2005 Summer Reading List
Each spring, the College Store solicits from members of the Bates community their suggestions for good summer reads:
Paula Jean Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry:
…Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. This was a fascinating story about Kafka, a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home and ends up at a small private library and Nakata, a strange old man who has a connection to Kafka and the people he meets. The story delves in and out of time and dream type reality. The prose, even in translation, is great.
Harbor by Lorraine Adams. This story is about an illegal immigrant from Algeria and his experiences. He is accused of being a terrorist (because of his associations with others that conduct illegal activities). His interactions with others are intriguing.
Mirrormask: Script book by Dave Mckean and Neil Gaiman. It is the storyboard and script of an upcoming movie by (Jim) Henson films. Dave McKean’s storyboards are so interesting that I enjoy looking at it and reading it.
Andrew White, Director of Academic Technology:
The busier I get at home and work, the more I read–go figure.
The Baroque Cycle–Neal Stephenson
A tale told across 3 volumes and over 2700 pages. I could say it’s about the origins of our modern economic system in Baroque Europe-but it’s really a fantastic, picaresque adventure story which blends Newton, Leibniz, Louis XIV, piracy, European aristocracy, Peter the Great, voyages round the world, and cross-dressing into a rollicking read. You can go deep or stay on the surface. Either way it’s a blast.
Gilead and Housekeeping–both by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping has always stayed on my reread shelf. It reads like a single breath. Reading Gilead is like reading a prayer.
Buddha in the World–Pankaj Mishra
A somewhat disjointed, but enjoyable overview of the Buddha’s legacy.
One Man’s Wilderness–Sam Keith
Touted during endless PBS beg-athons, this reconstruction of Dick Proenneke’s journals of his time near Lake Clark, Alaska fuels the wanderlust of those of us trapped behind our desks.
How Soon is Never?–Marc Spitz
A great read for us Reagan-era adolescents. A primer for saving your life by reuniting your favorite band.
Lobster Coast–Colin Woodward
Entertaining cultural history of the Maine coast, useful for those of us perpetually from away. It explains a lot.
Laura Faure, Director of Bates Dance Festival:
Time Traveler’s Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger) and The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini). Both were excellent.
Elizabeth Eames, Associate Professor of Anthropology:
Finally got around to Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver–been meaning to read it for ages–I thought the first three-quarters were inspired and brilliant. (Even though it went on a bit too long, it was all in all enlightening, poetic and evocative).
Alli Lambert, Coordinator of Alumni and Parent Programs:
Night Fall by Nelson Demille…finished it in one day! A fast and funny read.
Gene Wiemers, Vice President for Information and Library Services and Librarian:
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder. Out in paperback from Random House in 2004. Required reading for the human race. I’m interested in it because it shows that it is possible to be an effective professional one person at a time, and at the same time influence political systems, national, and international policy. Some Bates readers will remember Farmer’s visit here several years ago, and many will have read Kidder’s other books. Kidder wrote this book as a first person narrative, which some readers may find jarring. In a recent visit to Maine, he said that he used this approach in order to keep Farmer on a human and personal scale, as his accomplishments are so great that a third person narrative might make Farmer seem unbelievable.
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch. The 1998 book available in paperback from Picador. You may not think about the Rwandan genocide as summer reading. Many readers may have been put off by the topic, which makes this book of value to this list many years after it was published. Don’t let the subject matter stop you. This is a gripping, dispassionate and compelling account of how human beings can instigate, accept, witness and ignore unspeakably inhuman acts. It reminds you that it can happen here. A very good and very important reading experience.
Charles Kovacs, Director of Career Services:
Getting a job is really a job; it involves as much, possibly more, time, energy, effort, and skills than a nine to five occupation. More, job hunting hurts: loss of self-esteem, wages, identity, and status. Yep, unemployment can be a bummer, for the first time, job seeker no less than the seasoned professional. Consequently, there is a proliferation of books, web sites, newsletters, self-help guides, and multi-media materials aimed at making the transition a bit less painful. After a while, the literature in the field resembles variations on predictable themes, like the “gothic” novels of pulp fiction fame. It was refreshing to discover that a recent book returned to a provocative technique that has not been covered in the literature for a while and is most deserving of another serious review.
Brian Graham’s new monograph, Get Hired Fast! Tap the Hidden Job Market in 15 Days, [Adams Media, Avon, MA, 2005] recommends that the older techniques – cover letters, resumes, email spam “blasts” of your documents, web postings, and networking – are too time-consuming and less effective, especially the technology over-kill approach. Graham advises a simple, direct, and seemingly swift approach: identify the key contact in any organization, do research on the organization, target appropriate companies, and execute a professional scripted phone call. If this is done in a focused manner, he states, you could see results in 15 days.
While this sounds too good to be true, it does work. The catch: focus, time, and intentional effort. Graham’s style is direct, clear and exact, just what you would expect from a successful founder of an executive search firm with major clients. Especially useful is his chapter on scripted calling. His advice there is particularly useful for the neophyte and experienced job hunter.
Guy Kawaski is perhaps best know for his work with Apple Computer as their corporate “evangelist” and the positive effect wrought through an intentional and enthusiastic expression of a product. He has published many popular and substantial books, is a motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. His most recent book, The Art of the Start. The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything [Portfolio/Penguin, New York, 2004] provides the reader with a great benchmarking tool for starting any new venture be that a company, family, career, or writing a book.
In 11 chapters, Kawaski presents his distilled experience, insights, and sense of the phases of new venture development: starting, positing, pitching, business plan crafting, bootstrapping, recruiting, capital raising, partnering, branding, and rainmaking. His last chapter is perhaps his best – he recommends reading that chapter first – on “The Art of Being a Mensch.” Essentially, if you are not engaged in your new venture for anything less than being ethical, decent, and admirable, your success – or failure – will never satisfy or lead to a higher level of personhood. I was struck with the resonance of his admonition with aspects of the Bates philosophy: “The three foundations of menschhood are helping lots of people, doing what is right, and paying back society – simple concepts that are hard to implement.” He inspires too: “When telescopes work, everyone is an astronomer, and the world is full of stars. When they don’t, everyone whips out their microscopes, and the world is full of flaws.”
