2013 Summer Reading List
Welcome to the 17th annual Bates College Store “Good Reads” list!
We invite you to browse and enjoy. We hope you’ll find the perfect summer reading on this list. As always, we are eager to hear your thoughts!
Receiving 3 or more recommendations on the 17th annual list!
Bring Up the Bodies (Hillary Mandel)
Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins)
My Beloved World (Sonya Sotomayor)
Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward)
State of Wonder (Ann Patchett)
Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)
When We Were the Kennedys (Monica Wood)
Wild (Cheryl Strayed)
Submissions are listed alphabetically by surname of the submitter. In an effort to conserve paper, we have condensed the list with very little regard for design or spacing! We apologize for overcrowding, typographical errors or other misrepresentations.
Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter, The
Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
This is a mystery series set in the early 1700′s. Young Matthew Corbett starts out as Clerk to a Magistrate in South Carolina, and ends up as a “Problem Solver” (i.e. detective) in New York City. The characters are well-developed and quirky, the mysteries are compelling, and Matthew himself is young, witty and finding his way as we all do – maybe less gracefully than some of us do. It does get violent, but otherwise it’s a fun series.
State of Wonder by Anne Patchett
Another mystery with some biology in it. A young scientist who works for a drug devo company goes off to the jungles of Brazil to find her Ph.D. mentor who has disappeared there. The mentor is supposed to be developing a drug that the company has great interest in. Discovering what she is actually doing proves to be quite an adventure. It kept me reading on a long plane ride, although it was not my favorite read of the year.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
I liked this book way more than I thought I would. It’s a true story about the author, a journalist who gets interested in exploring memory (mostly because his own is so bad) and sets off to learn more about the people who compete in “memory competitions” (you know, the folks who can memorize the random order of a deck of cards or a list of 2000 times in 3 minutes). So ultimately Foer decides to compete himself (and describing his year of preparation makes up a good part of the book), but first he describes some of the psychology, neurobiology and experiential stuff that we know about the brain, memory and learning. It was an easy, interesting read with a conclusion that made me feel good about my own (somewhat questionable) memory.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett
This is the second in Follet’s Century Trilogy (the first is Fall of Giants) and it picks up where the first book left off. Follett follows 5 families from America, Germany, Wales, Russia and England through WWI in the first book and WWII in the second installment. With these strangely connected families, we see the Nazis, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of women, the atomic bombs, and much more. This is the kind of historical fiction that takes you through the high points through the eyes of fictional characters (which is probably like learning about virology by reading “The Demon in the Freezer”, but I’m OK with that). The trilogy is typical of Follett’s epic novels, and I will certainly read the third part when it comes out.
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life–until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father’s prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I laughed, cried and thought at times, I was losing my mind too.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillmanby Jon Krakauer
Pat Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army and became an icon of post-9/11 patriotism. When he was killed in Afghanistan two years later, a legend was born. But the real Pat Tillman was much more remarkable, and considerably more complicated than the public knew…
Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Don Fendler and Joseph B. Egan
I read this with my 8 year old and recommend it to all Mainiacs!
Sheila Anderson, Asst. Director, Operations and Analysis, Bates Career Dev. Center
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. A multi-generational novel tracing the melancholy fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Martin Andrucki, Professor of Theater
I just read the sweetest little book. It’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott. Not deep, just a quick, uplifting, rambling set of thoughts about what praying means to the author.
Jenny Bergeron (lab rat with us this spring/summer) recommends Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
I’m reading the Sonya Sotomayor autobiography My Beloved World which I am enjoying very much. I completely related to her experience being the first generation in her family to go to college.
Linda Archambault, Lab Research Assistant, Dana Chemistry
I thought the three books by Oliver Potzsch about the hangman’s daughter were a fun read. Mystery books which they take place during a bloody time in Europe’s history.
The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughters Tale
The Poisoned Pilgrim: A Hangman’s Daughters Tale
The Beggar King: A Hangman’s Daughters Tale
Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, Associate Professor, Department of Politics
Chris Ware, Building Stories
John Baughman, Associate Professor of Politics/Advisor to the President
Lisa Genova, Bates grad, is an incredible writer. Still Alice and Left Neglected would still be recommended by me, and now her third novel, Love, Anthony…is a wonderful read. You literally can’t put her books down, they are written with such style and knowledge that it is hard to believe they are fiction…I highly recommend all three books.
As always, anything written by Tess Gerritsen if you like murder mysteries…and she lives in Maine!
Jane Bedard, Admission Office Specialist-Operations
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Four Hour Work Weekby Timothy Ferriss
Stardust(audiobook) Written and Narrated by Neil Gaiman
Ulysses (audiobook) Written by James Joyce, Narrated by Jim Norton
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Rachel Boggia, Assistant Professor of Dance
Here are two suggestions from my Hungarian summer:
Dezső Kosztolányi, Skylark (NYRB Classics 2010)
Sándor Márai, Embers (Vintage 2002)
Raluca Cernahoschi, Assistant Professor of German
When We Were the Kennedy’s by Monica Wood
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
Kristen Cloutier, HCCP, Asst. Director of Center Operations
This is my lone recommendation:
Nurture Shock:New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Emily Merryman
Daphne Comeau, Administrative Assistant, Annual Giving
Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Harrowing and deeply committed work that crosses genres and media, between Hedges’ impassioned histories/interviews and Sacco’s graphic-novel illustrations: native communities in the Dakotas, corrupt and imploding New Jersey urban cores, devastated mountain tops in West Virginia… and it all ends with the Occupy Movement. I’d say it’s depressing but it’s not: it’s a work of passionate energy and truth-telling.
Geoff Dyer, Zona. Any Tarkovsky fans out there? Watch Stalker and then read this amazing book…. scene-by-scene and marvelous digressions that take you deep into the movie and into Dyer’s life and sensibility.
Cheryl Strayed, Wild. Much more about the wilderness in Strayed’s troubled soul than the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail, but a great and funny read, especially when she’s falling over because she can’t pick up her 100-pound backpack.
Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffiths Professor of Environmental Studies
Blackout/All Clear (published two volumes) – Connie Willis
The last two (of four) books in the Oxford Time Travel Series primarily set in WWII during the blitz. (A few years ago Lee A. recommended The Doomsday Book which is the first in this series.)
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
A dystopian novel, originally published in the mid-80s, that explores the subjugation of women.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Fun book for anyone who loves pop culture and video games from the 1980s.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley
An 11-year old aspiring chemist solves a murder.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
A classic worthy of another read.
Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
Nonfiction about the 1893 World’s Fair and a serial killer.
Grace Coulombe, Director, Mathematics & Statistics Workshop
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Interesting true story about a young woman with nothing left to lose and her struggle to hike over a 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Since I am an avid hiker and outdoors person, I especially liked this book but I think anyone can appreciate the difficulties life brings and our efforts to overcome obstacles.
Sisters of the Quilt by Cindy Woodsmall — trilogy about the pull between Old Order Amish life, Mennonite life and the modern world. Great, well developed characters, interesting story. Easy read.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kennison. A mother’s memoir about the importance of the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life.
When Women were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. Another non-fiction (New Year’s resolution to read more non-fiction…) about a woman finding her voice and paying tribute to her mother and all women. Williams taught a class in non-fiction nature writing last spring at Dartmouth. My daughter remains awestruck.
Karen P. Daigler, Senior Associate Director for Graduate and Professional School Advising
A High Wind in Jamaica (Richard Hughes)
The Judges of the Secret Court (David Stacton)
David Das, Assistant Director of Off-campus Studies
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson…Someone previously recommended this in one of your former lists. It is an excellent portrait of the movement of African Americans out of the deep south to the northern states between WWI and the 1960′s.
The Patriarch- the biography of Joseph Kennedy by David Nasaw. A thorough and fascinating history of the Kennedy clan.
