We’ve given you a LOT of lists this week, but if you STILL aren’t sure about what you should be reading this summer, HERE ARE SOME MORE! These are lists we’ve used in past summers, but they are still just as hot as they were when they were posted the first time!
Read on, Readers!
Jessi is the Queen of Geek Culture and Board Games. That is her official title. Her other titles include “Boss Lady”, “Duchess of Kards” and “Jedi Princess”. Everything you want to know about good Science Fiction can probably be answered by Jessi. Also, she will kick your ass HARD in any game of any kind probably. Just saying.
Here are Jessi’s Summer Reading suggestions!
So you like graphic novels? Well. You’ve come to the right place. J.D. is now KU’s unofficial Graphic Novel wizard. Why? Well, he’s read a lot of them. And he has opinions. And from we can tell so far, his opinions are pretty good quality!
J.D. has some regular books suggestions as well. Check ‘em out!
Mariann has been here at KU for just a few months, but she’s got our jive down pretty well. She’s a quiet one, but damn is that girl good at organizing things. In her previous life she was probably a dragon that kept her hoard filed alphabetically.
Check out her Summer Reading selections!
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s latest work of fiction is a must for even the most casual fan. Ethereal and wistful, this story follows our despairing protagonist on a quest to seek closure in a lonely life defined by comparison. One question haunts the narrative and when answered leaves us troubled by the unfortunate nature of miscommunication.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Running away to live in a museum has never been more fun. Part mystery, part brother-sister bonding tale, this is a timeless classic (not just for children!) that deserves a re-read.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The more I’ve thought about it, the title of this book is strikingly apt. Apt in that it is joking, playful, snide, and knowingly self-aware, much like the work itself. A meditation on the endurance of the human spirit, the “genius” is in the journey I was happy to take and you will be too. With a superb navigator, this is a fantastic introduction to the genre of creative non-fiction
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
As the protagonist of the text, “you” fall in love with a beautiful woman you meet in a bookstore. As the protagonist of the text, you are ensnared in the inner-workings of the literary world. As a reader of the text, each chapter is the beginning of a new genre-specific novel that is interrupted right as the text begins to evolve. Somehow these two parallel narratives impressively mix and mash together to create an intriguing work of postmodernist fiction.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
A good place to start if you’re at all curious about Virginia Woolf’s writing. A woman of high society questions her marriage and social obligations. In a world before the diagnosis PTSD, a veteran experiences flashbacks that push him into the darkest of places. How do we age with passion, how do we experience time? Float down the stream of consciousness with Woolf’s musings on past, present, and parties.
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The ultimate detective collection twists and turns through a few gumshoes’ persistent search for the truth in conflicting realities. Originally published in installments, these three stories complement one another in their meta-fictional essence. This collection doesn’t take itself too seriously and instead offers a refreshing take on the traditional hard-hitting crime story.
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
A vague account of dreams, maps, skydivers, and oil spills, an anthropologist is tasked with writing a report for a suspect mega-corporation. This text examines why we analyze society and culture and who this analysis benefits. I read it in one sitting.
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Before the illuminati conspiracy craze swept the American underground, there were hypotheses about presidential destiny and the imagery hidden on a pack of Camel cigarettes. What does this have to do with redheads, blackberries, and the city of Seattle? Read along to find out.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
This existential classic will have you grappling with the implications of a person’s moral constitution. As far as the perfect summer reading book, well, it does take place on a beach…
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
The near dystopian future is falling in love online. It is an awkward negotiation between digital avatars and a global economy on the political fritz. Immortality and image collide to bring a satirical take on unexpected, cloying romance.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Are you an aging record producer? Someone’s personal assistant? A former punk, a future parent, a love-struck fool? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, this book is for you. Travel through the years with a cast of characters who are truly rock and roll. Egan crafts a hilarious and heart-wrenching tale of broken dreams and new beginnings. As a homeless bassist utters mid-way through the text, “time is a goon.”
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The memoir to end all memoirs. The emptiness of grief is explored with such complexity from a journalistic and personal perspective. The jarring and sudden death of a spouse. The illness and decline of a daughter. If ever there were a book to make you cry, this is it.
