For the last eight years, we have shared a PAN Summer Reading list with book recommendations for leisurely days by the beach or pool. This year is different in many ways, and we’ve decided to instead share a list of books a little early to hopefully keep readers entertained, uplifted and distracted during the social distancing era.
There are still many ways to access books even when staying at home. Libraries are offering e-books and audiobooks, and bookstores are offering new pickup and delivery options. Audible is also providing a fantastic resource to parents, with a collection of children’s books available for free. More than Words has set up an online bookstore, with all proceeds going toward empowering youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.
We recently updated our list to include additional books by BIPOC authors and that focus on diversity and inclusion. Read on for top picks from PAN employees.
Memoirs stand out as the most popular genre for our quarantine reading:
- Just Mercy, the memoir by Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need within our criminal justice This is the current pick for our PAN Book Club.
- Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow, “both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism” in which the New Yorker reporter chronicles his investigation into Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
- From the Corner of the Oval: A Memoir by Beck Dorey-Stein offers a behind-the-scenes look inside the White House during the Obama administration from the eyes of a young staffer.
- Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Bob Iger provides lessons learned and leadership advice.
- Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener, a look inside Silicon Valley tech startup culture, which was recommended as “a nice intersection between work life and personal life.”
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller is the “breathtaking” story of the author, previously only know publicly as Emily Doe, reclaiming her identity after she was assaulted by Brock Turner.
- The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates shares inspiring stories and lessons she’s learned during her work and travels around the world.
- Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee is a collection of short stories from the chef’s travels around the country (along with recipes!). I’m wrapping this up as part of my resolution to read more non-fiction this year.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s debut memoir that became a modern American classic.
- Becoming is Michelle Obama’s inspiring and powerful memoir that spans her childhood through her years as First Lady.
- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is Trevor Noah’s memoir detailing his life growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. I recently read both Becoming and Born a Crime and highly recommend both.
We’re also catching up on business and other non-fiction books:
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, the number one New York Times Bestseller that examines how people can champion new ideas.
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcom Gladwell, a lively audiobook which features the voices of people he interviewed – scientists, criminologists, military psychologists and others.
- Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job by Bruce Daisley provides an insightful look at the workplace and advice for improving your work life from the podcast host and former Twitter VP.
- How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a New York Times Bestseller about structural racism. The book is also being adapted as a picture book for children. And, if you prefer podcasts, listen to Brené Brown’s interview with Dr. Kendi.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism, a New York Times Bestseller by anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo, which explores how to work toward racial justice.
- Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad, a New York Times Bestseller that began as a viral Instagram challenge and became a workbook to help readers take action and dismantle their privilege.
Several of us are digging into contemporary novels:
- Severance by Ling Ma, an apocalyptic satire, was described by Kate Conger of The New York Times as both the best and the worst book to read right now.
- The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett is next up on my to-be-read list. The The New York Times Bestseller is described as a page-turner that follows “twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.”
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a moving love story based on interviews conducted with a Holocaust survivor.
- Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a comic novel that is surprisingly deep in its exploration of marriage, divorce and gender roles, is on my currently-reading list (I highly recommended it).
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a “stirring love story” that topped many book lists in 2018, including NPR, The New York Times Book Review and Washington Post.
- Such A Fun Age, the debut novel by Kiley Reid and instant New York Times Bestseller is a page-turning story about race and privilege.
We’re also escaping into thrillers:
- The Deserter by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille is a “ripped-from-the-headlines” thriller that follows an army investigator, the first in a new series.
- The Girl Before by JP Delaney, a New York Times Bestseller that is drawing comparisons to Gone Girl.
- The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, a highly-acclaimed mystery and much-anticipated movie.
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, a psychological thriller described as a mix of Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and Greek tragedy.
There’s never been a better time to read, or re-read a classic (and then grab some popcorn to watch the new film adaptation!):
- The Bluest Eye is Tony Morrison’s 1970 debut novel and New York Times Bestseller that explores our ideas of beauty and conformity, race, class and gender.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, one of my all-time favorites (which happens to take place in my hometown).
- Emma by Jane Austen, the classic and beloved comedy, was recently reimagined again for the screen.
What are you reading? Check out our previous lists here: