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Buy Your Books, Hit the Beach

MU faculty and staff recommend a few smart but fun summer reads.

The summer solstice has arrived. It’s time for swimsuits, sunscreen — and paperbacks. If you’re looking for a few ideas to fill out your summer reading list, these MU faculty and staff have some page-turning suggestions that will stimulate your mind and imagination.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire
(Bantam, 1996–2011), by George R. R. Martin

Michael McKean, BJ ’79, the director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, calls this five-part book series “Tolkien for grown-ups,” referencing the famed The Lord of the Rings author.

There is violence and sex and political intrigue and all kind of stuff in Song of Ice and Fire that of course is not in Tolkien,” McKean says. “And there are strong female characters — lots of things. You can take weeks reading those.” The books have also been adapted for television in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones.


The Art of Racing in the Rain
(Harper, 2008), by Garth Stein

It wasn’t until the last chapter that June DeWeese, head of access services at Ellis Library, decided that The Art of Racing in the Rain was one of the best novels she’d read in years. It’s a story, told through the eyes of a dog, about family challenges, car racing and the love between a man and his dog that transcends life and death. “It’s a masterful ending,” DeWeese says. “Don’t read the last chapter until you get to the end of the book!”


For Better or Worse … But Not for Lunch: Making Marriage Work in Retirement
(McGraw-Hill, 2001), by Sara Yogev

Let’s face it, says Angela Curl, assistant professor of social work, a lot of people don’t want to spend all their leisure time with their spouse. Why would retirement be any different? A happy retirement means planning for your social life as well as your financial life, she says. “[This book] is about retirement and how you adjust,” she says. “I like it because of its couples focus — and it has a great title.”

Jolly Green Giant by David Bellamy

Jolly Green Giant
(Cornerstone Digital, 2011), by David Bellamy

British botanist, broadcaster and environmentalist David Bellamy first caught the imagination of Melvin Oliver, research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service at MU, with his TV show Bellamy on Botany, which aired in Britain when Oliver was in college. In Bellamy’s memoir, Jolly Green Giant, he relays amusing anecdotes from his 35-year career. “It is an extraordinarily entertaining book and a special look into the adventures he has following his passion,” Oliver says.


Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), by Jack Rakove

Joshua Hawley, associate professor of law, studied under author Rakove at Stanford. “It’s a great introduction to the seminal figures of the founding period,” he says of Revolutionaries. “It relates their political significance and their intellectual ideas and tries to situate those and show why they were so key to the development of the American nation. It’s an extremely thoughtful book, but one that’s pretty accessible, too.”