This easy to read book will delight, entertain, and inform your next great venture. It is a funny, witty, and delightful book and if you want to check out his corresponding web site for a taste of it try http://www.artofthestart.com. Just be sure you focus your telescope, not your microscope, as you start your new venture.
Jim Hart, Academic Technology Project Manager:
I often like mysteries by British authors, especially the series that feature a central cast of characters through a number of books. In that vein are the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy Sayers. While the early ones are good to excellent mysteries, the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane books are even more interesting. They interlace a sophisticated love story into a series of 4 mysteries. Sayers’ command of dialogue in these books is outstanding and, sometimes, memorable. She conveys so much without having to tell the reader overtly what the characters are thinking and feeling.
The books are: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon.
Do read them in that order. While the mysteries in each stand alone, the progress of the romance between the two protagonists moves in a continuum through them.
Sarah Strong, Associate Professor of Japanese
I recommend Ceremony by Leslie Silko. Written in the 1970s and set in northern New Mexico, it tells a story of recovery from the trauma of war. Healing comes in multiple ways but especially through the power of traditional stories of the Laguna Pueblo people and Navaho ceremonies. There are lots of cool desert springs, warm sandstone cliffs, rhythmic voices and wise animals. The narrative thread is both engaging and complex. I really like this book.
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater:
Will in the World. How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
Father Joe. The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra
Right Turns. Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life by Michael Medved
Gilead. A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology:
John Adams by David McCullough is an immensely readable biography of the quintessential New Englander and second president of the United States, without whose efforts there probably would not be a United States. If this book rekindles your interest in early American history, you might also enjoy Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers and Alden Vaughan’s The Puritan Heritage in America.
A Solitude of Space is a collection of paintings by Thomas Crotty. I suppose it’s not necessary to have been born and raised in Maine to like Crotty’s spare, cold, silent landscapes—but it helps. For those not fortunate, go alone to a place like “Backyard Winter South”, “Wolf’s Neck Pasture” or—especially—“Frost Gully, New Snow”, take a deep breath of the frozen air, and listen.
Oxymoronica by Marty Grothe is a little collection of those pithy sayings with the snap of illogic at the end. One from a church bulletin is: “The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.”
Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, with some suspension of critical faculties, is a romp. P.D. James’s The Murder Room is a solid read, requiring no such suspension.
In an age enamored of alternative medicine, Dangerous Garden by David Stuart is a sober reminder of the double edge to herbal remedies.
Sailing the Wine Dark Sea is the fourth in Thomas Cahill’s “Hinges of History” series, and a book-long paean to ancient Greek culture—including its language which he says had a word for just about everything. Hebrew, by contrast, was a language of silences, and Latin, “a language ideal for recordkeeping.” That last is a bit harsh, I think.
Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky is the story of a college student who, in order to gain a “sociological view of Jewish history,” takes a course in Yiddish and soon discovers that there are very few Yiddish books. This is because such books in America are rapidly being lost, abandoned, or destroyed. The author begins a country-wide rescue, raiding attics and dumpsters, and finally establishing the National Yiddish Book Center.
Anthony Shostak, Education Coordinator/Museum of Art:
The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
This tale of two half-brothers encompasses genetic engineering, wife swapping, and the consequences of growing up motherless.
Platform by Michel Houellebecq
This homage to Camus focuses on how sexual tourism and religious intolerance change the life of a middle-aged French bureaucrat.
Sylvia Federico, Resident Learning Associate/Classical and Medieval Studies:
I recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Jonathan Lethem’s novel titled Motherless Brooklyn. It’s about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome, set in contemporary New York.
Leigh Weisenburger, Assistant Dean of Admissions:
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingslover
Camille by Alexandre Dumas
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
11 Minutes by Paulo Coehlo
The Big House by George Howe Colt
Rob Farnsworth, Lecturer in English:
I recommend: Ian McEwan’s new novel Saturday, skillfully done and quite absorbing/disturbing; John Banville’s strange novel Athena; William Trevor’s novel pathetique The Story of Lucy Gault; Botanies of Desire by Michael Pollan, engagingly written horticultural and cultural musings in four chapters concerning respectively the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato; and for those still picking up thin volumes of verse, of whom I wish there were many more, poetry: by James Richardson–Interglacial: New & Selected Poems; by Glyn Maxwell–The Nerve and The Boys At Twilight: Poems 1990-95; by Sydney Lea–Ghost Pain.
Roxanne Prichard, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology:
Oryx & Crake- Margart Atwood
Maggie Maurer-Fazio, Associate Professor of Economics/Associate Dean of the Faculty:
Books that I read this year and would recommend are:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Michael Haddon
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Karen McArthur, Systems Administrator/ILS:
For those of you who enjoy a bit of humor, I recently read Yiddish with Dick and Jane by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman. It’s very enjoyable! And it has a Yiddish index in the back that helps you figure out that childhood mystery … What “Bobe” was saying?
Ray Potter, Environmental Health and Safety Specialist:
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
I was looking for some answers. I hoped to gain some understanding of today’s college student. I found more questions. I don’t know whether the novel is an accurate reflection of Wolfe’s research or a serious case of literary and “older generation” exaggeration. There seems to be a convergence of what I have observed and what Wolfe writes but it’s not clear how widespread the behaviors are in the population.
Anyway, it’s an interesting tale of one young woman’s painful maturing process in the first six months of college. It’s not a good read for a parent sending a teenager off for the first time. The end product of this process is not thoroughly likable. It might make one consider home schooling at the collegiate level.
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
For sheer escapism featuring science fiction, international intrigue, marriage rebuilding under extreme circumstances with a side order of Navy Special Forces, this is the book for you. Rollins seems to have a formula which he sticks to in his books but if you’re not looking for great literature, it’s a good entertaining read. This tale takes place in the extreme northern hemisphere beginning in the Alaskan wilderness and proceeding to a research station buried in the ice above the arctic circle. There are prehistoric creatures, a favorite of Rollins, evil scientists, a wolf, an Alaskan Fish & Wildlife agent and an Alaskan law enforcement person. All these characters are wrapped up into a compelling adventure that’s pretty hard to put down. Other books by Rollins that might be of interest: Excavation, Subterranean, and Amazonia.
