Congratulations! You made it through the Spring 2024 semester. We wish you all a wonderful, well-deserved break and ample time to rest, relax, and recharge. We hope your down time offers you the chance to enjoy a good book on the beach or by the lake. Below find some recommended summer reads from MacPhaidin Library staff members and student workers. Happy reading and have a wonderful summer! 

Title: The Vaster Wilds
Author: Lauren Groff
Reviewer: Heather O’Leary
Synopsis: Follow an unnamed servant as she escapes the horrors of famine and disease of the Jamestown settlement and flees alone into the wilderness. Flashbacks slowly reveal how “the girl,” as she is referred to in the book, came to Jamestown from London and what lead to her desperate escape.  
Reads like: Historical fiction, mixed with the tv show “Alone.”  
What I thought: Once I started reading The Vaster Wilds it was nearly impossible for me to stop. Now that I am done reading the book, I cannot stop thinking about it. It was beautiful and brutal at the same time. I would caution that Groff pulls no punches when exploring the violence of humanity, diseases, and nature. By the end of the book, I felt in awe of Groff’s descriptions of the wilderness and the capacity of “the girl” to overcome such extreme circumstances...and very grateful for modern medicine.  
Availability: at the BPL 


Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Reviewer: Tanner Walling
Synopsis: This book, and this series by extension, are easily my favorite books I have ever read. In a world where the Thunderhead, a benevolent AI, oversees everything on the planet and people do not die of natural causes, a group called the Scythedom are formed outside of the jurisdiction of the Thunderhead to curb overpopulation. With the Scythes responsible for dealing death in a post-mortal society, the book brings up a myriad of questions about life, death, mortality, corruption, and the future of our global civilization.
What I thought: I recently finished the final book in the trilogy, and it was captivating up until the very last page. Alternating between the perspectives of numerous different characters, Shusterman gives you a nuanced look at this supposedly utopic future and the complexities of solving all of our wordly problems. If you like loved the dystopian phase of the early 2010s and want a book that flips that concept on its head, or are a fan of thought-provoking science fiction, I cannot recommend this book, and series, enough. It is science fiction excellence. 
Availability: Boston Public Library (eBook & Print) 


Title: The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World
Author: Vincent Bevins
Reviewer: Tanner Walling
Synopsis: Imagine if the United States government, particularly the CIA, secretly backed genocides and mass murder programs across the world to slowly win the Cold War through regime change...except that it is real. The Jakarta Method is a fascinating read, even if you are not a history major like me, for the way it helps readers see the way our modern world came to be. Centering on the anti-Communist purge in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, which killed upwards of a million civilians, the book uses real stories from real people to piece together how the United States won the Cold War by propping up and funding far-right regimes in non-aligned, Third World countries.
What I thought: This book is, admittedly, a heavy read due to its discussions of genocides and state-sponsored terrorism, much of it funded by the United States foreign policy establishment. However, it is this unflinching look at the history of the latter half of the Cold War that shines light on a critical and oft-overlooked part of our world’s history that has shaped so many parts of our world today. Bevins reshapes our worldview with this book, while also grounding the sweeping events of the time with the stories of real people. The result is one of the most challenging yet rewarding nonfiction reads of this decade.
Availability: Boston Public Library (eBook & Print) 


Title: Tom Lake
Author: Ann Patchett
Reviewer: Trish McPherson
Synopsis: I have long been an Ann Patchett fan and now, Tom Lake has become my favorite of all her works. This novel takes place during lockdown when Lara’s three daughters return to their home in Michigan to ride out the worst of the pandemic. As the weather grows warmer, they help their parents bring in the crop on their cherry farm. They distract themselves from their labor by peppering their mother with questions about her past relationship with a famous actor. Lara’s answers reveal stories of first loves and first betrayals. Through her exchanges with her daughters, we come to understand how seemingly inconsequential decisions can have a monumental impact – altering our life’s trajectory.  The novel speaks of the lives mothers lived before they had children, and the parts of that existence they keep hidden as private memories.
Availability: Audiobook from Boston Public Library 