The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor. The biography of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and the recovery of some of his stolen works (by the Nazis in WWII.)
Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson. A wonderful look at Hemingway’s Cuban years and his special love for his fishing boat Pilar.
Jerry Davis, Class of ‘61
Books I have enjoyed this year include:
Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibigiza
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood
Wild by Charyl Strayed
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Marty Deschaines, Assistant Director, HCCP
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It’s the story of a young German girl caught in the path of the advancing Nazi regime during World War II.
The story instantly travels you back to the time of WWII and holds your attention the whole way through. This book has a little bit of something for everyone. At some points it’s haunting, some parts are extremely funny, and then of course there is the unbearably sad and heartbreaking parts as well.
Donna Duval, Asst. to AVP for Development
I would not have thought I’d like them but when my nephew recommended the Hunger Games series I started reading them. I found them to be one of the quickest reads as the first person narrative really sucked me in. Although I read The Healing of America by T. R. Reid in 2011, I did not turn it in last year and thought it was worth a mention. If anyone needs convincing how upside down the U.S. Healthcare system is the Healing of America is a must read. The author takes a journey to several other countries to explore how their health system works and what treatment they would recommend and cover for his ailing shoulder. Where he found the care that best suited his needs (and the cost of that care) was an interesting highlight of his journey.
Ken Emerson, Associate Director of Human Resources
Cleo: Helen Brown
It’s a true story about life/love and grief after her son dies.
Waterlily: Ella Cara Deloria
A novel on Indian Life (Dakota Sioux) just as the European settlers arrived. Written by a Sioux Enthologist in the 1940′s, printed 18 years after her death. A real insight into the beliefs and culture of the Native American.
Princeton Murders: Ann Waldron
Fast moving mystery, great for a vacation. It’s about a chance to teach a writing class at Princeton. It has all the diversity in faculty, staff and students all colleges have, making it a good read.
The War Brides: Helen Bryan
A different take on WWII in 1939, when 5 women’s lives collide in a sleepy english village.
Knockdown: Sarah Graves
A Home Repair is Homicide Mystery- set in Eastport, ME
White Dog Fell From the Sky: Eleanor Morse
In an intense novel set in 1977, Botswana and South Africa, it brings home the message that our memories, love and hope cannot be beaten out of human spirit.
Melinda Emerson, Purchasing, Sales and Accounting Specialist – ILS
The Man Watching: Anson Dorrance and the UNC Women’s Soccer Dynasty by Tim Crothers - A very insightful biography of Anson Dorrance, winner of 21 NCAA National Championship’s as Head Coach of the University of North Carolina. A very good read and certainly can be enjoyed by both soccer fans and non-soccer fans. It deals with coaching, leadership, the relationships in sport and some interesting gender issues. Dorrance describes a lot of the differences in leading men and women, and his personal evolution as he adjusted away from leading groups of young men to women. He also gives his account of the Title IX revolution in college sports and admission, and played a key role as the USA rose from newcomers to being a world power in women’s soccer.
Stewart Flaherty, Head Coach, Men’s Soccer
Two time-travel novels (one is a sequel of the other) by Connie Willis:
Blackout, and All Clear
They are a wonderful evocation of the time when Britain stood alone against Hitler, before the U.S. joined her in World War II.
Lois Griffiths, Alumna and Retiree
Coe, Lewis. The Telegraph: A History of Morse’s Invention and Its Predecessors in the United States. MacFarland and Company. 2003.
Dray, Philip. Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America. Random House. 2005.
Frost, Randy O. & Gail Steketee. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Mariner Books. 2012.
Hayes, Christopher. Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. Crown Publishers. 2012.
Morse, Flo. The Shakers and the World’s People. University Press of New England. 1980.
David Haines, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Here are my two cents on two books:
Ruth Moore, The Weir.
This novel was written in the early 1940s by a wonderful Maine author. Take some time during your summer daydreams about island life to read about families fishing and fighting on a fictional Maine island. The novel is rich with its descriptions of the small details of relationships and the big questions about what holds a community together.
Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs.
Maybe it’s because, like me, he’s a guy in his 40s with kids just shy of their teens, but I don’t think the appeal of these essays is so small. He can write so deftly and eloquently about so many things, and his wit about contemporary life and his wisdom about the complex makes thinking recreational (in both meanings of the word).
Enjoy your reads, and have fun stocking the shelves.
Joe Hall, Associate Professor of History
An echo to what must to be many recommendations for Monica Wood’s When We were the Kennedys, phenomenal writing while it captures Maine and a piece of Maine heritage.
Judy Head, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Helen Hamlin, Nine Mile Bridge. A lovely account of far northwestern Maine in the 1920’s as the wife of a game warden.
Barton Gellman, Angler: the Cheney Vice Presidency. An account of Cheney’s profound influence, little understood at the time, on war, the environment, and government finances. In some ways Cheney comes across as less unprincipled—he apparently had no personal financial gain from the Halliburton no-bid contracts in Iraq, for example, when many assumed he got rich from those contracts. But in other ways Cheney profoundly suborned the Republic by secretly sabotaging environmental legislation, creating no-warrant spying on American citizens, no-charges imprisonments at Gitmo, secret CIA prisons, and rewriting tax legislation to lower corporate, income and capital gains taxes that fueled America’s gulfs in income and budget woes.
David Traxel, An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent. An iconic 20th century painter known for his paintings of Monhegan Island, he was also a political radical who paid for his views during the McCarthy era, an unrepentant realist as abstract art became popular, and a most unreliable spouse. Drawn to demanding physical environments, he painted in Alaska and Greenland as well as Maine.
Thomas E. Mann & Norman J. Ornstein: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks : How The American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics. An account from two observers of American politics, one at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the other at the liberal Brookings Institution. Their thesis is that the tactic of resistance by the Republican Right to all proposals by President Obama has significantly crippled America’s ability to make decisions on almost everything.
Pete Seeger: Pete Seeger : In His Own Words. Pete, now almost 100, has become the old man of American folk music, leftist international politics and river environmentalism. A pack-rat, Pete saved copies of everything, and this book is a rambling collection of his letters, articles and songs. Not a book to describe as “I couldn’t put it down,” but his accounts of resisting Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the 1950’s and his journey from communism to a more balanced internationalism are worth reading. His great contribution may be the evolution of folk music into a medium of international understanding.
Sue Hubbell: A Book of Bees and A Country Year: Living the Questions. Sue Hubbell would fit right into a MOFGA convention, though she raises bees commercially in the Ozarks. An unrepentant back-to-the-land hippie, she is a marvelous, gentle, astute writer. Both these books follow the cycle of the seasons, and can be read in an afternoon.
Elie Wiesel: Memoirs: All Rivers Run to the Sea. Known as a Holocaust survivor and novelist, Wiesel was raised in the devout mystical Hasidim of Eastern Europe and spent decades as an international journalist for Jewish papers. A longish book, more reminiscing than tightly edited, but touching, especially his comments on world events and major players (many of whom he knew) of the eight decades since his boyhood.
Don Perkins: The Barns of Maine: Our History, Our Stories. Perkins’ book on Maine barns, just out, is a parallel to the well-known book on New England residential architecture, Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn. Perkins’ book is straightforward and descriptive, using particular barns from around the state to explain how different farm needs from mixed agriculture to dairy to potatoes led to variations in barn design. Lots of photos to help the uninformed understand such terms as a “jowled post”–a vertical timber made from a single tree trunk turned upside down to get a thicker surface at the top, with the stump carved to create a wide space to tie other beams into one spot for support. The peak of Maine farming was in 1880, but there are still a few immense agricultural barns being raised, most recently by Amish families moving into northern Maine for its affordable land.
Bill Hiss ’66, Retired, and looking forward to more reading!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
Aislinn Hougham, Leadership Gifts Officer
Got a list for you this year:
Inn Boonsboro Series by Nora Roberts
The Last Boyfriend
The Perfect Hope
Betrayal by Danielle Steels
The Innocent by David Baldacci
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners
The Last Victim by Karen Robards
Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London
All very different genres but most very good!!
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant – Facility Services
My contributions for the year (I was on sabbatical):
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son
Candace Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
Erik Larson, In the Garden of the Beasts
Erik Larson, Thunderstruck
Jon Sweeney, The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation
Eric Jay Dolan, When America First Met China
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
Patrick McGovern, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages
Jim Hughes, Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics
I’d recommend, as a great beach book, the River of No Return, by Bee Ridgeway. It’s a great romp through 18th-century England with an interesting sci-fi, time-travel twist.
Margaret Imber, Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies
I’ve recently read three books by Maine author Paul Doiron who will be visiting campus on 12 June 2013.
The books are: The Poacher’s Son, Trespasser and Bad Little Falls: A Novel. He has a new book coming out on 6 July 2013 titled, Massacre Pond: A Novel.
As soon as I finished one book, I had to start the next one right away. The books are about a Maine State Warden, the situations he has to deal with and, of course, a little romance.
His books are very well written and informative. I can’t wait for the next one—very difficult to put down.
Rachel Jacques, Assistant to the VP for ILS
I have five: three are books I’m eagerly anticipating spending time with this summer, two more are books – recently published by Bates authors – that I’ve already read in drafts from their inceptions.
The first – strongly recommended to me by my daughter – just won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for biography. It is Tom Reiss’s The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. The second may be the most important book of the past twenty years on the U.S. war in Vietnam, Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. The third is a new biography of my second cousin twice removed, Barbara Ransby’s Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson.
The fourth and fifth are wonderful books by Bates graduates who were my students, research assistants, and honors advisees as undergraduates in the mid-late 1990s, before they became American History professors themselves. They are Eben Miller’s Born Along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement and Erik Gellman’s Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights.
Hilmar Jensen, Associate Professor of History
The World Without You: A Novelby Joshua Henkin
A family with four adult children gathers for a weekend in Western Massachusetts to memorialize the youngest, a journalist who was killed a year earlier while on assignment in Iraq. Fine writing coupled with all the filial drama you might expect under such circumstances provides a powerful reading experience.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Director, Photography and Video
Here are two non-fiction and two fiction suggestions from among many books I enjoyed this year.
Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs and the Micropolitics of Mothering (by Cameron MacDonald). This is an interview study exploring the lives of upper income professional women (largely white and heterosexually partnered) and the nannies (often lower income women of color, sometimes documented or undocumented immigrants) they employ. The analysis is thoughtful in its attention to the intersecting effects of gender inequality, racial inequality, class inequality and national/international public policy in shaping the daily lives of the families in the study.
Unequal Childhoods (by Annette Lareau, second edition). This observational study of how social class shapes parenting strategies in a manner that reproduces class inequality and unfairly privileges middle and upper middle class kids came out about 10 years ago, but the new edition is very recent. Lareau updates the stories of the families most centrally featured in the book, including attention to the children’s experiences as they grew to young adulthood. I used it in a course of mine this fall and students from a wide range of class backgrounds found the analysis provocative, and it has lots of implications for public policy and public life.
The Train of Small Mercies (by David Rowell). I enjoyed the way this novel captured a critical moment in US history, the assassination of RFK and the events of the broader set of events of the summer of 1968, by tracing the stories of fictional characters from varying backgrounds who all intersected with the funeral train that carried Bobby Kennedy’s body from New York to Washington.
State of Wonder (by Anne Patchett). In this novel, Patchett follows the path of a US pharmaceutical researcher who is drawn into the Amazon rainforest to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a colleague. The story is compelling, and along the way she highlights the tensions of globalization and imperial power as they intersect with gendered patterns.
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (I haven’t read the rest yet, but if they’re as good as this one the entire “Songs of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin can go on the list)
Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle (This is part of a series of which I haven’t read the others, but if you like this one the others may be worth trying)
Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
Animal Farm by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Anything by the following authors:
Susan Kenney (Graves in Academe, Garden of Malice, etc.)
Agatha Christie (Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express are my favorites, but all of her mysteries are great)
Hennig Mankell (The Kurt Wallander series in particular)
Helene Tursten (the Detective Inspector Huss Series in particular)
Stephen White (Alan Gregory Series)
As is probably obvious from this list, I’m a mystery buff. Most of these are pretty light reading, but Mankell and Tursten (the Swedish Authors) tend to be very dark and heavier than the rest. Any questions, feel free to ask.
Jeff Kazin, Library Assistant – Public Services
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey—This gorgeously descriptive book combines the brutal reality of homesteading in 1920’s Alaska with a whimsical lesser-known Russian fairytale. The lyrical prose is immediately captivating and so vividly imaginative that I pictured each scene so perfectly in my mind as I read. I’m not usually a fan of debut novels, but this one remains unforgettable in a year of some decently read books.
Prince Edward: A Novel by Dennis McFarland—1950’s Prince Edward County, Virginia—a time of segregation in which PE County was the only county in the US to close its public schools for five years rather than desegregate them. This novel is told through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, who doesn’t completely accept the concept of the separation between blacks and whites, in schools or otherwise, despite being surrounded by family members who represent the other side. The characters in this novel are complex, flawed, and honest. At times, it can become a little heavy in the historical lessons but still a wonderful read.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon—Another complex book about race relations, this time in the late 60s. This is a love story between a developmentally disabled white woman and a deaf African American man who are both locked away in the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded and their quest to provide a child with a safe and protective upbringing, even if it means the chance of never seeing her again. It’s beautifully written, with layers of courage and strength found up until the very last page. A really good book club read that prompted very rich discussion.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesay—Jane Eyre fans, beware…this is a modern tribute to the classic, but is charming and captivating enough to stand on its own. This time we’re in 1950s-60s Scotland, and we follow Gemma’s footsteps of life from the time her parents pass away at her young age of 3, while raised by an adoring uncle and tyrannical aunt and her resilience to endure a crappy boarding school until she can finally make it out on her own. Gemma is a likeable character who you find yourself rooting for against all odds.
Chef by Jaspreet Singh—This book explores a cultural writing style that is vibrant and at times, achingly beautiful as we follow Kip’s journey back to his war-scarred Indian homeland after a 14 year departure from being a cook in the northern Indian army during the India-Pakistan conflict. This book is told through Kip’s memories and his mind’s eye as he travels on a train back to Kashmir to provide the wedding feast for the daughter of his former General. The characters, landscape, and food descriptions weave together to form a really lovely and poetic novel.
A must-have children’s bedtime book:
Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler—Received this book when my son was born three years ago but really only began reading it to him within the last year. It is rip-roaring fun, filled with clever word play, nonstop rhyming, and awesome illustrations. We literally read this over and over and can’t get enough of it. Definitely a must in any child’s growing library.
Alison M. Keegan, Administrative Assistant, Office of the Dean of the Faculty
A Delicate Truth by John LeCarre: The newest book from one of my favorite writers. A relatively quick read as much of the book consists of his superb ability to write dialog. The plot centers around a joint anti-terrorist operation between British standard armed forces (off the book) and American mercenaries and the moral dilemmas created. Most of the characters are less internally conflicted about their roles than usual, but the conflicts between characters and puzzles created kept me very engaged.
I love Hilary Mantel’s two books on Thomas Cromwell and Henry the 8th, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Her writing is, in my opinion, superb and interesting, and, although much of the story is well known, she makes it all seem new. I can’t wait for the last book (about Cromwell’s ultimate demise) in this trilogy.
