2012 Summer Reading List
Welcome to the 16th annual Bates College Store “Good Reads” list!
We invite you to browse and enjoy…and let us know your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This year’s titles receiving three recommendations or more:
11/22/63 by Stephen King
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
As always, the list is presented in alphabetical order by contributor’s surname.
16th annual “Good Reads for Leisure Moments”
Joe Coomer: Pocketful of Names
A story set on an island in the gulf of Maine, about an artist who has her solitary life all figured out. Until a dog washes up on her island. And then a wayward teen-aged boy comes to live with her. And then the boy brings his girlfriend. And then her pregnant half-sister shows up. It turns out to be an odd and wonderful cast of characters, who ultimately make it all seem perfectly normal. I love Coomer’s comfortable and sensitive writing, and (on Sarah P’s advice) am currently reading another of his novels, “Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God”. This one is set on the harbor in Portsmouth, NH. It’s about dealing with grief, and finding solace in unlikely places. So far I like it.
Elizabeth I – Margaret George
I like historical fiction, and Margaret George does a good job of making Elizabeth I (daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) come to life. George’s beautiful descriptions of England in the 1500′s make the story of the “Virgin Queen” come to life. Surrounded by the likes of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake, Elizabeth is portrayed as a strong and willful character, who even as a powerful woman suffers from the limitations of her sex (if you’ll pardon the double entendre).
11-22-63 A Novel – Stephen King
I am not a rabid King fan, but this was a great read. The story is about time travel (I LOVE time travel), in which a regular guy gets hooked into traveling back to the time Kennedy was assassinated to try to stop the whole thing. If you are old enough to remember 1963, you’ll like the references to the dances, the music, the newscasts. If you’re not that old, you’ll still like the way the story is intricately woven of many disparate threads. It will make you think about best intentions, how one tiny variable can shift a whole story, and “what if”……
Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
I told you I’m a sucker for time travel. This one is about a young archeologist from the 21st century who travels back to the 1300′s as part of her graduate research. It has a great cast of very human characters – a spunky heroin, a smart and caring professor, a fabulous teen-aged boy – and an engaging mystery or two. If you like the idea of the ultimate in experiential learning and thinking about how you would convince people from another century that you are one of them (despite the fact that you are immune to all of their diseases….), you’ll love this.
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
Novels, in order of publication date:
- American Falls, by John Calvin Batchelor (1985)
- Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn (1989)
- Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago (1982)
- The Green Knight, by Iris Murdoch (1993)
- The Night Manager, by John le Carré (1993)
- Last Orders, by Graham Swift (1996)
- Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey (1997)
- The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (2000)
- Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje (2000)
- The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany
- The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson (2002)
- By Ian McEwan: Atonement (2001) and Saturday (2005)
Magazines: The New Yorker. Still the most literate, insightful, entertaining and regularly compelling magazine read I’ve ever encountered.
Newspapers (online or print): The New York Times. Still simply the world’s finest daily newspaper, cover to cover.
Were you to ask me for some recommended film titles, you’d probably wish you hadn’t. The lists would never stop coming.
Roland Adams, Senior Communications Adviser and Director of Media Relations
Two titles by Charles Mann: 1491 and 1493, the former about what was going on in the Americas before Columbus; the latter about what happened afterwards.
This year’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, looks at what happens fifty years later to the house the Youngers buy at the end of A Raisin in The Sun. Funny and smart.
And I’ll add The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, a three-generation novel about the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a non-fiction account of the life of the American ambassador & family in Berlin during the early years of the Nazi regime.
Martin Andrucki, Professor of Theater
Favorites from this year:
Quiet: The Power of Introverts
Hayley Anson, Assistant Director of Annual Giving
I’ve listened to lots of books in my car on my commute. The best this year was the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I haven’t had great luck finding something good to read this year. Can’t wait to see other people’s suggestions.
Linda Archambault, Lab Research Assistant, Dana Chemistry
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
An incredible description of life in Annawadi, an illegal settlement of poor people who live and die near the Mumbai, India airport.
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
A highly readable book about how political institutions play a central role in explaining the current inequality in wealth between nations. For a book about a complex subject, it is very well written.
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
A wonderful graphic novel (recommended to me by Dennis Grafflin in History) that really captures the absurdity of the North Korean regime.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
If you are a fan of Patti Smith and/or Robert Mapplethorpe, this book is a must read. It is simply wonderful.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The story of Germany as the Nazi’s were consolidating their power in the early 1930s told through the eyes of the US ambassador to Germany and his twenty-something daughter.
A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun
A story of a Moroccan immigrant to France and his desire to return to Morocco. An interesting– and somewhat sad–take on the immigrant experience in Europe and the challenges of returning “home”.
Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage by David Ignatious
A fast paced spy novel/thriller about a CIA operation in Pakistan gone horribly wrong.
Aslaug Asgeirsdottir, Associate Professor of Politics
All out of print. Four books of photography and one of interviews.
River Of Colour: The India of Raghubir Singh. A fantastic collection of color documentary photography. Singh was inspired by the likes of Henri Cartier Bresson but chose color, rather than black and white, to record the life around him.
Portrait of Nepal, Kevin Bubriski. Very rich large-format images of Nepal. Bubriski made deeply personal portraits of the ethnic groups living in that country.
Legacy of Light: 205 Polaroid Photographs by 58 Distinguished American Photographers. An eclectic group of photographs organized in genres. These are not your father’s Polaroids.
Chaos, Josef Koudelka. Dark panoramic landscapes by one of Europe’s leading documentary photographers. Koudelka takes the photo-reportage style, but uses a format more associated with the landscape tradition.
Dialogue with Photography: Interviews by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper. An interesting collection of interviews of some of the 20th century’s most influential photographers and photo historians.
Will Ash, Assistant in Instruction, Imaging and Computing Center
A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz
An excellent read about all the Europeans in America before the Pilgrims. Goes beyond the propaganda of the Pilgrims.
Dave Baker, Acting Director of Academic Operations-Finance
Two books that take place in France (mostly in Paris). Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. First takes place during WWII, second is present day. Has France changed?
Pam Baker, VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
I highly recommend Steve Jobs. Great insight to the history of Apple and the pc industry.
Jim Bauer, Director of Network and Infrastructure Services
2011-2012 was apparently a year indulging myself…all I read was fiction!!! Perhaps I needed a good escape……
I would highly recommend Left Neglected by our own Lisa Genova. Excellent…could not put it down, just as good as Still Alice. With Lisa’s neuroscience background, so much of the “fictional” is actually real.
I then submerged myself in Tess Gerritsen mystery novels. Her books grab you from page one. Unlike other suspense/mystery writers, you don’t really know what is going to happen until the end. Wonderful writer and she lives in Maine. Body Double, The Sinner, The Keepsake are great choices.
James Patterson is always a quick read, great for the beach, train or plane rides…anytime. I, Alex Cross and Worst Case were good choices. The Christmas Wedding was a delight to read and NOT a murder mystery…
Robin Cook’s medical mystery Foreign Body…a “should read” if you like medical mystery.
Female fiction suggestions are Jennifer Weiner’s Certain Girls and Then Came You. Also, Debbie Macomber’s, A Turn in the Road…(NOT from her romance collection)
I read 16 novels last year, but I will stop here.
Jane Bedard, Admission Office Specialist
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: If you love New York City and savor relational entanglements that intrigue, you will love this novel.
Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson: This post Christian book of theology by a Christian nun is a real page turner, if you like such godly things. The pope and his lieutenants warned good Catholics not to get near this apostasy! And that did not hurt sales.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone: Another great book of theology. Cone argues convincingly that Americans have not embraced (save the Harlem artists) the obvious–lynching is America’s execution of God.
Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? by James K. A. Smith: The author introduces Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to the church as balm rather than bile.
Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer: A relational salve for a broken nation. A one-step-at-a-time, step-by-step journey of civility.
The Rev. Bill Blaine-Wallace, Multifaith Chaplain
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
I’m a racehorse owner, so I love writing that offers unsentimental insights into the backside of a racetrack that isn’t the kind you see for two minutes every year on the first Saturday of May. The story is lyrical and a touch diffuse, and unglamorous. Racing is like that.
Jay Burns, editor, Bates Magazine
Drawing in the Dust by Zoe Klein (2009). A debut novel about an archeologist in Israel who risks her career to excavate beneath the home of an Arab couple who believe that restless spirits are communicating with them. Interesting and light reading, with an exploration of religious and personal tensions throughout.
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (1966). A Nobel Prize winning author. This book explores the lives of various characters living in one of the back alleys of Cairo, as they intertwine with each other, creating a story rich in culture and place. Beautifully written.
Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga (2008). This set of short stories captures vignettes of life in a city in India, bringing to life (as written on its back cover) “a mosaic of Indian life.” The characters are often down-trodden and morally conflicted, and a complex portrait of the city of Kittur and its people emerges.
In the Convent of Little Flowers by Indu Sundaresan (2008). Another volume of short stories that take place in India. Some of the stories were better than others, but gives another portrayal of Indian life through these vignettes. A light read.
The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim (2009). This one takes place in Korea at the first part of the 20th C, when Korea is overtaken by Japan. It captures the tension between the “old” and “new” ways, the traditional culture and the “modern” one demanded by the Japanese. The story focuses on a young girl who grows up and becomes educated, defying her father. The story is well written, with a fascinating exploration of the history of the time and place.
A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton (1994). A dark novel about loss and the ways in which lives can tumble from the illusion of safety. A compelling read, hard to put down.
Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay (1994). Another dark novel about a loveless and stifling household of two children, their parents and grandparents. I just started it, but haven’t been able to put it down.
