WTOP staff members recommend books to read this summer
WTOP staffers share their picks for the best books to read this summer.
Summer is almost over, and if you’re still in search of a perfect read at the beach, on the Metro, in your bed or anywhere, several of WTOP’s staff members have recommendations for you.
These page-turners are worthy additions to your reading list, ranging from a local, true crime story about a murder in Bethesda, Maryland, to an epic historical fiction about a Korean family who immigrate to Japan, taking place between the years of 1910 and 1989. Expect to find some nonfiction works like comedy writer Michael Schur’s book about moral philosophy, or you can consider Pulitzer Prize-winning historians Will Durant’s and Ariel Durant’s concise essay collection on human civilization.
The following works vary in theme and genre, perfect for matching whatever mood you’re in. Find out what WTOP’s staff is reading and loving below.
“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee
I recommend this book for summer reading, fall reading, winter reading and spring reading. It’s an incredible novel that follows the winding journey of one Korean family over four generations, beginning in the early 1900s with the matriarch’s migration to Japan.
Lee’s writing is beautiful and breathless, and the story moves fast, making this almost-500 page book impossible to put down. It’s ultimately an incredible story that weaves together family struggles with poverty, love and truth set within the geopolitical turmoil of the early, mid and late 20th century. I can’t recommend Pachinko enough!
– Rosie Hughes, WTOP Intern
“The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletica Killing” by Dan Morse
This is a great summer read about the full true story of the Lululemon murder and what really happened to Jayna Murray and Brittany Norwood with photos included.
On March 12, 2011, two young saleswomen were found brutally attacked inside a Lululemon Athletica retail store in Bethesda, Maryland, one of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs. Thirty-year-old Jayna Murray was dead as she was slashed, stabbed and struck more than 300 times. Investigators found blood spattered on walls, and size fourteen men’s shoe prints leading away from her body. Twenty-eight-year-old Brittany Norwood was found alive, tied up on the bathroom floor.
It was a crime that shocked the country. This is a must-read for any True Crime fans out there, and it’s about a local crime.
– Elly Rowe, Marketing and Brand Manager
“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
George Saunders was writing “Black Mirror”-esque stories before “Black Mirror.” He is the king of eclectic, dark, dystopian tales, and this is an iconic collection.
His story “Escape from Spiderhead” was the basis for this summer’s Netflix movie “Spiderhead,” so there’s no better time to read the rest of his funny and terrifying pieces.
– Dana Sukontarak, WTOP Digital Writer/Editor
“How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question” by Michael Schur
Fans of NBC’s “The Good Place” should not miss this one. It’s written by the show’s creator who, fueled by making the show, found there are many moral philosophy quandaries that need answering. He wanted to share what it means to lead an ethical life. Sound boring? It’s actually not – Michael Schur created “Parks & Recreation” and wrote on “The Office” and dissects moral philosophy in a captivating and hilarious way.
Each chapter tackles an ethical dilemma such as: Can I still enjoy great art if it was created by terrible people? How much money should I give to charity? Why bother being good at all when there are no consequences for being bad?
Bonus: I listened to this book and it’s narrated by “The Good Place” cast members in addition to Schur.
– Sarah Beth Hensley, WTOP Digital News Director
“The Lessons of History” by Will & Ariel Durant
Will Durant and Ariel Durant were a husband-and-wife team who, between 1935-1975, wrote a 13,000-plus-page history of human civilization. The series eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. If 13,000 pages seems daunting for a summer afternoon by the pool, the Durants have you covered. In “The Lessons of History,” they distill the key lessons they learned about humanity down to a little over 100 pages.
Over the course of 13 short chapters, they discuss biology, morals, religion, economics, government, war and more. I love this book because it challenged several of my existing notions about the human condition and strengthened several others.
Pro tip: get the Audible edition … it includes recordings of interviews with the Durants.
– Sean Diviney, Systems Administrator
“The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” by Erik Larson
This book is a window into everything about everything circa 1893. It centers on the World’s Fair in Chicago. You’ll learn about everything from the Chicago versus New York competition to build the first skyscraper and how it was accomplished to the first Wriggly Gum and the race for what was to become the dominant source of electricity/power developed by Tesla (Alternating Current) and Edison (Direct Current).
And, oh, yeah – there’s also a serial killer.
– Kristi King, WTOP Reporter
“The Magic Fish” by Trung Le Nyugen
I personally read this book earlier this summer and would recommend everyone of all ages to read this. It follows a Vietnamese-American teenager struggling to find the words to come out to his mother. It also touches on his mother’s experiences during the Vietnam War and as an immigrant in the United States.
The two spend most of the book reading fairy tales together not only as a way for her to learn English, but also to forge a space through which they can communicate. It is ultimately a story about the magic and power of fairy tales to bring us together.
It was absolutely beautiful how the author was able to create a very powerful storyline with such important themes using classic stories many of us have heard in one way or another. The artwork is also so stunning!
– Carolina Herrera, Web Development Intern
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara
I absolutely tore through this account of the Golden State Killer by amateur investigator Michelle McNamara. Her passion for true crime and dedication to solving a case that went cold for decades make this an impressive yet poignant summer read. McNamara spent years of her life sifting through thousands of reports, clues, interviews and more, while becoming a well-respected and valuable source to police officers on the case.
Though she passed away suddenly before the book was complete, and before the Golden State Killer was ultimately caught and sentenced in 2018, the way she unfolds the story and her personal connection to the case make her account unmatched by any other.
– Drew Friedman, Reporter for Federal News Network