Summer Reading, Part Two

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Still seeking books to tuck in your weekend bag (or download)? Fresh recommendations from seven Georgetowner staffers follow.

You might think that there is nothing funny about the Antichrist and an apocalypse looming to end the world as it exists, but you would be wrong. Fantastically, hilariously wrong. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett collaborated to produce “Good Omens,” a meditation on what would happen if a demon and an angel semi-accidentally, semi-purposely attempted to postpone the end of the world. Complete with the raising of Atlantis, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — with a replacement for Pestilence, who has retired after the discovery of penicillin — and some of the most entertaining footnotes you should not skip, “Good Omens” is the perfect beach-read for those with a sense of humor regarding an Antichrist named Adam.

Other recommendations: “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” by E. Lockhart, “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, “We Are the Ants” by Shaun David Hutchinson and “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty (yes, even if you watched the show, because the book is different and better).

— Elisa Bayoumi

As divides between cosmopolitan and rural America seemingly grow larger by the day, Corey Ryan Forrester, Drew Morgan and Trae Crowder’s “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark” attempts to, through humor, address the problems plaguing America’s heartland. Although the name itself may seem a little juvenile, the topics discussed are anything but. All three authors, being liberal-leaning comedians who grew up in the poor, rural, redneck south, discuss what city folks get wrong about Dixie. If you are interested in laughing out loud, while also garnering a better understanding of how to mend ties with our countrymen, I highly suggest this book. Even more, I suggest listening to the audiobook to fully experience these comedians’ humor.

Other Recommendations: “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari andIn Defense of a Liberal Education” by Fareed Zakaria.

— Cheyenne Curley

Empathy is one of the strongest emotions we have. It is what allows us to connect with others and form strong relationships that are rooted in love; in essence, it is what establishes our humanity. Our ability to hypothetically place ourselves in the position of someone who is experiencing suffering is a way to ameliorate their pain and make them feel as though they’re not alone in life. In her collection of short stories titled “The Empathy Exams,” essayist Leslie Jamison explores the sheer power of empathy and leads us to ponder an important question about how we interpret people’s pain: How can we feel another’s pain, especially when feelings that are not our own can be assumed and distorted? By confronting and cataloging pain in her and others’ everyday life, Jamison probes this questions and illuminates our insistence to feel in order to understand. “The Empathy Exams” is a brilliant look into how we are all connected through experiences of pain, both physical and mental, and what it truly means when we say, “I feel your pain.”

Other Recommendations: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz, “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders and “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine.

— Marina Shallcross

When we meet people at specific moments in time, the question that is a valid one to ask is how did that person get to the present moment and place? Tara Westover’s “Educated: A Memoir” is a compact way of understanding this woman’s journey. Westover grew up in Idaho, strongly influenced by her parents, especially her father, whose beliefs about the family’s place in the world are not the kind that one would hear every day. Somehow, Westover makes it to Brigham Young University, even though she didn’t graduate with a high school diploma, and furthers her studies in England. It is a difficult, but rewarding journey to read about.

Honorable mentions: “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, “See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary” by Lorrie Moore and “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance.

— Selma Khenissi

What else says “summer” like a steamy romance novel? In Jane Austen’s “Emma,” less celebrated than “Pride and Prejudice” but perhaps more technically brilliant, we trade grocery-store bookshelf ardor for the restrained flirtation of country ballrooms and romantic riddles. Emma is the modern woman’s protagonist. Possessed of a degree of independence by virtue of her social status and wealth, Emma will be subservient to no man. She can be willful and emotional — Austen famously wrote of Emma, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” — and it takes her far too many failures to learn from her mistakes. This is what makes her real. Though published in 1815, “Emma” tells a timeless story. If you haven’t yet read it, decide this summer to spend a day in the sun with Jane Austen’s distasteful heroine.

Other recommendations: “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson, “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.

— Cameron Hill

With law enforcement and immigration front and center in today’s political environment, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a must-read. In this captivating true story, David Grann highlights how the U.S. government forced the Osage Nation to resettle in what were believed to be worthless mountains in Oklahoma. Instead, it was the most oil-rich land in the country. The book takes the reader on a journey back to how the FBI, in one of its first major investigations, exposes crimes against and brings justice to the only Americans who are not immigrants: Native Americans. It is in this simple story that one can understand the noble creed of the FBI.

— John Girouard

In “The Square and the Tower,” with its subtitle, “Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook,” author Niall Ferguson takes the reader on an informative, fun ride, from the first years of the printing press to today, the time of the internet. Ferguson, who has written about empires, money and Henry Kissinger, analyzes political and cultural relationships — whether formal hierarchies (“the Tower”) or loose networks (“the Square”). In the mix are Gutenberg, Pizarro and Luther, as well as British generals and spies, the Rothschilds, the Jesuits, Nixon, Davos man and Twitter. The title “The Square and the Tower” was inspired by Siena’s city plaza and palace.

Other recommendations: “Microtrends Squared: The New Small Forces Driving the Big Disruptions Today” by Mark Penn and “Know Thyself: Western Identity from Classical Greece to the Renaissance” by Ingrid Rossellini.

— Robert Devaney

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