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan (2000). A story of survival, the book takes place in North Carolina after the Civil War. Julie Harmon narrates the story of her life, chronicling her marriage at age 17 and the move to Gap Creek where she takes care of an elderly man who eventually dies, with unforeseen consequences.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2008). A strange and fascinating story about a hostage situation in a South American country, where an opera star provides the interweaving thread that ties the characters together. A great read.
House of Sand and Fog by Audre Dubus III (2011). In this book, two people find themselves struggling desperately to hold onto the same house, each with his/her own claim to it. The story’s inevitable and dire ending is a result of stubbornness, pride, and passions that allow emotions to win over reason.
Anita Charles, Lecturer, Education
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Kristen Cloutier, HCCP, Assistant Director of Center Operations
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
This story involves a computer virus that encrypts your files then demands a ransom, Russian gangsters, spies, computer hackers, and terrorists. After some initial background information this turns into a non-stop action story about a hostage dragged around the world and the attempts to rescue her by an international cast of characters.
11-22-63 A Novel by Stephen King
If it was possible would you go back in time to prevent a tragedy from happening? A high school teacher from Lisbon Falls, ME enters a portal to the past with the goal to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Widely considered the first sensational novel as well as one of the first mystery novels, written in the mid-1800s. A mystery told from the points of view of several main characters, each continuing the tale where it was left off by previous narrator. Very compelling with truly devious villain. (If you read ebooks: this is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg.)
The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) by Steig Larsson
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Read this book as part of the Staff Enrichment last summer–fantastic story.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
An authorized biography of Steve Jobs, warts and all.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The title just about says it all. A nonfictional account of the use of cadavers throughout history that is surprisingly informative and mildly entertaining.
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Again, the title says it all.
The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry
This book is not only an account of the Spanish Flu during the early 20th Century but also includes history on the American medical school system at that time.
Grace Coulombe, Director of the Math and Statistics Workshop
Another alumni author, because, how could I not? Lisa Genova’s (’92) Left Neglected is touching and insightful, getting into the emotions of the main character and patient as only Lisa has proved she can, again, with humor, tenderness and understanding.
Marianne Nolan Cowan ’92, Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement
Thinking of summer and all the time I will hopefully have to read.
For once I am attempting to get my list in on time.
I recommend the following:
The Vault by Ruth Rendell – one of the best English mystery writers with quirky characters.
The Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke – a great read.
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – James A. Garfield’s assassination with a tragic tale of medical incompetence.
Spies of the Balkan by Alan Furst – Greece at the beginning of WWII.
Finding Nouf and City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris – two murder mysteries set in modern Saudi Arabia, both underscoring the difficulties of being a modern woman in that culture.
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo – Norwegian mystery- similar in feel to Stieg Larsson.
Orange is the New Color Black by Piper Kerman. Story of a white female Smith graduate who is arrested, convicted, and jailed on charges of selling drugs- a revealing analysis of female prisoners in modern US jails.
Jerry Davis, Class of ‘61
Here are a few. I can’t believe how little reading I’ve done lately! Arrgh.
Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerny
This falls squarely in the ‘beach reading’ pile. Not thought-provoking, and requires some serious suspension of disbelief. But if you want a light-hearted, non-creepy murder mystery that’s set on the Maine coast and has the workings of a B&B (with detailed food descriptions) as a backdrop, then you might find this mindlessly relaxing.
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Darker and less side-splitting than his academic satire Straight Man (which I confess to having read repeatedly). The various screwed up relationships in Nobody’s Fool are sadly realistic and filled with unrealized potential. The main character is likable but also his own worst enemy. More tragic than comic.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
It was actually a few years ago when I read this, but I still think about it — tensions between desire and responsibility, freewill and expectations, plus father-son dynamics, tradition, complicated friendships, the Holocaust, and Zionism. Lots to chew on.
Don Dearborn, Professor and Chair of Biology
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand–Helen Simonson
The Wild Trees–Richard Preston
The Imperfectionists–Tom Rachman
Every Last One–Anna Quindlen
The Warmth of Other Suns–Isabel Wilkerson
Luka and the Fire of Life–Salman Rushdie
Doc–Mary Doria Russell
Marty Deschaines, Assistant Director, HCCP
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fun short read, like most Gaiman books, it’s a darker take on the fanciful. Like a steampunk Sherlock Holmes fantasy.
Duma Key, by Steven King. One of his best, along the same vein as Hearts in Atlantis, King manages to blur the lines between reality and the fantastic superbly. The author manages to evoke in the reader the emotions the main characters are experiencing.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. First novel for the author; a gritty take on what has become a generic theme of an “ordinary” person finding they somehow have special powers, the writing style is somewhat complicated, but world that the author creates makes up for the density of the text.
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. Somehow this book manages to be stupid, funny, poignant, and more stupid, an excellent airplane book.
Plant propagation; Principles and practice. 3rd ed. Hudson Thomas Hartmann, Dale E. Kester. A great reference, the title says it all, dry and to the point. Current edition is about $109.50 a used 3rd edition is $ 0.63 plus four dollars shipping on Amazon, you do the math.
American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by Alan Toogood
A nice complement to Plant propagation; Principles and practice, but is somewhat lacking in content, more of a coffee table book… great pictures.
Phil Dostie, Assistant in Instruction, Chemistry
The Power of Habit. Fascinating read. Seeing it in my own life.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) – Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson
In case you’re still taking submissions, I just started another book (prompted by an interview on Planet Money) and really like it. It’s about our national debt and what we should do about it.
White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You
Glenn Dudley, Desktop Support Technician, ILS
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Classified as young adult novels, but I got hooked. These are the first two novels of a trilogy.
Donna Duval, Advancement
Port City Shakedown by Gerry Boyle. A mystery set in Portland, ME. A nice easy read.
Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. Have read 5 of the 7 in the series. Even though these are long (over a thousand pages each), I never want them to end.
Olive Kitteridge by Batesie – Elizabeth Strout. This is an interesting style of book, as they are all short stories in their own right.
The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw. Gave me a new appreciation for the Lobsterman’s way of life.
Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos by Donna Andrews. book 3 in the Meg Langslow Mystery series. This was set in a civil war reanactment was a fun to read.
Dead of Winter – Winston Crisp Maine Island Mystery by David Crossman. Was very timely, I read this during one of our few snowy days last winter.
The Murder of Mary Bean & Other Stories By Elizabeth A DeWolfe. Interesting time piece.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. Interesting true story where two cultures collide. The Hmong and our Western medicine.
The Plague by Albert Camus. Was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Boring & too long. Only read it because of the book club I am in.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Giilman. A depressing book. Also read for the book club. At least it was interesting, going crazy.
Lost Trail (Comic Book) by Don Fendler. Got this for my 12-yr-old Grandson. We all loved it and can’t wait for the movie.
Sarey by Lantern Light by Susan Williams Beckhorn. This is a great story, even had me teary eyed. Got this for my 10-yr-old granddaughter.
Melinda Emerson, Purchasing Sales and Accounting Specialist, ILS
Joseph Brodsky– Watermark (memoir/meditation about Venice)
Tracy K. Smith — Life On Mars (this year’s poetry Pulitzer winner)
Chad Harbach– The Art of Fielding (novel about baseball and small college life)
Richard Powers– Generosity (a novel more interesting for its speculative ideas than for its characters, perhaps, but genomically troubling…)
Rob Farnsworth, Senior Lecturer, English
My book club read two great books. I had never heard of either author but everyone loved the books.
Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
The Wedding Gift Marlen Suyapa Bodden
Anita Farnum, Administrative Assistant, Concierge
Here is my contribution for the year:
Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell
The Book of Salt by Monique Truong
Johie Farrar, Associate Dean of Admission
I am reading Dreaming in French, by Alice Kaplan (U of Chicago, 2012): it is an account of the Paris years of Jackie O, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and a discussion of how these three women’s experiences in France, in turn, changed America.
Sylvia Federico, Associate Professor of English
I enjoyed these two books recently;
Open by Andre Agassi – very revealing insight into a man who made the top of athletics and battled insecurity all the way.
Calico Joe – Nice light reading baseball novel by John Grisham.
Stewart Flaherty, Head Coach, Men’s Soccer
Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History
In this warm, honest memoir, Jonathan Franzen tells the story of his Midwestern childhood and his adulthood in New York. Particularly interesting are his analyses of the dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s and of his obsessions with birdwatching and environmentalism.
Katie Flinn, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Predictably Irrational by Daniel Ariely. Ariely researches behavioral economics and writes about his experiments in a very accessible, entertaining way for the non-economist. He describes how “expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.” Really illuminating and thought-provoking.
Nancy Gibson, Senior Assistant Director, Bates Career Development Center
There are two books which really impressed me in the past year:
David McCullough, The Greater Journey – The amazing adventures of the creative young Americans who flocked to Paris in the 19th century, and lived through its tragedies and triumphs.
Stephen King, 11/22/63 – I am not usually a fan of King’s horror novels, but this one really captivated me. An ordinary young man in the 21st century discovers that he can go badk in time and change the history of the nation at a crucial point – what happens if he does?
Lois Griffiths, Alumna and Retiree
Long-time listener, first-time caller.
One suggestion: Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello. Many people have heard of Sally Hemings because of her supposed (and now effectively proven) relationship with Thomas Jefferson. What makes this book remarkable is that someone has dared to write about the lives of individuals who left almost no documentary trace. And she does it powerfully and sometimes lyrically. And I think she won something like 18 awards (including the Pulitzer and the National Book Award) in the process.
