For your perusal, the bookstore’s 2011 ‘Non-required Reading List’
Each year, as a gift to the graduating class, the staff of the College Store solicits suggestions from the Bates community for interesting summer reading.
The list, famously known as the Non-required Reading List, or Good Reads for Leisure Moments, is now in its 15th edition, with more than 110 contributors this year.
And as always, we lead off with our “alpha” contributor, Associate Professor of Biology Lee Abrahamsen.
For a couple of years I have been hooked on the novels of Bryce Courtenay. His stories of boxing and Australia and his wonderful character development hook me every time. The newest of his novels, The Four Fires, is another good one. About an Australian family working their way up from poverty in the 1950s-1970s, this story is particularly good to listen to as the audiobook is narrated by Humphrey Bower (a fantastic weaver of tales and voices).
I am also 2/3 of the way through his Australian Trilogy, which is historical fiction that chronicles the change of Australia from the land of Aboriginal people, to a place where England’s convicts are exiled and struggle to survive. The three books in the trilogy are The Potato Factory, Tommo and Hawk and Solomon’s Song. The characters are engaging, and the action is non-stop. The books include bawdy stories about whaling, pickpockets and beer-making in Van Dieman’s land — what more could you want?
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is the story of twin brothers who are born to a young nun and a surgeon at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. Their mother dies in childbirth, and their father disappears, so the twins are adopted and raised at the hospital by two other physicians. The twins learn medicine by osmosis – then one goes on to attend medical school, while the other stays behind to work with his mother in the clinic. As Ethiopia teeters on the brink of revolution, the characters learn about politics, relationships and the many ways we care for others. A great book that leaves you thinking about your own life and how you choose to live it.
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo, late of Colby College, is a great read for academics. It’s about a guy whose parents were English profs and who can’t get their voices out of his head. Funny and truthful.
Martin Andrucki, Professor of Theater
OK, I haven’t read it yet but I have it on good authority that this is a good read: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin.
Every night I read one or two selections from The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. I read the same selections again the following morning or as soon as I get to it. The second reading is heaven!
Linda Archambault, Lab Research Assistant, Dana Chemistry
I have two recommendations, both of which center broadly on the immigrant experience – one in the US, the other in France. The first one is Zeitoun by Dave Eggars and the second one is A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
Áslaug Asgeirsdottir, Associate Professor of Politics
A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks (autobiography/photography)
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (historical novel)
Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems by Ryokan (poetry)
Japanese Pilgrimage by Oliver Statler (out of print) (history/travel)
Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage by Chet Raymo (science)
Will Ash, Assistant in Instruction, Imaging and Computing Center
The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life by Tom Reiss
The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Senem Aslan, Assistant Professor of Politics
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I had no idea that the Channel Islands of Britain had been occupied by the Nazis in WWII. This whole book is in the form of fictional letters through which we learn about the lives of ordinary people during that time. It seems odd to use a word like “charming” to describe a book about wartime occupation, but it is.
The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior by Paul Strathern. I vaguely knew that DaVinci, Machiavelli and Borgia lived in Italy around the same time, but I didn’t know that all three interacted extensively. Really fascinating history… real life tales of intrigue, science and art.
Pam Baker, Professor of Biology/Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship
One of the best books I read this year was Just Kids by Patti Smith. It’s a remarkable “coming of age” story, a love story, and, most importantly, the story of a young woman as artist. The writing is clear, free of nostalgia, cliche, or cynicism. The memoir is a beautiful evocation of what it felt like to discover art and music at the time.
I’m currently re-reading and enjoying Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk. It’s a collection of exquisitely written essays on human relationship to the natural world.
Misty Beck, Writing Specialist
Non-fiction….Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman
Chronicles a boy’s life with Tourette’s Syndrome, OCD and depression from age 5-18. Hal (co-author) is Cody’s dad. Unbelievable what the family managed to survive in those 13 years and especially, Cody.
Fiction….The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen
She is a “page-turner” author!!!!! Her story tangles in so many directions that it is near the end when I started to figure things out. This book makes me anxious to read more Tess Gerritsen….
Jane Bedard, Admission Office Specialist
My attendance April 2010 at the 50th Anniversary of The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee inspired a year of nostalgic, moving, and informative reading. Three great ones:
1. Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Holsaert, et. al.)
2. Blues for Mr. Charlie (James Baldwin)
3. Letters From Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer (Elizabeth Martinez, editor)
And a really great read about the art of peace-making: The Moral Imagination (James Laderach)
Bill Blaine-Wallace, Multifaith Chaplain
Of the books on the schedule for the Boston Bates Alumnae Book Club this year, the one that we all seemed to agree upon as a great read (not an easy thing as we have such divergent tastes) is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Beautifully written and a fascinating story of family, medicine and politics.