The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard is an engaging history of the Maine Coast beginning in the 1500s. I am surprised by how much I am enjoying this history of this important part of our (and other New England) state(s). My naive notion that our ancestors were better to our New England indigenous peoples than they were to those in the plains and southwest was certainly shattered.
For those who like simpler moral dilemmas, and are not tired of the Lance Armstrong saga, I would recommend The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton, who was Lance’s teammate during most of his Tour victories. As much as Mr. Armstrong has tried to discredit Mr. Hamilton, this has the ring of truth.
John E. Kelsey, Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience
The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard.
Don Kimmel, Bates spouse and friend
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Meg Kimmel, Associate VP for Communications
I don’t know if you’ve listed this one before, but it is a wonderful read for anyone interested in nature, healing and the meaning of life. A student gave it to me a couple of years ago (I work on snails), and I passed it on to a good friend with health issues.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Nancy Kleckner, Associate Professor of Biology
Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Jane Brox
From the stone lamps used in the caves of Lascaux to LEDs, this is a story of the social, political and environmental effects of human’s attempts to light our world. It was a surprisingly good read.
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden
The story of two friends brought up in well-to-do families and educated at Smith, who weren’t ready to settle into the married, society life that was the expected path for them in 1916. So they took jobs as schoolteachers in a new settlement in Elkhead, Colo., deep in the Rockies. This is a delightful story, based on letters found by one of their daughters (Dorothy Wickenden), newspaper articles from the time, and oral histories.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
A novel about four people and their entertwining paths between 1975 and 1984 in Mumbai, India. You learn about the turmoil of “The Emergency” called by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through their experiences, but it’s the story of how they deal with the different hands that they have been dealt and the unlikely bond that they create that makes this a good read.
Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine
A boy, growing up in a drab industrial town in Communist Russia in the 1960s and ’70s, learns about his family through his grandmother’s stories during his summers with her in a small town on the Russian steppe. This is a French novel, translated by Geoffrey Strachan. Through the stories of about his French great-grandmother and Russian great-grandfather and his grandmother’s experiences as a nurse and young wife as she travels from Paris to Siberia, the boy gets a romantic, dream-like view of Russian history. The stories she tells start in Paris during the flooding of 1910 and continue through a Russia consumed by war and famine. This was not one of my favorites, but it was worth the read.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomicby Alison Bechdel
This book was my first experience with the graphic novel style and I was pleasantly surprised. Alison Bechdel is a talented artist and storyteller and shows her skill in this touching story about her late father and her attempt to understand and come to terms with him as a father and as a person struggling with his own identity.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Need I say more? Maybe I do. I love this book! This is the second time I’ve read it and convinced my book group to read it with me this time. (I like to suggest classic literature every once in a while.) Don’t be intimidated. Even if you read it just for the history of whaling and the knowledge of whales and their habitat during that period, it’s worthwhile. If you’re still reluctant, I found that reading a critical edition helped me understand the metaphors, literary and historical references, and the detailed descriptions of ships and whaling. I read the Longman Critical Edition, edited by John Bryant and Haskell Springer. An excellent read!
Margo Knight, Director of Advancement Research
The River Swimmer - Jim Harrison (NY : Grove Press, 2013, 198 p., 22 cm.)
The master returns with only two novellas which are nonetheless as rich in character development and fine-tuned language as any in his previous trilogies. Gosh, can he turn a phrase!
The Fall of the House of Dixie - Bruce C. Levine (NY : Random House, 2013, 439 p., 25 cm.)
A new look at the Civil War South and its flimsy framework where slavery was not an happenstance but a central pillar of the region’s social and economic culture, and both were doomed.
Jim Lamontagne, Library Assistant – Cataloging
Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
Just finished reading this book after a trip to the Southwest. Very interesting read which acknowledges the sacrifices of this little known group of people who changed the outcome of the war in the pacific.
Michael LeComte ,Technology Support Specialist
Cod: Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
Lynne Lewis, Elmer W. Campbell Professor of Economics
I like a story that brings a sense of place, and so I recommend J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country. Standing beside Tom in the cool of a country church, watching his progress restoring a mural, I joined him as place wove into his story. Be ready to be changed by what this Great War veteran shares as the layers of the mural are revealed.
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, a book about a rural African-American family and community in Hurricane Katrina’s path is a powerful and wonderful novel!
“Without a false note . . . A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Bill Low, Curator – Museum of Art
When We Were the Kennedys, Monica Wood
Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
Catherine the Great, Robert Massey
1493, Charles Mann
The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt
Kathy Low, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Psychology
This past year I focused on starting mystery series that have gotten high praise and started with the first book in each series. These are two books that are the start of promising series:
Ice Hunter by Joseph Heywood
In this debut to the Woods Cop series, Grady Service, a Conservation Officer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, gets news that his nemesis, the head of a clan of poachers, is to be released from prison. While tracking poachers, he discovers something even more troubling in the Mosquito Wilderness. Service must call upon his life experiences to track, stalk, and capture the “ice hunter.” I really enjoyed the setting of the UP – very similar to Maine. The story moved along well and you get to know the main character. I finished the second in the series and enjoyed that as well.
The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
This is Robert Crais’s first novel, the award-winning mystery that introduced Private Investigator Elvis Cole. He is a wisecracking individual – similar to Robert Parker’s Spenser character – and in this novel he infiltrates high-society Hollywood, and crosses the line with the Latino drug trade in search of a kidnapped mother and her son. The adventure and the characters of this novel are exciting, and I really enjoyed this book. The series has received many awards and many books in this series, including L.A Requiem, have been on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The Divinity of Dogs by Jennifer Skiff
“My dogs have been the reason I have woken up every single day of my life with a smile on my face. I am among the ranks of millions of people who appreciate the souls of dogs and know they are a gift of pure love and an example of all that is good.” —Jennifer Skiff The Divinity of Dogs is about the moments you learn something profound about life from an experience with a dog. This book contains seventy short stories from people all across the country who share their true stories of life with their dogs, many of which have led to spiritual enlightenment. I liked that I could pick up this book and read a few heartwarming stories and then come back to it sometime later to read a few more. A wonderful read!
Mary Main, Asst. VP of Human Resources
The Outsourced Self: intimate life in market times by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Last summer, Arlie Hochschild, who owns the conserved land I steward in Turner for the Androscoggin Land Trust, gave me a copy of her latest book. Little did I realize how pertinent it would prove to my own life, and I’m recommending it here because I know that at Bates, there are many people who are scattered far from the traditional support systems of families and home towns; people who have moved here for work and chosen to make a home here. Independence is great, until trouble strikes and you need help. Without the framework of people who ‘have” to help you out, where do you go? In our mobile society, the question is pervasive–and a whole new group of careers has emerged to fill the void. At first I rolled my eyes over the idea of people hiring a “Wantologist,” but came to realize that perhaps the best advice might be from someone without a stake in the outcome. See what you think!
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She had me from Page 1. It’s not about the butterflies.
Life Everlasting: the animal way of death by Berndt Heinrich. A beloved naturalist examines recycling of a different sort–and made me re-examine my burial plans. (not that I’m planning to put them into effect anytime soon, but it’s good to have a plan.) The thought of continuing on to nourish other lives is very appealing; an immortality of sorts.
In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin. Helprin continues the kind of magical romance that captivated me in his Winter’s Tale. Two uncommon people glimpse each other on a brilliant May day in 1946, and their lives are turned upside down and transformed. What could be a more romantic beginning? The novel could have stopped there. But it goes on, to lives beginning, and ending, and dancing through postwar New York City.
