2021 ASTHO Summer Reading List
July 12, 2021 | Mattie Quinn
Last summer, we published our 2020 summer reading list to give your brain a break from the reality of 2020. Whether you needed to get lost in a piece of fiction or stay sharp with a work of non-fiction, we had your back. Now, as the world starts to open back up, we’re back with more recommendations. Are you finally heading out for that long-awaited vacation? Did quarantine ruin your attention span and now you finally have the bandwidth to pick up a book? No matter the occasion, here is our list of 10 books ASTHO staff loved this past year.
A tale of two sisters in Lagos, Nigeria—one beautiful but sociopathic, the other a hard-working nurse who covers up her sister’s crimes. This novel is at once a page-turner and a tale about the emptiness of beauty and the superficiality of being charmed by it. If you like audiobooks, this one makes for an especially thrilling listen!
Recommended Ariel Brandt Lautman, director of information systems
Set in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1997, this book tells the story of a 31-year-old writer and waitress who feels adrift after losing her mother and enduring a heart-wrenching breakup. Though the premise is heavy, the prose is incredibly warm—akin to a warm cup of tea or snuggling up in your favorite blanket. This book is recommended for anyone who feels they might have fallen behind on their life goals thanks to the pandemic.
Recommended by Mattie Quinn, director of content development
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. When a novelist discovers her editor is in danger from the so-called Memory Police who are causing these things to disappear, she tries to find a way to save him while they work together to preserve the past. Written by one of Japan’s most prolific writers, this novel is a great read about the power of memory and the trauma of loss—perfect for our moment.
Recommended by Kyle Gasaway, coordinator for the leadership and workforce development team
A coming-of-age novel about a Black babysitter in Philadelphia and the complicated relationship with her employer. Reid’s debut novel tackles the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown-up.
Recommended by Paris Harper-Hardy, senior analyst for the research and evaluation team
In France, 1714, a young woman makes a bargain to live forever—but her trade-off is that she will be forgotten by everyone she meets. However, after 300 years, she stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore who remembers her name. The centuries-spanning novel is a meditation on what it means to make your mark on the world.
Recommended by Carolyn Mullen, senior vice-president of government affairs and public relations
“You cannot fix a problem you do not know you have,” says Acho, a former NFL player who now hosts a webcast that shares its name with his book. In this book, Acho takes on all the questions that have been swirling around in our current cultural lexicon—from white privilege, cultural appropriation, and "reverse racism." He provides a space for compassion, and only asks for the reader’s curiosity in return. It is an urgent primer on race and racism for this moment.
Recommended by Beth Giambrone, senior analyst of state health policy
A meaningful and intimate memoir of an activist and speaker that is also a wake-up call on breaking down personal barriers and pushing back against the societal norms that cage us and limit our ability to thrive. It is a story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, honor our anger and heartbreak, and live life on our terms.
Recommended by Robin Matthies, director of public and behavioral integration
If you work in public health like ASTHO staff do, then you are probably very familiar with the Flint water crisis. But whether you’re well-versed in environmental health issues or only have a passing knowledge of what happened in Flint, Michigan, this book will still leave you riveted. Paced like a thriller, this is the story of Hanna-Attisha and how a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders discovered that children in the town were being exposed to lead in their tap water—and how they fought back. It’s a powerful account of a shameful disaster.
Recommended by Shalini Nair, analyst for the immunization and infectious disease team
As the country starts to open back up, social gatherings are picking up steam this summer. If your social skills are a little rusty, let this book be your guide into easing back into gatherings. Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn't, and why. Whether you are hosting an event this summer or just plan to attend them, this book will change the way you look at your next party, meeting, or even barbecue.
Recommended by Grace Deleon, intern for the social and behavioral health team
You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar
New York City-based writer and performer Amber Ruffin and her sister, Lacey Lamar, share the absurd anecdotes about everyday experiences of racism. Lamar still lives in their home state of Nebraska, and as they write, “you’ll never believe what happened to Lacey.” The book details everything from racist donut shops to strangers putting their whole hand in her hair, from being mistaken for a prostitute to being mistaken for Harriet Tubman. You’ll laugh out loud at their sisterly banter, while being horrified at the same time.
Recommended by Amber Williams, senior vice-president of leadership and organizational performance