Boston Bates Club via Lisa Romeo ’88
I’d like to recommend Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed. While his ideas are applicable to other areas of life, this is really a book about the success of elite athletes. How do they perform at what seems to be other-worldly levels? How do they squelch self-doubt and why do they sometimes choke under pressure? Mr. Syed, who is himself a world-class table tennis player, has some pretty counterintuitive answers to these questions. This is an engagingly written book with some wonderful examples of both “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” but combined with relevant scientific findings from sports psychology, neuroscience, and other fields. This book will change the way you think about what it takes to be successful.
Helen Boucher, Assistant Professor of Psychology
The following are a series of three books by author Stieg Larsson: great adventure, murder, mystery and intrigue, suspense. You must read the first one as each one refers to the prior book. This is also out in video but after reading the book it is a bit graphic, so be warned. My husband liked the videos as he is not a big fan of reading.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The following is the write up from the publisher on the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
“The disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden, gnaws at her octogenarian uncle, Henrik Vanger. He is determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder. He hires crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, recently at the wrong end of a libel case, to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance. Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old, pierced, tattooed genius hacker, possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age–and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness–assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, an astonishing corruption at the highest echelon of Swedish industrialism–and a surprising connection between themselves.” –From publisher description.
Jane Boyle, Ladd Library, Library Assistant-Public Service
I enjoy reading…maybe too much. If I have a good book, the world could disintegrate around me. I would not notice and I would not care!
Under the Dome – Stephen King
I’ve been staying away from Stephen King the last few years but my daughter left this at the house. I wasn’t thrilled with the way the ending, but the first 800 pages were great!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Received this one for Christmas. LOVED IT!
Forced myself to wait until I was traveling to pick up the 2nd volume in the trilogy.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
I finished this and wanted more! But the 3rd book wasn’t out in paperback.
The next long plane ride, I’ll be getting
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest even if I have to buy the hardcover.
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
I picked this up because the movie was coming out. I still haven’t seen the movie but
the book lived up to what I have come to expect from Connelly.
Barbara Buck, Program Analyst
I have not personally read this book but my father (who has read just about every non-fiction adventure book in existence) could not recommend this book enough for those who like adventure novels!
Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventureby James West Davidson and John Rugge (This has been taken off Amazon.com: “In 1903 Leonidas Hubbard set out to cross the Ungava-Labrador Peninsula, and to forge a name for himself as an adventure writer. He took a friend, a guide, a canoe, a ton of equipment, and scads of naive hope. Months later, the friend and guide staggered out of the snow, and Hubbard starved to death in his tent, too weak to attempt the 30-mile trek to safety. And that’s just Part I.)”
Amy Bureau, Administrative Assistant Alumni and Parent Engagement
I recommend The Master Switch by Tim Wu. A detailed account of information empires — telephone, radio, movies, and television and cable. Each one was thought to be the invention that would change everything. Then money pours in, the grassroots industry consolidates hugely, and small handful of companies control the ‘master switch’ to reach consumers by that communications medium. Do you think the internet will be different — that broadband changes everything? Then read this book. Lots of detail about the outsize personalities involved.
Also recommend Zero History by William Gibson. The last of a trilogy (including Pattern Recognition andSpook Country). Quirky but highly imaginative plots. Almost science fiction in a completely recognizable world. The author is a close observer of modern culture, consumerism (same thing?), technology, the thrum of cities (especially Tokyo), spycraft and fashion. Zero History can be read alone, in fact each of them can be, but if you have time it’s more satisfying to read Zero History as the capper of the three. I will never see an exuberantly decorated hotel again without recalling the amusing opening chapters of this book.
Ann Bushmiller, ’79, Trustee
I do recommend reading or for many of us re-reading Jane Eyre. The book is a stunning portrayal of the power of authenticity and self direction, and the difference one person can make.
Nancy Cable, Vice President and Dean of Enrollment and External Affairs
Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
Tammy Caron, Assistant Director, CMR, Creative Design
In no particular order of preference, here are my book reviews for this year!
Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow: A “classic” that I had never read. I really enjoyed this book — well crafted. And it gave a wonderful sense of history of a time/place. It was funny at times, poignant, and had a host of interesting characters weaving in and out of the pages.
A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster: Another classic and a brilliant book — philosophical and literary. It reveals the tensions between the Indians and the British in the early part of the 20th century. I had never read this book, and I’m glad I finally did. Be sure to read the reflection/commentary at end — it has great insights into some of the layers of the novel.
Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls: The story of Jeannette’s grandmother, told from first person p.o.v. It was a good story, but I liked her Glass Castle book better. This one doesn’t really explore the characters in depth — more of a sense of vignettes in her grandmother’s life. But I did enjoy it, and so did two of my boys, ages 14 and 16.
People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks: A page turner. It traces, through minute details, an ancient Jewish text that travels around much of the world. My one complaint is that each chapter of discovery from tidbits never “go” anywhere — it is disjointed, almost like a series of short stories.
