25 Summer Must-Reads from the Unofficial Pear Deck Book Club

Illustration by Kate Moore

Illustration by Kate Moore

When I was in the classroom, reading was a seasonal activity. Between prepping for an upcoming unit, grading assignments, and overseeing any number of extracurriculars, reading for pleasure became a luxury I could hardly afford during the school year.

And when it finally came time to settle by the pool with that long-awaited book, I felt so out of the loop I wasn’t even sure what to read!

For all you seasonal readers out there who know that struggle, take heart! The Unofficial Pear Deck Book Club is back with our third annual list of summer reading recommendations. With 25 recommendations this year from Pear Deck team members and our community of Coaches, there are enough titles to satisfy seasonal and year-round readers alike!

Happy reading!

Title: Alive

Author: Scott Sigler

Synopsis: I was hooked on the first page of the trilogy by the adventure that awaits a girl who awoke in a coffin, knowing only her name. She and the others fight to survive in a strange world while they try to figure out what is going on and their place in the newly formed society.

Recommended by: Becky Shorey, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: City on Fire

Author: Garth Risk Hallberg

Synopsis: Set in 1970s NYC, the storyline is as gritty as you'd expect for the place and time. Its characters are numerous and complexly intertwined so that it reads like a rich character study rather than a simple mystery. The novel's style is reminiscent of The Nix and Modern Lovers.

Recommended by: Risa Bennett, Teacher Advocate

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Author: Tom Kelley & David Kelley

Synopsis: David and Thomas Kelley are the creative drivers behind the hugely successful industrial product design firm IDEO. Their powerful text, Creative Confidence, leverages compelling vignettes from the origins of IDEO and a fresh perspective on how to innovate the way we approach and solve problems, to reinforce the central truth that creativity is not reserved for the predestined "creative" elect, but rather accessible to all.

Recommended by: Ryan Clark, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel

Author: Val Emmich

Synopsis: Evan Hansen is a teen who feels invisible at his high school and uncomfortable around almost everyone. He turns his life inside-out with one well told lie.

Recommended by: Michael Geraghty, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Educated

Author: Tara Westover

Synopsis: Such a page turner! A memoir about how education helped the author overcome some pretty unimaginable obstacles in life and opened her mind to other ways of thinking and living.

Recommended by: Asmaa Elkeurti, Developer and Gretchen Larese, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy


Title: Front Desk

Author: Kelly Yang

Synopsis: This is a beautiful story about a young girl whose family immigrates from China to America and runs a motel where they hide other immigrant families. It hit close to home for me as a teacher and made me think about my actions in the classroom. I was also blown away to discover the author based her writing on her own childhood experiences.

Recommended by: Alyssa Davidson, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: Homes: A Refugee Story

Author: Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung

Synopsis: Fleeing Iraq for Syria, arriving only to be caught in the civil war there, this family's story is told by the son, Abu Bakr. It was written by him and his high school ESL teacher in order to let him share his story. Any educator teaching students arriving as refugees should read this!

Recommended by: Laura Wheeler, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Just Mercy

Author: Bryan Stephenson

Synopsis: This is the true story of a young attorney in the Deep South who takes the case of an African American man accused of murder. As he chronicles this quest for justice, Stephenson highlights the United States’ history of mass incarceration and the racial inequality that continues to plague our justice system.  

Recommended by: Risa Bennett, Teacher Advocate

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: Kristin Lavransdatter

Author: Sigrid Undset

Synopsis: This book is an immersion into medieval Norway! It follows the life story of Kristin Lavransdatter - beginning as a young girl and following her youth and marriage.  This book was a chance to enter completely into a world that I otherwise would have never known.

Recommended by: Jacob Doran, Regional Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Less

Author: Andrew Sean Greer

Synopsis: Less is part travelogue, part midlife crisis, part love letter, and part hilarious misadventure. It follows a struggling author on his round-the-world trip tailor-made as an excuse not to attend his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. The situations he gets himself into are funny and memorable—running around Germany believing he speaks fluent German (he doesn’t), getting stuck in a sandstorm in Morocco—but for me, the best part of the book is Greer’s gift for beautiful, vivid turns of phrase. I kept having to pause while reading it just to really soak up particularly gorgeous sentences.

Recommended by: Kate Moore, Graphic Designer

Preferred medium: Hardcopy


Title: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Synopsis: Not to be missed and hard to put down! This newer author is a phenomenal writer with deep, complex insights. A joy to read.

Recommended by: Danielle Stebel, Director of Marketing

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Of Bees and Mist

Author: Erick Setiawan

Synopsis: I read this book while on vacation last summer; it was such a delightfully unexpected story filled with magical realism and a 30-year family feud.