Jack Whyte has written a series of books that put a new, and perhaps more believable spin on the Arthurian legend. He starts with Roman legionnaires in the fifth century and weaves an earthy and fascinating story of how Arthur and his knights may have evolved. There are characters of all kinds: likable, despicable, endearing, lovable, creative, bellicose. I liked the new Merlin, a real, clever person, not a wizard. It’s a great series and I’m not sure we’ve come to the end yet. There was a new book released in hardcover in November 2004. The titles, including the newest are: The Skystone, The Singing Sword, The Eagles Brood, The Saxon Shore, The Fort at River’s Bend, The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis, Uther, and The Lance Thrower.
Bill Hiss, Vice President for External Affairs:
Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization. A lovely slender volume to cover eons of history, this book tells how the Irish monks copied the classics and Biblical texts during the Dark Ages when the books were being lost almost everywhere else. Gracefully and sympathetically written, hopping nimbly about the Western and Middle Eastern world over centuries, it is a rewarding short read about what we owe the Irish and especially the unpromising, isolated Irish monasteries, from which no one then alive would have expected much in the way of cultural contributions.
Dallas Murphy, Rounding the Horn. A well-written history and sailing tour of Cape Horn, with its hideously difficult weather and seas, and some fascinating portraits of who ended up there, by choice or literal accident. A good summer read, perhaps an amalgam of “The Perfect Storm” and Patrick O’Brien’s wonderful sea novels.
William H. Tucker ’67, The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund. Bill Tucker, a professor of psychology at Rutgers, has written a powerful scholarly account of how a wealthy man funded a foundation–The Pioneer Fund–which for decades has surreptitiously funded much of the very worst racist research to try to establish the genetic superiority of the Nordic races and influence public policy against any forms of civil rights or opportunity for non-whites.
Charles E. Clark ’51, Bates Through the Years: An Illustrated History. Charlie Clark, an emeritus professor of New England history at UNH, was commissioned by Bates to prepare a volume of topical essays on the history of Bates as part of the Sesquicentennial celebrations. Written with an eye for detail and some humor, the book deals with major facets of Bates–the Presidents, the faculty, the curriculum, student life–and is illustrated with many dozens of wonderful photographs from Bates history over the decades. The book will be published for the opening of College in the fall.
Michael Shapiro, The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together. Another good summer read, on the last season the Dodgers played at Ebbets Field before moving to Los Angeles. It is certainly for baseball aficionados, but also for those interested in the social and political history of the 1950’s. The collection of very fallible players have survived as cult heroes: Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella. But the equally engrossing story is the political battle between team owner Walter O’Malley and city planning czar Robert Moses over whether the Dodgers could build a new stadium in Brooklyn–imagine a time when public housing and transportation was a higher priority for tax dollars than a professional sports stadium!
Jane K. Frizzell, Network Services Administrator:
May I recommend Eric Garcia (Matchstick Men) and his 3 book series about the dinosaurs who walk amongst us. Anonymous Rex, Casual Rex and Hot and Sweaty Rex are lots of fun to read. They are adult detective mysteries, and Garcia is a good writer. The writing is the best part along with the humor, strange plots and absurd situations. Dinosaurs are not extinct, just in hiding. You may not know it, but many of the people you see every day are actually dinosaurs in sophisticated people suits. They have a sub-culture that helps keep their secret, can get inebriated when exposed to sage and oregano and have great senses of humor.
Kimberly Hokanson, Director of Alumni and Parent Programs:
Paranoia, by Joseph Finder
A great story of corporate espionage–easy reading, lots of suspense to keep you turning the pages. Added bonus for me–Joe was my expository writing teacher way back in graduate school, at which point he was writing his first novel!
Holly Lasagna, Service Learning Program Coordinator:
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. Even though I have been so busy that I don’t get to do much reading these days, this book was great to pick up, read one of the stories and then come back to it at any point. She has an incredible eye for the detail that defines a person, relationship, life. Great subtle commentary on the immigrant experience.
Sue Hubley, Senior Researcher/Office of College Advancement:
This is my first time submitting a book. I’ve meant to other years, but got sidetracked and never did. But right now I’m reading a book that I’m finding so powerful that I just had to submit it. It’s titled, At Hell’s Gate, and the author is Claude Anshin Thomas, a Soto Zen Buddhist monk. He was in Maine a couple of weeks ago to publicize the book and to do daylong retreats on mindfulness, and I attended one of those retreats. He was a soldier who went to Vietnam believing the war was right, was severely traumatized by what he saw and did there, came back, had a breakdown, and has spent years trying to achieve peace inside and to atone for his actions. He experienced a complete turnaround, believes that war and violence are wrong, and is trying to spread the message that violence — and peace and compassion as well — begin inside each of us.
The book is absolutely compelling, from my point of view. It’s not light reading, though. It was published in 2004 by Shambhala Publications.
Sagaree Sengupta, Lecturer, Asian Studies:
Books I have read that would make good summer reading:
Pico Iyer, The Lady and the Monk
Monica Ali, Brick Lane
Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf (yeah, on a stormy day at the shore!)
There is some great English poetry from India, but I’m afraid they’d be hard for people to get their hands on. Names of poets:
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
The book I really want to read this summer:
Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (non-fic).
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics:
Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff–I know it’s “trendy” and all the rage in some political circles, but I STILL want to recommend this book by an academic linguist, written for a more general audience. He boils down some principles about “framing” (marketing?) one’s issues and values to get them across to a larger public. Some have criticized the book as touting form over substance (“it’s all spin”), but I do NOT think that is what he is saying. Many of us were perplexed in the last election cycle about how and why we were ineffective at communicating with others, especially about “values.” This book helps one to understand some of the dynamics that might be going on, and, ultimately is a primer on how to communicate respectfully with those with whom you might disagree. A good antidote to polarizing rhetoric!
Wild Steps of Heaven by Victor Villasenor–Second book in the series after Rain of Gold, but I would read this one first. It’s the history of the paternal branch of “la familia” telling the story of his grandfather’s life as a young boy in Mexico, during the Revolution. A little reminiscent of the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the sometimes quite violent scenes are tempered by passion, faith, and love. It is a great summer read.
