Summer Reading Recommendations: Dr. Doug Schaak

Summer Reading Recommendations: Dr. Doug Schaak, Associate Professor and Chair of English

By: Connor Leaf

For many of us at Multnomah University, the arrival of summer is often a period of renewal. As spring comes to a close and the trees and grasses return to their familiar deep green color, so do we find ourselves returning to our favorite summer activities: reconnecting with old friends, resting, and growing in new ways. The onset of the summer season is a perfect opportunity to settle into a rhythm and reconnect with God and the people and things you love, so we’re starting a new blog series featuring summer reading lists recommended by our staff and faculty.* These reading lists aren’t just for Multnomah students; they’re for staff, faculty, parents, alumni, and anyone else looking for a good book to read this summer. We’re starting off the series with a list compiled by our beloved professor of English, Dr. Doug Schaak. On his list, you’ll find autobiographies and memoirs, short story collections, poetry, plays, and novels. We asked Dr. Schaak for tips on reading during the summer, and this is what he shared:

  1. Choose one book you are dying to read and read it strictly for pleasure.
  2. Choose one book that makes you uncomfortable and commit to finishing it.
  3. Choose one book outside your normal reading range (e.g. something in medicine, war, or nonfiction).
  4. Pay attention to something you usually don’t focus on. For example, instead of looking for themes or plot or character development or setting, focus on sentence length or sentence structure, vocabulary, point of view, use of dialogue, or paragraph development. 
  5. Read for longer periods than you do during the school year. If you normally read for less than thirty minutes in one sitting, extend that time frame to sixty or ninety minutes.
  6. Read in a different environment.
  7. Listen to the author. Try to get a feel for the person behind the writing. 
  8. Write a leisurely response to something you read. Send it to a friend or just keep it to yourself.
  9. If the author is still living, write him or her a note. One student of ours did so a few years ago and received a handwritten response from Ursula K. Le Guin.
  10. Read like you did when you were ten years old: openly, expectantly, and with wonder, remembering how strange it is that words written on a page can have such an impact on a life.


Here are Dr. Schaak’s reading recommendations:

  1. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
  2. Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
  3. Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King
  4. Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
  5. Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
  6. Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard
  7. Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
  8. Douglas Coupland, Generation X
  9. E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
  10. Charles Dickens, Hard Times
  11. George Eliot, Middlemarch
  12. William Faulkner, Light in August
  13. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  14. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon
  15. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  16. Seamus Heaney, The Haw Lantern
  17. Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler
  18. James Joyce, Dubliners
  19. Franz Kafka, The Trial
  20. William Kennedy, Ironweed
  21. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  22. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
  23. Sir Thomas Malory, King Arthur and His Knights
  24. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
  25. Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
  26. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
  27. Flannery O’Connor, Three
  28. Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night
  29. Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  30. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  31. Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  32. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods
  33. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
  34. Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  35. Gerald Vizenor, The Heirs of Columbus
  36. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
  37. Alice Walker, The Color Purple
  38. Elie Wiesel, Night
  39. August Wilson, Fences
  40. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  41. Richard Wright, Native Son

* The literature on this list does not directly reflect the views of Multnomah University.

May 23, 2019 | Articles