Elon Alumni Association

Elon Faculty & Staff Summer Book Recommendations

Looking for your next great summer read?

Browse through the following book recommendations from Elon’s faculty and staff. You’ll find books of all genres, from those that will challenge your thinking and expand your intellect, to those that are just plain fun. We promise there won't be a test at the end!

A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Novel, Humorous Fiction
Recommendation: Ove (pronounced OO-vuh) is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon and the author, Backman, carefully introduces you to the complex series of events that have made him that way. This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. It made me laugh out loud one minute and cry the next.
Submitted by: April Post, Senior Lecturer in Spanish
Second Recommendation: A curmudgeonly man reluctantly befriends his immigrant neighbor and children and this changes him and his neighbors. A lovely story about change, gratitude and acceptance.
Submitted by: Betty Garrison, Business Research Librarian

American Nations

Author: Colin Woodard
Genre: History
Recommendation: Makes an argument that North America is divided into 11 “nations” that have more influence in the US than state lines. Woodard details the founding of each nation and how they continue to dominate culture and politics in North America. American history through a very different lens.
Submitted by: Joe Petrizzi, Senior Assistant Director of Transfer and Special Admissions


Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Fiction
Submitted by: Brooke Barnett, Associate Provost for Inclusive Community and Professor, School of Communications

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South

Author: Vivian Howard
Genre: Cookbook
Recommendation: If you’re from around here, you’ll find many of these recipes laughably obvious. If you’re not from around here, it will help you figure out how to make cucumbers, okra and other dishes like a local. The stories included offer a nice flavor of the region, and some of the recipes are delightfully innovative (red beet tzatziki).
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Author: Candice Millard
Genre: History
Recommendation: The fascinating story of the assassination of President James Garfield. This book reads like a fast-paced work of fiction, but introduces you to an important yet often forgotten time in American political history. It’s so much more than the story of an assassination, examining the political culture and process of the time, mental health and medicine. Alexander Graham Bell is an important supporting character, racing the clock to create an invention to save the life of the injured president.
Submitted by: Carrie Evans, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Author: Madeleine Thien
Genre: Fiction
Recommendation: Personal journey of two generations of a Chinese-Canadian family gives insight into Mao’s Cultural Revolution and student protests in Tiananmen Square. Music figures prominently, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations and other pieces of music are vivid characters throughout. Winner of the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for English language fiction.
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian

Exit West: A Novel

Author: Mohsin Hamid
Genre: Fiction
Submitted by: Brooke Barnett, Associate Provost for Inclusive Community and Professor, School of Communications

Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

Author: Angela Duckworth
Genre: Nonfiction, Social Science
Recommendation: Duckworth will be a guest on Elon’s campus next year, and her innovative work on grit earned her a Macarthur Genius Award. She explores the characteristics that make up the “grit” necessary to persevere and achieve success (hint: it rarely happens the first time we try something).
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Author: J.D. Vance
Genre: Memoir
Recommendation: Everybody I know either is, or plans to, read this book. Personal memoir of growing up white, working class in the U.S. that is helping many people better understand the political and cultural phenomenon of disenfranchisement felt by white, working class Americans.
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae

Author: Graeme MaCrae Burnet
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
Recommendation: This novel is a collection of documents related to a brutal crime in an isolated Scottish village in 1869. The setting and characters are compelling, and the story unfolds in some surprising ways.
Submitted by: Peter Felten, Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning and Professor of History


Author: Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommendation: Sweeping chronicle of families from Ghana through eight generations from the Gold Coast of Africa in the 18th Century to American plantations of Mississippi to the American Civil War and the Harlem Renaissance. Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, NBCC’s John Leonard Award, A New York Times Notable Book, A Washington Post Notable Book, One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Time, Oprah.com, Harper’s Bazaar, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Esquire, Elle, Paste, Entertainment Weekly, the Skimm, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BuzzFeed
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian, and Brooke Barnett, Associate Provost for Inclusive Community and Professor, School of Communications


Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: Graphic Novel
Recommendation: This graphic novel vividly brings home the trauma of those who survived the Holocaust and the trauma of the children of survivors.
Submitted by: Scott Windham, Associate Professor of German