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
How to describe this book? It’s not easy…but trust me, you will laugh out loud from page 1! As a parody of Monster Who Ate New York (Godzilla) type fiction, it is a real send-up! But there is more–characters like a stoned constable, a pharmacist with a fish-fetish, a bartender with more “augmented” (artificial) body parts than her originals, and more. I know it sounds weird (wired?) but it’s even weirder than it sounds, and 100 times as funny!
Michael Sargent, Assistant Professor of Psychology:
Amsterdam, by Ian McEwaw
As is typical for McEwan, this novel begins with a great deal of rich character development, which continues for a while, until something dreadful happens. If you like dry, witty banter and also have a dark sense of humor, you’re likely to enjoy this book. It’s a quick read too. Once you’ve finished, if you’re in the mood for more McEwan, I also recommend The Comfort of Strangers.
Tanisha Scottham, College Advancement:
Isabel Allende’s newest book Zorro: A Novel looks like a good read!
Anita Charles, Instructor/Dept. of Education:
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection of short stories featuring families from India integrating into American culture. I do not recommend, however, her later novel The Namesake. Guess she doesn’t do longer fiction as well as she does short stories.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
One of my all-time favorite books. I could read it over and over, and it would definitely be one I’d want if I were stranded on a desert isle. It’s not an “easy” read, but it’s beautifully written and thematically deep.
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
It’s like a puzzle that you get to put together as you read, with many moments of sudden realizations. Faulkner’s influence on Toni Morrison is evident in the previously-mentioned book. This is another book worth reading a few times.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by Tolkien
Yes, okay, I’m behind the 8-ball on these and probably the last person on earth finally reading them, but I am thoroughly enjoying the language and the story. I am reading them bit by bit with my boys, ages 9 and 11.
Don’t forget to revisit Shakespeare! Some great ones to read or reread would include Twelfth Night, Othello, and of course Macbeth and Hamlet.
City of the Beasts, by I. Allende
This is actually a Young Adult coming-of-age novel about a 15-year-old boy who takes a trip into the Amazon with his grandmother, while his mother faces cancer back at home. It’s a wonderful novel by a wonderful author.
Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
Another Young Adult coming-of-age novel, this one about a girl who travels by car with her grandparents to try to discover more about her mother.
Lois Griffiths, Alumna and Retiree:
My favorite book this year was Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, recommended by my granddaughter – I read it last fall, and still think about it often.
It is set in Oxford in the near future, when scientists are perfecting a time travel method, and the same Oxfordshire area in the fourteenth century. The modern academic scene contrasts ironically with the 1300’s.
If you have ever wondered what it would really be like to go back there, especially with a chance of never returning, try this!
Jack Pribram, Professor of Physics:
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, 2003
Fiction. A good story line narrated by a British teenager with autism and special math skills. The book is beautifully constructed and gives the reader a sense of the logic this boy uses as he negotiates life with his parents and neighbors. Think a young Rain Man with different skills and personality. A fast read.
Simon Winchester, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, 2003
An account of one of the greatest volcanic explosions of all time and the impact on the people of Indonesia and the world. The first event to be reported almost instantaneously around the earth because of the recent completion of the laying of telegraph lines. Winchester is an experienced writer [The Professor and the Madman] whose training is in geology. He also brings in the history of Dutch colonialism. The December tsunami renewed interest in Krakatoa.
Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, 2003.
The magic was the Chicago’s world fair (the white city) of 1893, the murder and madness were the unnoticed disappearances due to a serial killer. The parallel stories of lead architect and the killer make for a good narrative, even when you’d rather not read about deaths. Larson gives a good sense of the incredible effort to put the fair together by the major architects of the day, of parts of America before 1900, and of Chicago coming into its own as a major city.
Ruth Wilson, Alumna and Retiree:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.
Right down and editor’s “alley.”
One Man’s Meat by E.B. White
Reprise with one of my favorite writers.
Madam Secretary, a memoir by Madeleine Albright
What a woman! Should be on everyone’s reading list.
Abe by Richard Slotkin
Interesting, probably somewhat fictional, good account of Lincoln’s early days.
Numerous mysteries by P.D. James, Elizabeth Peters, Anne Perry, and the Laurie King series about retirement years of Sherlock Holmes sleuthing with his wife.
Ellen Peters, Institutional Planning and Analysis:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A beautifully written book about the intersection of a boy’s emotional development and war-torn Afghanistan.
Odd Girl Out: the Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons
A ground breaking study of the passive bullying of girls.
Under the Banner of Heaven : A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
An admittedly biased account of fundamentalist Mormonism, sprinkled with history.
Postville:A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America by Stephen G. Bloom
About the influx of a group of Orthodox Jews into a rural Iowa community.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
An old classic I’d never read and am delighted to have finally found the time to pick up…a telling book about a girl’s coming of age in a working poor family a century ago.
Zach Potter, Bookstore:
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
Great, classic stories depicting the “passing” between black and white society and the main characters’ finding of themselves within these societies.
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Great story. Even better that the movie with Paul Newman.
Pat Meader, Local Bibliophile:
March Cost, The Year of the Yield
J.B.Priestly, The Good Companions
Margery Allingham’s The Estate of the Beckoning Lady
Lillian Beckwith’s The Hills are Lonely
Margery Sharpe: Britannia Mews
Most of these entertaining reads will be out of print but perhaps you can find them at your local library! They are worth the hunt. If you can’t find them, anything by Elizabeth Berg is good.
Carole Parker, Library Assistant/Acquisitions:
I got 2 new books for Christmas, and I actually got to read them. Bob Dylan’s Chronicles I is great if you’re a Dylan fan; it reads very much like he sings. Frieda Hughes’ release of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition: A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement was interesting for its history together with her fine poetry.
Lorraine Groves, Bookstore:
The only suggestion I have is The Power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle. Visit your inner self for a transforming experience.
Debbie and Dick Williamson, Charles A. Dana Professor of French:
Ron McLarty, The Memory of Running. Why does Smithy Ide, an overweight, chain-smoking 43 yr old, drunk go on a cross-country bike ride?
Michael Sanders, Families of the Vine. Sanders from Brunswick, Maine and the author of From Here, You Can’t See Paris, presents the insider’s view of winemaking in Southwestern France.
Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea. In French, Les Travailleurs de lamer, this novel by Hugo is as profound and as challening as Moby Dick. Great beach reading.
And we are sure that this one will appear on other lists:
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.
