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Summer book list: 15 great reads

Caterpillar studies? Clive Cussler? Concordia students, staff and faculty share their favourite tomes for the hammock
June 17, 2015
By Tom Peacock

Summer is finally here. What better way to spend a long, hot afternoon than curled up in the hammock, on the dock, or under a shady willow tree with a good book?

We asked 15 Concordia students, staff and faculty to tell us their favourites. From two rollicking novels by Swedish journalist-turned-author Jonas Jonasson, to an indepth examination of the underwater network of fibre-optic cables that connect us, there’s sure to be something on this list to intrigue you.

Happy reading!

Peter Jaskiewicz
CIBC Distinguished Professor in Entrepreneurship and Family Business
John Molson School of Business

Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything
Red Clover, 2011
By F.S. Michaels

This is a great and funny read, but it might confirm your fear that everything in our lives is becoming commercialized.

Jesse Carmichael
Undergraduate student, John Molson School of Business
Recipient of the 2014 Futures Fund Scholarship for Exemplary Leadership

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Bloomsbury, 2008
By Khaled Hosseini

Although this is quite a heavy novel, it is incredibly well written and inspiring. It's the perfect summer read because you won't be able to put it down!

Jill Didur
Chair and associate professor
Department of English

Dear Committee Members: A novel
Doubleday, 2014
By Julie Schumacher

This epistolary novel (written as a series of letters of recommendation by a professor of creative writing, Jason Fitger at Payne University) is a delicious satire of the professional obligation all faculty face in their efforts to recommend our students and colleagues for various prizes, scholarships, and job applications. 

Schumacher's novel is a welcome antidote to the sometimes habituated approach we take to the task of writing letters of reference, helping us see how these letters tell us as much about ourselves and the times we live in, as they do about the students we seek to support.


Fenwick McKelvey
Assistant professor
Department of Communication Studies

Plowing the Dark
Picador, 2011
By Richard Powers

Richard Power explores our desires to imagine through parallel stories of a research and development team working on a next-generation virtual reality environment and a man locked in a room after being kidnapped. His atmospheric prose captures everyday lives mediated through computers without losing sight of the human. The book lingers with me as a reflection on virtual reality and the consequences of abstraction.

Linda Dyer
Professor, Department of Management
Provost Fellow, Mid-Career Development

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
Ecco, 2013
By Jonas Jonasson

A rollicking good read about anti-monarchists, forgers and racists, with the opening quote: “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

Zach Melzer
PhD Candidate
Film and Moving Image Studies

The Undersea Network
Duke University Press, 2015
By Nicole Starosielski

This is a book about the underground and undersea network of fibre optic cables through which nearly all digital communication circulates.

Starosielski guides her readers from the seabed into the cable stations found on land to reveal a deeply historical and insistently geographical account of the technical properties, cultural negotiations, practices of labour, and political dynamics that inform a surprisingly small industry of data-management companies handling the majority of digital communication.

This is a powerful and insightful call for greater awareness of the policies that govern our communication infrastructures. 

Christopher Plenzich
Master’s Student
Department of Biology

The World of the Tent-Makers: A Natural History of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar 
University of Massachusetts Press, 1980
By Vincent G. Dethier


With scientifically accurate information, Dethier creates an intriguing story about the life cycle of a colony of eastern tent caterpillars in a way that lets the reader relate to them. The book takes a seemingly bland topic and really makes the scientific research behind it interesting and accessible, all while remaining accurate to the true predilections of the caterpillars.

Daniel Gauthier
Building performance coordinator
Facility Management

Macmillan, 1975
By James Clavell

I just finished my third reading of Shogun since first opening it up at the age of 16. I find the mark of a good story to be its ability to change shape with the reader and mean different things at different stages in one’s life. Shogun is exactly that.  

Michelle Gamage
Editor-in-Chief of The Concordian 

The Gone-Away World 
Heinemann, 2008
By Nick Harkaway 

It doesn't matter what kind of genre you're into, this is the book for you. It has ninjas, love, weapons of mass destruction, a bar powered by pigs, disguises, tupperware, post-apocalyptic high-society boutiques, high-stakes economics, and a beautiful portrayal of broken men trying to live on when all they have ever known is gone. Nick Harkaway crafts a hilarious, riveting, heart-wrenching and beautiful story of what it means to be human.

Nathalie Laflamme
Undergraduate student, Journalism
Member of the Institute for Co-operative Education

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
Harper Perennial Canada, 2012
By Jonas Jonasson

This novel was a wild ride from beginning to end. The story begins with exactly what you would expect — a man named Allan Karlsson escaping from his old folk’s home (with his slippers still on) on his 100th birthday.

From there, the story becomes more and more ridiculous and wonderful, going back and forth between Karlsson’s escape and his unbelievable past (which includes lots of vodka, bombs, and politicians). Whether you are relaxing on the beach or simply looking for a good book to read after a long day of work, this novel is a must.

Natalie Fletcher
PhD candidate, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture

The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life
Picador, 2009
By Alison Gopnik

For those who feel like challenging their assumptions about childhood, this inspiring little book combines leading research in philosophy, psychology and cognitive science to show just how thoughtful humans are from infancy onwards. It's a fascinating read about how our minds develop the capacity for reason and perceptiveness — and it will make you think twice next time you see a baby observing you!

Olivier Hinse
Captain of the 2014-15 Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team
Student Athlete of the Year

The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
By Ian O’Connor

This book describes in detail all the work Jeter had to do before getting to the Major Leagues. As soon as he started playing baseball he ran into trouble, and he had to work hard to overcome it. His story is inspiring, especially for those of us competing at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level. It’s not the fast way to get to the pros, so it’s a little bit like what he did. He worked hard for his whole career and he finally got there. He’s a big inspiration for sure. 

Kevin King
Concordia Security Agent

Night Probe
Bantam Books, 1981
By Clive Cussler

Cussler’s fifth novel featuring his fictional protagonist Dirk Pitt is set in the near future — 1989. Much of it takes place in Quebec, but it resembles Quebec in the 1970s. The newly elected prime minister is called Charles Sarveux, but he’s a lot like Pierre Trudeau. There’s also a radical group fighting for independence that’s eerily reminiscent of the FLQ (Front de Libération du Québec). I would recommend all of Cussler’s books if I could!

Maddy Comi
Trainer at Le Gym

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Simon and Schuster, 2000
By Dave Eggers

Every time you read this book, it changes. You go back and read it after a couple of years and you get something totally different from it. The way Eggers writes is sort of off-kilter, and you get pullled along by it.



Nadia Bhuiyan
Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Associate Director of the Concordia Institute for Aerospace and Design Innovation (CIADI)

The God of Small Things
IndiaInk, 1997
By Arundhati Roy

Though I've read many books since, this is one of a few that has left its mark. Roy weaves the tale of a fractured family in Kerala, where we experience how small things can have significant consequences. Roy's story-telling is crafty, witty, politically astute, dark and mysterious. What she does to language is lyrical, surprising, beautiful. 


Looking for more great summer material? Check out our selections from last year


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