On Beauty

Author: Zadie Smith
Genre: Fiction
Submitted by: Brooke Barnett, Associate Provost for Inclusive Community and Professor, School of Communications

On War

Author: Carl von Clausewitz
Genre: History, Strategy and Leadership
Recommendation: Foundational text for understanding national interests and conflict between nationals. It has applicability in understanding relationships between individuals as well.
Submitted by: Bob Shea, Associate Vice President for Business, Finance and Technology


Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommendation: This book takes a great look at 18th century Scotland Highlands. It’s a great resource on why Scotland is under the English Crown. There is intriguing time travel and romance involved. In subsequent books, the characters end up in the New World, specifically North Carolina, with much historical reference to our state.
Submitted by: Amy Vaughn, Program Assistant for the Historic Neighborhood

Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Dystopian Future
Recommendation: Read the book before the Steven Spielberg movie comes out. Pop culture of the 80’s meets video games, Dungeons and Dragons and virtual reality for a quest of on-line global proportions. It’s a fun and quick read, and if you don’t want to read it, Wil Wheaton will read it to you.
Submitted by: Melissa Scales, Assistant Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy Education
Second Recommendation: For anyone who lived through the 80s or children of those folk, this is a wonderful book about a virtual quest for a life-changing prize. The winner must be skilled in 80s video games, movies, tv, and music in order to meet the challenges. I actually now prefer the audiobook read by Wil Wheaton. For a fun summer read or a long car trip (audiobook), put your quarter in the slot and get ready player one.
Submitted by: Alan Russell, Associate Professor of Mathematics


Author: Phil Klay
Genre: Nonfiction
Recommendation: This is the best book I read over the past 12 months. Author Phil Klay is a former U.S. Marine based at Camp Lejeune and it shows in every page of this series of short stories - vignettes really - from the post 9/11 war in Iraq. This is front lines stuff in the language of the Marine Corps grunt facing a mostly unseen enemy, vaguely hostile friendlies, uncertain terrain and an inconsistent command structure. Klay, a graduate of Dartmouth College, tells the stories of life in-country from a perspective seldom available - the guy from some flyspeck part of America whisked to a military outpost on the North Carolina coast where life poses its own odd challenges - and then, of course, you’re sent to war. National Book Award winner in 2014.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

Shah of Shahs

Author: Ryszard Kapuscinski
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Recommendation: Reads like fiction. Tells the story of the fall of the last Shah of Iran with genius and in a way that tells a history of Iran and the Shahs since the late 1800s. Reads more like a suspense novel than a history. It also speaks with an eerie foresight to the state of the world today. The author served as a journalist for over 20 civil wars and survived multiple arrests and sentences of death.
Submitted by: Tim Peeples, Senior Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor of English

Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions

Authors: John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, Howard Raiffa
Genre: Management
Recommendation: Best book on decision making I’ve ever read. Can be used for both personal and professional decision making.
Submitted by: Bob Shea, Associate Vice President for Business, Finance and Technology


Author: David Fuller
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommendation: Imagine the legendary gunfighter and train robber Harry Longabaugh - better known as the Sundance Kid - didn’t perish in a hail of gunfire in Bolivia in the 1800s with his partner in crime Butch Cassidy. That’s the premise of David Fuller’s “Sundance.” It’s a journey that takes Longabaugh across country in search of his true love, Etta Place. Uneven storytelling but worth a read for someone interested in western tales or the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Personally, I like the original story and the 1969 film with Paul Newman and Robert Redford better.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Authors: Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Attallah Shabazz
Genre: Autobiography
Recommendation: One of the most thought-provoking books you’ll ever read. As a white male, it thoroughly changed my views on race and racism in the United States.
Submitted by: Scott Windham, Associate Professor of German

The Book of Unknown Americans

Author: Cristina Henríquez
Genre: Issue-oriented Novel
Recommendation: It is the common reading for Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society.
Submitted by: Prudence Layne, Associate Professor of English

