5 Summer Reads to Open Your Mind and Heart

Posted by Tracy O'Brien on June 9, 2016

5 summer reads

Nothing says summer like sitting in the sun with a good book. Check out five summer reads, recommended by Tracy O'Brien, Facing History's Director of Library Services. 

The Book of Aron: A Novel, by Jim Shepard

This story of the Nazi-occupied Warsaw Ghetto, and its renowned historical figure Dr. Januscz Korczak, is told from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy, Aron, whose only goal is to live another day. He faces a number of moral dilemmas in his quest to survive. This engaging, coming-of-age novel is appropriate for readers in high school and up.

Learn more about the history of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Crossing the BLVD, edited by Warren Lehrer & Judith Sloan

Queens, New York is one of the most ethnically diverse communites in the country. This fascinating and visually engaging book is an assemblage of stories and images of many of Queens’ diverse residents. Although the stories and photos in this book were collected at the turn of the millennium, they are still highly relevant, and put a human face on the political discussions of immigration happening around the world today. The stories are wide and varied, and the words of the storytellers are, for the most part, kept intact. This compilation of contextualized oral histories is an engaging book for those in high school and above. 

Explore Facing History’s resources about global immigration.

Larose: A Novel, by Louise Erdrich

In this provocative and beautifully written novel, Erdrich explores the theme of restorative justice and how it shapes a community in the aftermath of trauma. An Ojibwe hunter accidentally shoots and kills his neighbor’s son. In the aftermath of this tragic event, he and his wife decide to give their son to the couple who lost their son. The novel explores the impact of this decision, and everything that flows from it, for both of the families and the entire community. This novel is appropriate for those in high school and above. 

Read Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools to explore issues of restorative justice. 

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

In this engaging memoir, Jesmyn Ward recounts her story of losing five young men in her life in five years, albeit for different reasons. However, upon anguished reflection, she comes to realize that the circumstances of poverty, addiction, and lack of opportunity, combined with racism, contributed to this epidemic of loss in the world of her small town of Delisle, Mississippi. These feelings compelled her to write about her community and to describe the lives of those she loved, as well as how they shaped her identity. This book is a powerful read best for those in high school and above.

Explore our collection of resources about race in U.S. history.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

This powerfully illustrated picture book depicts the story of Sylvia Mendez and her parents, who helped end school segregation in California in 1947. Mendez, of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, was barred from attending the “white” school in her district. Her family took political and legal action, which resulted in the desegregation of public schools in California. This picture book is ideal for elementary school-aged readers.

Learn more about the history of school desegregation in America.

What's on your reading list this summer? Share your favorites with us!

Visit our lending library for more great reads!


Topics: Books, Reading, Literature, Summer, Reading List

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all