chapters related to redress, where she discusses how Germany has dealt with its violent and fascist past."

Jerrard Wheeler also recommends

Tower of God by S.I.U.

"Tower of God is a manhwa (Korean comic) that’s one of the best graphically depicted stories I've had the pleasure of reading and re-reading. I first read Tower of God when I was in the Peace Corps. I realized I packed everything except something that tapped into my love of animation and discovered Tower of God on the Webtoon App, which has thousands of free digital and animated reading materials from authors across the world. Tower of God is an on-going series of epic proportions with magic and alternative realities and super powers. It was the perfect fix for me when I was living in rural sub-Saharan Africa. They adapted it into an anime television series last year.”

Article by Sarah Tuxbury. If you have a book to add to the list, please share your recommendation.

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