8 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Although many people read year-round, there’s something special about summer reading. Maybe it’s the warm weather or some Pavlovian response that’s been ingrained since our school days when we enjoyed three-month-long summer breaks. Then, many of us read not because we had to, but because we wanted to. To get you in the spirit of summer reading, The Bell has collected a range of book recommendations from Gordon staff and faculty. Enjoy!

1.   Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

For fans of easy reads, dry humor or “wanting to feel the full plethora of human emotions at the same time,” says our first bibliophile and Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Bryn Clark.

Quick Summary

“This book is about a bank robbery that goes terribly wrong,” Clark explains. “And an apartment showing that doesn’t turn out too well.”

Why You Should Read It

Anxious People is a story about hope and failure. It’s a comedy but a serious book too. If you need a book that will give you hope, make you laugh, make you cry, keep you engaged, remind you why emotions are important and why people matter and why YOU matter, then this is the book you need to read this summer,” says Clark.

About Bryn

  • Favorite places to read? “Babalu Café in Reykjavik on the upper level in the back corner by the balcony on a rainy day. Or the Ipswich town library.”
  • Book or series would you like to see turned into a movie or TV show? “Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver or In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien.”
  • Fictional character with the best character arc? “Ethan Allen Hawly in Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent.”
  • Favorite book villain? “Laura Chance, who isn’t necessarily a villain but definitely plays the role of antagonist against some of the main characters in The Brothers K by David James Duncan.”

2.   Mind Club by Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray

For fans of Malcolm Gladwell, psychological research or those who are curious about “what compels us to love and hate, to harm and to protect” (quote from the book’s back cover)

Similar to Winning the War in Your Mind, Talking to Strangers and Rewire Your Brain

Quick Summary

This book is about what humans perceive and believe to be mindfulness,” says Career and Connection Institute Internship Coordinator and Developer Carissa Church ’18. “It explores who and what, [according to] our societal beliefs and morals, deserves to be seen with the mind and the responsibility and dignity that comes with it.”

Why You Should Read It

“It pushes you to question every judgement you pass on a person or thing, and why society has norms that are okay and not okay.”

About Carissa

  • Favorite places to read? “The beach or at the airport.”
  • Book world (real or imagined) you would like to teleport to? “I’d love to be in a world where magic existed—Harry Potter’s.”
  • The moment you fell in love with reading? “I’ve been a reader since I was a kid. I think the defining moment for me was when I was at daycare—maybe just 4 or 5 years old—and the fire alarm went off. I was so consumed with my book that I didn’t even hear the alarm. I just kept flipping through the book as other kids were screaming and running around me.”
  • Would you rather have dinner with your favorite author or your favorite character? “Definitely my favorite author—because they create the characters. They make you feel like you know and feel for this ‘person’ who actually does not exist. It’s the ultimate catfish, and I want to hear how they do it.”

3.   Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir

For fans of historical biographies and stories about the British monarchy

Quick Summary

“It covers the lives and influences of the queens of England from roughly 1100–1300, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine and ending with Eleanor of Castile,” says Director of Advisory Councils and Bible Translation Kristin Whitfield.

Why You Should Read It

“There are so many interesting things to learn about the lives of royal women in the Middle Ages,” says Whitfield. “Also, it’s interesting to see how the things I find appealing in a person—caring, loving family relationships—don’t necessarily translate well into good leadership. Henry II was basically a loving, doting husband, a father and a pushover, constantly at odds with his people.”

About Kristin

  • Favorite places to read? “In my hammock when I get a spare moment to lie in it!”
  • Book character you would like to befriend in real life? “Valency Stirling (L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle).”
  • Living author would you love to meet? “Alison Weir.”
  • Book world (real or imagined) you would like to teleport to? “For years I have wanted to go to Hungary (The Good Master) and Vienna (White Stallions of Lipizza). I traveled to Africa because of Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro and that’s where I met my husband, Mark.”

4.   English Creek by Ivan Doig (the first book in the Montana Trilogy)

For fans of historical fiction and tales of the rugged West

Quick Summary

English Creek is a story about the McCaskill family and, in particular, their youngest son Jick, who is discovering some of life’s complications as he’s coming of age,” says Head Women’s Basketball Coach Carter Shaw. “Part of this discovery relates to family dynamics and how his family history is interconnected to English Creek’s history and its people.”

Why You Should Read It

“I love the style of Doig’s writing, how he creates characters and tells a story with a lot of moving parts. He weaves a generous story and then gathers it all together with an unpredictable but satisfying conclusion.”

About Carter

  • Favorite places to read? “Everywhere—especially if it’s quiet and I have a good cup of black coffee and a couple of cookies.”
  • Book that changed your perspective in a big way? Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, almost every book by Annie Dillard, most of Dallas Willard’s writing, a great deal of Eugene Peterson and much of C. S. Lewis.”

