University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus




What to read, watch and listen to this summer — according to USF Sarasota-Manatee campus faculty and staff

By Georgia Jackson, University Communications and Marketing

This summer, six members of the Sarasota-Manatee campus faculty and staff are sharing their media recommendations — from novels and biographies to podcasts and films — to help readers stay sharp during Florida's hottest months. Check out their horizon-expanding picks below.

Michelle Arnold 
Assistant Professor 
Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders 

An assistant professor in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and director of the Auditory Rehabilitation and Clinical Trials laboratory, Michelle Arnold considers reading — even that which is not directly related to her primary research — essential to her work.

"It keeps me curious," she said.


Circe by Madeline Miller

"Circe," by Madeline Miller

“One of the best books I’ve read in the past 10 years. A must if you’re a fan of Greek mythology.”

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," by Gabrielle Zevin

“I am reading this now, and it is fantastic. Two thumbs up, highly recommend. Tech-y and nostalgic in a single book.” 

"The Push" by Ashley Audrain

"The Push," by Ashley Audrain

“Perfectly captures the lonely feelings of early motherhood. It is a thrilling and scary book.”

"The Nickel Boys" by Colson Whitehead

"The Nickel Boys," by Colson Whitehead

“Should be required reading for every Floridian.”

Joni Jones 
Campus Dean 
Muma College of Business 

An associate professor in the School of Information Systems and Management and dean for the Muma College of Business on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, Joni Jones teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in systems analysis and design, business honors professional development and research methods.

In each of her classrooms, Jones promotes data literacy and prepares students to uncover solutions to complex problems, “to make decisions based on data but also to know how to make data tell a story,” Jones said. “A spreadsheet chock full of data doesn’t give you any information. Only when the data is refined do they become informative. Until then, it’s just data.

"We teach our students everything from how to design data-collection systems, how to create a mineable database, how to clean data and draw the information out so that it says something of value and how to visualize it,” she said. “The goal is to produce informed decisions based on concrete data.”


"Smart Choices"

"Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions," by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney and Howard Raiffa 
Nonfiction Book

“This book is an easy read and provides a framework for making decisions.  I have used this model for both business and personal decision making.” 





Cayla Lanier 
Assistant Dean 
Judy Genshaft Honors College 

Cayla Lanier is the assistant dean of the Judy Genshaft Honors College on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, where she spearheads, among other initiatives and responsibilities, a 10-day, culturally immersive medical service study abroad program each summer in the Dominican Republic.


"Dominicana" by Angie Cruz

"Dominicana," by Angie Cruz

“A young Dominican woman marries and leaves the island to live in 1960s New York with her husband. It’s a beautiful story of identity, culture, migration and self-acceptance.” 

"Dare to Lead with Brene Brown"

"Dare to Lead," with Brené Brown

“I’m currently going through the Dare to Lead training and find this podcast series to be an excellent free resource to learn about vulnerability in leadership, developing trust, and handling hard conversations.” 

Valerie Barnes Lipscomb
Department of English

A professor of American and modern English literature and scholar of age and drama, Valerie Lipscomb reads widely and across genres.


"The Father" by Florian Zeller

"The Father," by Florian Zeller
Play / Film

"I recently presented a conference paper about this play, which follows a literary trend toward depicting people who are living with dementia. What fascinates me about this play is that it attempts to allow the audience to experience dementia along with the character who has been diagnosed. Most portrayals focus on the feelings of caregivers and family members, but this one tries to show dementia from the 'inside.' It also avoids the sense of tragedy that tends to pervade works about living with dementia; it’s more like a mystery. I recommend reading the play first, then viewing the film."

"It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis

"It Can't Happen Here," by Sinclair Lewis

"I teach this period of American literature, and while some students are familiar with Lewis’s novels 'Main Street' and 'Babbitt,' this 1935 satire is arguably a more important work for contemporary readers. I can’t say it better than the cover of my Signet paperback edition: 'A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.'"

"Hush" by Nikki Ummel

"Hush," by Nikki Ummel

"One of the great joys of teaching is to witness the success of your students, both in the classroom and afterwards. I’m delighted that Nikki Ummel, one of our outstanding Sarasota-Manatee alums, recently published a chapbook of poetry. Based in New Orleans, she has been winning poetry awards and creating avenues to support the development of other artists. We’re so proud of her."

