University Journal Staff Book Recommendations

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl

Suggested by Larissa Beatty

This book is not your typical daily read. I have always been motivated to continue learning, even during social isolation, by the fear of my brain turning to mush, This book is a gripping teacher. In the first half of this memoir, Frankl pulls readers in with a vivid recounting of his time working in Nazi concentration camps. It tugs the heartstrings when he shares the details of how those he loved suffered around him. Once past the emotional rollercoaster of the first half, the psychiatrist Frankl delves into the life lessons behind his experiences. While most have never been to a concentration camp, much less suffered in one, his discoveries about why he survived have applications for everyone. The short memoir is packed with inspirational quotes perfect for the Instagram feed and a rainy day. So if you find yourself grasping for straws about what to do for the day, pick up “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It just might change your life.

“Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis

Suggested by Cassidy Harmon

“Girl, Wash Your Face” is a great book for a variety of reasons. First, it helps advocate for people to wash their faces and be hygienic. Secondly and more importantly, it helps empower women to become the best version of themselves. Hollis even talks about farting in a large group of people. She tackles the lies women tell themselves every day in a fun and relatable way. Some topics include, “I’m not good enough,” “I am defined by my weight” and “I will never get past this.” Hollis takes readers through the archives of her life to help explain why women lie to themselves, and more importantly, why it needs to stop. This book is a fun and easy read that a person could spend either an afternoon or two years reading. 

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Suggested by Alex Greenwell

This novel is arguably a classic that everyone should attempt to read. This book shares an unapologetic perspective of a black woman living in the deep south after the American Civil War. Readers are taken on a journey with Janie Crawford who shows what it means to be an independent black woman moving through a complicated existence. Hurston uses exceptional storytelling that conveys the complexity of human love, race and pushing forward in a way that is hauntingly as relevant today as it was in 1937 when the book first came out. If you are interested in a touching, beautifully written book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is an easy recommendation. It is engaging and enlightening without being exhausting.

“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Suggested by Elizabeth Armstrong

This nonfiction work by Malcolm Gladwell will completely change the way you think about how you think. The book is primarily psychology-based, focusing on how certain people can make decisions quickly and efficiently, while others are very indecisive because of the snap judgments they make on a daily basis. He explains that people should always go with their gut and he offers advice on how to utilize certain techniques to think better and make accurate decisions quickly. Gladwell guides readers through the idea of “thin-slicing,” which is the way the brain uses small pieces of information to create a larger picture and uses a variety of intriguing examples to get his point across. Although these theories might seem a little overwhelming, Gladwell’s writing is clear and easy to read — the perfect book to learn something and enjoy the process.

“All You Can Ever Know” by Nicole Chung

Suggested by Amanda Walton

This contemporary memoir is more than a life story — it is a story about life. Chung recounts her experience as an adoptee from South Korea as a baby. Although she grew up in a loving home with American parents, her desire to learn about her birth family becomes overwhelming in her adult life. Chung explores discrimination, childbirth and, most importantly, family. “All You Can Ever Know” is not a gripping fantasy novel. It is not a mystery with twists and turns at every corner. It is real. Celeste Ng puts it perfectly by saying, “Required reading for anyone who has ever had, wanted, or found a family — which is to say, everyone.” 

“Every Day” by David Levithan

Suggested by Lacy Truman

“Every Day” by David Levithan is for all book worms. In short, the book’s main character’s name is A. The main character is given this name because they are not just one person. They wake up in someone else’s body every day. It wouldn’t be a good social isolation read without some romance thrown in there, though. A soon begins to fall in love with someone they meet one day, and they do everything in their power to make it work. Each new body and life is different than the day before, so “Every day” will open your perspective to see what it’s like to live in someone else’s body.

“There, There” by Tommy Orange

Suggested by Connor Sanders

“There, There” is a masterfully crafted novel exploring the experience of urban Native Americans living in Oakland, Calif. This is Tommy Orange’s debut novel, and it is presented from the perspective of 20 different narrators who are all headed to a big, fictional powwow in Oakland. Orange personifies the experiences of modern Natives in big cities, citing that over 70 percent of Native Americans now live in urban environments. Readers will be astonished by how Orange brings the harsh realities of Native life to light, but the writing is so beautifully worked that it’s hard to look away. The novel was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize because of its groundbreaking connection between social commentary and captivating prose. This is the kind of book that will become immortalized in classrooms across the country. You won’t be able to put it down, and the complex messages presented can change your perspective on life forever.

“Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh

Suggested by Nicole Heath

Published in 1938, “Scoop” follows wannabe writer William Boot as he is thrown into a warzone to cover a breaking story.  William writes a less-than interesting column about various nature topics including badgers and great crested grebes. He is sent on the adventure of a lifetime that he didn’t ask for when the large newspaper he works for mistakes him for the famous author John Courtney Boot. William must leave the quiet of his home in the countryside outside of London and find himself woefully unprepared to cover a civil war in Ishmaelia. Lauded by Prof. Christiensen of SUU as one of the few books that have made him laugh out loud, this short satire will have readers gasping for breath and wiping tears of laughter from their eyes through the heat of summer vacation.

“The Stranger” by Albert Camus 

Suggested by Lainey Cartwright

For those wanting to delve into classic literature but feeling nervous about taking the plunge, this novella is a great place to start. “The Stranger” is a quick read and the writing style is easy enough for readers of different levels to understand. Many may have given this novella a try in high school and found it wasn’t for them, but it is definitely worth a second shot. The protagonist of the story, Mersault, is a unique character who doesn’t respond to situations as others might expect. He exists in society as a loner and while he has people around him who genuinely like and care about him, there is little question that he is an outsider — or rather, a stranger.  Through a whirlwind of events, Mersault ends up on trial for murder. However, he is tried more for his ability to act normally within a society than whether or not he is actually guilty of the crime. This novella causes readers to question the judgment of others and what implications normalcy has. For those wanting a thought-provoking story to consume their time, this is the perfect pick.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

Suggested by Alex Schilling

“Dune” is a densely packed world in a far-flung future where humanity has conquered the stars. Unlike most space adventures, Dune’s humans did so by evolving rather than relying on technology. Instead of computers, they rely on what is known as “spice” in order to achieve intergalactic travel. The novel follows its protagonist Paul through a deeply rich world crafted by author Frank Herbert. Herbert has his own environment, politics, philosophy and religion for readers to dive into as they follow this frenetic story. The novel has long been considered a quintessential entry for science fiction readers with a long-awaited film adaptation coming at the end of the year. If the reputation is anything to go off of, it is sure to thrill.


Story by: University Journal Staff
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