Pollak Library Must-Read Books for Summer 2017

Summer Reading 2017

Rights-free image courtesy of Pixabay.

Only a couple more weeks left to the summer! Which is still enough time to pick up a book or two.

While our primary mission is to support teaching, learning, and research, the Pollak Library does have some popular and leisure reading titles in our print and eBook collections. We also provide access to titles we do not own, through other libraries. Although the book stacks in Library South remain closed due to earthquake repairs, Pollak Library patrons can still use our fast handy Book Paging Service to request titles from those restricted areas.

Below are a few summer favorites recommended by our own faculty and staff. Enjoy! Please use the Comment box below to share what you are reading this summer.


Title: The Book Thief                                                   The Book Thief book jacket            

Author: Markus Zusak

Recommended By: Olga Podlisetskaya, Library Student Assistant

This work of historical fiction takes place in Nazi Germany. Liesel is a young German girl who is taken in by German foster parents, who like other Germans at the time, followed Hitler. Living during wartime is not easy for a young girl, especially when the family is poor. After going to a Nazi book-burning ceremony with her foster father, Liesel steals her first book. This causes Liesel to develop a desire for reading, and continue stealing books (and not just from book-burnings). A good read for the summer, which has some tense and suspenseful moments balanced out with humor and action.


Caleb's Crossing book jacketTitle: Caleb’s Crossing

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Recommended By: Clem Guthro, The Dean of the Library

An engaging novel that details the struggle of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard (1665) and his struggle to come to grips with his native heritage which seems to be at war with his education.


Title: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings book jacket

Author: Joy Harjo

Recommended By: Jie Tian, Research Librarian

Read Joy Harjo and walk the earth with her, calling back the spirit, the insects, birds, plants, and animal people who accompany the humans. Feel the anguish as she recounts the tragic past and present of the Mvskoke and other Indian tribes, as she revives the songs, beliefs, and stories of resilience. Enter with her into history, visions, prayers, and a most private, yet important and sacred place that her powerful poetry enacts.


Title: The Elfin Ship                                                       The Elfin Ship book jacket              

Author: James P. Blaylock

Recommended By: Jon Cornforth, Instruction and Reference Librarian

River adventures meet Wind and the Willows whimsy in CSU Fullerton alumnus James Blaylock’s first novel, The Elfin Ship— a fantasy novel blending elements of different genres, eccentric characters, and plenty of wit. This includes modern steampunk, which Blaylock helped pioneer along with writing pals and fellow CSUF students, K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers. If you enjoy fantasy with less swordplay and more humor, then you might agree with Philip Dick who considered this “ a magical world, magically presented… having journeyed there, you will not wish to leave, nor ever to forget.”


Title: My Life as a Ninja                                     My Life as a Ninja book jacket                      

Author: Janet Tashjian

Recommended By: Joy Sage, Instruction and Reference Librarian

Derek and his friends Carly, Umburto, and Matt have adventures in Middle School in this series. The books are stand alones though. The kids are interested in becoming ninjas, as well as solving the mystery of a graffiti artist defacing property with a Minotaur. The author will be on campus (CSUF) in March.


Title: Nazi Literature in the AmericasNazi Literature in the Americas book jacket

Author: Roberto Bolano

Recommended By: Richard Cho, Instruction and Reference Librarian

With every novel, Bolano never fails to mesmerize me with his genius. Nazi Literature in the Americas is a gem unlike any others. Short vignettes of the lives of about thirty writers comprise this ingeniously structured novel, and these writers have one commonality: They purport the superiority of Aryan bloodline (hence the title) through their writing. The result is comedic yet abysmally dark. It is comedic because of its depiction of irony, and dark because of its depiction of vanity, solipsism, and crude transience of all things. You will be addicted to Bolano’s narrative allure once you read this one.


