2008 Summer Reading List
Each spring, the College Store publishes a list of good summer reads suggested by members of the Bates community. Without futher delay,
Welcome to the 12th annual Bates College Store
Non-required Reading List
Good Reads for Leisure Moments XII
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin
Karen Palin recommended this book to me, and it is a really good read. It’s the story of Greg Mortenson’s journies to build schools in some of Pakistan’s most remote villages. It has adventure, history, politics, relationships, cultural revelations, self-discovery. What more could you want?
Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
I can’t remember whether I suggested this book last year or not, but it bears another plug. Temple Grandin is autistic, and has her Ph.D. in animal behavior. This book focuses on her ability to see the world as animals see it, and how that has made her a resource for the food production industry. It is a fascinating book for anyone interested in autism, how brains function, and/or animal intelligence. Grandin just spoke at the vet school at U Penn as a member of a food industry panel from the USDA. She has also written Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism, which I have not read, but it’s on my list.
Tell Me Where it Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeonby Nick Trout
This is a James Herriot-esque book about Trout’s work as a small animal surgeon at MSPCA/Angell Memorial Hospital outside of Boston. It is a good look at the human side of veterinary medicine, from both the vet and owner perspectives. It will make you laugh and cry, and remember the true value of deep, sincere empathy. This would be a good book to read with (or to) a 12-year-old-aspiring-vet type kid.
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
The Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett
The Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby
Matthew Barison, VISTA Leader, Maine Campus Compact
I’ve been on an escapist kick lately: Philip Pullman’s Dark Matter trilogy (who ever thought those were for kids? Academy vs. Church is really a more grown-up thing, I’d have thought); Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series but also the seriously funny Nursery Crimes Division work (The Big Over Easy is about the murder of Humpty Dumpty). I also worked through some Orhan Pamuk, which is gorgeous but takes too much concentration to read when busy. I did my ritual annual rereading of Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer but not yet my ritual spring reading of Ray Bradbury’sDandelion Wine. I also recently read Knots by Nuruddin Farah, which was beautiful and complicated and hopeful. Pam Houston’s novel Sight Hound was also a seriously beautiful book, an easy and satisfying read but full of her signature nuance and wonderful dog-characters.
Anna Bartel, Associate Director–Harward Center for Community Partnerships
I have been catching up on fiction so some of the following were on previous lists but worth repeating:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen-much more interesting than I imagined!
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood-19th century murder
The Blind Assassin by Atwood-Another good book by her
Winterkill by Craig Lesley-Native American son returning to his roots
The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier-Dutch artist and subject
Ahab’s Wife: Or, The Star Gazer by Sena Naslund-a different take on Ahab and his hunt but much more
Snow Falling on Cedars by D. Guterson-Japanese American accused of murder
These were also pretty good:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (southern girl in the 60′s)
My Year of Meats by Rozeki (the ‘rotten’ side of the beef industry)
Straight Man by R. Russo (humorous)
The Meadow by J. Galvin (set in Colo, Wyo)
Empire Falls by R. Russo (life in a small mill town in Maine)
Jan Beaudoin, Business Manager—Athletics
Light Summer Reading Suggestions:
I seem to have been in the mood for light fiction all year long this past year. Here are some of the better, lighter ones!
1. PS I love You by Cecelia Ahern…apparently was made into a movie that is now on DVD. Made me laugh out loud at times, set in Ireland.
2. The Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella. Makes you laugh, sometimes you tire of the main character but not enough to stop reading….read them in sequence so that each subsequent story makes sense. They do refer back to characters and events. Set in England, with the partial exception of The Shopaholic in New York…..
3. The Other Woman by Jane Green. Would you believe the Other Woman is the “Mother-in-Law?” That should pique your curiosity.
4. Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Baby Proof by Emily Giffin…..I stayed up too late reading these…kept my interest.
5. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs….really good…makes you want to find a little Friday night knitting group.
Jane Bedard, Admissions Office Specialist
For my New Year’s Resolution I decided to read some American Classics that I had missed during my formal education period. The first on my list that I would recommend is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. I have now chosen the works of Willa Cather. If you like novels about everyday people from the past you will enjoy hers. The ones that I have read so far and would recommend are Alexander’s Bridge, O Pioneers and The Song of the Lark. All the books that I have mentioned are found in our library. Enjoy!
Denise A. Begin, Staff Assistant, Office of the Dean of Faculty
I continue to enjoy the books written by Kathy Reichs (I believe I have recommended her books in the past). She writes one a year, continuing the saga of Temperance (Tempe) Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who is drawn into all sorts of intrigue as a result of her dual career as both a UNC faculty member and position with the Laboratoire de Médicine Légale in Montreal. Recently I was able to catch up on her latest two books: Break No Bones (2006) and Bones to Ashes (2007).
If you like a little learning (details of forensic investigative methods) mixed with your intrigue, Kathy Reichs is an author you will enjoy!
Sarah Jane Bernard ’75, Database Analyst
Three reads, one for when you want something wintry on a muggy day, two to celebrate the sheer delight of a summer day up here, one for sitting on the porch:
Wintry: Judith Butler. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004. She makes sense and shame out of the grand ole USA declaring who has and does not have a grievable life. She brings into focus, and as grievable, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens killed and covered up by our war.
Delightful: Flannery O’Connor. Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. New York: Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 1969. And, The Habit of Being. Farrar, Straus and Giroux again, 1988. The Habit of Being is a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters. I reread both of these gorgeous books in preparation for the Multifaith Chaplaincy’s short-term reading group on Flannery. If you want to dig into why and what you really liked about listening to Morris Dee’s content and style at the recent President’s Symposium on Diversity, let these two take hold of you.
For the porch or armchair: Billy Collins. Picnic, Lightening. Pittsburg: The University of Pittsburg Press, 1998. These poems anoint the ordinary with something like “a cold one.” Makes me want to light up the grill and sing Opera arias aloud, not caring what the neighbors think.
Bill Blaine-Wallace, College Chaplain
My daughter recommended Three Cups of Tea for me to read, which (incredibly) I did. It’s about Greg Mortenson, a true story of an American whose failed attempt to climb K-2 mountain resulted in another amazing journey of perseverance, sacrifice and international goodwill. What he did and is doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan provides a worthy alternative to wars and adversarial approaches.
Charley Bonney, Financial Offices
I’m in a nostalgic mood – so here are my oldies but goodies.
Literature — if you haven’t read it, do it this summer The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Pop culture — the classic football book (that’s the real football) The Soccer Tribe by Desmond Morris
…and, old wine in a beautiful new bottle Valerius Maximus: Memorable Deeds and Sayings – One Thousand Tales from Ancient Rome translated by our own Henry John Walker
Dennis Browne, Associate Professor of Russian
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo is a great piece of fiction writing, especially the character development.
Ned Carr, Assistant Treasurer
Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet:
This book is an inside view of what it is like to live with Aspergers Syndrome. Although the writing itself is relatively weak, it lends a certain “voice” and authenticity to the difficulty of expression when dealing with Aspergers. I read this book because I have a 12-yr-old son with Aspergers. He devoured the book in one sitting and said he could relate to so much of it. My son doesn’t have the “savant” capacity, but he was intrigued by his own connections to the synesthesia and also to the day to day living experiences.
Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje:
I just finished this one — on CD actually as I travel in my car. It unwinds slowly, like the uncovering of the mystery surrounding the death of “Sailor,” the skeleton that Anil (a woman with a man’s name) is analyzing forensically. I really like the intertwining of the characters as well as their characterizations — the loyalties and secrets, the flaws and foibles. A doctor who is addicted to speed; an artist who is a drunk; and Anil who is (was?) in love with a married man and has a best friend who is dying. I felt like I was on an archaeological mission myself to uncover the “bones” of these people. At the same time, I learned about Sri Lanka and about a history that I have been oblivious to. There is an underlying sense of sadness and tragedy throughout the text, up to the bitter end, and there are some somewhat brutal descriptions at times, but all of this lends a realism that isn’t sidetracked by sentimentalism or trite conclusions.
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen:
A good read, and quick. The ending is very hokey, which is too bad, but the story is quite interesting — an almost voyeuristic look at circus life during the Depression, and an old man looking back on his experiences. The photos make it feel “real,” and many of the bizarre moments were taken from real-life lore.
Drowning Ruth, by Christina Schwarz:
This book got (unexpectedly) under my skin! It works on you afterward, like the zing of a hot pepper that you don’t quite “get” while eating it. Watch out for any assumptions you might make throughout this book — the very ending is the final surprise. I loved the way this book makes the main character “speak” from what appears to be some sort of mental illness, leading you down paths of intrigue and assumptions that don’t always lead where you think they might. Bizarre and yet “mundane” and earth-bound all at the same time. This was recommended by a student of mine and I can understand why — a good read.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini:
A must-read, one that is most likely on many people’s list. I loved this book as much as Kite Runner, possibly even more! The writing is wonderful, the story is poignant, and I have learned a lot about Afghanistan and a way of life that I am grateful not to have been born into as a woman.
The Dollmaker, by Harriette Arnow:
My mother-in-law recommended this book, and I loved it! One of my favorites in a long while. This book follows a woman and her family from the hills of Kentucky to the city of Detroit during WWII. It is a fascinating study of “immigration” of those from within the US — the overwhelming sense of displacement felt by some of the characters; the lack of common “language”; the misunderstandings; the seduction of the American Dream, but the reality that makes it almost impossible to get ahead. A powerful read. Highly recommended.
