Summer 2020 has been quite a bit different than usual. People are more reluctant to travel, seeking to be conscientious about safety and social distancing.
But here’s the good news: With more time at home, there’s been an extra opportunity to appreciate good content. Our team has been reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of podcasts, and we’ve put together a list of our recommendations.
Right now, I’m listening to Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s podcast called Growing Greater. The podcast shares stories of local business leaders and how they found success. I am also a regular listener to the NYT’s Daily podcast, which I enjoy because of the depth that it gives to recent news stories.
Another recent read was Educated by Tara Westover. I found it inspiring because it shows how people can overcome their circumstances with grit and perseverance. I also recently finished Leave Only Footprints by Conor Knighton, where the author writes about visiting every national park in the U.S. in one year. I have visited a few national parks and hope to visit more, so I love reading about them. John Muir called it America’s Best Idea!
As spring rolled into summer during this very long season of quarantine, I’ve found time for more reading and less listening, especially since most of my listening previously happened during my commutes to and from the office.
I’ve read a little bit of everything – from epic historical fiction like New York by Edward Rutherfurd (an amazing saga connecting generations of families in Lower Manhattan from 1664 to 9/11) and America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (the untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter based on thousands of original family letters and other sources from that time) – to classic fiction like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (written in 1943) – to beach reads by authors like Elin Hilderbrand (The Matchmaker), Jane Green (The Beach House) and Patti Callahan Henry (Between the Tides). With the election less than three months away, I think some political reading is in order. I never read Primary Colors (by columnist Joe Klein but published anonymously in 1996), so that’s up next.
Our bookshelves have many rows dedicated to books about running, and I’ve picked a couple to read this summer. I find stories of runners inspiring and motivating, especially if I’m working toward a goal. Here are a few books on running that I’ve been enjoying:
- The Runner: Four Years Living and Running in the Wilderness by Markus Torgeby
- Run to Overcome by Meb Keflezighi with Dick Patrick
- Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness (Though this isn’t specifically about running, Steve is a runner and running coach)
I also just finished and highly recommend Mitch Albom’s Finding Chika, a moving memoir in which the author shares how he and his wife cared for an orphan from Haiti.
On a completely different note, I really enjoy listening to Disney podcasts. It’s a way of traveling virtually, which is perfect right now, and catching up on Disney news.
I’ve been listening to a podcast called, Boom/Bust: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia from The Ringer. I was interested in getting an inside look at how the phenomena of this app came to be. Back in 2018, I was obsessed with playing the game – as was everyone, it felt. So, when the Ringer recently released a podcast detailing the rise and fall of this short-lived empire, I knew I had to tune in. It’s a great podcast that goes through the twists and turns from the inner-workings of HQ, most of which I had no idea. If you ever played HQ, I highly recommend this podcast.
Additionally, as a former dancer with an interest in gymnastics, I find myself drawn to any media about the Larry Nasar and USA Gymnastics scandals. A great podcast to listen to is Believed from NPR, which examines the scandal and shares the triumphal stories of survivors. I also just watched the new Netflix documentary on the same subject, Athlete A.
Right now, I’m listening to NPR’s Up First podcast which gives you a daily 10-15 minute dose of national and international news. These last few months, I’ve gotten especially overwhelmed by social outlets like Twitter that have presented the latest happenings at every minute of every day. So it’s been a nice change to have the news presented to me in this short, contained format on a daily basis.
I’m currently reading Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. While we’re apart, my friends and I have been trying to stay connected through our own book club, and this title came highly recommended as a topical commentary on racism and meaningful activism. I also usually listen to The Daily from The New York Times every day as a part of how I keep up with the news, and I love to listen to Comedy Bang Bang when I’m in the mood for comedy.
I’ve been on a real Winston Churchill kick because I believe he was perhaps the greatest leader of the 20th Century. The lessons of his life – both the good and the bad – apply today. I’ve read the magisterial biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts, along with Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years By Martin Gilbert and The Splendid and the Vile, a brilliant book by Erik Larson.
Other books this summer have included:
- Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson (A fascinating story about the woman who ran a huge spy network in France during World War II)
- The Honourable Schoolboy by John LeCarre (The summer wouldn’t be right without reading a LeCarre spy novel)
- Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (A story about the Galveston hurricane at the turn of the century)
- “Edmund Campion” by Evelyn Waugh (A classic about the Jesuit priest martyred by the English government during the 1500s)
- The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (A fascinating look at one of my favorite founding fathers, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and how they confronted the philosophical meaning of the republic and articulated the fears about democracy and the mob)
- The Golf Swing by Cary Middlecoff (Because, well, my golf game always needs help)
Julia, D+P Summer Intern
Recently, I’ve been listening to the Twisted Philly podcast. It covers true crime, haunted history, legends and other weird and spooky topics in the Philly area. Philadelphia has so much history, and not all of it is positive. I like how the host tries to find the historical truth behind legends and hauntings and also discusses important issues like Pennhurst Hospital and racial discrimination in Philadelphia.
I’ve also been reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling. The HP series are classics, even though they’re written for children. People of all ages love Harry Potter. Especially after JK Rowling made transphobic and hurtful comments on Twitter, some fans who grew up with the books and movies feel conflicted about the series that means so much to so many people.
Order of the Phoenix is my favorite book in the series, and I think the message of fighting against corruption and censorship in this book is still really important. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and other celebrities tied to the Wizarding World have spoken out against JK Rowling’s hateful rhetoric, so I think it’s important to reclaim these stories that inspire so many.
Another recommendation of mine is The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Jackson’s lecture “Prison to Pen,” and he’s such an inspiring author. I first read this book in 2017, but my sister borrowed it this summer to re-read it. This memoir based on Jackson’s life in Portland is a book that I recommend to literally everyone I meet.
The narrator’s fight to buy back his childhood home in a neighborhood of Portland that is being gentrified and his complicated relationship with his mother are compelling and real stories for all American readers. The narrative structure is well-written and his use of African American Vernacular English is poignant. With the injustice against Black Americans coming to light, especially in the past two months, it is important to highlight Black voices and not silence them. If you are looking for Black stories written by Black authors, I highly suggest Jackson.
Jenna, D+P Summer Intern
I’ve been listening to a podcast called The Connected Life by Abi and Justin Stumvoll. The podcast explores various aspects of life and relationships. The hosts are not afraid to share real, honest stories – which is inspiring and empowering for listeners. As life consultants, Abi and Justin have incredible advice to share on emotional intelligence, healthy communication, and compassion for yourself and others. I love this podcast because it makes me ask good questions about different areas of my life and equips me with tools to be a better communicator with the people around me. I highly recommend the podcast to anyone seeking to grow themselves in these ways.
Ariana, D+P Summer Intern
I recently read Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake, the final book in the Three Dark Crowns series. I really enjoyed reading it because it kept me on the edge of my seat with anticipation, wondering how the story would unfold. The author leaves readers with some questions at the end of the book like what will happen with certain character relationships – but I like that aspect of it because, in a way, you get to create your own ending to the story.
Another interesting read was Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly. This isn’t a book I would normally read but it was recommended to me by a family member. It’s a completely different take on the classic Cinderella story. I loved how it talked about what true beauty and courage is – how we carve our own paths and we decide who we are.