Erica Rand, Professor of Art and Visual Culture:
I recommend the novel Crybaby Butch (Firebrand Books, 2004) by Judith Frank. It’s a great read about gender, generation, dyke identities, and adult literacy.
Claire Schmoll, Administrative Assistant to the President:
Trace by Patricia Cornwell is the most recent book I’ve read.
Laura Juraska, Associate College Librarian for Reference Services:
Master Butcher Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
If you’ve not read anything by Louise Erdrich, this is a good place to start because she is at her best once again in this story weaving together tales of life and love like no other.
Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
What is striking about this book is that the narrators in most of these stories are women, Vietnamese women. How an American male author can write in the feminine voice, about the feelings and experiences of the Vietnamese diaspora here in America, is what amazed me. Butler has written a beautiful, sensitive collection of stories about their lives past and present. Not like any novel or collection of stories written after the war that you have read. It won, and deserves, the Pulitzer Prize.
Lusty Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
The author of “Coyote Blue” has done it again. Moore has a way with putting words together that often brings a chuckle. He is irreverent, given to the absurd, and has an imagination that catches one unawares and makes one shake one’s head at the preposterousness that just seems to flow out of his mind – yet it all makes sense in the context of the story. Can’t imagine what it would be like to live with someone whose synapses are so twisted, but it sure was fun reading it.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I finally got around to this revived classic and found that one of the best ways to enter is through this wonderful audiobook edition. The story and language come to life through the artful interpretation and reading of Michele-Denise Woods.
John Harrison, Associate College Librarian for Collection Development:
Two extremes, both wonderful in their way:
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
The Stories of John Cheever
Anne Thompson, Professor of English
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
This novel tells of the life of a Bangladeshi woman in an arranged marriage, in a community of Bangladeshi in London. It’s a wonderful read, both serious and funny, and also illuminating about a culture with which I was completely unfamiliar. Recommended to me both by a Bates professor and a Bangladeshi undergraduate, so you know it must be good.
The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong
The spiritual autobiography of a woman who spent seven years as a Catholic nun, beginning when she was seventeen, and has now become an authority on all the world religions. I think what I liked best about this book was the tracing of her journey from her initial complete disaffection and indeed hostility to Catholicism, to her current profound engagement with and respect for all religious and spiritual traditions, though without committing herself to a conventional belief in any.
Kerry O’Brien, Dean of the Faculty’s Office:
The Plot against America, by Philip Roth
By far my favorite read of the year. Roth places his own family in an alternate-history scenario, as seen through his own 9-year-old eyes: what if Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh had become president in the 1940s? The ominous anti-Semitic escalation is harrowing, as what was one thought to be impossible begins to unfold. The family is wrenched apart as they take various sides; the broader message is a warning about the dangers of chummy, plain-spoken ideologues in the White House and their catastrophic influence on clueless Americans.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
It’s astonishing that this book was written by someone who was barely out of his teens. It’s at once hilarious and tragic, crossing back and forth across several centuries as it depicts life and death in Jewish shtetls and a present-day American’s search for the truth about his family’s near-annihilation in the Holocaust. Maybe the person who gets most enlightened is the Ukrainian translator-tour guide coming to terms with the past, his family’s complicity, and the future.
Another chronological moving target is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Weird as it got sometimes, I could not put this book down. Talk about love standing the test of time: could you stand it if your husband disappeared for days on end, genetically predisposed to time-travel, only to reappear naked and beat up in the stacks of the library?
Runaway by Alice Munro
Alice Munro is amazing at capturing the lives of women, which are filled with traps and opportunities. Her stories are like tiny epic novels, huge in scope, yet she has cut away all the extra junk: perfectly distilled.
Lorelei Purrington, Area Coordinator:
A Painted House by John Grisham
A Novel written about rural Arkansas in 1952 and a little boy, Luke, who lives with his parents and grandparents in a house that’s never been painted. They hire a truck-load of Mexicans and a family from the Ozarks to help harvest the cotton. Luke sees and hears things that he never should. Excellent book, which I loved and could not put down!
Joy Comes in the Morning by Jonathan Rosen
A novel about a woman rabbi who has passionate contradictions, doubts and desires and who searches for something sacred in the midst of modern chaos. Wonderfully written.
An Enduring Love, My Life with the Shah by Farah Pahlavi
A memoir about the empress, Farah Pahlavi, wife of the last emperor of Iran—Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi and her devotion to social and cultural causes. Farah tells the heart-wrenching story of love she had for a man and his country during a tragic national struggle. Terrific book along with being very informational.
Good Harbor by Anita Daiment
A quick read about a new friendship that empowers two women going through personal challenges in their lives. Very realistic and touching.
Victorine by Catherine Texier
A story of adventure and self discovery of a woman’s struggle between duty and independence, tradition and freedom, longing and regret as she looks back at her life told by her great granddaughter. Very enjoyable read.
Sue Martin, Assistant Director of Center for Service Learning:
Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
An unlikely topic- teaching a dog to talk- that turns into a great book.
Taft by Ann Patchett
I keep hoping one of her books will come up to Bel Canto. This one doesn’t but it’s entertaining.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushie
A wonderful book I just got around to this year.
Unless by Carol Shields
The struggles of watching young adult children lead their own lives.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Hadden
I kept ignoring it because I thought it was overrated, but it was intriguing.
John Adams by David McCullough
I’m reading it in sections and really enjoy the integration of original letters, journals, etc.
Laurie Henderson, Director of Office Services:
Mental-pause…and other midlife laughs by Laura Jensen Walker
Good simple and fun read. Looking at your mother’s face in the mirror? Or forgetting simple words for the common things, like husband and sink? If subzero temperatures are suddenly pleasant, this is a good “been there, done that” book.
Phillips’ Treasure of Humorous Quotations, Bob Phillips
What can I say, a quote a day keeps me happy.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Great quick read. David has a unique sense of humor recalling many childhood and adolescent memories.
Jane Costlow, Professor of Russian:
Mary Gordon’s new novel Pearl took me a while to get into – her narrator’s voice was off-putting at first; but I was glad to have persevered – this is a mother/daughter story in which the study-abroad year ends with Pearl (the daughter) staging a hunger strike in front of the American embassy in Dublin. Many of Gordon’s persistent themes are here – women’s relationships to Catholicism, to their bodies, and to each other. And perhaps the naivete of Americans meddling in other folks’ politics?