Sister of My Heart, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:
A quick and enjoyable read overall. (The sequel, however, is not recommended!) I like the exploration of what makes “family” or “sisters” and I also like the exploration of the ups and downs of such a relationship. Again, as with other Divakaruni works, I find parts of the plot to be contrived and unrealistic, but I can overlook that for a light bedtime read, and I love the setting of India.
Queen of Dreams, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:
I usually like this author and this was a good read overall. Nothing spectacular, but gives a view of the difficulty of living between two cultures and identities. Also explores parent/daughter relationships — how much do we really know of each other? I like the touch of mysticism in Divakaruni’s books. Some definite weaknesses and contrived moments, but fine as a pleasure read about Indian-American culture.
Anita Charles, Lecturer in Education
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; Saturday by Ian McEwan (not even close toAtonement, imho, but I was still glad to have read it), Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (a three-hanky read); Edward P. Jones’s The Known World (mentioning it makes me want to read it again); and in the flyweight category, Bill Buford’s Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Joanne Cole, Coordinator—Peer Writing Project
I’ve got several recommendations for summer reading this year: Break Through, by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, is a series of essays that critique the environmental movement, and suggest that in order to become effective the movement’s rhetoric and vision need to change. The authors start the book with a wonderful story about Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech – their point is that (unlike much environmentalist rhetoric to date, particularly on global climate change) the speech wasn’t “I have a nightmare” – but instead presented a vision of a new social reality, one that engaged people and brought about real change, in large part by giving them hope. The book is really thought-provoking, the kind of thing you want to talk and argue about after you’ve read each chapter.
My second recommendation is James Elkins’ Pictures and Tears: this is a fascinating study by an art historian who got interested in the question of when, why, and where people cry when they look at paintings. He wonders how people engage deeply with paintings; how museums and academic discourse may get in the way of that engagement; and he brings in intriguing accounts from surveys and interviews that relate people’s stories of paintings and tears. The book really made me think about how I go to museums, how I look at pictures, and how I feel when I’m doing the looking. (He urges you to go to museums alone, and to spend a long time looking at a few pictures.)
Jane Costlow, Professor of Russian
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
This book is well-worth a reread.
Jerry Davis, Class of 1961
Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlan
Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling
Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khalid Hosseini
Balm in Gilead, by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard
Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo
Marty Deschaines, Assistant Dir. for Community Volunteerism & Student
Leadership Development, Harward Center for Community Partnerships
Good To Great, Jim Collins
More of a Management Book. Focuses on several companies and their leaders and how they moved their companies from Good to Great.
Go Put Your Strengths To Work, Marcus Buckingham
Go Put Your Strengths to Work aims to change that through a six-step, six-week experience that will reveal the hidden dimensions of your strengths.
There is also a companion video: Trombone Player Wanted. Human Resources has purchased the short series and has added it to their library collection. http://www.simplystrengths.com/viewingoptions.php
Lee Desiderio, Manager of Help Desk Services, ILS
I highly recommend Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Here he explains his ideas in more depth than is possible in stump speeches. I’d love for the cable news anchors to read and think seriously about what he says. Maybe we’d get truth and relevance from them instead of truthiness (Thanks, Stephen Colbert!), misinformation, and disinformation about this unique and inspiring candidate. Sorry to let my political stripes show, but this book should be read by thoughtful people across the political spectrum.
Anne Dodd, Senior lecturer in Education
I highly recommend Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
This story moves between a story about circus life during the Great Depression and about an old man in a nursing home. It is a great story from start to finish. It gives the reader an amazing look into life as it was back then. Gruen puts just the right amount of glitz, murder, shenanigans and tragedy into her story to keep you glued to the book. I especially liked the fact that Gruen researched circuses and animal behavior so therefore I learned some amazing things that actually occurred under the big top back in the 1930s.
I couldn’t put this book down. And when I finished it, in one complete sitting, I found myself wanting more.
Donna M. Duval, Project Specialist–Office of College Advancement
A book to add to your list if not already on it
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, made me stop, pause & think.
Melinda Emerson, Sales & Accounting Specialist, ILS
Patrick O’Brian: The Aubrey/Maturin novels
(utterly absorbing, vivid, clever, heroic period-accurate novels, around 20 of them.)
Robert Hass: Time & Materials (poems)
(this year’s co-winner of the Pulitzer. Hass’ work has been a profound and delicious pleasure since 1975. Like this? Go back to his early books, Field Guide, and Praise.)
Clarice Lispector: Near to the Wild Heart
(a strange and wonderful modernist novel.)
David Mitchell: Black Swan Green
(a novel of early adolescence, perfect non-patronizing pitch and contemporary English detail)
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (novel)
(a tour de force of genres and styles, a deeply inspired, disturbing, thrilling, kaleidoscopic pleasure.)
Brian Turner: Here, Bullet
(affecting, well-made lyric poems by an Iraq War Striker Brigade veteran)
Christine Montross: Body of Work
(a memoir by a med student of her time in the anatomy lab. Terrific.)
Ellen Bryant Voigt: Messenger
(for 30 years EBV has made elegant, piercing, American poems out of ordinary experience.)
Derek Mahon: Harbour Lights
(with Heaney, one of the deans of Northern Irish poetry, his best book in years.)
James Richardson: Interglacial New & Selected Poems & Aphorisms (just excellent)
Stephen Brunt: Searching For Bobby Orr
(If you were around as a fan or player in the Boston area between 1965 and 1973, you’ll enjoy this biography by a writer at the Globe & Mail)
Rob Farnsworth, Visiting Assistant Professor of English
My book club has read the following books this winter and really enjoyed them.
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory
Anita Farnum, Security and Campus Safety
Ok, I will contribute for the pride of the Admissions Office.
I am sure that it has been on the list, but:
Three Cups of Tea –Greg Mortenson, is worth putting out there again.
Another favorite: Hunting and Gathering –Anna Gavalda
Johanna Farrar, Assistant Dean of Admissions
Unbowed by Wangari Maathai
Banker to the Poor Muhammad Yunus
Off the Side (or anything) by Jim Harrison
A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
Holy Fools Joanne Harris
Laura Faure, Director-Bates Dance Festival
This year I read James Tatum’s The Mourner’s Song, which challenged a lot the way I think about war. I also enjoyed Emile Zola’s Belly of Paris for the descriptions of the food.
Sylvia Federico, Assistant Professor of English
I would like to recommend a book of Short Stories called Tar Heel Dead: Tales of Mystery and Mayhem from North Carolina , edited by Sarah Shaber.
Shaber has assembled new and old mysteries by North Carolina writers such as O. Henry and Lillian Jackson Braun, set in North Carolina or by a North Carolina author. Each story is filled with the flavor of a unique part of the state. When I read the first story, I was struck by the fact that quality of the writing was better than most of the books I read. Other stories confirmed that these authors were a cut above the average writer.
I also enjoyed Shaber’s other books. Shaber is the author of the Simon Shaw mysteries. Simon Shaw is a college professor of History who ends up solving current mysteries by solving an historical mystery. There is a lot of interesting background of the history of North Carolina in the novels.
The books are; Simon Said, Bug Funeral, Snipe Hunt, A Fugitive King and Shell Game.
Jane Frizzell, Network Services Administrator
Mo Willems: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
[Doug tells this editor, if you’ve ever read to young children, you’ll appreciate this title and other wonderful titles by Mo Willems.]
Doug Ginevan, Asst. VP for Financial Planning and Analysis
Some recommendations for people who like good historical novels:
Anne Easter Smith, A Rose for the Crown, and Daughter of York, about the
Yorkists in the 15th-century Wars of the Roses.
Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters, author of the Brother Cadfael series), A
Bloody Field by Shrewsbury, including the fascinating characters of Henry
IV, Prince Hal, Hotspur and Owen Glendower (you remember them from
These are all carefully researched, beautifully written, and a pleasure to read.
Lois Griffiths, retired staff member, Class of 1951
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Well-written book in the first person and it took me back to the days of the real carnivals we had in this area especially at the Lewiston Fair Grounds.
Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer
Memoir of the author who is starting over (after her divorce) with a preteen and live chickens by the coast. There is lots of humor and warmth in a very fast read.
The Red Tent by Anita Diament
Finally had a chance to read this novel and it was well worth the effort.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Many characters in this 1940’s novel. It’s about the exodus of many families from Paris pre-Nazi’s. With the sadness there were some funny moments.
Milltown by P.D. Lafleur
A mystery that involves a group of friends in a small mill town. (Not Lewiston )
Bull Island by Dorothea Benton Frank
Will make a good beach read.
Lorraine P Groves, Bookstore Supervisor
I read two story collections recently that have been around for a long time but had escaped my notice. Don’t let them escape yours!
Women in Their Beds: New and Selected Stories, by Gina Berriault
Apparently, Berriault is not much known outside the West Coast, which is a terrible shame but likely not an enduring one, given her popularity at my writing program in Vermont. This book was recommended to me three times when I was last on campus, so I added it to my reading list. Lucky me! Berriault’s stories are quiet and patient–so much so that you don’t realize how much they’re getting under your skin, at first. They all seem to arise from intense character sketches, so intense I felt almost embarrassed at times, like I was seeing too much. Really beautiful, full, rich prose.
