2010 Summer Reading List
I welcome you to the 14th Annual Bates College Store Non-required Reading List, or Good Reads for Leisure Moments XIV. As in the past, this list includes submissions from across the Bates College community.
Receiving three or more recommendations on the 14th annual list:
- The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
- Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout ’77)
- Stieg Larsson trilogy
- Still Alice (Lisa Genova ’92)
Per usual, submissions are listed alphabetically by submitter’s surname. We apologize for overcrowding, typographical and grammatical errors or other misrepresentations.
Enjoy! — Sarah Potter ’77, College Store director
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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This is an entertaining mystery, whose quirky 11-year-old investigator, Flavia deLuce, will have you laughing out loud (wait until you see what she does with the poison ivy oil she distills in her chemistry lab…). Apparently, it’s the first in a series, and while I might not read every one, this one is a hoot.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I’m sure this will appear on many people’s list of books they have enjoyed this year. This is a story of America in the 60′s - as the civil rights movement becomes part of every evening’s national news. It is written from the perspective of several black maids who are encouraged to tell their stories in a book written by a young Southern woman (white, college grad, naive, a little lost, and redeemingly good-hearted). The juxtapositions of human kindness and cruelty, Northern and Southern prejudices, and the naiveté of youth and the wisdom of age are spellbinding. A fabulous read that will keep you interested and thinking about where you were “then.”
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer
This is billed as the story of a boy whose father is killed in the September 11 tragedy. It is that, but it is much more about human emotion and the way the heart survives and heals in the face of incomprehensible loss. Set in New York in the 1990′s, the book also flashes back to the bombing of Dresden in World War II, as told by the boy’s paternal grandparents. It is a testimony to survival and abiding love. Don’t let this description scare you away. While it deals with heavy stuff, there is humor and lightness as well, and it will leave you in a good place.
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
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Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me by Jesse Ventura
A “shoot from the hip,” honest, non-partisan politician lets us into his political experiences and encounters to see just how far we’ve come from the original foundations of this country. He offers plans on how to right the ship, including a lot of things people just take for granted nowadays that our founding forefathers would have found simply atrocious. The book is written during his journey from Minnesota to Mexico (where he now lives) and about all the places, things and people along the way that force him to reminisce about his political career. A very passionate man with refreshing, yet simple political views encourages people to stand up to the government in a democratic way and tell them to STOP THE COURSE (as opposed to our last president’s motto of “Stay the course”). That is, if the people still actually have the power to stand up to the government…
Jonathan Anctil , 2nd shift Custodian (Olin Arts)
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The Stieg Larsson trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fireand The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Nail-biting thrillers with a great female protagonist.
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
A fascinating read about the bankers at the heart of decision-making during the Great Depression.
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works–and How It’s Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman
A highly readable analysis of Wal-Mart’s impact on the world.
Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, Associate Professor of Politics
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Joe Coomer’s A Pocketful of Names — one of the best novels I’ve read in years. (Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God and Apologizing to Dogs were both good, too)
Anything by Kate Atkinson, but especially When Will There be Good News? and Case Histories– grim but amazing.
Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox series — kickass woman bodyguard is the heroine…
For anyone with kids around, Owl Moon is a beauty. And Dr. Seuss’s lesser-known My Many-Colored Days.
Anna Bartel, Friend
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a must-read. If you were around in the 50′s-60′s it brings back a lot of historical memories. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry and sometimes you do both at the same time.
Jane Bedard, Admissions Office Specialist
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Evidence (Beacon Press, 2009)
Mary Oliver’s latest book of poetry, is lively and suggests that her more overtly religious tone is quieting down a bit, making room for more holy and surprising visitations.
God: Stories (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), edited by Michael Curtis, is a collection of short stories, good ones, by good writers such as James Baldwin, Flannery O’Conner, Alice Munro, and John Updike.
Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community (Oxford, 2009), by Social Psychologist Kenneth Gergen, is his latest appeal for a radical reconsideration of the self as sufficient unto its….self.
Bill Blaine-Wallace, Multifaith Chaplain
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I’m Here if You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup
Victoria Blaine Wallace, Wife of the chaplain and friend of the college!
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The Race for the Triple Crown, Joe Drape
This summer, Disney brings its version of the Secretariat story to the movies with its adaption of Bill Nack’s excellent Secretariat: The Making of a Champion. As a primer, Joe Drape’s The Race for the Triple Crown, about the 2000 campaign, gives a good sense of the hoopla and intensity surrounding this part of American thoroughbred racing. While American racing is increasingly disconnected from the average person’s understanding or experience, the sport’s stories remain no less compelling and, in a sense, pure — at least when compared with all the other highly packaged sports-entertainment crap we’re fed.
Jay Burns, editor, Bates Magazine
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My Enemy’s Cradle by Sarah Young
A historical-fiction about the WWII Lebensborn, maternity home for Aryan girls carrying German babies and Cyrla, Jewish girl who takes shelter in the most notorious Lebensborn. Once inside, she learns if she gives birth in the Lebensborn, her child will be taken from her and given to the father or the child will be “destroyed” when she is discovered to not be of pure blood.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Twin brothers – Marion and Shiva Stone – are orphaned in childbirth in a mission hospital in Addis Ababa, Africa during the political upheaval of Ethiopia’s revolution.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
An unforgettable, extraordinary story set Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s about black maids and the white women for whom they work.
Anne Marie Byrne, Staff Assistant—Dean of Students Office
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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
It’s about learning to live the life you are meant to live and that wants to be lived in you, compared to living a life that has (without your consent or even awareness) been imposed on you through any of a number of avenues, such as education, media, family expectations, and the like.
Ned Carr, Assistant Treasurer
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East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson
A novel about women traveling from England to India in the early 1900′s, some to find husbands, all somewhat naive about what lies ahead. Not really a book about India, but a good read about these women’s lives and the way they intertwine.
Light on Snow, by Anita Shreve
I liked this one by Anita Shreve. I have found some of her books to be hit or miss (didn’t likeChange of Altitude much), but this one was a very good read. A father and daughter live in the middle of nowhere as the father cuts himself off from his feelings and others after tragedy. Then they find an abandoned baby and must deal with the feelings it brings up, the mother’s sudden presence, and a detective’s search for answers.
Delta Wedding, by Eudora Welty
A gentle, slow moving story about a southern family set in the early 1900′s (?) about a young girl who goes to be with extended family as they prepare for a wedding. It is more of a portrait than a compelling narrative, a story that unfolds through the characterizations of people set in a particular place and time. An interesting read, but you can’t be expecting a dramatic plot line. It’s a novel of place, time and character.
Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie
A very sad book that takes the protagonist from the bombings of Japan, where she loses her fiance, to India, and then to Pakistan, New York and Afganistan (after 9/11). It tells the tale of survival of the spirit through horrors, and of the complications of family and relationships. I really liked this story, although it got a bit long toward the end.
Haunting Bombay, by Shilpa Agarwal
A funny, poignant, and somewhat surreal book about a ghost that haunts a family. Set in India, seen through the eyes of a young girl.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
A poignant story set in 19th c China, about a friendship that is bound by — and fractured by — the tight bindings of tradition, as tightly wrapped as the bindings of their feet. An interesting read! I enjoyed this book a lot.
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
I can’t recall if I mentioned this one on last year’s list, but it’s worth another mention in any case. This wonderful book won the Pulitzer Prize and is written by a Bates grad! It is a series of short stories that center around the same town and in particular touch on one woman’s life, Olive, who is sometimes harsh, sometimes gentle, sometimes mean, sometimes kind. She makes at least a cameo appearance in each story, and the basic “line” throughout follows her character, loosely. I like the way the story is
unassuming yet makes a strong sketch of character, of lives interwoven, sometimes randomly, of imperfection. An interesting read.
The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt
I am still reading this one – you can pick it up and put it down easily, as there is no real central “plot line.” It’s a nonfiction story of the author’s trip to Venice and his own journalistic investigation into an opera house fire, but it is primarily a book filled with eccentric, charming, theatrical and colorful characters! And a fine portrait of the city of Venice as well that becomes a character in its own right, with anecdotal vignettes that bring the city to life. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I do!
