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Summer Reads Recommendations from Beacon Press Staff, 2021 Edition

Summer reading
Image credit: Perfecto Capucine

What are you in the mood for? Some global history? Historical dark fantasy? Literary fiction? Graphic memoir? These books are what some of our staff have been reading this summer and they come highly recommended. If you need any ideas for what to read by the pool, on the beach, or by the soul-affirming breeze of the A/C, check out what we have to say about our picks!



An absolutely stunning mix of cultural and political history that spares no expense with the word “global.” The scope, the depth, the humor, the horror, and the humanity displayed through every page of Julia Lovell’s Maoism: A Global History is such an achievement. It completely flips a lot of what we assume to be the ideological underpinnings of the Cold War, positioning greater focus on the Sino-Soviet split, the exportation of Mao’s ideas, and its impact on pretty much every political organization since.
—Travis Cohen, sales and marketing assistant


Ring Shout

Still hungry for more Black-centered, historically based horror after marathon watching HBO’s Lovecraft Country and Amazon’s Them? Open a copy of P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout! In his latest novella, the film The Birth of a Nation has summoned monsters called Ku Kluxes that terrorize the country in white robes. But they’re no match for Maryse Boudreaux, her mystical sword, and her fellow resistance fighters armed with bombs, a Winchester, and Gullah magic. Clark marries his narrative chops with his expertise as a historian—he’s specialized in slavery, emancipation, and the Black Atlantic—to rope you in with his protagonist’s narrative voice, her kick-ass troupe of monster hunters, details of 1922’s Macon, GA, and my favorite bit, the body horror. Watch out for all those demonic mouths! Ring Shout already won the Nebula and the Locus and is up for more of science fiction and fantasy’s major awards.
—Christian Coleman, associate digital marketing manager



I’m re-reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir The Secret to Superhuman Strength. I raced through it in a few days and now I’m going back to savor the images. As a fellow biker and skier, I might be biased, but I think this is her best work, on par with Fun Home.
—Beth Collins, production manager


Open Water

This tender, deeply intimate love story is the perfect summer read for anyone, like myself, that loves complicated stories about love. Set in London and written in the second person from the perspective of the male character, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water follows two young Black artists falling in and out of love as they navigate their own trials with young adulthood. The writing is exquisite, with poetic sentences that will catch your breath and make you pause to read them over again. A brilliant debut from an author I can’t wait to see more from.
—Maya Fernandez, associate editor


The Death of Vivek Oji

I hadn’t read Akwaeke Emezi’s previous book, Freshwater, but was intrigued by the description of The Death of Vivek Oji, and it truly delivered. It’s set in Nigeria; Vivek Oji is found by his mother at their front door, deceased and wrapped in fabric, and the book is about a family’s journey to understand their son. It’s about gender identity and fluidity and shame, but also about friendship and community. It’s a joy to read—with evocative, insightful and tender writing. I highly recommend it!
—Gayatri Patnaik, associate director and editorial director


Minor Feelings

If you’re looking for more than a straightforward memoir, this is the book for you. The essays in Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning explore threads of generational trauma, othering in America, and hierarchy and white supremacy. Cathy Park Hong, who is also a poet, writes honestly and frankly across the personal and public, examining privilege and perception in a wholly unique way.
—Bev Rivero, senior publicist

Summer reading