The Ice at the Bottom of the World, by Mark Richard
Richard’s stories are all about voice. He captures dialect without all that annoying effort at faux-phonetic spelling and scattering of apostrophes. If you are attracted to more diverse voices in storytelling (but you don’t want to get bogged down in some author’s poor effort at transcription) read Richard! If you do, you will get both a dazzling demonstration of the power of colloquial language AND thrilling storytelling. Fair warning: The dialect is General Southernspeak, so it might not be as easy to read for you New Englanders!
Claire Guyton, employee spouse, reader and writer
Seduction of Place: the history and future of the city by Joseph Rykwert
Largely concerns New York and London, a social history of what makes cities work and what doesn’t. If you like Jane Jacobs, you will enjoy this work.
The Great Transformation: the beginning of our religious traditions by Karen Armstrong
Armstrong has a number of works out about religion (notably her accessible work on the Buddha), and this is about a pivotal time of history when major modern religions coalesce. Although an atheist, I found it a very enjoyable read.
The Best American Travel Writing 2007 edited by Susan Orlean
The collection is from various travel and leisure magazines. All the writing is good, and the piece by David Halberstam, although short and not especially about travel, is worth the whole book.
The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski
The author spent 30 years covering social and political aspects of central Africa for a Polish newspaper. An amazing look at the transformative time – colonialism to independence – of the 1960′s and 70′s.
Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Wonderful images and a tender story of India and Indian culture.
One City: a declaration of interdependence by Ethan Nichtern
Buddhism in the US and it’s relation to social and political movements – some thought- provoking ideas.
Persia: through writer’s eyes edited by David Blow
Social history interspersed with snippets of traveler’s writings from Aeschylus to the Modern Iranian Revolution in 1979
John Harrison, Associate College Librarian
New releases from favorite authors:
Philip R. Craig, Vineyard Stalker (Latest in the J.W. Jackson, Martha’s Vineyard series)
Alexander McCall Smith: The Careful Use of Compliments, An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (the philosopher series)
Peter Robinson, Friend of the Devil (the Banks & Cabot series, resurrects the Lucy Payne child murders.)
Jo Bannister, Flawed, A Brodie Farrell Mystery (Latest in the “Looking for Something?” series)
Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply, Third Strike (3rd in the series that includes both Brady Coyne and J.W. Jackson…no fishing this time, though)
Anne Perry, A Christmas Beginning (latest in the “A Christmas…” series)
Religion and Spirituality:
Matthew Fox: Original Blessing, A Primer in Creation Spirituality
A bit repetitious, but challenging and thought provoking. Contrasts the Christian fall/redemption (“original sin”) tradition that started in the Middle Ages with ‘…creation spirituality that begins with “original blessing;”…’. Not just a treatise, it lays out a path for living, similar to the Buddhist “Four Noble Truths” and “Eight-fold Path”, but from a Jungian and Judaeo-Christian perspective, a combination of psychology and spirituality.
Jim Hart, Programmer/Analyst
Here’s one for you–a smart, entertaining read. Geraldine Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize forMarch, sweeps through history in People of the Book, 2008. Central to the story is a precious illuminated Hebrew manuscript rescued time and again through the ages, most recently from the national museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The chapters skip from past to modern, tracing the creation and preservation of this glorious book from its creation in the fifteenth century to the mid-1990s. Rich characters, fast-paced story-line.
Judy Head, Assistant Dean of Faculty
How to Make a Moose Run…and Other Great Things My Dad Taught Me.
by Gary Stanley
Stanley was only thirteen when his father died ~ but his look back on memories shares delightful stories of a man who taught him how to see with his heart on the funniest lessons he ever learned. A heart warming journey down memory lane, told in Norman Rockwell Style ~ will tickle your funny bone. Stanley also weaves in reminders of a very present Heavenly Father who fills our lives with meaning. A wonderful glimpse of what a father means to his children.
Laurie Henderson, Director of Office Services
Kent Haruf, Eventide. A gently written novel of small-town rural Colorado, where decency and unexpected friendships carry people through loss.
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. Stiglitz, the 2002 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, paints a convincing and damning portrait of the accurate long-term costs of the war, and makes the case that in any other setting, such malfeasance by those who have led us into the war but refused to deal with its outcomes would be cause for criminal prosecution.
Candice Millard, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. After his loss in the 1912 independent run as a Bull Moose, Roosevelt undertook an exploratory adventure down a totally unmapped river in the Amazon jungle which almost cost the lives of everyone on the exhibition. Good summer beach book, an account of a crazy, ill-organized and very hair-raising example of Roosevelt’s almost fatal attraction to the strenuous life.
John Matteson, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Father. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and a happy companion book while reading our daughter, now 11,Little Women, as a bedtime book. I had forgotten what a great book the novel is as well.
Martha Hodes, The Sea Captain’s Wife. Hodes, a Bowdoin grad and skilled historian, has written several books on race relations and families in America, often focusing on how interracial families survived hostile social attitudes. This book follows the theme, in that it is about a white working-class Civil War widow who marries a Caribbean ship captain who is only seen as a Black in New England but as the owner of several large trading ships is a significant economic leader on his home island. A fascinating portrait of not only the thematic issue of 19th century interracial marriages, but of how grindingly hard it was for 19th century working class women to make their way and survive.
Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World. For those of us with Scots heritage, suspicions confirmed.
David Lamb, Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns. My yearly inclusion of something about Vietnam, this is a very readable and thoughtful account by a journalist who returns to Vietnam 30 years after he was a war correspondent.
Jon Cannon, Cathedral: the Great English Cathedrals and the World That Made Them. One of the great perks of working at Bates is the two book shelves on either side of the front door of Ladd, the New York Times bookshelf and the new bookshelf. I could not afford this book, but it is wonderful to have it at home for a few weeks to look through. A gloriously printed coffee table affair with great photographs, about 250 pages on the culture and history of the cathedrals collectively, then pocket accounts of about 10-20 pages each on the most important thirty cathedrals.
Bill Hiss, Vice President for External Affairs
Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Wynn Hohlt, Associate Professor of Physical Education, Head Coach of Field Hockey
The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory — terrific historical novel…riveting in the details.
Twilight, Stephanie Meyer—a vampire love story…definitely a “chick” book, though…
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle—a timeless classic that I re-read this year with my 10-year-old son. As good now as it was when I was a kid!
Kimberly Hokanson, Director of Alumni and Parent Programs
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, what a wonderful, inspirational book, waiting to read it myself.
These by Fern Michaels:
Hide and Seek
There is one more. The “sisterhood” was formed when the courts did not serve up justice for various reasons. The women of the sisterhood are vigilantes of sorts…keeps you wanting to read them all and waiting for Fern Michaels to keep writing new ones. She had decided to end the series after the original 6, however, could not give up the characters
Joan Houston, Physical Plant Staff Assistant
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A popular one this year, but a must read. It really opened my eyes to enjoying the simple things life offers everyday.
The Sunday List of Dreams by Kris Radish. About a retiring mother who is cleaning out her house to move to a smaller place. She finds her daughters belongings and finds that she not only has no idea who her daughter is but she doesn’t know who she is. She travels to NYC to find her daughter and together they find themselves and each other. Also pulls at the heartstrings and makes you think about the things in life that you want to do but are always putting off to another day.
Ashley Jewell, Staff Assistant, Alumni and Parent Programs
Great narrative history–G. Mattingly, The Armada
Great historical novel (the best Arthurian one) R. Sutcliffe, Sword at Sunset
Darwin anniversary (travel and exploration) Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle
Michael Jones, Christian A. Johnson Professor of History
Wole Solinka, Ake
As a biographical piece, the first chapter starts out as a “babbling memory” of the author as very young child, and then proceeds as one would expect of an autobiography. The images, of his village, his elders, his memories of the people of his area of Nigeria at the end of colonialism, are both amusing and compelling. That this is the beginning of someone who would grow up to become a Nobel laureate made it all the more enjoyable.
Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Laura Miller in Salon: “For a guy who rarely leaves his own block, Toru Okada, the decent, if hapless, hero of Haruki Murakami’s new novel, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” has a lot of adventures.” And so will you.
This is an impossible book to describe in a paragraph. My book club read it and surprisingly everyone thoroughly enjoyed it – a seldom happening. Japanese Murakami knows more about American pop culture than I do and takes one on a “magical realism” ride that can only be done justice in a full review. Read Laura’s in Salon, and “East Meets West” By Jamie James, published in the November 2, 1997 New York Times Book Review. If you like to take a ride and don’t mind not knowing where you are going next, this is a great one.
The one tragedy is that Knopf restricted Jay Rubin, the translator, to a limited number of pages and Rubin’s full translation was not used. Truly, the shirts at Knopf should have their heads examined. Shame on them.
Ulysses S Grant, Personal Memoirs: Vols 1 & 2
Everyone should read at least one book of history each year, but with the wars in Iraq and Afganistan going on, and being a veteran myself, I was not keen on reading the two volumes of Grant’s memoirs (one is his personal life and one of his military life during the Civil War).