Paths of Glory, by Jeffrey Archer
I confess I’ve yet to read beyond the 5th page of this, because my son is reading it right now. But it seems like a very good read – a novel based on the life/quest of George Mallory who may or may not have been the first person to reach the top of Everest. The speculative aspect, combined with the real sense of history (his body was actually discovered in 1999), makes this story a fascinating exploration of what might have happened. And you can google Mallory and find all sorts of additional documentation, photos, and maps.
The Bone series, by Jeff Smith
These are not only kids’ books, they are graphic novels, not the type I’d typically add to a “must read” list! But these are so clever and fun that anyone with kids between the ages of, say, 9 onward, should read these! They are funny and endearing. The first one is Out of Boneville and the series continues from there. My kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed these books, and we are making our way through the series.
Anita Charles, Lecturer in Education
• • •
Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone
Kristen Cloutier, HCCP, Assistant Director of Center Operations
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Here are two books-one I’ve read, one I haven’t (yet):
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (read it, loved it)
Walking in Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe (picked it up at the store, wanted to buy it; decided to get it at the library; have to pay fines first.)
Daphne Comeau, Administrative Assistant – Annual Giving
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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I just finished this extraordinary novel, interlocking stories of a motley, surprising crew of New Yorkers on the day that Phillipe Petit tight-rope walked between the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. The characters are amazing, Colum McCann’s spirit is compassionate and wise. He has a wonderful way with voices and language.
Home by Marilynne Robinson is brilliant. This is a gripping revisitation of some of the characters from her earlier Gilead, but you can read it as a separate novel. It’s an American version of the Prodigal Son, with a prodigal daughter as well…. amazing ending, that made me reconsider the whole novel, 1950′s America, and why the characters had acted as they did.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Bleak, bleak, bleak – but an amazingly realized vision of a world we hope never to see: a father and his son on the road in a post apocalyptic landscape. The relationship between the father and son is wonderfully tender, and it’s also an incredible novel of place – the lower Appalachian mountains once the climate has been completely screwed up. I couldn’t put it down…. and if it sounds crazy to read this during the summer, I’ll just say (no spoiler alert) that it’s ultimately a profoundly affirmative work of the imagination.
Jane Costlow, Professor of Russian
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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
An astounding memoir of the author’s childhood of transiency and poverty, and the challenge of understanding her parents’ choice to live the way they did.
Marianne Nolan Cowan, Director of Bates Networks and Regional Outreach
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I really liked Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer
Karen Daigler, Assistant Director of Med Studies, Career Services
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The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
I found Doyle’s characters and prose lively and charming like all his books.
Sylvia Deschaine, Academic Admin. Assistant, Psychology
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Here are some books I’ve enjoyed this year:
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
Still Alice, Lisa Genova
Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Homer and Langley, E. L. Doctorow
Marty Deschaines, Asst. Director for Community Volunteerism and Student Leadership Development, HCCP
• • •
Exile is a political thriller by Richard Patterson which engages the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a fictional trial for an accused Palestinian political assassin being defended by her former lover, a Jewish-American lawyer.
Patterson does an excellent job of explaining the history and describing the real life in Israel and the occupied territories.
A good love story, blended in with suspense and history. The plot is non-stop exciting from beginning to end.
Exile is a story of intrigue, conspiracy and a fatalistic love between two people whose cultures separates them in a timeless void.
Donna Duval, Administrative Assistant, Leadership Gifts
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For the Sci-fi experience I just re-read the Landover Series by Terry Brooks.
For the mystery buffs, Donna Andrews - Murder with Puffins, was a fast read and takes place on Monhegan Island.
Also any of the J.S. Borthwick, books with the Maine locations and her characters of Sarah Deane and Alex McKenzie are enjoyable.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, has me hooked to the point that I carry it with me, so I can read whenever I can. All the books in the series are a big read, with over 800 pages.
Can’t wait to see what others are reading.
Melinda Emerson, ILS Purchasing, Sales and Accounting Specialist
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Richard Holmes– The Age of Wonder
(Herschel, Banks, Davies, balloons across the Channel! Science in the Romantic Age! Brilliant.)
Nicholson Baker– The Anthologist (novel); (poignant travails of a minor poet.)
Justin Tussing– The Best People in the World (novel);
(a runaway comes of age in VT with back-to-the-landers, early 70s.)
Sarah Manguso– Two Kinds of Decay (illness memoir– sharp insight, striking formal conception.)
Don Paterson– (3 books, poetry) Landing Light; Rain; Best Thought, Worst Thought
Wendy Cope– (poetry) Serious Concerns
Derek Walcott– (poetry) White Egrets
Jonathan Skinner– (poetry) With Naked Foot
Jason Brown– (stories) Why The Devil Chose New England For His Work
Rob Farnsworth, Senior Lecturer-English
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My book club read these three books and we all LOVED them.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anita Farnum, Security and Campus Safety
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
Johie Farrar, Assistant Dean of Admissions
The Shack by William Young
This was an excellent book!
Jeannine Ferron, Accounting Assistant
• • •
How about Old Filth [by Jane Gardam, Whitbred Award winner]? Just finished it, and enjoyed it.
From The New Yorker:This mordantly funny novel examines the life of Sir Edward Feathers, a desiccated barrister known to colleagues and friends as Old Filth (the nickname stands for “Failed in London Try Hong Kong”). After a lucrative career in Asia, Filth settles into retirement in Dorset. With anatomical precision, Gardam reveals that, contrary to appearances, Sir Edward’s life is seething with incident: a “raj orphan,” whose mother died when he was born and whose father took no notice of him, he was shipped from Malaysia to Wales (cheaper than England) and entrusted to a foster mother who was cruel to him. What happened in the years before he settled into school, and was casually adopted by his best friend’s kindly English country family, haunts, corrodes, and quickens Filth’s heart; Gardam’s prose is so economical that no moment she describes is either gratuitous or wasted.
Joan Fischer, Leadership Gifts Officer
• • •
Anita Shreve’s Change in Altitude.
Rae Garcelon, Class of 1962, Former Alumni Director
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The book that the Maine [Bates Alumni] book club did last week was fantastic:
The Help [Stockett].
Leigh Graham, Assistant Director of Alumni and Parent Programs
I have been reading two books about the War of 1812, a much neglected part of our history. The first for genealogy (because I had an ancestor stationed there during the war), Blockhouse and Battery: A History of Fort Edgecomb by Joshua Smith.
The second for town history, Strange Fatality: The Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813 by James Elliott, because it features two founders of the Town of Monmouth, Henry Dearborn and John Chandler. Both well researched and well written. They won the battle but lost their general!
On a completely different note, I am enjoying Madeleine Albright’s memoir Madame Secretary, having worked with Senator Muskie’s papers at the Muskie Archives. She was one of his staff people, and her account of the “dirty tricks” perpetrated by Segretti is one of the highlights.
Lois Griffiths, Retired staff member, Class of 1951
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Precious by Sapphire
Lorraine Groves, Bookstore Sales Floor Supervisor
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I just finished Martha Grimes’ Dakota, which I had been meaning to read last summer–pretty good.
Elaine Hansen, President
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Murder on a Midsummer Night, Kerry Greenwood
Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries have been short, light reads until now. While certainly not literature, Midsummer Night takes it up more than a notch both in length and content. I had to read it twice, spending hours, the second time, looking up references to art genres, artists, paintings, wall paper (Who knew that wall paper was a serious art form?), plays, playwrights and antiquities. I never did figure out why Dulac blue, which appeared throughout, was significant, nor why she deliberately misled the reader regarding the origin of a particular gold artifact. The usual murder mystery elements, greed, jealousy and subterfuge, are there, along with silly things like a butler named Butler, but Midsummer Night is worth more than a “skim” read.
Jim Hart, Programmer/Analyst, ILS
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Giddins, Gary : Jazz , W.W. Norton & Co., c2009
SUMMARY History of jazz that explains what jazz is, where it came from, and who created it and why, all within the broader context of American life and culture. Emphasizing its African American roots, Jazz traces the history of the music over the last hundred years. From ragtime and blues to the international craze for swing, from the heated protests of the avant-garde to the radical diversity of today’s artists, Jazz describes the travails and triumphs of musical innovators struggling for work, respect, and cultural acceptance set against the backdrop of American history, commerce, and politics. With vibrant photographs by legendary jazz chronicler Herman Leonard, Jazz is also an arresting visual history of a century of music.