5.   The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

For fans of WWII-era literature or those who have struggled with overcoming pain or trauma

Quick Summary

“This book recounts a Holocaust survivor’s journey . . . through Auschwitz and her recovery from PTSD,” explains Director of Digital Learning Kate DeMello. “The author uses her own story to differentiate between victimhood and being victimized, which many readers will relate to.”

Why You Should Read It

“This book is an enthralling story of the unfathomable grace of God in the most extraordinary places. It helped me to reframe my own thoughts about my experiences into constructive thought patterns that support healing and freedom. I read this book three times in a month; it was THAT good.”

Small Excerpt

“How easily a life can become a litany of guilt and regret, a song that keeps echoing with the same chorus, with the inability to forgive ourselves. How easily the life we didn’t live becomes the only life we prize. How easily we are seduced by the fantasy that we are in control, that we were ever in control, that the things we could or should have done or said have the power, if only we had done or said them, to cure pain, to erase suffering, to vanish loss. How easily we can cling to—worship—the choice we think we could or should have made.”

About Kate

  • Favorite places to read? “I read before bed every night, but my favorite is listening to audiobooks in my car or while cleaning the house.”
  • Favorite books that few people have heard of? The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
  • Fictional character you relate to the most? Hermione Granger
  • Favorite book villain? “Some may not consider him a villain, but I think that Professor Snape is an incredibly complex villain whose internal conflict always leaves me not knowing what to make of him.”

6.   The Shiloh series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

For kids, families and anyone who loves dogs

Quick Summary

“The series is about a boy and his dog and growing up in West Virginia,” says Associate Professor of Communication Arts Dr. Christine (Christy) Gardner. “It’s about trust, community and the hard work of forgiveness.”

Why You Should Read It

“There are so many good themes in the books,” says Gardner, “notably, how to show love to someone who is different than you. And it’s about a dog! What’s not to love!”

About Christy

  • Favorite places to read? “Propped up with pillows on my bed. Or on our big red couch.”
  • One of your favorite books? Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The characters are so fully realized, I feel like I know them. They seem to live on even after I’ve read the last word.”
  • Book that changed your perspective in a big way? The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis is the most cogent and compelling answer I’ve read for why a loving and all-powerful God allows evil to exist. It helped me to think about love—which Lewis calls God’s ‘intolerable compliment’—in a new way.”
  • Favorite read when you were a child? “Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I had never thought of our interiors as universes as vast as outer space. This book blew my mind as I tried to grasp the vastness of God and his creation.”

7.   A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

For fans of Russian literature, short stories, writing or George Saunders

Quick Summary

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life is based on a class Saunders teaches on Russian short stories in the MFA program at Syracuse University,” explains Assistant Professor of Old Testament Dr. Joanna Kline.

Why You Should Read It

Kline says, “I appreciate this book because it shows how attention to particularities can be a way of exploring big moral and philosophical questions about how we should live. The book provides a model for how to do close reading, how to write an effective story and how to engage with the world around us.”

Small Excerpt

“The part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world; it can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it can also be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.”

About Joanna

  • Favorite places to read? “Outside in the sun.” 
  • Fictional character with the best character arc? “Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis.”
  • Moment you fell in love with reading? “I don’t remember this, but my mom tells me that when I was 1 or 2 years old, I would get up in the morning and go right to my bin of books. I would take books out, flipping through them and ‘reading’ them to myself.”
  • Favorite book cover? “This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. I have three little kids, so I spend a lot of time reading picture books!”

8.   The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

For fans of historical fiction or “readers who enjoy descriptive and atmospheric writing and a character-driven plotline”

Similar to All the Light We Cannot See, The Paris Library and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Quick Summary

The Nightingale follows the lives of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France,” explains Chapel Office Administrative Assistant Lora Schultz. “Although Vianne and Isabelle are wildly different in personality and live separate lives, each sister finds herself in the ‘women’s war’ of resistance—bravely fighting for love, life and freedom.”

Why You Should Read It

 “I loved the character development of the two main characters, Vianne and Isabelle . . . It was an important reminder that love and sacrifice are lived out in different ways by different people and that there is no single ‘right way’ to fight for what you believe in.” 

About Lora

  • Favorite places to read? “When the weather is nice, I love to read at Independence Park in Beverly with my husband. Otherwise, I enjoy reading in the corner of my couch with my two cats, Leo and Luna, curled up next to me.”
  • All-time favorite character? “This is a tough one . . . but Sam from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien will always have a special place in my heart.”
  • Book or series would you like to see turned into a movie or TV show? “I would love to see The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss turned into a movie.”
  • Living author you would love to meet? “John Mark Comer, who is the author of some of my favorite books on spiritual formation and walking in the way of Jesus.”