I was surprised at Grant’s attitudes about his troops. My admiration for him keeps growing and I only knew him second hand, as a drunken, lazy genius from things I have heard and read about him, most of which were quotes of the yellow press in histories of other people. To hear his thoughts on the matters and on his duties and responsibilities brings out a truly different person. He is truly a “citizen soldier” and has an appreciation of those he commands, going out of his way to praise them, and being reticent to speak ill of anyone without due cause. His distaste of the waste of men and material is quite evident, and his compassion for the civilian population caught in the crossfire, is remarkable. Would that more people understood him and thought as he did, especially in today’s circumstances. I am ashamed to say that, in my ignorance, I never thought much of him either.
Lawrence Hill, Someone Knows My Name
“You feel you are turning the pages of history, the pages of truth.” Austin Clarke, author of The Polished Hoe
Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom–and of the knowledge she needs to get home. This captivating story of one woman’s remarkable experience spans six decades and three continents and brings to life a crucial chapter in world history.
Laura Juraska, Associate Librarian for Reference Services
The World Without Us (Alan Weisman)- a surprisingly entertaining scientific account
of what might happen if humans instantly vanished from the planet, enjoyed by both
the adults and teenagers in my family.
Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes
(Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein)- not sure what the philosophy faculty would
say about this one, but my family and I found it amusing, with whoever was
reading it frequently feeling the need to read jokes aloud to anyone else who
happened to be in the room! The title alone made it irresistible to me.
American Bloomsbury (Susan Cheever)- here too, not sure what the American Lit.
folks in the English Department would think, or the history faculty either, but I grew
up in Concord Mass. and found this short account of the friendships among the
Alcotts, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, etc., a fun read.
Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison)- I re-read this every few years, and always
love it. Since my list is basically just the last few books I’ve read for pleasure, this
happens to make my list because this year was one of the years I re-read it. Even
if you’ve read it before, it offers something fresh every time.
The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy). If, like me, you somehow missed this when
it came out in the late 90s, it is beautifully written and engrossing.
The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)- very short, very amusing, recently passed along
to me by a friend, this book is an account of what might happen if Queen Elizabeth
suddenly became an avid reader of literature.
Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (Patricia Hill Collins)- I can’t resist adding to my list one book by a sociologist. This book argues for the necessity of a feminist analysis of racial/class politics in the contemporary U.S., with significant focus on popular culture (music, TV, and movies especially).
Emily Kane, Whitehouse Professor of Sociology
I’d like to add a wonderful read: Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son.
Nancy Koven, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Handling Sin by Michael Malone
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater
Awakening at Midlife by Kathleen Brehony.
Cheryl Lacey, Associate Director of Dining
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (British edition, purchased at auction at SUNDOOR firewalk initiation training I staffed in Scotland, worth every pence I paid for it, which were many)
Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky (read while I was in France at SUNDOOR Waterpourer’s seminar prior to going to Scotland; fascinating account of French people during WWII written by a Jewish woman)
Mrs. Steven’s Hears the Mermaids Singing – May Sarton
The Seashell on the Mountaintop – Alan Cutler (the life of Nicolaus Steno, a very important figure the development of geology, who became a priest)
Shadow Baby – Alison Maghee
That Freshman – Cristina Catrevas (pub. 1910) (novel about a “freshman”, class of 1908, at Mt Holyoke College, I wonder if there are novels like this out there about Bates?)
Here If You Need Me – Kate Braestrup (UU minister and chaplain to the Maine Warden’s Service)
The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
The Testament – John Grisham (someone left a Bath library book behind; so I read it before I returned it)
A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose – Eckhardt Tolle (very clear about how we are ruled by our egos and how being conscious beings is a significantly more peaceful way to live as individuals, as institutions, as nations)
For One More Day – Mitch Albom
Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
Absolutely beautiful translations by Daniel Ladinsky: Love Poems from God; I Heard God Laughing (Hafiz); The Subject Tonight is Love (Hafiz)
Powerful books by Toltec Master, Don Miquel Ruiz: The Four Agreements; The Mastery of Love;The Voice of Knowledge; Prayers – A Communion With Our Creator
Charlotte Lehmann, Assistant in Instruction for Environmental Geochemistry Lab
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
A moving novel about an Ethiopian immigrant now living in Washington, D.C.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Fiction based on a true story, this is the history of an illuminated Hebrew manuscript. Unraveling the mystery of its origin, Brooks transports you from a mountain meadow in Europe back centuries to the Inquisition and much more.
Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles
Great Depression. East Texas. A dodgy racehorse named Smoky Joe. Description of a dust storm that will keep you drinking cold water for days. All of this in the context of a timeless passion between two loners. A great read!
And right now I’m half-way through Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest: Unaccustomed Earth. Not every one of these short stories reaches perfection but the ones that do stay locked in your mind.
Becky Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager
Birds without Wings, Louis DeBerniere,
The Secret River, Kate Grenville,
Black Swan Green, David Mitchell.
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology
Bill Low, Assistant Curator, Museum of Art
Adrian McKinty: Dead I Well May Be, The Dead Yard, The Bloomsday Dead
I read this thriller trilogy and really liked all three books; excellent character (Michael Forsyte) and good writing. Joan [Paul’s spouse!] read a non-Michael Forsyte book by the same author and didn’t like it nearly as well.
H. Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicles
This is an amazing book. I read it (600 pages) over a couple of days and really enjoyed it. Very hard to describe because of its mix of history, straighforward narrative, and magical realism. About loneliness, the self, the history of Japan, WW II, and a lot of other things. The writing is workmanlike, not fancy, but the characters and storyline are engrossing and the themes universal. Very fine book.
A short novel about an older man who is a former advertising person. He is thrice-married and divorced and is now retired and estranged from his entire family, except for one daughter, and living in a retirement community in New Jersey.
The book deals deeply and powerfully with the inevitable ill health and contemplation of death of the elderly and the hopelessness of the unreligious in the face of the inevitability of death. I also read the medieval play from which Roth took his title in which a man confronted by Death finds that he cannot rely on his money, reputation, or even knowledge or intelligence in the face of death but only the good works he did in his lifetime
Also Roth. The return of the now aged Nathan Zuckerman who, after many years living in rural New England, returns to NYC. It brings back the previous story The Ghost Writer and the woman he met in that story and memories of the writer who was his hero and mentor. Typical Roth, dark, male-centric. Wonderful writing. Deep insights.
Wilentz, Sean: The Rise of American Democracy
This is an amazing book on the rise of political parties between the adoption of the Constitution and the Civil War. Very long but interesting, provocative, and readable. A must for any American history maven.
Rhodes,Richard: John James Audubon
Excellent bio of the famous bird painter. It is particularly good on the development of the American frontier over Audubon’s life. He either lived or visited virtually everywhere, including Maine and England. Fascinating man.
Paul Macri, Local Lawyer, Voracious Reader
I love Maine writers so I will start with them:
Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood (Fiction)
Gripping story about a woman who following a near death experience reflects back on her childhood and begins to question why at the age of ten she was suddenly removed from her custodial uncle who was a local parish priest. She begins to put back together the memories of her childhood.
Perfect, Once Removed Phillip Hoose (Non-Fiction)
I became a baseball fan after reading this very funny recollection of a young boy who discovers he is related to the New York Yankee’s pitcher who pitches the perfect game during the 1958 World Series. As a ten year old boy, he sits anxiously in his classroom while his school principal brings updates to his classroom and he becomes popular as a result of his cousin, once removed.
The Home Repair Murder Mystery Series by Sarah Graves (Fiction)
Set in Eastport, Maine this is a great series of murders in small town Maine. All the local scenes really exist and will make you want to travel to Eastport this summer!
Driving with Dead People by Monica Halloway (Non-Fiction)
Touching and funny book about a young girl growing up with an abusive father. She befriends a yound girl whose father is the local funeral director and ends up driving the hearse. Well-written, you won’t put it down.
Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan (Fiction)
Tell sthe story about a group of American tourists that disappear in Myanmar (Burma). Told through the voice of the ghost of their tour guide, I found this book funny and a sad commentary on American tourists in far off lands!
We Are Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg (Non-Fiction)
Based on a true story about a mother who contracts polio while pregnant. Set in the deep south during the early 1960′s, against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, she delivers a healthy baby girl but spends the rest of her life paralyzed. Is told from the view of her daughter she feels burdened by her mother’s disability and confused by the events around her. Watch for Elvis to make an appearance in this book!
Mary Main, Director of Human Resources
Rise and Shine — Anna Quindlen. Imagine if the unprintable opinion you were thinking suddenly slipped out, in a public situation. Then imagine what would happen if you were the most famous woman on television, interviewing a complete jerk, and your slip was broadcast to the world. The aftermath is told through the eyes of her younger sister, who weaves a story of New York, social stratifications, gender and race issues, and family relationships into an unforgettable novel. If you understand “going under the porch,” you will love this one!
Everything by Greg Isles. I love his complexity and his surprises; not finished with his compleat works yet.
A whole bunch of books about the history and people of Newfoundland–great fun if you have been there or think about going:
The Iambics of Newfoundland, Robert Finch
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and The Custodian of Paradise, Wayne Johnston
Random Passage, and Waiting for Time, Bernice Morgan
Judy Marden, recent Bates retiree and Class of 1966
This past summer (2007), I read the first 10 books of an 11 book series by Terry Goodkind, The Sword of Truth. The final book in the series came out in November 2007.
The Sword of Truth is an epic fantasy series featuring a vast cast of unique characters. The main character is a young man named Richard Cypher, a simple woods guide who lends a hand to a stranger seeking a nameless Wizard who left his land many years ago. Over the course of the series, Richard learns about his heritage while seeking to stop the evil that others would unleash upon the world of the living. By refusing to sacrifice his values and living his life as a free man, others begin to understand the nobility of man and what it means to be free. Each book is loosely themed around a Wizard’s Rule, tenets by which all wizards should abide.
