Staff, Faculty Share Summer Reading Picks

It’s just the first official day of summer (June 21), but Pitt staff and faculty are already indulging in summer reading — whether or not they get a break from University work.

From the responses the University Times received to our question — “What are you reading this summer?” — it seems many of us look to reading not just to entertain, but to continue our education.

Here are some recommendations to get you started making your own summer selections.


Department of Chemistry

Lillian Chong

Associate Professor and Director, Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing

“In Other Words” by Jhumpa Lahiri

This book, noted Chong, “is a beautiful, raw memoir about her experiences immersing herself completely in learning the Italian language while living in Rome, Italy, as an accomplished American author. The memoir is courageously written in Italian and translated into English by another author on the facing pages. A great read that can inspire us to venture outside our comfort zones — such as learning a foreign language — all with the wonder of a child discovering the unfamiliar for the first time.”


Department of Parking, Transportation and Services

Kevin Sheehy


“Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker

“Drucker laid the foundation for modern management, and his philosophies and practices of management are taught across disciplines and industries,” said Sheehy. “This book places emphasis on and provides great insight to understanding your strengths and weaknesses, being self-aware, how you learn, how to make the greatest contribution, your values and how you work with others. Recognizing these things about myself and my team, and encouraging them to recognize these things about themselves, helps to position us for growth and success and makes our actions more intentional.”


Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Pam Connelly

Vice Chancellor

“Faces at The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism” by Derrick Bell (former Pitt professor)

“I picked this after hearing School of Law Dean William M. Carter Jr. reflect on the man and the book,” said Connelly. “Bell fought for race and gender diversity in the legal community and demonstrated how racism affects our legal system. The book seems more timely than ever.”


Office of Human Resources

Lori Carnvale 

Director, Benefits

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brene Brown (a selection from the Mental Wellness Task Force book club)

“A central theme was opening yourself up to vulnerability,” Carnvale said. “Dr. Brown highlighted the positive outcomes that come from an investment of time and energy into purposeful engagement. This book has something for everyone whether you are reading for professional or personal reasons.”


School of Law

Linda Tashbook

Foreign, International, Comparative Law Librarian and Chair, University Senate Benefits and Welfare Committee

“Tomorrow” by Damian Dibben; “Varina” by Charles Frazier; and “The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison Promiscuous Women” by Scott W. Stern

“Tomorrow” is fiction about a chemist and his dog, both immortal, “always aware of their significance over time, ever cognizant that they will outlive every new friend,” Tashbook said, while “Varina” is a novel about the fate of Jefferson Davis’ wife at the end of the Civil War. “The Trials” is about a woman who sued the government for imprisoning her on false pretenses. “I choose the books that will bring me to places and times that I wouldn't otherwise experience and that put me in the company of clever and brave characters.”


School of Medicine

Clayton Steup

Assistant Director for Admissions and Executive Vice President, Staff Council

“Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush”; “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”; and “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels” by Jon Meacham

Hearing Meacham speak recently and learning “some of the interactions he had while researching his various books, and his enthusiasm and dedication to the subject,” Steup said, “really influenced my own desire to learn about these individuals and the political situations in history. It is always interesting to learn some of the insider information on truly accomplished individuals and get an understanding of their own frailties, worries and concerns that we all go through in life — some on a much grander scale however.”


University Library System

David Grinnell

Coordinator of Archives and Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections

“Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance” by Mark Whitaker, and “Public vs. Private: The Early History of School Choice in America” by Robert N. Gross

“Whitaker weaves together an amazing narrative of so many interesting and often overlooked men and women who were from Pittsburgh — but many in Pittsburgh don't even know it,” said Grinnell. “He tells the story of African-Americans who shaped journalism, jazz, baseball and so much more. Gross profiles case studies in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Boston and several other urban areas where there were public debates in the forms of sermons, newspaper coverage and policy creation that reflected conflicts between the political landscape dominated by American Protestants and the rise of Roman Catholic immigrant communities.”


University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Jody Randolph

Database Manager/Certification and Placement Coordinator, Division of Management and Education

The Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson

“This past winter I read the first in his Women’s Murder Club series, so my goal is to read the entire series, which is 17 books, before the end of summer,” said Randolph. “I’m on number 10 now, so if I don’t get sidetracked by another author, I should be able to accomplish my goal. I will probably add ‘The President is Missing’ by Patterson and Bill Clinton to my reading list as well.”


University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Kimberly Weinberg

Assistant Director, Office of Communications and Marketing

“Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis” by Lisa Sanders

Sanders, noted Weinberg, “tells her anecdotes with suspense. Between anecdotes, she laments the loss of the physical exam, explores ways in which technology can help physicians and reveals inside secrets of the physicians’ culture.”


University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Troy Ross

Director, Office of Housing and Residence Life

“The Power” by Naomi Alderman

“With the #MeToo movement in the headlines,” said Ross, “this book seems like an interesting exploration of gender and power dynamics.”


University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Sharon P. Smith


“The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations” by John McCain; “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution” by Todd Purdum; and “I've Been Thinking . . .: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life” by Maria Shriver

McCain's book “is a deeply personal memoir,” said Smith, that “inspires awe at his high energy, his commitment to duty and his unfailing patriotism,” while the Rodgers and Hammerstein book details “how their partnership transformed the Broadway musical — something any fan of musical theater will appreciate.” Shriver’s collection offers “reflections, appropriate quotation and prayers that are moving and inspirational.”


University of Pittsburgh at Titusville

Tammy Carr

Assistant to the President and Director of Marketing

“Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir” by Jenny Lawson

“This book had me laughing out loud at times,” said Carr. “Lawson talks about surviving her unconventional childhood and her struggles to fit in from childhood through adulthood while battling mental illness.”


University of Pittsburgh at Titusville

Bettye Meyer

Instructor of French

“Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” by Arlie Russell Hochschild

The author interviewed voters near Lake Charles, Louisiana, to compile this book. “My purpose is to better understand the political situation that led to the election of Donald Trump to the presidency,” said Meyer.


University of Pittsburgh at Titusville

Kristi L. Peters

Visiting Instructor of Chemistry

“Twisted Prey” by John Sandford and “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

“I am mixing guilty pleasure summer mysteries with books from The Great American Read list” from PBS, Peters said. “John Sandford and I have a date each Christmas break and summer vacation for a good read.” As for "Catch-22," she explained, “I think a humorous book about war and the absurdity of bureaucracy is perfect for our current political times.”


World History Center

Ruth Mostern


“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

“It is based on the true story of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son Willie in 1862,” explained Mostern. “It asks us to consider the relationship between mourning individual dead loved ones and mourning those who die in war or from the atrocity of slavery. The book is deep, but also funny and experimental.”


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859