It is time again for our annual summer reading issue! As in previous years, we have invited friends and board members of Humanities Texas to recommend summer readings in the humanities. The result is a wide-ranging list, encompassing fiction and nonfiction both new and old. Whether you're looking for an engrossing novel, a fascinating historical read, or something else entirely, we hope you'll discover a few new books to while away the summer days.

Recommendations From Our Fellow State Councils:

This year we also invited colleagues from our fellow state humanities councils to contribute recommendations for books related to the states they represent. Explore their selections by browsing through the list below or as organized by state.

William Merritt Chase, Idle Hours, ca. 1894. Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Sarah Bird, author of The Gap Year

Richard Adams, Watership Down

I'm recommending the legendary classic Watership Down by Richard Adams. This favorite comes with fond memories of the summer that my entire family read, and lived, this compelling saga of a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer. After my mom, sisters, and brothers and I became "rabid" fans, we adopted their lapine lingo and, to this day, warn each other not to "go tharn" in the face of a speeding "hrududu."

Sarah Bird, second from left, with brothers Steve and Tom and sister Kay enacting one of their family's many alternate identities: the Shrews.

Staff of Booked Up

Larry McMurtry, Books: A Memoir

Our suggestion for the summer reading list is Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry. It's a wonderful book with insight to the author's life with books.

The showcase room of Booked Up in Archer City, Texas.

Martha "Marty" Braniff, author of Step Over Rio

Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies

Hilary Mantel composes elegant prose and, although her work is not poetry, it rings of relentless forces that speak poetic. Her words grip the reader's heart and mind and transport us to sixteenth-century England in the life and times of Thomas Cromwell. Upon entering Cromwell's world, we are enthralled with the man Mantel depicts: brilliant, generous, strategic, empathetic, and always alert in a Tudor court brimming with intrigue and betrayal. An unlikely mentor to Henry VIII, Cromwell came from poverty and a world of violence, but his scrappy intelligence and unparalleled cunning proved invaluable to the King for at least a decade.

In one of the roles thrust upon him by King Henry, Cromwell is charged with securing an annulment agreement from Catherine of Aragon. Here she appears through Cromwell's eyes, bitter and banished: "There is a pause, while she turns the great pages of her volume of rage and puts her finger on just the right word, contemptible." And again, Cromwell on his deceased wife, Elizabeth: "She blurs in his mind these days. This is what death does to you, it takes and takes so that all you have left of your memories is a faint tracing of spilled ash." Unlike Cromwell's description of death, Mantel gives and gives in a bounty of profound character development, and she artfully leads us knee-deep into the depths of these personalities: Thomas, Henry, Catherine, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and other raucous and unholy members of the royal house of England. Join them this summer. You will not forget their stories.

Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize for this novel. She is the first woman to win the prize twice and the first author to have won it for two novels written in succession. Both books are historical fiction with Cromwell as the leading man. The first is Wolf Hall.

Martha Braniff.

Albert S. Broussard, professor of history at Texas A&M University and former Humanities Texas board member

Sydney Nathans, To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker

Sydney Nathans's recent book, To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker, is one of the most heart-wrenching and compelling narratives that I have read in years. Nathans reconstructs the story of Mary Walker, an enslaved woman, who fled bondage in 1848 and spent the next seventeen years attempting to restore and recover her family. Those of you familiar with the more well-known slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs will identify immediately with Mary Walker's story. Yet Mary Walker's tenacity and perseverance in reuniting her family, while unique in many respects, speaks to the struggle that other slave women faced as they attempted against formidable odds to find family members. Beautifully written, this well-documented book also reveals a great deal about the lives of free blacks in the North, sectional politics, and the role of white Northerners who aided blacks in their struggle for racial justice and human dignity.

Albert S. Broussard.


Susy Buchanan, grants program director of the Alaska Humanities Forum

Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child

The Snow Child, Palmer, Alaska, resident Eowyn Ivey's first published work, was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist and garnered numerous other awards locally, nationally, and internationally.

The novel was also the 2013 selection for Anchorage Reads, an Anchorage Public Library program that promotes literacy and community building by encouraging people of different ages and backgrounds to engage in a shared reading experience and discussion of a single book. Anchorage Reads is funded in part by a 2013 Alaska Humanities Forum General Grant.

The Snow Child tells the story of Mabel and Jack, two childless homesteaders living a hard life in Alaska in the 1920s. According to a glowing National Public Radio review that aired earlier this year: "The kernel of its story begins in fairy tale and myth—in a book that homesteader Mabel read during her Massachusetts girlhood. The book, published in Russian in 1857, belonged originally to her father and tells the story of 'Snegurochka,' or 'the Snow Maiden,' a girl, half human and half ice and snow, who comes into the life of a childless old couple. Mabel has half remembered this volume and asks her sister back East to send it to her. Why? She and Jack have, in the middle of a winter, fashioned a snow child of their own in front of their cabin—only to imagine, at first, that it has come to life in the person of a blond-haired feral girl with a red fox as a mascot."

Lynn Schooler, The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship, Tragedy, and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness

This poignant memoir chronicles author Lynn Schooler's friendship with Japanese wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino and their quest to find and photograph the elusive glacier bear.

In the book, Schooler, scarred by childhood scoliosis that confined him to a back brace and subjected him to ridicule from his peers for much of his formative years, is trying to come to terms with a friend's murder at the hands of a serial killer when he and Hoshino meet. Schooler is hired to guide the renowned photographer. The Blue Bear traces the friendship they developed while exploring some of Alaska's wildest places on their search.

Published in 2002, The Blue Bear has been highly acclaimed. The Oregonian raved about the "awe-inspiring beauty of Alaska's Glacier Coast" described in its pages. Publishers Weekly called the memoir "beautifully crafted" and spoke of the "overpowering Alaska landscape." The Seattle Times labeled Schooler's prose "cinematography," while the New York Times Book Review praised it as "sublime."

