What to Read This Summer—2024

Alumni recommend their recent faves.

June 24, 2024

Reading time min

Main in bathing suit reading a book on a beach at sunset

Photo: Jennifer Dostalek

The weather is warm and your fellow alums are fired up about books. We asked an astronaut, an influencer, a social justice advocate, and others which books you simply must read. So settle in by the pool, or the lake, or the air conditioner, and enjoy.


How I Met You: Stories by Bradley Jay Owens book cover

How I Met You: Stories by Bradley Jay Owens, MA ’89, Brighthorse Books (2018)

“Once you read these poignant, funny, coming-of-age stories about family, self, and relationships, you’ll know why I fell in love with them and, subsequently, with the author. Some are light and breezy, others warm your soul, and still others leave you wanting more.”
Alka Joshi, ’80, New York Times best-selling author of four novels. Her debut, The Henna Artist, was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and is in development as an episodic series at Netflix.

Read our 2024 story on Joshi

Big Swiss: A Novel by Jen Beagin book cover

Big Swiss: A Novel by Jen Beagin, Scribner (2023)

“My favorite book that I read last year. I’d recommended it to anyone with a pulse. It’s hilarious. Laugh out loud. Stays with you long after you finish it. This story about women continuing to discover who they are moved me to my core.”
—Christina Najjar,
’13, popularly known as Tinx, is a digital creator, advice expert, podcast host of It’s Me Tinx, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Shift: Change Your Perspective, Not Yourself.

The Extinction of Irena Rey: A Novel by Jennifer Croft book cover

The Extinction of Irena Rey: A Novel by Jennifer Croft, Bloomsbury Publishing (2024)

“Croft is the English-language translator of Polish Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk and has been deeply involved in the movement to get translators’ names on the covers of the books that they move across borders and the barriers of language. So when I picked up her debut novel, I knew to expect a heady meditation on the nature of translation and authorship. What I didn’t expect was that it would also be an unhinged madcap mystery, full of wild and weird twists and the funniest use of footnotes I’ve encountered in a decade.”
—Paz Pardo, 
’08, is the author of The Shamshine Blind, a pick for the San Francisco Chronicle’s favorite books of 2023 and for Library Journal’s Best SF/Fantasy 2023.

The Guncle: A Novel by Steven Rowley book cover

The Guncle: A Novel by Steven Rowley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons (2021)

“This funny and tender story touched me on so many levels. Rowley deftly weaves themes about love, family, parenting, career, grief, and identity into the story of Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP for short), who is adrift in his own life when he is reluctantly wrangled into caring for his niece and nephew for the summer due to tragedy. It is one of those books where you both laugh out loud and shed tears. A warm and wise human story that will remind you of important lessons to apply in your own life.”
—Kate Paye, 
’95, JD/MBA ’03, The Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu book cover

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, Tor Books (2014)

“This book (and the trilogy) was thrilling and breathtaking in how expansive the storyline became and the hard sci-fi concepts the author employed in the book. Not only was this a book that reinspired a love for reading, but it provoked many thoughts about our place in the universe and whether the search for extraterrestrial intelligence could lead to the end of humankind.”
—Norris Tie, MBA ’19, CEO and cofounder of Exosonic, Inc.

Read our 2021 story on Exosonic


Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary by Toshio Meronek and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy book cover

Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary by Toshio Meronek and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Verso (2023)

“Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a living legend. She is a longtime leader in movements for social and racial justice and is instrumental in the fight for rights and justice for trans and nonbinary communities. Her story is a must read for anyone who believes in justice and equity and a world where we can all thrive.”
—Kris Hayashi, 
’97, (he/him) is the director of advocacy and action at the National LGBTQ Task Force and sits on the board of the California Endowment. Previously Kris served as the executive director of the Transgender Law Center.

I’ve Been Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett book cover

I’ve Been Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett, W.W. Norton & Company (2023)

“A captivating journey into the life and mind of a leading philosopher of our time. Dennett blends memoir with deep dives into critical philosophical issues, addressing topics more salient than ever given developments in AI, including human cognition, consciousness, language, evolution, and religion. This book is a testament to a full life, where fascinating ideas flow through a backdrop of stories about love and family, students and colleagues, music, sculpting, sailing, and farming.”
—Eric Horvitz, 
PhD ’91, MD ’94, chief scientific officer of Microsoft and member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Read our 2018 story on Horvitz

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir by Etgar Keret book cover

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir by Etgar Keret

“Keret is Israel’s master of the short story, and it shows, even when he writes a memoir. Dark but funny, fast-moving, and very sweet.”
—Elliot Kaufman,
’18, letters editor of the Wall Street Journal

Read our 2021 story on young journalists, including Kaufman

Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal book cover

Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal, the New Press (2022)

“We are at the cliff’s edge of the end of democracy, so this is not the summer to read a light-hearted, romantic, comedic novel. I exhort you to read this explanation of the U.S. Constitution as if freedom depends on it—because it does.”
—Guy Kawasaki, 
’76, author of Think Remarkable: 9 Paths to Transform Your Life and Make a Difference and chief evangelist of Canva

Oh My Mother! A Memoir in Nine Adventures by Connie Wang book cover

Oh My Mother! A Memoir in Nine Adventures by Connie Wang, Viking (2023)

“This book is a beautifully crafted memoir that weaves intimate family narratives with universal themes of love, loss, and identity. Its compelling storytelling resonates deeply, making it a perfect read for both reflection and escape.”
—Alyssa London, 
’12, is the author of Journey of the Freckled Indian: A Tlingit Culture Story, a contributor for NBC/MSNBC, Miss Alaska USA 2017, and CEO of Culture Story.

Read our 2023 story on London

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush book cover

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush, Scribner (2023)

“The enlightening story of NASA’s first six women astronauts, part of the astronaut class of 1978—which also included the first astronauts of color. Detailing the cultural changes that led NASA to open its application process, the book then gives personal accounts of each woman: how they pursued education and a career that caught NASA’s attention and how they contributed to the space shuttle program once selected. I’m lucky enough to have known and been inspired by five of the six, and especially by Sally Ride, ’73, MS ’75, PhD ’78, who became the first American woman in space during the time I was pursuing a PhD myself at Stanford.”
—Ellen Ochoa, 
MS ’81, PhD ’85, veteran astronaut, former director of NASA Johnson Space Center, and author of We Are All Scientists and other books in Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World STEAM series of bilingual children’s board books

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.