My local university issues a summer reading list to its incoming freshmen every year. The rest of us like to browse it as well: UC Berkeley Summer Reading 2005.
A professor in the Near East Studies department recommends:
Gertrude Bell: The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914 Edited by Rosemary O'Brien with photographs by Gertrude Bell Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2000
This book publishes Gertrude Bell's diaries of her expedition through partly unmapped areas of the inhospitable northern Arabian desert from December 1913 to May 1914. The 45-year-old Bell wrote the diaries for Major Charles Doughty-Wylie with whom she was in love. Throughout the journey, she documented the lives of the Arab tribes she encountered and surveyed the land, providing valuable information for the British government on the eve of World War I. Bell has been called the most powerful woman in the British Empire during the first decades of the 20th century. She counseled kings and prime ministers and helped create the boundaries of present day Iraq. These diaries present a small but important chapter in Bell's life, told in her own evocative prose and illustrated with her photographs.
Thanks to Rebecca for the tip. Go to her site for lots of other summer reading list links.