A 2010 grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum helped adapt the memoir to the stage as a successful play performed at sold-out venues in Anchorage and Juneau.

Alaska Humanities Forum

Susy Buchanan.


Jason Burge, programs/communications coordinator of the Wyoming Humanities Council

Joy Williams, 99 Stories of God

Grande dame of American letters and University of Wyoming Eminent Writer in Residence Joy Williams packs much humor and empathy into 99 Stories of God—tales of a detached God wandering a world as puzzling to its creator as it is to its inhabitants. Stories such as "Fathers and Sons," where wolves point out the futility of God's plan to change their nature and save them from mankind by referencing a bumper sticker that says, "Did a wolf get your elk?" take on modern western issues with subtlety and patience. Touching and at times hopelessly funny, this collection presents the former National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist in top form. Excerpts can be read on Byliner.

Craig Johnson, Walt Longmire mystery series

For good page-turning vacation reading, we suggest Craig Johnson's much-lauded Walt Longmire mystery series, beginning with The Cold Dish, set in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Longmire, a television series based on the novels, debuted in 2012 on A&E.

Wyoming Humanities Council

Jason Burge.

Norma Cantu, professor emeritus at The University of Texas at San Antonio and former Humanities Texas board member

Benjamin Alire Saenz, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

No wonder Ben's collection received the PEN/Faulkner award this year—it is a beautifully written, evocative, and poetic work that shows a contemporary El Paso/Juarez border reality that haunts the reader long after you have put the book down.

Norma Cantu.

Larry D. Carver, director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin and Humanities Texas board member

George Saunders, Tenth of December: Stories

I am recommending two books, the first is a collection of short stories, Tenth of December, by George Saunders. Though highly recommended, I had not read Saunders's previous work. I wish I had. In prose that Chekov would admire—concise, precise, with seemingly every sentence bringing a surprise—Saunders gives us characters and plots from contemporary American life that are at once funny and profound, haunting and deeply moving. You will not be able to read more than one at a time, each story staying with you, the satire being as funny, dark, and penetrating at that of Twain, West, and Vonnegut. 

William Chace, One Hundred Semesters: My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way

My other recommendation, William Chace's One Hundred Semesters: My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way, is a must read for anyone interested in higher education, which should be all of us. Part memoir, part social history, Chace, who began his first of that one hundred semesters at Haverford College in 1958, took a PhD at Berkeley, became a full professor then Dean at Stanford, and went on to the presidency of Wesleyan (my alma mater) and Emory, insightfully explores the growth of higher education in America over the past half century. With humor and no little wisdom, he accurately analyzes its current perils and promise.  

Larry D. Carver.

Ty Cashion, professor of history at Sam Houston State University

Kate Sayen Kirkland, Captain James A. Baker of Houston, 1857–1941

Baker was an attorney, banker, and businessman who successfully secured the fortune of murdered millionaire William Marsh Rice against his conspirators and other claimants. After founding Rice Institute, fulfilling the wishes of the deceased philanthropist, Baker expanded the school's endowment by investing in the development of Houston. To read this volume is to gain an insider's view into how Baker partnered with local bankers, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders to transform the city into an international powerhouse. Painstakingly researched and written in clear, fluid prose, this volume is an important contribution to the growing canon that outlines the emergence of modern Texas.

Ty Cashion.

Ernesto Chávez, associate professor of history at The University of Texas at El Paso

Jim Downs, Sick From Freedom: African American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

I recommend Jim Downs's Sick From Freedom: African American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction (2012). This book argues that former owners, the Union army, the Freedmen's Bureau, and other federal officials neglected the health needs of the newly emancipated former slaves. Although freedom was momentous, it also ensured that African Americans who ran away during the Civil War were often injured, with some losing limbs to frostbite. This was followed with smallpox and dysentery epidemics during Reconstruction. Downs offers a sensitive portrayal of the former bonds people's experiences that makes us ponder the importance of access to health care for all, both in the past and in the present.

Ernesto Chávez.

Ellen Riojas Clark, professor of bilingual education at The University of Texas at San Antonio

Rudolfo Anaya, The Old Man’s Love Story

Romero and Juliet? Love Story? No. It is The Old Man's Love Story by Rudolfo Anaya. Though the title might sound like an oxymoron, it is a love story similar to the Shakespearean drama. I can't help but feel it is based on Anaya's personal experience as his wife died recently. The novel is written as his heart story as he mourns in real life their love story of many years.

The passion of youth remains in the later years in memory and in reality as described in the novel. The old man's memories are bittersweet for the depth of the passion is revealed not just in the sexual acts but also in the smells, the sensations of feeling, and the everyday visuals of the person. The poignancy of the memories are brought to life just by seeing a photograph, an apron, a pot, plants, sunsets; in other words, the memories are brought to life by the surroundings of everyday life. He, the old man in the story or Anaya, as I picture the old man, tries to make sense of where his beloved is now that she is gone or dead. Within him, her spirit resides in what he finds. So lovely, so tender, so reassuring, love does last and does sustain.

The setting for this love story is New Mexico. For many this might not seem like a beautiful place, but it is one that Anaya knows well for it has been home for many generations of his family. Therefore, he describes the context with the depth and feeling that only someone who knows can do. It is a novel that can only be written at a certain age, when one is faced with the sense of trying to understand mortality and the afterlife. It is a love story, albeit Rudolfo Anaya's love story.

Ellen Riojas Clark.

Sarah Cortez, author of Walking Home: Growing up Hispanic in Houston

Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep

Rare is the fiction writer who wields language as precisely as a surgeon and as resonantly as a master poet. Fortunately, author Megan Abbott does all of this and even moreshe gives the reader a chillingly realistic portrayal of the female criminal mind. Read Ms. Abbott's book Bury Me Deep for a brilliant masterpiece inspired by a now little-known chapter of Americana. I'd be surprised if you can put it down once you begin, or if you expend energy (as some MFAs in creative writing did at a recent Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference) wondering why "no one can write seriously bad girls." It's not for nothing that Ms. Abbott has been (informally) awarded the title of "Princess of Noir."