Judy Marden ’66 ( and retiree)
Big Data, A Revolution That Will Transform How we Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. 2013
Brad MacCachran, Bates Gift Officer – College Advancement
I have two books by Ha Jin
Waiting: A Novel
Maggie Maurer-Fazio, Betty Doran Stangle Professor of Applied Economics
Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Read the books – haven’t seen the movie(s) – and not sure that I want to now. Enjoyable and gripping adventure story – Ms. Collins offers a futuristic look at life after an apocalypse with political intrigue. I agree with the previous readers who recommended this set of books and pass along my referral.
Pocketful of Names, by Joe Coomer
The back cover offers this description, “Coomer offers the rugged yet stunning beauty of Maine and the lobstermen and their families who are dependent on the sea for survival. . . Inhabiting an island off the coast of Maine, left to her by her great-uncle Arno, Hanna finds her life as a dedicated and solitary artist rudely interrupted one summer when a dog, matted with feathers and seaweed arrives with the tide…”
I enjoyed reading this story because of the ease in which the author pulls the reader into the lives of the characters. The dramas that Hanna and her visitors endured were easy to relate to and provided an extra bit of connectivity with living in Maine by aptly describing the trials and celebrations of people living in a coastal town.
The Great Coat, by Helen Dunmore
I picked this book up at Ladd Library recently for a quick read for a break while working my way through Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenina. And it was a quick read – described as “the perfect ghost story” and “Intensely gripping” – I found it disappointing. The story moved along well, but I wasn’t left “gripping” the book to see what was going to happen next. I’m not a suspense genre fanatic, but Ms. Dunmore has a long way to go to meet with the suspense of Stephen King’s stories of the supernatural. Maybe it’s just me – check it out for yourself.
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator, College Store
I would recommend, if someone already has not: My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor. See cut and pasted (from Amazon) description:
The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.
Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself. She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.
It really has been a fine and fascinating read!
Amy McDonough, Biology Dept.
The Start-up of YOU. Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
David McDonough, Director – Bates Career Development Center
Here is my list of books that I have either just finished reading and have enjoyed so much I’ve annoyed all my friends, or some of these are on my personal to-read list.
This is How You Lose her – Junot Diaz
Shine Shine Shine – Lydia Netzer
Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
Gone Girl – Gilliam Flynn
This is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper
Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon
NW – Zadie Smith
The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
No One is Here Except All of Us – Ramona Ausubel
How Should a Person Be – Sheila Leti
Farther Away – Jonathan Franzen
Red Sorghum – Mo Yan (2102 Nobel winner)
Big Machine – Victor Lavalle
By Blood – Ellen Ullman
Testament of Mary – Colm Toíbín
The Dinner – Herman Koch
90 Days – Bill Clegg
The Lifespan of a Fact – John D’Agata
Page 1: Great Expectations – various
Mortality – Christopher Hitchens
Eileen Messina, Event and Communication Data Specialist/Advancement
Here are a few books that I’ve enjoyed reading this past year…
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Susan Murphy, Asst. Director for Technology Support
My top book this year was The Gender Trap by Emily Kane, professor of sociology. This book, in true Kane-ish fashion, is jam-packed with revelations about how parents gender their kids (before they’re even in utero!). It’s so spooky how parents (and lots of other people) assign and reinforce gender in insidious ways, and how this gendering impacts family structure, education, encouragement to excel, employment, care-giving, legislation, the economy, governance. In short, all of our social structures are impacted by concepts of gender. Kane interviewed a diverse range of parents for this book. She’s pretty even-handed, but I concluded that working-class parents and gay parents are the least likely to trap their kids by gender, often because they themselves are not modeling conventional gender roles. This should be required reading by all prospective parents!
And speaking of the conflict of gender roles and male hegemony, I also liked State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, a contemporary rethinking of Heart of Darkness. It started out a bit slow and I did not like some of the gender-based power relationships (e.g., Why would she do what he told her to do?), but it was a page-turner by the end and an interesting spin on Conrad.
Also reworking the classics, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides reconsiders the trope of most nineteenth-century novels—securing a mate—in 1980s post-collegiate America (cue the Duran Duran!). The heroine is smart but self-absorbed, and her suitors have their various manias and phobias. Though she spends a lot of time thinking, “What would Jane Austen do?” ultimately she confronts more options than Elizabeth Bennet had.
I loved On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Novels about the academy can be so entertaining, and here the author intersects race, gender, class, and privilege in fascinating, provocative, and funny ways, all on an elite Massachusetts campus. Smith is a gorgeous wordsmith and a great yarnspinner.
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the Faculty
Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven
Kristen Hannah, Night Road
Karen Ouellette, Recruiting Assistant – Bates Career Development Center
Beyond the Storm: Carolyn Zane
After a tornado rips through her town, store owner Abigail comes across a piece of fabric from a wedding dress among the devastation. Abigail is moved to start collecting other swatches of fabric she finds – her neighbor’s kitchen curtains, a man’s necktie, a dog’s bed – which she stashes in shopping bags. As she pursues her seemingly absurd quest, horrible realities spark the question, “What kind of a God would allow such tragedy?”
Christmas Roses: Amanda Cabot
Celia Anderson doesn’t need anything for Christmas except a few more boarders, which are hard to come by in this small mining town. She certainly doesn’t have a husband on her Christmas wish list. But when a wandering carpenter finds lodging at her boarding house, she admits that she might remarry if she found the right man–the kind of man who would bring her roses for Christmas. It would take a miracle to get roses during a harsh Wyoming winter. But Christmas, after all, is the time for miracles . . .
Daughter of Joy: Kathleen Morgan
Abigail Stanton, who recently lost her husband and child, moves to Culdee Creek to become a housekeeper for Conor MacKay, a man whose previous housekeepers warmed more than dinner. Abby makes it clear that she won’t tolerate any disreputable advances on his part, but she feels God led her to this ranch and this family for a purpose. As she grows to love Conor and his daughter, her faith inspires Conor to believe that there might just be something to this idea of religion.
Far Horizons: Kate Hewitt
The Highlands of Scotland, 1819: On the eve of his departure for the New World, Allan MacDougall asks his beloved Harriet to wait for his return, when he will be established and able to marry her. When his father discovers his intent he insists it is dishonorable, and so Allan must free Harriet from her promise even as he vows to remain faithful himself. Through years of hardship, heartache, tragedy, and betrayal, Allan and Harriet cling to the love that first brought them together–yet it is the treacherous doubts of their own hearts that could prove to be their undoing, and drive them farther apart than ever.
Fresh Temptation: Reeni Austin
She wanted to be stubborn. For a second she imagined throwing her wine in his face and telling him to get lost. But a stronger desire quickly took over. One that made her forget her desperate urge to resist him. With her eyes firmly set on his, she brought the glass to her lips and tipped the bottom of it to the ceiling.
Homespun Bride: Jillian Hart
Montana Territory in 1883 was a dangerous place – especially for a blind woman struggling to make her way through an early winter snowstorm. Undaunted, Noelle Kramer fought to remain independent. But then a runaway horse nearly plunged her into a rushing, ice-choked river, before a stranger’s strong, sure hand saved her from certain death. And yet this was no stranger. Though she could not know it, her rescuer was rancher Thad McKaslin, the man who had once loved her more than life itself. Losing her had shaken all his most deeply held beliefs. Now he wondered if the return of this strong woman was a sign that somehow he could find his way home.
Widow of Larkspur Inn: Lawana Blackwell
When Life Seemed Its Worst, Gresham Awaited
Julia Hollis’ opulent life in Victorian London crashes to pieces when her husband passes away. Worse, she is told by his bankers that he gambled away their fortune. Now, the family’s hope rests on The Larkspur, an old abandoned coaching inn in the quaint village of Gresham.