Title: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
Authors: David Graeber & David Wengrow 
Reviewer: Garrett McComas
Synopsis: In the last decade or so, the project of “the history of humanity” has been attempted many times in book form. Think Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind or Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. These books often rely on broad, sweeping histories that only focus on certain cultures, people, and events that fit into the Western idea that the last couple of centuries have been a time of “progress”, that there has never been a better time to live in than now, and that our current state is inevitable and good. Graeber and Wengrow’s project does not follow this template, although the title would certainly suggest it does. Instead, the authors invite the reader into a “new science of history, one that restores our ancestors to their full humanity.” One of the central ideas they are interested in is “what is the origin of social inequality, and how did we get stuck in a system that creates and perpetuates it?” To get at this question, they take an anthropological and archaeological approach to look at how many different Indigenous and “non-western” cultures functioned and continue to function, and how they created and maintained more fluid, equal societies.
Availability: Download this book for free here. The authors have explicitly stated that they would like you to. 


Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Reviewer: Lindsay Boezi
Synopsis: I recently revisited this classic YA novel during a long car ride. Millionaire Sam Westing is found dead, and 16 people are summoned to the reading of his will, where they learn that they are participants in a game.  The game’s objective?  Discover Westing’s killer and win his $200 million estate. 

Originally published in 1978, this YA novel still holds up. And clocking in at less than 200 pages, it makes for a quick and engaging beach read. The characters are memorable and funny, and the reader can solve the novel’s puzzle alongside Westing’s sixteen heirs.  
Availability (our collection vs BPL): Print copy available at MacPhaidin Library; audio and eBooks available through BPL 


Title: Demon Copperhead
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Reviewer: Marcie Walsh-O'Connor
Synopsis: I read this for a book club, and I am so glad I did. Demon Copperhead is a beautiful retelling of David Copperfield but set in 1980s-2000s in southern Appalachia. This Pulitzer Prize winner will break your heart and slowly put it back together. Demon is born to a single teenage mother with no assets except a fierce will to survive.  Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletics success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses.  But at the end of it all he keeps going aided with his creativity.  

While heavy at times there is beautiful humor and amazing references to 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s life. I was transported and I enjoyed the ride.  
Availability (our collection vs BPL): Print copy available at MacPhaidin Library; audio and eBooks available through BPL 


Title: Remarkably Bright Creatures
Author: Shelby Van Pelt
Reviewer: Marcie Walsh-O'Connor
Synopsis: I listened to this book on the advice of one of my friends practically begging me to read it so I could discuss it with her. Tova works at an aquarium mopping floors and emptying trash barrels. She goes beyond and takes immense pride in her work. But after the death of her husband and disappearance of son she is lonely, until she befriends Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living in the aquarium. Marcellus is “remarkably bright” and helps Tova in more than one way. 

The narrators in the audio version are fabulous and I could not stop listening to it. I especially loved the narrator of Marcellus chapters. A beautiful story about reaching out and found families.
Availability (our collection vs BPL): Print copy available at MacPhaidin Library; audio and eBooks available through BPL 


Title: Behind the Beautiful Borevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Author: Katherine Boo
Reviewer: Uma Hiremath
Synopsis: Well, this is not your typical ‘summer read’, set as it is in the seething underbelly of an Indian slum. But the writing; oh, the writing! Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, Katherine Boo, has crafted an empathic and totally gripping account of unforgettable individuals grappling with their overwhelming circumstances. Humans dream, whether in a penthouse or a ‘sumpy plug of slum’. Boo captures those dreams as they are forced through the crucible of global capitalism and makes us a part of it.
Availability (our collection vs BPL): Print copy available at MacPhaidin Library; audio and eBooks available through BPL 

Here are some additional book recommendations from a few of our graduating seniors: 

  • Sara Bua recommends The Midnight Library by Matt Maig and Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez . (Both are available as eBooks and audiobooks from BPL).
  • Rob Chisholm suggests Pet Sematary by Stephen King and the Cradle series by Will Wight. (Available as an eBook and audiobook from Boston Public Library)
  • Kiley Concannon recommends Night Shift by Stephen King and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. (Both available as print books from MacPhaidin Library. Night Shift is also available as an eBook from the BPL and All the Light We Cannot See is available as an eBook and an audiobook from the BPL.
  • Carolyn Deal recommends Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (available as MacPhaidin Library) and 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think by Brianna Wiest (available as an audiobook at BPL).
  • Meghan Flynn suggests Ugly Love and November 9, both by Colleen Hoover.