Gilead is an extraordinary book – an elderly protestant minister’s long letter to his very young son, about the history of the family, which is also a history of religiously-grounded protest against slavery. A wonderful, wonderful book, with a gentle voice and great wisdom.
Finally – short stories by Alice Munroe, who is quite simply an AMAZING writer. Just read her Friendship, Hateship, Courtship…. (there’s more but I’ll get it wrong). Her evocation of character is extraordinary – the lives of women in Canada in a generation just on the cusp of feminism – written with wit and insight into the ways in which people do marvelous things with lives that are in many ways constrained.
Leslie Hill, Associate Professor of Political Science:
Turtle Baby: A Mystery Novel by Abigail Padgett
I found this a good read because the detective was a flawed character.
Jill Reich, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty:
I fear my reading habits are rather prosaic – but perhaps there are others among us who seek calm in their good reads. My favorites from the past year are: Joseph Ellis’ George Washington and R. Chernov’s Alexander Hamilton.
Michael Hanrahan, Assistant Director and Instruction Coordinator, ILS:
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
Recounts overland journey form Cairo to Cape Town. Quite a good read!
Denise A. Begin, Staff Assistant/Dean of the Faculty’s Office:
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray.
A first-year marriage manual!
Kirk Read, Associate Professor of French:
Arabian Jazz by Diana Abu-Jaber, family sadness and humor and hijinx among Lebanese immigrants in Upstate New York
In Search of Time Past by Proust. Just bathe in the first volume if that’s all you have time for. At 3500 pages total, your French professor would understand. Extra credit for the original, A la recherche du temps perdu. Great summer reading. Torpor, angst, poetic prose, the most gorgeous impressionistic prose imaginable.
Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly for the spiritual questers, Quaker, Christian.
Annie Lamott, Plan B: Further thoughts on faith; more spiritual questing, great sense of humor, hilarious, christian.
Rebecca Fraser-Thill, Visiting Instructor in Psychology:
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is an excellent novel that I highly recommend! It’s one of those books that I never wanted to end. An aristocratic party in South America is taken over by terrorists, and Patchett weaves a beautiful tale of how the terrorists and hostages become emotionally entangled over the course of months. The descriptions are elegant, the characters are completely believable, and the emotions evoked are powerful. It’s clear why this novel won the PEN/Faulkner award.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta is a novel about a stay-at-home dad and stay-at-home mom who get wrapped up in an affair. What I loved about it was the biting humor Perrotta employs as he explores suburban life, and how round and real the characters are. I found myself dying to get home each evening so that I keep reading, and even though the ending didn’t quite hit the right note for me, I still highly recommend it.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold has probably been on this list in the past. The narrator is a young murdered girl who witnesses how her family changes after she’s died. I found this novel to be beautifully written, emotionally compelling, and, despite the somber topic, containing lightheartedness and hope.
Ernie’s Ark by Monica Wood is a set of connected short stories that take place in Maine and are written by a Maine author. The stories have well-defined characters and subtle themes that kept me pondering each story long after I read them.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a novel that follows a girl from being sold by her parents up through her life as a famous geisha. Not only did I learn a lot about Japan’s history and geisha life by reading this book, but I was also transported by the detailed descriptions, the surprising number of plot twists, and the theme of true love that runs through the book.
The novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel tells about a family whose boat sinks as they are trying to transport themselves and their zoo from India to Canada. The son, Pi, gets stuck on a lifeboat with a small menagerie, including a tiger. I didn’t expect to like this book, but found myself enthralled by the use of details that made me suspend logical thought (I mean, a man and a tiger on a tiny boat? Really?). I also respect Martel’s ability to keep me completely engaged even though there is only one human character, and therefore basically no dialogue, for a majority of the novel.
Lori Ouellette, Administrative Assistant/Dean of the Faculty’s Office:
A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Fabulouly great (but dry) reading. Martha Ballard is the aunt of Clara Barton, foundner of the American Red Cross.
Anne Williams, Professor of Economics:
For Democrats (NOT Republicans) who enjoy thrillers and information processing, I recommend The Librarian by Larry Beinhart. The movie, “Wag the Dog”, is based on another one of his novels.
On a more serious note, I recommend Year of Wonders, historical fiction about an unusual English Village during an outbreak of the Black Death, by Geraldine Brooks.
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager:
The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park
A pair of letters from Renaissance Italy was the inspiration for this wonderful work of historical fiction. Accurate in detail, full of great characters, reads well in small doses as well as on long plane rides.
Aloft by Chang-Rae Lee
This quiet novel stayed with me months after I finished reading it. Subtle writing on deep emotions, descriptions that put you right into the character’s skin (and aloft over Long Island) – an amazing author not to be missed.
David Das, Study Abroad Advisor and Mentoring Coordinator:
The Empire Trilogy by J.G. Farrell — The Siege of Krishnapur, Singapore Grip, Troubles. Wonderful evocations of British imperial folly that have much to teach 21st century builders of empire.
S. Marie Henderson, Library Assistant, Government Documents:
The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
Contents: I know why the caged bird sings — Gather together in my name — Singin’ and swingin’ and gettin’ merry like Christmas — The heart of a woman — All God’s children need traveling shoes — A song flung up to heaven
This was an excellent collection of the autobiographical stories of Maya Angelou. A very interesting read… Some of the stories made me feel sad, and depressed because of what this woman faced in her life –but through it all Maya proved to be a strong and courageous woman. A very admirable book.
Smriti Rao, Visiting Instructor of Economics:
I just thought of one that I’ve tremendously enjoyed (if it isn’t already on the list): The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh. Science fiction meets post-colonial critique!
