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Summer Listening, Viewing, and Reading Suggestions

What are you doing this summer? The USU Honors Program reached out to our Honors graduates and faculty for ideas about what to read, watch, and listen to this summer. We hope you enjoy these suggestions as you continue to take the Honors “Dare to Know” this summer. 

For more book recommendations, check out our past Honors Book Labs.

Faculty Recommendations


"Alleluia" Track 8 on the Men of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir album (recommended by Dr. Scott Hunsaker): While the whole album is worthy of your time, this one track is so passionately sublime; it will lift you through the clear blue of the summer sky to an ethereal place of repose and peace.

The Clash (recommended by Dr. Colin Flint): Enough said.

Miss Anthropocene by Grimes (recommended by Dr. Mattie Burkert): This is a catchy, sometimes danceable concept album narrated by a pantheon of evil deities representing different aspects of the suffering caused by climate change.

One Track Heart by Krishna Das (recommended by Jennifer Sinor): Because not enough people know about kirtan.

Partita for 8 voices by Caroline Shaw (anonymous recommendation): This refreshingly original piece for voices  incorporates techniques from various vocal traditions around the world; also, it was written by youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for composition.

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin (recommended by Dr. Alexa Sand): This album is the classic soundtrack to all the typical summer vacation things, from being "Down by the Seaside" to hanging out "In the Light.”

Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee (recommended by Dr. Jamie Sanders): Waxahatchee is a band fronted by singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield; the single "Can't Do Much" makes for lovely and wistful summer listening.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco recommended by Dr. Kristine Miller): This post-9/11 album is a beauty that speaks, at least to me, about our current moment.


99% Invisible (recommended by Dr. Kristine Miller): This design podcast "about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about" is always amusing, uplifting, and insightful; it's one of my favorites!

The Good Place: The Podcast (recommended by Professor Amanda Lee): Pair this with binging the show for some good vibes.

The Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam ­(recommended by Dr. Alexa Sand): This podcast just appeals to the wannabe cognitive scientist in me and answers the question "Why are people so illogical?" in so many fascinating ways.

On Being with Krista Tippett (recommended by Jennifer Sinor): Tippett interviews fascinating people who are making the world a better place.

Radio Ambulante (recommended by Dr. Jamie Sanders): For Spanish speakers, in-depth reporting on human interest stories from Latin America's past and present.

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown (anonymous recommendation): This podcast offers a timely and honest discussion of vulnerability and courage through interviews and research—perfect for reflecting on life during a pandemic and on the thresholds of graduation.

Up First from NPR (recommended by Dr. Mattie Burkert): This podcast features three of the most important news stories of the day, presented without sensationalism by top-notch reporters, in a 10-minute stream available first thing in the morning.



1984 by George Orwell (recommended by Dr. Colin Flint): As COVID-19 raises questions about government surveillance and issues of privacy, this seminal novel still has relevance.

A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton (recommended by Dr. Jim Davis): This book is a quick read, but deep and emotionally charged; it describes how a man found his “family” and in the process found himself.

The Confessions by St. Augustine (recommended by Dr. Richard Sherlock)

From Cold War to Hot Peace by Michael McFaul (recommended by Dr. Vijay Kannan): This book provides perspective on contemporary US-Russian relations and context for the interpersonal dynamics among some of the key players.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland (recommended by Dr. Jamie Sanders): Millennials and Baby Boomers get all the attention, but this fun, light novel helped define the in-between generation to which most of your professors now belong.

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization by Mary Beard (recommended by Dr. Alexa Sand): This relatively short book is (not to be too punny) eye-opening in the sense that it examines how different cultures, across time, have used the artistic representation of the human form to literally shape how people see and inhabit human bodies.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto "Che" Guevara (recommended by Dr. Jamie Sanders): Trapped inside? Want to escape on an epic journey of self-discovery across South America, on the back of an unreliable motorbike?

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (recommended by Dr. Kristine Miller): This mystery for book-lovers was the most immersive story I've read in a long time--and it was so fun to spend some time in Barcelona!

Shrill by Lindy West (anonymous recommendation): This book is a personal and humorous take on body positivity.

