Agate Staff Picks: Summer Reading

Here at Agate, summer is the season for reading! From classics to crosswords, here are the books the staff is enjoying this season.

Diana Slickman, Director of Operations

I’ve been reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. So far I find it kind of slow going but I love trees so I’m sticking with it. I’ve also been dipping into a book that’s been on my nightstand for quite a while: The New York Times Sunday Crossword Omnibus, Volume 8 edited by Will Shortz. This collection of 200 grids was published in 2004 and thus provides an illuminating (and at times mystifying) glimpse into popular culture and preoccupations of the early aughts. Long forgotten entertainers and computing terms, in particular, give me a pang of nostalgia.

Hannah Manion, Publishing Coordinator


My greatest reading accomplishment of the summer has to be Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann. Clocking in at just over 1,000 pages of mostly one very long run-on sentence, it follows the internal monologue of a middle-aged woman in Ohio who runs a baking business out of her home kitchen. I love the way this book plays with form, mixing everyday mundane experiences with ruminations on national catastrophes, such as gun violence, and worldwide imminent disasters, like climate change. The book was surprisingly readable, and I found its meditations on modern American life poetic and enlightening, albeit sometimes despairing.

Suzanne Sonnier, Senior Director of Content Development

A silver lining of this summer has been more time to read. Two novels I can’t stop thinking about are Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Currently, I’m enjoying Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s about what Hillary’s life may have looked like had she made one decision differently.

Doug Seibold, President


Our family is now in its third installment of an annual summer reading project where we take on a big, classic-type book that will give us plenty to discuss over the long period of time it will take to read it, and chew over various characters and events and authorial choices at leisure, as opposed to during a one-off book club meeting. (It’s occurred to me that this is not unlike the way many Americans these days interact with prestige series television.) Doing it together this way also helps us goad each other along through books that can be daunting if not outright resistant at times. For me, it’s also been an opportunity to revisit personal favorites I first read decades ago, during the period between ages 17 and 29 when I didn’t own a TV set, and always felt I should return to at some point. This year we’re reading Middlemarch, which I loved back in 1983 and which convinced me George Eliot was the greatest of English novelists. At just under 800 pages, it’s the shortest book we’ve done yet, but at the pace I read now, with my old and internet-corrupted attention span, I’m sure it will take me many weeks, if not months, to get through it again.

David Schlesinger, Associate Director of Content Development

I finished A Fine Balance a few weeks ago. Sprawling and immersive and just the sort of thing I look for in a novel, but it’s hard to recommend for the current moment unless you go in for the I-feel-better-knowing-that-things-could-be-worse line of thinking. Before that was Milkman, which required a good bit of focus but was sharply funny at times and always well written. Plus it has a fetching cover!

Brianna Rooke, Editorial Intern


I’ve been reading some YA fiction during the quarantine to see what the kids are reading these days. I’m late to the game, but I just finished The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and absolutely loved it. A romance story with fantastically layered protagonists of color; a deep, educational discussion of issues relating to immigration, race, and social class in America; a beautifully woven debate over the role of fate in love and the universe…. all these things combined to make an eloquent, gorgeous, heart-fluttering book that I couldn’t put down!

Jacqueline Jarik, Publicity Manager

I just blew through (and loved) Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, which is based on a true story of an Italian teenager and his experience in Italy during WWII. Tom Holland is supposed to play the main character in an upcoming film adaptation if movies are ever allowed to be made again. I would recommend it if you like historical fiction and/or books set in WWII. I am now embarking on a reread of Tender is the Night, which is my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald work.

Marielle Issa, Publishing Intern

I just finished a long-awaited reread of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, my favorite classic, which served (this time around) as a reminder that intuition alone, even absent of logic, is a wonderful reason to change your life. I’m excited to start reading Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ comic book series Saga, which I’m told is a high fantasy epic set in space; in other words, the Game of Thrones and Star Wars crossover we’ve all been needing these days.

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