Adam wears birkenstocks and regularly uses a fountain pen. He also at one time was heard saying that he was “what hipsters wish they were.” So this list may or may not be full of books that he knew were good about before you did. But honestly, he has pretty good taste, so give his list a try!
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
I read this book in a post-modern literature class in college. I went into the class not really liking post-modern lit. I found it overwrought and vacuous and largely completely uninteresting. There were several books over the course of the class that changed my mind and this was one of the first and best. If you like stories of freak shows and weird cults, and family bonding, this book is definitely for you.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I had never heard of Donna Tartt before my good friend Jody handed me this book, told me that it was one of her favorite things she’d ever read, and told me to read it. This book interested me from the outset because the main character goes to college and majors in Classics and if a book about a Classics major in college sounds boring to you, just trust me that the tip of this iceberg does not begin to do justice to the remainder. Intense friendships, bacchanalia, and creepy secrets make this piece by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch is absolutely a must read.
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book were originally published separately, but are frequently printed and sold as one volume now. This is one of those books that no film adaptation has ever even come close to touching, so if you saw Disney’s newest adaptation earlier this year and either liked it or didn’t like it, just forget about it and pick up the book. It’s fun, a great story to share with kids, and one of the most surprisingly emotional stories I’ve ever read. As an added bonus, the book is actually a collection of short stories, which makes it perfect as a bedtime story option or commute book!
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
It is (hopefully) glaringly obvious to anyone who’s read this blog even a bit (or talked to me in person) that I absolutely love Tolkien. He is basically a deity to me. The Hobbit is a great Summer Reading option because it’s light and fun and about a trip, which makes it the perfect vacation book! Plus when the vacationing is done and you’re ready for something with a little more gravitas you can graduate to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, or even Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth!
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
First of all, everyone should have at least one Dahl book under their belt. He’s a classic children’s/young adult author for a reason, folks. Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite Roald Dahl book because stories about crafty animals outsmarting humans are pretty much my life blood. Plus, one of the characters subsists on nothing but hard cider, which is how I aspire to live my life.
The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo
I’m not a huge oenophile (though I like wine a lot) nor am I an especially eager reader of non-fiction, but this book hooked me. In fact, this book is one of the reasons I’ve been more into biographies lately. The story of how Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin not only handled her husband’s company like a boss after he died but also completely revolutionized the champagne business, ran blockades to sell her luxury wine, and basically was an all-around hero for, like 60 years until Death finally showed up and was like, “Come on, lady, you’re making me look bad here,” is one that I can read over and over again. She was OG, man.
Little, Big by John Crowley
The novel picked for the inaugural meeting of the KU Book Club (and also the second meeting when we showed up and discovered that none of us had finished it) has stuck with me in a huge way since then. This book got me into reading tarot cards. It also uses the ubiquitous idea of Faerie in a supremely fascinating way and basically is everything you could possibly want in a book. I’ve never really been able to verbalize this until right now, but you know what Little, Big is? It’s a Neil Gaiman novel from before Neil Gaiman was writing novels. I don’t know if Gaiman was directly influenced by Crowley’s book, but I have to say, I’d kinda bet on it.
I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
I’ll be honest with you, I read this book because I saw the movie and really liked it. I saw the movie because Hayden Panettiere was in it and I really like her. My motivations notwithstanding, though, this book is excellent. Anyone who has ever gone to high school will find something to relate to here. It’s funny, heartfelt, and makes you glad you graduated years and years ago.
Mother, Can You Not? by Kate E. Siegel
I started following the Instagram account @crazyjewishmom months and months ago. At that time, it was just an account where this young woman posted screenshots of text conversations with her overbearing, hilarious, and completely filter-less mother. It has since grown into a huge viral phenomenon and Kate has rolled with the punches, coming out with this book earlier this spring. It’s just as hilarious as the IG account, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever had a conversation with their mom that turned into something resembling an Abbot and Costello skit from a crazy parallel universe.