Spillover by David Quammen (recommended by Dr. Mirella Meyer-Ficca): This book, written in 2012, explains the history, background and dynamics that caused previous pandemics like Ebola, SARS, and AIDS. It is a great (and almost prophetic) piece of science writing that reads more like a detective story than a science book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about pandemics.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (recommended by Dr. Scott Hunsaker): This book, about the Nazi Blitz on the United Kingdom, provides both personal and national perspectives on the experience of key individuals in Winston Churchill's government and family while the Germans were bombing the UK, demonstrating how both individual and communal defiance can withstand great trauma.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre (recommended by Dr. Colin Flint): This book is often listed as the best spy novel ever written. I would put it second behind Graham Greene's The Quiet American. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my ranking.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (recommended by Dr. Mattie Burkert): This novel is about the aftermath of a global pandemic and the role of art in maintaining our humanity against great odds.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell (recommended by Dr. Vijay Kannan): This book provides interesting perspectives on the challenges and consequences of making judgments about people when we have little information/time with which to make an assessment.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex Harrow (recommended by Dr. Jennifer Sinor): This book reads easily, and who can resist the idea that writing is a portal and books a threshold that we cross?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (recommended by Professor Amanda Lee): This book offers a luscious interweaving of nature and narrative. It’s a smart summer, or any time of the year, page-turner that you'll want to savor.

Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens (recommended by Dr. Colin Flint): Hitchens's pithy analysis challenges orthodox thinking across the whole political spectrum.

Movies and T.V. Shows

Better Call Saul on Netflix and AMC app (recommended by Dr. Mattie Burkert): This show is as richly woven as Breaking Bad, with more heart and humor.

The Feminist Art Coalition (recommended by Dr. Alexa Sand): has put together an excellent library of free, streamable videos by and about artists, including “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We should all be feminists” which really, if you don't consider yourself a feminist, or think feminism is scary or silly, you ought to watch.

The Fog of War (recommended by Dr. Colin Flint): A personal favorite of mine, as it raises questions about personal ambition and war.

Genius on National Geographic Channel and Zoom (recommended by Dr. Scott Hunsaker): The first season featured a look at the life and times of Albert Einstein, while the second season features Pablo Picasso, with both seasons presenting, at the same time, an earthy view of their foibles and failings while managing to maintain some of the idol worship our culture has given these figures.

The Good Place (recommended by Professor Amanda Lee): The only sitcom about ethics happens also to demonstrate genius level humor.

The Planet Earth II on (anonymous recommendation): This is a gorgeous and curious investigation of how survival in different circumstances is still essentially a balance of the same things—also, Sir David Attenborough is the narrator!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Netflix (recommended by Dr. Kristine Miller): This movie is fun, imaginative, and mind-bending—and did I mention fun!?

The Vietnam War on PBS (recommended twice, by Dr. Colin Flint and an anonymous recommender): Dr. Flint asks,Why not learn more about a war that still has relevance for the role of the U.S. in the world: The Vietnam War?” The anonymous recommender says, “Ken Burns’s The Vietnam War documentary (18h in 10 episodes) is incredibly thorough and humanizes an era I didn't live through, but which is still impacting lives today.”

The Wire on HBO and Amazon Prime (recommended by Dr. Jamie Sanders): OK, suggesting the best North American TV show ever is sort of boring and predictable, but it is the best North American TV show ever! Season four will break your heart.

…or Go outside and sit under a tree instead (recommended by Jennifer Sinor): The characters always change, and the seasons never get old.



Honors Graduate Recommendations


13 by Blur (recommended by Paul Consalvo): This album has songwriting prowess we all could only ever dream of, with unknown gems like “Tender, Bugman,” “Coffee & TV” (watch the adorable video too), “Battle, Trimm Trabb,” and “No Distance Left to Run”—and Damon Albarn has the most relaxingly British voice you will ever hear.

Ben Rector (anonymous recommendation): Very upbeat feel while remaining positive—perfect for a summer outing.

“Fly Away with Me” by Tom Walker (anonymous recommendation)

“For Island Fires and Family” and “Glory” by Dermot Kennedy (anonymous recommendations)

Hadestown (Original Broadway cast recording) by Anaïs Mitchell (recommended by Emma Hallock): Hadestown is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth where hell is a factory floor, and I love how it explores the value of retelling a tragedy, even when you know how it will end.