Title: Ready Player OneReady Player One book jacket

Author: Ernest Cline

Recommended By: Rob Sage, Business Librarian

The year is 2044 and society interacts in the virtual reality universe known as “ The Oasis” . The recently deceased inventor of The Oasis has put his fortune, and control of the Oasis, up for grabs by creating a puzzle only one with knowledge of the most minute details of 1980s pop culture could solve. It’s a deep dive into both futuristic science fiction and 80s nostalgia. Read this amazing book before the Spielberg-directed movie comes out next year.


Title: The Rent CollectorThe Rent Collector book jacket                             

Author: Cameron Wright

Recommended By: Cynthia Bruns, Instruction and Reference Librarian Emeritus

Stung Meanchey is the largest trash dump in all of Cambodia. Ki Lim and Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, work as scavengers within this dump, earning just enough to feed themselves and sometimes some medicine for their sick baby while being threatened with eviction from their simple hovel. It is within this grim situation that Sang Ly finds hope and redemption in the midst of misery.


Title: Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity  

Author: Richard C. Miller

Recommended By: Mark G. Bilby, Scholarly Communications Librarian

The book demonstrates how the stories of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament gospels were not sui generis. Instead, the gospels imitated very common Greco-Roman religious-literary conventions, such as reports of a missing body, signs/prodigies, post-resurrection speeches, ascension, meetings on roads, eyewitness testimonies, being taken up in a cloud, receiving an immortal body, becoming deified, receiving homage/worship, signs of darkness and light, people being afraid and running away, and many others. Academically technical but elegantly written, this book has the potential to transform academic and popular assumptions about Jesus and Christianity. Dr. Miller is an alum of Cal State Fullerton who did graduate studies at Princeton and Yale before completing his PhD at Claremont Graduate University.


 Title: ShantytownShantytown book jacket

Author: Cesar Aira

Recommended By: Richard Cho, Instruction and Reference Librarian

Each of Aira’s novels is an experiment of some sort. He is known to trap his character in the corner, then have him/her find the way out through the author’s own writing, without revisions. His technique is called “ flight forward,” and reading ShantyTown, we feel the continuum of momentum throughout the narrative. The novel is about Maxi, who helps homeless people winnow a mass of trash, not out of goodness but out of sheer chance that leads to his habit. It’s also about a corrupt policeman, about a makeshift shantytown in which drug trade is rampant, and about the mysterious, invisible threads that somehow tangle us all together. Some people call this novel an Argentine crime noir.


Title: Smile Now, Cry Later: Guns, Gangs, and Tattoos — My Life in Black and Gray       Smile Now, Cry Later book jacket

Author: Freddy Negrete and Steve Jones

Recommended By: Jason Sexton, Pollak Library Faculty Fellow; Editor, Boom California

In many ways, Freddy Negrete’s life is the life of Los Angeles: lived out on the edge, mapping the fringes of the city’s experience, showcasing the dramatic contours of the Wild West. It traces the story of a throbbing postwar Los Angeles sprawl, but also unpacks a unique drama of Negrete himself, the gangbanger-turned-artist. This memoir is communal, displaying a life both dashed and rebuilt with the help of others, and ultimately highlighting the power of Angelinos to believe in one another, to accept one another as they really are. Black-and-gray realism is a fitting designation for much of Negrete’s life, in which we see a truer image of Los Angeles’s past and present — and a truer image of ourselves.


Title: The Stranger in My Genes: A MemoirStranger in My Genes book jacket

Author: Bill Griffeth

Recommended By: Colleen Greene, Marketing Librarian

CNBC journalist Bill Griffeth took a Y-Chromosome (Y-DNA) test in August 2012, to compliment the family research he had been conducting since 2003. The unexpected results from that test changed Griffeth’s life forever. Griffeth learned that his deceased father could not be his biological father. This book chronicles Bill’s journey to solve this mystery, as well as his personal struggle to come to terms with his sense of identity and family. The Stranger in My Genes is a must-read for anyone who has done or is considering DNA testing. It explains in everyday language the scientific concepts and patterns behind Y-DNA inheritance, and provides an important look at some of the ethical and emotional considerations that one needs be aware of when doing DNA testing.


Instruction and Reference Librarian Jon Cornforth and Library Marketing Student Assistant Lauren Condina contributed to this blog post.

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