2022 ASTHO Summer Reading List

June 28, 2022 | Madison Bleeker

Growing up, I was a huge bookworm. When I wasn’t completing homework or sliding in dirt at softball practice, you could find me diving into my latest read. Once I entered college, my flickering flame of love for reading was snuffed out by overwhelming amounts of coursework. Gone were the days of Twilight. In its place I welcomed fast-paced journalism coursework. I promised myself that after I graduated, I would rekindle my passion for stories outside of the newsroom.

Queue the procrastination.

After years of putting off picking up another book because I was mentally tapped from entering my new adult life, one of my best friends handed me It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. As they say, the rest was history.

Today I’m fully immersed in completing my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books this year. 32 books in and I’m starting to feel burnt out from the genres I typically stick to. It’s time to branch out.

Are you also looking to freshen up your reading list? Do you want to see what other people are raving about? Just want to dip your feet back into the reading world? We’ve got your back.

I reached out to my colleagues at ASTHO to help me put together this year’s 2022 summer reading list. Grab a notepad, dust off your library card, find that local bookstore’s website, or charge your e-reader because you’re going to want to get your hands on what we’re about to show you.

Can’t-Put-It-Down Fiction

For the dreamers and those who like escaping into different worlds, these fictional choices are for you.

Things We Do in the Dark book coverThings We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier

Waking up in the bathroom with a cut on her head and her husband dead in the bathtub next to her, Paris Peralta knows she’s going to be arrested for murder. Because her now-deceased husband was a rich and famous comedian, Paris knows the media frenzy will only lead to her secret past being brought to light.

In the midst of Paris’s murder investigation, Canadian murderer Ruby Reyes, the Ice Queen, is being released for good behavior. While the two women are seemingly unconnected, Ruby knows exactly what Paris’s hidden secret is and plans to use it against her. With her past coming back to haunt her, Paris is forced to face the truth—because two murder charges are worse than one.

Why We Like It

I recommended this mystery thriller because, from the very beginning, I was hooked. Not only did the plot thicken up until the very end, but I also became deeply invested in the characters. The death of Paris’s husband is the main focus of the book but what I really enjoyed was the journey of a young woman battling and overcoming an extremely dark, abusive past. I think this is a great book for anyone who is a fan of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides or Verity by Colleen Hoover.

My favorite place to read is on the couch in my reading nook with my dogs by my side. I’m looking forward to opening the windows for some summer breezes while being whisked away in my next book.

Perestroika in Paris book coverPerestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley

This novel tells the tale of Perestroika, also known as Paras, a racehorse who abandons her stall and trainer to live in the wilds of Paris’ Champs de Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. While her new surroundings are bright and vibrant, she isn’t afraid. Purse in tow, she befriends a crafty stray dog, a married pair of ducks, a lonely rat, and a mysterious raven. During their journey, the group stumbles upon a secluded house in which lives a young boy and his grandmother. Paras and the boy form a unique bond, but they soon start to wonder how long she can stay hidden in the shadows as a runaway horse in the city of lights.

Why We Like It

Perestroika in Paris was recommended by Paris Harper-Hardy, director of the research and evaluation team. “In this time of social isolation and upheaval, exploring the themes of loneliness, prejudice, and fear of change through the straightforward logic of these animal protagonists provides a much needed and easily accessible pathos suitable for young and old readers alike. And you better believe there’s a happy ending.”

Paris’s favorite place to read is in a dark corner of her child’s room while she patiently waits for him to fall asleep, illuminated only by the dim glow of her e-reader—a product she highly recommends.

Book of Night book coverBook of Night by Holly Black

If you had the potential to manipulate your shadow to increase your power and influence and manipulate the feelings of others at the cost of hours or days off your lifespan, would you do it? For Charlie Hall, it’s a risk she’s willing to take.

As a con artist and bartender doing underground shadow trading, she does what she can to make ends meet. When a terrible figure from her past comes back to haunt her, her world is flipped upside down. Unsure of what her future holds, if she’ll even make it there, Charlie enters a world of secrets and murder, weary doppelgängers, shadow thieves, and even her sister... What does all of this have in common? The ability to control the shadows.

