Spring Break reading list

Submitted by BlueMan80 on January 29th, 2018 at 10:37 AM
Spring Break season will soon be upon us and we'll all need a good book to read while laying on the beach or by a pool.  Personally, sunshine and warm weather sounds really good right now and I'm still a month away from escaping winter.  This topic has been put forth periodically and the board has provided a list of great book suggestions.

I like to read fiction and non-fiction books.  I've been on a non-fiction run the past few years, so to start the ball rolling, here's some books I've read over past Spring Break vacations.

What are you reading that's worth a recommendation?

The Lost City of Z - David Grann
   Search for a great lost civilization in the Amazon
All the Devils Are Here - Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera
   Explains how the financial crisis happened in 2008
A Voyage Long and Strange - Tony Horowitz
   The discovery of the new world
Uranium - Tom Zoellner
   All about the nuclear era starting with the element itself
Manhunt - James L. Swanson
   The capture of John Wilkes Booth
Survival of the Sickest - Dr. Sharon Moalem with Jonathan Prince
   How disease is actually important to human evolution



The Fugitive

January 29th, 2018 at 10:44 AM ^

I got The Great Halifax Explosion for Christmas so I've been saving that for vacation.

The Martian is still one of the best books I've ever read. Highly recommended although if you're a big reader, you've probably read it by now.


January 29th, 2018 at 3:43 PM ^

Pro-tip on the Halifax Explosion: it's a lot longer than I expected (I have the kindle version so I didn't really have a good reference for the size) and not too easy to read. It's definitely a compelling story but there were times where it was overwhelming, especially the parts describing the disaster. I had to put it down and take a break before continuing. As a result, it's taking me longer than expected to read.

Everybody is different of course, but I recommend you start soon so that you get a good chunk out of the way before spring break.


January 29th, 2018 at 10:50 AM ^

non-fiction and always looking for a good read so interested to see what people on here like. A couple I have enjoyed lately:

The Great Halifax Explosion

Boys in the Boat

Arsenal of Democracy


January 29th, 2018 at 11:10 AM ^

+1 for Arsenal of Democracy.  It was well-written, well-researched, and astonishing.  Helped me better connect with my grandparents' experiences living in Michigan generally and Detroit specifically during the WWII years. 

On a more cynical note, it also helped me better understand the foundation of our great university's vast, vast endowment, sheesh.


January 29th, 2018 at 12:34 PM ^

me understand the huge importance Detroit played in winning the war. My grandfather worked at the Briggs factory during the way making engines for fighter planes.  My Dad was young but he remembers many of the factories and his Dad working at the Briggs plant.  Very interesting read.

Bando Calrissian

January 29th, 2018 at 11:16 AM ^

Three great history books from alums/faculty members of the UM History Department:

Kevin Boyle-Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

Heather Ann Thompson-Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971

Tiya Miles-The Birth of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits


901 P

January 29th, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

Great recommendations. I've started assigning Arc of Justice in class even though I usually go for books that are much shorter and a little more . . . accessible. It is pretty long, and it is very detailed, but it is still very readable. It also deals with an important issue that does not get a lot of attention: residential segregation. And the last lines hit you like a ton of bricks.

I've been meaning to read the Attica book--maybe when the semester ends. 

Bando Calrissian

January 29th, 2018 at 12:07 PM ^

I've been stuck midstream on the Thompson for about three or four months, it's just such a dense book and I want to read all of it. Taking a break with Boyle's book was nice. He's such a lyrical writer with narrative. He's finishing a book on Sacco and Vanzetti right now, I can't wait.

On a similar note, I've been completely obsessed with Yuri Slezkine's The House of Government, a 1000-page tome of a book about the residents of a Stalin-era apartment building in Moscow built for party elite and other prominent folks. It follows these people from the end of the 19th century on through the purges. Absolutely recommended, but it too is a slog of a read.


January 29th, 2018 at 11:18 AM ^

I've been on a run through the U Chicago Press's "Edible" series: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/series/RB-EDIBLE.html

So far I've read Herbs, Chillies, Spices, Cocktails, Rum, Chocolate, Tea, Beer, and my favorite, Doughnut.  Each has been very interesting and reasonably well-written.  The different authors do a good to great job of covering all aspects of the food from history, to cultural importance (anthropology), to business/economics, to even biology/food chemistry.  So regardless of your interests, there's probably information you'll find particularly interesting.  They're all shorter, coming in between 100 and 200 pages, and if you prefer physical books, they're smaller and easier to pack - they're good beach reading.  Good dinner conversation fodder, too.


