PRI’s 2020 Summer Reading List

PRI’s 2020 Summer Reading List

After months of “sheltering in place” in our homes due to the COVID-19 crisis, and with so much distressing news on television every night, we’re all look for a little bit of an escape.  Since we can’t really travel anywhere yet, we’ll have to settle for trying to escape in our minds.

To help with that, PRI presents our annual Summer Reading List below.  Below are suggestions from PRI’s scholars and staff for all types of books you might enjoy while (hopefully) enjoying some peaceful time this summer.  Below are ideas for books that will make you think and books that will help you travel to faraway places. 

Kerry Jackson 

Camino Island by John Grisham

Grisham is known for his legal thrillers, so this book is quite a departure from that genre. He should write more books outside of the brand that made him famous (and, in fact, he has authored a few: see “The Reckoning” and “Camino Winds,” which takes place on Camino Island). Readers who have grown tired of Grisham’s legal thrillers or were never fans of his books, will find an entirely different Grisham in these works. 

Lance Izumi 

Revolution: Trump, Washington, and “We the People” by K.T. McFarland

As President Trump’s first Deputy National Security Advisor, K.T. McFarland was not only involved in the opening chapters of the Trump presidency, she experienced the massive assault by the president’s foes in the media and the Washington establishment.  She explains the populist and nationalist beliefs and policies of the president and his administration and how the Trump agenda threatens various elites.  The book has gotten rave reviews on Amazon, so I am looking forward to reading it. 

Laura Dannerbeck 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Based on a true story, this book provided a different insight into the horrors of the German concentration camps and the unique relationships forged among prisoners, laborers, and guards. Hope, love, and survival depended on secret barters of smuggled food and jewels with prisoners under constant supervision by the enemy- risking everything. It is a story of true courage. The love story weaved throughout the book achieved the impossible. 

Dr. Henry Miller 

Fight House by Tevi Troy 

Terrifically insightful — and often terrifically amusing — accounts of staff infighting in the White House from Truman to Trump.  

Dana Beigel 

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

This is an excellent summer read. Suspenseful, with very likable characters, it was hard to put down.  Taking place right after WWII, journalists turned Nazi hunters are joined by a Russian female pilot (a huntress in her own right) to give chase to the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal who has gone into hiding.

Bartlett Cleland 

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Most people think of games as a fixed set of rules with an objective and some sort of conclusion. What happens though when the game is infinite, that is, when there is no end? Where the players are not always known? Where objectives may be viewed differently? Where the rules themselves are often unclear or arbitrary? The lessons explained in this book are appropriate for anyone pursuing innovation in a business setting but are equally important for public policy. In an age where a “war” on this or that is declared, or where one politician or another is quick to claim “a win,” games with no finish lines make such declarations senseless. Welcome to the real world where that value of an organization or venture cannot be measured by arbitrary metrics during a made up timeframe but rather can only be measured by whether or not others contribute to its success. This book can keep you busy until late summer when the next Carl Hiassen novel comes out…

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiassen

Carl Hiassen is one of my go to summer authors. He is irreverent and captures the absurdity of life in each of his Florida based books. I strongly suspect that Squeeze Me will leave me smirking and laughing as all his previous books have done.

Tim Anaya 

Heads You Win, A Novel by Jeffrey Archer

I’ve been a fan of Jeffrey Archer’s since I first read Honor Among Thieves years ago.  Think of Heads You Win as an adult-version of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books that I loved as a kid.  In Soviet-era Russia, a teen and his mom have the opportunity to board a ship and escape persecution for a life of freedom in the West.  They have moments to decide whether to board the ship sailing for London or the one headed for New York.  Archer presents a dual story of what happens to these characters in either scenario.  My advice to those who pick up this book – pay attention as you read.  You think you know what’s happening in the book until you read the shocking ending!  It makes sense in hindsight, but I’ll admit that I didn’t see that one coming. 

Rowena Itchon 

The Decameron by Giovanni Bocaccio

When the coronavirus outbreak began back in March and the shelter-at-home order was in place, I decided to re-read (or actually listen on Audible) The Decameron by Giovanni Bocaccio.  Right by the Bay fans might remember reading parts of the medieval classic in middle school.  The Decameron, which takes place during the Black Death, is a collection of one hundred tales told by ten young people who flee from plague-stricken Florence to a delightful villa outside of the city.  For ten days, the seven women and three men each tell one tale a day – one hundred tales in all.  Each day ends with a song representing some of Bocaccio’s finest poetry.  In middle school, we were assigned some of the more G-rated stories – I had no idea that some were as raunchy as anything you would find on HBO.  Nevertheless, The Decameron is an affirmation of moral values and a celebration of the human spirit’s ability to overcome misfortune. I found the 14th century masterpiece a wonderful diversion as I imagined myself in a Tuscan villa, rather than a condo in Pasadena.

Evan Harris

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I set a goal to read one book a month, and quickly realized I could “read” more by using Audible. The top of my list was Can’t Hurt Me, a half-autobiographical, half-motivational account of David Goggin’s incredible story from abusive childhood, to U.S. Navy Seal, to ultramarathoner and public speaker, and former world-record holder for the most pull-ups in 24 hours (he did 4,030 pull-ups). It’s an incredible read about the power of perseverance, preparation, and never-giving up and more importantly, a call to action for mental and physically toughness. Goggins isn’t gentle, and there are plenty of NSFW parts of the book, but his stories and outlook on life is truly worth reading about and understanding.

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