Summer is here, and you’re going to need some new books to read at the beach! Luckily for you, Literacy Mid-South is here to help with some cool suggestions for new summertime reads. Our staff has come together and recommended a recent read that they’ve enjoyed, just in time for your vacation. We hope you find something that speaks to you.
Kevin recommends: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Why you should read it: “This book opens your eyes to how far-reaching social media can go, and it provides many cautionary tales about people whose social media posts ended their careers. Of particular note is the story of Justine Sacco, the communications director of a public company who tweeted insensitive remarks about Africans and people living with AIDS before jetting off to Africa. By the time she landed in Africa, she had lost her job, was the topic most trending on social media, and had photographers waiting at the arrival gate to snap pictures of her. While many of the stories are horrifying and capitalizes on our own schadenfreude, this could happen to anyone, and the book explores the public’s fascination with publicly destroying people they don’t even know. It’s eye-opening and scary.”
Vernetta recommends: A Massacre in Memphis by Stephen V. Ash
Why you should read it: “Frankly, I did not know there was a massacre in Memphis, and as Ash brings forth in the book, “… the vast majority of Americans these days, if asked about ‘the Memphis riot,’ would likely either confess their ignorance or mention the events of April 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King.” Historians have portrayed the events of May 1-3, 1866 (one year after the Civil War) as whites meting out due punishment for black misbehavior. What actually occurred was in no way a riot by blacks but an organized massacre of black people: 46 blacks dead; 75 injured; 5 raped; 100 robbed; 4 black churches, 12 schools, and 91 dwellings destroyed. This book constitutes a thorough overhaul of the egregious historical record. And the most startling fact is the same rancor regarding race that occurred before, during, and after the massacre will be featured on the evening news tonight!”
Stacy recommends: The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho
Why you should read it: “I’ve read this twice and I need to read it again, if only for the reminder that the important things in life are the simple things. Paulo Coelho tells his personal account of his pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela in such a relatable way. It allows you to interpret his voyage in your own way and take away inspiration to create your own path in life.”
Knox recommends: What is Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Why you should read it: “I love reading short stories and Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours combines an element of what I love most about short stories (they’re short) with what I often miss about reading novels (one longer story with a greater payoff at the end). The stories are not all connected, but there is something besides Oyeyemi’s strong, imaginative writing holding the stories together. All of the stories are quite surprising, but not jarring, and extremely delightful to read.”
Laura recommends: Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenaut
Why you should read it: Miss Me When I’m Gone is a rich story about what happens between two friends when one of them mysteriously dies. It is a clever book within a book within a book. An in-depth character study that examines relationships, presumptions and redemption.
Jeanne recommends: The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss By Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
Why you should read it: “I’ve watched Anderson Cooper for many years and I’ve always been impressed by his journalistic talent and style. Also I knew the story of Gloria Vanderbilt, her marriages and lovers and the suicide of her son, Carter (Anderson’s brother). This back-and-forth correspondence as Vanderbilt reaches her 92nd birthday, is as revealing to the two of them as it is to the reader. The story mainly focuses Vanderbilt’s fascinating life story but Cooper provides the perfect foil as each tale unfolds. It is wonderful that the two shared their hearts with each other and with the reader. It reminds us that money does not protect us from heartache. The title comes from William Wordsworth’s poem “Intimations of Immortality” – a favorite of Vanderbilt’s. A poignant yet uplifting read.”
Johnny recommends: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Why you should read it: “The Paper Menagerie is a collection of short stories, so it’s a great choice for any busy readers. Liu uses magical realism to pose some very interesting observations and questions about human nature, technology, and society. Each story is unique, but Liu’s engaging style runs through them all. I definitely found it hard to put down.”
Lee recommends: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Why you should read it: “This is an ideal choice for the summer due to its underdog main character, world domination obsessed villain, large scale action sequences, fantasy world setting, and ’80s movies/music/video game references. If you’re a pop culture geek, you’ll be anxious to play Joust and watch “Wargames” long before the last page is reached, and if you don’t get all the references, maybe it will encourage you to seek them out! Like a true nerd, I made notes of the games/books I was not familiar with so I could up my street cred. On top of the references, Ready Player One is an entertaining and consistently surprising thrill ride, always staying one step ahead of the reader. And if you’re wondering how this delightfully complex adventure would translate to the big screen, have no fear! Steven Spielberg is directing a film version that is due out in early 2018!”
Troy recommends: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon
Why you should read it: “The past few years have been great for you if you’re a fan of essays that do the added duty of cultural critique. Kiese Laymon is one of the best sentence makers to come out of Mississippi, and his takes on the blackness, family, music, feminism, and politics are fresh, new, and southern as all get out. Laymon is one of my favorite voices, and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others, for me, belongs up there with essay collections from those that we consider the greats. Laymon is one of the greats, and this collection will challenge everything you think you know about what it means to be an American.”
Even our volunteer tutors got in on the fun. Tutor Molly Polatty recommends Richard Grant’s Dispactches from Pluto, calling it “fun and educational.”
So here it is, Literacy Mid-South’s recommended summer reading list. Drop a line in the comments if there are any books you’d like to recommend to us! And stay tuned for more updates about the Mid-South Book Festival, our annual celebration of literature and literacy.