Read With Us! Faculty and Staff Recommend Great Summer Reads for Social Scientists

We invited faculty and staff in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences to share what they’ve been reading. Here are their top picks for titles you might enjoy at the beach as well as those that will keep your brain thinking. Scroll through the recommendations and find what interests you.

Dean’s Office

The Story of Arthur Truluv

by Elizabeth Berg

Recommended by Laura Padilla-Walker, Dean

The story of an unlikely friendship between Arthur Moses, an elderly man who lost his wife, Maddy Harris, an introverted girl trying to escape the kids at school, and Lucille, the spinster neighbor who loves to bake. Berg’s novel explores human connection amidst love, loss, and self-discovery.

A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by Laura Padilla-Walker, Dean

Ove is the classic cranky old man next door, but he is so much more than he appears. In this funny and charming first novel, Swedish columnist Fredrik Backman explores the influence one life can have on many others.

The Tea Master and the Detective

Recommended by Mikaela Dufur, Associate Dean

“Futuristic Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery where ‘Sherlock’ is a prickly female scholar and ‘Watson’ is a sentient spaceship. You read that right. Novelette set in the author’s broader Xuya Universe.”

Fearing the Black Body

by Sabrina Strings

Recommended by Mikaela Dufur, Associate Dean

“Compelling argument that changes in ‘fashion’ that have been converted to health assumptions are connected to ideas of racial inferiority.”

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

by Austin Channing Brown

Recommended by Lita LIttle Giddins, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.”

Listen, Learn & Love

by Richard H. Ostler

Recommended by Lita Little Giddins, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion

Former YSA bishop Richard Ostler seeks to help his readers understand the experiences of LGBTQ Latter-day Saints through hundreds of true stories. An extension of the Listen, Learn & Love podcast.

A Place for Us: A Novel

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Recommended by Jordan Karpowitz, Assistant Dean for Communications and External Relations

This novel is the story of an Indian-American Muslim family and the bonds that hold them together as well as the differences that pull them apart. It is heart-wrenching — just as every family story is. But the religious practices and beliefs of this family make the story especially poignant for similarly religious Latter-day Saint families that also wrestle with love, compassion, faith, and forgiveness.”

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

Recommended by Jordan Karpowitz, Assistant Dean for Communications and External Relations

“I love biographical stories about women and thinking about how the stories of different women’s lives are told. I love the framework for this book: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. It’s such a familiar and universal path for women especially as they move through seasons of their lives — discovering themselves while connecting with others. I think that particularly female students in the college will appreciate reading about Michelle’s educational journey (she majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies) and career path, as well as how she balanced career and family.”

Experiential Education in the College Context

by Jay W. Roberts

Recommended by Danny Damron, Assistant Dean for Experiential Education and Professional Development

“I like Experiential Education in the College Context by Jay Roberts. It outlines the basics of experiential education as a pedagogical approach. It asks that we adopt the experiential learning (ExL) cycle and structure learning with intention, reflection, and integration. My approach to professional development is deeply influenced by the ExL principles Roberts advocates.”

Crucial Conversations

by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Recommended by Carina Alleman, Administrative Assistant to the Dean

“I would highly recommend Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. It teaches how to approach people and have important conversations and discussions, even when things are hard and, like the title says, when the stakes are high. I find it especially important to learn these skills in the world of today, when things are so polarized and people are on very opposite sides. For a non-confrontational person like me, this book was invaluable in helping me learn to not avoid certain topics and to bridge the gaps with loved ones, colleagues, and friends.”

Archaeology

The Maya

by Michael D. Coe and Stephen Houston

Recommended by Dr. John Clark

“It’s a general introduction to one of the major civilizations in the Americas, and it is a very well-illustrated, comfortable read for the non-specialist.

