It’s finally summer! The 2021 OER Project summer reading list

It’s finally summer! The 2021 OER Project summer reading list

By the OER Project Team

Finally! Summer is near after a whirlwind year, and we’re looking forward to some relaxation: perhaps on the beach (though the lawn or fire escape will do!), with a refreshing drink nearby and a book in hand! Need a new book or two to put on your list? Read on for a collection of community-powered recommendations.

Just Mercy book cover.

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson. In this memoir, Bryan Stevenson gives readers an intimate look into the American criminal justice system, through the eyes of a young attorney. The driving narrative throughout is of Walter McMillan, a Black man wrongly sentenced to die for a crime he didn’t commit. Stevenson intersperses chapters about McMillan with other stories of those he represented, creating a powerful picture of the injustices in the American judicial system.

Caste book cover

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson. A powerfully researched, compelling book in which Wilkerson draws the comparison between the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany and the systemic racism and oppression that Black and Brown people in America have faced historically and continue to face today.

Brown Girl Dreaming cover

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson. In this powerful collection of stirring poems, Woodson describes growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 70s, amid remnants of Jim Crow laws, as well as the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one that you—and your students—will love.

 Queen album cover

Abina and the Important Men, Trevor R. Getz with Liz Clarke. A “graphic history” that tells the story of an enslaved West African woman, based on an 1876 court transcript. The book’s author, OER Project’s own Trevor Getz, has written about how writing Abina strongly influenced the OER Project graphic biographies

The Vanishing Half book cover

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett. A multigenerational family saga that tells the story of twin sisters while looking at issues of race in America and how the past goes on to shape a person’s life, decisions, expectations, and desires.

Sand Talk cover

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, Tyson Yunkaporta. A book that brings an Indigenous person’s perspective and thinking to issues of culture, the environment, and history, as well as our larger global systems. Yunkaporta provides a new model for our everyday lives, one that is tied to the natural and spiritual world.

Educated cover

Educated, Tara Westover. This gripping memoir tells the story of a girl overcoming the objections of her survivalist, Mormon family to attend college. Throughout her story, Westover emphasizes the importance of education in understanding and expanding the world around her.

The Committed cover

The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen. A sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, The Committed follows a man and his brother who, after arriving in Paris as refugees, try to overcome their past and secure their future while dealing with the trauma of re-education and attempted assimilation.

Black Lives Matter at School

Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, Denisha Jones and Jesse Hagopian, eds. This book is an incredible resource for any educator looking to build and institute an antiracist school system. It includes essays, poems, interviews, and resolutions from the people around the country working to transform schools.

Purple Hibiscus cover

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is the beautifully told story of a 15-year-old Nigerian girl as she moves through adolescence, family trauma, and a military coup.

Kindred cover

Kindred, Octavia E. Butler. Part science fiction, part historical fiction, Kindred incorporates time travel into an arresting novel that explores the impact of slavery, racism, and white supremacy in the 1800s and today.

Ship of Theseus cover

Ship of Theseus, JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst. According to veteran OER Project teacher Erik Christensen, “The Ship of Theseus is an ancient thought experiment that asks: If the rotten wood of a ship is slowly replaced over time, does it remain the same ship? Or does the ship become something new? This is a book within a book. One part of the book is the ‘fake’ story—Ship of Theseus—in which an amnesiac tries to find his identity. The second part of the book is captured in the annotations—a conversation between scholars trying to sort out the identity of the writer. The reader must solve both mysteries.”

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster cover

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates. Full of short- and long-term action items, this book is a discussion of the need to get to carbon zero in order to halt climate change. Gates presents us with an analysis and suggested redesign of five essential systems: how we grow things, how we get around, how we make things, how we plug in, and how we keep cool and stay warm.

Looking for more? Join us in the OER Project Community today! And if you aren’t registered with us yet, create an account here for free access to the OER Project Community and more.

Cover image: Composite image, summer beach composition by

Book cover sources: Fair Use.