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I found this book in my elementary school library when I was in 5th grade or so. It enchanted me in a way that no book had done before and few have done since. It’s rare to find fantasy, high or low, that so perfectly captures the world it creates. Magic and sword fights and pet big cats are things that all of us have wanted (and/or currently want) in our lives, and this book will give you those feels in abundance.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Before I read this book, I noticed that one of the blurbs on the back said, “Shelve The Name of the Wind with The Lord of the Rings and look forward to the day when it is mentioned in the same breath and perhaps as first among equals.” This, to me, constituted extremely — almost impossibly — high praise. Having read it, I can say unequivocally that Rothfuss’s book lives up to that praise. If you enjoy fantasy at all, you should give this book your undivided attention at your earliest possible convenience.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
This is a book many of us knew from our childhoods. If you’re around my age or a little older, you probably have fond memories of the animated film of 1973, which is an excellent adaptation of what is probably White’s most famous work. If you have or know a young child who loves animals, or if you just want to nourish that small child within yourself, pick up Charlotte’s Web and share it with someone. It’s a book best read with a friend.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The first book of Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire is a fantastic book to read over the summer. While fans of the series may enjoy the later books more (book 3, A Storm of Swords is most fans’ favorite), A Game of Thrones is the perfect first book of a series, making grand introductions, setting the stage for the incredible events to follow, and drawing the reader into the universe so completely that you’ll be hard-pressed to put any of these books down (until, of course, you throw one of them across the room in a Martin-inspired rage.)
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is literally one of the most perfect books of all time. Even if you don’t like period pieces; even if you don’t like romantic comedies; even if you don’t like British literature; even if you don’t like the Classics, give this book a chance. Austen’s incredible command of comedy and emotional depth make P&P one of my favorite books. You’ll be laughing and ugly-crying in equal portions due to the snark and mooshy-ness in this book. If you don’t love it, I will literally eat my hat.
Alexander is a recent addition to Kards Unlimited, but we’re super glad to have his talents on our team. His resume includes Pro-Shark wrestling and a brief stint as a ninja, and you know, those are super helpful skills here at this particular book/gift/card store.
Alexander’s list is pretty intense, I’m not going to lie. But if you read all of these books this summer you’ll probably end up feeling like you could be a ninja too.
Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna
For serious seekers only. McKenna’s radical hypothesis on the origins of human consciousness is the only Creation Myth that has ever made any sense to me, and has the unignorable characteristic of being concurrent with both scientific data and personal experience. If any element of it approaches the truth, the ramifications are as daming as they are potentially salvific.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I’ve read a lot of holy books, but this absurdist’s bible is undeniably my favorite and has guided my life more than any other. Whenever I find myself taking life too seriously (my cardinal sin), I know that it is time to reread the Guide, laugh at life, and thumb my way into a new adventure.
Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud
If you find yourself questioning the therapeutic validity of your psych meds and suspect that your therapist may simply be adjusting you to a deeply pathological culture instead of helping heal you, this book, from the Father of Psychoanalysis himself, may fuel your paranoia and catalyze a self-realization-or-bust journey of transformation. At least, it did for me.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
This book is an introduction to that lost continent in the Western psyche, the world of mythos. If you’re looking for something to help you pass the time while you wait to die, this isn’t it. But if you’re hungry for a life of adventure imbued with self-generated meaning, this is a good place to start.
Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
A whetstone for the intellect. Internalizing the logical razors Sagan presents in this field guide to truth-seeking has been of incalculable benefit to me in my life for avoiding a whole lot of bullshit while investigating the lunatic fringe and the varieties of weird experiences. I reread it every so often to keep my wits sharp.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
For all that I knew about psychological conditioning and the massive social engineering projects undertaken in the 20th century, this book was the boot in the ass that I needed to rip myself out of my culture and begin the painful process of unlearning the insanity that I had assimilated to. Nothing like a good story to render a body of facts into impetus for action.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Inspire your inner revolutionary with this underdog tale of Libertarian rebellion on the Moon. Featuring my favorite weapon in all of science fiction for its engineering simplicity and my favorite familial social organization for its communal strength.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
No other intellectual endeavor has carried out so thorough a meditation on Evil over the centuries as Christianity has. Paradise Lost is the crowning jewel of that investigation into the personality of Evil. It has helped me understand the path that people like Eric Harris to Adolph Hitler have walked down, and helped me avoid that path myself.