Civic Engagement

Politics is for Power

by Eitan Hersh

Recommended by Dr. Quin Monson, Director of Civic Engagement and Dr. Jay Goodliffe, Department Chair of Political Science

“(The book) provides motivation and concrete ideas for anyone who wants to be more involved in civic life. Hersh equates what he calls ‘political hobbyism’ to treating politics the way many of us treat sports teams. We like to watch and talk about them and we too easily substitute time spent consuming current events and talking about it (including social media posts) to more meaningful activities that will actually lead to meaningful change. The book is very readable and is filled with examples of meaningful ways to make a difference, especially at the local level.”

Economics

Capitalism and Freedom

by Milton Friedman

Recommended by Dr. Mark Showalter

“Written by perhaps the most influential economist in the second half of the 20th century. Outlines the case for classical economics as the underpinning of a democratic society.”

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

Recommended by Dr. Mark Showalter

“Lots of interesting stories where economics helps understand behavior. Writer of an economics column for the Financial Times.”

Family History

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering

by Margaret Bendroth

Recommended by Dr. Amy Harris

Amazon Review: “A splendidly written summons for us to remember and honor the past. We often dismiss history as dull or irrelevant, but our modern disengagement from the past puts us fundamentally out of step with the long witness of the Christian tradition. Yet, says Margaret Bendroth, the past tense is essential to our language of faith, and without it our conversation is limited and thin. This accessible, beautifully written book presents a new argument for honoring the past. The Christian tradition gives us the powerful image of a vast communion of saints, all of God’s people, both living and dead, in vital conversation with each other. This kind of connection with our ancestors in the faith, Bendroth maintains, will not happen by wishing or by accident. She argues that remembering must become a regular spiritual practice, part of the rhythm of our daily lives as we recognize our world to be, in many ways, a gift from others who have gone before.”

The Family: A World History

by Mary Jo Maynes & Ann Waltner

Recommended by Dr. Amy Harris

Amazon Review: “Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner tell the story of this fundamental unit from the beginnings of domestication and human settlement. They consider the codification of rules governing marriage in societies around the ancient world, the changing conceptions of family wrought by the heightened pace of colonialism and globalization in the modern world, and how state policies shape families today.”

Family Life

General Conference Talks & BYU Speeches

Recommended by Erin Holmes, Director of the School of Family Life

Instead of recommending a book, I echo an invitation offered by President M. Russell Ballard.  He said,  “I invite you to look deep in your souls and ask how you can fulfill your purpose of being a child of God by loving the Lord and loving your neighbor more faithfully than you ever have before. . . . You might best accomplish this by finding some quiet time in which you can think through where you are with your relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son and His Church. At different times in the Savior’s life, He took opportunities to be alone to ponder and pray. I invite you to spend some time in the next few days to be alone in a quiet place to commune with your Heavenly Father and learn how to better understand and serve each other by helping and lifting each other.”

Students, as you take this time, I also invite you to consider reading and pondering the following recent General Conference talks, BYU devotionals, and Ensign articles that speak to understanding, serving, helping, and lifting each other. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it represents some of the talks I have been pondering recently.

The All-or-Nothing Marriage

by Eli J. Finkel

Recommended by Dr. Alan Hawkins

From Amazon: Eli J. Finkel’s insightful and ground-breaking investigation of marriage clearly shows that the best marriages today are better than the best marriages of earlier eras. Indeed, they are the best marriages the world has ever known. He presents his findings here for the first time in this lucid, inspiring guide to modern marital bliss.

A Time to Build

by Yuval Levin

Recommended by Dr. Alan Hawkins

Amazon Review: Levin argues, now is not a time to tear down, but rather to build and rebuild by committing ourselves to the institutions around us. From the military to churches, from families to schools, these institutions provide the forms and structures we need to be free. By taking concrete steps to help them be more trustworthy, we can renew the ties that bind Americans to one another.

