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22 books (and one TV series) for your summer holiday enjoyment

Summer reading — What do you have on your reading list this summer? We asked some of the university’s best-read faculty, staff and students to give us their recommendations for what we should be reading on our holiday

Annihilation, steamy scenes and dogs with the capacity of human reason – you can experience a lot on your summer holiday if you follow the recommendations on our summer-holiday reading list. We asked around campus, and amongst the people we got answers from were the rector, an election researcher and a certain academic employee who moonlights as a rock star.


The University Post would like to say thanks for a good spring semester and wish all of our readers a good summer. Whether you’re headed north, south, east or west, we wish you a good break and look forward to seeing you again on July 28.


Johan Olsen, academic employee, Department of Biology (and the lead singer of Magtens Korridorer):

“It isn’t easy to find light reading that you don’t feel dumber after reading, but Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis, is just that. It’s a quirky, philosophical story about 15 dogs in a kennel in present day America who are granted the gift of human reasoning by Hermes and Apollo in order to find out whether they will become just as depressed as humans do.

Umberto Eco’s Island of the Day Before (in Italian, L’isola del giorno prima) is worth reading for its lively, beautiful language, its insight into humanity and its incredibly intelligent and amazing plot twists. The book takes place primarily in Italy and France in the 1640s, as well as a mystical place on the 180th line of longitude – the international date line. The main character gets shipwrecked here with a view of the Island of the Day Before.”


Sandi Rizvic, archaeology student

André Acimans Call Me by Your Name is a wonderful book. It’s set on Italy’s Mediterranean coast, making it the perfect book either to take with you there, or take to you there if you find yourself in cool, damp Denmark and need to dream yourself someplace else.

You can also see Luca Guadagnino’s newish and incredibly beautiful film version of the book. I saw it in the cinema, and three hours after walking out I could feel that I was being sent on an emotional roller coaster for the first time ever and the first thing I did was take the book down off the shelf and read it again.

It’s a love story, but it’s not just about the physical attraction between the two main characters – although there is plenty of that in the book and the film. It’s more about the search and the urge to understand someone else’s mind and their intellect – something that both characters display copious amounts of!

Pick up Call Me by Your Name to experience rejection, love and the sensation of being on summer holiday in the style of Bonjour Tristesse.”

Karen Riskær Jørgensen, study and career counsellor, Faculty of Law

“How can you ask a literature-lover about literature? That’s a tough one! Summer reading shouldn’t be too heavy or to depressing. No Anne Frank or War and Peace. It’s summer for god’s sake.

So, here goes.

Like classic literature? If you want to read a classic, read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden – one of the best novels ever written. It’s a prime example of good literature that isn’t boring. It’s funny, poignant, colourful, entertaining and incredibly well written.

If you’d like to try a short book by a Danish author, try Karen Blixen’s Babette’s Feast (Babettes Gæstebud). It’s incredible. You need to read it at some point. Everyone knows that. It’s such a delightful surprise to discover how much of a page-turner it is.

In the mood for something more modern? Try Ian McEwan’s Atonement. It’s not very long, but it’s got a steamy scene you won’t forget (and if you stop partway through, the film, starring Kiera Knightly, is just as wonderful to watch). Perfect for a deckchair, in my opinion.

You can also take a mental holiday in Naples with Elena Ferrante‘s four Neapolitan novels, starting with My Brilliant Friend. Wonderful books!

Looking for a laugh? Try Philip Ytournel’s Hvad føler du lige nu? (What Are You Feeling Right Now?) and learn that cartoonists are great artists (if you didn’t know that already). Buy it, don’t borrow it. You’ll want to read it again. And again, and again!

You can also consider Lene Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. If you enjoyed her other books, you’ll like this one, too. But, who doesn’t?”

“NO-ONE today writes as well as the old masters. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is an inescapably good novel about misery and vitality in 19th century France.”


Martin Glaz Serup, author and external lecturer, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies

“Two books that could be recommended for summer holiday reading are Annihilation, the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It’s a really odd novel. Science fiction at its best. An attempt to introduce us to the unknown, yet to let it remain unknown to us, just like Stanislaw Lem and Philip K Dick do when they are at their best. This is something else!

The other book I’d recommend is Henrik Nordbrandt’s poetry collection Den Store Amerikanske Hævn (The Great American Revenge). It’s his best work of late, and the crisply precise, classically inspired, beautifully unbearable poems about what’s apparently being called the refugee crisis pierce you like a needle.”


Erik Steinskog, lecturer, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies

Octavia Butler is one of the central figures in the Afrofuturism genre. Parable of the Sower (1993) takes place in a rather chaotic near-future of social unrest and an out of control climate. The follow-up, Parable of the Talents (1998) even has a character who promises to “make America great again”. It’s a novel that probably says a lot more about the present than it does about the period in which it was written.”


Bente Stallknecht, professor and department head, Department of Biomedical Sciences; as of 1 August, prorector for education

“This spring I read Dan Brown’s Origin on my Kindle. I’d recommend it as an exciting page-turner that also manages to get the reader thinking about the interaction between man and machine and the exponential technological development the world is seeing right now.”


Kasper Møller Hansen, professor, Department of Political Science

“If I were to recommend something non-fiction, it would be Katherine J. Cramer: The Politics of Resentment which gives the reader refreshing and nuanced understanding of the upwelling of dissatisfaction in small-town America during the most recent election, which seems to parallel the discussions we’re having in Denmark.

When it comes to fiction, I am currently reading Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden, which provides a detailed description of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. It gives a lively, exciting description of the political, strategic and logistical challenges. The result is a book that provides an incredible insight into the battle that was the turning point of the Vietnam War.”


Minik Thorleif Rosing, professor, National Museum of Natural History

“A good summer read is Sweet Thursday, by John Steinbeck. It’s an upbeat book about life as observed by the owner of Western Biological Laboratory, south of San Francisco. Doc dreams of making it big as a scientist, but fortunately he’s saved from his delusions of academic grandeur by the local group of loafers and petty criminals.”


Maja Horst, department head, Department of Media, Cognition and Communication

“I think everyone should watch the TV series Black Mirror. It’s a series of novellas that each focus on a different thought-provoking technological development. Maybe it’s a little too critical, but in these Singularity University times, maybe that’s not so bad.”


And last, but not least, a reading list from Henrik C Wegener, the university rector

“Instead of making recommendations, I’ll say which books I’ll be packing in my suitcase.

Philip Antoniakis og Steen Holse: Hvad leder du efter, Mads? (What Are You Looking For, Mads?) Forlaget 1785
Jens Thomsen: Velfærdsstat på falderebet? Ralf Hemmingsen – elev læge og leder i et samfund under forandring (The End of the Welfare State? Ralf Hemmingsen – Student, Doctor and Leader in a Changing Society. Gyldendal
Claus Strue Frederiksen og Vincent F. Hendricks: Kæmp for kloden (Fight for the Planet). Gyldendal Business
Thomas Piketty: Kapitalen i det 21. århundrede. Gyldendal. (Maybe I’ll get it read this time.)

And, of course, a book about tennis:
String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis: A Library of America Special Edition.

I won’t be able to say anything about whether they are worth reading until after the holiday :)”