The above summary is from the catalog record; my own “review” is that this is very well written and covers up to the recent past. The most interesting feature is the detailed musical analysis of selected recordings–analysis that a non-musician (like me) can understand and follow as s/he listens to the record. This illuminates and deepens the appreciation of both favorite tunes and unfamiliar music. One of the better jazz books of recent years.
Tom Hayward, Humanities Reference Librarian
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Here’s my recommendation: Leo Tolstoy, “The Cossacks” and “Hadji Murad.” Both are short stories and published in The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories in the Oxford World Classics series. I rediscovered Tolstoy by reading them. More importantly, I realized how much the current history of the area north of Iran was actually related to the Russian expansion into that region in the nineteenth century.
Atsuko Hirai, Kazushige Hirasawa Professor of History
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A few books about Asia:
Ted Morgan, Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu that Led America into the Vietnam War
In this thoroughly researched 700-page book, Morgan, a Pulitzer Prize winner, balances painful portraits of the months-long battle with detailed accounts of how American foreign policy was gradually pulled into the collapse of French colonialism. Like many books by Westerners about Vietnam, the Vietnamese except for Ho Chi Minh and General Giap almost completely disappear into the background, despite that almost half the forces fighting on the French side at Dien Bien Phu were Vietnamese.
Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn
A powerful Vietnam war novel by a former Marine officer, 35 years in the writing is a monumental attempt at self-healing, perhaps likely to become a war classic.
Leslie T. Chang, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
A reporter’s look (Chang was a WSJ writer) at the immense social transformations caused by the migrations of millions of young women to the factory cities and their dormitories. The book is also for Chang a “Roots” experience, as she traces her own family roots to a rural northern village near the Great Wall. Three great China books in one marriage: Chang’s husband is Peter Hessler, author of the equally well-written River Town and Oracle Bones.
James Bradley, The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War
Bradley, the acclaimed author of Flags of our Fathers, may be stretching his luck with this book. Theodore Roosevelt sent his Secretary of State and future President William Howard Taft with a Congressional delegation and his daughter Alice on a cruise to Hawaii and Asia. It was presented to the press as a good will junket, but Taft secretly negotiated treaties in Korea, Japan, China and the Philippines that negatively affected later Asian history.
Two chilling books about explorers in South America:
Candice Millard, River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey
Faced with political loss, Roosevelt’s impulse was often to charge into some grand adventure, on San Juan Hill, in North Dakota, or in this book, in a terribly misconceived expedition to follow an unexplored river through the heart of interior Brazil. That any of them survived is a miracle.
David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
The author, a talented New Yorker journalist with little jungle experience, found a set of diaries of the early 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett and resolved to follow his track to find the lost Indian empire the Spaniards called Eldorado. Grann barely survived; Fawcett and his son were never found.
Bill Hiss ’66, Executive Director for International Advancement and Lecturer in Asian Studies
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There is a series of books by JD Robb. It is the Lt. Dallas Homicide detective series. They may not appeal to everyone, but the rapport between the characters is great, and I have loved and read all in the series. I eagerly await each new book as they come out (not fast enough for me). So, hope this helps. Don’t be turned off by the NAMES of the books and not for the faint at heart as the subject IS murder, but if a reader can get beyond that fact, the characters MORE than make up for the subject matter.
Naked in Death
Glory in Death
Immortal in Death
Rapture in Death
Ceremony in Death
Vengeance in Death
Holiday in Death
Conspiracy in Death
Loyalty in Death
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant, Physical Plant
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It didn’t seem like I’d read any books except garden catalogues for quite a while, but I thought of one that I read this year and loved. Again this year I’m touting Bernd Heinrich, who has written a number of books that are just scientific enough for me to learn something and have just enough human interest to really grab me emotionally. The book I read most recently really got to me emotionally. It’s called, The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology, and it’s a biography of his father, Gerd Heinrich, who made important but little-recognized contributions to the field of biology, and a memoir of the author’s childhood.
After his father’s death, Bernd found himself drawn to the task of piecing together Gerd’s life, from his childhood on a family estate in Poland, through the family’s dangerous (and incredibly suspenseful) escape in the wake of World War II and re-settlement in Western Maine, to the painful and frustrating wrangles Bernd and his father engaged in as Bernd found his own way in his father’s field. Permeating the book is Gerd’s absolute obsession with the study and identification of different species of parasitical ichneumon wasps. He spent his life hunting down specimens of these wasps, identifying their species or prompting the identification of a new species, and adding them to his collection. Also at the core of the book is the disappointment and pain felt by both father and son in their dealings with each other. Ultimately, they were much more alike than different, and much more closely bound together than I think either of them thought. I found the book deeply moving — to see how Bernd finally came to walk in his father’s shoes and see Gerd on Gerd’s own terms is very sad at times, but sad in that way that feels almost good as your heart opens to another human being or beings.
Sue Hubley, Senior Researcher, College Advancement
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For those who are puzzled by what happened in the nation’s financial markets, two very readable, non-technical accounts (almost summer reading!) are:
Andrew Sorkin - Too Big to Fail
Michael Lewis - The Big Short (author of The Blind Side, of Sandra Bullock fame)
Jim Hughes, Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics
• • •
I’d recommend Lords of Finance (Liaquat Ahamed), which is about the central bankers who made the Great Depression possible – if you enjoyed 13 Bankers, Econned or Bailout Nation, you’ll like this one.
The Ghost Map (Steven Johnstone), gives the history of how London detected and defeated cholera outbreaks in the early Victorian period. At one level this book is and reads like a detective story. At another level the book considers the question of how the organization of information shapes the kind of information we can imagine and discover – and how and why the way we organize information changes.
Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome. (Robert Harris). The title says it all. If you likedImperium (and if you didn’t, I’m sure there’s a 12 step group to help you), you’ll love Conspirata- set in the year that Cicero was consul.
Margaret Imber, Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies
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Three unforgettable books I borrowed from Ladd Library in 2009-10:
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, is the story of Syrian-born contractor Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who chose to stay in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, hoping to protect his property and the lives of others. He lived to regret it.
In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson, an essential history of the remarkable young organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who led a revolution and laid the groundwork for future U.S. protest movements.
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon paints a portrait of an artist whose photographic icons grew out of her strengths as well as her weaknesses. And she had plenty of both.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Senior Staff Writer and Photographer
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Here are a few random selections, things I read over the course of this year that I enjoyed and also happen to remember…
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie: this novel follows generations of a family from Nagasaki during WWII to India to Pakistan to NYC and Afghanistan during 2001, weaving a beautiful multi-generational family saga with a nuanced geopolitical commentary that highlights colonial power and privilege.
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb: a very different sort of multi-generational family saga set within real events, not quite as beautifully written as Burnt Shadows in my opinion, but still a very engrossing read; it follows a fictional couple who both teach high school at Columbine High, tracing their family stories back and forward from the 1999 shooting.
Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin: this tell-all about the 2008 U.S. presidential election isn’t the sort of book I typically read, because I prefer to read fiction when I’m not reading sociology/gender studies, but it was lent to me by a Bates alum who had purchased it in an airport and said he couldn’t put it down; I too found it a pretty addictive read, both in the political analysis and the gossipy details about Obama, Edwards, Clinton, McCain, and Palin.
Radical Ambition: C. Wright Mills, the Left, and American Social Thought by Daniel Geary: if you like intellectual history, I recommend this biography of mid-20th century sociologist and public intellectual C. Wright Mills, which explores the thinkers and schools of thought that influenced Mills both as an academic and a political figure (and argues that Mills was less detached from the academy than he is often considered now). It’s a good read for anyone interested in Mills in particular, but also for those with a broader interest in leftist politics in the mid-20th century, as it traces Mills’ changing perspective on such politics (in the U.S. and internationally) across the decades of his relatively short career.
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
• • •
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is the best book I have read in years. As I suspect most of you know (given the amount of legitimate praise it has received, e.g., Man Booker prize for 2009), it is an historical novel of Cromwell’s life/role during the reign of Henry VIII, is wonderfully written, and humanizes Cromwell and the various players.