Joe Hall, Associate Professor of History
I want to put Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by first-time author Jesse Andrews on the Good Reads list. It was just published in May. It is in the young adult genre. The film rights for the book were purchased by the producer/director that made the film “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” I read it because Jesse is the brother of my best friend from high school, but it really is excellent. If a book about a young girl dying of cancer can be funny then this is it. It qualifies as young adult literature because the main characters are in high school, but I would say that based on the subject matter and the language that it is pitched at a much older audience.
Josh Henry, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry
I believe this is my very first suggestion to the Good Reads List. It is Nimo’s War, Emma’s War by Cynthia Enloe. It is an account of the Iraq war, and women’s experiences of the war through the experiences of 8 women, 4 U.S. and 4 Iraqi. It’s fascinating and compelling.
Leslie Hill, Associate Professor of Politics
Lynn H. Nichols: The Rape of Europa. A well-written account of the wholesale Nazi plundering of European art and cultural artifacts during WWII. Lots of detail at 450 pages, but the astonishing scale of the thefts lends to this treatment: tens of thousands of paintings and sculptures, libraries, rugs, tapestries, furniture, gold and jewelry, even 5000 church bells. The book is a portrait of the Nazis as monsters but also pathetic kleptomaniacs, convincing themselves that stealing European culture would fit out the future Reich with suitable decorations. The book is part art history, part WWII detective story as the Allied “monuments units” tried to find the immense caches of stolen treasures and return them to their owners.
The late Bates President Hedley Reynolds spent the second half of WWII assigned to a monuments unit, as an Art History major at Williams who was reassigned from a tank unit. The book has been made into a well-regarded documentary film of the same name, narrated by Nichols.
Ann Weiss: The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some years ago, a tour guide at Auschwitz-Birkenau unlocked a storeroom everyone assumed was empty and found thousands of photographs that Jewish families had brought with them to the concentration camp, hoping to survive with their family treasures and keepsakes. With research, many of the photographs were identified, and the book is a photo album accompanied by profiles of those in the photographs.
Monique Truong: The Book of Salt. An imaginative historical novel, recounting life with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas through the eyes of their Vietnamese cook. A wonderfully piquant and humorous book, one of a number of admirable books by Vietnamese immigrants to the US adjusting to dislocations in unexpected locations like 1930’s Paris.
Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo: The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island. New theories on the Easter Island statues, offering evidence that the statues, like other Polynesian cultures that created large statues, got to their locations by being “walked” in an upright position. The culture’s collapse was likely due not to internal dissent but to contact with early explorers and whalers, quite parallel to the “American holocaust” of Native American tribes meeting diseases for which they had no resistance. Frequently mentioned is the work of Charlie Love ’66, a geology professor from Wyoming with decades of research on Easter Island.
Andrew Lam, Perfume Dreams. A set of moving essays by a Viet Kieu (those who fled Vietnam after the war) who went on to become a fine journalist for NPR and other outlets. Lam’s father was a skilled and professional South Vietnamese general whose family fled, and the essays are about adapting to a new culture, trying to keep values, and returning to Vietnam years later.
Adam Hochschild: To End All Wars: A story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. This history of WWI focuses on the many families whose members had fiercely divided loyalties. The Field Marshall commanding the Western Front had a sister who led suffragette, pacifist, resistance and IRA efforts and went to prison for her commitments. Very well written for the weaving of the family histories during the war.
Vicki Baum: Love and Death in Bali. First published in German in 1935, this is a remarkable novel about the collision between the deeply religious and artistic people of Bali with a Dutch colonial administration.
Amanda Hale: In the Embrace of the Alligator. A set of connected short stories about a Canadian woman powerfully drawn to Cuba, and the contrasts between the beauty and grace of Cuba and its people with the lumbering weight of the Cuban government. Often cited as one of the most accurate portraits of modern Cuba by a non-Cuban.
Tony Williams: The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic that Changed America’s Destiny. Cotton Mather is sometimes regarded as a Puritan divine hostile to change, but in fact he was one of the towering intellects of his age, and far more open to science than might be imagined. This well-written book is an account of Mather’s attempts to support the very early experimentation with vaccinations against smallpox in the midst of a horrifying epidemic in Boston, when ironically the brother of Benjamin Franklin was using the family printing press to attack Mather for not treating the epidemic surely as a scourge from God.
Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love and Beautiful María of my Soul, or, The True Story of María García y Cifuentes, the Lady behind a Famous Song. Hijeulos won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Mambo Kings…, the first Hispanic to win this prize, and Beautiful Maria…is a retelling of the story of the Mambo Kings from the very different perspective of the woman, now older, who inspired their greatest hit. A third novel with the revealing title of The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien is a rambling but very readable account of a large Irish-Cuban family in small-town Ohio over the two generations from the immigration of the parents to the old age of the fifteen siblings. Hijuelos has been a prolific author, with eight novels and a memoir, mostly around the themes of Cuban-Americans in complicated relationships with both their homelands.
Bill Hiss ’66, Senior Leadership Gifts Officer and Lecturer in Asian Studies
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge
Journey by Danielle Steele
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant, Facility Services
Here’s information about two books I’ve been reading.
In preparation for a trip to Alabama with a friend who worked for a newspaper there during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, I’ve been reading two compelling and intensely moving books about the Movement. The first, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, is the story behind the boycott by Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, who, as president of a women’s political club, gave the go-ahead for the boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Edited by David Garrow and published by the University of Tennessee Press, it’s a fascinating story of how people worked together and persevered despite great hardship and persecution, and how what they did resulted in desegregation of Montgomery’s city buses.
The second book, which I haven’t quite finished, is Selma, Lord, Selma, and consists of the memories of two women who were little girls participating in the marches for voting rights in Selma — and the attempted and actual marches from Selma to Montgomery. This book is so beautiful. The courage of those two little girls, Sheyann Webb and Rachel West, has brought me to tears several times. Sheyann was the first of the two to get involved, soon joined by her good friend, Rachel. Sheyann’s passion for the cause, willingness to turn her life upside-down (she skipped school for the meetings and marches, and focused everything she had on the effort to gain equal treatment), and sheer incredible bravery have put her on my list of people I admire most. She was marching on Bloody Sunday, when state troopers charged on horseback into the group as they crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge, whipping and knocking down the peaceful marchers. It was probably only because an adult picked her up and ran with her that the little girl escaped injury or death. This book is published by the University of Alabama Press.
I loved these two books. I’m planning to go to some of the sites of the struggle on my trip.
Sue Hubley, Senior Researcher, College Advancement
I have been listening to books on tape on the drive to work and I heartily recommend the following series:
The Amanda Peabody Egyptology series by Elizabeth Peters – the first book in the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank.
The Brother Cadfael, medieval English series by Ellis Peters – the First book in the series is
A Morbid Taste for Bones.
The Aubrey/Maturin Napoleonic Wars (from a British Naval perspective) series by Patrick O’Brian – the first book in the series is Master & Commander.
On a less sheer exuberant indulgence but still very good note, I’d recommend
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb which is a book about flaws in modern economic and statistical thinking due to the failure to adequately account for the highly improbable but important invent – it sounds dry but in fact the author has a very strong persona which makes the book a fun if occasionally snarky read.
The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick which is an intellectual and social history about the invention of calculus and quite fascinating.
Margaret Imber, Assoc. Professor of Classical & Medieval Studies
Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes. An unforgettable love story played out against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, with photojournalists/refugees Robert Capa and Gerda Taro as the protagonists in this short but stunning novel.
My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte. The compelling story of Belafonte’s life pairs his commitments to artistry and social justice.
Call it Sleep by Henry Roth. A groundbreaking novel first published in 1934 that explores the early 20th-century immigrant experience through the eyes of a young Jewish child on New York’s Lower East Side.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Director, Photography and Video, Bates Communications Office
I haven’t been keeping good track of what I’ve read this year, and my memory isn’t what it used to be, so I’ll just toss out two fiction and two non-fiction works that I’m currently reading or read recently.
To Serve a Larger Purpose: Engagement for Democracy and the Transformation of Higher Education (edited by John Saltmarsh and Matthew Hartley). I’m finding some chapters of this edited collection more useful than others, but I appreciate its overall focus on higher education’s institutional-level responsibility to the public good and the institutional-level structures necessary to executing that responsibility.
No University is an Island (by Cary Nelson). Another analysis of higher education, this one focuses on academic freedom and the role of faculties in college and university governance, with attention to the implications of that role for higher education’s democratic potential.
The Distinguished Guest (by Sue Miller). This 1995 book was a nearly-random purchase I made at a used bookstore on a beautiful spring afternoon outing with a friend last year. I just recently got around to reading it, and enjoyed the gentle pace at which it explores aging, regrets, multigenerational family relationships, writing, memory and art.
The Lotus Eaters (by Tatjana Soli). I’m only a few chapters in, but this novel about a photographer in Saigon during the Vietnam War is beautifully written so I assume I’ll continue to find it worthy of recommending.
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain–as an avid Ernest Hemingway fan, I was enthralled by this book told by his first wife and first love, Hadley. It shed a perspective of Ernest that I had known about superficially but appreciated more when narrated by Hadley. Reading this prompted me to re-read an old favorite, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, and made me yearn to live in a time of great writers, whiling away the days in Paris cafes.
Day of the Bees by Thomas Sanchez–Some of the best books I’ve read have come from picking it up randomly at a book sale and this is one of them. From almost the first page, I was sucked into the romantic prose of Sanchez’s writing style. His descriptive use of language was intoxicating and I just found myself lost within this story. I really enjoyed reading this book, and it’s letter form didn’t irritate me as I thought it might. There are some slow parts, but it’s definitely worth it to reach the end.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot–As a self-proclaimed sciencephobe, I found this book to be intriguing, thought-provoking, and fascinating. The language in which Skloot uses to describe such scientific and technical terms is so understandable that it makes it such an interesting read and compelling. It really got me thinking about my knowledge (or lack thereof) of medical history, including my own personally. This is a case of truth being stranger than fiction and covers science, relationships, race, and the ability to find and discern your roots in a clear way.
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue–Another booksale find. As the mother of a two year old, I didn’t think I wanted to read about stolen children, but I opened this anyway and was immediately riveted by the story of a seven-year old boy kidnapped in 1949 and replaced by a mythical changeling who takes over his life and grows up haunted by the distant knowledge that he is not who he claims to be. Part fairy tale, part science fiction, part novel, this book illuminates messages of loss, loneliness, and the search for an accepted identity, based on the W.B. Yeats poem of the same title. This book was a total surprise to me.
Alison M. Keegan, Administrative Assistant, Office of the Dean of the Faculty
Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall) has a new book out [Bring Up the Bodies] that I hope to read and find as enchanting as the first one. But that is for next year.
John Kelsey, Professor of Psychology
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I read it again after a few decades in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary and was impressed by how much more I enjoyed it this time.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – An historical novel with an amazing cast–Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, Leo Trotsky–and locations from Mexico to Washington to Ashville, N.C.
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe – Being reminded in The Lacuna of the rich literary history of Ashville, I decided to read Look Homeward, Angel again. The history and the characters are worth the effort. Thank goodness for Wolfe’s editor, Maxwell Perkins.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall – an autobiography by a woman about how she and her siblings survived being raised by two eccentric, if not totally dysfunctional, parents.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – An historical novel about Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – a novel about ex-pat doctors in Ethiopia, twin brothers, and what the true meaning of family is.
Zeitoun by David Eggers – an account of a Muslim family’s experiences in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Bates ’92 – A novel about early-onset Alzheimer’s told from the perspective of the patient, a Harvard professor. I’ve read a number of books on Alzheimer’s and experienced it through my parents’ decline, and I thought that Lisa was able to capture the stages and symptoms without becoming cliched.
The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate – A Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher was a member of a large, influential family–Harriet Beecher Stowe was his sister–in the 1800s. He was an influential minister with what we would call a “mega-church” in Brooklyn, an adviser to Presidents and kingmakers. He was an abolitionist and an advocate for temperance and women’s suffrage. But, it was also rumored that he fathered at least one child out of wedlock and seduced many women.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – a story about Harvard’s first Native American graduate, set in the late 1600s. Another one of Brooks’ super-woman main characters–learns Latin, Greek, and Wampanoag and midwifery by osmosis, it seems, and even her sheep were smart enough to survive a hurricane when everyone else’s were killed–makes the book a little trying, but the subject is fascinating.
Margo H. Knight, Director of Advancement Research
One of the best books I’ve read recently is this one by a woman who will be here at Bates on Monday! [4/30/12]
Dr. Patricia Sullivan, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and author of Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement (2009) giving a talk entitled “Brown is a Black Cultural Product”: The NAACP and the Struggle for Equal Education.
Karen Kothe, Associate Dean of Admission
Saul Below, Mr. Sammler’s Planet
Michael Kranish, Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War
James t Farrell, Studs Lonigan
Robert Herrick, Wasted
Candace MIllard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
James Clifton, The Coming Jobs War
Peter Hitchens, Rage Against God
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater
Tear down this myth: the right-wing distortion of the Reagan legacy
by William Bunch (276 p., New York, Free Press, 2010, c2009).
After this read, you’ll never look at the current crops of conservatives in the same light, or at least not in the carefully chosen glorious beams in which they, self-serving as ever, now seek to bask. In the process of exposing Reagan’s self-proclaimed adherents, Bunch re-examines his presidency and legacy in a clear-headed and factual fashion. It’s about time!
Into the silence: the Great War, Mallory, and the conquest of Everest
by Wade David (655 p., New York, Knopf, 2011).
Along with other early explorers of the region such as the Italians, the British had no idea what they faced in the highly un-Alps-like Himalayas. They all learned of the vast differences in height and climbing conditions quickly enough, and in the case of the British tragically so.
Jim Lamontagne, Ladd Library
Lest you think Economists don’t read….
This last year I really, really enjoyed
Cutting for Stone
The Trilogy of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Lynne Lewis, Professor of Economics
Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
Without you really noticing, the author slips in beside you and suddenly you realize that you are walking alongside her main character, Lena. Lena is a fingerprint analyst in a crime lab and, on the personal side, is wrapped up in myths of her early childhood. Or are these truths? Her job brings her work on a series of crib deaths that pulls her deeper into her own story. As a reader, you will surely begin to look at your own myths.
Another character of the book is Syracuse, New York, complete with the depths-of-winter colors, temperatures, smells and dangers. A good book to read in either a mild non-winter or in the bright sunlight!
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France by mother and daughter team Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
An interesting work that alternates chapters by the two and is based on trips together during times of change for both of them. They reflect on each other, share their personal introspective thoughts, and weave in visits to places related to their individual work. One generation learns from another and it works both up and down the age ladder. If you liked The Secret Life of Bees, you will learn wonderful insights into its creation. Grab a map and settle in for a good armchair traveling experience as well as a thoughtful and thought provoking memoir.
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager
Rings of Saturn by W. H. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse
“Ostensibly a record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia,” as Robert McCrum in the London Observer noted, The Rings of Saturn “is also a brilliantly allusive study of England’s imperial past and the nature of decline and fall, of loss and decay. . . . The Rings of Saturn is exhilaratingly, you might say hypnotically, readable. . . . It is hard to imagine a stranger or more compelling work.”
Bill Low, Curator, Museum of Art
Sisters Brothers, Goon Squad, Buddha in the Attic, George R.R. Martin series, Game of Thrones
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
Set in a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique, it is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect, dividing the nation. Tensions simmer as an Afrikaner police officer is found dead and emotions boil to the surface. This is a page turner and the setting in South Africa makes it a very different murder mystery. The main character, Emmanuel Cooper, is a complex and interesting police officer, and the South African setting makes solving a murder even more interesting. Sequels recently released are Let the Dead Lie and Blessed are the Dead.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
This is a murder mystery where the past meets the present. In the late 1970s, tragedy strikes when one of the main characters, Larry, takes a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she is never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the small town— most of all, his friend, Silas. His friendship with Larry is broken, and then Silas leaves town. More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.
Iron Lake by William Kent Kreuger
I like finding mystery series with a main character that develops throughout the series, and I was so pleased to find this one! There are twelve books in this series so far and it starts with Iron Lake. Set near an Indian reservation in northern Minnesota, this series follows former Chicago police officer, Cork O’Connor. He is part Indian and was raised in this small Minnesota town. In Iron Lake, the disappearance of an Indian newsboy, coincides with the suicide of a former judge, and Cork clashes with a newly elected senator (who also happens to be the judge’s son); the town’s new sheriff; and some tribal leaders getting rich on gambling concessions.
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
This is Tropper’s newest book, and I think one of the funniest to date. Judd Foxman is wandering between a sea of self-pity and a “snake pit of fury and resentment” in the aftermath of the explosion of his marriage, which ended “the way these things do: with paramedics and cheesecake.” Foxman is jobless (after finding his wife in bed with his boss) and renting out the basement of a “crappy house” when he is called home to sit shiva for his recently departed father. This means seven days in his parent’s house with his incredibly dysfunctional family. The shiva scenes are hilarious, and in the end this is as much about a family’s reconnecting as it is about one man’s attempt to get his act together.
Mary Main, Director of Human Resources
Through the Fields, Woods, and Marshes of New England Naturally Curious: a Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey by Mary Holland. Exactly what its title implies, this new field guide alerts you to what to look for outdoors as the months progress. In our busy lives, the days fly by so fast that before we know it, the times to look for natural seasonal changes and wildlife behaviors have slipped away without notice. Naturally Curious is a perfect reminder: a little bit of every month to whet your appetite for what’s out there so you won’t miss anything!
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry. A respected psychotherapist returns to the Salem of her childhood, revisits her past, and reevaluates her present. Zee Finch is an appealing young doctor, launched on a brilliant career and about to make the perfect marriage. A patient’s suicide and her father’s illness bring her home again, as she deals with issues of caregiving, sexuality, responsibility, and guilt—all those familiar issues that make a fascinating story.
This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman. Eliot and Sue Coleman were disciples of the Nearings, heroes of the back-to-the-land movement in Maine in the mid-sixties. Determined to homestead and live naturally, their determination to farm, subsist on their crops, and do without “modern conveniences” in search of a purer, simpler life attracted hordes of followers: itself an unintended complication. Their little daughter Melissa was raised in and lived the life her parents’ dream became, and now tells the behind-the-scenes stories.
Trespasser by Paul Doiron. Last year I recommended The Poacher’s Son, Paul Doiron’s powerful tale of a Maine Game Warden. Trespasser continues the adventures of warden Mike Bowditch as he investigates an abandoned vehicle near the coast. (And for fans who are anxious to find out what happens to Bowditch next, the third in the series, Bad Little Falls, is due for release in August.)
Judy Marden ’66 and retiree
Hamermesh, Daniel. 2011. Beauty Pays. Why Attractive People are more
Successful? Princeton University Press
Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Random House
Margaret Maurer-Fazio, Betty Doran Stangle Professor of Applied Economics
The 5th of 7 in the series, A Dance with Dragons was the next installment to George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book in the series is what the movie series Game of Thrones was based on. I would recommend these books to anyone who likes action/adventure/fantasy.