Sarah Cortez.


Sherry DeBoer, executive director of the South Dakota Humanities Council

Dan O'Brien, Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch

The memoir Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O'Brien reveals central meanings about life, the land, and making a living in South Dakota.  O'Brien recounts his journey of abandoning cattle for buffalo at his ranch, the Broken Heart, located near Whitewood, South Dakota. Chosen for the One Book South Dakota program in 2009, the study guide notes: "Buffalo for the Broken Heart is at once a tender account of the buffaloes' first seasons on the ranch and an engaging lesson in wildlife ecology." O'Brien combines his novelist's eye for detail and his work as an endangered-species biologist, creating an enriching narrative based on the symbiotic relationship of buffalo with the land. It also gives the reader a glimpse into the neighbor's occasional doubt and suspicion about O'Brien and his intentions and new ranching approaches.

South Dakota Humanities Council

Sherry DeBoer and Big Read Egyptian exchange students toured a buffalo ranch in eastern South Dakota. Students were given the book Buffalo for the Broken Heart to gain a glimpse into Northern Plains culture. The students were also in conversation with author Dan O'Brien in Sioux Falls during the South Dakota Festival of Books.

Paloma Díaz, director of scholarly programs and faculty liaison at the
 Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

Donna DeCesare,
 Unsettled/Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs/Los niños en un mundo de las pandillas

In this bilingual photography book, Donna DeCesare shows the impact of the war and gang violence on the lives of youths in Central America and in refugee communities in the United States. A preview of the book is available on the University of Texas Press website.

Raúl L. Madrid, The Rise of Ethnic Politics in Latin America

This book explores the rise of indigenous movements in Latin America and explains the role of those movements in the elections of presidents in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

Ricardo C. Ainslie,
 The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico's Drug War

This book explores the devastation of Ciudad Juárez. Ainslie tells us about the deep impact that Mexico's war against organized crime has had in Ciudad Juárez and how the culture of violence has rooted in this city.

Paloma Díaz.

Danielle DuBois Dimond, head buyer at Brazos Bookstore

Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding

The first time I read this one, I was floating in my parents' swimming pool. Although it's certainly no flimsy summer confection, McCullers' lush, evocative writing will keep you greedily turning the pages of this hot-weather, coming-of-age novel about twelve-year-old Frankie, who is barely surviving a boring summer vacation until she hears that her brother is soon getting married. Frankie wants so desperately to be involved in the wedding—and, in a larger sense, in the confusing, adult world around her—that her desire propels this odd little book toward its unforgettable conclusion. McCullers understands southern heat and atmosphere, and this novel will bathe you in it. I reread it every year when the weather starts to sizzle!

Danielle Dubois Dimond.

Elinor Donnell, civic leader and Humanities Texas board member

Ken Follett, The Century Trilogy

I recommend Follett's new trilogy—the first two are really good reads and a brush-up on American and world history. The first two books are titled Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. The third book is not out yet.

John Shors, Beneath a Marble Sky: A Love Story

Also, I particularly enjoyed Beneath a Marble Sky, which is historical fiction about the building of the Taj Mahal. We just returned from India, and I read this before we went, and it was very meaningful.

Elinor Donnell.

Edwin Dorn, former dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People

I recommend reading Nell Irvin Painter's book, The History of White People (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010). Nell is Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton. Most of her scholarship has been about race in the United States. For this book, she looks back to the origins of racial (and racist) thinking in Europe. I teach a class at UT called Race Policy, which I tell my students is about "the power and persistence of a bad idea." Nell's book is about the birth and early development of that bad idea. 

Edwin Dorn.


Ken Egan, executive director of Humanities Montana

James Welch, Winter in the Blood

My selection for Montana is James Welch's 1974 novel, Winter in the Blood. This harrowing, beautiful short novel tells of the misadventures and coldness in the soul of a young Indian man living on the state's Hi-Line. The prose is spare, lyrical, and haunting; the story's resolution moving. Besides, it is one of the funniest novels you'll ever read. You may wonder how Welch combined such tough subject matter as loss of a father with that sense of humor—you'll need to read to find out! The novel has just been translated into film—look for the cinematic version this summer. Happy reading—and viewing.

Humanities Montana

Ken Egan.


Janine Farver, executive director of the Florida Humanities Council

Gary Mormino, Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida

This social history of modern Florida captures the hopes and dreams of the Sunshine State during its meteoric rise from the smallest state in the South before WWII to the fourth (soon to be the third) largest state in the country. Historian Mormino is a spellbinding storyteller with a tantalizing topic.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Perhaps no American scholar has recorded and preserved the culture and character of her hometown as thoroughly and vividly as Hurston. This novel, which draws heavily on her childhood in Eatonville, Florida, the oldest incorporated black municipality in the United States, is the story of Janie Crawford, a young black woman in the rural South on her quest for identity and independence. Hurston captures the folklore, the landscape, the vernacular, and the character of this once-bustling small town, which now lies in the shadow of Disney World.

Florida Humanities Council

Janine Farver.

Daniel Feller, professor of history at the University of Tennessee

Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

I recently returned, after many years, to my once favorite novel, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, and found it as richly rewarding as when I first read it in college years ago. Forget the facile comparisons to Huey Long and the pigeonholing category of a "political novel." All the King's Men is much more than that. A great writer can evoke place so tangibly as to make you feel you've been there, and Warren certainly does that. One can almost taste the salt spray at Burden's Landing or the sweaty humidity of the state capital. But the novel's real heart is in its narrator's turn away from nihilism toward acceptance of moral purpose and responsibility, even in a sinful world. That journey reaches its epiphany when Jack Burden, the narrator, visits the dying governor Willie Stark in a hospital, and Willie—a once simple good man, corrupted by power and now fatally shot by an assassin—gasps out, "it might have been all different, Jack. You got to believe that." It's an indelible moment. And take note: you won't find it in either of the two film versions, both of which end with the shooting—and thus miss the whole point of the tale.