John Kelsey, Professor of Psychology
• • •
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
A Kingsolver fan, I loved this book while I was reading it and then I was resentful afterward because she makes growing her own vegetables, making her own cheese, raising her own meat, and on and on, look so easy–the Martha Stewart of the eating-local movement. Then I felt guilty: Do I dare to eat a peach if it was shipped from the South? (apologies to T.S.Eliot) I’m over it now and have incorporated those practices that I can into my day-to-day life. I have recommended this book to others.
Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout, Bates ’77
Wonderful group of stories about people who seem so real set in an area that’s so familiar.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
I had sworn off Ann Tyler for a while because her characters were getting too quirky for me, but I highly recommend this book about two families who adopt daughters from Korea and their different approaches to assimilation into a new place and retention of cultural and ethnic heritage.
Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
A life-affirming novel about four people living in Sarajevo during the siege: a cellist who plays outside on the street for 22 days in memory of citizens who were killed by a bomb while they waited in a breadline, the sniper who is ordered to protect him, and two men who are trying to
accomplish basic tasks like buying food and hauling drinking water not knowing if they will survive the bullets and bombs that are destroying their city.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A different look at war and its effects by people who survived Nazi occupation on their island in the English Channel and the author who wants to write about it. Told through a series of letters to and from different people, the characters are endearing and the story keeps you engaged.
Here and Nowhere Else by Jane Brox
One of a trilogy of memoirs about a family farm and apple orchard in Massachusetts and how the family members handle the transfer of ownership and management to the next generation. The book is beautifully written and heart-breaking in parts, especially when Brox candidly reveals her love of the farm and her frustration with family members as they confront the inevitable.
Margo H. Knight, Director of Advancement Research
• • •
All the World’s a Grave. A New Play by William Shakespeare by John Reed
Laura Warholic or, The Sexual Intellectual by Alexander Theroux
Jesus-Shock by Peter Kreeft
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster by Paul Ingrassia
Churchill by Paul Johnson
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater
• • •
The Hiding Man: a Biography of Donald Barthelme – Tracy Daugherty (St. Martin’s Press, 2009)
A fascinating peek into the literary world of the 60′s and 70′s.
The Farmer’s Daughter – Jim Harrison (Grove Press, 2010)
The master returns, and with Brown Dog.
Jim Lamontagne, Ladd Library Assistant, Cataloging
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Shattered by Karen Robards
Maureen Lessard, Bates employee spouse
• • •
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Wonderful novel set in Ethiopia on the grounds of a hospital serving the poor. Verghese opens window after window onto lives of people who will become part of your extended family. A physician, Abraham Verghese is well known for his work of non-fiction, My Own Country. At over 600 pages, this isn’t a quick read, but I didn’t want it to end!
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager
• • •
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (author of the also highly recommended Black Swan Green!)
Cloud Atlas is simply amazing. “Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy.” (new yorker)
Perhaps previously recommended (?), The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.
Bill Low, Curator, Museum of Art
• • •
Siri Hustvedt, What I Loved (very sad, beware)
Rosina Lippi, The Homestead (FABULOUS!)
Molly Gloss, The Hearts of Horses
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, probably the most amazing book I’ve read in a long time
Stieg Larsson’s trilogy
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology
• • •
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 by Juan Felipe Herrera
“A hybrid collection of texts written and performed on the road, from Mexico City to San Francisco, from Central America to central California, illustrated throughout with photos and artwork. Rants, manifestos, newspaper cutups, street theater, anti-lectures, love poems, and riffs tell the story of what it’s like to live outlaw and brown in the United States.”
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait by Frida Kahlo
“Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1919- 1954) kept this haunting journal during the last decade of her life, preoccupied with death, beset by declining health, isolation and repeated surgical operations resulting from the bus accident that severely damaged her spine, pelvic bones, right leg and right foot at the age of 18. This facsimile edition reproduces her handwritten, colored-ink entries and accompanying self-portraits, sketches, doodles and paintings, which fuse surrealism, pre-Columbian gods and myths, biomorphic forms, animal-human hybrids, archetypal symbols.”
Varieties of Exile (New York Review Books Classics Series) by Mavis Gallant
“Mavis Gallant – winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story – is the modern master of what Henry James called the international story, the fine-grained evocation of the quandaries of people who, from choice or necessity, have no place to call home. The complexity and uncertainty of the idea of home are very much at issue in the stories Gallant writes about Canada, her home country.”
Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida by Geoffrey Batchen
“Roland Barthes’s 1980 book Camera Lucida is perhaps the most influential book ever published on photography. The terms studium and punctum, coined by Barthes for two different ways of responding to photographs, are part of the standard lexicon for discussions of photography; Barthes’s understanding of photographic time and the relationship he forges between photography and death have been invoked countless times in photographic discourse; and the current interest in vernacular photographs and the ubiquity of subjective, even novelistic, ways of writing about photography both owe something to Barthes. Photography Degree Zero, the first anthology of writings on Camera Lucida, goes beyond the usual critical orthodoxies to offer a range of perspectives on Barthes’s important book.”
The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
“Elizabeth Bowen’s portrait of a young woman’s coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history. In 1920, at their country home in County Cork, Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, Lady Myra, and their friends maintain a skeptical attitude toward the events going on around them, but behind the facade of tennis parties and army camp dances, all know that the end is approaching—the end of British rule in the south of Ireland and the demise of a way of life that had survived for centuries. Their niece, Lois Farquar, attempts to live her own life and gain her own freedoms from the very class that her elders are vainly defending. The Last September depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence, both political and spiritual.”
The Foster’s Market Cookbook: Favorite Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night by Sara Foster
“In the tradition of the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Foster has put together favorite recipes featured at her two Foster’s Markets (where she prepares and sells seasonal dishes) in Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C. Much of the food is simple and depends on fresh, quality ingredients enhanced by herbs and spices for its success. Starting with a wide selection of muffins and breads, such as the moist Granny Foster’s Banana Walnut Bread, the book covers a range of breakfast and brunch dishes before moving on to soups, stews, chilies and the more traditional sandwiches, spreads and snacks of a gourmet market store. Enhanced with photos and scattered sidebar tips, the book is well designed and user-friendly, making it a welcome addition for those who plan their meals with the seasons.”
Perrin Lumbert, Library Assistant – Interlibrary Loan
• • •
Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Drive-The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
Ethan Dahlin Magoon, Online Media Producer, CMR
• • •
Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving
Irving’s 12th and latest, is set in New England and actually begins on a tributary of the Androscoggin, where a young logger dies in a log jam. The story begun in a logging camp flows downriver to Boston, follows a cook and his son through the restaurants of Boston, Brattleboro and Toronto, running from a crime that no one may know was even committed. Or, was it? Oh yes, there are bears and tattoos, too…wheat else would you expect?
Reading the Forested Landscape, Tom Wessels.
When I think I know something about land use history, I go back to this book and learn something new. Tom Wessels is a master of interpreting the signs left behind: how an old stone wall reveals which side was the pasture, and which the crop field; how the trees tell you when the fields were used and for what, and what the soil is like underneath. A field trip in a book, and a wonderful companion to read before and after a walk in the nearby woods.
The Poacher’s Son, Paul Doiron. Can I recommend a book I haven’t quite had the opportunity to read yet? Why not? It’s had great reviews, and Paul, the author, friend and editor-in-chief of DownEast magazine, has been talking about his first novel for years. It has just come out, and my copy is on its way. I know it’s going to be good. He has crafted a mystery set in the Spencer Lake area of Northern Maine near Jackman, incorporating some tales of the real prisoner-of-war camp set up there in the 40′s, and drawing from stories of a mutual friend who used to be doctor to the logging camps. Can’t wait to read this suspenseful thriller from a real place I once loved to visit.
Here’s an addendum to my blurb about Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son
I just finished reading the book. Hard to put down; the stuff that all-nighters are made of. The last two lines say it all: “People disappoint you so often. I hardly knew how to react when they surpassed all your hopes.” This is a keeper. Read it.
Judy Marden, Bates retiree, Class of 1966
• • •
…may already be on the list, but The Help by Katherine Stockett and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell are what I have enjoyed recently.
Also, The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent was very good!