Beth Sheppard, Associate Director of Alumni & Parent Programs:
Based on many recommendations last year, I enjoyed The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. And I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Perrin Lumbert, Library Assistant, Interlibrary Loan:
The Notebook the Proof the Third Lie, by Agota Kristof
Sea of Fertility, tetralogy by Yukio Mishima (this remains my favorite read of all time)
Casanova in Bolzano, and Embers, both by Sandor Marai
For witty detective mysteries, anything by Swedish writer Henning Mankell
All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (latest book from the author of Persepolis)
The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life (utterly fascinating and disturbing story of Lev Nussimbaum, who reinvented himself and became the writer Kurban Said)
The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber (an unforgettable take on the Victorian novel)
Ken Emerson, Associate Director/Human Resources:
I really haven’t read much leisure reading in the past year. I did read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown just before the Pope died so it was a timely book regarding all the processes and protocol involved in choosing a new Pope. I guess I had a kind of Dan Brown year as I also read Da Vinci Code , Digital Fortress and Deception Point. All have the same characteristic of engaging you in the story and characters in the first few pages. All quick, interesting reads.
Bill Low, Assistant Curator/Museum of Art:
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Erdag Goknar).
Great, entertaining story. I loved the descriptions of cultural and religious differences between East and West seen through artistic traditions.
“In 16th-century Istanbul, master miniaturist and illuminator of books Enishte Effendi is commissioned to illustrate a book celebrating the sultan. Soon he lies dead at the bottom of a well, and how he got there is the crux of this novel. A number of narrators give testimony to what they know about the circumstances surrounding the murder. The stories accumulate and become more detailed as the novel progresses, giving the reader not only a nontraditional murder mystery but insight into the mores and customs of the time. In addition, this is both an examination of the way figurative art is viewed within Islam and a love story that demonstrates the tricky mechanics of marriage laws.” (Library Journal)
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director:
Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
Publishers Weekly describes this Russell novel as “busy, noisy and heartfelt… sprawling…a striking departure from her previous two acclaimed SF thrillers, The Sparrow and Children of God—chronicles the Italian resistance to the Germans during the last two years of WWII. Three cultures mingle uneasily in Porto Sant’Andrea on the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy—the Italian Jews of the village; the Italian Catholics, who befriend and shelter the Jews; and the occupying Germans invited by Mussolini’s crumbling regime.” Keeping track of characters can be tricky but is well worth the effort. It is a story that lingers with you long after the reading.
A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom from Unconventional Women by Joan Anderson
This memoir, set on Cape Cod, details Anderson’s remarkable relationship with Joan Erikson, wife of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. Anderson, in her mid-fifties, is taking a year off from her marriage while Erikson, in her early nineties, is observing her husband’s rapid decline in health. This is a quick read, full of wisdom and insight as well as energy and life.
I’ve also just finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife: A Novel
This review from Booksmith: “A diabolically smart and funny assault against the literary establishment and the tacit assumption that only men can write the Great American Novel. As Joan recounts the misery she and her fellow writers’ wives endure, popular and shrewd novelist Wolitzer choreographs her ire into kung-fu precision moves to zap our every notion about gender and status, creativity and fame, individuality and marriage, deftly exposing the injustice, sorrow, and sheer absurdity of it all.” It’s worth the summer read!
Aslaug Asgeirsdottir, Assistant Professor of Political Science:
I would like to include William Easterly’s book, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. While not exactly beach reading, it is a fascinating account of some of the misguided policies pursued by the World Bank in developing countries.
Some good detective novels that do qualify as beach reading are any of Henning Mankell’s mysteries featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Police work in Sweden has a slightly different flavor than Law and Order. Good titles include: Faceless Killers, The Dogs of Riga, Sidetracked, One Step Behind and Firewall. It is good to begin with the first one (Faceless Killers) and work down the list as the books build on history a bit.
Terry Beckmann, Vice President for Finance and Administration/Treasurer:
Trace by Patricia Cornwell
And for truly light, entertaining summer reading, anything by Mary Higgins Clark.
Camille Parrish, Learning Associate/Environmental Studies:
Terror in the Name of God by Jessica Stern. This book contains interviews that Jessica Stern, a Professor at Harvard, had with religiously motivated terriorists. The book spans the globe and covers the range of terrorists from individuals to highly organized terrorist organizations. I highly recommend it for those who want to better understand and see inside the lives of people involved in terrorist activity. It is one of those books that stays with you long after reading it.
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology:
The Known World, by Edward Jones
Kerry Maloney, College Chaplain:
Here’s a brief list of a few of my favorites from this and last year — probably several repeat titles from other contributors to you list.
Anne Lamott. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Riverhead, 2005.
Marilynne Robinson. Gilead. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
Jon Kabat-Zinn. Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the
World Through Mindfulness. Hyperion, 2005.
David Sedaris. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Little, Brown and Company, 2004.
Marcus Borg. The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.
Dorothee Soelle. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Fortress, 2001.
Tony Hendra. Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul. Random House, 2004.
Heidi Neumark. Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. Beacon Press, 2004.
Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch, eds. Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season. Skylight Paths Publishing, 2004. (See also their 2003 publication, Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season.)
Julie Retelle, Assistant College Librarian for Access Services:
I would recommend all of the books by Maine author Van Reid. The titles are:
Cordelia Underwood, or, The marvelous beginnings of the Moosepath League
Daniel Plainway, or, The holiday haunting of the Moosepath League
Fiddler’s green, or, A wedding, a ball, and the singular adventure of Sundry Moss
Mollie Peer, or, The underground adventure of the Moosepath League
Mrs. Roberto, or, The widowy worries of the Moosepath League
Peter Schlax, Research Technician/Chemistry:
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
From Publishers Weekly:
Not long after Jack the Ripper haunted the ill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city’s finest moment, the World’s Fair of 1893. Larson’s breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it. Bestselling author Larson (Isaac’s Storm) strikes a fine balance between the planning and execution of the vast fair and Holmes’s relentless, ghastly activities. The passages about Holmes are compelling and aptly claustrophobic; readers will be glad for the frequent escapes to the relative sanity of Holmes’s co-star, architect and fair overseer Daniel Hudson Burnham, who managed the thousands of workers and engineers who pulled the sprawling fair together 0n an astonishingly tight two-year schedule. A natural charlatan, Holmes exploited the inability of authorities to coordinate, creating a small commercial empire entirely on unpaid debts and constructing a personal cadaver-disposal system. This is, in effect, the nonfiction Alienist, or a sort of companion, which might be called Homicide, to Emile Durkheim’s Suicide. However, rather than anomie, Larson is most interested in industriousness and the new opportunities for mayhem afforded by the advent of widespread public anonymity. This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of “articulated” corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed.
Kitchen Confidentialby Anthony Bourdain
A world class chef revels tales from the underbelly of fine cuisine.
Doug Hubley, Communications and Media Relations:
I’m likely not the first to suggest it, but Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is an engrossing, enlightening and eminently readable survey of what the subconscious mind can do — and what it can’t. For people (like me) who can’t think in a straight line but still somehow manage to get the job done each day, Blink also affords a boost in the self-esteem/self-congratulation department.
Jim Lamontagne, Library Assistant/Cataloging:
I would recommend two new works by Rick Bass, the novel The Diezmo (confirms his status as a distinctive voice in current American literature that is largely a literary wilderness, but if you’re at all squeamish about the rough edges of existence skip it), and his new piece of nature writing entitled Caribou Rising (confirms his status as a determined voice for the increasingly threatened real American wilderness, specifically in this case the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but if you like George W. Bush, well, skip this one too)
Mary Meserve, Associate Registrar:
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was an amazing read. The classic sci-fi element of time travel is beautifully interwoven with a deeply felt love story. I also was entranced by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This story, about an autistic teenager compelled to solve the mysterious death of a neighbor’s dog, is very compelling and moving. On a different note, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a fascinating look at the events surrounding the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893 from the perspectives of Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the fair, and H. H. Holmes, a doctor who became one of this country’s first serial killers. I had to remind myself repeatedly that this wasn’t just an inventive, fictious thriller but that it was non-fiction and just over one hundred years ago this story was front page news!
Judith Robbins, Learning Associate/Dean of Faculty’s Office:
Setting aside momentarily the request for titles of note, I would like to recommend to Constant Readers a manner of reading, viz., listening. I may be the last person on campus who has gotten hooked by audio books, but in case there is another soul out there with at least 8 CD tracks worth of commute, a soul who lives by the printed word and has not yet succumbed to the seductiveness of the audio word, this one’s for you.
My first was a book whose title I don’t remember but which was of the caliber of the B movie you can watch between Boston and Portland and enjoy but would never pay money for at the video store. I knew I was spoiled for good when I couldn’t wait to drive home from work and hear the vapid heroine’s latest Important Decision. Pathetic but true.
I’m only on my third book now, Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, and it’s too early in the game to make a call on “readability,” but I certainly recommend Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I still have a thousand pictures in my head from reading… hearing that book.
Mark Semon, Professor of Physics:
Ann Coulter, Slander
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Senior Staff Writer and Photographer:
Truth & Beauty : A Friendship by Ann Patchett
This memoir of the author’s friendship with writer Lucy Grealy examines the depths of pleasure and pain in a friendship.
The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany by Martin Goldsmith
The author writes about how his parents — both talented musicians — coped with the Nazis and escaped the Holocaust. But they paid a price.
Family Circle : The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left by Susan Braudy
This is a gossipy account, a true “guilty pleasure.” I indulged.
Brenda Reynolds, Audio Supervisor, Ladd Library:
Sabriel. Lirael. Abhorsen, Garth Nix
Strong female characters, magic, putting down the Dead and a text that doesn’t dumb down. What more can you ask for in a Young Adult series? I already have my pre-order in for the 4th installment.
Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR, Sharon Beder
It made me mad, frustrated and quite introspective. If even half of us read it, we might stand a chance at a better existence.
You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You, Molly Ivins
She’s a Texan, a liberal and she writes biting, witty political commentary. This collection is from 1998 but it’s a fun look back at ourselves.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel, Susanna Clarke
OK its 800 pages and I haven’t finished it yet but it is absolutely wonderful! It opens in 1806 England, with lots of social positioning, think Pride and Prejudice. It has fairies but not like you’d envision from childhood. It has magicians but there’s not actually any magic done in England at the start of the book. It also has the Napoleonic Wars… I’ve heard it described as Harry Potter for adults. (Of course every adult I know has read and loved every Potter book). It’s really nothing like Potter except that it’s funny and you’ll love it.
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics:
The Namesake (by Jhumpa Lahiri)
A fine story.
And there’s Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Steven someone else (Dubner). As the jacket says: “Prepare to be dazzled!” Economics for anyone, yet deep and rich! (What do Sumo wrestlers and school teachers have in common?)
Hardball by Chris Mathews
A list of principles of practical politics with lively real-world examples.
The Price of Loyalty by Paul O’Neil
A sad inside look at the Bush administration by Bush’s former treasury secretary.
Karen Palin, Lecturer in Biology:
Well, in preparation for (a trip to) Denmark, I DID re-read Hans Christian Andersen…and I highly recommend doing so for all. He was an awfully prolific writer, and I enjoyed taking another look at his work.
And then there is May Sarton, always worth another read!
Judy Marden, Director at Shortridge:
Wesley McNair’s The Maine Poets
Wonderful in itself, and also for why he chose the poets and poems he did. See if you agree! Especially notable: Bob Chute’s ‘A Revolutionary Soldier’s Reward’ (and not ONLY because it’s about Morse Mountain!) and Mekeel McBride’s ‘A Little Bit of Timely Advice’ (“You say you got no makings for a song? Sing anyway. Best music’s the stuff comes rising out of nothing.”)
Beth Gutcheon’s More Than You Know: A Novel
In a small town called Dundee on the coast of Maine, an old woman named Hannah Gray begins her story: “Somebody said ‘true love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.’ I’ve seen both and I don’t know how to tell you which is worse.” Quoth the book jacket–bet you can’t wait to get inside!
Nancy Taylor Rosenberg’s Sullivan’s Law
One of her best. Wraps you up in a plot that won’t let you put it down til you find out–and, it doesn’t end too soon. Plan on an all-nighter.
Bill McKibben: Wandering Home
A long walk through Vermont and New Hampshire, called by McKibben “America’s most hopeful landscapes.” He quotes a virtually unknown poet, Jeanne Robert Foster, a woman contemporaneous with Robert Frost “but lacking his great ego”, who wrote but one book:
I gave the mountainside to keep it wild,
Free for the life that it has had so long
The trail will always be what it is now
The summit, with its scrubby balsam trees…
In future years, you will come here
And touch the trees as I have done
And think that I did right.”
His question of how much human intervention can a place stand before it loses its essence is one for all of us.
Marita Bryant, Assistant in Instruction/Geology:
Simon Winchester, Krakatoa
Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil