Summer Reading: Rob Haley

The interlibrary loan specialist suggests five titles that will transport you to different eras and countries, from WWII-era Britain to 1990s Shanghai and beyond.

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: Interlibrary Loan Specialist Rob Haley suggests five titles that will transport you to different countries and eras.


Their Finest by Lissa Evans:

I have a fascination with the Home Front in Britain during World War II, and many of my favorite novels are set in that era (Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Night Watch by Sarah Waters, Blackout by Connie Willis). Their Finest is my most recent fave.

In 1942, a British film crew attempts to make a film about the Blitz during the Blitz. The film needs to be uplifting but not so trite that bomb-toughened Londoners laugh, rather than be inspired, when they see it. The writing is beautiful, and evokes the era wonderfully. It’s also quite funny.

Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler:

A different, but no less compelling (and no less funny) look at the Home Front. This is the first in a series of mysteries starring the quirkiest duo of detectives you’ll meet: Arthur Bryant and John May. They head up London’s Peculiar Crimes Division.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot:

Contemporary British nature writing is at present some of the best writing of any kind. With echoes of H is for Hawk and The Old Ways, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is both a shattering memoir and a beautifully written natural history of the far northern British islands that comprise Orkney. The author grew up in Orkney, then moved to London to be a fast-living, hard-drinking, music journalist. Returning to Orkney to heal mind and body, she wrote this narrative that is both natural history and memoir.

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xialong:

The first in a series of crime novels set in 1990s Shanghai. It’s amazing how much history you can learn from a crime novel. The plot is classic police procedural, with the added complications of Chines bureaucratic politics.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarré:

There will be a new novel by LeCarre’ this fall, with George Smiley as its focus. Why not spend a few weeks re-reading (or reading) this classic novel of a hunt for a Russian spy at the highest levels of the British government? It can’t happen here, right?

Most of these books are available at Magill Library, but for the ones that aren’t, your helpful interlibrary loan specialist (that’s me) is happy to request them. Lastly, I would like to make a plug for audiobooks. All of our area’s public library systems have different programs that allow patrons to borrow and download audiobooks. You might see me wandering campus with headphones on my ears and a distracted look on my face. Don’t worry, I’m not lost. I’m just lost in a good book.