Melani McGuire, Compensation and Classification Manager
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What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
On Easter weekend in 1975 two sisters disappeared from a mall and vanished without a trace. Thirty years pass and a woman flees the scene of a traffic accident. Later she’s found wandering, apparently deranged, without any money or identification. She says she is one of the missing sisters and this begins the journey of what happened to them and where they have been. Lots of suspense and twists in this novel.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This is a story that moves back and forth between the present time and the time of the second world war. It’s told from the perspective of Henry Lee, a Chinese American who reminisces about his relationship, at the age of 12, with Keiko, a Japanese American. Provides an account about the Japanese Internment in America and is a wonderfully told story.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
A pair of twin girls finds themselves coming of age in a unique way. Their aunt, the twin sister to the girls’ mother, has died and left her flat to the twin girls. The aunt has stipulations however. The girls’ mother and father are not allowed to set foot in the apartment for the year they are required to live there in order to inherit her estate. Their mother refuses to divulge the secret that has kept her and her sister apart for the years since the twins were very young. The book takes many strange twists and keeps you guessing throughout.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Regardless of how happy you might be, there is always the possibility of finding more happiness and this book is about one woman’s attempt at finding simple ways of creating more. Without making major changes, like moving or changing jobs, she instead makes simple resolutions, such as singing in the morning and walking more.
29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker
The author chronicles the results of a prescription she received, when she asked a spiritual mentor to help her deal with her recent and severe MS diagnosis, to give 29 gifts in 29 days. The key is honesty and altruism – giving with intention but with no expectation of return. Her transformation throughout the book of an ailing, angry person to one of health and joy will really draw you in and give you lots to think about.
Mary Main, Director of Human Resources
• • •
I highly recommend Rob Gifford’s China Road.
Maggie Maurer-Fazio, Betty Doran Stangle Professor of Applied Economics
• • •
Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
Two islands off the coast of Maine; lobstermen feuding over fishing rights; the daughter of one family educated at a private boarding school is determined to work on the boats, against the best advice of just about everyone; a wonderful, humorous look at it all. If you love books about Maine, you’ll like this one.
Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal
Intelligence–and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg
The Breakdown Lane by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Husband/father takes a “sabbatical” from family life and disappears leaving wife with no funds to raise 3 children alone — then she is diagnosed with MS. The kids go in search of the father. Wonderful characterizations – those teenagers!! Sounds depressing but I loved this book – and really enjoyed despising that husband!
Here’s a great one for your summer vacation: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. A journey along a century and 4 generations to solve an intriguing family mystery. Really hard to put down!
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
1962 Mississippi – southern women’s relationships with their black maids – a wonderful study of personalities and the struggles of the times.
Laurie McConnell, Carnegie Science lobby desk
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The Lilac Bus, by Maeve Binchy
An enjoyable book written by an author possessing a great talent for immersing the reader into the lives of total strangers. As one reads the story about several residents of a village in rural Ireland, who ride the weekly, lilac-colored “commuter” bus to and from Dublin, it is difficult not to get caught up in their individual, yet intertwined lives. It’s fun reading and goes well in a beach bag or knapsack for light reading while traveling. Even my husband, an avid reader of historical drama, sci-fi and fantasy books, enjoyed this book.
Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell, is a good read. I bought the book to read during the Christmas break and ended up receiving the movie as a Christmas gift. I was unable to read the book before seeing the movie, but kept an open mind about the book as I read it. It is an entertaining book about a woman who decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking,” and writes a blog about her experiences with it. I have to say that the book held my attention, even after seeing the movie. However, as a huge fan of Meryl Streep, I enjoyed the movie a bit more than the book.
Other reads this year, included suggestions from last year’s publication:
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, impressed me so much that I bought a copy for a girlfriend whose father-in-law has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I especially enjoyed the way the story was told from the perspective of the afflicted person. Wow!
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, was as enjoyable as the reviews stated. Her presentation in short story form about various characters who are somehow connected with Olive was an interesting way of portraying Olive’s life. I enjoyed it much more than her earlier book, Abide with Me. I support the decision to award her the Pulitzer prize! Well done!
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator, College Store
In the “this-book’s-title-has-been-plastered-so-many-places-I-can’t-believe-it-took-me-this-long-to-read-it category,” My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is a very good, very quick read.
I’ve also read and thoroughly enjoyed:
Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD by Beth Maloney
Pushed by Jennifer Block
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation by Janine Latus
The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald
A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath by Jeanine Cummins
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me by Jon Katz
A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life also by Jon Katz
Lost and Found by Jacqueline Sheehan.
Seems I have a thing for dog books and real-life drama.
Megan McHenry, Assistant Registrar
• • •
The most moving and memorable book I read this year, the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, is Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. It is a window into the life of a Marine second lieutenant fresh out of college and dropped into the jungle. I can understand why it took author Karl Marlantes 30 years to write this. Whether you thought the war immoral or one’s duty was luck of the draw back then, influenced by the people you knew, your economic strata, maybe your family history. Put everything else aside, and Vietnam was Ground Zero for my generation as the place where the extremes of human capacity for valor, cowardice, ambition, humor and pain played out. This novel is so authentic and intense, it is truly hard to put down. It affirms the truth of Aeschylus: “He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
Bryan McNulty, Director, Office of Communications and Media Relations
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Here are a few I’ve recently read/am about to read/review.
The War Against the Animals — Paul Russell
Finlater — Shawn Stuart Ruff
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night — Mark Haddon
The Secret Life of Dust — Hannah Holmes
Mushrooms Demystified — David Arora
Any of the “Dave Brandstetter” detective novels by Joseph Hansen
Getting Off Clean– Timothy Murphy
Teague Morris, Institutional Research and Assessment Support
• • •
Non-fiction books I read at the gym to make me look smart AND were also super good:
I’ve found that reading non-fiction at the gym lets people know you are serious not just about your workout regime, but also your brainpower regime. It is a clear signal that you have an impressive attention span for two somewhat boring things – the treadmill and truth.
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris
As a long time reader of Entertainment Weekly (wait, there goes that intellectual street cred I was trying to build reading non-fiction), I was curious about contributor Mark Harris’s first full-length book. Also, as a long time Academy Awards nut, I’ll admit, I was mostly drawn by the subject matter – which is the 1968 race for Best Picture. You don’t have to care one single iota about the Academy Awards to appreciate the ways in which Harris takes this singular pop culture moment as representative of the broader cultural shift that was taking place in this time. Also, there are details about Warren Beatty’s notoriously juicy love life, if you’re into that sort of beyond-the-tabloids information.
Open by Andre Agassi
I’ll admit, reading a book with Agassi’s face on the front cover was probably more intimidating to those seeing me at the gym than impressive, per se, but once you get over the initial fright of the cover photo – surely meant to hint at the inner depths of Andre that you’ll be reading about – this book is absolutely un-put-down-able. Ghostwritten (without credit, which Andre explains with admiration in the Afterword) by JP Moehringer who wrote the ALSO excellent Tender Bar, Andre’s fascinating story is brought to life by an honest-to-goodness amazing storyteller. Getting into the complex mind of someone who was essentially trained to be a tennis machine from early childhood is a absorbing process for the reader – and it is written in such a way that you don’t have to be a tennis pro to understand the complicated rise (and fall… and rise…) of an elite athlete.
Books that were good enough to read at home – between episodes of “Glee” and “Modern Family”:
I try really hard to read books more than I watch TV, but sometimes that futile effort results in epic failure. These books are so good that they kept me on my (futile?) path toward maintaining my literacy.
America, America by Ethan Canin
If you missed this book in its original hardback march of glory through everyone’s “Must” lists, please do yourself an enormous favor and pick it up in paperback now. It is so completely heartbreaking and beautiful and fascinating and… gosh, I get all prone to hyperbole just thinking about it. Please read it.