The Good Lord Bird

Author: James McBride
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommendation: It took me a couple of years to get around to this remarkable book by James McBride. In fact, this National Book Award winner in 2013 is the most recent thing I’ve read. This novelized account of the historic events surrounding abolitionist John Brown and his attack on the U.S. armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859 unfolds as the diary of Henry Shackleford, a young slave who Brown wrongly identifies as a girl, who follows his small rag-tag army from Kansas to Virginia. Mayhem, humor, danger and surprising encounters are on every corner in a pre-Civil War America largely untamed where laws have little meaning.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

The Legends Club

Author: John Feinstein
Genre: Sports Nonfiction
Recommendation: It’s hard to believe John Feinstein didn’t begin writing this book when he was a student at Duke University in the 1970s when he first met University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Feinstein, the most prolific author of sports non-fiction of his generation, brings decades of stored up historical knowledge, past interviews and fresh perspectives to this look at the heyday of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball - the confluence of three coaches - Smith, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and N.C. State’s Jim Valvano - all remarkable in their own ways. This is an outstanding look at how each impacted the other, the foibles of all three and the incredible success each attained in no small part because of the other two. Recommended for anyone with an interest in ACC sports history.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Author: Robert I. Sutton
Genre: Management
Recommendation: A fun, irreverently titled book on the cost of allowing jerks into your organization.
Submitted by: Bob Shea, Associate Vice President for Business, Finance and Technology

The Orphan Master’s Son

Author: Adam Johnson
Genre: Fiction, Suspense
Recommendation: This amazing novel tells the story of a man living in contemporary North Korea. The book starts slowly, but once the (bleak) scene is set it’s full of complex characters, fascinating details about everyday life, and suspense about what will happen as the story unfolds.
Submitted by: Peter Felten, Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning and Professor of History

The Throwback Special

Author: Chris Bachelder
Genre: Fiction
Recommendation: This was my favorite book last year. The setup: A group of men approaching middle age gather annually to re-create one - just one - play from a professional football game played in the 1980s. It’s a famous event in National Football League history from a game involving the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, a wholly unremarkable game - except for one significant outcome on one specific play, “The Throwback Special.” But really author Chris Bachelder examines the desperate, hilarious and baffling lives and thoughts of men and why they do what they do. Funny and thought-provoking, Bachelder has done the near impossible, written a book about football with the literary sensibilities of a book written about baseball. A finalist for the National Book Award in 2016.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

The Underground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommendation: This much celebrated and innovative novel from 2016 is deserving of praise. It’s a tough but enlightening read that takes an offbeat look at a point in history most would rather forget - the perilous lives and journeys of men and women bound by slavery. This allegorical tale of the Underground Railroad is endlessly creative yet profound and dotted with historical details that bring the issues and lives from that era into sharp focus. Author Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017, the National Book Award in 2016 and The Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in 2017.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

The Undoing Project

Author: Michael Lewis
Genre: Nonfiction
Recommendation: Michael Lewis, author of several of the more analytical and interesting nonfiction books from the past two decades, examines how we think - or fail to think completely - in “The Undoing Project.” Lewis, author of “Moneyball,” “The Big Short,” and “The Blind Side,” brings the same kind of reporting here to uncover how failing to ask the right question is often more significant than asking the wrong one. There’s some aspects of design thinking here for those who want to understand the concept better.
Submitted by: Madison Taylor, Development Writer

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Author: Cheryl Strayed
Genre: Memoir/Self-help
Recommendation: By turns bold, reverent, profane and inspiring. Cheryl Strayed’s insights will challenge and bless you. One of the most astonishingly honest books I’ve ever read!
Submitted by: L.D. Russell, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies

What is Not Yours is Not Yours

Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Genre: Fiction, Linked Stories, Magical Realism
Recommendation: Linked stories that are gorgeously told, at times laugh-out-loud funny, with magical elements so carefully crafted that the impossible becomes inevitable. Read everything by this author you can get your hands on!
Submitted by: Joan Ruelle, Dean and University Librarian 

Some additional recommendations from the Belk Librarians: http://elon.libguides.com/leisurereading