“Happier” by Marshmello ft. Bastille (recommended by AJ Walters): Make sure you watch the music video.

Jeremy Zucker (anonymous recommendation)

“My Way” by Tom Walker (anonymous recommendation)

Sleeping at Last (anonymous recommendation): His lyrics seem to provide a deep view into the condition of being human. Extremely poetic and meaningful. He has many different compositions, each exploring a different aspect of humanity.



The Anthropocene Reviewed (recommended by Emma Hallock): John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale, and his short nonfiction pieces are a fun way to learn about a wide range of topics, from Halley’s Comet to Tetris.

BomBARDed (recommended by Tessa Burrows): It's a real-play Dungeons and Dragons podcast where all three players are multi-classed bards—it’s incredibly fun and they make some great music!

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (recommended by Emma Hallock): Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile go through each Harry Potter book, chapter by chapter, treating the book as “sacred” by paying close attention to the text and reading with rigor in a community—plus,  it’s all about Harry Potter.

Oh No, Ross and Carrie! (anonymous recommendation): Two investigative journalists plunging themselves into joining cults, fringe science groups, and other congregations of questionable reasoning is at once hilariously entertaining and anthropologically enlightening.

Stuff You Should Know (recommended by Paul Consalvo): I don't listen to many podcasts, but this one has always been a treat.


Dear Midnight by Zack Grey (anonymous recommendation): Just a beautiful and short collection of poems for those who might be feeling very deeply at this stage of life.

Dune and Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert (anonymous recommendation): The arid setting and eerie familiarity of a totalitarian oppressor rising to power through his charisma pair well with the hot summer weather.

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner (anonymous recommendation): This book deals with the events of 9/11 beautifully, weaving together historical and fictional narratives around realistic character development.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (recommended by AJ Walters): Beyond being an awesome book about dinosaurs, it highlights how human nature is often the weakest link in the advancement of technology (i.e., Dennis Nedry's greed, John Hammond's idealism).

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (recommended by Emma Hallock): They don’t call Agatha Christie “The Queen of Mystery” for no reason, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have at least a little bit of fun reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof (anonymous recommendation): If you're interested in humanitarian aid or nonprofit work, this book is eye-opening about the why behind—and the many ways—we choose to give.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (recommended by Tessa Burrows): It's a delightful story that's (somewhat) well-known now, but the way the story evolves is a great reminder that people can change for the better and that life can have happy endings.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (recommended by Erin Butikofer): This book is so mysterious and can be about anyone--an early gothic novel that I love.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (recommended by Paul Consalvo): The political subtext feels very unbiased and enjoyable based on how the multiple character plotlines are connected.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean ­(recommended by Erin Butikofer): Not quite the Wild West, but not the tame West either. If you love the outdoors and family, this is the book for you. It is actually three short stories, so it won't take you too long to get through.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (recommended by Emma Hallock): I’m not sure what to say except that The Sound and the Fury is just one of those books that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I first read it years ago, and I love it.

Movies and T.V. Shows

Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad on Netflix (recommended by Paul Consalvo): These shows together have such a fully realized world now, and the scenarios don't necessarily feel larger than life like other shows' happenings feel.

Community on Netflix (anonymous recommendation): An unlikely group of diverse friends attend a community college together, support, and learn from one another!

Heartland on Amazon Prime and BYUtv (anonymous recommendation): A fun and drama-filled Canadian show.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople on Google Play Movies and Amazon (recommended by Emma Hallock): Written and directed by Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a delightful and charming comedy that’s just really enjoyable to watch.

Lucifer on Netflix (recommended by AJ Walters): An intriguing analysis of right and wrong that challenges the contemporary belief that "Satan made me do it.”

Pan’s Labyrinth on Netflix (recommended by Emma Hallock): I know most people have seen this movie, but you might as well watch it again; Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautiful movie that blends the horror of children’s fantasy with the real horrors of war.

Psych on Amazon Prime (recommended by Erin Butikofer): Always a favorite and always a winner for when you want to laugh but also like cop shows. It’s a great one!