Valis and Later Novels by Philip K. Dick
All of Dicks’ works render opaque the dubious wall of separation between fact and fiction, reality and delusion, and your life and the character’s, but the VALIS series is a mind bender for mind-benders on a bender. Historians should keep tabs on this book, because it will likely become incorporated into some future religion’s canon of revelatory literature.
Here are three more books to try as well!
Athena believes in fairies and dragons. She spent a while in Ireland and she will swear up and down that she saw things that can’t possibly be real. But you know, she was also drinking quite heavily the whole time, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Check out what she’s (re)reading this summer!
Blair is, and I quote, the “Mascot of Kards Unlimited”. She embodies the soul and spirit of this store: smart, witty, sometimes a little inappropriate and always TONS of fun. She is a KID at heart, but with also the brain of a sophisticated, well read person! Check out her summer reading recommendations! You won’t regret it, yo.
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
This can be read in isolation but it is connected to his other books which I highly recommend–although you run the risk of spiraling down the rabbit hole of his time-jumping-we-are-all-connected-universe and try to make a chart and then meet him in person and show him said chart and watch him rub his temples from the headache you caused.
If you like puzzles, mystery, real life with a paranormal twist…read him.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
So this may be my FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME even though I say that a lot…because of the universe I was enveloped in while reading it. What is so extraordinary about this book is YES it’s magic but it’s magic in the “real world”; a magician attempts to bring respect and dignity back to magic by showing its practical usefulness and employs it during war-time, for example, which I’ve never seen done (and oh my god those scenes are so amaze). The other fun thing about this book is the history in the footnotes–it’s practically a whole other book. The world she builds is truly incredible and the pace and care put into the character development and fictional history is unlike any book I’ve ever read and feels so real that you finish the book feeling like a scholar of an alternative history.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Many people have likened this to a teenage, R-rated Harry Potter, which is somewhat accurate because magic but also blood and sex and violence etc., and our Harry in this case is a witty existential joker with a dirty vocabulary. Also, add Narnia. This is a fun read that has surprisingly sincere and moving moments along with its sometimes very creepy and haunting ones.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
One of the reasons I love sci-fi and or anything post-apocalyptic, is that you spend the beginning of the story learning a new vocabulary in a new universe and you don’t know what’s going on because you are opening the pages of this world and it doesn’t have to explain itself to you, the voyeur. Atwood is brilliant with her pacing and moments of revelation to the reader in this very strange world that feels like it could be ours. It’s the first in a trilogy and you’ll want to get to the 2nd the second you finish.
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons
Ok. Here’s the thing. I don’t read a lot of scary stories which is silly because I love scary movies. But I’ve read this, and this is SCARY. I loved this and had SO MUCH FUN having the experience of reading a page-turner. The best part was having a friend read it and freaking out when you get to certain parts and sending gross texts to each other in the middle of the night that may or may not involve fetuses.
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
So this was my first sci-fi and I haven’t looked back (at other genres) since. This changed my whole world. This is one of those stories that makes you wonder how a human could hold all of it in their head. In the millions of galaxies that exist a man named Hari Seldon has predicted the future and it’s HOW he predicts, not what, that is so fascinating to me. Imagine combining all the disciplines into one and all the knowledge that would give; imagine trying to deliver that message over the span of centuries—and does the very act of disseminating information change the future or does it cause what was always meant to be?
Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
My love of language began here and is still with me. It is with young Milo that I learned how wonderful and strange language can be, which led me to pursue poetry, philosophy and linguistics in college. In Dictionopolis I learned that letters taste different. I learned that Conclusions is an island that can only be reached by jumping. I learned that war is what happens when rhyme and reason are nowhere to be found. I learned that meaning in language is never exhausted, but always open to new and imaginative possibilities.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This is one of the most beautiful and moving stories I’ve ever read and I’ve read a lot of stories. Martin Scorcese thought so too and made it a film and won best picture of the year…just saying. The book is comprised of stunning pencil drawings and pages of text in between that tells the story of being true to oneself and one’s passions in life. It’ll getcha.