Mia Bay, Roy F. and Jeanette P. Nichols Professor of American History, is a leading scholar of American and African American intellectual, cultural, and social history. She is the author of multiple articles and books and a frequent consultant on museum and documentary film projects. Her most recent book, Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance, explores the ways in which transportation was used as a means of racial restriction. It won the 2022 Bancroft Prize, one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American history.
Here, Bay shares her top five selections for upcoming summer reading and why she’s eager to get started. She notes, “Like most academics, I have a lot of work-related stuff to read in the summer, but I always try to save some of the lazy days of summer to read for pleasure.”
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Novel
by Honoree Fanonne Jeffries
Love Songs is the epic tale of African American life that I’ve wanted to read ever since it got a rave review last summer. It’s over 800 pages long, which is why I haven’t started it yet, but Jeffries’ writing is gorgeous, and the book looks like it will be utterly compelling all the way through.
The Night Watchman
by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a Chippewa writer whose books I try not to miss. I’m particularly eager to read The Night Watchman, which won the Pulitzer Prize last year. A historical novel set on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, it revolves around the community’s struggles to prevent their land from being taken away by the government in the early 1950s.
by Joy Williams
This is the first novel from Joy Williams in many years. Harrow is set in a future blighted by some kind of ecological apocalypse and features a complex cast of characters struggling to survive and find meaning in a world that seems like it might be dying. It sounds depressing, but all too timely.
The Younger Wife
by Sally Hepworth
My choice for escapist reading this summer is Hepworth’s The Younger Wife. Hepworth is an Australian author whose psychological thrillers generally focus on family secrets. They feature fascinating, well-developed characters and unexpected plot twists.
South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation
by Imani Perry
I plan to revisit Perry’s South to America this summer. I’ve already listened to it as an audio book, but it was so good that I’d like to take the time to read it more carefully. It is a travel narrative and memoir that is also a meditation on how to understand the South as a region—and why understanding the South is essential to understanding the nation as whole. It takes you on a journey through the Southern states and is filled with fabulous stories and piercing insights.