Driven by dread and her desire to provide for her children, Julia decides to turn the dilapidated inn into a lodging house. But can she–who was accustomed to servants attending to every need–do what needs to be done and cope when boarders begin arriving? And then an eligible new vicar moves into town…
Lori Ouellette, Administrative Asst. – Dean of the Faculty’s Office
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
Jim Parakilas, James L. Moody Jr. Family Professor of Performing Arts
Massie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear- This the first in a series of mystery novels that revolve around Massie Dobbs, a psychologist-private investigator, and her life in England during and after WWI. I have read 5 of the books so far and have not been disappointed by any.
Round House by Louise Erdrich- Told from the point of view Joe, a 13 year old who is trying to live his life on a North Dakota reservation with his 3 best friends, but is suddenly immersed into a crisis, both familial and legal, when his mother is attacked. A gripping novel.
Camille Parrish, Learning Associate - Environmental Studies
I really liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This epistolary novel is written in a series of letter exchanges, and with much warmth, humor and compassion tells the story of the German occupation of the island of Guernsey during World War II.
Sonja Pieck, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
I read the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins which is actually young adult fiction. I enjoy fantasy and this is a pretty well developed, if somewhat disturbing look at a dystopian future in which teens pay the price for adult errors and ultimately save the world. We always knew our kids were smarter than us, right?
In a follow up trilogy to Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles we learn more about the dragons and the younger characters from the earlier series in Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven. More books follow but I haven’t read them yet. In this series the dragons and some misfits are sent away from the Rain Wild settlement to try to find the lost city of dragons and to re-establish the old glory and magic.
During my science fiction period I read a series by Jack Campbell which follows a long lost space warrior who returns from suspended sleep to a world deep in conflict. Our hero, Captain Black Jack Geary, applies old time skills and logic to win a war in which the more modern folks have lost control. In The Lost Fleet series we follow a series of space navy ships winning against impossible odds. Dauntless, Fearless, Courageous, Valiant, Relentless, Victorious are the titles. There is a timeliness to the series as Jack is pitted against a brutal enemy, history and politicians who cannot work collaboratively.
As a long time fan of Arthurian legend my favorite books this past year have been the series by Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. These are not
new tales, just new to me. Stewart tells the legend from the point of view of Merlin and keeps the magic to a minimum, providing rational explanations for a lot of the parts of the legend attributed to the supernatural. I liked Stewart’s development of characters and rationales for why the legend unfolds as we have come to know it.
One of my favorite adventure/thriller writers, James Rollins, wrote The Judas Strain which is about a rogue cyanobacteria strain first experienced by Marco Polo on his travels. There is an edge-of-your- seat race between the forces of good and the forces of evil to find the cure and prevent world catastrophe. With a mix of science, espionage, special forces and a tinge of fantasy this is very exciting reading. A great escape.
James Rollins also wrote The Doomsday Key. Just recently I was reading an article in the Student about the wonders of genetically modified foods. The journalist should read this book. It is fiction but Rollins does his homework and bases his stories on real science. In this book he envisions someone who believes they will solve the overpopulation problem by manipulating the world’s food supplies with genetically modified crops. We travel the world as our team of heroes attempts to thwart the evil doer’s plan.
It’s Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives it Shattered, by Don Yaeger and Mike Pressler is a disturbing account of the a college sports team’s moment of bad judgment which was blown way out of proportion by authorities, school administration, community members, prosecutors and “victims”. It really is a chilling
commentary on how incorrect and even inappropriate snap judgments made by people in positions of power, and by people who look to them for guidance, can cause endless grief and misfortune. This is not the sort of material I seek out. It was recommended and though it was an uncomfortable read I am glad to have read the other side of the story. I don’t like to follow in the footsteps of people who jump to conclusions though it is a pretty natural tendency within our species. It was an especially important book given my perspective on things I hear and see here at Bates. It helps one to adjust perspective and hopefully preserve balance.
Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer Oops! I read this just before the scandal arose about the author’s methods. It was a very informative and interesting book written in a style which I appreciated. The examples seemed helpful and relevant. I suppose folks will argue for years whether the facts he offers are truly facts and whether his indiscretions rob the book of value. I would prefer to accept that the situations Lehrer describes do stimulate creativity, like interaction between multiple, diverse people, travel, criticism rather than brainstorming, population density, etc. Guess you will have to judge for yourself…if you can find a copy.
You can’t, or at least, shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I thought Wild, by Cheryl Strayed was going to be a travelogue about the Pacific Crest Trail. Well, it was; but it was a lot more. This is a woman with some serious issues which she claims were miraculously resolved by a solo hike of 1100 miles. It was a tough emotional read. Who speaks so openly about their failings, fears, uncertainties, etc.? But it was difficult to put it down. She is a gutsy women both physically and emotionally, and not a bad storyteller either.
Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland. I heard an interview on NPR and decided to read this. The realities this book reveals depress me. It seems to suggest there is a trend towards using wealth and power to enhance greed with very little remorse for the consequences for the rest to the world, who are perceived as weak. It’s a great book for generating discussion about the differences between the wealthy of today versus the wealthy at the turn of the twentieth century. Very thought-provoking.
Ray Potter, Environmental Health and Safety Manager
This year, I read and loved In the Words of E.B. White: Quotations from America’s Most Companionable of Writers, edited by his granddaughter Martha White. Oh my, he was a masterful writer. This from a reviewer: “E. B. White is one of those writers you are liable to meet again and again in the course of a reading life, each time wearing a different expression. . . In her introduction, Martha White offers an affectionate sketch of her grandfather’s career, including her own memories of the ‘lifelong sense of wonder’ he brought to all his endeavors. . . . In the Words of E. B. White offers a perfect introduction, or reintroduction, to a writer truly in the American grain.”—Adam Kirsch, Barnes & Noble Review (27 December 2011)
Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. What a bizarre premise and a clever and intriguing tale.
The Burgess Boys by my Bates classmate, Elizabeth Strout ’77. Liz does not waste a word in this familiar, thoughtful, complicated story.
My summer reading includes Bates faculty member Emily Kane’s book The Gender Trap.
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director
My year to discover the wonderful fiction writer Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders: A novel of the plague (2001) and People of the Book (2008). The first about an English village during the 1666 plague trying to do the noble thing and keep it from spreading; an examination of various people’s behaviors. Inspired by a true story. The second one, also inspired by true story, follows the European trail of a 15th-century Hebrew manuscript up to the present.
Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (2011) is a thorough, well-written, fast read biography bringing out all the good and bad that Jobs did. Isaacson had access to Jobs and the people who worked with him.
Madeleine Allbright, Prague winter: A personal story of remembrance and war, 1937-1948 (2012). History with perspective, especially on the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, World War II, and then the Soviet takeover. She was born in 1937, so there is evolving awareness of what’s happening to her family. Her father was also a diplomat.
Jack Pribram, Professor Emeritus of Physics
I recommend Jennifer Weiner’s novel The Next Best Thing. Besides being another great read by the author of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, this one, based on the author’s own work writing a short-lived sitcom, offers an interesting q-and-a at the end as well as the short story that she eventually turned into the novel. For me, partly because I wrote my last book through a similar expansion process, I found the glimpse into her process interesting and illuminating.
Erica Rand, Whitehouse Professor of Art and Visual Culture
I always wish this list could be compiled in July, when I’ve actually had a chance to begin reading for leisure in earnest, but…
When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood, being discussed this June when she visits the campus. For anyone who has driven through Rumford and wondered about the families who carry on there as you make your way to more “glamorous” locations in Rangeley, Sugarloaf, etc… Beautiful, compassionate, funny.
Will Rogers, A Biography by Ben Yagoda. I spend a fair amount of time visiting family in Oklahoma and picked up this account of Rogers life last year. A fascinating story of a complicated man. From the opening: “Will Rogers had to invent himself–no one else would have known what to make of him. He was a Cherokee Indian, and also the son of a Confederate veteran who fancied himself a southern gentleman; the heir to a sizable fortune and also an itinerant cowboy; a high school dropout, and also, eventually, perhaps the most successful writer in America.”
Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, Edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black & Michael Northen. A wonderful collection of poetry that privileges disability, but opens up to all sorts of insights on writing, self, perception and the ways in which disability restrains and enriches creative expression. The self-authored prefaces to each writer’s section are particularly illuminating. The editors themselves are among my favorites, particularly Sheila Black.
L’Art français de la guerre | The French art of war by Alexis Jenni. For the francophiles (and francophones!), the Goncourt Prize winner for 2011. So far (I’m still reading!) a beautiful coming to terms with France’s difficult past in two wars, one in Indochina, the other in Algeria.
And my annual Tintin related tome, Hergé: Son of Tintin by Benoît Peeters. A translation of a thorough-going biography of this enigmatic man who created the Tintin adventures. The bookstore has a number of the adventures (in French) and a complete guide that I ordered for my short term ready for your consumption as well!
And I would LIKE to read this summer because I KNOW I will like them:
David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
Liz Strout’s The Burgess Boys
Kirk Read, Professor of French and Francophone Studies
I couldn’t put it down!
Peak Experiences : danger, death, and daring in the mountains of the Northeast / edited by Carol Stone White
Julie Retelle, Assistant Librarian for Access Services
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I did not expect to like this small book (hate the cover art), but it’s a really lovely small tale of a man who truly has a leading to walk to “save” an old friend. In the process, he and the wife he left at home find new friends and each other.
IQ84 by Hiruki Murakami. Odd, parallel universe novel. A woman gets out of a cab on a gridlocked highway, climbs down a freeway access ladder, and enters a parallel universe where things are the same, but entirely different. I don’t know if I actually liked this book, but I do find myself thinking about it, even months after reading it.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Did not see the movie, and many people I know do NOT like this book, but for me it was almost a revisit of my reading life. As the different chapters/times/writing styles progress forward and then backward, I found myself not only being immersed in the story but thinking about what other books I love that have similar themes. After this you MUST read Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban.
On Writing by Stephen King. Recommended by a colleague, I enjoyed learning more about Stephen King the writer and Mainer. Lots of just practical, down-to-earth information about writing. And it turns out his favorite rule from Stunk and White is mine: Rule #17: Omit needless words.
Stephanie Richards, Visiting Assistant professor of Biology
Here’s what we read over the past year:
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet
Country of the Pointed Firs
Sarah Orne Jewett
The Round House
The Marriage Plot
The End of Your Life Book Club
Lisa Romeo ’88, on behalf of the Boston Alumnae Book Club
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Millford
— explores her childhood in Camden, Maine though her death. I’m a big biography reader and this is one of my favorites. The book is huge and yet it was such a quick read because it is so well written and so interesting.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
— everyone should read this book! Warning: it may make you have an “ah ha!” moment or two about yourself or a loved one.
Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
— great beach read. There’s one part where she describes these wild strawberries and I swear I could taste them!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
— I loved this book because of the imagination and descriptive details.
Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
— An oldie but a goodie! I’ve read it four times and it still impacts me every time.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
— another oldie but goodie! So interesting to hear about his times as an expatriate in Paris with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Matisse and co. This book started my love for “The Greatest Generation” (as Stein dubbed them).
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball.
Ree Russell, Administrative Assistant – Dean of Students Office
Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession,
by Chuck Thompson. Based out of Oregon, Thompson makes a case that
states in the American South are so fundamentally different from the rest of the country that both they and the rest of the country would be better off if the Southern states did indeed secede. In researching the book, he traveled throughout the South, visiting John
Howard’s “Redneck Shop” in Laurens, South Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Little Rock’s Central High School, and more. With a playfully serious writing style, Thompson makes an entertaining and thought-provoking case. (Shameless self-promotion: I interviewed Thompson on my radio show. You can hear the interview at
A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. Many of you have probably already read it, but I just got around to it this year. I love America, warts and all. This is a story about its warts. More precisely, it’s a story about the injustices inflicted upon women, Blacks, the poor, Native Americans, and other peoples, across our country’s history. If you want your love of the U.S. to be clear-eyed, this is a book worth reading.
Michael Sargent, Associate Professor of Psychology
Last year, enough people recommended Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and The Road by Cormac McCarthy that I finally read them and highly recommend them. I also enjoyed Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich, MASH by R. Hooker, Innocent by Scott Turow and Reamde by Neal Stephenson.
Paula Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry
I want to recommend The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. The author, herself a poet, weaves the story of Mrs. Delaney, born in 1700, who reaches her full “flowering” as an artist at age 72, when she begins creating her paper flowers. The book is part biography, part memoir, part research project and is illustrated (*don’t* get the Kindle version, get the hardback to see the fabulous color reproductions) with prints of some of her creations, each one a metaphor for events in both the author’s and her subject’s life stories. I could not put this book down!
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Cod by Mark Kurlansky
The ES committee has read this and today is in fact the day we’re meeting to discuss. Especially of interest to New Englanders and fish lovers of all kinds.
The Quest by Daniel Yergin
Energy – still one of the primary issues of our era.
John Smedley, Professor of Physics
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood
Clayton Spencer, President
Game of Thrones (through book 3 so far) by George R.R. Martin
Favorite reads from the past year – book one was great, book two was not quite as engaging but still good and book three was the best yet. If you watch the show or are at all interested in the fantasy genre, give this a try. It lives up to the hype! Can’t wait to dig into book 4.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran during the revolution. Well done, powerful story.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
About halfway through this – amazing read for anyone at all into post-apocalyptic novels. Can’t put it down…
Room by Emma Donoghue
Intense novel about a woman and her son held captive for years in a single room. May be a bit hard to read if you have a child around the same age as the boy in the story (as I do), but well worth your time.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Trying to get caught up on some sci fi classics – worth a read for sure if you’re into sci fi but not my favorite.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Excellent historical fiction delving into some lesser explored aspects of World War II with a compelling story and characters. Highly recommend.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Continuing on the post-apocalyptic theme…great read here as well.
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman (through volume 15)
If you are at all into the TV show or even were thinking of trying it, give the original comics a try. Well developed characters and storyline that really draws you into their world. Sold in volumes – they are up to 17 now I think. Can get pricey, but I’m pretty sure they have them at the library.
Carl Steidel, Assistant Dean of Students
There is a body of books, letters, speeches, court cases, songs and other expressions which have been so essential to the creation of our nation’s culture and history that they can well be seen as “scriptural.” The American Bible by Stephen Prothero tells their story.
The mystery and adventure in the search for lost documents must have a special place in the hearts of readers. The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman is the story of the quest for the elusive book foundational to the Hebrew Bible. And The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt catalogues the efforts of a medieval bookman in search for the definitive copy of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things.
Before books could matter, before words could have meaning, human beings had to be able to symbolize. Ian Tattersall’s Masters of the Planet is the paleoanthropological history of that extraordinary ability.
The Smithsonian Book of Books is both a history of books and bookmaking and a collection of gorgeous photographs of some of the finest examples of the bookmaker’s art. After you savor this book – you’ll chuck your Kindle.
In The Missing Ink by Phillip Hensher, the author bemoans the fact that in this world of typing and tapping the ability to write a decent hand is almost lost and the teaching of penmanship nearly nonexistent. He has some suggestions for its recovery.
The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom is the story of the man who invented time, and is punished by God for so doing — and then redeemed.
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. And here is Henry the Eighth’s favorite fixer again. If you liked Wolf Hall, you’ll surely like this one, and anticipate the third installment where presumably Thomas Cromwell will suffer the fate he has occasionally arranged for others.
New England Nation: The Country the Puritans Built by Bruce Daniels reminds us that the New England Puritans, however easy to caricature and difficult to understand, provided a legacy that became an essential element of the American character.
And there’s Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The subtitle says it all.