Recommended by: Michal Eynon-Lynch, Chief Educator & Cofounder

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: Present Over Perfect

Author: Shauna Niequist

Synopsis: During the busiest time of year, in arguably the busiest profession (education), it's good to remember to be PRESENT in the moment. I am by nature a perfectionist/Type-A personality, and this book is a great reminder to let some of that go to enjoy and embrace the moment with the students/people around you.

Recommended by: Lissa Brunan, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Audiobook

Title: Radium Girls

Author: Kate Moore

Synopsis: This captivating true story brings to light the stories of women working in the early 20th century to paint watch dials using the chemical, radium, which at the time was thought to be good for your health.  This story will make you very grateful for inauguration of workers compensation, liability, and medical advancements. I could not put it down. It is descriptive and emotionally charged, so read with caution.

Recommended by: Jennifer Okarma, Regional Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: Rich Dad Poor Dad

Author: Robert Kiyosaki, Sharon Lechter

Synopsis: A great way to look at finances and money from two different perspectives. This will help anyone trying to retire early or invest money wisely.

Recommended by: Erin Asamoto, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: The Alice Network

Author: Kate Quinn

Synopsis: Historical fiction based on the true story of badass women spies during World War I. The story takes place in 1915 to 1947 mainly in France, but involves a Brit, French women and an American. Compelling and relevant. If you like Audible it’s cool to listen to the different accents of the characters - you feel transported to the early 20th century.

Recommended by: Susan Casey, Regional Partnership Manager

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: The Incarnations of Immortality

Author: Piers Anthony

Synopsis: Read anything by Piers Anthony this summer if you want a fun fantasy series for pleasurable reading by the pool. I can easily put it down, pick it up, and still enjoy every second of it.

Recommended by: Will Fritz, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy


Title: The Lathe of Heaven

Author: Ursula Le Guin

Synopsis: This book is about a guy who can change reality and how he and others use that power. It's a short read that will get you thinking!

Recommended by: Riley Eynon-Lynch, CEO & Cofounder

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: The Power of Moments

Author: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Synopsis: This book explains the importance of creating moments that make a difference in people's lives and the key elements to making those moments.

Recommended by: Sherry Mitchell, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Title: The Road to Ruin

Author: Gemma Liviero

Synopsis: This is not your typical post-World War II story and that is what drew me in. This is a tale that deals with the choices made in Nazi Germany, and the complicated relationships that resulted during and after the war. Its characters include those who were part of the Nazi Party and those who were part of the resistance.

Recommended by: Kimberly McCorkle, Certified Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: The Shipping News

Author: Annie Proulx

Synopsis: Semi-magical modern fairytale/coming-of-age story about a middle aged man who moves to Newfoundland. It's my favorite book of all time. Gorgeous writing, dark, quiet humor, won the Pulitzer.

Recommended by: Sara Wakefield, Operations Manager

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: The Simple Path to Wealth

Author: JL Collins

Synopsis: Educators are busy people who often neglect their financial health. This book provides the straightforward, common sense guidance you need to make the right decisions to ensure financial security for life, regardless of your salary level. Once you read it, your only regret will be not having read it sooner!

Recommended by: Matt Sly, Regional Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy

Title: The Vanity Fair Diaries - Power, Wealth, Celebrity, and Dreams: My Years at the Magazine That Defined a Decade

Author: Tina Brown

Synopsis: If you've ever wished Bridget Jones was a little bit more like Anna Wintour, or if you've ever fantasized about being a magazine editor, you'll probably like this memoir. Come for the glamour and history, stay for the one-liners.

Recommended by: Sara Wakefield, Operations Manager

Preferred medium: Audiobook

Title: When Breath Becomes Air

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Synopsis: This autobiography was written by a young doctor who was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. As he grapples with his diagnosis, he seeks understanding and seeks to find purpose in life and in death. It is a heart wrenching read that makes the reader question how to live in spite of any obstacle.

Recommended by: Steph Sukow, Regional Coach

Preferred medium: Hardcopy


Title: Your Inner Fish

Author: Neil Shubin

Synopsis: Why do we look the way we do? Paleontologist Dr. Neil Shubin takes us on a journey through millions of years to explore the story of our bodies and the origin of the tetrapod.

Recommended by: Kathryn Hallal, Regional Coach

Preferred medium: Any/all

Do you have recommendations to add to this list? Tweet them to us - and snap a pic in your favorite reading spot as well!

This week's blog post was written by Pear Deck Teacher Advocate Risa Bennett

Risa Fadenrecht