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Summer book list: 18 great reads

Concordia students, staff and faculty share their favourite literature for long, lazy days
June 18, 2014
By Tom Peacock


It’s official: summer is here. What better way to spend a long, hot afternoon than picking a book and hunkering down by the lake, on the porch or in the shade of a friendly willow tree?

We asked 15 Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us their favourites. From a three-part history of Byzantium to Nathan Englander’s provocative short stories to a practical guide to Becoming a Supple Leopard, there's something for everyone on this list.

Happy reading!


Deborah Dysart-Gale
Chair and associate professor, Centre for Engineering in Society
Provost Fellow in Innovation

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
Knopf, 2012
By Nathan Englander

A good friend and colleague left a copy of Nathan Englander's short story collection at my cottage, and I wasn't able to put it down. I’m just sorry I read it all before I got my first sunburn!

Punchy, funny stories about people between the life of the mind and a world that doesn't often co-operate, many of which take place in a hot, sunny place.


Bradley Tucker
Associate vice-president of Registrarial Services

Byzantium: The Early Centuries
Knopf, 1989
By John Julius Norwich

Byzantium: The Apogee
Knopf, 1992
By John Julius Norwich

Byzantium: The Decline and Fall
Knopf, 1995
By John Julius Norwich

In a case of truth being stranger than fiction, the starts and stops in the potential of the various phases of this civilization, combined with brutal intrigues, make for riveting reading. I’m looking forward to getting to volume three this summer.


Owen Novak
Concordia security agent

Break No Bones
Scribner, 2006
By Kathy Reichs

Reichs is a fantastic writer. This is the fifth of her books that I’ve read. I love the Montreal connection. She even mentions the Guy-Concordia metro station in one of her books! She always keeps it interesting. Her pacing is good, and she’s not long-winded.


Kerry McElroy
PhD candidate, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture

Infinite Jest
Little, Brown and Company (1996)
By David Foster Wallace

There's no time like summer to tackle the 1,000-page mammoths of literature like Infinite Jest or Ulysses. While everyone else is getting fit and tan, you'll be sitting in the house reading maniacally — but you'll feel pretty accomplished if you can actually pull it off in a summer!


Viviane Namaste
Professor, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Concordia University Research Chair in HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health

Haiti's New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation
Pluto Press, 2012
By Justin Podur

A compelling examination of the ways in which power in Haiti is not located in the state itself, but rather within the terrain of international aid, development projects, coups d'états and non-governmental organizations. This is a great introduction to the histories and complexities of political economy and foreign aid in Haiti.


Greg Hannah
Office assistant, Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Cat’s Cradle
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963
By Kurt Vonnegut

It’s a very easy read and a bitterly ironic and satiric take on the arms race and Armageddon.


Mary Caple
BA 14
Valedictorian, Faculty of Arts and Science

Collected Fictions
Penguin Books, 1999
Jorge Luis Borges

Borges will upend the ways you consider knowledge in all its forms — libraries, archives, the arts, science, math, politics — and will do it in a paragraph.


Lyes Kadem
Associate professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Winner of the 2014 Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching

Théorème vivant
Grasset, 2012
By Cédric Villani

This book is simply unique! Ask a Fields Medal winner to write a book on how he managed to prove, with a collaborator, an important theorem, and you end up with a "road trip" from Tokyo to Princeton and from Lyon to Hyderabad.

More than proving a theorem, this book has the enormous merit of proving that significant scientific achievements are full of ups and downs and that persistence is the key to discovery.


Ana Cappelluto
Professor, Department of Theatre
Associate dean of Planning and Academic Facilities of the Faculty of Fine Arts

Love, Nina
Little, Brown and Company, 2014
By Nina Stibbe

This is a laugh-out-loud story about the everyday challenges of a very particular family. In 1982, 20-year-old Nina Stibbe moved from Leicester to London to take up a post as a nanny. Her two charges were the children of Mary-Kay Wilmers, long-time editor of the London Review of Books, and her ex-husband, the film director Stephen Frears. Her observant, crisp and funny collection of letters home to her sister, Vic, make up the entirety of Love, Nina.


Lea Prevel Katsanis
Professor, Department of Marketing

The Dinner
Hogarth, 2013
By Herman Koch

This is a dark and chilling story about two families faced with an impossible decision that must be made over one dinner. You feel that you're a diner in the restaurant watching from another table. A great read!



Charles Gedeon
BComm 14, District 3
Member of the Concordia-McGill University team that won the top prize at the Shell Ideas360 international student competition

A Tale for the Time Being
Penguin Books, 2013
By Ruth Ozeki

This novel revolves around the diary of a suicidal teenager found on the beach by a Japanese-Canadian woman. Inside, she finds a cocktail of Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture, which she contrasts with her rural Canadian lifestyle.

With its themes of civic duty and life versus death, this book will make you think deeply about what it means to be a human in society while entertaining you with some light fiction and very interesting characters.


Alexandra Panaccio
Assistant professor, Department of Management
Winner of a 2014 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award

In Search of Lost Time
1913-27, Grasset
By Marcel Proust

A perfect read if you're looking for something for the next 10 years! I've been working on it for a while … It's worth it!


Daniel Roy
Manager and personal trainer, Le Gym

Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
Victory Belt Publishing, 2013
By Dr. Kelly Starrett

This is a great book to learn how to stay injury-free and keep mobile. Plus it gives great tips and information for beginners to advanced gym-goers. 


Raye Kass
Professor, Department of Applied Human Sciences
2014 President’s Media Outreach Award winner

Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir
HarperCollins, 1997
By Bryan Burrough

The author tells the incredible true story of how a joint Russian and American crew narrowly survived almost every trauma an astronaut could imagine: fire, power blackouts, chemical leaks, docking failures, nail-biting space walks and constant mechanical breakdowns, all climaxing in a dramatic mid-space collision that left everyone scrambling for their lives.

I do team building with astronauts who recommended this book. With today's interest in Mars One and Chris Hadfield's recent return from his six-month space mission, I think this book is a must. I just loved it. Over the years it has become one of my favourite books.


Josip Novakovich
Professor, Department of English
2013 Man Booker International Prize finalist

Where Bears Roam the Streets
HarperCollins, 2014
By Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker's non-fiction book gives us a fresh, entertaining and insightful look into Russia on the street level — entering apartments, bars, trains, and resorts, and reporting funky and surprising conversations. Unlike many other books on Russia, this one gives you a direct look. 

Bonus pick from Josip Novakovich


In the Light of What We Know
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014
By Zia Haider Rahman

Zia Haider Rahman's fiction is so erudite that you will learn a lot about banking, economic theory and crisis, London, the United States and the Middle East, as well as South Asia.

This is a well-plotted, huge book exploring treacherous friendships among two men and several nations. 

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