Beastly Things is, without doubt, one of Donna Leon’s finest. It begins with a body in a canal – perhaps not unusual in Venice. But the victim is a veterinarian who works part time as an inspector in a slaughter house that finds him inconvenient to their continued sale of meat from diseased animals. The description of Commissario Brunetti’s visit to the slaughterhouse is gripping. The description of the veterinarian’s funeral is tender.
Finally, some books selected, but not yet read:
Ross King, Leonardo and the Last Supper
W. L. Warren, Henry II
Chip Walter, Last Ape Standing
John Thavis, The Vatican Diaries
John Connolly & Declan Burke (eds.), Books to Die For
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology
I have recently been taken in by Ruth Moore, a Maine author, who writes fiction, but from the lens and experience growing up in a fifth generation Maine farm and fishing family. My recommendation would be her book Spoonhandle- an easy read about a fishing community on the coast of Maine.
Megan Taft, Interim Co-director, Office of Intercultural Education
Well, I recommended my cousin’s book last year, which I assume made it on the list! So I’ll do more shameless family self-promotion.
Her book this year is written under the pseudonym Magnus Flyte, and it’s entitled City of Dark Magic. It’s mystery/suspense/fantasy… really good! And, it’s done really well, and gotten a lot of Press! NYTimes bestseller, and “new and noteworthy” pick by USA Today.
And my OTHER cousin has a new book just out as well. It’s called Criminal, by Terra McVoy. It’s more for a YA audience, so it might not fit for the list, but it’s a good one too.
Heidi Taylor, Associate Professor of Sociology
Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies, sequel to her first novel about the life and career of King Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. Even better than the first volume and hurrah, hurrah, there’s a third yet to come.
A couple of young adult fiction novels bought as gifts for my thirteen year old grandson, but always pre-read first by me (!):
1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. There’s a wilderness of dragon books out there owing to the apparently unquenchable thirst for them among young readers, but this one is refreshingly original.
2. Tamburlaine’s Elephants by Geraldine McCaughrean, is the story of an unlikely friendship between a young Muslim boy fighting for the medieval conqueror Tamburlaine, and a captured Indian boy and his elephant. My grandson stayed up half the night to finish this book.
Anne Thompson, Professor Emerita of English
My first suggestion is a place rather than a read. If you find yourself with long hours alone in the car, do yourself a favor and visit the Auburn Public Library. They have an extensive selection of audio books, and I have listened to dozens this year. From Joan Didion to Malcolm Gladwell, from baseball to murder, from humor to biography… road trips are infinitely more interesting and entertaining.
And two recommendations if you’re interested in the process of writing: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. When you feel like you’re the only person on earth struggling to string together a meaningful collection of words, read (or listen to) these books. Lamott and King explain the science behind the magic–what’s good dialogue? how should you kill off a character? how do you know when you’re done?–and then send you back to work. The sentences won’t write themselves, but you are in good company.
Mara Tieken, Assistant Professor of Education
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Not Even My Name: A True Story
Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times: Featuring 350 recipes from the author of How to Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World
Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios
Vicki Toppses, Academic Administrative Assistant
The Self-Reference Engine by Toh Enjoe
The author of this unique science fiction book, recently translated from the Japanese and published by Haikasoru, is an active researcher in theoretical physics. No matter what your academic background, it will bend your brain in achingly pleasant ways. Particularly recommended for anyone who majored in math, physics and/or philosophy.
Joseph Tomaras, Associate Director – Office of External Grants
If the list doesn’t already include them, you might add Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson, they are wonderful, rich, insightful books (especially Gilead).
Tom Tracy, Phillips Professor of Religious Studies
Yellow Crocus by Laiki Ibrahim
It is based in the early 1800′s and it is a story of a woman slave…great story!!
Wait For Me by Elisabeth Naughton
This is a mystery, and a page-turner. Loved it.
The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal
This is about a Jewish Holocaust survivor and his dilemma in apologizing to a dying SS man… should he? should he not?? Very provoking.
Honolulu by Allan Brennert
This is in the late 1800′s to 1930. The story is about Korean women and their difficult life. It was an eye-opener for me.
These were my favorite books.
The following list of books are still good reads,:
The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman
Learning to Swim by Sara Henry
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu
I would recommend all of the books above. I enjoyed all of them immensely.
Doris Vincent, Administrative Assistant, Dean of Students Office
I found 3/4 of Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World to be fascinating.
Pat Barker’s latest WW I novel is excellent: Toby’s Room.
I am currently reading Jeffrey Frank’s Ike and Dick. Gotta admire Tricky Dick. Don’t have to like him but he knew how to operate. Interesting perspective on Ike: big smile but cold steel-blue eyes!
Lois and I both read Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life and found it informative, entertaining ….
Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus, about a miniature Schnauzer that climbs all 4,000-ft mountains in the NH White Mountains … twice … in winter.
Helen Simonsen’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a modern British comedy of manners, a la Jane Austen; sunny; witty. I liked it too.
Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork, an entertaining history of kitchen tools and technology by an amateur British cook. Deliciously entertaining.
Dick Wagner, Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Lois Wagner (spouse and the one who nudged Dick to get submit his list!)
There were so many good reads this year. And yet I felt the lack of a good piece of fiction I could sink my imaginative teeth into. I’m looking forward to being inspired by your readings. I decided this year to limit my recommendations to those books I read on my iPad and along with my aspirational reading for the summer.
Going Clear, Lawrence Wright
Wrights book will not change your mind about Scientology, but his balanced reporting and crisp writing help temper your incredulity.
The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
A stunning and beautiful piece of writing about the mass migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to the North and West.
Songs of the Vikings, Nancy Marie Brown
A must read for fans of the sagas and Snorri Sturluson. You know who you are.
Wildwood, Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis
A fun read for older kids and adults, even though it sags a bit near the end.
The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver
Even if you disdain data-driven decisions, you should read this book to understand the impacts of bad-decision making.
Proposed summer reading:
Islandia, Austin Tappan Wright
A long out of print utopian novel about an undiscovered civilization attempting to resist the overtures of the rest of the world.
The Patrick Melrose Pentalogy, Edward St. Aubyn
Friends have recommended these books to me for a while now. This may be the summer.
Andrew White, Director of User Services, ILS
This year I’ve had a great deal of fun returning to my home country of northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota through John Sandford’s mystery thrillers featuring Virgil Flowers, the unconventional-bordering-on-renegade investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. You won’t find him mentioned on the official BCA website, but he’s alive and well in Dark of the Moon (2008), Heat Lightning (2009), Rough Country (2009), Bad Blood (2011), Shock Wave (2012), and Mad River (2012). These books are not as graphically violent as the Lucas Davenport series from which this character emerged, allowing the small towns and farms , and the people who live there, to be are as familiar to me as my old high school friends. Whether outsmarting a crazy crook, intentionally spreading rumors in a main street coffee shop, or thinking about God, Virgil, with his long blonde hair and cowboy boots is clearly “my people,” though I don’t identify with the three failed marriages! I’ll be looking for the next installment, Storm Front , to be released on October 1, 2013. Ask me about it on Halloween.
Gene Wiemers, VP for Information and Library Services, Librarian
Tana French, In the Woods, an absorbing and complex mystery.
Barbara Pym, Excellent Women, a classic novel.
Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book, light historical fiction about
an ancient book.
Barbara A. Shapiro, The Art Forger, light fiction based on the Gardner
Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, richly painted characters.
Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club, very thought provoking,
about books, life, and death.
Anne Williams, Professor Emerita of Economics
Our annual thanks to our friends in Office Services for co-sponsoring this effort and getting the list into booklet format with blazing speed.
We also thank our colleagues in the Bates Communications Office for their assistance in “communicating” this list in a variety of formats.
Compiled and edited (well, tossed together, really) by Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director 5/13