2024 USM Summer Book List

After hitting the books hard all school year, faculty and staff at the University of Southern Maine look forward to the slow summer months when they can kick back and relax by…hitting the books.

Concerns about curricula and research can wait until next fall. The only rule for a good beach read is fun. But what qualifies as fun for members of the academic community, many of whom are themselves published authors in their fields of expertise?

The following list attempts to answer that question. Representing a cross-section of the campus community, contributors share the books they are currently reading and explain what drew their interest.

Rhyme’s Rooms: The Architecture of Poetry by Brad Leithauser

“Leithauser provides elegant and seductive close readings of dozens of poets — including Byron, Hughes, Marlowe, Marvell, and Moore — with an eye on the collective rhetorical impact of vocabulary, meter, and rhyme. In the author’s note, Leithauser mentions the desire to ‘lure’ lovers of words who might not have a professional background in literature, and he has succeeded in crafting an entirely accessible and joyful book. I have never read anything so fast in my reading life!”

–Dr. Carrie Kancilia
Faculty Director of Writing Services
Lecturer in English and Women & Gender Studies

Natality: Toward a Philosophy of Birth by Jennifer Banks

“The book is a series of capsule biographies of philosophers and writers and their perspectives on birth. I enjoyed learning about their perspectives of birth as an endless opportunity to better ourselves and the world, and the author’s argument that birth takes place alongside death as a fundamental shaper of the human experience resonated with me, as well.”

–Kat Zagaria Buckley
Director of Art Exhibition and Outreach

Bjarki, Not Bjarki: On Floorboards, Love, and Irreconcilable Differences by Matthew J.C. Clark

“If the title gives anything away, it’s that this is a book that is at odds with itself. Clark set out to write a magazine-style essay about The Wood Mill of Maine and its owner (Bjarki Thor Gunnarson); luckily, very little goes to plan. What emerges is an exploration of friendship, disappointment, and hope. I really enjoyed it.”

–Justin Tussing
Associate Professor of English
Director of Stonecoast MFA

A World Without Email by Cal Newport

“We have become so used to an inbox-driven workday that it’s hard to imagine alternatives. But they do exist. Drawing on years of investigative reporting, author and computer science professor Cal Newport makes the case that our current approach to work is broken, then lays out a series of principles and concrete instructions for fixing it.”

–Dr. Will Kinne
Assistant Professor of Music
Director of Bands

The Ruin of All Witches by Malcolm Gaskill

“I have a deep interest in moral panics, specifically those that focus on the occult. I will generally read anything I come across about witch hunts and trials. This specific book covers a lesser-known event that occurred in Springfield, Mass., decades before the more famous events in Salem. Thoroughly researched books about colonial New England are my beach reads!”

–Mary Holt
USM Libraries Digital Projects Manager

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi
The Broken Word by Adam Foulds
Customs by Solmaz Sharif

“One of the frustrating things about teaching and researching international politics is that it can be hard to see a place for everyday people in the machinations of big structural forces and great power politics; for too many, too often, international politics can feel like something that happens to us, rather than something we participate in. These three books of poetry all pull at the edges of geopolitics and help us see the people who resist the eddy of global forces.”

–Dr. Tim Ruback
Assistant Professor of Political Science

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott

“I’m really interested in modern retellings of fantasy, and this one is about Baba Yaga! I’m going to start listening (to the audiobook) on my way home today.”

–Anna Faherty
Franco-American Collection Archivist

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

“My sister and I were discussing books we had to read in high school, and wondered what it would be like to reread some of them now, as adults. Our theory was that having more life experience, along with researching more about the context of some of those books, would lead to different understanding than was possible in high school. So, we have formed a private ‘book club,’ and are starting our summer reading with ‘The Good Earth.’”

–Dr. Susan Noyes
Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy

James: A Novel by Percival Everett

“This book was a Mother’s Day gift from my son Luke and his partner Christina. I enjoyed the different perspective on the Huck Finn story, and I was particularly interested in James’ insights on language, reading, and writing.”

–Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson
University President

A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin

“This series (A Mistress of the Art of Death) sits at the intersection of so many of my favorite things: feminist historical fiction, murder mysteries, the Plantagenets (see also: my obsession with The Lion in Winter), and pre-modern medical practices. Ariana Franklin combines meticulous research with page-turning whodunit, sprinkled liberally with allusions to classics of medieval literature.”

–Gina Guadagnino
Chief of Staff to the President

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“I have always enjoyed (Kearns Goodwin’s) writing as she is both a historian and a great baseball fan. She talks about growing up in New York in the 1950s when the neighborhoods were so important, and everyone knew each other and played in the streets. It was a simpler time before the big stores came in and the small shop owners seemed to vanish.”

–Al Bean
Director of Athletics

Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

“A couple other colleagues of mine are also reading it in anticipation of a book club at Print Book Store. The novel offers a compelling indictment of the prison industrial complex through raw, darkly comic satire.”

–Dr. Rachel Casey
Assistant Professor of Social Work

It's not the beach, but the Bean Green in front of the McGoldrick Center is still a good place to enjoy some summer reading.
It’s not the beach, but the Bean Green is still a prime spot to relax with a book on the Portland campus.