The Secret History of Home Economics

by Danielle Dreilinger

Recommended by Natalie Hancock, Director of Family and Consumer Sciences Education

The New York Times: Dreilinger’s carefully researched homage to a field that is often belittled chronicles its origins in practical science and its key role in establishing nutritional standards, the federal poverty line, radio programming and more. “Dreilinger chronicles home ec’s decline beginning in the 1960s and its frantic efforts to reinvent itself,” Virginia Postrel writes in her review, fondly recalling her own time in a middle school home ec classroom. “Learning how to cook and sew — to make useful physical objects with sensory appeal — was deeply satisfying for a 12-year-old bookworm. It’s the same satisfaction that animates the contemporary maker movement. … Integrate some electronics and carpentry and you’ll have a hit.

Geography

Come Follow Me: Doctrine and Covenants

Recommended by Daniel Olsen, Department Chair of Geography

“There’s so many other good books out there, but we should be reading from the best book…I would do the Doctrine and Covenants Come Follow Me but I would then try to read at least a few verses of the Book of Mormon. We learn by study but also by faith. If we’re so focused on study and we’re not studying by faith, we’re not going to get out of our classes what we need to get out of them. If you’re not going to read during the summer, at minimum, read your scriptures.”

History

Walking With the Wind

by John Lewis, with Michael D’Orso

Recommended by Dr. Rebecca DeSchweinitz

“John Lewis’s autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement is an award-winning book that gives you a front row seat to the civil rights movement and offers inspiration, understanding, and lessons for our time. Lewis’s story reminds us that we ‘can feel hope and love at the same time as [we] feel anger and a sense of injustice.’ His life shows us the personal and societal transformations that can take place if we allow ourselves to be moved by the ‘spirit of history’ to ‘do our part.'”

Jesus and the Disinherited

by Howard Thurman

Recommended by Dr. Rebecca DeSchweinitz

“I find myself thinking more and more about Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. A mid-century black theologian who greatly influenced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., Thurman shows the significance of Jesus’s life and teachings to the work of antiracism.”

The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History

by Darren Parry

Recommended by Jay Buckley, director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and BYU’s American Indian Studies minor.

W. Paul Reeve, author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness.”While never flinching from the realities of Latter-day Saint encroachment on Shoshone land and the racial ramifications of America’s spread westward, Parry offers messages of hope. As storyteller for his people, Parry brings the full weight of Shoshone wisdom to his tales—lessons of peace in the face of violence, of strength in the teeth of annihilation, of survival through change, and of the pliability necessary for cultural endurance…”

Political Science

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Recommended by Dr. Darren Hawkins

“It is smart yet readable, with breathtaking scope and insights on many different countries across centuries of time. It helps us understand why the United States is so successful compared to others.”

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

by Anne Applebaum

Recommended by Jay Goodliffe, Department Chair for Political Science

“From the perspective of a historian of communism in Eastern Europe, this is a book that helps us understand where the United States and other democracies are headed and how to change the trajectory.”

Psychology

Behave

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Recommended by Dr. Rebekka Matheson

“Sapolsky is a vibrant character who writes about behavioral neurobiology in fresh, compelling ways. The book brims with colorful anecdotes, fascinating science, and a writing voice seasoned by a life well-lived.”

Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by Dr. Ben Ogles

“If the students prefer a light distracting summer read that is entertaining, I would recommend Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman. It’s a fun book and easy read with interesting characters and quirky Scandinavian humor.”

Social Work

Somewhere in the Unknown World

by Kao Kalia Yang

Recommended by Dr. Stacey Shaw

“I would recommend two books by Kao Kalia Yang, “Somewhere in the Unknown World,” and “The Latehomecomer.” Yang came to the United States as a child with her family and community of Hmong refugees. She visited BYU and spoke a few years ago.”

Sociology

The Sum of Us

by Heather McGhee

Recommended by Dr. Jacob Rugh

From Amazon: One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone — not just for people of color.

How Beautiful We Were

by Imbolo Mbue

Recommended by faculty in the Sociology Department

“Mbue is a Cameroonian author who artfully describes how a young woman inspires her small African village to stand against an American oil company. Set in the fictional village of Kosawa, ‘How Beautiful We Were’ illustrates how colonial legacies and corporate greed continue to threaten communities, and how people can come together to resist these global forces.”

Share your favorite reads with us @byufhss.