The novels in the series are:
* Wizard’s First Rule (1994)
* Stone of Tears (1995)
* Blood of the Fold (1996)
* Temple of the Winds (1997)
* Soul of the Fire (1999)
* Faith of the Fallen (2000)
* The Pillars of Creation (2001)
* Naked Empire (2003)
* Chainfire (2005)
* Phantom (2006)
* Confessor (2007)
Karen McArthur, Systems Administrator, ILS
Learning the World: A Scientific Romance, by Ken MacLeod
This book has a little bit of everything for folks who like science fiction (and if you don’t, are you sure you’re not a snob?). There are sympathetic aliens, complicated first
contacts, intriguingly evolved humans, odd economic and political systems, a generation gap, and, of course, hip spaceships boldly going where no one has gone before.
Liz McCabe Park, Maine Campus Compact
No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
I found this book when I was looking for some light reading during a recent trip. It is the first book of a now 8-book series about an independent African woman, Precious Ramotswe, who creates her own detective agency in her village in the country of Botswana. The story describes her life and how she tracks down information to solve the various cases that are brought before her. The author’s writing style reflects the dialects of the characters and his descriptions paint a view of how things are in the dusty, hot country of Botswana. I enjoyed reading this book and plan to continue following her adventures in the rest of the series.
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator- College Store
It took me 11 years to discover that Bill Bryson is a very enjoyable, funny writer. I found one of his book’s last month, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe. Although I had never read it, the book had been given to me at a conference in England in 1997 by the British conference convener. I now understand why he had enjoyed it so much. Bryson’s observations about Europe are more often from a British perspective than an American one, which he had the confidence to pull off having lived 20 years in England with his British spouse. Bryson has a wonderful, self-deprecating style that I admire in many folks from the British Isles. But he’s also from Iowa, born in 1951. American boomers will easily grok his sensibilities. He made me chuckle; he made me laugh.
In this book Bryson is his early 40s, retracing a European backpacking trip that he took in 1972-73 with a high school friend. The stops include: Norway (Hammerfest, Oslo), France (Paris), Belgium (Brussels, Bruges, Spa, Durbuy), Germany (Aachen, Cologne, Hamburg), Holland (Amsterdam), Denmark (Copenhagen), Sweden (Gothenburg, Stockholm), Italy (Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Florence, Milan, Como), Switzerland (Brig, Geneva, Bern), Liechtenstein, Austria (Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna), Yugoslavia (Split, Sarajevo, Belgrade), Bulgaria (Sofia), Turkey (Istanbul). You learn more about Bryson than you do about any of these places, but that’s what makes the book fun.
Bryan McNulty, Director, Office of Communications and Media Relations
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Three Cup of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
“One man’s mission to promote peace one school at a time”
Uplifting story and amazing what one man could do.
Cathy McQuarrie, Office Manager—Admissions
I recommend two good memoirs for summer reading:
Bliss Broyard, One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets (NY: Little Brown, 2008)
Lori L. Tharps, Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. (New York: Atria Books, 2008).
Charles Nero, Associate professor of Rhetoric
These are a few of the novels that helped me through this winter.
In Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson, the narrator reflects on his life from the solitude of a remote spot in Norway where he and his family spent holidays under German occupation. Trond, the narrator, slowly solves the mysteries of his childhood during days filled with dog walking, drinks with neighbors, and wood chopping.
I heard that Lloyd Jones’s book, Mr. Pip, was about a teacher, so I sought it out. It turned out to be a book about how stories help us construct and reconstruct ourselves and our communities. Told through the eyes of a bright young girl named Matilda, what seems like a simple and charming story takes many devious and even horrific turns.
When I arrived at my hotel after a day of travel only to discover I had forgotten my nighttime reading, I went to a mall and bought Beginner’s Greek by James Collins, because the jacket said something to the effect that it was suitable for people who wished Jane Austen had written more books. Every romantic-comedy convention gets its turn in this perfect beach/hotel/train/laid-up-in-bed-with-a-cold book.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida was another favorite. Although there are many stories of children who struggle to be loved, this one, set in and around the Arctic Rim, was excruciatingly sad. In an interview or afterward, the author said she was curious about people for whom the past and present seem unconnected. So am I.
The author’s first novel, Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is the story of two families on a desolate farm in Mississippi after World War II: the landowners and the sharecroppers. At once a tale of racism and family secrets, the story unfolds through the narratives of different members of the two families.
Georgia Nigro, Professor of Psychology
Hands down my favorite book of 2008 was Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and amazingly written and amazingly structured novel. I planned to read it before seeing the movie, but than after reading it decided the movie might wreck the experience of the book! Highly recommend.
When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a wonderful book about a British detective who was raised in Shanghai in the 1920s and returned there to try to figure out the disappearance of his parents that precipitated his removal to England.
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of Faculty
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Jacob Ellis – I’m a history buff and I love reading about about figures from revolutionary times (and visiting historic places such as Williamsburg VA) – Thomas Jefferson was a man of different characters who could rationalize one way of thinking with another of carrying out his thoughts – great read
John Adams by David McCullough – Have just begun this book -Had a chance to meet Mr. McCullough and his family when he was here a couple of years ago – love his work (have also been reading his book 1776)
Warrior’s Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals – Incredible story about the Little Rock Nine from the perspective of one of the students who lived through it – her follow up book, White is a State of Mind is a continuation of the story – Both books will leave you frustrated, hopeful and looking at life differently.
Lori Ouellette, Administrative Assistant, Dean of the Faculty’s Office
Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup. We were interested in reading something by a local author and chose this. It is well-written, and we had some interesting discussion about the author’s motivation.
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The discussion about this book centered on global current events and the potential role that the education of girls may play in global politics.
People of the Book, Geraldine March. This was an interesting and complex story, which was well-written, with nicely drawn characters.
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion. Read it!
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert. We expected to like it more than we did. Most of us found the Eat and Pray parts the best. All of us decided we want the pizza (you will, too).
Currently reading Becky, The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher, Lenore Hart. This may be more of a beach read than anything else, but it is making me want to revisit Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn!
We had book groups in my Biology 127 course, Emerging and Re-emerging Infections Across the Globe. Students chose one of the following books to read, discuss, and then analyze for relationships to class. Students first discussed the book with others who read it, and then we mixed the groups up so that students could find out about books others had read. This seemed to work well and it was a lot of fun.
Some of the titles…..
The Demon in the Freezer, Richard Preston (non-ficton)
The Cobra Event, Richard Preston (fiction)
And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (non-fiction)
Mountains beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder (non-fiction)
The Plague, Albert Camus (fiction)
The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton (fiction)
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks (historical fiction)
and for the more musical among us….Rent and La Boehme (musical, opera)
Karen Palin, Lecturer in Biology
Finn, by Jon Clinch. This debut novel by a former English teacher and advertising executive directs the reader’s attention to Huckleberry Finn’s father and opens new avenues for treating paternity and race in American culture.
The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson. The author describes in elegant prose ten experiments in science, which over the years, produced extraordinary results, especially in terms of creating new theories for the physical world.
A Freewheelin’ Time, by Suze Rotolo. Much of what you wanted to know about Dylan’s early days in the village is in this memoir – not a tell-all; but an engaging tale of youthful love at the beginning of a cultural revolution.
Freedom for the Thought We Hate, by Anthony Lewis. The subtitle covers it perfectly: “a biography of the first amendment”. Well researched and equally well written, this is a thought provoking examination of the history and significance of, arguably, our most important amendment.
Bob Pallone, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult
Nice light reading, well written and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a fairly predictable story about a murder investigation and trial, but the twist is that it’s set in an Amish community. The detailed portrayal of the Amish (“plain”) lifestyle and faith is what made this book so interesting for me.
The Camulod Chronicles (series), by Jack Whyte
For anyone who is a fan of Arthurian myth, this is an excellent set of books that presents a completely non-magical possibility for the origins of an influential regional power towards the end of Roman occupation of Britain. This series is far more firmly anchored in history than anything else I’ve ever read in this genre. It focuses on the history and development of Camelot (Camulod), with fascinating period details. Arthur doesn’t even get a mention in the first few books! The first book is The Skystone.
Heather L’Hommedieu Perreault, Assistant Director of Accounting
Fannie Flagg, Standing in The Rainbow & Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. I absolutely loved both of these books. At the time I did not know, they were a series. I read Can’t Wait to Get to Heavenfirst, and then read Standing in the Rainbow. Can’t Wait to get to Heaven, would have made a lot more sense if, I had read them in the correct order.
Kathy Peters, Costume Shop Supervisor
My recommended reads this year:
Iain Pears: Dream of Scipio
I worked at this and, when finished, realized that I needed to return to it soon for a rereading. Let’s just say that my 15-minutes-per-night reading style was not helpful. To truly plumb the depths of this novel, three stories told over several centuries, requires thoughtful reading and much more focus than I eventually gave to it. I shall return!
This review from Publishers Weekly may persuade you to pick it up.