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
This is one of the best books about Family – in all its twisted and idiosyncratic glory – that I’ve ever read. A story about a family ostensibly “dealing” with the death of its patriarch, it’d be easy to write it off as “just another” novel about family dysfunction. Tropper’s writing takes it far beyond that. The characters are flawed in really realistic and relatable ways and the “happy ending,” while completely fulfilling, involves none of the icky clichés associated with that term.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
If you’re trying to resist this book because of the insane over-hyping that has accompanied its ridiculous run at the top of bestseller lists, stop. It’s futile. I tried too, but after hearing its praise from a number of trusted friends, I caved. Once you get past the sort of uncomfortable notion of a white author attempting to write in the voice of black Southern maids in the 1960s, this book feels like discovering a hidden gem (that only you and every other person in America has discovered). I read it during the winter, but I think it would make an even better beach read. If you don’t mind having the same book as the person sunning next to you… and the person next to them…
Carrie Murphey, Housing Coordinator and Residential Life Assistant
• • •
Deafening by Frances Itani – a compelling tale well told.
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs – informative and provocative.
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics
• • •
I just started Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson. I am through the second chapter and not bored, yet. A rousing recommendation!
Suzy Nattress, Electronic Access System Manager
• • •
I would like to recommend the novel Wanting by Richard Flanagan. This novel dramatizes the life and times of Dickens in the last decades of his life and develops a counterpoint between Dickens and Sir John Franklin.
Lillian Nayder, Professor of English
• • •
“Bear Hunter Magazine”
“Fin, Fur & Game”
Dan Nein, Director of Physical Plant Operations
• • •
Open by Andre Agassi
Wow, what a story Agassi tells about overcoming doubt and personal fears of inadequacy that led to drug usage to become a great tennis champion. His descriptions of his father, a former champion boxer, were chilling. The best part of the memoir was the bromance with his trainer Gil Reyes. I think the real love of Agassi’s life is Reyes, not current wife and former tennis champion Steffi Graff.
The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
Chin, a slam poet and performance artist who came to Bates for MLK Day in 2008, has written a terrific, and sometimes harrowing,autobiography about growing up and coming out as a lesbian in Jamaica. The Other Side of Paradise reminded me a lot of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Charles Nero, Associate Professor of Rhetoric
• • •
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman
This is a quirky, hilarious, and entertaining read. Very witty – a great beach book!
The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing it Now by Rita Emmett
I picked this book up from a second hand shop last summer when I felt like my schedule had thinned out so much that I wasn’t busy enough to not procrastinate. It has a lot of good advice for someone who may be falling into (or back into) a world of constant procrastination!
Sara Noyes, Residence Life and Student Activities Assistant
• • •
For sheer entertainment and excellent writing I recommend Gregory Maguire’s Mirror, Mirror, in which the reigning king of the recast iconic story retells Snow White, situating her and her pals in the Italian Renaissance and starring Lucrezia Borgia as the evil step-mother.
In the Life-Changing Book Department: The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. This wry and informative book hits everything from weather to mythology to physics to art history. It changed my life because now I look up at a crystal clear, cloudless sky and think, “How dull.” A true convert can join the author’s Cloud Appreciation Society, which celebrates on whatever terms the ephemeral magnificence and gorgeousness of clouds. Look up and you will never be bored.
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the Faculty
• • •
As I Live and Breathe, notes of a patient-doctor, Jamie Weisman, M.D.
An interesting and well-written look at medicine from the perspective of a young woman who IS a physician, but who also has a chronic serious, immune deficiency. The randomness of illness, and how patients and doctors respond to this randomness, is a strong theme.
The Language of God, Francis S. Collins
It seems as if every scientist I know has read or is reading this book.
And I recommend The Help, Kathryn Stockett.
Karen Palin, Lecturer in Biology
• • •
This year I’m ready with my title:
Half Life, by Shelley Jackson
This is a simultaneously merry and dark concoction of sci fi and satire. The underlying ‘what if’ sci fi question explored is, “What would it be like to be one of a sudden increase in the world’s Siamese twins, people born with two heads and two distinct personalities?” The story is told by one such person, a ‘twofer’ named Nora, who wants to be separated from her twin, Blanche, who has been asleep for 20 years. Nora bulls her way through existential crises, Pride marches with slogans like “YESIAMESE,” and “We-R-2-R-1-4-Ever,” hilarious love quadrangles and eerie murderous underworlds. I know it sounds silly, but Shelley Jackson demands imagination and self-examination from her readers and she explores worthwhile themes like the balance between self and other and the nature of reality, all while making you grin at her wit again and again.
Liz McCabe Park, Exec. Director, Maine Campus Compact
• • •
The News from Paraguay Lily Tuck 2005
The Road Cormac McCarthy 2006 (not LIGHT reading, but short, and if you can tough it out, it’s surprisingly hopeful )
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Jonathan Safran Foer 2006
Let the Great World Spin Colum McCann 2009
Carole Parker, Library Assistant – Acquisitions
• • •
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
This novel is based on the author’s grandmother’s life, growing up in the southwest in the early 1900′s! An amazing story of self sufficiency and inventiveness to survive poverty and thrive. Imagine riding horseback 500 miles to start your first teaching job at age 15- and this is only the beginning of her tales. Well written and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Evidence by Mary Oliver
The newest collection of Mary Oliver’s poems and once again a treasure chest of jewels!
Camille Parrish, Environmental Studies Learning Associate
• • •
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
A beautiful story, told from the perspectives of 3 women (1 white, 2 black). This book delves into what it meant to be a black servant in Mississippi at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, but not in a heavy-handed way. It is incredibly readable, humorous, and very powerful.
Gap Creek (the Story of a Marriage), by Robert Morgan
Set in Appalachia at the beginning of the 20th century, this book is an incredible depiction of what it took to survive in that time and place. While the marriage is certainly a central theme to the book, what fascinated me were the detailed descriptions and hardships of everyday life in that time and place.
Heather L’Hommedieu Perrault, Asst. Director of Accounting
• • •
I read for pleasure! So, I highly recommend anything by Janet Evanovich! Her books make me laugh out loud! I just finished The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. A fun read!
Kathy Peters, Costume Shop Supervisor
• • •
The Lewiston and Auburn Railroad Company, 1872-2009 written by Bates Political Science Professor Emeritus Douglas Hodgkin.
Edouard Plourde, Budget Manager, Financial Offices
• • •
My reading has been all over the map this year. I’ve continued to read some of my favorite escapist authors. For mystery and thrills it’s hard to beat Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs. They have kept Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast busy in Brimstone, Dance of Death, Book of the Deadand Wheel of Darkness. In Brimstone, he is faced with mysterious deaths which appear to have Satanic origins. He meets a woman with whom he forms an instant connection. The ending leaves us to imagine the answer to many unanswered questions and the path from start to finish is very creative. In the next two books Pendergast is pitted against his evil brother Diogenes who is bent on destroying Aloysius and everything dear to him. We spend a lot of time in the New York Museum which is at the center of so many Preston and Childs novels, and we reconnect with several of their earlier characters. It’s hard to put these books down once you get drawn into the stories. In Wheel of Darkness, Pendergast and his ward are chasing a different sort of demon and most of the chase takes place during a transatlantic voyage on a brand new cruise ship. Strange things happen and only the vast depths of Aloysius knowledge and skill permit him to solve this mystery and escape with his life.In The Ice Limit, Preston and Childs start with all new characters and a fresh new plot involving a meteorite and some key characters, whose lives have not always gone as planned, pitted against others whose lives seem to have been exquisitely planned and executed for maximum success. It’s interesting to see how these forces meet, collide, evolve and meet their respective fates. Most of the story takes place in Tierra del Fuego and the area waters.
For non- fiction, I read To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel, The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, Wood by Harvey Green and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. These were all vastly different. Koeppel’s biography/autobiography of his dad and himself is sometimes painful reading. His parents struggled with life, relationships, obsessions and the expectations of their parents. Much of the uncertainty was translated into the young Koeppel’s life. But the birth and progression of his father’s obsession with birds is compelling. Lots of folks have commented on Pollan so I’ll refrain. It is an educational/philosophical read. Wood: Craft, Culture, History is aptly described by its title. We learn about wood’s various uses in different times and cultures and how important it has been for shelter, commerce transportation and fuel. It’s a clear and enlightening work. Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker, on the other hand, is sometimes very dense and hard going (might have something to do with the age of my biology degree and the advances that I haven’t kept up with). This book clearly poses an argument for evolution and against Creationism, and Dawkins makes no apologies. He seems arrogant at times, but who wouldn’t be after spending so much time analyzing alternative theories of natural selection and probabilities?
