Summer Reading, vol. 8: Caitlin Russell

Who better to consult for summer reading suggestions this week than the librarian whose speciality is assessing and acquiring books, academic journals, and more for the library! Caitlin Russell, Acquisitions, Serials, and Assessment Librarian at Pitts, works hard to develop Pitts’ collections in addition to setting up access to purchased resources for Emory patrons. Caitlin’s suggestions this summer revisit her interest in Ancient Greek mythology, which she studied alongside Roman studies in her undergraduate program. The books she recommends “take new twists (and more than a few historical liberties) on familiar myths to create narratives that are both thought-provoking and highly readable.”

First, Caitlin recommends The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, which tells the story of Odysseus and Penelope from the perspective of Penelope’s 12 handmaids, who Odysseus hanged upon his return to Ithaca. The book is structured around a handmaids’ chorus that reflects the style of a classical Greek play, and the content provides insight into how Penelope might have handled her household during Odysseus’ absence. Find this book at Emory, your local library, or online for purchase in a variety of formats!

While Ursula K. Le Guin is best known for science fiction, Caitlin appreciates on of her publications that diverges from that genre called Lavinia. This book follows the tale of Aeneas’ wife as described by Virgil in The Aeneid, fleshing out a character that history has left as a line drawing. Using her signature storytelling talents, Le Guin refocuses on Lavinia’s life and makes the more well-known characters play a supporting role to her story. This book is available at Emory libraries, local public libraries, and for purchase online. 

Madeline Miller’s 2018 publication, Circe, received greater acclaim, but her lesser-known (although still award-winning) 2012 book Song of Achilles is another one of Caitlin’s must reads. In Song of Achilles, Miller tells the story of Patroclus, companion to the famed Achilles. The book explores themes of fate, love, and interactions between gods and mortals within a compelling narrative leading up to the Trojan War. Emory users can find this novel at the Woodruff and Oxford College libraries, local libraries, or purchase in a different format online.

Finally, Caitlin recommends a book that asks the question, “What if Theseus’ battle with the Minotaur took place in the era of the Kardashians?” The resulting novel, Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson, is an engaging re-telling of the legend in which Ariadne is a reluctant participant in the family reality show and the annual Labyrinth Contest is the biggest event on television. Visit your public library to check out this book, or buy a copy online!

Find even more summer resource suggestions, including podcasts, films, and more, on the Pitts Librarians’ Blog!

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