Daniel Feller.


Peter A. Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont Humanities Council

Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged

My first recommendation would be The Poetry of Robert Frost (New York: Henry Holt and Co, 1969), which is not about the contemporary Vermont (and New Hampshire) but the eternal. Frost's poetry can be read and reread, by everyone from young readers to post-grad scholars; it clearly ranks among America's finest.

Howard Frank Mosher, collected works

For a look at Vermont through fiction, I would recommend the work of Howard Frank Mosher (1942–     ), starting perhaps with Northern Borders (a coming-of-age story set in very northern, rural Vermont) and Where the Rivers Flow North, a collection of six stories, including the title novella, which the Wall Street Journal calls "brilliantly done," "superior work, rich in texture and character."

Vermont Humanities Council

Peter A. Gilbert.

Juan Antonio González, professor of modern languages, creative writing, and translation at The University of Texas at Brownsville

Carmen Boullosa, Texas

There is a new version of a Texas historical novelization vision by one of the most relevant contemporary writers, Carmen Boullosa. Her work is entitled Texas, and is published in Spanish by Alfaguara Press. It presents a factual, historically moving account of J. N. Cortina's confrontation with Brownsville city marshall Robert Shears through a fictionalized account of life on the Mexico/U.S. border. The reader becomes a participant in the reenacting of border town life (Brownsville/Matamoros) in the mid-nineteenth century.
We had the honor of making the initial presentation of the book on February 7th at The University of Texas at Brownsville, and since then it has received many accolades everywhere it is presented.

Juan Antonio González.

Louis Grachos, Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director at AMOA-Arthouse

Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

This is the latest in a long list of fascinating publications by Mr. Kaplan, an impressive scholar and foreign correspondent. His critical geopolitical writings are always timely, sometimes prophetic, and provide rich and deep cultural and political explorations in areas of the world where great change and shifts are happening. The Revenge of Geography is beautifully written, informative, and, as always, a thought-provoking read. 

S. C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Rich and dense, this is the perfect read for a newcomer to the region. 

Louis Grachos.


Kathleen Holt, communications director and editor of Oregon Humanities magazine

Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, Wildwood, book one of the Wildwood Chronicles

Is there a recently published book that captures the wonderful quirkiness of Portland, as well as the city's deep affinity for nature, better than Wildwood, a joint effort by husband-wife team Colin Meloy (of indie-band The Decemberists) and illustrator Carson Ellis? Short answer: No.

Billed as the first of a series of middle-grade children's books, the novel is a rich, vivid adventure that takes protagonist Prue McKeel deep into the Impassable Wilderness (known to Portlanders as Forest Park) in search of her infant brother after he is kidnapped and taken there by a murder of crows. Deep in those woods, Prue and her friend Curtis find a secret world in the midst of a civil war among creatures, mystics, revolutionaries, and rulers that is at once fantastical yet utterly believable.

A children's book? In our household, my husband and I alternate nights reading longer books to our eight-year-old daughter at bedtime. With this system, we each read half of most books, which is generally sufficient. But we vied over Wildwood, offering to read on each other's nights, until one parent simply took matters into her own hands by staying up late a few nights and reading ahead. (I know from talking to other parents that I was not alone in this practice, though we faced the wrath of our children, who were indignant that we knew before they what was coming.)

But the best thing about Wildwood was the way it made us look at our hometown with new eyes. A few weeks ago, we drove the highway along Forest Park en route to a park in the northern part of the city. All three of us gazed at the mass of verdant green to the west and squinted, hoping to catch a glimpse into the magical world of Prue, Curtis, and the Impassable Wilderness.

Oregon Humanities

Kathleen Holt.


Carla M. Ingrando, program officer at the Michigan Humanities Council

Steve Luxenberg, Annie's Ghosts

Annie's Ghosts is part memoir, part detective story, and part history. Employing his skills as a journalist while struggling to maintain his empathy as a son, author Steve Luxenberg pieces together the story of his mother's motivations, his aunt's unknown life, and the times in which they lived. His search takes him to imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, through the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the hospitals where Annie and many others languished in anonymity. Annie's Ghosts is one of The Washington Post's Best Books of 2009, a Michigan Notable Book for 2010, and the 2013–14 Great Michigan Read Selection of the Michigan Humanities Council.

Michigan Humanities Council

Carla M. Ingrando.

Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library

Willa Cather, A Lost Lady and My Antonia

An author who brings us back to the land, back home, and back to enduring values and tests of character is Willa Cather. She is also one of our half dozen or so most beautiful stylists, elegant, elegiac, and deep with clarity and warmth. A Lost Lady should be read by everyone when young for its intricate discovery of character and experience and when old for its profound humanity. My Antonia should be read at any age for a great story and a great character.

Crosby Kemper III.

John Kerr, businessman, civic leader, author of Fell the Angels, and Humanities Texas board member

Robert Edsel, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

I recommend The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel, a fascinating account of the heroic efforts of a small team of American art museum curators and art historians recruited into the army in 1944 to locate and salvage countless art treasures looted by the Nazis from museums in Paris and elsewhere in occupied Europe and hidden in German salt mines and castles. The book has been adapted to a movie coming out later this year directed by and starring George Clooney.

John Kerr.

Lois Kim, executive director of the Texas Book Festival

Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

I'm looking forward to reading my book club's pick for this summer: Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. It's very apropos for summer, as the friendships between the main characters originate at a summer camp in the early 70s. I'm a sucker for novels that delve into the politics of friendship, in which each character's experiences with career success, money, marriage, and parenting inflect the other characters' feelings about the paths their own lives have taken and the choices they've made.