Why We Like It

Zoë Schlott, communications specialist on the public relations team, chose Book of Night for this year’s summer reading list. She said, “Book of Night’s main character is a mess and not particularly likable. Being along for the ride as Charlie is pulled into the world of shadow thieves and con artists, which she worked hard to ignore, made me feel like I was binge-watching a Netflix series. I needed to know how it all ended!”

Loving the characters in the book, she added, “The story was grungy, filled with dodgy characters and books worth killing for, making you question if Charlie really could trust the people she was closest to at every turn. With the last paragraph, I wanted more of this dark world where shadows can steal, alter memories, and even kill.”

Zoë’s favorite place to read is on her front porch swing, early in the morning, with a cup of coffee and her dog by her side. The world is still, and all is at peace with the birds singing and the sun slowly rising.

Homegoing book coverHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in 18th century Ghana. While Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in the Cape Coast Castle, her sister Esi is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons. Homegoing follows the tale of the two sisters and their familial lines to show how each of them battles captivity in surreal and heart-wrenching ways.

Effia’s descendants trudge through centuries of warfare in Ghana as they battle British colonization and Esi’s descendants as they make the Great Migration to southern America amidst the Civil War. “Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.”

Why We Like It

Recommended by O’Keyla Cooper, a specialist on the crisis communications team, Homegoing is a moving book for all. “Homegoing is one of the most emotionally charged, beautifully written books I’ve read in a while. The story follows an African American family through several generations, and in reading it, I could vividly visualize the heartbreak, pain, strength, and power of my own ancestry.”

She added, “The author paints a moving, realistic picture of a family tree that spans centuries through historical details and complex characters. It describes how racism, culture, and personal choices shape the lives of individuals and the history of a people—all recurring themes from yesterday and today. Homegoing is a book you have to dedicate time to. It’s an easy read, but there were many moments I found myself just sitting with it and taking time to exhale and process it before moving on. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll re-read in the future.

O’Keyla is always on the go. Her favorite time and/or place to read is any place that feels like an errand or chore – like sitting at one of her daughter’s many practices or waiting in a doctor’s office. She has a book in her purse wherever she goes so she can pull it out and drift away while waiting for the time to pass.

Page-Turning Non-Fiction

If you like to uncover true stories or gain knowledge in spaces you haven’t explored, try one of these non-fictions the next time you’re looking for something new.

What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat book coverWhat We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon

In the Goodreads summary, it describes, “Anti-fatness is everywhere. In What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat, Aubrey Gordon unearths the cultural attitudes and social systems that have led to people being denied basic needs because they are fat and calls for social justice movements to be inclusive of plus-sized people's experiences. Unlike the recent wave of memoirs and quasi self-help books that encourage readers to love and accept themselves, Gordon pushes the discussion further towards authentic fat activism, which includes ending legal weight discrimination, giving equal access to health care for large people, increased access to public spaces, and ending anti-fat violence. As she argues, I did not come to body positivity for self-esteem. I came to it for social justice.”

This book takes a deeper look at the challenges of fatness including believing sexual assault survivors, getting denied employment opportunities, and suicide rates. To challenge outdated mindsets and rework the way we see fatness and body composition, it will take the effort of the collective.

Why We Like It

Elise Moore, editorial and multimedia specialist on the content development team, recommends this book by saying, “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is a book that is challenging, reflective, and eye-opening. Gordon offers a primer on the fat justice movement and speaks to the pervasiveness of anti-fat bias in medical institutions, the media, and daily life. I highly recommend this book because it offers something to learn for everyone, regardless of size, when it comes to acknowledging and addressing the discrimination facing people who are fat.”

In the evening hours, you can find Elise sipping on a cup of tea as she flips through the pages of a book. To get in an extra chapter or two, she will likely snooze the alarm she set to remind herself of the time.

Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice book coverInflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice by Rupa Marya

Learn about the racial disparities during COVID-19, the rise of illnesses like asthma, climate refugees, and how not only are our bodies inflamed, but how the planet is, too. Inflammation is connected to the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the diversity of the microbes living inside us, which regulate everything from our brain's development to our immune system's functioning.

