FHSU Department of English summer reading list recommendations


For students not taking summer classes, being free of any required reads for three months may make you fall out of your literary habit, instead opting to binge season 4 of Stranger Things. 

Whether you’re wanting to check off everything on that Hays Public Library adult summer library bookmark or just need something noteworthy to read, the FHSU English Department has you covered to keep up your vocabulary.

Who better to recommend a novel than some of the professors who have dedicated their careers to the study of literature and writing?

Here are some of their recommendations:

Morgan Chalfant

The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fisherman was originally suggested to me by another author on social media. The last third of the novel still resonates in that I’ve said many times before, its ending has the most picturesque horror I’ve read. The imagery is like seeing a movie in your head. Langan’s cinematic level of writing is a step above. I believe people should read the book for a multitude of reasons. Any lover of gothic horror is going to be right at home in the book, while the message of how to deal with grief and loss, which is so central to the novel’s plot, is bound to hook (no pun intended) anyone with a heart, whether they’ve experienced that level of loss or not. It has a cathartic quality that many more highly praised novels seriously lack.” 

Dr. Cheryl Duffy

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

“This book provided a compelling deep dive into what it’s like to be a woman under Sharia law at the mercy of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It gave me a level of understanding I never would have had otherwise as a privileged woman with a PhD in the United States.”

Fried Green Tomatoes by Fanny Flagg

“Read this book! It’s a funny, insightful look at love, race, same-sex relationships, generations, self-awareness–and so much more! Chapters alternate between the past and the present, and between renegade woman Idgie and insecure, middle-aged Evelyn. I came away with renewed faith in the power of friendship and acceptance.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“I love returning to this book for all the rich characterization (so many interesting people in this novel!) and the plot twists that turn on misunderstandings and too-quick assumptions. It’s fun. It transports readers to the social world of 19th-century England. And it’s just a thoroughly satisfying love story!”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“I first read this one in 6th grade and was enthralled by the children–especially tomboy Scout–and the mystique of “scary” neighbor Boo Radley. It wasn’t until I read it again in high school and then again as an adult that I came to see its real power as a lesson in racial injustice and a lesson in courage. And, of course, the characters are just so interesting!”

Dr. Lexey Bartlett

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

“I read a lot of mystery/detective fiction, and this book is part of Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series, which features a part-Irish, part-Ojibwe sheriff (later private investigator) in northern Minnesota. I like the series because it highlights many issues surrounding the balance between the environment and economics, as well as issues of concern to Native American and rural Americans. Many of the books also feature settings that require knowledge of the outdoors and survival skills, which I find interesting, and this one is no exception. This installment is a prequel to other books, since it centers on Cork as a young adolescent, son of the local sheriff, who gets wrapped up in a mystery after finding a body. It’s a thoughtful coming-of-age story as well as a mystery, and I particularly liked the way it shows the O’Connor family relationships and Cork’s friendships with his peers, as well as Cork’s struggle with some difficult emotions. My sympathy with the young protagonist kept this story on my mind.”

The Library of the Dead by T. L. [Tendai] Huchu

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud

“Both are the first in a series but have satisfying conclusions that nonetheless promise more installments. I don’t usually enjoy dystopian novels, but the protagonists in both series are engaging and interesting, and the plots hint at larger forces at work in the background that they will have to continue fighting. I’m looking forward to the next installments of both series. This was the first book I’ve read by Tendai Huchu, and I plan to read his earlier novels next, but Jonathan Stroud has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, and I also highly recommend his Bartimaeus series and the Lockwood and Company series.”

For those who are more interested in listening to your content, the FHSU English department also has a podcast recommendation. 

You’re Dead to Me by BBC Radio 4 –“One of my favorite podcasts from the BBC….It’s a great blend of deep dives into historical topics and humor.”

If you’re finding your summer bucket list running a bit low on options or simply want to say that you read something over break, give one of these titles a try: they’re professor approved.

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