“The story unfolds in three time frames, in each of which a man and a woman are in love, civilization itself is crumbling and Jews become the scapegoats for larger cultural anxieties. In the first scenario, Manlius is a wealthy Roman living in Provence in the empire’s crepuscular 5th century. Although he has received the last echo of Hellenic wisdom, he is surrounded by believers in a nasty sect he despises Christianity but must find some means to protect Provence from the barbarians. In fighting for “civilization,” he becomes a bishop and the promoter, almost accidentally, of one of the West’s first pogroms. In the next narrative time period, a manuscript of Manlius’s poem, “The Dream of Scipio,” a neo-Platonic allegory, is discovered by Olivier de Noyen, a Provencal poet of the 14th century. As his 20th-century interpreter, Julien Barneuve, discovers in investigating his violent death, de Noyen was attacked because he got caught up in a political intrigue in Avignon while trying to save his love, Rebecca, from a pogrom unleashed by the Black Death. Barneuve, Pears’s third protagonist, has a Jewish lover, too, but is enmeshed in the racist policies of Vichy France. Pears has a nice sense of what it means to live in a time when things fall apart, and not only the center but even the peripheries will not hold.”
Ishiguro: Remains of the Day
I am on an Ishiguro tear and will now toddle off to read Never Let Me Go.
Weiner: Geography of Bliss
In pursuit of the world’s happiest places, NPR’s Eric Weiner smokes pot, eats rotten shark, drinks excessively and finds himself in Iceland, Switzerland, Qatar and Bhutan among other heady locations. This is a very different travelogue and mighty entertaining.
Robyn Smith: Twenty Chickens for a Saddle
Smith enjoyed a remarkable and absolutely eccentric childhood in Botswana in the 1980s and early 90s. This memoir is filled with riveting characters—Grandpa Ivor the bush pilot (no terrain too rough); Smith’s father, the flying doctor who must mix the practices of the local witch doctors with conventional medicine to combat the growing AIDS epidemic; an independent mother whose on-again, off-again relationship with the public school system defines Robyn’s education, and so on. With snakes, crocodiles, bush ponies, baobab trees and the “mighty Limpopo,” this story unveils a beautiful and fiercely independent African country.
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director
Here are a couple of well-written biographies.
Walter Isaacson, Einstein: his life and universe (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
Extremely well written and researched biography using new archival material that became available 50 years after Einstein’s death in 1955. Many new insights about his life; and the physics almost always explained correctly and in understandable ways. Isaacson has written well-received biographies of Kissinger and Benjamin Franklin.
Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, The end of the certain world: the life and science of Max Born: the Nobel physicist who ignited the quantum revolution (Basic Books, 2005).
Born is the one who proposed that the implication of quantum mechanics is that it does not predict what will happen, only the probability that it will happen. Heisenberg and Bohr developed this arguing that this probability is inherent in nature, not a lack of knowledge on our part. Born was a respected contemporary of Einstein’s and lived through both world wars. Fascinating life, interesting people around him, fascinating (and terrible) times, and fascinating physics. Born’s family, including his granddaughter Olivia Newton-John, cooperated with the author.
Michael Chabon, The Yiddish policeman’s union (HarperCollins, 2007).
The dead body is found at the beginning and this mystery slowly grows into something much, much bigger. History is re-imagined with Israel not able to be created after World War II and refugees end up forming a community in Alaska. Chabon has created a remarkable cast of characters, an imaginary sixty-year-old city, and a plot that seems to wander but becomes more amazing as the pieces come together. This would make a great movie, but maybe controversial on the world stage.
Jack Pribram, Professor of Physics
I recommend sTori telling, the autobiography of Tori Spelling, written with Hilary Liftin (New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008). Tori made out with the surfer-dude family chef, got advice from the drop-in psychic formerly known as Terence Trent d’Arby, grew from the portrayer of fictional virgin Donna Martin to a charmingly raunchy friend of the gays, and figured out that there’s no “black-and-white definition of normal. . . only a messy, inconsistent, silly, hopeful version of how we feel most at home in our own lives” (271). And these are just some of the highlights!
Erica Rand, Professor of Art and Visual Culture
I am teaching a Short Term on Tintin which was a way of legitimizing and indulging my obsession with this comic book character and the myriad products (watches, dinnerware, T-shirts, chocolates, etc.) that I have consumed. Tintin, the comic creation of the Belgian writer George Remi (Hergé) has cast a spell on legions of fanatics for nearly 80 years who have thrilled to his work for any number of reasons: travelogue, vicarious friendship, spectacular art, endless discussion of colonialism and its discontents… The course favorites so far are the moon adventures On a marché sur la lune (Explorers on the Moon) and Objectif Lune (Destination Moon); Les Cigares du Pharaon (The Cigars of the Pharoah) followed by Le Temple du Soleil (Prisoners of the Sun); and Les Sept Boules de Cristal (The Seven Crystal Balls). His masterpiece is thought to be Le Lotus Bleu (The Blue Lotus) which he wrote in close collaboration with an art student friend, Chang Cheun-Chen who admonished him to be more thoughtful in his depiction of foreign cultures, in particular China (after his stereotypes in Tintin in America). So find some and read them. Marvel at the art. Learn some history. Laugh. Groan. And if you dip into Tintin in the Congo or Tintin in America, it will be an excellent and sometimes excruciating opportunity to question one’s responsibility as a writer, an artist, as anyone who pretends to behold and represent other cultures for whatever reason, i.e., all of us at some point or another. It is a good way to learn French, but for those of you who are not up to that particular challenge, fear not. Tintin is translated into over fifty languages and has sold godzillions of copies so there are plenty to be had. As companions to the more vexing adventures adventures, I might recommend a side of Adam Hoschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost (a history of the Belgian colonial rule in the Congo) and Angie Debo’s And Still the Water’s Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes (recommended to our class by Joe Hall on Native American history). Michael Farr’s The Complete Tintin is quite entertaining and comprehensive, though he does betray an enduring neo-colonialist bent at times. While exploring the world of comics and graphic novels, I came across a few others in English that are worth a look: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (now a movie) that tells of her growing up in Iran and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home about growing up lesbian in an emotionally fraught and at times tragic household. And as always, you should indulge that Moby Dick of French literature (i.e., the book everyone read’s in or about, but never actually reads), Proust’s A la recherche du temps perduin a hammock in the shade during vacation. If you need a translation, that is just a sure sign that you’re really not going to get around to it, so stick with Tintin.
Kirk Read, Associate Professor of French
Song of the World Becoming. Pattiann Rogers. This volume of her new and collected poems (1981-2001) brings delight, inspiration and peace to any day. It may be only a few minutes of reading or possibly you will have a time to read, think and dream; no matter the time, this book of poems will make your day.
Pattern Language. Christopher Alexander. A book that came out in the 1980′s as I recall but always informative, thought provoking and useful when thinking about space: planning it, building it and using it.
Jill Reich, Dean of the Faculty
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A year of eating locally. I felt that many of the topics were familiar, but I do look at that winter produce differently and it has changed some of our buying/eating habits.
A Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen. Even if you don’t like oysters, a fascinating read of what they are, where they grow, the differences of geography. With recipes!
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Ostensibly about a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany in a town outside a concentration camp. But it’s really about how stories connect us and sustain us. I keep giving this book away to people…
The Princess Bride by William Goldman. You’ve seen the movie, now read the book – it’s even funnier. Read aloud as our bedtime book, I knew it was a hit when our son filled out his nametag “Hello. My Name is…Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
For those missing Harry Potter, Tristan, age 9, recommends the Septimus Heap books: Magyk,Flyte, and Physik (Book 4, Queste, is just out now) by Angie Sage.
Stephanie Richards, Visiting Assistant Professor, Biology
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) by Mohsin Hamid is a quick read, a good reminder of the identity challenges confronting many international students, and a poignant reminder of the distances between the West and Islamic World.
A Thousand Spendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. The book follows the anguished life of two women in Afghanistan as it and they experience the hellish events there over the past 25 years. Their nearly constant pain and loss makes you want to stop reading, but the beautiful writing keeps drawing you back.
Stephen Sawyer, Associate Dean of Students
A very funny light-hearted read about growing up in a family of private investigators-
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.
Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Carl Safina’s Voyage of the Turtle
William Gibson’s Spook Country
Three Junes by Julia Glass
For the younger readers:
Alexie’s Diary of a Part Time Indian
Lynn Cox’s Grayson
Paula Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio
Barack Obama, Dreams of My Father.
David Scobey, Director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships
I think I was a fan of the Brontes when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember reading beyond Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. A book about the Brontes caught my eye recently because I liked its cover picture, a black and white shot taken inside their historically-preserved house. And thus I was led to Charlotte’s Villette, a novel based on her experiences as a student and teacher in Belgium, and Villette had me utterly ensnared for weeks! It is amazing, gratifying, and eye-opening to hit upon an overlooked classic like Villette. What was it like being a woman of very modest means traveling alone across the Channel in the earlier part of the19th century? How did Lucy Snowe, the main character, cope with a new country (best description I’ve read of that hallucinatory first day abroad)? How could she use her gifts to make a living in those times? Charlotte’s first-person narration reaches into all the subtleties of mental and social life. There are handsome men and intellectual men; there are enterprising women and social climbers; there are generous friends and envious colleagues; there are ghostly nuns and all kinds of rowdy children. There are long country walks and mysterious city lanes. I was glad it was a fat book. A paperback of it would be ideal on a vacation trip.