A Year of Wonder, by Geraldine Brooks: I would give this 3 out of 5 stars. I would rate it higher, if not for the abysmal ending. The story is captivating, well written, and captures a slice of true-to-life realities from the 1600’s in a small town infected by the plague. Based in a real historic town and set of events, the book was excellent overall. Unfortunately, the ending put a damper on my enthusiasm for this book and left me disappointed. Still, it’s a good read if you overlook that one flaw.
March, by Geraldine Brooks: Clever take on the Civil War as seen by Mr. March, the father of the Little Women. It shows the complexities and brutality of both sides of the war, and it portrays what Mr. March goes through while away at war. A Pulitzer Prize winner.
The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt: Nonfiction. I liked this book much more than I expected to. It is very well written, and it reads a bit like a mystery, a bit like a series of character sketches. It’s all true, and it made Venice come alive to me, truly a character in its own right within the book. Fascinating story.
Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay: A good book in many ways, but it dragged a bit at the end, and I also felt that the writing quality decreased toward the end. A sad story about a girl who gets rounded up by Nazis and who promises to come back for her little brother who is locked in a cabinet… and the fall-out from that decision.
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann: I enjoyed this book quite a bit — The “background” story/thread is about a tightrope walker who walks between the Twin Towers (pre-9/11). But the “bigger” story is really about the everyday lives of people on the streets of NY — and the ways in which those lives collide and intersect with each other. The contrast of the ordinary with the extraordinary, the mundane and the surreal, creates a tension that places all of us (readers) on that tight rope. Well written.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy: A sad and quick read about a post-apocalyptic world, where a father and son try to find safety, food, and warmth — all of which is in very short supply. But, despite the inhuman conditions and the almost complete lack of hope, the father and son keep their spirits alive by staying focused on what matters — their love for each other and the possibility of something “more” out there.
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins: These books are written for the “young adult” audience, but they are definitely “dark” — about a dystopian world where children are chosen to participate in “games” to the death. This series is a real page-turner! Well written, and the characters, settings, and plot are well developed. The best are the first and second books, but the third wrapped up many details. However, the third book shifts the focus quite a bit away from the society as a whole, to the heroine herself. I definitely recommend the series.
The Millenium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson: (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire;The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest): All three of these books are real page turners, no doubt about that, and I couldn’t put them down. A quirky heroine (most likely with Aspergers, which is near and dear to my heart as a parent) who defies all explanation and labels, who ends up on a set of tense adventures that create a complex webbing of characters and circumstances. However, these books are all extremely dark, not always my “cup of tea,” and I also found my “willing suspension of disbelief” pushed to the max on many occasions. The second book was my least favorite, and I found myself impatiently trying to finish it. But the other two were better and kept my attention all the way through.
The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich: A 40-year saga that begins with a brother and sister abandoned by their mother who jump on a train. The boy, Karl, vanishes, to reappear later, and the girl, Mary, is raised by an aunt and uncle, vying for attention and friends with her cousin Sita. Slow-moving, with shifts of perspectives throughout. No real conclusion to the tensions, which works for the novel in many ways. This is a real “character” novel.
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe: A simply-told story of enduring complexity. A classic and a “must read” for many reasons. It captures the tensions of old tribal customs (Nigeria) and colonialism, and the costs of both in the intersections. Told in sparse prose, with an anti-hero trying to make sense of conflicting worlds, the story ends inevitably in tragedy.
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson: Nonfiction. Despite the recent controversies surrounding this text and the author (most of which I attribute to a somewhat-prurient desire to dig up dirt on heroes), I really liked this book and wish I’d read it sooner. While I have not yet read the sequel (Stones to Schools), I was taken in by the storyline — a man who more or less “falls into” a situation where he makes a promise to build a school in the mountains of Pakistan, an occurrence that begins a lifelong mission to build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg Mortenson never claims to be a details-person, an organizer, or a record-keeper (some of which faults have led to the recent criticisms), but he is a passionate and sincere visionary who works against all odds in the name of education for all.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley: Cute and clever, funny and quick — a fun read. An 11-year-old precocious heroine who unwittingly finds a dead body in her garden and then works to free her father from the suspicion of murder. The writing is a bit stilted, the plot a bit contrived, and the similes are significantly overdone, but it’s easy to forgive the flaws for an escapist mystery featuring a likable and quirky protagonist.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett: Really enjoyed this book — well written with important reflections on women’s roles in the south during the early ’60’s, and several women’s courageous choices to step outside of their assigned identities to break down barriers.
The Insufficiency of Maps, by Nora Pierce: A novel about growing up Native American as seen through the eyes of a child who is torn between the people of the “res” (her own heritage), many of whom are broken and dysfunctional, and the white people who take her in as a foster child. Her mother’s mental illness make it impossible for the child to stay with her, and we follow the disintegration of the spirit through the child’s eyes. Good idea for a story, but not as well written as I’d like.