Karen R McArthur, Systems Administrator, ILS
You Know When the Men Are Gone written by Siobhan Fallon, provided an interesting look into the world of Army families stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. As a former Navy wife, I found myself nodding in recognition of the some of the activities and feelings felt by the women left behind while their servicemen were deployed. It’s not an easy life. The author writes in a personal way that allows the reader to feel like they know the characters and can easily relate to their situations. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a peek at military life – especially since it affects so many American families during the ongoing wars in the Middle East.
I enjoyed reading Blind Your Ponies written by Stanley Gordon West, because of its uplifting message of empowerment. It is the story of high school basketball players from a small town in Montana finding the courage to overcome their weaknesses and play their way to the state finals. Full of humor, passion, angst and determination, this story is a fun read for all ages.
Based on the wonderful reviews submitted last year for the book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I decided to read it. It is such a well-written story that one could almost hear the women speaking in their southern vernacular and feel right at home. I recommend joining the crowd, and I hear the movie follows the book really well and I look forward to renting it soon. This book definitely lives up to the accolades and I recommend reading it.
Monica McCusker – Office Coordinator, College Store
I just read Defending Jacob by William Landay. Real page turner!
From Amazon. com: “Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.”
Melanie McGuire, Human Resources
I finally had the opportunity to read a couple books over the course of the winter; some good, some that didn’t resonate with me. The ones I have listed below are the books that are not part of the 2011, 2012 best seller or fad, simply because I’m sure those books will be recommended anyways. As an alum, I know that the book list was a fantastic resource for me, so here are my three contributions:
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon(challenging, fantastic, a project that is worth the time). An exercise in vocabulary even for those who think theirs is vast. Pynchon also references real historical events with incredible accuracy, if simply not a lesson in our own history, it blurs the lines between the real and fantastic. I believe a description of the book a read at some point uses the word phantasmagoric, which is exactly what it is.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing (a simple, quick read, yet at the same time, it pushes the boundaries of believable). More than likely would appeal to those with extreme outdoor experience, or those that like to get lost in a journey.
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (like Gravity’s Rainbow challenging, but worth it). Many layers of symbolism and dimensions of intrigue and plot. For those that enjoy a fluid read and are still left contemplative and captivated.
Dylan Mogk ’09, Assistant Nordic Ski Coach
My recent reads of merit:
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar vibrantly portrays how a series of events alters the lives of four once-upon-a-time close friends. A rich human tale.
Great American City by Robert Sampson is for geeks. Did you like Wiliam Julius Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged? If so, you will like Great American City. Wilson says of the book “Robert Sampson’s Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect will not only change the way we think about neighborhood effects, it also sets a new standard for social scientific inquiry.” Part of that “new standard” seems to be accessibility – you don’t need to be an urbanist to understand the book. (A bonus is Chapter 2′s superb introduction to the “Chicago School” of urban sociology that sets in the context of urban sociology more generally.)
The World As We Know It by Joseph Monninger – if you don’t like schmalz, this one’s not for you, but it is a wonderfully written and compelling love story.
Poor Economics by Abhijeet Banerjee and Esther Duflo is wonderful economics. The authors tell us what randomized controlled experiments in developing countries have taught us about what works and what doesn’t in alleviating the plight of the poor in those countries. An easy read and highly informative about health, education, government, saving, and much more.
Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny – Any of these are terrific detective stories with a glimpse of life in Canada.
The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer by S. Mukherjee is a tour de force of history, science, and social commentary. A lengthy read, but always informative.
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics
Here is my summer reading list that I have downloaded to my Kindle:
William Faulkner, The Reivers. One of the Faulkner’s I’ve never read.
Fannie Hurst, Imitation of Life. I’ve seen both versions of the film about interracial female friendship and racial passing, but I’ve never read the novel on which they were based. Looking forward to it.
Alan LeMay, The Searchers. I’m looking forward to this one, since it was the basis for one of my favorite John Ford westerns.
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women. Second novel by brilliant Jamaican descended writer.
Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters. Another biography about a legendary African American singer and actress by the always insightful film scholar Donald Bogle.
Tracie McMillan, The American Way of Eating. Interesting book about how our food gets to our tables. McMillan went undercover and worked in the produce section of a Wal-Mart, in a field picking vegetables with migrant laborers, and in the food assembly line at an Applebee’s.
Michael Sherry, Gay Artists in Modern American Culture: an Imagined Conspiracy. Really fascinating book set in the midst of the Cold War when the US State Department and other cultural institutions tried to position America as a world leader in the arts. To their chagrin they discovered that many leading American artists were gay, and therefore members of a persecuted class that had been deemed a threat to national security. The chapter on Samuel Barber’s opera Cleopatra, its disastrous opening of the Met at Lincoln Center was outstanding.
Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is a superb biography and definitely worthy of the Pulitzer it received recently despite all of the controversy about Marable’s argument that Malcolm was involved in homosexual hustling when he was a youth. Marable makes a very persuasive argument that concealing that hustling was just one more aspect of Malcolm’s self-fashioning.
Lynn Nottage’s Ruined is an outstanding play about the effects on women in a civil-war torn east African nation. Environmental destruction is a major issue in the play. I hope we do this play here at Bates.
Bryan Batt’s She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother was a campy and delightful memoir by the actor who played the gay character Sal Romano in Mad Men. Batt is from my hometown, New Orleans, and the memoir was a pleasant trip down memory lane.
Andrew Young, The Politician: An Insiders Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency. Even after reading this book I still don’t get this kind of loyalty. How could Young tell his wife that the child Rielle Hunter was carrying was his, and not John Edwards’s?
Charles Nero, Professor of Rhetoric and African American Studies
My favorite book of the last year was The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth by Lillian Nayder of Hathorn Hall. This gorgeously written and ultra-insightful book gives, at very long last, a voice to the wife of Charles Dickens. Catherine has been ignored, demonized, and ridiculed by generations of devotees of her famous husband. She, it turns out, was a person of intelligence and empathy; loving daughter, sister, and mother of ten; and a writer in her own right. He, it turns out, played the field and made stuff up about his wife with as much facility as he wrote acclaimed works of fiction. Read this book!
I also loved The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. This book follows a 15th-century Italian scribe as he relentlessly tracks down ancient books hidden for centuries in European monasteries, books that contain the legacy of classical thinking. He finds a work by Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, and in so doing, helps launch the Renaissance. Greenblatt makes you think about what would have happened had these obsessed bibliophiles not found these books: eek!
Another favorite was Maira Kalman’s Principles of Uncertainty, which shows how a perfectly illustrated text is way more than the sum of the parts. This book weaves together her attention to everyday objects, memory, family, pogroms, and people on the street. But together it all means something. Also wonderful are her illustrated versions of Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style and Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. In this book she tempers Pollan’s advice, which can be preachy. She starts the book with a page-sized portrait of a Cheeto, for example, and declares her devotion. Her illustrations make adherence to the food rules seem more attainable.
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the Faculty
Here are my two favorite books for the year. Both are inspiring and practical accounts of determination’s potential.
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner (Dean Karnazes)
Born to Run (Christopher McDougall)
Nick O’Brien, Bates Communications Office (Content Manager)
I have a few suggestions for the list of things I’ve read recently: Alison Bechdel’s comic-book memoir Are you my mother? is brilliant, perhaps even better than her Fun Home which should also be on any summer reading list. I loved Carol Anshaw’s new novel Carry the One so much I felt sad and abandoned when I’d finished it and could no longer spend time with those characters. Nathan Englander’s collection of short stories What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank is terrific. Less recently, but still haunting me — Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids. It’s sublime. And Tina Fey’s Bossypants is delightful. Those last two should be on any summer reading list if they’re not on the bookstore’s already.
Eden Osucha, Assistant Professor of English
Daughter of Joy (Brides of Culdee Creek Series) -by Kathleen Morgan
Love, heartbreak, and triumph lie deep within the wilds of the Colorado highlands.
Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, and the Last Great Showbiz Party by Shawn Levy
You feel like you’re a member of the “Pack.” A must for any fan of these one of a kind entertainers. Also, the pictures are classic.
Homespun Bride (Love Inspired Historical Series) by 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……
Lori Ouellette, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty
I found David Grossman’s To the End of the Land one of the most compelling novels I’ve read in years.
James Parakilas, James L. Moody, Jr. Family Professor of Performing Arts
Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner
Reading this novel about one emotionally charged day in the life of a 17-year- old Dalton student was a good complement to my first “reading season” in Admissions, where I covered New York City. Published by Europa, one of my favorite publishers (Elegance of the Hedgehog), the book makes an understated effort to be profound, and much like an application, it sometimes succeeds powerfully, sometimes falls flat and sometimes resonates with a reader who’s not that far removed from the experiences recounted. A compelling, quick read about philosophy, love and family, and all of their dysfunctions.
Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I came a bit late to this party – a whole election cycle late, but reading about the 2008 campaign during the 2012 Republican primaries was just as revelatory. It drudged up all of those Sarah Palin memories we’d like to forget while reminding me just how important, disastrous and juicy presidential politics can be. As I prepare to move to Washington, D.C. to cover politics, I have a greater understanding of the modern campaign after reading Game Change. Now I have to see the movie…
Simone Pathe ’11, Admission Counselor
Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Kane
Bitches Brew by Fred Khumalo
The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
Passing by Patricia Jones
Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda
Theri Pickens, Assistant Professor of English
I’ve really enjoyed reading:
Jean-François Parot, The Chatelet Apprentice and The Nicolas le Floch Affair — a French mystery series, set in late 18th century Paris.
Isabel Allende, Island beneath the Sea — follows the life of several characters before, during and after the Haitian revolution.
Sonja Pieck, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child:
Cold Vengeance – More in the life and adventures of Agent Aloysius Pendergast
Gideon’s Sword - The beginning of a new series with all new characters; a troubled soul with some surprising skills.
