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A stack of books on an old wooden table next to a straw hat of a canoe and a bouquet of wild flowers.

The 2020 Summer Reading List

Though time spent reading by the beach may be limited this summer, lounging outdoors with the smell of a book and the feeling of the sun beating down remains a seasonal staple. Mercifully, a joy that even a pandemic can’t ruin. 

Below, find book recommendations from Penn faculty and staff, ranging from works that touch on racial justice to ones that explore stories of the “scientist hero.”

Brian Peterson, director of Makuu Black Cultural Center

The Book: “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson

Why I Picked It: Now a decade old, this is a timeless classic providing a wonderful mix of narrative and history, describing some of the ways that the Great Migration transformed America. For people who are questioning what’s happening in the U.S. now, this book is a reminder that it’s not just about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and the much-too-long contemporary list of lives tragically cut short by law enforcement. It’s also very much about the terror that was daily life for Blacks in the South, only to find, after fleeing, a new kind of struggle and discrimination in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson constructs the story in a way that holds your full attention, makes you feel, and helps you see America with new eyes. 

Students getting food at the buffet

Kwanzaa at Penn

Kwanzaa, a cultural holiday celebrating the cultures of Africa and the African diaspora, is celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. At Penn, a celebration

Tarah Paul in conversation

Student Spotlight: Tarah Paul

I recently spoke with Tarah Paul, C’24 about a range of topics such as Black History Month, Penn Athletics, and Makuu: The Black Cultural Center.