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Summer Reading List   Tags: books, fiction, non_fiction, reading, recreational_reading  

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Last Updated: May 27, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Fiction Print Page

Suggested Novels from NMSU faculty and staff

All the novels in this list were recommended by NMSU faculty or staff.

Do you have a good book to recommend to this list? We would love to hear from you. Other than the author and title, consider telling us a little bit about the book, why you feel others might want to read it, what you found interesting or inspiring about the book. Send us an e-mail at

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Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
Call Number: PS3573.A4722834 B43 2012
ISBN: 9780061928123
Publication Date: 2012-06-12
In the early 1960s a beautiful American woman steps off the boat at a remote village in Italy's Cinqueterre, stays in the only hotel and waits. But for whom? Meanwhile, she and Pasquale, the young hotelkeeper, become friends during her wait, exploring the coast Ligurian coast together. Fast forward fifty years to Hollywood where the jaded assistant to an aging producer is holding a pitch session. In pops the hotelkeeper, looking for his lost love. Wha??? The book rocks back and forth between the decades and the continents. Richard Burton shows up in the middle of the book, taking Pasquale on a wild drive out of Rome. A fun read with many memorable passages. Recommended by Susan Beck - NMSU-Las Cruces

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Díaz
Call Number: PS3554.I259 .B75 2007
ISBN: 9781594489587
Publication Date: 2007-09-06
"Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love."
Recommended by Spencer Herrera - NMSU-Las Cruces

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The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold
ISBN: 0380979012
Publication Date: 2001-08-01
Almost anything by Lois McMaster Bujold is going to be excellent literature. Her fantasy work, "The Curse of Chalion", has a lot of superb questions concerning theology, along with being a very fine adventure tale. (And a rags-to-riches story as well.) Recommended by Robert M. Hastings - NMSU-Dona Ana

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The Long Ships - Michael Chabon (Introduction by); Michael Meyer (Translator); Frans G. Bengtsson
Call Number: PT9875.B43 R613 2010
ISBN: 9781590173466
Publication Date: 2010-07-06
"I’m traveling to Scandinavia this Summer, so want to reconnect to my Viking roots. No book I know of does a better job of this than Bengtsson’s The Long Ships, which follows the adventures of Red Orm, a six foot plus, Viking war chief. Red is “kidnapped” as a young boy by Vikings from his father’s Danish farmstead, captured by Moors in Spain, becomes a galley slave, converts to Islam, is marooned on an island inhabited by Irish monks, raids England, converts to Christianity, and all this before the book is half done. The pages are populated with historical characters such as Almanzor, Harald Bluetooth, Sweyn Forkbeard, and Ethelred the Unready. The story is deftly told and draws from both fact and saga to weave a picture of 10th century Viking life. I first read The Long Ships 15 years ago and it remains one of my favorite historical novel." Recommended by Chris Erickson - NMSU-Las Cruces

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Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine
Call Number: PZ7.E7388 Moc 2010
ISBN: 9780399252648
Publication Date: 2010-04-15
"Another book I love and love to use in class is another National Book Award winner, Mockingbird by Katheryn Erskine. Anyone who has ever known or worked with children with Asperger's or any level on the autistic spectrum will love this book. Erskine takes into the mind of Caitlin who just doesn't "get it." This novel will touch you on so many levels. Personally I feel it ought to be required reading for anyone who teaches or plans to teach. It covers everything from a devastating loss in the family to school shootings to the incredible difference that can be made by teachers who care." Recommended by Pamela Herron - NMSU-Las Cruces

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That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo
Call Number: PS3568.U812 T47 2009
ISBN: 9780375414961
Publication Date: 2009-08-04
At the start of the novel Griffin is a man in his mid fifties who seemingly has everything going for him, a great marriage, a great daughter, the career he aspired to, basically everything he had on his wish list when first venturing out in adulthood. Then, within a year, he watches it all come unglued. His parents, academics condemned to spend their life in the 'mid-f***ing west', have recently died and haunt him throughout the book. This book is hilarious, introspective, and enjoyable. Recommended by Susan Beck - NMSU-Las Cruces

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The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks
Call Number: PR6052.A485 P54 2008
ISBN: 0316005401
Publication Date: 2008-03-26
This is the most popular novel in a science fiction series about a future galactic civilization called the Culture and its dealings with aliens and others. Recommended by Michael La Torra, NMSU - Las Cruces

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S. - Doug Dorst; J. J. Abrams (Created by)
ISBN: 9780316201643
Publication Date: 2013-10-29
"Because reading should be about fun as well as enlightenment, I'm going to recommend S by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams. The basis of S is a Brechtian novel called Ship of Theseus. The nominal author is a revolutionary named V.M. Straka. The premise of the project is that two students who have never met carry on a correspondence (actually, several) as marginal notes in the novel.