Sagaree Sengupta, Lecturer in Asian Studies
This winter I discovered Anita Shreve (yes, I know the rest of you already knew) and loved A Wedding in December, about reunions, and Sea Glass, about a mill town much like Lewiston. I struggled through Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. Can’t say I loved it — there is much I don’t strictly need to know about slaughtering pigs — but the passages about restaurant kitchens and Italian pasta making were truly fascinating. Loved Kate Braestrup’s Here if You Need Me, about the Maine Warden Service, and The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by poet/undertaker Thomas Lynch, both recommended to me by our dearly departed Kerry Maloney. And finally, I got around to reading one of my Mom’s favorite books, I Capture the Castle written by Dodie Smith in 1948 — a charming light read if ever there was one!
Beth Sheppard, Associate Director, Alumni and Parent Programs
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Simply one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read, this autobiography tells the story of the journey away from superstition and toward reason by a Somali woman. The story begins with her childhood in her homeland’s bush, follows her through moves to Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Germany and Holland. In Holland, she becomes a parliamentarian and collaborator with film-maker Theo van Gogh on the feminist film Submission which results in his religiously-motivated murder and forces her into living under 24-7 security.
The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Everyone should read this book. Harris, a neuro-scientist and meditation practitioner presents, with humor, a compelling case for dispensing with faith without dismissing the spiritual dimension of human existence. His insistence that we apply the same standards to understanding spiritual experience as we do everything else (the scientific method) is a call to reason that needs to be echoed far and wide before civilization is eradicated by people secure in their belief that they are doing divine work. Extensive endnotes flesh out arguments without disrupting the readability of the book. If there is one book you read this summer, make it this one.
Anthony Shostak, Education Coordinator, Museum of Art
My pick for this year is the Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor. You can check out this link: http://www.stevensaylor.com/RomaSubRosa.html to see all the titles and brief blurbs. This is historical fiction — mystery genre. Saylor really knows his history, and at the end of each book he even cites sources, and tells you what he’s made up and what he’s gleaned from research — both primary and secondary sources. The main character and detective is Gordianus The Finder. The details of everyday life are stunning, and you feel like you’ve actually been there. He paints the key events in Roman history, especially the last days of the Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar, through the eyes of Gordianus, a passionate seeker after Truth.
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Etel Adnan, In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country, City Lights, 2005
What it means to be alive in a time of war, written from the inside, with unparalleled lyrical and philosophical intensity, real political edge, and a poet’s clarity of tongue–the view from Beirut outward.
Robert Creeley, Selected Poems: 1945-2005, ed. Benjamin Friedlander, U of Cal Press, 2008
A comprehensive yet portable introduction to one of the best lyric poets of any language or time, brilliantly edited and commented on by Benjamin Friedlander: if this be your summer of love, this may be the book to carry.
ed. Benjamin Hoff, The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow: The Mystical
Nature Diary of Opal Whiteley, Penguin, 1986
If you don’t yet know the incredible story of Opal, this might be the summer to walk with her: “I like to go in among the rushes where the black birds with red upon their wings do go. I like to touch fingertips with the rushes. I like to listen to the voices that whisper in the swamp.”
Erich Hoyt, The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants, Simon & Schuster, 1996
Everything you always wanted to know about ants, and more, in thrilling prose–truth is stranger than science fiction
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll, Vintage, 2007
Here is spontaneous bop prosody at its rawest best, in all its Melvillean grandeur, with the real names and sex left in–it’s all about the writing, and includes a fabulous and useful set of introductory essays.
Joanne Kyger, About Now: Collected Poems, National Poetry Foundation, 2007
How to be in the present moment all over the world, poems of travel, of history (this collection offers a unique document on the last forty years) and of home-making: full access to the witty, philosophical, light touch of one of our best poets.
Peter Matthiessen, The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001
As much a book of people as of birds, painting a magisterial, crane’s eye view of our globalized planet and lavishly illustrated by Robert Chapman.
Simon Ortiz, Woven Stone, U of Arizona P, 1992
Collects three of Ortiz’s best volumes–Going for the Rain, A Good Journey,
Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land–to read and reread, as much for Ortiz’s elegant language, suprising ear and varied forms as for his unique, engaged and critical perspective on American history.
Tim Robinson, The Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage, Penguin, 1986
A book for those who love walking, geology, history and language in equal measures, and a meticulous exploration of how they get intertwined, in the unearthly places of the Aran islands.
Philip Whalen, The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen,Wesleyan, 2007
Another tome collecting works from one of the original minds of the Beat generation–thought-provoking, utterly singular, language infused with light and gravity.
Jonathan Williams, Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems, Copper Canyon P, 2005
A bristling, diverse, eccentric collection of work from a most refreshingly
unpuritanical poet of the North Carolina hills, also a renowned outsider art collector, photographer and editor of Jargon Books, with an ear for the vernacular, salty brilliance of the (Southern) American tongue–this book will make you laugh in public.
Lila Zemborain, Mauve Sea-Orchids, tr. Rosa Alcala and Monica de la Torre, Belladonna Books, 2007
My blurb on this bilingual marvel: “Lila Zemborain’s Mauve Sea-Orchids exhale infra-human sounds. Open them and, one revolution of cellular kisses later, find thousands of
perception organs on your tongue. We are more than we think to say, primordial as the remaining seas, and these magnificent creatures are here to prove it. Alcala and de la Torre’s deft and calm translations offer a superb guide into the hanging gardens of a new, and very old, poetic landscape.”
Jonathan Skinner, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley: great memoir by a war reporter in Africa in the 1980s-1990s.
War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcón: short stories mostly about city life in Peru by the winner of a major book award in the last few years.
Trawler by Redmond O’Hanlon: insight into the deep sea fishing industry by a naturalist and intrepid traveler.
The Haiti Trilogy by Madison Smartt Bell (All Souls Rising, Master of the Crossroads, The Stone that the Builder Refused) – novelization in three volumes of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution.
What is the What? by David Eggers – story of a Sudanese lost boy, fictionalized by a great writer.
Hillel David Soifer, Assistant Professor, Politics Department
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Best book I’ve read in a long, long time.
Sally Southwick, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
The most interesting read I have had in a while was suggested by a senior member of the crew. I’m not sure if it’s still in print so it may be hard to find but it’s certainly worth locating.
The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee
Peter Steenstra , Bates College Rowing
I recently read and tremendously enjoyed
I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen, translated by Julia Lovell
Columbia University Press
This is a very well written review of the book:
Roberta Strippoli, Visiting Assistant Professor—Asian Studies
To begin with, I recommend three fine mystery novels, all set in Italy: Donna Leon’s Suffer the Little Children, Michael Dibdin’s End Game, and Paul Adams’s The Renaldi Quartet. The last is the story of a contemporary luthier in Cremona who searches for the murderer of a friend from his quartet – and the famous violin the friend was seeking. And of course I recommend the final problem in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I recommend two biographies. The first is David McCullough’s Brave Companions. This is a series of portraits of extraordinary men and women, from Alexander von Humboldt through Harriet Beecher Stowe to John Quincy Adams. All were, in the words of one reviewer, “quirky heroes.” The second is Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackmun. This is a somewhat condensed account, written from the archives of Justice Blackmun’s own papers, of perhaps one of the most scholarly and influential of the justices of the United States Supreme Court.
And finally, for the Luddite in us all, I recommend Bill Henderson’s delightful book, The Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club.
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology
Katha Pollitt, Learning to Drive. Like everything by Katha Politt, this collections of essay is funny, shrewd, feminist, at once self-critical and life-affirming. Not to be missed.
And now for something completely different: Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late. If there’s a two year old in your family or neighborhood, you really need this book. A pigeon tries out a wonderful variety of ruses to avoid going to bed, ranging from the simple “I’m NOT sleepy,” to the thoughtful, “Tell me about yourself,” to the raucous, “Hey hey ho ho this here pigeon won’t go.” Naturally he caves at the end with a giant yawn.
Anne Thompson Professor Emerita of English
Gifts of the Desert by Kyriacos Markides PhD, Prof. of Sociology and UM, Orono
This book is a wonderful introduction to early Eastern Christian Spirituality through great storytelling and a bit of humor of Prof. Markides. Very well written and captivating. A real eye opener for me and most of my friends of a world not heard about in Western circles!
Engaging Autism: Helping Children Relate, Communicate and Think with the DIR Floortime Approach by Stanley Greenspan
A great resource and guide to understanding the world of ASD. As a parent of an Autistic Child (Aspergers) it was enlightening to know that there are other ways of helping these wonderful and gifted children. Our daughter benefited greatly from our skills learned from this book and Dr. Greenspan.
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
Our daughters (6 and 3) can’t get enough of this book! After we finish reading the book, we take turns telling each other what we “really REALLY want!” and it always ends in a round of giggles!
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman
We are all trying to get healthier and a little greener so this book will do a great job introducing the world of “Greens” to you. It is very accessible and easy to follow for any novice of the Veg world. I just loved Mark Bittman’s book How to cook everything (it was my “foodie” bible) and this one is just as good!
Vicki Toppses , Area Coordinator, English, Theater and Rhetoric Departments
Just read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, about a refugee magician and artist who becomes involved in the ascent of the American comic book industry in the 1940s and 50s. Really enjoyed it. Also enjoyed Born Standing Up, Steve Martin’s autobiography about his years as a standup comic.
