< Back

Summer Reading Recommendations Part 1: College Success Program Staff

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, General, General

Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor

The College Success Program has put together a summer reading list so we could encourage our students and each other to gravitate toward good books we've either read or plan to read. I've recently learned about enough great books to start a blog series and below is the first in the series! I have to admit that hearing about the many recommended books leads me to feeling almost frozen by the thought of all the books I might not get to! We hope these book lists will help give you a sense of who we are and our program, and also offer some reading entertainment for everyone! Part 1 of our series offers recommendations from many of the staff members who work the most closely with the College Success Program on a daily basis.

Please note: these books are not necessarily available in the Learning Ally catalog.

Mary Alexander, National Director, Program Initiatives for Students

The Best of Us by Karen Traviss
This is an early prequel on the Galaxy's Edge franchise. My son is a huge GE nut and convinced me to read this book because he knew I'd love it. It opened an entirely new universe for me as there are so many GE books. I've since read a couple of the others and while I'm not a huge fan of reading about various military engagements, there is enough character development that they are very interesting!

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
I found out about this book from my sister Becky. She is an attorney and shares my love of history, especially Great Britain during the time of WWII. I have not read this book but it's on my summer list!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Given what has happened in the world I want to read something that makes me a better person. This book sounds like it might do that. I'm starting this very soon.

Katie Ottaggio, CSP Engagement Operations Manager

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel
This was recommended to me by my mom and came on the heels of us both recently reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (another great read). I really enjoyed this book as it featured a part of WWII I wasn't familiar with - the French resistance. It's a great historical fiction with a little bit of mystery and romance.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
If you're a fan of tea, you'll appreciate how this book showcases its origins in China. It also explores a little known hill tribe and takes an interesting look at the differences in the tribe culture compared to the culture throughout the rest of the country, as well as the specific impact of the culture on women. I enjoyed this so much that I've added another title by this author - China Dolls - to my summer reading list.

American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hessee
As a fan of true crime, I enjoyed this book as it took a deeper look at the "why" of the crime and takes you on a journey where you find yourself 100% against the perpetrator while still feeling sympathy towards them. For my true crime fan friends, I also recommend I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.


Abigail Shaw, Production Coordinator and CSP Mentor Coordinator

Recommended titles I've read in the last six months:
Educated by Tara Westover
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

I'm currently reading Queening by Candice Carty-Williams.

Books I'm planning to read this summer:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by activist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Saarashinga


Kristen Witucki, CSP Curriculum and Content Editor

I have read:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
At first a character who dies over and over again did not appeal to me. I literally abandoned the book. I probably only returned to it because the whole stop and restart ethos is very similar to my life as a mother of three children. Anyway, reading about how one decision could have such enormous ramifications was very profound. It can affect which side of a world conflict you end up on or whether you have individual agency in your life or not!

I am currently reading:
Arranged Marriage by Chitra Bannerjee Divakuruni
I decided short stories fit my attention span at the moment, but these characters are also engaging and full of resonance and warmth. One of the stories, "A Perfect Wife," really resonated with the ways my husband and I handled a completely different conflict.

I plan to read:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I am very, very, very late to the hype around this book. All of Tayari Jones's novels have been wonderful so far. The book shows the points of view of a married couple who must deal with the repercussions of living in the shadow of a crime the husband did not actually commit. I've dragged my feet on reading it, because I worry about police surveillance in a country in which my husband and sons live as African Americans. I think I've avoided many good books that way, if I've worried they will hit too close to home. But a group of colleagues at work have contributed to a Zoom channel called "A Place to Talk Books," (more about that in Part 3 of this blog series, so stay tuned!), and one of them reminded me why I should read it.


Tom Hetzel, Controller

Recommended books I've read:

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

Looking for more reading inspiration? Browse the Learning Ally Audiobooks and check back in the coming weeks for Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 of this blog series.