Eric is a graduate student at the university who was doing his research on Straka and Ship of Theseus. He was dismissed from the university on trumped up charges of academic dishonesty. Jennifer is a library work-study student and a senior lit. major.

The whole book is an enormous puzzle, with inserts relating to Eric's research, and even a decoder spinner.

S is definitely not a weekend read, but if you like puzzles and early 20th C existential novels it will keep you going for several weeks." Recommended by Dennis Clason - NMSU-Las Cruces

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Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward
Call Number: PS3623.A7323 S36 2011
ISBN: 9781608195220
Publication Date: 2011-08-30
"I loved reading Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward which was inspired by her experience going through Hurricane Katrina. The book is fiction but Ward pulls us into completely into the lives of a family in Bois Savage, Mississippi before and during an immanent storm. It is exquisitely written. The subject matter isn't always comfortable for some readers but Ward has put so much heart and hope into this novel it stays in your mind long after you close the cover. Salvage the Bones deserved the National Book Award it won. Here is an interview with the author from 2011 on NPR:" Recommended by Pamela Herron - NMSU-Las Cruces

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The Secret History - Donna Tartt
Call Number: PS3570.A657 S4 2002 (at NMSU-Alamogordo)
ISBN: 0449911519
Publication Date: 1996-09-29
From Amazon: "Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill." Recommended by Tiffany Schirmer - NMSU-Las Cruces

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Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein
Call Number: PS3515.E288 S75 1987
ISBN: 0441783589
Publication Date: 1987-05-15
Starship Troopers is a good story with some fairly deep questions to ask about the nature of government, and the military that bolsters it. Recommended by Robert M. Hastings - NMSU-Dona Ana

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Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
Call Number: PS3619.E495 W54 2012
ISBN: 9781410453068
Publication Date: 2012-12-26
From Amazon: "To her Microsoft-guru husband, Bernadette is a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect; and to 15-year-old Bee, she's a best friend and, simply, Mom. Bee has aced her report card and claimed her reward: a family trip to Antarctica. For Bernadette, who has become increasingly agoraphobic, such a trip is problematic. Then Bernadette disappears." Recommended by Tiffany Schirmer - NMSU-Las Cruces


Theme Reading for Summer 2014 and All Time

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One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gregory Rabassa (Illustrator); Gabriel García Márquez
Call Number: PQ8180.17.A73 C53
ISBN: 74083632
Publication Date: 2004-01-01
Bill Eamon, Honors College Dean, NMSU-Las Cruces, recommends this work.

Gabriel García Márquez, one of the greatest if not the greatest novelist of all time, died this spring. I suggest for summer reading his finest novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), a novel that everyone should read and, this year, read again. I plan to put it on my summer reading list to read again, for the third time.

As an added bonus, the novel contains what is surely the greatest first line in the history of literature, which reads, in English translation:

“Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Readers of Spanish will notice a slight anomaly in the translation, in that the translation of a certain Spanish word is problematic. The Spanish reads:

“Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.”

The anomaly, of course, is the problematic translation of “conocer” as “discover.” García Márquez’s translator, Gregory Rabassa, must have struggled with this. For he knew he had just read the greatest first line in the history of literature, and he knew he had to get it right. But conocer almost always means “become familiar with,” as in the sense English speakers would use it of persons, or cities, or languages. What sense does it make to say, in English, “get to know ice”? As in “How do you do, Mr. Ice. Nice to know you.” It makes perfect sense in Spanish, but it’s hard to grasp in English. And so Rabassa chose “discover” as his translation of conocer.

Does the scientist “get to know” nature in that sense? Maybe a poet does. Usually we say a scientist discovers nature, or makes discoveries about nature. So, Rabassa’s translation makes perfect sense in English, but does it really capture what García Márquez intended to say?

Recently, during a conversation with a friend about this passage, I discovered that this linguistic anomaly might contain a clue to understanding discovery. It certainly raises interesting questions about the meaning of the word discovery. And, since NMSU is “All about discovery!” this could be an excellent choice for summer reading. Think of what fascinating conversations we could have next year about discovery, about Latin American literature, and maybe even about ice.


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