Summer vacation is well underway for Illinois State University students, professors, and alumni alike. Whether you find yourself back at home, hanging out on campus, working in the city, or lounging on vacation, there are plenty of ways to spend your newly found free time.

Reading is both fun and essential, so why not pick up a good book this summer? STATEside reached out to professors across many disciplines to ask for their recommendations for a Redbird summer reading list. Their suggestions are both intriguing and entertaining, and could certainly be enjoyed whether you’re on a beach or in the break room.

Into the Wild book cover

“Into the Wild” by John Krakauer.

Into the Wild (1996) by John Krakauer

Professor Kevin Laudner, School of Kinesiology and Recreation

My favorite book, which I have read and reread several times, is Krakauer’s Into the Wild. This book details the true story of Christopher McCandless, who gave away all of his possessions and began traveling from Virginia to Alaska along the Stampede Trail where he wanted to live off the land. McCandless’ story has been a source of controversy for numerous years and was even made into a film directed by Sean Penn. Whether you believe McCandless was simply searching for the meaning of life or was a selfish, arrogant individual who was grossly underprepared for his journey, the author’s rendition of this story always makes me want to unplug from all my “devices” and get out and enjoy the outdoors. Perfect timing for the summer.

The View from the Cheap Seats book cover

“The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction” by Neil Gaiman.

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction (2015) by Neil Gaiman

Professor Jan Susina, Department of English

Gaiman is best known for his fiction, such as Coraline and the The Graveyard Book, which was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2009, and for his popular comic book series The Sandman, but he is also a smart critic and frequent commentator on popular culture. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction brings together 60 of Gaiman’s essays, speeches and introductions. It is a wide ranging collection in which Gaiman discusses a variety of books, comics, movies, and music that he admires. The subjects of these essays range from fairy tales, Batman, Douglas Adams to the Syrian refugee crisis. The volume includes his inspirational and influential “Make Good Art,” the 2012 commencement address that Gaiman gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. This is a lively collection of essays that offers something of interest to almost every reader.

Buckley and Mailer book cover

“Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship that Shaped the Sixties” by Kevin Schultz.

Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship that Shaped the Sixties (2015) by Kevin Schultz

Associate Professor Andrew Hartman, Department of History

It’s riveting. In this superbly written account of two of the most fascinating and important 20th-century American intellectuals, Schultz not only brings the spirits of William Buckley and Norman Mailer back to life, he endows us with a subtle yet profound analytical framework for understanding the massive social changes set off during the 1960s. Anyone who wants to understand contemporary American political culture needs to read this book.

Three Year Swim Club book cover

“The Three-Year Swim Club” by Julie Checkoway.

The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory (2016) by Julie Checkoway

Assistant Professor Lea Cline, School of Art

When you are surrounded by smart, interesting people, as we folks who teach at ISU are lucky to do every day, it is a good idea to keep your ears open for reading suggestions. This year, after hearing a profile of this book on NPR, I also overheard Dr. Shari Zeck, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts, mention the book as the work of one of her friends from the Iowa Writers Workshop. I do not regret diving into this book and neither will you. The Three-Year Swim Club is the impeccably-researched, true story of impoverished Japanese-American children (and their indefatigable coach) in Maui in the late 1930s who somehow managed to transform themselves into Olympic swimmers. Their success as swimmers, though, is only part of their inspirational story. Before you sit on the couch to watch the Olympics in Rio this summer, allow this book to remind you of just how far many of the athletes have come to compete on that exalted stage.

What the Best College Students Do book cover

“What the Best College Students Do” by Ken Bain.

What the Best College Students Do (2012) by Ken Bain

Associate Professor Jennifer Friberg, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

This book is a wonderful pick for any student (or teacher!) looking to better understand how to get the most out of learning experiences in college. This book focuses on habits of highly effective students in an entertaining, interesting, and engaging manner. Bain bases most of his suggestions on research on teaching and learning and uses stories to help readers focus on thinking about their own thinking. It’s a quick read that packs a punch—and it might help students to succeed when they return to Bloomington-Normal in the fall!

Andrea Casali can be reached at