Summer Reading: Rachael Beyer

The art registrar suggests three titles (two nonfiction, one fiction) about community and utopia.

Summer Reading is a series that asks Haverford’s librarians and library staff for book recommendations that will enlighten, entertain, and educate during this vacation season. Take these titles to the beach, on a plane, or just enjoy them indoors with the fan on.


This week: Art Registrar Rachael Beyer suggests three titles about community and utopia. Says Rachael: “Summer picnics and weekends down the shore always turn my mind toward thoughts of community and utopia. Both an ideal locale and ‘no place,’ utopia for one is never paradise for all.”

Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters by Kate Brown:

This work explores how nuclear leaders in the U.S. and in the U.S.S.R. concealed the catastrophic effects of plutonium production to the physical environment and human body by cloaking them in postwar consumer affluence and aspiration. A critique of the State and of unfettered consumerism, this award-winner reads like a horror novel while offering insight into a once-covert piece of Cold War history.

Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Promising Spaces by Davina Cooper:

What happens when utopian ideas are explored locally? Cooper examines six contemporary sites where “everyday utopias” occur, including a nudist camp, a feminist bathhouse, and a boarding school co-governed by students and staff. These are sites complicated by real people who, by engaging with one another, continually re-conceptualize the utopia.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

However, if reality is a bit too much for summer reading, head back to 1915. When three male explorers become lost in the jungles of South America, they happen upon a society consisting solely of women who reproduce through parthenogenesis. In a peaceful and matriarchal culture, the women collectively farm, raise children, build structures, grow crops, and govern. Gilman is at her best when she lays out her educational and political philosophies against the systems that existed in the U.S. at the time, ideas which would still have merit if considered today.


Photo by Patrick Montero.