Find a book to read this winter—part one

University members recommend books that made an impact on them.
Stock photo. A person reading in a hammock with an open book.

With the new year around the corner, we curated a list of recommended book titles worth exploring. Our call for suggestions from the University community yielded so many responses that we divided them into two parts. Browse the list below and stay tuned for part two in early January.

If you haven’t already, check our previous lists (vol. 1, vol. 2, and vol. 3) with suggestions from University faculty and staff members. 

Is there a book or podcast you enjoy? Share your book or podcast recommendations.

Won-pyung Sohn
“It is a beautiful exploration of how someone who is ‘different’ experiences empathy, tragedy, and perception.” —Megan Cicurel, communications director, Division of Continuing and International Education & UOnline
Genres: fiction, Bildungsroman

Kai Miller
“This is a lyrical and haunting Caribbean novel about the dreams and lives of people living in a slum town on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica. Plus, Kei Miller is a faculty member at UM!” —Tarika Sankar, graduate student with interests in Caribbean literature, U.S. immigrant literatures, critical race and gender theory
Genres: novel, historical fiction

Basic Writings of Nietzsche
Translated and edited by Walter Kaufmann
“Having read Nietzsche in English and Spanish by other translators, I felt that if I wanted to better grasp Nietzsche's Geist I needed to go through Kaufmann's lense.” —Cristina Berger, office assistant, College of Arts and Sciences
Subjects: fiction, anthologies, classics

Black Sun
Rebecca Roanhorse
“The first entry in a new fantasy series refreshingly drawn from an Indigenous American perspective, rather than a Eurocentric one.” —Dan Musgrave, English lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences
Genres: fantasy fiction, high fantasy, historical fantasy, magical realism, alternate history, epic fiction

The Boys in the Boat
Daniel James Brown
“Riveting true-life story of the rowing team from Washington, sons of lumberjacks, shipbuilders, who grew up in the Depression years, and staged an against-all-odds win in the 1936 Olympics against Hitler's elite Nazi team. Background of the Depression (nearly 10 years) provides some historical comparison for what we've lived through with COVID past 18 months. The focus of intense teamwork required of rowers is powerful expressed.” —Michael Malone, director of editorial services, University Communications
Genre: biography

Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr
“I enjoy reading historical fiction, and I also loved Doerr's other book ‘All the Light We Cannot See.’ This book is really thought-provoking and is set in five time periods (one of them in the future)." —Miriam Lipsky, director of special project, Office of the Provost
Genres: historical fiction, science fiction

Confessions of a Serial Salesman: 27 Rules for influencers and leaders that will change your life and business
Steve Nudelberg, Michelle Esposito, Aziel Shea, David Miner
“Easy reading and plenty of life lessons/skills can be acquired from the book." —Mackie Feierstein, assistant athletic director, Ticket Sales
Genres: self-help

The Farming of Bones
Edwidge Danticat
“Remarkable historical novel about the Parsley massacre of Haitians by Dominicans under Trujillo's presidency.” —Barbara Gutierrez, communications officer, University Communications
Genres: novel, historical fiction, historical novel

Fiebre Tropical: A Novel
Juliana Delgado Lopera
“This book has a truly unique narrative voice: a teenager from Bogota whose mother drags her to Miami and makes her join an evangelical church, finds herself falling in love with the preacher's daughter. You don't need to know Spanish to read it, but the Colombian slang makes English come irrepressibly alive. The ways Francisca despises Miami—at first—are truly hilarious, especially if you live here. It's exciting, too, to see Miami given queer literary life; not many writers have done that yet.”—Brenna Munro, associate professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Genres: coming-of-age story, romance novel, lesbian literature

Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole
Tiffany the Budgetnista Aliche
“This book is really helpful to get your personal finances on track.”—Sylka Perez-Garcia, senior executive assistant, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Genres: self-help

The Goldfinch: A Novel
Donna Tartt
“Reading this book is the very definition of being a labor of love. This story expects a lot from you. It requires attention, demands emotion, requests a sacrifice of time, asks for unconditional patience, and begs for your heart. It bleeds together love and loneliness and beauty and sorrow. When I closed the book, I thought ‘reading this may have been long, and not always easy, but I am all the better for it.’ ”—Sarah Cassidy, executive director, Development and Alumni Relations, Miller School of Medicine
Genre: novel, literary fiction, Bildungsroman, thriller, suspense

Know Yourself, Know Your Money: Discover why you handle money the way you do, and what to do about it!
Rachel Cruze
“As the description states, this book helps you ‘Discover why you handle money the way you do, and what to do about it!’ I particularly like this book because it teaches seven money tendencies we may fall into when handling finances. I think this is helpful for anyone trying to achieve financial freedom. It is also timely to read it during the holidays when people accrue debt.” —Daniella Rosario, program coordinator, Talent and Organizational Development, Human Resources
Subjects: business, economics, personal finance, money management, personal success