January 29th, 2018 at 11:19 AM ^

You read while on Spring VACATION.

On Spring BREAK, you drink a fifth of vodka in 20 minutes while in South Padre Island trying to hook up with a girl who looks like an unshaven Wookie but who, you think in the moment, is hot. Then you fall to your death off a balcony. 


January 29th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

If you like space opera I suggest "Altered Starscape" by Ian Douglas. Brush up on your physics though this book wasnt written for the unintiated. Best Sci-Fi Ive read since Michael Cobleys "Seeds of Earth" series.


January 29th, 2018 at 11:41 AM ^

And One for College Hockey Fans
Because a friend of mine knows that I follow college hockey and he’s connected to the Boston University men’s hockey program, he sent me a copy of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of ’78, and the Miracle on Ice.  It’s a quick read and I was surprised by how much I liked it. Sort of like reading John U. Bacon's Three and Out : Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football and Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football, but with a much happier story for the school that's the subject of the book.
Three players on that BU team, Jim Craig, Jack O’Callahan and Dave Silk were members of the gold-medal-winning 1980 USA Olympic team. After reading it, I thought that there might be another book about a legendary college hockey coach and an NCAA hockey championship team – a follow-up to John U. Bacon’s Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey.
Considering that this is Michigan’s first season in many years without Red Berenson coaching and we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Michigan men’s NCAA hockey championship, the last one won by Red Berenson, it made me think that John U. Bacon could’ve been writing a book about that Michigan team for publication this year.


January 29th, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

For the automotive types here who enjoy reading on the industry's history: "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors."

It's old (mid-'70s) and represents only one side (John DeLorean's), but as a non-automotive type I found it pretty interesting. Easy read, too. Good for a plane ride ...

Perkis-Size Me

January 29th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

I'm a big Dan Brown fan. Love stories about religious controversy. His most recent book (Origin) was a step down from his previous work, and all of the movies are shit. But Angels and Demons is up there as one of my all-time favorite books. 

Another good book, if you like anything about NYC, is called City of Ambition. Describes FDR and LaGuardia's relationship as they brought the city out of the Depression. It's long, but a pretty good read. 

Mr. Wizard

January 29th, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

But it if you're into Fantasy books: The King Killer Chronicles (long but great), anything by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn series, Stormlight Archives) is great. If you are looking for something a little less grueling, I recommend Ready Player One. Fantastic book and the movie, directed by Spielberg, comes out this March I believe.


January 29th, 2018 at 3:30 PM ^

The Color of Law and I wished that I had read that sooner in life.  I also read The Myth of the Spoiled Child by Alfie Kohn which was good but I don't know how many are interested in education/parenting books.  The Poisoner's Handbook, A Tale of 7 Elements and Napoleon's Buttons are three really good chemistry nonfiction reads.


January 29th, 2018 at 3:35 PM ^

Hillbilly Elegy, and totally not getting its success. The idea of a study of Appalachia fascinates me, but this reads like a book report- 'this happened to me, then that happened to me." I'm really trying to extrapolate his words to that culture as a whole, but have been pretty unsuccessful thus far. The author (Vance) was cracked on for an elementary book review he wrote in The Times, but that's just his writing style! For Spring Break, I hope to find a book that has more to say about the culture.


January 29th, 2018 at 4:34 PM ^

Last year I read "Once in a Great City" by David Maraniss. It's not a comprehensive Detroit history, but a great snapshot into what was probably the high point - early 60s, as the Mustang was designed and built, the city was bidding for the 1968 Olympics, and Motown Records was taking off, among other things. It's interesting because the book is generally optimistic at the end, though we all know what happened to the city afterwards. It left me feeling like "oh what could have been."

Also, if you haven't yet, Michael Lewis is an evergreen suggestion. Liar's Poker and The Big Short are basically required for anyone with an interest in finance. LP is a little too celebratory of the Wall Street culture, and TBS corrects the record with a pretty sharp criticism, gained from experience and hindsight. To me, both were perfect for vacation reading.