Summer Reading List
Alumnae Recommendations for Your Summer Reading
We asked Mount Holyoke alumnae on Twitter to recommend great summer books they thought sister alumnae would enjoy this summer. See a selection of recommendations below and join the conversation with the hashtag #MHCreads on Twitter and Facebook. Think a must-read has been left out? Let us know what you would recommend in the comments section below!
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.
“Moran is hysterically funny, and through stories about her own life, presents a rallying call for modern women to reclaim femininity.”
—Beth Hankes ’08
Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Startling secrets, unexpected twists, and heartless betrayals interrupt the marriage games that follow. Filled with satiric wit and subtle characterizations, Sense and Sensibility teaches that true love requires a balance of reason and emotion.
The groves of academe provide a bucolic but menacing backdrop for this witty murder mystery of manners, set at Sanderson, a Vermont women’s college. Rosemary Stubbs, the new chaplain and a former computer firm CFO, has made an abrupt career shift following her husband’s tragic drowning. In Rosemary Stubbs, Mullings has created a savvy and appealing entry to the ranks of cleric-sleuths. FYI: Clare Munnings is the pseudonym for Jill Ker Conway, former president of Smith College, and Elizabeth T. Kennan ’60, former president of Mount Holyoke College.
Read something purely for enjoyment. The Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, anything by Anne Rivers Siddons. Read for the pure pleasure of it. A new alumna has worked hard enough!
—Virginia M. Lincoln ’82
House of Leaves is a multilayered intersection of wild ideas from Mark Danielewski. It is also the story of a seemingly normal house gone wild. The novel intertwines the narratives of two haunted individuals: Zampano, a blind man whose strange manuscript is found in his apartment when he dies, and Johnny Truant, the tome’s discoverer and narrator of House of Leaves. It’s an incredible blend of mystery, madness, and terror that makes the reader uncomfortable in an entirely new and fascinating way.
“House of Leaves is always on my summer reading list.”
—Carly Pulver ’06
Few things are as exciting—and potentially life-changing—as discovering an old letter. And while etiquette books still extol the practice, letter writing seems to be disappearing amid a flurry of e-mails, texting, and tweeting. In To the Letter, Garfield traces the fascinating history of letter writing from the love letter and the business letter to the chain letter and the letter of recommendation.
“It’s fun and sweet, genuine and lovely.”
—Anna Bennett ’04
Writer Nate Piven’s star is rising. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of magazine assignments and of women: Juliet, a hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who holds her own in conversation with his friends. When one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants.
“Really speaks to post-graduate life, especially about this new kind of dating and relationship building (friends and lovers). Also so fresh to see a woman writing a man’s perspective! Who said women were only paltry writers?”
—Sindhu Reddy ’12
What is it about guys with guitars in their hands that makes them so irresistible, even when they are obviously self-centered jerks? If Abby and Maggie could answer that question, maybe they could finally get over Nathaniel. There’s just something about him when he picks up his guitar and gets behind the microphone, something that makes sensible women act like teeny-boppers instead of rational, self-respecting adults. Written by MHC alumna Diane Vanaskie Mulligan’s ’01, The Latecomers Fan Club won a 2014 Indie Reader Discovery Award.
“A great summer beach read for those of us who believe in second chances.”
—Lisa Utzinger Shen ’02
Widely hailed as a masterpiece of historical adventure, this enthralling narrative recounts the experiences of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the bone-dry heart of the Sahara. The ordeal of these men—who found themselves tested by barbarism, murder, starvation, death, dehydration, and hostile tribes that roamed the desert on camelback—is made indelibly vivid in this gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where, despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
“Has everything one could want in a brilliant novel . . . features a smart, strong female lead who’s not afraid to delve into the messiness of race politics. Also, it’s funny.”
—Lena Soo Hee ’05
I am quite enjoying The Divorce Papers by our Susan Rieger ’68 because it is an education in divorce law as well as witty and intelligent in its format and style.
—Barbara Akúà McAlister ’11
Starting in the present and moving backward in time, this is the thrice-told tale of three women—15-year-old part-black Rayona, her American Indian mother, and the fierce and mysterious Ida. Filled with astonishing humor and poignancy, this is a story that reveals the weave of family relationships and the strength of new beginnings.
“A Yellow Raft is still one of my favorite reads from the 20th century.”
—Ce Whitehead ’80
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school. Few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in Northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York.
“Malala is an incredibly brave and intelligent young woman. Readers will be inspired by her.”
—Liah Love Caravalho ’03
A series of shifts are happening in our economy: Millennials are trading in conventional career paths to launch tech start–ups, start small businesses that are rooted in local communities, or freelance their expertise. We are sharing everything, from bikes and cars to extra rooms in our homes. We now create, buy, and sell handcrafted products in our local communities with ease. It’s a blueprint for a new economic era that is transforming companies, markets, and our careers to better serve people and the world.
In her now classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon tells the story of Claire Randall, an English ex-combat nurse who walks through a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands in 1946 and disappears . . . into 1743. The story unfolds from there in seven bestselling novels, and CNN has called the series “a grand adventure written on a canvas that probes the heart, weighs the soul and measures the human spirit across [centuries].” Now the story continues in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.
“So well written and researched/detail-filled that they are totally captivating! If I were stuck on a deserted island, this would be the series I would bring with me.”
—Molly Dietrich Morris ’88
Like this article? Read about fellow alumnae in the arts:
June 12, 2014