Now that we’re past the solstice, summer is unequivocally underway — and that means time for diving into a great new book. To help point you in the right direction, we asked our very own experts in the GBH newsroom for their recommendations, and they did not disappoint. From powerful human stories to wry insight into our world, these selections have it all — and there’s even a few great picks for the whole family to share. So, whether you’re on or off the beach, take a scroll through this list to find your next favorite read.
"Educated” by Tara Westover
My book recommendation is “Educated,” the stunning and searing memoir by Tara Westover who was raised (way) off-the-grid on a remote Idaho junkyard by her survivalist parents who didn’t believe in education, medicine or government. The story of Tara’s survival and her burning desire to educate and better herself is both mind-blowing and inspirational. This book was so profound and moving, I read it twice!
-Pam Johnston, General Manager, Local News, @PamJohnston
“Francis Bacon: Revelations” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
A new, magisterial review of the 20th century artist who was as shockingly maverick in his personal life as he was in his painting that ultimately changed what art could be. And like the best biographies, it also paints vivid pictures of Bacon’s times and places, marching from London to Monte Carlo to Tangier.
-Jared Bowen, Exec. Arts Editor and Host, Open Studio with Jared Bowen, @JaredGBH
“Just As I Am” by Cicely Tyson
This is really hard for me to pick ONE book. And because I have wide ranging interests, the one I'll put forward is not totally representative. Also, I read books for my on-air radio book club, "Bookmarked: The Under the Radar Book Club" and for my personal book club, Literary Sisters; at 30+ years it is the second oldest Black book club in Boston. (I haven't been in it that long!)
With all that said, I'm suggesting “Just As I Am,” published in January of this year, the late Cicely Tyson's autobiography. It's a great summer read, particularly this summer. In telling her own story, Tyson shares a lot of American Black History, Hollywood gossip and poignant memories of triumphs and low points. Plus, while I always admired her talent, I had NO idea how tough, focused and vulnerable she was. It is a fantastic read.
-Callie Crossley, Host, Under the Radar with Callie Crossley and Basic Black, and Commentator, Beat the Press and GBH's Morning Edition, @CallieCrossley
“Experiencing the Impossible” by Gustav Kuhn
My pandemic obsession has had me reading dozens of books about magic performance and history, but I can get to a single recommendation by leaving out books that aren’t rare, out of print or of little interest to the general reader.
A wonderful book from the MIT press, “Experiencing the Impossible” by psychologist and magician Gustav Kuhn explains how our brains are active participants in witnessing and enjoying a magical performance, and how the same neurological and psychological principles at play in a magic performance actually undergird our perception of “reality” for all our waking hours.
-Arun Rath, Exec. Editor/Host, GBH’s All Things Considered and Host, In It Together, @ArunRath
“Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978-1991” by Michael Grecco
I had been waiting all year for the release of this book by my friend and world-famous fashion and celebrity photographer Michael Grecco. It's a stunning work of art that captures in words and pictures the early punk and new wave scenes in Boston, New York and beyond. I was heavily involved with that scene, and at one point in the creation of the book, Michael asked me to tell him how I met U2 in Boston/Cambridge before anyone knew who they were. Lo and behold, was I ever surprised to find that my story made it into the book.
-Henry Santoro, Anchor/Host, @HenrySantoro
“The Library Book” by Susan Orlean
“The Library Book” is just a beautiful ode to libraries… It is theoretically about the Los Angeles library fire of 1986, but it really isn’t. It’s about the openness and inclusiveness at the foundation of all libraries.
“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” by Damon Young
I chose Damon Young because he and I are both from Pittsburgh; it was incredibly eye-opening to read how his perceptions of the same streets, the same shops I grew up in were so different from mine. I know the places he talks about where he was a young Black man, and I had never before thought of how my experiences would have been different had I been Black. It was a very powerful read.
“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
“The Phantom Tollbooth” is simply the most important book in my life. It is where I first fell in love with words, and I go back to it every year to remind myself of that joy of discovery.
-Paul Singer, Interim Exec. Editor, GBH News & Investigations Editor, GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting, @SingerNews
“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss
My recommendation is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. It is a heroic fantasy novel. Why heroic fantasy? I have four children and always try to find something each is interested in and jump in too. My youngest son loves to read and loves heroic fantasy books. So, I read them too. We have great discussions about all of them. “The Name of the Wind” is one of our favorites. It is beautifully written — I’ll often reread paragraphs just because I’m so taken with the way he writes. Much like George R.R. Martin and his epic Game of Thrones series, “The Name of the Wind” fans are eagerly awaiting the next book in Rothfuss’ series. We have been waiting now for more than 10 years but we all know it will be worth the wait! Happy reading!
-Mary Blake, Anchor/Reporter, Night Time News
“Bread: A Slice of History” by Bryan G. Reuben, Joan P. Alcock, and John Marchant
I have a special affinity for toast and books that have been given to me as presents. And so, I’m recommending “Bread: A Slice of History,” a book my sister gave me over the winter. It seems a timely choice, given that so many who’ve been fortunate enough to endure the pandemic in relative safety and comfort discovered — or rediscovered — the unique joys and frustrations of making their own bread. This book might not help you keep your sourdough starter alive, but it will satisfy your curiosity about everything from the history to the chemistry to the economics of bread.
-Edgar B Herwick III, Host, The Curiosity Desk, @ebherwick3
“Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Shattered Glory” by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Because sometimes all we need is a stack of poignant short stories — for the beach or the fire escape, whatever — to remind us not to give up on the dream that “You Could Have It So Much Better.”
-James Bennett II, Reporter, Arts and Culture, @jamesabennettii
"Battle For The Soul: Inside The Democrats' Campaigns To Defeat Trump" by Edward-Isaac Dovere
In his new book, "Battle For The Soul: Inside The Democrats' Campaigns To Defeat Trump," Edward-Isaac Dovere performs a feat of journalistic alchemy, transforming the dross of the 2020 presidential primaries into an elegant, compelling, and insightful historic narrative. Dovere's touch is deceptively light, his insight exceptionally shrewd, and his sense of the absurd suitable to this very strange 21st century moment. If you want to understand why the triumphant Democrats are still at sea, and why the defeated Republicans remain defiant, read this book.
-Peter Kadzis, Senior Editor, @kadzis
“Brazil: A Biography” by Lilia Schwarcz and Heloisa Murgel Starling
I have followed developments in Brazil for years and I am a firm believer in historical context. Though this book was published a few years ago, the current political conflict in Brazil, with more than half the population in opposition to the right-wing populist, Jair Bolsonaro, I find it even more necessary.
“The Making of Asian America” by Erika Lee
Violence against Asian Americans is not new. But the current moment seems more urgent.
“The Future of History” by Masha Gessen
I'm a big fan of Gessen, and her account of how totalitarianism in Russia came about resonates in the age of Trump.
-Phillip Martin, Sr. Investigative Reporter, GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting, -@PhillipWGBH
“Train Dreams” by Denis Johnson
I read Denis Johnson's “Train Dreams” a few months ago after another reporter (Josh Landes at WAMC in Western Mass.) sent me a copy, and I'm still thinking about it. It's a short, flawlessly written account of one man's life in a bygone America that captures how beautiful and ugly this country can be, often at the same time. Highly recommended.
-Adam Reilly, Reporter, @reillyadam
Looking for more literary fun?