Xavier Magazine

Summer Reading: What’s on the English faculty summer reading list

We asked Xavier’s English professors to tell us what they plan to read this summer when they’re not so bogged down with teaching and grading papers. Their answers may surprise you.



thomasTrudelle Thomas
Gold by Chris Cleave
The End of Your Life Book Club and Send by Will Schalbe
“Cleave is wonderfully down to earth and perceptive and likes to portray people who are facing extreme situations. Gold is about a woman who is an Olympic-level speed bicyclist and is also caring for a daughter with leukemia. She has to face the work vs. family dilemma so many of us face, but with higher stakes. Schalbe’s book is a memoir about a period that his mother was receiving chemotherapy. He accompanied her to therapy sessions, and to make the long treatments less boring they decided to choose books to read and talk about. The son is a professional in the publishing business, and his mother was a very adventurous, world-traveling humanitarian—two people worth knowing better.”

Kelly Austin
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
“I suppose my summer reading is informed by getting caught up on two things: young adult novels (so I can read the with my 15-year-old) and movie adaptations (I have seen a few movies before reading the book—gasp!). The Namesake is a book that I bought many moons ago, and I want to finally read it.”

Alison Russell
Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell
Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
“Like most people, I tend to gravitate toward novels by authors whose works I’ve read before and liked. I need some sure bets for my summer reading, and these sound like they might fit the bill. I loved Fountain’s collection of short stories and Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk was a finalist for the National Book Award this year. All I know is that it’s satire, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll be reading Flight Behavior with my book group. Kingsolver always has something interesting to say. I became a fan after reading her novel The Poisonwood Bible. Anyone who has read Winter’s Bone will understand why I like Woodrell’s writing. Woe to Live On is described on the cover as a “renegade Western” set during the Civil War. What’s not to like? I have not read anything by Cara Black, but I bought Murder in the Marais based on the fact that it’s a mystery set in Paris. I’m a sucker for anything set in Paris.”

David Reid
Middlesex and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Something by Jonathan Franzen
“Having just used The Virgin Suicides to great effect in Studies in Fiction, I can’t wait to delve more deeply into his work, starting with Middlesex, followed by The Marriage Plot. In between, I plan to read Gone Girl on the recommendation of both my daughters, voracious readers each. I confess to never having read anything by Jonathan Franzen, so he is on my summer list, too. I just don’t know which one to start with.”

edits (7)Niamh O’Leary
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French
Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde
“I’m halfway through Wolf Hall and I love this book. I’m looking forward to having the time to finish reading it without putting it down. It’s a dense, complex historical novel that would reward sustained attention, but even in the small doses I’ve been able to sneak in, I’m finding it deeply satisfying. I plan also to read the sequel, Bringing up the Bodies. I read the first three books of French’s Dublin Murder Squad series (In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place) last summer and simply could not put them down. I am eager to read the fourth (Broken Harbor). They are dark, entrancing mysteries set in and around Dublin, featuring a small cast of homicide and undercover detectives. The rich local detail and the poetic narrative voice make these mysteries both heart-stopping and spell-binding. Fforde is a hilarious British author whose humor is somewhat akin to Monty Python. Thursday Next is a detective who works for SpecOps-27, the literary crimes unit. In the first book, she solves the mystery of who changed the ending of Jane Eyre. The books are a treat for bibliophiles, full of literary in-jokes. They’re set in an alternate-history Britain in the 1980s and feature mind-bending time travel, genetic engineering and the inimitable Miss Havisham. Always fun for a beach read.”

Jodi Wyett
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
“Hmm, I don’t know how “fun” my summer reading list is, but I know Tenth of December, Sweet Tooth and Flight Behavior are at the top of it. I also just taught Oryx and Crake again and so Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam can’t get here soon enough for me. (Does early September still count as summer?) I would recommend that entire trilogy because it is gripping reading and powerful social commentary. My favorite books are the ones that are not only deeply absorbing but also make me think, ‘I really want to teach this someday.’ ”

Rebecca Todd
Down the Garden Path and A Thatched Roof by Beverley Nichols
Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz
“I’m planning to re-read Down the Garden Path and A Thatched Roof, two 1930s collections of gardening essays. A well-mannered, witty sauntering about with watering cans, dogs and eccentric villagers—think P. G. Wodehouse/Cole Porter meets James Herriot. I’m also planning to read Blue Latitudes, a travel book where Horwitz retraces the three voyages of Captain Cook.”

winkelmannCarol Winkelmann
Dakini Power: Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Buddhism in the West by Michaela Haas
Inner Peace-Global Impact: Tibetan Buddhism, Leadership and Work by Kathryn Goldman Schuyler
Sources of Tibetan Tradition by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein and Gray Tuttle
Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Changeby Pema Chödrön
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Leadby Sheryl Sandberg
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksby Rebecca Skloot

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