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel
Amor Towles
“It is an irresistible tale of adventure that weaves together the themes of civility, friendship, and grace. It inspires wonder, laughter, and an unexpected turn of events!” —Leslie Leonard, manager of business operations, Faculty Senate
Genres: historical fiction, coming-of-age story

Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel
Celeste Ng
“This is a fictional story addressing serious themes about race and challenging the assumptions we hold. The novel navigates several complex storylines while set against the mystery of a burning house in a sleepy suburban town. Don't watch the Hulu series—read the book.” —Heather Kopec, Development and Alumni Relations
Genres: novel, domestic fiction

A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway
“This classic memoir of Hemingway's early years as a struggling young writer living in Paris and traveling in Europe post-WW I is a book that everyone should read. It is also beautifully rendered as a book-on-tape, and students could listen to this during their commutes or travels.” —Catherine Judd, associate professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Genres: biography, memoir, autobiography, literary fiction

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel
Fredrik Backman
“Very entertaining story, with endearing, quirky characters.” —Robyn Hardeman, secretary, Faculty Senate
Genres: fairy tale, domestic fiction

Queering and Querying the Paradise of Paradox: LGBT Language, New Media, and Visual Cultures in Modern-Day Brazil
Steven F. Butterman
“It is a book by a UM faculty member which bridges activism and academic scholarship while studying LGBTQ+ culture in a Brazilian context.” —Steven Butterman, associate professor of Portuguese and gender and sexuality studies, College of Arts and Sciences
Subjects: political science, Caribbean and Latin American, social science, gender studies, LGBTQ+ studies, Gay pride parades, Brazil, sexual minorities, social conditions

The Rock Eaters
Brenda Peynado
“It's a fresh, new short story collection by a prolific Latina writer that offers life, magic, and the language of otherness in exciting and dynamic ways, using magical realism to look at issues that affect us all. Everyone should have the chance to enter this world, and they will hopefully come out of it with more knowledge and empathy.” —Amanda Lamadrid, graduate student
Genre: literary fiction

The Rocket Book
Peter Newell
Published in 1912 and never out of print, it is the best children's book of all time. Written in verse with witty illustrations. But adults may like it more because it depicts a social culture and a style of speaking and writing that are long gone. —Robert Benchley, senior editor, Medical Communications
Subjects: historical fiction, literary fiction

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
Samin Nosrat
“For anyone who wants to understand the elements behind good cooking, and the science behind it, then this is the book for you. More than a cookbook, it teaches the fundamentals of cooking. It's fun to get the family involved as well. Because cooking together, including our kids, has become a new favorite way to spend time together.” —Ivan Ceballos, executive director, Student Life
Genre: cookbook

The Shabbes Goy: A study in Halakhic flexibility
Jacob Katz, Yaʿaqov Kaṣ
“This book is a thoughtful look at Jewish-Gentile relations in the middle ages.” —Fran St. Fleur, Workplace Equity and Inclusion investigator, Human Resources
Subjects: shabbes goy, Jewish history, social life and customs, Sabbath

The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“It's hard to pin this book to a specific genre. It's mystery, noir, romance, suspense, and ultimately a love letter to reading and storytelling. It's a beautifully written novel that will take you through the streets of Barcelona in 1945. You'll get to follow the main character to crack the mystery behind a reclusive author's only novel. I know I'm not doing it justice in my description but I highly recommend it! It is the first of the series, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, but this volume works on its own if you do not wish to continue.” —Yanin Valdes, administrative assistant, Faculty Senate
Genres: novel, mystery, thriller, drama, gothic fiction

Talking to Strangers: What we should know about the people we don't know
Malcolm Gladwell
“I'm reading this book now, and the way Dr. Gladwell presents his ideas through real-life stories is an amazing way to learn the nuances of language. We forget a lot of times that our experiences shape not only our lives, but how we communicate with each other. Each of us brings a set of languages to a conversation, rarely asking each other when we don't understand something. I'm excited to finish reading this one.” —Richard Kenney, director of Conference Services
Genre: self-help

The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead
“This book literalizes the perilous attempts to escape to the north by slaves in the south—through an actual underground railroad—exposing the brutality of racism.” —Kathryn Freeman, professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Genres: novel, historical fiction

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A message for an age of anxiety
Alan Watts
“This is a philosophical book that explains how our desire for certainty makes us anxious.” —Wendy Levy, clinical research coordinator, Miller School of Medicines
Genres: self-help