Bernard Cornwell: Stonehenge – No one really knows why Stonehenge exists but Cornwell offers up a plausible and gripping theory.
Altar of Eden - A thrilling tale about the good guys confronted with misguided bad guys trying to develop genetically enhanced species. Tense emotions, science fiction, ethics in question, good versus evil…
The Last Oracle – More evil Russians bent on taking over what’s left of the world after they initiate an Apocalypse. Some familiar Rollins characters and some new players find themselves on opposite side trying to figure out what’s going on and defying the odds to save society as they know it. Tense and challenging.
George R. R. Martin:
The Dance of Dragons – The latest in the Game of Thrones series, this is very complex but frustrating addition. It keeps the same multiple stories rolling without really bringing the story to a conclusion leaving readers to wonder if Martin will ever finish the tale before he ends his writing career. And he continues to kill off the characters I perceived to be the “better” people.
Christopher Paolini: Inheritance – This is the end of the series about Eragon and the dragon, Saphira. Paolini is the young author who began writing at about 16 years of age. It comes down to Eragon against the evil Galbatorix in a good versus evil showdown. The story is a bit trite but it’s not bad given the writer’s age. It was not the best of the series but at least it brought the story to a close.
Ship of Magic
Ship of Destiny – In this trilogy Hobb has found a way to feature dragons in a new way. She has created some interested characters, each with their own unique traits, sometimes a bit twisted and sometimes exalted. These tales feature a seafaring young woman and her family, pirates, government gone bad, and a conflict between the old ways and the new. Pretty good escapism.
The Ocean Dark-Very exciting combination of mystery, thriller and science . fiction. The criminals get more than they bargain for when they find their rendezvous island is inhabited by vicious nocturnal sea creatures. As if that isn’t problematic enough, the feds are on their trail. Imagine the feds and the criminals having to work together to get out of this mess alive!
Black Rain- Treasure or terror? An attractive young agent from an obscure government agency finds herself in the driver’s seat trying to uncover a secret in South America while beset with counter agents after the same secrets and willing to do anything to get the goods. Exciting at times, clever in places; likable and detestable characters and adequate surprises.
Unbroken – It would be a true shame to miss reading this book. The limits of human endurance, love and spirit can surely be measured against the experience of Louis Zamparini, about whom this gripping story is written.
Lost in Shangri-La - Essentially the same time frame as Unbroken, but a vastly different story of survival. The characters are heroic in their own ways and the story telling is a bit less polished, but still an interesting nugget of history.
Cro-Magnon, How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans -
Written by a writer with training in anthropology, this book takes us through the archeological record to speculate on how we came to be the beings we are today. It seemed like reading the more scientific version of Jean Auel’s stories. A bit redundant and confusing at times and highly speculative based on the limited factual information.
A Universe From Nothing – Pretty much pure physics used in the effort to disprove God’s existence. He takes on the “scholars” with a surety and deliberateness that demonstrate his conviction. His argument, if I understand it correctly, rests on the current understanding of the expansion of the universe since the big bang. He discusses matter and antimatter, negative energy, subatomic particles relativity and the laws of nature. In his mind it all makes perfect sense. It’s a case of a series of unexplainable miracles versus scientifically tested and proven laws. Sometimes witty, and pretty clearly written given the complexities of the material.
Ray Potter, Environmental Health and Safety Manager
I keep a list of titles I read from year to year, but I struggle desperately to retain content.
I managed to read Madame Bovary, and while I wouldn’t label it a riveting page-turner, I was glad to have read it. I suspect that Flaubert’s French original was far superior to any English translation.
I reread an old chestnut by Esther Wood, professor of Social Sciences at the Univ. of Southern Maine from 1930 – 1973 (!), called Country Fare…a delightful collection of reminiscences and recipes from her childhood in coastal Blue Hill, Maine.
For a Lewiston Public Library “Let’s Talk About It” series (titled “Entering Nature”), sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council, I read John Fowles’ The Tree—a testament to and plea for wilderness and wildness. This is one of those titles you finish and want to pick up again because you know there’ll be something more to enlighten you with each reading.
And for truly relaxing summer reading, I will finish the Hunger Games series, finish a trilogy by Chris Paolini and turn to Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director
Fenway: 1912: The birth of a ballpark, a championship season, and Fenway’s remarkable first year by Glenn Stout. Something for those interested in architecture, something for people who know Boston, and lots for those who love baseball and its history. Well written.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. A lovely novel about a possible unknown Vermeer that a professor has kept secret in his house. The story traces the history of the painting and its various owners, going back and forth in time between this tale and the unfolding story in the present. Reminiscent somewhat of The Girl with a Pearl Earring.
The first Copernican: Georg Joachim Rheticus and the rise of the Copernican revolution by Dennis Danielson. I knew what Copernicus had done, but didn’t know anything about his life or the major role that Rheticus had played in getting Copernicus to publish the book that started The Scientific Revolution. Thanks to Gene Clough for sending this book, and for getting me on my Copernicus kick.
Doctor Copernicus: A novel by John Banville. The brilliant Irish writer read biographies of Copernicus and then imagined all the details of his life. This 1976 book was one of the ones that began to make Banville famous.
Upcoming summer reading:
Hope gave me A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus revolutionized the cosmos by Dava Sobel (the former NY Times Science correspondent and author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter)
Quantum man: Richard Feynman’s life in science by Lawrence M. Krauss
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson]
Jack Pribram, Professor Emeritus of Physics
Composed: A Memoir by Rosanne Cash
A beautiful, spiritual, and intelligent autobiography by Rosanne Cash, daughter of country music superstar Johnny Cash and herself an acclaimed singer-songwriter (and country superstar in the 1980s). You can tell that Cash is a master; the writing is incredibly well-crafted, each sentence lyrical and thoughtful. Simply one of the best books about family, music, art, and life I’ve read.
The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford
Recommended for graduating seniors, or anyone heading out into the unknown. A historical account about the race for the South Pole between the Brit Robert Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Amundsen and his team got there first. But Scott–who, after planning poorly, died with his men on the journey back–became a British hero despite his failure, while Amundsen is little known outside of Norway. After a slow start, it’s a gripping read and fascinating story. It’s about the importance of both chasing dreams and properly planning to achieve them. And the beauty of the Antarctic.
Bradley Proctor, Lecturer, History
This year, I immodestly recommend my new book, Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice (Duke University Press, 2012). Skating, sex, race, gender, money, age, risk-taking, queer/trans issues in sports, and more. Short essays, good for the beach. I’d like to think so, anyway.
Erica Rand, Professor of Art & Visual Culture
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Amazing story about the beginning of the genetics industry, its impact on the Lacks family and the moral/legal issues around rights to our own bodies. Warning- it does include graphic descriptions of child abuse.
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. Great story about the symbiotic relationship between man and plants. Filled with interesting historic info- e.g. I never realized that before the 20th century, apples where for drinking (as in hard cider) not eating.
John Rasmussen, Project Manager, Facility Services
I wish I had read more this year!
Here are some recommendations that I did just finish, however, in this, the first short term that I have NOT taught in close to 22 years… Also included is some aspirational reading.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It is a really wonderful book with an intricate structure of nested narratives that extend from the 18th century up through several story lines that take place in the future, one of them post-apocalyptic. I have to admit that keeping track of the story lines and adapting to the vernaculars of each era, while spectacularly imagined, did feel like work some of the time. Some stories I liked better than others, but it did have a wonderful resolution. My favorite of Mitchell is Black Swan Green, a coming of age story set in England which I still highly recommend. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. Just out. It sort of complements her first graphic novel, Fun Home which is the story of her relationship with her father. This (graphic) novel ends up being a lot about therapy and how she worked and read her way through a very difficult family life–this time more concentrated on her mother. As someone who’s invested a fair amount of time in therapy, I loved it. Winnicot, Freud, Klein are trotted out in sometimes amazing detail; Virginia Woolf is a touchstone throughout. Sounds loopy for a graphic novel, I know, but I found it really engaging. It has gotten wonderful reviews. Based on this, I’m going to reread
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf which gets lots of attention in Bechdel. I read it maybe 30 years ago and remember just loving it. I will read it now more consciously for the relationship that Woolf is treating between her and her own family. Bechdel reveals this back story based on Woolf’s journals and drafts.
Always something Tintin inspired:
Tintin and the Secret of Literature by Tom McCarthy. I liked the first chapter a lot as an explanation of not only what this particular artist/author’s fiction can respond to, but what how literature in general connects us to a vast array of cultural references. Some of the other chapters are a little overwrought and will give skeptics of literary interpretation lots of grist for the mill, but I enjoy this treatment of a beloved icon of comic book/graphic culture.
And here are some that I am working my way through with delight, though check in later this summer to see how it all turned out:
The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age by Martha Nussbaum. I have always liked her as a writer and thinker. A wise woman. This is a thorough-going treatment of cultural, political, philosophical and social responses to religious tolerance, mainly in Europe and the US in an effort to explain the heightened anxiety and hatred of Muslims in particular post-9/11. She makes distinctions between the US and Europe which make the US come out looking far preferable and I rankle a bit at what seems like a bit of chauvinism at times; having lived in France this past fall with students and contemplated religious identity, national identity and tolerance quite a bit, I find Nussbaum certainly helps explain the terrain with copious examples from law cases and incidents involving fear, threat, attack and reaction. I was also glad to read her quite favorable and lengthy treatment of Roger Williams (the namesake of my new home here on campus) and his contribution to activism and discourse on religious tolerance. A good follow-up would be Joan W. Scott’s The Politics of the Veil (equally Americo-centric) that my students read for my course on French identity last fall in Nantes.
