Summer Reading

Book recommendations from Professor of Asian American studies Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya is the author of the novel “Members Only” (2020) and the story collection “The Blind Writer” (2015). He is an associate professor of Asian American studies.

Though I read and write for a living, I find myself suffering from a problem many of us have: waning attention. There was a time I could read a short novel in a sitting, a longer one over several sittings. But now, other things draw my attention: my teenage boys, that new “Serial” podcast, the new season of “Succession,” a family group chat I have to respond to immediately. And yet, reading — and reading novels in particular — is what has always sustained me and will continue to do so, even when the novel form sometimes feels like oldschool Kodak film in the age of iPhones. Lately, I have found myself returning to books that I have loved. At the same time, I am also finding books published more recently, which feel like works I will return to in the future. Here are five to recommend:

A Passage to India by E.M Forster Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the publication of a novel that once used to frustrate me because of Forster’s depiction of the Indian doctor Aziz. And yet, rereading it recently, I was struck by Forster’s command of the novelistic craft — creating tension through a tight plot, deeply realized, complex characters and swift movement between points of view. And at the center of it all, his point from a century ago still feels relevant now: our inability to communicate across difference.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez One of my favorite novels of the past decade, this one by Nunez is funny and incisive and uses a very fine, sharp knife to carve up the idea of the great American male novelist. And there is a huge Great Dane at the center of the novel.

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine One of the best graphic novelists working today, Tomine in the title story of this collection — on family and grief and connection — packs a punch through simple drawings and some of the best uses of blank space on the page.

The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French I am always nervous about entering my biography reading phase, but French’s biography of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist is a master class in how to write the life of a complicated, difficult man who produced a shelf full of remarkable works of fiction and nonfiction.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie In light of his recent attack, I have been thinking about Rushdie and his remarkable novel that takes on 20th-century Indian history, identity and lineage, the idea of truth, and on and on. I recently retaught the book after many years and reading it with a new generation of students opened up lively conversations about freedom, the dangers of nationalism and the importance of multiple voices for a thriving democracy.

Spring / Summer 2023


Untitled (Future Smoke) by Philip Argent

In Search of the Origin of Insight

Sarah Eisner and Randy Quaterman sitting on a red bench

Mending Old Fences

closeup of a researcher holding a beaker

Research Highlights Spring/Summer 2023