Manuel Gonzales, The Miniature Wife and Other Stories

When you are feeling as if you can't commit to a full-length novel and just want a great short story to end your day with, I recommend dipping into the odd, chilling-but-funny worlds that Manuel has created in this excellent debut short story collection. Manuel is an Austinite and heads up the Austin Bat Cave as its executive director.

Lois Kim.

Joseph R. Krier, principal of Krier Consulting Group and Humanities Texas board member

Jonathan Fenby, The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved

I highly recommend The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved by Jonathan Fenby. It is a fascinating and insightful biography about one of the great leaders of World War II and the ensuing decades of the Cold War. The book, though lengthy (700 pages), is an easy read. I found it hard to put down and when I did, it insistently called me back. Charles de Gaulle was an inspiring leader and masterful politician whose service to France, Europe, and the world spanned two world wars and many generations. A delightful read. 

Joseph R. Krier.


Ralph Lewin, president and CEO of Cal Humanities

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

What could be more Californian than this quintessential coming-to-California story? Your name could be Nguyen, Gonzalez, or Barkhausen, and you'd see your—or your predecessor's—family story in this great read. It is as relevant as ever in today's tough economic times and as the immigration debate continues in our nation.

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar

At times funny and at times sad, this is a true story about the extraordinary experiences of a California girl and her family, the fragility of democracy, and how we understand what it means to be an American. 

Cal Humanities

Ralph Lewin.


Andrea Lewis, director of the Maryland Center for the Book at the Maryland Humanities Council

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Every decade or so I believe we find ourselves with a book in front of us that is so impactful, we ignore it at our own peril (think Rachel Carson's Silent Spring). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is such a story.  You might at first think it fiction, but it is the compelling true story of a young mother whose once-anonymous contribution to the scientific world is nearly immeasurable. Henrietta's story, and that of her family, would be described by some as one of the most egregious breaches of medical ethics on record. Diagnosed with cervical cancer at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, Henrietta's cells have become an invaluable tool in medicine—the first "immortal" cells grown in culture better known as HeLa. These cells have been used in the development of the polio vaccine and have helped advance in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. Her cells were harvested without permission, yet they have made billions for the companies that grow and sell them for medical research and development. There are some who believe even the checks and balances in place today, decades later, are not certain to prevent a similar scenario from happening again. This is an endlessly fascinating read that won't bog you down in medical jargon and is enjoyed by high school students, retirees, and all ages in between.

Maryland Humanities Council

Andrea Lewis.

David Lindsey, New York Times bestselling author of Pacific Heights

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future?

Who Owns the Future? was written by Jaron Lanier, who was also the author of the bestselling You Are Not a Gadget, which was published in 2010. Lanier is a computer scientist and musician, a founding member of the Silicon Valley digital revolution, whose work is now an essential component of such companies as Oracle, Adobe, and Google. But Lanier is a contrarian voice, and while the leaders of those companies see the digital future as a utopia, Lanier sees a far darker future if we don't change the way we're letting network technologies define how we will live our lives. It's a fascinating read and should be read by anyone who owns a computer and uses the Internet. Your eyes will be opened, but you will be far less comfortable than you were before you picked up the book. Lanier's take on the future of book publishing will rattle your cage. Who Owns the Future? has an important message for anyone interested in the cultural future your children will inhabit. Highly recommended.

David Lindsey.

Arturo Madrid, T. Frank and Norine R. Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, and chair of the executive committee of the Mexico, the Americas, and Spain program at Trinity University

Pat Mora, House of Houses

John Phillip Santos, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation

Sandra Cisneros, Have You Seen Marie?

I will provide three recommendations, all Texas writers and all Latinos. The first two are memoirs, known to some of your readers and not of very recent vintage, but timeless and first-rate: Pat Mora's House of Houses and John Phillip Santos's Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation. The third is Sandra Cisneros's, Have You Seen Marie?

Arturo Madrid.

Ricardo Maestas, president of Sul Ross State University

Chris Kyle, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

I just finished reading American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Unfortunately, I was first made aware of this book because Mr. Kyle was recently killed by another veteran whom he was assisting for rehabilitation of PTSD. I found this book particularly interesting because the author is from Texas and is considered a war hero. This book is a fascinating account of Chris Kyle's experience as part of the Navy SEALs and his reputation as the most lethal sniper in the history of the military. I would highly recommend reading this book to learn more about our men and women in military service and the hardships they face as they work to keep peace in the United States.

Ricardo Maestas.

James Kirby Martin, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor of History at the University of Houston

Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire

If you would like to learn more concerning why the American rebels won their War for Independence, you need to get to know the key British leaders, both civilian and military, on the losing side. Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy's brand new volume, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (Yale University Press, 2013), offers a riveting portrayal of ten imperial leaders ranging from George III and "Gentleman" John Burgoyne to Charles, Lord Cornwallis, and Sir George Rodney. They were not just the stereotyped failures so often presented in our history books, and O'Shaughnessy does a masterful job of explaining why. Highly recommended reading.

James Kirby Martin.

Archer Mayor, New York Times bestselling author of the Joe Gunther mystery series

Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I realize that everyone is talking about Mary Roach's latest book, Gulp. While I haven't had the pleasure of (dare I say it) tasting that offering quite yet, I can thoroughly, and without reservation, recommend an earlier entry of hers entitled Stiff. I realize that my triple jobs of cop, medical examiner, and crime novelist may have ever so slightly bent my outlook on life. Nevertheless, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a funny, informative, useful, clever, and very well- written account of what befalls the human body after death. Roach has a way of slipping information to you in such an easy, breezy way that you might well overlook the obviously prodigious amount of research that she brings to her effort. This gets a double thumbs up rating from me. Hard to believe, it will have you laughing out loud, time and again.