"Decolonizing heals what has been divided, re-establishing our relationships with the Earth and one another. Combining the latest scientific research and scholarship on globalization with the stories of Marya's work with patients in marginalized communities, activist passion, and the wisdom of Indigenous groups, Inflamed points the way toward a deep medicine that has the potential to heal not only our bodies, but the world.”

Why We Like It

Emily Gerson, analyst on the program operations team, recommended this read and said, “Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice blends together biology, history, and current events in an engaging narrative of how human bodies' internal systems are impacted by colonialism and other oppressive structures. It goes through the digestive, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems, demystifying physiological processes and clearly articulating the intimate, inextricable connections between ‘our bodies, societies, and planet.’ Utilizing a balance of scientific evidence and personal stories, it reads like a novel, packed with enough citations to be a textbook!”

Emily’s favorite way to spend an afternoon is lying on the grass in a park somewhere and reading. Stop by the Georgetown Waterfront on a sunny day and you’re likely to find her there, reading a book and soaking up the sunshine.

Being Heumann book coverBeing Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner

"A story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn't built for all of us and of one woman's activism—from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington—Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann's lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.”

Read how Heumann went from paralyzed at 18 months to leading the Section 504 Sit-In in San Fransico. Alongside other activists, Heumann fought for disability rights which lead to sparking a national movement and leading to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why We Like It

Annie Evans, director of the preparedness team, is looking forward to reading Being Heumann this summer. “I became interested in reading Judy Heumann’s book after seeing the Netflix documentary Crip Camp about the disability advocacy that stemmed from Camp Jened, a summer camp for kids with disabilities. Judy attended this camp and became a crucial advocate in the disability rights movement. I am looking forward to learning more about her life and advocacy through her memoir.”

Annie’s favorite place to jump into a book is anywhere she can savor a nice latte and a tasty treat while reading. She is looking forward to sunny days at cafes while enjoying a good story this summer.

The Secret Life of Groceries book coverThe Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr

What does it take to run the American supermarkets? Who decides what products go on the shelves? How are prices determined? Most importantly, who suffers the consequences of increased convenience and efficiency?

Learn the secrets of Trader Joe’s success, why truckers call their jobs, “sharecropping on wheels,” what makes a product organic and fair trade, what struggles entrepreneurs face when fighting for shelf space, and the truth behind the alarming slave trade in the shrimp industry. Plus a lot more.

Why We Like It

Talyah Sands, director of health improvement, recommended The Secret Life of Groceries. She added, “If you are someone who finds grocery shopping oddly satisfying, this book might interest you. Though it is fascinating to get an insider look behind the shelves of the grocery industry, the book’s investigative look into the supply chain process is sometimes hard to stomach, but equally as important to learn. Expect to discover the intricacies and ills of the seafood counter at a supermarket, trucking, specialty food entrepreneurship, shrimp fishing, and more.”

Talyah’s favorite place to read is on the couch under a blanket or on the beach when she has the opportunity.

The Sum of Us book coverThe Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

The Sum of Us embarks on finding out why the American economy often fails the American public. From the collapsing public infrastructure to rising student debt, nothing takes the cake in comparison to racism.

“McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm--the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country--from parks and pools to functioning schools--have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world's advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare... With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.”

Why We Like It

The Sum of Us was recommended by Claire Pendergrast, senior analyst on the health improvement and healthy aging team. “The Sum of Us is a really illuminating read that considers how racism in U.S. policymaking has the most severe costs for people of color but has costs for white people too. The author introduces the idea of ‘drained pool’ politics, in which policy decisions that perpetuate racial inequality result in the loss of public goods for everyone,” she said.

“It's a very readable mix of rigorous research, personal stories, and the author's own experience and insights; the chapters on healthcare, the 2008 financial crisis, voting rights, and student loan debt were particularly powerful for me.”

Claire's favorite reading setup involves lounging on the couch with her cat while listening to an audiobook and working on her embroidery.