And if you’ve never read graphic novels, try Alan Moore’s absolutely unparalleled Watchmen or V for Vendetta, or Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat, about a cat living in Algeria who eats a parrot and gains the power of speech. A sequel is due out this year.
Monika Ullian, Programmer/Analyst, ILS
Pretty Birds, by Scott Simon
A tale of life in Bosnia during the civil conflict, told through the experiences of Irena, a basketball star turned sniper. Based partly on Simon’s time as a correspondent in Bosnia.
The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart
Stewart walked (yes, walked) through Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and on to the Mediterranean. This book is about his walk through Afghanistan. Lois [Dick’s spouse!] highly recommends it.
Summers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer
Life during the Iranian revolution
The Rest is Noise, by Alex Roth
Looking at the 20th Century through (classical) music. Love music? You’ll love the book.
A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
Four strangers gather on a roof top in London, bent on jumping. They don’t, but they don’t let go of their intention. They meet again … and again … planning their next moves. A boy book, according to Lois … but Dick isn’t so sure.
Richard Wagner, Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Fantastic read: The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, by Daniel Mendelsohn. I can’t say enough good things about this book. Mendelsohn recounts his attempts to discover the fate of six relatives who perished in the Holocaust. Starting with sketchy family records and his own memories, he travels across the globe to talk with survivors from the small town in Poland where his family hails from. Along the way, Mendelsohn discusses the practice of history, memory and its failings, and what it means to try to discover the “truth” of long-ago events. At times witty, often touching, and always engaging, Mendelsohn does a remarkable job of recreating his family’s lost world, and discovers more than one surprise along the way.
Good lazy day read: The Magician and the Cardsharp, by Karl Johnson. Magician Dai Vernon was regarded as one of the best practitioners of close-up card magic in the twentieth century. Johnson tells the story of Vernon’s search for a gambler who mastered the mythical ‘center cut’ (the ability to deal from the center of a deck of cards). A fun read about the history of magic, card tricks, and small town life during the middle part of the century.
Pat Webber, Archivist-Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library
When not reading applications this winter, I was able to squeeze in the following:
Eat, Pray & Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
Leigh Weisenburger,Assistant Dean of Admissions
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food
A bit overlong, for all its brevity. The last chapter is the meat of the book.
TC Boyle, The Road to Wellville
I picked this up after the Pollan book as an example of nutritionism run amok. I also recommend Boyle’s fictional account of Alfred Kinsey, ‘The Inner Circle’.
Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth
Her prose falls off the page and into poetry. My favorite contemporary writer.
R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days
Amazon.com suggested this based on some previous purchases and I’m very happy it did. This volume collects a series of short stories, originally published elsewhere, each of which treats a different aspect of life in a rural Indian village. Read one story each day for a month.
Armistead Maupin, Michael Tolliver Lives
For those of us who love ‘Tales of the City’ and were desperate for any news of the characters, Maupin could have written a software manual and we would have lapped it up. Fortunately, the seventh book in the TOC series sparkles with wit and humanity. Would that we all lived in the San Francisco of his imagination.
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Defiantly ecumenical in its refusal to not offend, I found this a bracing tonic. Hitchens is my favorite antitheist.
Andrew White, Director of Academic Technology
For this year, I suggest two evocations of place:
In The Big House (Scribner 2003), George Howe Colt tells the story of his family’s summer “cottage” on Cape Cod just as the family has to let it go. You don’t have to have sympathy for the wealthy to appreciate the role a constant gathering place could play in a family over several generations. You can almost smell the ocean, see the sailboat, and hear the thunk of tennis balls. Summer, and architecture, too.
Nothing really happens in John McGahern’s That They May Face The Rising Sun (London, 2002) also sold in the US as By the Lake. A couple moves back from the city to a small Irish town. The characters in the town pass by, jump off the page, and grab you. Nothing happens, with writing that takes you there and keeps you there.
Gene Wiemers, Vice President for ILS and Librarian
Broken Vessels by Andre Dubus
A beautifully written memoir illustrating Dubus’ life as a young writer and the accident that changes the course of his life forever.
Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Inga Moore
Where I’m Calling From, Selected Stories by Raymond Carver
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Caroline Willard, Staff Assistant, College Advancement
In An Instant –Bob and Lee Woodruff
A true reminder that we should not take anything or anyone in our lives for granted. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed.
The Innocent Man–John Grisham
His first book based on a true story.
Two Little Girls Dressed in Blue–Mary Higgins Clark
Rescuing Sprite –Mark R. Levin
Phyllis Wisher, Stock Assistant, College Store
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
by Terry Tempest Williams
This autobiographical novel elegantly intertwines the author’s sense of place and family. Her mother is dying from cancer and her favorite bird refuge is being flooded by the natural rising of Great Salt Lake. A deeply and untraditionally spiritual book. Those who love nature writing should take a look, as well as any that are dealing with the loss (or expected loss) of a family member. Every chapter is named after and themed around a different bird species.
The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
Read this and call me if you want to start our own “red tent”ish group! If only we (of all types!) gathered together more often for story-sharing. From Amazon.com: “The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider’s look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob’s daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah–all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini
Even those who do not enjoy history will be engrossed by the author’s telling of the last 30 years of Afghanistan’s history. His focus on the experience of women is complex and incredibly moving—to tears, rage, and hope. The character’s realities, although firmly embedded in their time and place, are drawn in such a way as to paradoxically transcend time and place—effectively enlargening our abilities to comprehend deep grief, betrayal, longing, friendship, and sacrifice.
The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
I read this in high school and found it not very memorable. I’ve reread it now, in my 20s, and think it’s one of the most true, brilliant, human pieces of writing written. It’s about family, class struggles, pilgrimage, community, sacrifice, the land, and more… From Amazon.com: “When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country’s recent shames and devastations–the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions–in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940.The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads’ refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity.”
By Lois Lowry
A reminder of the “awe”someness (both awe-inspiring and awful) of the human experience. I always think of this book when I think of people undergoing paradigm changes…people suddenly experiencing the world in new ways, both frightening and wonderful. Imagine what it would be like to live in a grayscale world and suddenly experience color for the first time…or warmth, or pain. Would you even have the words to describe it? From Amazon.com “In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy.”
The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master
Translations by Daniel Ladinsky
If you like Rumi, you must meet his rascal of a spiritual brother, Hafiz. The words of this beautiful Sufi poet hum with light. His metaphors for the divine, and for the divinity within us, are tender, crass, giddy, and profound.
By Toni Morrison
Magical, rich, complex, haunting. Follows a family recently freed from the horrors of slavery but living in a reality still populated by living ghosts, wounds, and desires. Won the Pulitzer in ’88. The New York Times Book Review’s editor asked 200 prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages to identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.” This book won. Of the runner-ups, all 20 or so were male authors save one. Toni Morrison’s accomplishment is astounding and deserving.
Red Bird: Poems
by Mary Oliver
Colors Passing Through Us: Poems
by Marge Piercy
Earth Prayers from around the World
Edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon
A beautiful and diverse collection.
These books are more “academic” in tone (some slightly and some greatly); if you’re wanting lighter summer reading, perhaps look elsewhere– but I couldn’t resist adding them because they’ve also affected me so:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
by Paulo Freire
Freire was a Brazilian educator. His writing is both paradoxically dense and accessible at the same time. His description of the causes of and the solutions for inequity between peoples is also paradoxically both profound and commonsensical. Should be required reading for all social justice advocates and educators. Will challenge your view of the world and your place in it.
The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis
by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg
Great Jewish midrash on the text. Opens the space around it larger and larger and richer…and invites you into it.
The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative
by Frank Kermode
Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Cultural Studies Approach to the Study of Religion in Secondary Education
by Diane L. Moore
One of my mentors writes on how to begin to have better conversations—in public high schools—about religion, values, and meaning….how to become better citizens in a rich and lively democracy.
A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics
by Paul Waldau and Kimberley Patton
A collection of essays from various authors. Prof. Patton teaches at Harvard Divinity School and is another mentor. (She’ll be giving the Andrews lecture at Bates in 2009.)
It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes: Four Seasons of Natural Phenomena and Oddities of the Sky
by Jerry Dennis
Did you know that in 1953 “hundreds of thousands” of snails were said to have fallen on Algiers? Explore why and how “it smells like rain,” the northern lights “roar,” sundogs and moonbows are formed, birds have aerial sex, and dew forms. The writing is both highly informational and elegant. Great illustrations, too.
Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn
by Karen McCarthy Brown
An exciting look at anthropology done without any attempt to feign “neutrality.” Brown immerses herself in her friendship with Mama Lola and in Vodou life and speaks frankly of her journey. This story brings up really interesting questions about anthropology, academic research, race, religion, etc.
Speaking in Parables
by Sallie McFague
(One of the first feminist theologians in the academy.)
In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus
John Dominic Crossan
Same as with McFague’s text above, I read Jesus’ parables as never before and experienced new mystery and depth. Crossan quotes Heidegger (and excuse the male-exclusive language): “We are too late for the gods and too early for Being. Being’s poem just begun, is man.”
The Sacred and the Profane
by Mircea Eliade
In the Presence of Fear
by Wendell Berry
His prophetic response to 9/11.
The Courage to Be
by Paul Tillich
Survival in Auschwitz
by Primo Levi
by Lynda Sexson
Emily Wright-Timko, Assistant Chaplain