I did a lot more escaping than hard thinking. For fast paced adventure and problem solving I recommend Matthew Reilly. I read Seven Deadly Wonders, The Six Secret Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors. These stories do an imaginative job of tying together the Seven Wonders of the World, some ambitious power seekers and some tried and true scholar/warriors. The mission is to see that the right people gain control of the mystical power identified by an earlier race of humans. The keys to ownership lie in interpreting the ancient clues left by some of the most famous historical figures known to man. It’s a race against time, cosmic events and some of the most evil villains imaginable.
Anne Bishop has written a very dark but engrossing Black Jewels Trilogy which includesDaughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness. Imagine reading a story which will leave you feeling like the world is turned inside out. Women have power as witches based upon the color of jewels with which they are affiliated from birth. The men are typically slaves to the queens and some of the characters you will end up rooting for are Saeton, his son Daemon and a prostitute named Surreal. It’s not a cheerful concept but it is a compelling and imaginative tale. The theme (involving child abuse) is disturbing so this book is not recommended for everyone.
Another fantasy series with a female heroine written by Maria Snyder includes Poison Study,Magic Study and Fire Study. It involves a young girl saved from execution to become the food taster to the “Commander”. She becomes the understudy of an assassin who apparently recognizes something in her. She becomes increasingly skilled in recognizing poisons and in other useful skills. She also discovers that she has some undeveloped magical abilities which are forbidden by the “Commander,” so she has to keep them in check. The three books cover intrigue, romance, political maneuvering and subterfuge and have us following the heroine through varied lands and interacting with good and bad magicians of various stripes. Very entertaining. Recommended to me by my wife who does not often read fantasy.
One last book that deserves mentioning is Anathem by Neal Stephenson. This is a brick of a book physically and an intricately constructed tale which is complex, philosophical, at times mathematical, linguistic, political, futuristic and inventive. It takes a while to become engaged in the story, so be patient. In a nutshell, you will read about a planet, sort of parallel to Earth in its development, quite far along in its evolution which is confronted with an alien presence in orbit around the planet. The story is told from the prospective of a young person who has devoted himself to a life of contemplation and learning. He gets thrust into the effort to learn about and react to the alien presence and in fact becomes a fairly key player. The story develops with carefully crafted relationships between young colleagues, old mentors and citizens from the world outside the “concent” who have previously maintained a restricted, almost isolated presence. More thought provoking than gripping but certainly worth the time for the patient reader.
Ray Potter, Environmental Health and Safety Manager
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Following a trip to Cape Breton and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, we were absorbed by the remarkable Bell family, particularly Mabel Hubbard Bell. I picked up a biography by Lilias Toward–Mabel Bell: Alexander’s Silent Partner. While the writing wanders a bit, the biographer manages to capture Mabel– hearing-impaired student, intellectually curious partner, supportive wife and mother, competent financial manager…a partnership that allowed Bell’s great genius to expand.
At the moment, I am finishing Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. How did I manage to get to this point in middle age without reading this book (or seeing a film version)?
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayres. I’m not much of a mystery reader but this one was a gem, set in British academe. Sayres wrote this Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery in 1935.
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director
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Older books that I finally got to and genuinely enjoyed:
Tracy Chevalier, Girl with the Pearl Earring (1999)
Delicate imagining of a Vermeer painting.
John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story (1994)
Reads like a novel, but it isn’t.
Richard Russo, Empire Falls (2001)
Novel; deteriorating Maine mill town; likable people trying to keep going.
The following are incredibly full of interesting information:
Simon Winchester, A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the great California earthquake of 1906 (2006)
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed (2005)
An amazing book; everyone should read it.
Dennis Overbye, Einstein in Love: A scientific romance (2000)
His first forty years; personal and physics (well explained).
Other good non-fiction reading:
Steve Lopez, The Soloist: A lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music (2008)
Peter Quinn, Looking for Jimmy: A search for Irish America (2007)
Alan Hirshfeld, The Electric Life of Michael Faraday (2006)
Short, easy read; great 19th century physicist; up from poverty story.
Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China: The fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom (2008)
Look in the library for work by Joseph Needham; incredible accomplishments; amazing and unique life story.
Bruce Barcott, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One woman’s fight to save the world’s most beautiful bird (2008)
Best read after going to Belize; Hope and I loved the country and the book.
Stephen Lopez, The Big Short: Inside the doomsday machine (2010)
Wall Street making and losing money in new ways.
Jack Pribram, Professor Emeritus of Physics
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Still Alice by Lisa Genova
A woman professor’s battle with early onset Alzheimers.
Kelsey Purinton, Accounting Specialist
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I recommend The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009)
“In the event that your seatmate turns out to be a homophobe.” “In the event that your date bails when you disclose your transgender status.” These two examples from the book cover point to a book with astute and accessible essays about what is so much more complicated about queer gender and sexuality than the initials LGBT could possibly convey.
Erica Rand. Professor of Art & Visual Culture
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I would like recommend the book entitled The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. It was recommended to me by a Franciscan monk (Father Flavian Walsh). This book will appeal to the art history majors. Hope they enjoy.
Sasha L. Reynolds , Museum Staff, BCMA
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These are the books I’ve started that I hope to finish this summer.
Crosby, Stills & Nash: the biography,text by David Zimmer; photographs by Henry Diltz
Complete Horse Riding Manual – William Micklem
Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan – Scott Simon
And I’m on the hold list for the Ladd Library Kindle, so when I get my turn in about two weeks, I plan to read John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River.
Julie Retelle, Assistant College Librarian for Access Services
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The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Entertaining and disturbing read of a future society where Reality Television has run amok. Can’t wait for the third in the trilogy!
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Non-fiction read about exploration in the Amazon jungle. Giant ticks, poisonous everything, hostile cannibalistic natives. I have no desire to go, but enjoy reading about the trials and obsessions of those who explore it.
Enjoyed a few older books this year:
The Fall of the Year by Howard Frank Mosher
Mosher writes about the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. This short book of stories through one summer in one town was very sweet and reminded me of how much I like him as a writer.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Lush. I felt I could SMELL the woods and the grass and the apple trees.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
I haven’t been crazy about her subsequent books, but there’s something about this story, these people who behave so humanly and heroically when the Plague comes to their small village in 1665 that causes me to re-read this book every couple years.
The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater
Tristan, now 11, recommends this HIGHLY. Neddie goes on an epic journey. Odd things happen (it is Daniel Pinkwater, after all). Get it? Neddiad?
Stephanie Richards, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
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City of Thieves by David Benioff
Julie Rosenbach, Environmental Coordinator
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Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Bronwyn Sale, Lecturer – Education
My recent favorite: 1000 White Women by Jim Fergus
A romanticized “historical fiction” in diary format of what might have happened if President Grant had taken the Cheyenne Indian’s on their offer of having 1000 white women to marry their Braves in order to integrate the two cultures.
My husband copied the last 30 pages for me because I had to return the book to inter-library loan before I left for Costa Rica.
Nancy Salmon, Asst. Director and Registrar-Bates Dance Festival
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My recommendation is: Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight.
Sharon Saunders, Systems and Catalog Librarian
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The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Paula Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry
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Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
I usually kvetch about foreigner’s tales about India–the stories turn out to be ploddingly all about THEM (plus any baggage/luggage) and not at all about being THERE. Geoff Dyer’s two-part novel, or two novellas-in-one-book, is gripping in its description, quirky in its wit, and a complete exception to this rule. In other words, I love it. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, starting with the title, plays off a classic genre and presents the English protagonist abroad with such stylish clarity (first in the fleshpots of the Venice Bienniale, then in Varanasi, giving it all up in a tourist hotel) that you will want to read it just for the writing, never mind the sex and drugs which also abound.
When the Geoff Dyer bug bites you, and you find your beach not crazy or intense enough, be sure to pick up his collection (outrageous in content, elegant in style) entitled Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It.
Sagaree Sengupta, Asian Studies Lecturer, Graduate Studies Advisor
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I enjoyed Turn Right at Orion by Mitchell Begelman. The fictitious log of a sole traveler’s journey through the Milky Way, based on the most up-to-date science of the time (2000). The author conjures vivid imagery of interesting deep space objects like pulsars, black holes, and nebulae.