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt. This is a book about how Lucretius’s work The Nature of Things and its rediscovery in the 15th century basically invented modernism. I am embarrassed (as a Renaissance scholar) that I have given Lucretius such little attention. Greenblatt is a supremely enjoyable writer (I really liked his work on Shakespeare, Will in the World). This one does not disappoint.
I am almost done with Roland Barthe’s Mourning Diary in a beautiful translation by Richard Howard. Having passed into orphanhood in the last year, I find his ruminations of grief and his mother extremely poignant and consoling, while often wrenching. The diary is a series of very short notations that he made each day on the state of his grief. Lamentation is also a new strain of scholarly inquiry for me (not by coincidence, perhaps!) and I will use both the original and the translation to great advantage.
Finally, Alice Kaplan’s Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. I’ll let the enthusiast from the book jacket summarize: “A fascinating group portrait of three different women from three different generations whose trajectories nevertheless converge in one surprising yet significant place: Paris…Alice Kaplan shows how time spent living in the French capital and learning about its culture gave each of these sui generis heroines ‘her own ideas of what counted’–and how those ideas in turn became an indelible part of the American political and cultural landscape.” (Caroline Weber). I love Kaplan’s memoir, French Lessons (and recommend that heartily as well). Having been transformed myself (and watched students recently be transformed) by French culture (and being a big Angela Davis fan), I am excited to jump into this.
And finally, find out what your friends and colleagues are writing and read it, published or not. We deserve to know each other better in this way. I have read plenty of this as a senior colleague/evaluator, impromptu editor/translator, arts collaborator, etc, and am very humbled and awed. They walk among us!
Oh and also, let me just say that I love TV. Love, love, love. At a hotel with HBO recently I saw an episode of VEEP with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and am worried I will spend all my lunch money on cable now… I will watch a lot this summer and not feel guilty about not reading.
Kirk Read, Professor of French
Andre Dubus III: Townie, a Memoir. Excellent, I couldn’t put it down.
Julie Retelle, Assistant College Librarian for Access Services
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus - An older book, but a creative and captivating imagining of what might have happened if Ulysses S. Grant’s Brides for Indians program actually took place.
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman – For anyone who loves books, a sweet novel/detective story about what our collections/books can reveal about us.
The Lotus Eaters By Tatjana Soli – Young, privileged woman decides to become a photojournalist and document the Vietnam War. At heart a love story – between people, for a country, for the adrenaline rush during war- but not like I’ve read before.
My Own Country by Abraham Verghese – If you liked Cutting for Stone (alone with everyone else in the universe) I urge you to try this account of Dr. Verghese’s treating AIDS patients in rural Tennessee in the earliest years of the epidemic. His writing is beautiful and his story of his personal struggles treating these patients, and the patients’ stories brought the tragedy of AIDS home in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Yes, another witch-falling-in-love-with- a-vampire story, but better done than some and great beach reading. If you read carefully you’ll find that our heroine is a Bates grad.
Some of my favorite books this year were audiobooks:
Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs – Young Tiffany Aching battles the Queen of the Fairies with a frying pan to get back her totally annoying little brother, and is watched over by a race of small blue men who live for the drinkin’ and the fightin’ and the stealin’. Totally entertaining, totally engaging, we couldn’t stop laughing and listening to these three books.
Restless by William Boyd, read by Rosamund Pike – I was completely sucked into this mystery story in the recent past of who might be trying to kill Sally Gilmartin, and the parallel spy story during WWII of Eva Delectorskaya, who works with a small secret group planting misinformation in the American press.
Macbeth, a Novel by A.J. Hartley and David Hewson, read by Alan Cumming – OK, I admit I would listen to Alan Cumming read the dictionary (but listening to him read this novelization of Macbeth was even better). This version felt so fresh and real. I GET it now.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, read by Jenny Sterlin – In 2048, Oxford historians study history by traveling back in time to their era of interest. Young Kivrin is sent to the Middle Ages, where things are not at all like she expected. Meanwhile back in Oxford, an epidemic emerges which complicates bringing Kivrin back to her own time. Great listen/read for anyone interested in the Middle Ages, who has experienced battling academic egos, and who has lived with an intrepid and stubborn tween. I just finished the second in the series, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and can’t wait to listen to the last 2.
Stephanie Richards, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, read by Edwina Wren — loved it.
Julie Rosenbach, Manager of Sustainability Initiatives at Bates College
Synchronicity by Joe Jawarksi
Sharon Saunders, Assoc. Librarian for Systems and Bibliographic Services
I am a bit reluctant to post a book this year. Most of what I have read was a bit over-rated. But-
For a little light reading I picked up Innocent by Scott Turow. Rusty Sabich’s wife dies and he waits a full 24 hours before telling anyone. Why? Worth a read if you like legal thrillers.
Paula Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry
The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
by Theodore Gray
This captivating book is as humorous as it is informative, providing excellent breakfast reading. The illustrations are gorgeous. Warning: your curious kids may never let you actually have the book long enough to read it!
Anthony Shostak, Education Curator, Museum of Art
Just one recommendation this year: Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers by Donna Quesada. The title pretty much says it all. Teachers (and parents and students and all people) will recognize the situations she describes, one per chapter. And then she applies Buddhist teachings in such a compassionate and insightful way. I found this the most helpful book on teaching (and living) that I ever read!
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D. G. Kelley. I’m only halfway through, but this is a fantastic biography of the great jazz composer and pianist. One of the best features is that you can read about a particular recording session, then listen to the recordings on Naxos Jazz through the Ladd webpage.
John Smedley, Professor of Physics
David Baron, The Beast in the Garden. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.
An easy read of the Colorado cougars’ invasion of the yuppies’ “peaceable kingdom” of Boulder. Further evidence that the wilderness is within.
Drew Gilpin Faust, The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
My latest read (not a pleasant one) of the terrible struggle which has haunted me since my boyhood days camping out at Gettysburg. Do not support another war before reading this.
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. New York: W. W. Norton, 2011.
A masterful account of what we owe Lucretius. Not a difficult read, given all the insights shared.
Cornelia Homburg et al., Van Gogh Up Close. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.
An exquisite catalog for the 2012 exhibitions of Van Gogh’s “nature paintings.” As a result of looking at these reproductions and reading these essays, I have a new appreciation of his art and of our earth. Celebrate, celebrate!
Good Poems. A selection by Garrison Keillor. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.
This gift from a friend is a refreshing collection of poems for all sorts of moods and circumstances, selected by a wise observer of our times and places.
Carl B. Straub, Professor Emeritus of Religion/Clark A. Griffith Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I loved this book– and its entire chapter dedicated to a misplaced comma. A great read!
Annie Sutton, Associate Director of Donor Programs
At Question of Belief
To begin with, I recommend three more mystery novels by Donna Leon featuring Commissario Brunetti of the Venice Questura and his efforts to solve complex crimes amid the corrupt politics of the city of Venice, and despite the interference of his equally corrupt superior. Intricate plots filled with rich descriptions of Venice where Leon herself lives.
Anthony Horowitz, House of Silk
For Sherlock Holmes fans, I recommend this story, in which Holmes is called on to investigate threats to an art dealer, several murders, and to discover the crimes of the mysterious House of Silk – where there are offenses so rancid that Conan Doyle would have refused to write about them.
Ward Farnsworth, Ward Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric
For those who would know the uses of anaphora and epistrophe, polysyndeton and asyndeton, praeteritio and litotes, this is the book for you. Complete with numerous examples which makes the book, to quote the jacket, “… a tutorial on eloquence conducted by a virtuoso faculty.”
Jack Lynch, The Lexographer’s Dilemma
Descriptive or prescriptive, mirror or cop, this is an essential dilemma of dictionaries. The book is, in part, a history of dictionaries as they try to escape one horn or the other.
Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Periodic Tales
The neat system of the elements as arranged in the periodic table belies their more messy individual history. It is the cultural history of the elements that is the subject of the book. As the author says, “Periodic Tales is a record of the journey that I was never encouraged to take when I was a chemist. Come along: there will be fireworks.”
Deborah Blum, The Poisoner’s Handbook
Douglas Starr, The Killer of Little Shepherds
These are two highly readable books on the early history of forensic science. The first records the emergence of the Medical Examiner’s office in Manhattan from the corrupt and incompetent coroner system, with special attention to the creation of forensic toxicology. The second book is a parallel history of a serial killer in nineteenth-century France, Joseph Vacher, and his ultimate nemesis in the early and renowned criminalist, Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne. The latter became the expert witness at Vacher’s trial, and whose evidence finally sent Vacher to the guillotine.
Robert Putnam and David Campbell, American Grace
At the beginning of this book is a bar chart of weekly attendance at religious services among seventeen countries. Jordan is in first place, Sweden is in last. The United States is in seventh place at about 38 percent attendance. It would seem that we are a country whose religious practices are worth sociological study. The authors have undertaken just such a study, detailed and highly empirical. At 557 pages, it is a long but eminently worthwhile book.
Harold Bloom, The Shadow of a Great Rock
One can read Bloom’s book for its spare and evocative use of English, much the way one can read the King James Bible – the subject of the book. This is an engaging analysis of the translation for and the writing of the KJB, with reference to previous versions – especially Tyndale’s.
Benjamin Grigsby, The Fall of the Faculty
Grigsby offers a disturbing account of the gradual corporatization of the university, the commodification of higher education, and the administrative bloat which has arisen to carry all this out. The joining of faculty and students in what was once called “the guild of masters and scholars” has, he finds, become something quite different.
And finally, for the incurable Potterheads among us: Nancy Reagin, Harry Potter and History; Jeffrey Thomas and Franklin Snyder, The Law and Harry Potter; and the encyclopedic Critical Companion to J. K. Rowling by Karley Adney and Holly Hassel.
