Favorite Summer Reads

by Lydia Ruth

For many of us, summer is the time to kick back, relax, and immerse ourselves in a new book!  I’m a pretty eclectic reader. If the writing is good, I’m not too particular about the genre.  I thought I would share some of my favorites that cover the spectrum – from non-fiction to horror and everything in between.  Whether you are looking for a good beach read or something to help you relax during your staycation, I certainly hope this list puts you on the trail of a new favorite summer read!


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I read this book last summer on a cruise, and I immediately fell in love with the main character, Flavia de Luce. She is a precocious, 11-year-old chemist who solves murders in the surrounding area of her family’s crumbling estate. I love the setting of the book – 1950s British countryside. The writing was excellent, the characters were quirky and unique, and the story was told in a compelling manner that made me want to keep reading!


Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

I read this book a couple of years ago when Jurassic World was released in theaters. It was the perfect book to read by the pool. If you’ve seen the movie, don’t discount reading the book. There are some startling differences that still allow for it to be a new experience. The characters and the story itself are fascinating, and the non-stop action kept me reading long into a sunburn!

Young Adult:

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I listened to this while driving to the beach on a recent vacation. Audiobooks are a great way to keep kids (and adults) occupied on long drives. The story is based on the premise that ghosts are walking the earth and some of them are very dangerous. However, only children and teenagers can see them, which means that children are basically the ghost law enforcement protecting everyone else. The story focuses around one organization and its efforts to remove a ghost from a home. The dialogue is witty, and the plot is awesome! I’m not always a big fan of Young Adult novels (they can feel like “same story, different setting” at times), but I really felt like this was a unique story that was well crafted.


‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

First, let me say. I am a total ‘fraidy cat. The movie Halloween still terrifies me if I think about it too long. However, Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite authors. I can put up with the fact that his books scare me because I love almost everything about his writing style. If you’ve ever read Dracula, then you will love this book. Stephen King loved Dracula so this is sort of like a modernized version of the classic. The story is definitely creepy, but the plot is so intriguing that you’ll want to keep reading.


Dr. Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

I stumbled onto this book by chance while visiting a friend in Philadelphia.  I had heard about the Mutter Museum located there, but I had no idea who “Mutter” was. I wasn’t able to visit the museum, so I decided to Google him, and I stumbled across this book. It turns out he was an incredible man who was an advocate for compassionate medicine in a time where a lot of medical practices were just a few steps away from barbaric. The book follows the life of Dr. Mutter, and it reveals his impact on the world of modern medicine. Whether or not you typically gravitate towards non-fiction, this is a compelling read that shows how one man’s hard work paved the way for changes in how doctors treat patients.

LydiaLydia Ruth Contact

Lydia is a recent UT Grad working as a Business Analyst in the IRIS Department. She did an internship with Disney (no, she wasn’t Mickey, and no, she can’t get you in for free) where she gained a love for helping people, along with an inordinate number of Mickey Ears. She’s always happy to receive a book suggestion (or make one)…just don’t offer her Brussel sprouts.  She thinks they’re baby cabbages.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

5 Fantastic Children’s Books

By John Lacey

So here we areright smack in the middle of the holiday season.

It’s time to polish off the Halloween candy and start the jean squats to get that perfect fit. It’s also the time to be thinking about gift ideas for the kids. Yikes! More toys in the house? More toys = more clean up. But take heart. There is one gift that is relatively clutter-proof and can make you feel like a responsible parent, aunt, uncle, half-cousin third removed from your mother’s side: books!

You can never have too many books (you didn’t hear that from me). Especially children’s literature.

Every year, my wife and I pick out several new books to give our kids. And when the shiny exciting toys lose their sparkle, the books will be there, steadfast and ready to entertain and enlighten.

So, I thought I would share a few of our all-time favorites that get read again and again in our home.

Doctor De Soto By William Steig
Recommended ages: 3 to 7

Doctor De SotoDr. De Soto is a dentist mouse who treats animals of all species regardless of size. However, he prefers not working on dangerous animals that eat mice. But that’s exactly what ends up happening when a cunning fox shows up at his doorstep.

We listened to this book on a few vacation trips. The kids asked to play it repeatedly, and we were happy to oblige. Audio books can be a nice alternative to movies, which do not require the children to use their imagination.

Fidgety Fish By Ruth Galloway
Recommended ages: 2 to 5

Fidgety FishTiddler the fish is always fidgeting and drives his mother bananas! She orders him to go out and swim around to burn off some energy. So Tiddler heads out and meets all kinds of sea creatures and even gets into a tight spot.

This book is just a fun read. If your child is learning how to read, this book might be a great one to help boost her/his confidence. We read Fidgety Fish so much that the pages have fallen out, and we need to buy a new one!

The Circus Ship By Chris Van Dusen
Recommended ages: 3 to 6

The Circus ShipThis is one of best illustrated books that I have come across. It’s a tale of circus animals stranded on an island where they meet the local townspeople who are immediately suspicious of them. Eventually the animals win over the people and share the island in harmony.

My daughter loves the page where she has to find all the animals who are hiding from the unpleasant circus master.


Ponyella By Laura Numeroff
Recommended ages: 2 to 5

PonyellaPonyella is a reworking of the classic Cinderella story set on a pony farm. Ponyella is picked on by her two stablemates and is forced to do all the chores, like pulling the coal wagon. But redemption comes in the form of a fairy godmare, and all that is wrong changes.

It is such a cute story, and little girls who love ponies and horses will be enthralled, as my daughter was with this book.


My Father’s Dragon By Ruth Stiles Gannett
Recommended ages: 4 to 9

My Father's DragonIn this short chapter book, Elmer Elevator is a boy who sets off to rescue a baby dragon being held prisoner on the scary Wild Island. Elmer uses his cunning to outsmart all the fierce creatures and eventually saves the dragon.

Though this is a chapter book, it is short enough to read in a few nights. This books is fantastic at helping kids develop their imaginations, and both my kids absolutely love it!


BONUS PICK (Warning, this is completely self-serving)

Smokey Tails By John Lacey

Smokey TailsFor those of you who love seeing Smokey overcome obstacles and outwit his SEC foes, I think you’ll enjoy this book by…me!

Smokey Tails is a southern folklore children’s adventure story about UT’s beloved mascot.

You and your child will enjoy reading about Smokey learning from his grandhound, General Gnawbone, and outdoging rivals, such as the big red elephant Ellie Bamie and the devious gator, Mr. Chomper.

A perfect gift for any young Vol fan.

John LaceyJohn Lacey  Contact
UT System Administration

John is a UT graduate and currently works in the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing as a project manager. When he is not enjoying time with his wife and two children, you can find him riding his bike or dreaming up big ideas.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.