Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Our Staff’s Suggested Summer Reads

As we enter into the thick of summer and people head off on holiday vacations or just enjoy a warm day, California Humanities staffers share with you our picks to read over the summer months.

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

Recommended by Program Assistant Kirsten Vega

“Here is the story of the inimitable twelve-year-old Frankie, who is utterly, hopelessly bored with life until she hears about her older brother’s wedding. Bolstered by lively conversations with her house servant, Berenice, and her six-year-old male cousin — not to mention her own unbridled imagination — Frankie takes on an overly active role in the wedding, hoping even to go, uninvited, on the honeymoon, so deep is her desire to be the member of something larger, more accepting than herself”—Goodreads

Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff (audiobook)

Recommended by Program Assistant Kirsten Vega

“In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff ‘s is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life”—Goodreads

There, There by Tommy Orange

Recommended by Project & Evaluation Director Felicia Kelley, Director of Development Sheri Kuehl, and Communications Manager Claudia Leung

“Tommy Orange writes of the urban Native American, the Native American in the city, in a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. An unforgettable debut, destined to become required reading in schools and universities across the country”—Goodreads

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Recommended by Operations Coordinator Renée Perry

Renée annually reads this sweet book about baseball, families, and what a long lazy summer can feel like. Although the book is categorized as Young Adult (YA), and Chabon manages to talk about grief, friendship, loss, alienation, even the internment of the Japanese during WWII, all wrapped up in the summer game of baseball.

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

Recommended by Operations Coordinator Renée Perry

“The Dog Star, Sirius, is tried for murder by his heavenly peers and found guilty. His sentence: to be reborn on Earth as a dog until such time as he carries out the seemingly impossible mission imposed on him.”—Goodreads

Also a YA novel, Renée finds the writing interesting, saying “Wynne Jones is very funny in a muted English way.”

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer

Recommended by President and CEO Julie Fry

“Wandering through Paris’s Left Bank one day, poor and unemployed, Canadian reporter Jeremy Mercer ducked into a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Mercer bought a book, and the staff invited him up for tea. Within weeks, he was living above the store, working for the proprietor, George Whitman, patron saint of the city’s down-and-out writers, and immersing himself in the love affairs and low-down watering holes of the shop’s makeshift staff. Time Was Soft There is the story of a journey down a literary rabbit hole in the shadow of Notre Dame, to a place where a hidden bohemia still thrives”—Goodreads

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Recommended by President and CEO Julie Fry

“Reading Salt Houses is like having your coffee grounds read: cosmic, foreboding and titillating all at once. In this magnificent debut, Alyan’s powerful and poetic voice guides us into the dark recesses of history and leads us right up to the present tensions between East & West, the modern & ancestral, the hopeless and the hopeful.” —Aline Ohanesian, author of Orhan’s Inheritance

Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories by Gilbert Hernandez

Recommended by Associate Program Officer Lucena Lau Valle

“A single-volume collection of Gilbert Hernandez’s ‘Heartbreak Soup’ stories from Love & Rockets, which along with RAWmagazine defined the modern literary comics movement of the post-underground generation… Palomar is the mythical Central American town where the “Heartbreak Soup” stories take place. The stories weave in and out of the town’s entire population, crafting an intricate tapestry of Latin American experience”—Goodreads

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Recommended by Advocacy & Outreach Manager John Nguyen-Yap

“From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner”—Goodreads

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Recommended by Database Administrator Brett Connor

“In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago”—Goodreads

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker

Recommended by Communications Manager Claudia Leung

“Parker creates a space of witness, of airing grievances, of pointing out patterns. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present—timeless Black melancholies and triumphs”—Goodreads


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