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology
Well, I have to plug my cousin Meg Howrey’s Blind Sight and her new book out this month, Cranes Dance.
Heidi Taylor, Associate Professor of Sociology
Amy Chua, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I know this will be greeted by some with boos and hisses. BUT, it’s a very funny book, and although she is nuts, and no one would really want to parent in her maniacal way, there is food for thought here. Sure, some American parents push their kids too much, but there are plenty of others who don’t push them enough. I’ll leave it there.
Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife and Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table. Bracketed together because they are both fiction, but both draw on personal experience, the first of war in Bosnia, the second of a ship’s crossing from Ceylon to England. Wonderful stories.
Anne Thompson, Professor Emerita of English
I’ve read so many good books recently, it’s hard to pick just one. Here are the best books I’ve finished this year, so far, in no particular order: Ali Smith, There But for The: A Novel Drago Jančar, The Galley Slave Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery Yu Hua, China in Ten Words Steve Sem-Sandberg, The Emperor of Lies Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, The Twelve Chairs (the Anne O. Fisher translation) Vasily Grossman, The Road: Stories, Journalism and Essays
Joseph Tomaras, Associate Director, Office of External Grants
Currently I am reading Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin, which I definitely recommend to readers who are certain that animals — especially German Shepherds — are much, much more capable than we give them credit for. Lois has recently read Marilynne Robinson’s Home, a sequel to Gilead; an extraordinary writer describing ordinary life in the mid-West in the 1950s.
Dick Wagner, Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Based here in Lewiston…Perfect ~ A Love Story by J.C. Saucier
“Father Mathew is a handsome, charasmatic man, with a wonderful sense of humor. Kate, after suffering a painful divorce, is thrilled to have met a friend in whom she can confide and feel safe. But as their relationship blossoms, they fall victim to temptation and embark on a journey of forbidden love; a journey that the Roman Catholic Church will go to unfathomable lengths to conceal.”
Heather Ward, Assistant Director, Financial Offices
Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz. Everything you need to know about John Brown’s 1859 raid in Harper’s Ferry, and then some. Public schools in Virginia in the 1970s didn’t teach much about the Civil War, and they certainly weren’t going to teach you about John Brown, so much of this information was new to me. Not only does Horwitz present a detailed narrative about the events, but also makes the case for Brown’s raid as a turning point for many in the North on the road to the War. A worthy successor to his fantastic “Confederates in the Attic.” A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, and Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester. Nominally a travel writer, Winchester has been writing great non-fiction for some time now. (The Professor and the Madman is perhaps his most well-known.) Both of these books range widely over their topics, presenting so much detail that in the end you wonder at how he fit so much into books of no great length. Lots of great stories, with an eye for the human details that make for great writing. Ball Four by Jim Bouton; The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle, and Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging 70s by Dan Epstein. Pretty self-explanatory, these three. I actually read Bouton over a year ago, read Lyle for the first time recently, and just re-read Epstein. Is it a mid-life crisis to relive the sports and sports stars of your youth? It’s just too bad that so much of it is about the Yankees.
Just bought Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, and can’t wait to get to both. Eco and Mantel are quite different kinds of writers, but both write with such thick detail and obvious love of their subjects that you can’t help getting caught up in the magic. (Mantel’s is the follow-up to her great Wolf Hall.)
Pat Webber, Acting Director of Archives and Special Collections
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Tells the real life story of how Henrietta Lacks lived and died, how her immortal cells were taken from her without her knowledge and have been used in scientific research ever since.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Even though I am not a runner, I enjoyed this book, which was recommended by a number of my students.
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
This book gives some insight into daily life of one prosperous family in Kabul.
Based on recommendations from this list a couple of years ago, I have also read the Stieg Larsson Trilogy and loved it!
Beth Whalon, Assistant in Instruction, Biological Chemistry
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
-while it threatens to be the Walk in the Woods for the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a compelling readA Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
-I have never been a fan of fantasy fiction, but 7,000 pages in I crave more
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demmick
-life in NK through the eyes of defectors, compiled by a journalist based in the South
Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
-not a noir detective novel, as the Joan Crawford vehicle would have you believe, but a story of middle-class survival during the Great Depression and the transformation of Greater LA
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
-I want to like this. It’s tough. But I keep trying.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
-the rise and fall of Ann Boleyn. Stunning. Compelling. Read it. Read Wolf Hall.
Andrew White, Director of User Services (ILS)
This year, there’s a single title to suggest that you “read.” Those who’ve heard me talk about this are already sick of this story, but here goes. I’ve read Moby-Dick many times since I was in high school. You should read it, too. For Christmas, my daughters gave me a copy of the Modern Library edition, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent. Read along, watch along . . . but wait, listen along. I also found the audio book narrated by one of the greatest book readers of all time, Frank Muller, in a Recorded Books recording from 1987, available at audible.com. The narrator really helps the listener understand that this is is part novel, part epic poem, and in all a great yarn. Since the text is long in the public domain, you won’t spend a lot of money for a great romp through the early nineteenth century. Buy why should you read Moby-Dick? Well, my daughters also gave me the answer: Nathaniel Philbrick’s small work Why Read Moby-Dick? (New York: Viking, 2011). Philbrick will lead you to the beauty and the poetry, but also the rollicking humor (in case you missed it the first time you read it). Philbrick’s book will set you back as much the other two combined, but I’ll lend you both books if you’re interested.
Gene Wiemers, VP for Information and Library Services, Librarian
Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s daughter – an interesting take on memory
Stephen King’s 11/22/63 – time travel with a nostalgic
(especially for those who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s)love story.
David A. Crossman’s The Dead of Winter – features retired NSA
code breaker and Maine resident Winston Crisp.
Shari Caudron’s Who Are You People? – about passion and community.
Diane Ackerman’s One Hundred Names for Love – how two creative writers
deal with one’s aphasia after a stroke.
Anne Williams, Professor Emerita of Economics
The Tenth Circle
Change of Heart
Phyllis Wisher, Bookstore Stock Assistant
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman – I avoid books set during WWII (too dark and depressing) but really enjoyed this book. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.
Louise Woodbury, Executive Assistant to President
Are you an introvert? Psychologist and introvert Laurie Helgoe reveals that more than half of all Americans are. Introverts gain energy and power through reflection and solitude. Our culture, however, is geared toward the extrovert. The pressure to enjoy parties, chatter, and interactions can lead people to think that an inward orientation is a problem instead of an opportunity.
Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton
If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with compelling stories and cases to reveal the mindset and moves of the best (and worst) bosses. This book was inspired by the deluge of emails, research, phone calls, and conversations that Dr. Sutton experienced after publishing his blockbuster bestseller The No Asshole Rule. He realized that most of these stories and studies swirled around a central figure in every workplace: THE BOSS. These heart-breaking, inspiring, and sometimes funny stories taught Sutton that most bosses - and their followers – wanted a lot more than just a jerk-free workplace. They aspired to become (or work for) an all-around great boss, somebody with the skill and grit to inspire superior work, commitment, and dignity among their charges.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior.
11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.
Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction by Leo Babauta
The author writes, “At the heart of this simple book lies the key to many of the struggles we face these days, from being productive and achieving our goals, to getting healthy and fit in the face of fast food and inactivity, to finding simplicity and peace amidst chaos and confusion. That key is itself simple: focus. Our ability to focus will allow us to create in ways that perhaps we haven’t in years. It’ll allow us to slow down and find peace of mind. It’ll allow us to simplify and focus on less-on the essential things, the things that matter most.
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
by Jon Gertner http://amzn.com/1594203288
Bell Laboratories, which thrived from the 1920s to the 1980s, was the most innovative and productive institution of the twentieth century. Long before America’s brightest scientific minds began migrating west to Silicon Valley, they flocked to this sylvan campus in the New Jersey suburbs built and funded by AT&T. At its peak, Bell Labs employed nearly fifteen thousand people, twelve hundred of whom had PhDs. Thirteen would go on to win Nobel prizes. It was a citadel of science and scholarship as well as a hotbed of creative thinking. It was, in effect, a factory of ideas whose workings have remained largely hidden until now.
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
by Jonathan Haidt http://amzn.com/0465028020
In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims-like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger-can enrich and even transform our lives.
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry http://amzn.com/1591844010
You go to work each day tasked with (1) inventing brilliant solutions that (2) meet specific objectives by (3) defined deadlines. If you do this successfully you get to keep your job. If you don’t, you get to work on your resume. The moment you exchange your creative efforts for money, you enter a world where you will have to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. (no pressure, right?). It isn’t enough to just do your job anymore. In order to thrive in today’s marketplace, all of us, regardless of our role, have to be ready to generate brilliant ideas on demand. The Accidental Creative teaches effective practices that support your creative process.
The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today by Jeanne C. Meister
The workplace of the future is being shaped today by Web 2.0—a collection of breakthrough social media technologies—and by the Millennial Generation, people born between 1977 and 1997. The convergence of these emerging workplace trends has created a generation of hyperconnected workers who are placing increased pressure on employers to overhaul their approach to talent management. In The 2020 Workplace, human resources experts Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd offer a practical game plan companies can use to attract and keep these employees, and, in doing so, transform their organizations; achieve compelling business results, such as increased innovation and improved customer connectedness; and compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
Ethan Wright–Magoon, Director of Creative Technology
Receiving 3 or more recommendations on the 16th annual list!
11/22/63 (Stephen King)
The Swerve (Stephen Greenblatt)
Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
Game of Thrones Series (George R.R. Martin)
Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
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.
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 Office of Communication for their assistance in “communicating” this list in a variety of formats.
Compiled and edited by Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director, 5/12