Archer Mayor.


Michael McLane, director of the Utah Center for the Book and literature program officer at the Utah Humanities Council

Josh Hanagarne, The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

What do Tourette Syndrome, weightlifting, Mormonism, and a library reference desk have in common? They are all key components in the life of Josh Hanagarne (a.k.a. the World's Strongest Librarian). Hanagarne's memoir is a heartbreaking and hilarious look at a scrawny adolescent who loves books and has painfully obvious tics. As he gets older, his tics get stronger and more self-destructive. To make matters worse, he's grown to 6'7" and he can do nothing but stand out from his peers. As a result of a serendipitous meeting with a strongman who can relate to Hanagarne's plight, he learns how to focus and control his body through weightlifting and other feats of strength, but it is through family, libraries, and those who share his condition that he learns far more important lessons.

Utah Humanities Council

Michael McLane.

Manuel F. Medrano, professor of history at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Humanities Texas board member

Rolando Hinojosa, The Valley

I suggest one of Rolando Hinojosa's earlier works, The Valley, because readers can become familiar with the dean of Tejano writers and his characters from the Rio Grande Valley.

Manuel F. Medrano.

Celeste Guzman Mendoza, associate director for development at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

Carmen Tafolla, Rebozos

Carmen Tafolla is one of the best poets writing today. Her bilingual poetry has captured both Spanish-speakers and English-speakers alike, but you do not have to speak both languages to appreciate the craft and musical intonations of her her poems. This particular collection features accompanying artwork by Catalina Gárate that flows from one page to the other. The composition of the art follows the undulations of Tafolla's rhythmic poems and wraps around you just like a rebozo would—to warm and comfort you in style.

Celeste Guzman Mendoza.

Suzanne Monroe, professor of reading and early childhood at West Texas A&M University

Claudia Stuart, Poetry, Prose and Penguins

In her inimitable style, Claudia Stuart combines reflective poetry, powerful prose, and whimsical penguin illustrations in this latest collection of textual and visual creations. Ms. Stuart brings forward her spiritual commitment through reflections on personal life as well as pressing issues of the larger world around us. Her efforts to find and keep balance in life are manifested in the balanced arrangement of colorful language with black and white illustrations. The opening section of free verse and unique format encourages the reader to slowly and carefully navigate the witty ideas which serve as "food for thought." 

Suzanne Monroe.


Julie Mulvihill, executive director of the Kansas Humanities Council

Gordon Parks, The Learning Tree

I would like to suggest The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks.  2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of this bestselling novel. The Learning Tree is autobiographical and describes his years growing up in Fort Scott, Kansas. Set during the 1920s, the book follows the main character, Newt Winger, as he comes of age in a community struggling with racial divide. Newt and his family encounter situations considered universal in the African American experience in the Midwest during the days before the civil rights movement: segregated theaters and restaurants, separate schools, daily indignities and injustices. As our nation reflects on the civil rights movement of 1963, this book could provide another rich opportunity for perspective and reflection.

Kansas Humanities Council

Julie Mulvihill.


Sara Ogger, executive director of the New York Council for the Humanities

Teresa Carpenter, New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009

Teresa Carpenter, New York Diariesfantastic, quintessential. For each date, one or more historic diaries from across New York's four hundred years are excerpted, for a full year.

Marguerite Holloway, The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor

A new book by Marguerite Holloway called The Measure of Manhattan is a scholarly, journalistic hybrid that profiles the life and amazing work of John Randel Jr., an early surveyor and inscriber of "the grid" Manhattan did indeed grow along. 

Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies

The Civil War of 1812 by Alan Taylor focuses on New York State as the battleground of that war—terse at times, not to say grouchy when it comes to analyzing a war done on the cheap, with a compelling thesis about the loyalties across the border. 

New York Council for the Humanities

Sara Ogger.

Karen Olsson, contributing editor at Texas Monthly and author of Waterloo

Bryan Mealer, Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town

I just finished Bryan Mealer's Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town, a fascinating account of life on and off the football field in Belle Glade, Florida. A small town in the Everglades settled by migrant farmworkers in the early twentieth century (and described by Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God), Belle Glade has sent an exceptional number of football players to the NFL—five former Glades Central Raiders played in this year's Super Bowl. But because the town is saddled with high rates of poverty, disease, and crime, it's a very tough place to grow up.

Mealer, who now lives in Austin, spent the 2010–11 season with the Raiders, following them on and off the field; he also tracked the tremendous efforts of one cheerleader to propel herself toward her goal of becoming a doctor and to reconnect with her father, recently released from prison. (Mealer formerly reported on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I suspect that reporting on a bunch of teenagers was just as challenging.) His book is both sensitively written and honest about its subjects' failings, so that I was rooting for the players even as I was frustrated by their self-defeating behavior. And although I'm more or less immune to football fervor, I found myself sucked into their erratic quest for a state championship.

Karen Olsson.

Victoria Ramirez, deputy director at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Gene Rhea Tucker, Oysters, Macaroni, and Beer: Thurber, Texas, and the Company Store (Plains Histories)

This summer, I'm reading Oysters, Macaroni, and Beer, a new title by Gene Rhea Tucker from Texas Tech University Press—a brief, but compelling study of Thurber, Texas. Tucker uses Thurber, a company town, as a way to look more closely at labor relationships that existed across the country in the early part of the twentieth century.
At the Bullock Texas State History Museum, we always look to find Texas stories that connect with national themes, and Tucker has given us a great one. We'll be discussing Oysters, Macaroni, and Beer at the museum's monthly book discussion group, Book It, Texas!, on Saturday, August 3rd. Visit the museum's website for details.

Victoria Ramirez.

John Roberts, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Houston

Bebe Moore Campbell, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

Loosely based on the death of Emmett Till in 1955, this novel begins in the fifties with the killing of a fifteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who, while spending the summer in Mississippi with relatives, makes the mistake of speaking French in the direction of a white woman. Campbell's narrative is an excellently written, fictionalized account of the generational impact of this incident on family and friends on both sides of it in both the South and the North. In the process, she explores issues of race, gender, the law, class, and politics as they evolve in America over several decades.

John Roberts.


Michael Sartisky, president/executive director of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Lawrence Powell, The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

I would strongly recommend Tulane Professor Lawrence Powell's award-winning The Accidental City. It won both the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the Louisiana Historical Association's book of the year awards. It is a delightful, unvarnished romp through the founding of New Orleans.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Michael Sartisky.


Christopher Sommerich, executive director of Humanities Nebraska

Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, eds., The Selected Letters of Willa Cather

Nebraska would like to recommend the newly released The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, co-edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (published by Knopf, Cather's original publisher). This book has received a lot of national attention, as it is the first time that it has been legally allowed for her letters to be published. The more than five hundred letters included in the book cover most of her lifespan and are beautifully written, giving fresh insight into her character, her wit, and her personal life, which she carefully guarded. Cather's formative years were spent in tiny Red Cloud, Nebraska, leading to such masterpieces as My Antonia, One of Ours, and O Pioneers! Readers of The Selected Letters will come away with an entirely new appreciation for Cather as one of the literary giants of the twentieth century.
For more on The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, read the New York Times cover story or the National Public Radio story.

Humanities Nebraska

Christopher Sommerich.

Carmen Tafolla, Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio and author of The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans

Luis Alberto Urrea, Into the Beautiful North

For a summer reading treat, I'd recommend a tall, cool glass of agua fresca (preferably cucumber lime), a comfy chair, and a leisurely stroll through Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. The language is beautiful and the characters profound and so real you'll swear they're in your living room making small talk. 

And while the book deals with all the ugliness of immigration, border patrols, and abuse of the powerless, it also deals with idealism, innocence, and people banding together to make possible an impossible dream. There is no self-victimization of Latinos here but instead a sense of all that is powerful and beautiful about the human spirit. The young protagonists set off on a surprising, quixotic adventure, filled with the frustrations, errors, and victories of any idealistic journey. Urrea, in deliciously eloquent narrative, captures the strengths, weaknesses, individual quirks, and regional flavors of Mexico, the United States, and such institutions as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, city junkyard neighborhoods, and small town Illinois libraries. A real summer trip!

Carmen Tafolla.


David Tebaldi, executive director of Mass Humanities

Dennis Lehane, The Given Day

I am a big fan of Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), a proud son of Boston. His working-class characters are brilliantly rendered, full of humanity, and unforgettable. His 2009 historical novel, The Given Day, is a page-turning epic of family conflict, racial strife, social turmoil, and political high jinx set against the backdrop of the 1919 Boston Police Strike. Arguably, there was probably more important stuff happening in 1919 than in any other single year in American history, and Lehane touches upon all of it. It's a great summer read. The strike catapulted then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge to national prominence, the 1920 Republican nomination for Vice President, and so the Presidency of the United States.

Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates

One of my favorite non-fiction books about Massachusetts is Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. It's a highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek retelling of the story of the Puritans' journey to the New World and the settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Vowell (BA in modern languages and literatures and MA in art history) is probably best known for her stint as contributing editor for This American Life (1996–2008), but she has written six non-fiction books on American history and culture. In vintage Vowell fashion, Wordy Shipmates debunks many of the most common (mis)conceptions about the beginnings of our nation.  Who knew the Puritans had so much fun?

Mass Humanities

David Tebaldi.


Ann Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Humanities Council

Rilla Askew, Fire in Beulah

My pick for the summer reading list is Fire in Beulah by Rilla Askew. This is a work of fiction, published in 2001 by Penguin Books. The author uses the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 as a backdrop for a compelling family story. As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of America's civil rights era, it is appropriate to learn of this little-known event that has been described as America's worst race riot.

Oklahoma Humanities Council

Ann Thompson.

William M. Tsutsui, dean and professor of history at Southern Methodist University

Langston Hughes, Not Without Laughter

I spent much of the past year plowing through celebrated American novels that I felt secretly ashamed never to have read. Some were major disappointments (Catcher in the Rye prime among them), a few unexpectedly interesting (Nabokov's Lolita, for instance), and at least one entirely unpalatable (William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch). A little gem that stuck in my mind, and which surprisingly few people even seem to have heard of, is the 1930 autobiographical novel Not Without Laughter by the Harlem Renaissance icon Langston Hughes. In telling the story of a sensitive boy growing up black and poor in Lawrence, Kansas, Hughes chronicles the countless daily slights (as well as the sobering systemic injustices) perpetrated by white society and a rising African American middle class. Hughes's book does not descend into self-pity or become shrill with indignation, but is an understated, moving testament to the heritage of resilience and struggle in a racially divided nation.

William M. Tsutsui.

Ron Tyler, former director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Patrick L. Cox and Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr., eds., Writing the Story of Texas

I picked up a copy of Writing the Story of Texas (University of Texas Press), edited by Patrick L. Cox and Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr., as soon as it came out. History is so important to our self-image in Texas that I wanted to know more about the people who have written so much of it.
The various articles are by well-known historians and writers such as Don Graham, B. Byron Price, and Jesús F. de la Teja. The subjects include Charles W. Ramsdell, Walter Prescott Webb, J. Evetts Haley, Eugene C. Barker, J. Frank Dobie, and David J. Weber, among others, who wrote about what they considered to be the most important subjects affecting our state. For example, Barker gave us the story of Stephen F. Austin as a chapter in the westward expansion of the United States in such detail and with such authority that, according to historians Walter L. Buenger and Robert Calvert, it "arrested development" of future historians, who were intimidated by Barker’s personality, reputation, and fine work. It would be decades before anyone would attempt to reinterpret or reappraise his work. The same may be said of Ramsdell, whose work has influenced our thinking about post-Civil War Reconstruction for more than a century. If you want to know why Texas became a one-party state, his Reconstruction in Texas (1910) is a good place to start.
If you want to know more about the historians who have helped develop our self-image, I recommend Writing the Story of Texas. And if you want excellent critiques of their work in addition to this book, I recommend Walter L. Buenger and Arnoldo De León (eds.), Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away from Past Interpretations (Texas A&M University Press).