Anthony Shostak, Education Curator, Olin Arts Center
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Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters by Grace Schireson. A girlfriend gave this to me, and I just gobbled it up. The author, a devoted Zen practitioner herself, passionately sought out everything she could find (on her own, and from scholars of Buddhist women’s history) about Zen’s women ancestors. From the Foreword by Miriam Levering (a professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies): “What is exceptionally rich about this book is the way in which Grace brings together her psychological insights into women’s motivations and circumstances …” –I found it terrifically inspiring.
That led me to read Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experiences edited by Peter N. Gregory and Susanne Mrozik. This book grew out of a conference by the same name held at Smith College in April, 2005. Peter and Susanne edited the transcripts of the conference tapes and “tried to preserve as much of the oral character that gave life to the panels” as they could. I loved the range and diversity of viewpoints, including contributions from bell hooks (author and activist), Meredith Monk (singer, filmmaker, choreographer and director), Jane Hirshfield (poet), Thubten Chodron (author and nun) and many, many more!
Finally, I read Walking on Lotus Flowers: Buddhist Women Living, Loving and Meditatingby Martine Batchelor (and gave a copy to the friend who gave me Grace Schireson’s book). The title pretty much says it all. The author really does an excellent job at portraying each unique person’s story — and some of the stories are really amazing, like the nun who dug herself out of a retreat cave after an avalanche! There are women who are celibate, and women with families. Again, totally inspiring!
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics
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Zen Guitar, by Philip Toshio Sudo – especially encouraging for guitarists, perhaps helpful for any aspiring musician
QED The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, by Richard Feynman – a classic explanation of RF’s Nobel Prize-winning work for the nonspecialist
Rumored Islands, by Robert Farnsworth – wonderful poems by my rumpled neighbor
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, by Daniel Yergin (maybe I recommended this before???) – probably helps explain why the renewable energy revolution hasn’t quite arrived…
Rivers of Memory, by John Gibson – inspiration for those who would kayak Maine rivers
John Smedley, Professor of Physics
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First, let’s have a good mystery. A fine one would be Donna Leon’s Through a Glass Darkly. Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti investigates a murder that takes place in the glass factories of Murano. Brunetti has the added pleasure of arresting the suspect while the latter is having lunch with Brunetti’s obnoxious and overbearing superior.
Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice. Tinsley Yarbrough’s new biography of Justice Harry Blackmun is aptly subtitled, “The Outsider Justice.” Justice Blackmun, for all his legal erudition, was an intensely modest man and throughout his career on the Supreme Court, constantly had doubts that he should be there at all. Yarborough nails the modesty perfectly in noting that Blackmun drove a Volkswagen bug to Court everyday (much to the dismay of some of his grander colleagues). His wife Dottie memorialized the modesty by driving a rented VW to Harry’s funeral — amidst the stretch limos carrying those grander colleagues.
Lawrence Friedman, likely America’s pre-eminent legal historian, has written a delightful social history of the law of succession, Dead Hands. As he says, “when the body flatlines” you lose almost all control over your stuff –almost, but not all. Your “dead hand” can reach out and benefit a family, or a cause. Or failing that, the state can direct the passage of your goods, if for no other reason than to prevent the social chaos of scavenging.
Finally, Strengthening Forensic Sciences in the United States is the cluster bomb the National Academy of Sciences dropped into the forensic science community, telling them, and us, that most of what they do is not science at all. And if you’re looking for a rich banquet of selections about the cultural history of America, you can do no better than to dip into A New Literary History of America by Marcos and Sollors.
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology
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My vote this year goes to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall which takes place during the reign of Henry VIII. I absolutely loved it but if you think the saintly Thomas More really was above criticism then this book might not be for you. I found the subtle fascinating portrait of Henry’s chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, normally painted as the black villain of history, both engaging and believable. It’s a dense book and I could sometimes only manage about ten pages a day, but it has continued to live in my imagination as many quicker reads have not. If you are looking for yet another really long dense novel, then try A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book — sometimes longwinded and maybe a bit too much detail about the William Morris prints on the Victorian ladies’ dresses, but insightful. Moving and often sad in describing Victorian/Edwardian mores with regard to sex, marriage, and children.
Anne Thompson, Professor Emerita of English
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These are the ones that I like and remember very clearly
-Hermann Hesse: Narcissus and Goldmund; Siddhartha
- Melville: Moby Dick
- Frank Waters: The Man Who Killed the Deer
- Isabel Fonesca: The Gypsies and their Journey
- Steinbeck: Grapes of Wrath
- Hemingway: Death in the Afternoon (to be combined with Franz Borkenau’s The Spanish Cockpit –non-fiction)
Ganesh Trichur, Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics
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I would recommend anything by P.G. Wodehouse.
Two stories [in particular]:
“The metropolitan touch”
“The great sermon handicap”
Both can be found in The World of Jeeves …an omnibus edition which includes a preface by the author.
Seth Warner, Manager of the Olin Arts Center
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The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson Who knew that obituaries, obituarists, and their fans could be so much fun? A fun, suprising, and often uplifting read. (You might also want to check out her latest book, This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.”)
The Man Who Ate Everything, and Other Gastronomic Feats, Disputes, and Pleasurable Pursuits.
From Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic for Vogue, who takes us on a culinary journey through food phobias, the pleasures of Italian and French cooking, and the wonders of the french fry, among much, much else. By the end, you too will be eating everything.
Pat Webber, Archivist, Muskie Archives
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Lone Survivor, By Marcus Luttrell
A true story of American heroism and courage, this is the gripping eye-witness account of Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan, 2005. It is a fast read that will take the reader inside the incredible training of US Navy SEALS and on a moving journey through the rugged mountain terrain of Afghanistan, highlighting the Taliban and Pashtun cultures. The finest display of courage and bravery under fire.
Kevin Wells, Class of ‘05
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My suggestions this year are themed, inspired by our trip to Iceland in late winter.
For those of you familiar with Stieg Larsson and other North Atlantic crime fiction, I highly recommend picking up any of the Detective Erlendur novels by Arnaldur Indridason. There are ten novels in the series, five of which are available in English translation: Jar City; Silence of the Grave; Voices; The Draining Lake; Arctic Chill.
I also recommend a new crime series by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Principally known as a children’s book author, she was recommended to us by a bookseller in Reykjavik. Look for Last Rituals and My Soul to Take.
I cannot speak highly enough of a small collection of short stories, Stone Tree, by Gyrdir Eliasson. Eliasson is one of Iceland’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, but this collection is the only one of his works currently available in English. The stories are snippets of dreams, elliptical in their description, but they stay with you long after the book is back on the shelf. If we buy enough of this translation, perhaps the publishers will be inspired to commission others.
For those looking to immerse themselves in Iceland’s deep past, I recommend The Sagas of the Icelanders (Penguin edition, edited by Jane Smiley). For a more recent excursion, read Independent People, by Halldor Laxness.
Andrew White, Director of User Services, ILS
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A typical test of a new book is to ask if the first line makes you want to read the second. I picked up Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids (Harper Collins, 2010) to see if it passed the test. I couldn’t stop before the end of the first chapter. This is a memoir of her start in the 60s and her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. Whodathunk that a memoir by an aging rocker could be so direct, so clearly written, and so engaging, especially to an aging librarian? It’s a clear-eyed account of struggling young artists, and an homage to New York City. I’d say this book is of interest to anyone who lived through the late 60s anywhere, whether or not they knew John and Yoko, whether or not they ended up as a celebrated writer and artist, let alone an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s also for anyone who has ever been young and in love at any age.
Gene Wiemers, Vice President for ILS and Librarian
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
The Game Makers, by Philip Orbane
Anne Williams, Professor Emerita of Economics
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Palace Walk by Naquib Mahfouz provides a close look into Cairo society at the end of World War I through the story of the family of a middle class merchant. All family members are such real people and the writing, even in translation, is beautiful. Mafouz won a Nobel Prize in literature.
Laverne Winn, Science Reference Librarian
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Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
The Little Chapel on The River by Wendy Bounds
Phyllis Wisher, Bookstore Stock Assistant
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