"Florida" by Lauren Groff

"Florida," by Lauren Groff
Short Story Collection

"So, I’ve recommended a play, a novel, a book of poetry, and now a collection of short stories. In 2008, Gainesville-based  Lauren Groff visited our campus after publishing her first novel, 'The Monsters of Templeton,' and kindly spoke with our students about her writing before she joined Stephen King for a public conversation. I have followed her writing since then, and I’m sure that anyone with ties to Florida will be intrigued by this highly lauded 2018 collection — especially 'Eyewall,' about a hurricane. Often, I tell students that we may not always feel we have time for a 1,000-page novel, but we can pretty easily carve out the time for a play, short story or poem. Groff’s beautifully written novels are consistently worth the time, but it’s great that we can get a taste with a short story as well."

Jody McBrien 
School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies

A professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, Jody McBrien studies international and comparative issues of refugee students and their families. She was on sabbatical in Paris in February 2022 working for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as a Council of Foreign Relations fellow when Russia invaded Ukraine, creating the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Her expertise suddenly in high demand, McBrien wrote policy briefs and a blog post on how to help Ukrainian refugees for the OECD and participated in several panels and discussions on the needs of refugee students.

She recently presented her research on LGBTQIA+ refugees to the Federation of Women’s Clubs Overseas at its Biennial Conference in Bratislava, Slovakia.


"City of Thorns"

"City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp," by Ben Rawlence

"Most people have little real knowledge of refugee lives and tend to think that they come to places like the U.S. expecting to be taken care of by the government. Less than one percent of all refugees are ever resettled into a 'first world' country. Most have inadequate access to food, shelter and medical care and are stuck in challenging and frightening situations — often for decades. This book provides a true picture of what it means to, through no action of one’s own, end up in brutally difficult living circumstances."


"Consequence," by Eric Fair
Memoir / Charter

"Anyone who believes that torture is acceptable should read this Army veteran’s memoir of his time as an interrogator in Iraq. He vividly portrays its toll not only on prisoners, but also on those who take on this task, which violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

"The Intercultural Mind"

"The Intercultural Mind: Connecting Culture, Cognition and Global Living," by Joseph Shaules
Nonfiction Book

"I met Shaules when I was a visiting professor at Soka University in Tokyo in 2017. His workshop was fascinating, as is his book. In it, he takes a look at deep culture and connections between neuroscience, psychology and intercultural communication. It is filled with anecdotes and is highly readable."


"Universal Declaration of Human Rights"

"This fall we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights.' But how many of you have ever read it or know anything about its history and importance? This is a perfect time to acquaint yourself with this important document and learn about the role the United States — whose drafting committee was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt — played in its creation."

McBrien also recommends booking an hour-long, virtual conversation with a refugee on NaTakallum.

"For $25, you can book a one-hour interview with a refugee living anywhere in the world to learn from them about their personal journeys," she said. "I have been giving this assignment for three years, and my students often tell me it is the best assignment they have had at university."

Jonathan Scott Perry 
Associate Professor 
Department of History

An associate professor of history, Scott Perry traveled to Los Angeles during winter break to compete in the game show “Jeopardy!” Of an estimated 100,000 hopefuls, only 400 individuals make it through the screening process to the “Jeopardy!” stage each year. Perry's performance aired on Feb. 9.

An ancient historian by training, Perry teaches a range of courses in the Department of History on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. His research examines the ways in which ideas and images from the ancient world are reappropriated in modern life, and he has published five books with Oxford University Press, including, most recently, “Sources for Europe in the Modern World,” 2nd edition (2021).


"The Oppermanns"

"The Oppermanns," by Lion Feuchtwanger 

“This story, of a German Jewish family coping with the rise of Nazism in 1933, has drawn a lot of attention lately — perhaps for its contemporary resonances? The author writes, ‘Their homeland, their Germany had proved false to them.’” 


"Nero: Matricide, Music and Murder in Imperial Rome," by Anthony Everitt and Roddy Ashworth 

“A new book on everybody’s favorite Roman Emperor is always great reading — and it has an especially good subtitle.” 

"The World and All That it Holds"

"The World and All That it Holds," by Aleksandar Hemon

“This novel follows a gay couple from their home in Sarajevo, Bosnia — where they witness the assassination that began World War I — to Russia and Shanghai.” 


"Queen Margot"

"Queen Margot"

“The film centers on the French Wars of Religion in the late 16th century — and makes a profound argument for resisting the forces of religiously-inspired violence.”


Perry also recommends the podcast "Noble Blood."

“The wonderful woman who beat me on my episode of ‘Jeopardy!’ in February — and is now a good friend — is a researcher for the series, which mostly address royal men and women in history," he said.

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