Summer Reading Recommendations 2013


All selections are available from your local library or your local bookseller. We have included a link to for your convenience.

The summer is winding down and the weather has been cool here in Pittsburgh, so what better time than now to grab another basket of books and curl up to weather out the rain? With that, we belatedly present our Staff Summer Reading List of international favorites. The list this year includes an appetizing memoir, three novels (including one from literary superstar Khaled Hosseini), an examination of the shadowy world of US Intelligence, and a surprise or two. Here’s a hint: Brad Pitt.

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

by Mark Mazzetti

ISBN-10: 1594204802

New York Times Review:

“In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks, seeking to gather intelligence on Al Qaeda and its leaders the Bush administration pushed the C.I.A. to develop the extensive program that intelligence officials called R.D.I. — rendition, detention and interrogation. “The Way of the Knife” trenchantly analyzes how this program, which on occasion included torture, gave way under the Obama administration to an emphasis on drone attacks and targeted killing, which have so far attracted less controversy.”

Why we liked it:

The Way of the Knife analyzes the shadowy world of the War on Terror. In recent weeks we have seen glimpses of the corners of the intelligence gathering realm, making this book an essential choice to understand the evolution of the CIA, the Pentagon, and international negotiation in the age of drones.


World War Z

by Max Brooks

ISBN-10: 0770437400

From NPR:

An account of the decade-long conflict between humankind and hordes of the predatory undead is told from the perspective of dozens of survivors — soldiers, politicians, civilians and others — who describe in their own words the epic human battle for survival.

Why we liked it:

No summer reading list would be complete without the “now a blockbuster movie!” selection. With that we include World War Z, Max Brooks’ fictional oral history of a global zombie pandemic. “Z” is an entertaining examination of the potential catastrophe of a global pandemic exacerbated by pre-existing interstate conflicts and miscalculation. Every year brings news of potentially catastrophic diseases with the potential to send the world into disarray. Read the book, watch the film, and wash your hands.


Day of Honey

by Annia Ciezadlo

ISBN-10: 1416583947

Author Annia Ciezadlo

New York Times Review:

“There are many good reasons to read “Day of Honey.” It’s a carefully researched tour through the history of Middle Eastern food. It’s filled with adrenalized scenes from war zones, scenes of narrow escapes and clandestine phone calls and frightening cultural misunderstandings. Ms. Ciezadlo is completely hilarious on the topic of trying to please her demanding new Lebanese in-laws.”

Why we liked it:

Day of Honey is a memoir about the value of experiencing culture with all of the senses, especially taste. Ciezadlo’s savory narrative is paired with a background of war and conflict, encouraging the reader to examine cultures beyond the newsreels from conflict zones.



by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

ISBN-10: 0307271080

New York Times Review:

What’s the difference between an African-American and an American-African? From such a distinction springs a deep-seated discussion of race in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel, “Americanah.” Adichie, born in Nigeria but now living both in her homeland and in the United States, is an extraordinarily self-aware thinker and writer, possessing the ability to lambaste society without sneering or patronizing or polemicizing. For her, it seems no great feat to balance high-literary intentions with broad social critique. “Americanah” examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations.

Why we liked it:

Americanah tackles themes of identity and race from a unique and refreshing perspective fit for a globalizing world. What does it mean to be an African in America, and how do we return home when our world expands across oceans and demographics? This is more than a commentary on race, it is a story of belonging and experiencing.


And the Mountains Echoed

by Khaled Hosseini

ISBN-10: 159463176X

New York Times Review:

“Mountains” spans several generations and moves back and forth between Afghanistan and the West. (Mr. Hosseini says the title was inspired by William Blake’s poem “Nurse’s Song: Innocence,” which refers to hills echoing with the sound of children’s voices.) It grapples with many of the same themes that crisscross his early novels: the relationship between parents and children, and the ways the past can haunt the present. And it shares a similar penchant for mapping terrain midway between the boldly colored world of fable and the more shadowy, shaded world of realism.

Why we liked it:

If The Kite Runner made you cry, get ready. Bestselling author Khaled Hosseini returns with his third novel, tackling similar themes of multi-generational struggles that haunt his characters from the Middle East to the West. You owe it to yourself to pick up his latest work, as Hosseini’s literary prowess only develops.

By Ian Graham, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern

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