GWC Heat Index

By Leah Washburn |


As we head deeper into August, the average temperature at UCR climbs toward the mid-90s. What better way to escape the heat than with a good book that helps you pass the time by the pool or in the comfort of your own air conditioning? Take a break from journal articles, theory textbooks, and data analysis! Distract yourself (if only for a hot second) from the dissertation slog by enjoying a brain break with a fun read. Whisk yourself away on a daring adventure with one of these recommendations from the GWC staff members. 


[Image Description: Live-action Matilda sitting on an oversized armchair holding a book and smiling]

Pictured: Time to unleash our inner bookworm!


Lauren Hammond, Coordinator 

Invisible Monsters: A novel

Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Genre: nonlinear fiction, identity narratives, dark humor

From the author of Fight Club (1996), Invisible Monsters (1999) follows Shannon McFarland, a disfigured (ex)-model who is coached through a series of new identities by her acquaintance, Brandy Alexander. The novel opens with a “shotgunned” Brandy, bleeding out during mutual friend Evie Cottrell’s wedding. Moving through time and trauma with pithy asynchronicity, Invisible Monsters explores questions of identity, beauty, and complicated families. 


H is for Hawk

Author: Helen Macdonald

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, nature

Award-winning memoir H is for Hawk (2016) chronicles the year Helen Macdonald spent training a northern goshawk. A multi-genre tour-de-force, Macdonald’s prose weaves between dealing with her father’s death, writing about the natural world around her, and T.H White’s own work, The Goshawk. With languid sentences and stunning imagery, this book can help you look beyond your own project—if only for a moment. 


Gary Qin, Lead Consultant

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (Revised Edition)

Author: Marc Reisner

Genre: Nonfiction, history, journalism

This book moves between history, bureaucracy, and creative nonfiction to explore legislation involving land and water development in the western U.S. Reisner explains complex American policy through grounded prose and humor as he tracks the attempts to create greener patches amongst arid Western regions. If you’re looking for a reflection on settler-colonial relations, America’s relationship to its natural resources, and policies that have enabled continued misuse from larger companies, then Cadillac Desert (1986) is for you. 



Author: Octavia Butler

Genre: science fiction, POC narratives, time travel

With its iconic first line, “I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm,” Kindred  (1979) tells Dana’s story as she is dragged from 1970s California into antebellum Maryland. Dana grapples with both past and present traumas related to her skin as she follows her ancestors—white Rufus Weylin and black Alice Greenwood. Butler’s dual timelines trace lines of history that still scar the United States, reminding readers that while in the past, for some, the atrocities of colonization and slavery continue to echo forward. 


Leah Washburn, Consultant

Gideon the Ninth

Author: Tamsyn Muir

Genre: Fantasy, sci-fi, (necro)mance, mystery

The first of The Locked Tomb series, Gideon the Ninth (2019) follows the titular character as she is forced to accompany her lifelong enemy to a gathering of powerful necromancers. This book has it all: locked room mystery, necromance, lots of swords and bones, and bad behavior. Dense in worldbuilding and rich in flavor, if you enjoy puzzles, problem children, and power struggles, this book is for you. 



Author: Ling Ma

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Ling Ma’s debut novel follows Candace through her experiences in New York and into a zombie apocalypse. Featuring a wide cast of characters, Severance (2018) features beautiful prose, a complex plot, and enough tidbits to keep chewing on for days. Ma also recently published a short story collection (another worth checking out), but her first novel will always remain close to my heart. If you’re a fan of zombie stories with a more fragrant bite to their spine, I recommend Ma’s work. 


Christopher Valencia, Consultant

When Breath Becomes Air 

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: autobiography, memoir, philosophy

When Breath Becomes Air " (2016) by Paul Kaplanithi is a memoir of a neurosurgeon diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. The book provides an autobiographical account of the personal and intellectual journey of Paul as he undergoes a sudden and drastic shift in his health during his last year of residency. While confronting this crisis, the book is spotted throughout with meaningful reflections by Paul about life, education, relationships, family, values, success, etc. The memoir captures the life of a doctor who is now the patient, and the very issues he addressed in many hospital rooms take center stage in his own life. This book will go down as a classic! It is indeed a memorable read.”


Tuesday with Morrie

Author: Mitch Albom

Genre: biographical, memoir, life lessons

Tuesdays with Morrie (1997) by Mitch Albom is a great memoir full of life lessons. In the story, Mitch begins to visit one of his old sociology professors — Morrie Schwartz — who has been diagnosed with ALS. The book is divided into 14 days, or visits. Every visitation contains meaningful conversations as Morrie and Mitch reflect on life. Interwoven throughout the book, Mitch adds his own memories of Morrie as a professor. The book is a brief yet classic memoir that leaves readers wanting to learn more about both characters.”


Man's Search for Meaning

Author:Victor E. Frankl

Genre: autobiography, psychotherapy, suvival literature

Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) by Victor E. Frankl tells us of Frankl’s experience as a holocaust survivor and the human lessons he learned and documented in the process. As a psychiatrist and prisoner, he deeply and intellectually considered how humans coped with the hardships the camp experienced. The book recalls Frankl’s experience in different Nazi death camps, such as Auschwitz —and Frankl’s theory called “logo-therapy,” which suggests that people’s drive in life is not merely pleasure but the discovery of their own purpose and their pursuit of it to the end. This book will definitely stand as a classic piece of survival literature. It has printed over 15 million copies throughout the world! This book is a good read full of valuable lessons, and I highly recommend it!”


Kristen Herbert, Consultant

São Bernardo 

Author: Graciliano Ramos 

Translator: Padma Viswanathan
Genre: modern fiction, humor, Brazilian literature, translation

São Bernardo (1934, trans. 2020) tells the story of a man who acquired the property he used to work on as a farm hand, but through dishonest means. After he marries, he struggles to hold together the estate, and his efforts, as well as the ensuing conflicts with the people around him, are presented with a dark sense of humor. Ramos’s work is often compared with that of William Faulkner. He wrote in Portuguese and is considered an important figure in Brazilian literature today. I learned about the novel when listening to a talk by its English translator, Padma Viswanathan. As soon as I finish my translation assignment, I will give this book a read.”


Deep Breath

Author: Rita Halász

Genre: literary fiction, women’s issues, abuse/recovery, Hungarian literature, translation

Deep Breath tells the story of a woman who struggles to mother two young children after leaving her abusive husband. Due to her Catholic faith, she navigates the concept of divorce with difficulty, and her husband tries to use this faith to manipulate her into thinking that she must give their marriage another chance. The novel slowly follows her process of deprogramming herself from the disproportionately strict expectations of her as a woman, which has formed the basis of the husband’s manipulations. As she moves towards divorcing him, the story jumps back to explain the events that got her where she is today, narrowing in on a childhood romance that ended in an adult affair. The novel is written in Hungarian.”



[Image Description: Orange cat flipping through a copy of The Art of Military Strategy]
Pictured: Happy Reading!