Ron Tyler.


Robert C. Vaughan III, president of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Maurie D. McInnis, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade

Both Slaves Waiting for Sale and Master of the Mountain [below] were written by Fellows in Residence at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; both are set in Virginia but tell a national and international story; both are timely, given the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation; and both are beautifully written, provocative, and readable. Maurie McInnis was awarded the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art. Slaves Waiting for Sale, which "traces the American slave trade through the visual and written records of Eyre Crowe, a British artist who visited a slave auction in Richmond in 1853, was recognized for its integration of art and cultural studies." Bernard Herman writes that it "cuts across the antebellum South and transatlantic debates over the human cost and deeply contested ideologies of slavery," while Edward Ayers praises McInnis's "ingenious research and imaginative writing…. No one will be able to see the slave trade—or nineteenth-century America and England, for that matter—in the same way after reading this powerful book."

Henry Wiencek, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves

Henry Wiencek's Master of the Mountain was featured on the October 2012 cover of Smithsonian, which also included an extensive excerpt from the book. Jonathan Yardley described this controversial and widely reviewed book as a "brilliant examination of the dark side of the man who gave the world the most ringing declarations about human liberty." Laura Miller concluded that "no founding father wrote more eloquently on behalf of liberty and human rights than Thomas Jefferson, and none has a more troubling record when it comes to the 'peculiar institution' of slavery." In Bruce Levine’s assessment, "eloquent and carefully researched, this invaluable book takes us behind the curtain of Jefferson's familiar public words and shows us Jefferson the Virginia planter, committed to slavery."

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Robert C. Vaughn III

Teresa Coleman Wash, executive artistic director/playwright at TeCo Theatrical Productions, Inc.

Randal C. Moss and David J. Neff, The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age

My summer reading suggestion is The Future of Nonprofits, by Randal C. Moss and David J. Neff. It's a very compelling argument detailing why nonprofits should embrace digital communications and practical solutions to get on board. I attended a crowdfunding seminar during the Texas Commission on the Arts State of the Arts Conference in Austin where the authors were the guest speakers. The presentation was beyond informative. Moss and Neff show how the future of innovation, internal entrepreneurship, fundraising, and social media communications are going to radically reshape the landscape of nonprofits in the next five years.

Teresa Coleman Wash.


Dena Wortzel, executive director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council

Ayad Akhtar, American Dervish

I would recommend Ayad Akhtar's American Dervish.  He's a Milwaukee-born Pakistani American author, and the story is about a boy growing up Muslim in the Midwest. 

Read more on this book on the National Public Radio website

Wisconsin Humanities Council

Dena Wortzel.

Bill Wright, writer, photographer, businessman, philanthropist, and former Humanities Texas board member

Stephen Harrigan, Remember Ben Clayton

Stephen Harrigan's newest novel, Remember Ben Clayton, is a keeper. The opening paragraphs are as gripping as any I have ever read. His powerful descriptive narration puts the reader in the middle of the action and brings to vivid life his cast of characters. He will win prizes with this one.

Bill Wright.

Nancy Beck Young, professor of history and chair of the Department of History at the University of Houston

Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson is a new look at the New Deal that provides an important re-evaluation of that crucial era in American history. Katznelson puts Congress at the center of his story, and the result is a nuanced explanation of why the New Deal reforms were limited in areas of social welfare and minority rights.

Historical thrillers by Alan Furst or Philip Kerr

For readers interested in historical fiction, specifically the mystery genre, any book by Alan Furst or Philip Kerr will satisfy. Furst and Kerr set their spy novels against the backdrop of World War II. The writing is crisp, and the atmospherics are spot on.

Walter Mosley, the Easy Rawlins series

Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series provides a thoughtful fictive view of the long civil rights era. Rawlins moved from Texas to Los Angeles during the New Deal-World War II era, and Mosley captures the historical changes in American race relations during the war and postwar years nicely. Rawlins is an amateur detective. The series advances through time and is now into the 1960s.

Landon Storrs, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left

For another serious work of scholarship, see Landon Storrs, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left. Through meticulous research in previously untapped government sources, Storrs reveals how federal employee loyalty programs were used to silence liberals with government appointments. Her findings are important for understanding the complex dynamics of mid-century liberal reform initiatives.

Nancy Beck Young


Jamil S. Zainaldin, president of the Georgia Humanities Council

Flannery O'Connor, introduction by Robert Giroux, The Complete Stories

Flannery O'Connor is one of the great short-story writers of the twentieth century, often adopting bizarre, outsized figures in her stories that tell us the truth we often do not want to hear. A southerner by birth and a Catholic by practice, she is noteworthy as a voice that seeks to find a place for faith and belief in a changing, and she would say also, crazy world.

Mark Auslander, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family

Mark Auslander has written an important book that sheds light on a personal story of a slave and her owner and the implications of that story for the coming Civil War.

Byron Herbert Reece and Jim Clark, Fable in the Blood: The Selected Poems of Byron Herbert Reece

Byron Herbert Reece is a forgotten poet from the mountains of Appalachia. This book should restore Reece to a place in southern literature that he much deserves.

Taylor Branch, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

Taylor Branch is the author of a multi-volume biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. In this concise history, he pulls from King's and the movement's history those particular events and episodes that most deserve to be remembered.

Georgia Humanities Council

Jamil Zainaldin.