Summer Reading


After suffering through the semester from, well you know (see my last post here), I have not been inclined to do much reading or thinking about teaching. That said, I have read some interesting books during my summer break and I’d like to share them with you. When I get snippets of free time like I’ve had for the last 6 weeks or so, I tend to binge read. Some of these titles hold academic interest, while others were purely for entertainment. I realize that a couple are classified as “Young Adult Fiction”. Judge if you must.

Honestly, I feel a little vulnerable sharing the list with you 🙂 You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their bookshelf. I firmly believe that books have the capability to expand our worldview and open our minds to new ideas in a way that TV and the internet cannot. Books allow you to completely immerse yourself in a subject. When I’m reading the rest of the world just kind of falls away. That said, books can influence your thoughts and actions well after you are finished reading them. I’m still digesting the material but I do have a few initial thoughts that I’d like to share.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

These two books were both set during World War Two. The first was a work of fiction, while the second was non-fiction. Both illustrated the power of fear and discrimination that dominated Europe during that time. They also provided examples of people that did not give in to the mass hysteria of Naziism and instead made choices that they believed were right, but put themselves and their families in harm’s way. Interestingly, both also emphasized the importance of education. In The Book Thief, the main character learns to read, while in The Zookeeper’s Wife, an underground school is maintained despite being outlawed by the occupying German forces.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy by Seth Mnookin

These two books are centered on infectious diseases. The Ghost Map chronicles the emergence of the field epidemiology during a cholera outbreak in Victorian England. The Panic Virus, on the other hand, is set in the modern day and examines the many different factors that underlie the phenomenon of the antivaccine culture. As a microbiologist, it is hard for me to imagine a world in which people believed that miasma and vapors caused disease rather than microbes. I also struggle with understanding why parents make the choice to forgo vaccination in the face of scientific evidence that contradicts their point of view. Both of these books emphasize for me the importance of education, not just in terms of facts, but also teaching students how to think scientifically.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Ok, so honestly, I don’t really have anything profound to say about these two books. They were both read for their entertainment value (Who reads sob inducing, romantic, teen fiction for entertainment? Me, that’s who).

What books are you reading this summer? I tend to choose books based on other people’s suggestions so I’d love to know what you are enjoying!!!


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