Literature Profs Offer Book Lists to Beat the Heat
Suggestions Take Readers to Different - and Perhaps Cooler - Places and Times

Triple-digit temperatures have discouraged poolside reading and sent many North Texans indoors.

UT Dallas literature experts have summertime book recommendations that promise distraction from the sweltering heat.

“What’s needed for good summer reading is complicated plots, suspense and humor,” said Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities Dr. Frederick Turner.

Dr. Frederick Turner Master and Commander Cover
Dr. Frederick Turner Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

“The ideal summer reading is Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic naval novel series about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin,” Turner says. “The passages about the freezing gales of the South Forties are particularly welcome in this weather.”

O’Brian’s novels may be familiar to those who saw the 2003 film adaptation Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe.

Dr. Theresa Towner, who teaches a literature class called Imagined Worlds: Oz, Narnia, Hogwarts, takes a different approach. 

“Summer is a good time to read Harry Potter, especially if you haven’t already; if you’re only going to read one, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has plenty of evil forces at work and lots of magical gadgets in combination with excellent character development,” Towner said.

Dr. Theresa Towner Light in August Book Cover
 Dr. Theresa Towner

 Light in August by William Faulkner

“For a classic, try William Faulkner’s Light in August -note the title – or The Reivers,  very funny goings-on in Memphis and at a backwoods race track.  For non-fiction, there’s Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, an account of the country’s first modern serial killer and his stomping grounds, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.”

For a laugh, Towner suggests Carl Hiaasen’s Double Whammy, or David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day.

“Any novel by CJ Box featuring his recurring hero, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. Free Fire is set in Yellowstone National Park, where it’s always cooler than Dallas, except for the geysers, which are way hotter than Dallas,” Towner added.

Dr. Clay Reynolds, director of the Creative Writing Program at UT Dallas, suggests Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead. “For those who love Cormac McCarthy, this writer is very good, and his sparse prose makes for an enthralling read,” Reynolds said.

Dr. Clay Reynolds Far Bright Star Book Cover
Dr. Clay Reynolds Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead

Others on his list include:

The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss. “A novelistic treatment of how the American banking system and stock exchange were established.”

Hearts Touched by Fire: The Best of Battles and Leaders of The Civil War, ed. by Harold Holzer. “This book tells the fascinating first-hand accounts of major battles of the Civil War, written by the generals themselves.”

Passionate Nation, by James L. Haley. “What I consider one of the best-written and most comprehensive views of Texas history available.”

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. S. C. Gwynne. “This book is a first-rate history of the Comanches.”

The Teapot Dome Scandal, by Laton McCartney. “A revealing and highly relevant history of the political climate in the early 1920s.”

“Summer is a great chance to read books that you might not otherwise find time for, and to learn something you might not otherwise know,” Reynolds said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].