Anita Charles, Lecturer/Director of Secondary Teacher Education
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. Here is synopsis from Amazon:
“Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm–and into Edgar’s mother’s affections.
“Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires–spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
“David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes–the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain–create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.”
It’s a wonderful book that many relate to a modern take on Hamlet. Being a lover of dogs, I was personally drawn to the brilliant description of the emotional ties between humans and their canine companions, as well as the parts of the novel that were told from the vantage point of Almondine.
Kristen Cloutier, HCCP, Assistant Director of Center Operations
Here’s one I recommend: The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World by Ken Alder. It’s an account of the efforts during the French Revolution to measure the size of the earth and establish the true length of the meter. Politics, history, science, cover-ups…everything you need for a good summer read.
Matt Cote, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Associate Dean of the Faculty
North and South– by Elizabeth Gaskell. I discovered this little gem last April. It was originally published as a 22-part weekly serial in a magazine in the mid 1850s. (Don’t be misled, this is NOT the John Jakes series of novels centering on the Civil War.) The title of this book refers to the contrast between the wealthy south and the industrial north of England in the Victorian era. I have recommended this book to friends and all of them compare it to Pride & Prejudice. If you are a lover of Jane Austen then you will likely enjoy this book. In fact, you might even have a hard time deciding which characters you love more. Will it be Mr. Darcy or Mr. Thornton? [In the U.S. this book is in the public domain, so you can download a free copy of the ebook through Project Gutenberg or another such source of public domain books.]
The Pillars of the Earth – by Ken Follett. This is a sprawling epic in the 12th century about a community of people, in fictional Kingsbridge, who endeavor to build a cathedral. It’s a roller coaster ride of highs and lows for the heroes of the story and includes truly evil villains. This summer I plan to read the follow-up, World Without End, which takes place in Kingsbridge two centuries later featuring the descendants of the characters fromPillars but set against the backdrop of the Plague.
Never Let Me Go – by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a unique and thought provoking story about the loss of innocence, accepting one’s fate, and the meaning of humanity. This one contains heaps of great subtext. I could not stop thinking about this book for several days after finishing it.
The Remains of the Day – also by Kazuo Ishiguro. Tells the story of a butler in post-WWII England. He strives for perfection in his profession while failing to notice that his former employer was a Nazi sympathizer. Much of the story is told through his recollections. While attempting to achieve perfect dignity in his profession he makes sacrifices in personal relationships along the way. This is not a fast-paced book, but very well written.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson. It spans one day in the life of Miss Pettigrew who stumbles into a job as the social secretary of a singer/actress who lives a whirlwind existence. In short, it is a case of mistaken identity coupled with self-discovery. This is a delightful, fun, and quick read.
Split Second, Hour Game, Simple Genius, and First Family – by David Baldacci. A series of books about two former Secret Service agents, Maxwell and King, turned private investigators. The most recent installment, The Sixth Man, was just released in 4/2011. They are very fast reads–I squeezed the first four in during February break.
A Prayer for Owen Meany – by John Irving. I first read this book in the mid 90s, but I reread it every few years because it is one of my favorites. Tells the story of John and his best friend Owen. Most of the story is set in New Hampshire in the 50s and 60s. A central theme of the story is Owen’s belief that he is an instrument of God, but just how is not revealed until the end of the story.
Grace Coulombe, Director of the Mathematics and Statistics Workshop
I read my Bates contemporary Ru Freeman ’93’s A Disobedient Girl this year – I think it was this year – enjoyed it very much, though the ending was a painful twist. Good illustration of the havoc wreaked by the class system in Sri Lanka on the lives of two women and their families.
I’ve been reading some pretty fluffy but good historical fiction about the Renaissance that I won’t report about.
I bought Left Neglected but haven’t read it yet…
And I’ve only read half of What the Dog Saw…
I know there have been some other good ones, just don’t remember what.
Marianne Nolan Cowan, Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement
Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Karen Daigler, Bates Career Development Center
The Girls Who Went Away by Anne Fessler. Interesting, heart-wrenching stories of women who surrendered their children for adoption
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Study of the suppression of women in various cultures and the ways women have worked to overcome their circumstances to advocate for others.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Crazy by Pete Earley. A very readable book (by a journalist whose son struggles with bipolar disorder) about the broken mental health/prison system in our country.
Marty Deschaines, HCCP, Asst. Dir. for Community Volunteerism and Student Dev.
I am really interested in China. Ha Jin’s Waiting shows how difficult life and love can be when a man lives in two places–in the city for his job with summer visits to his hometown with women in both places. He is caught between two cultures and two very different women. Lisa See’s novels are quick reads. Shanghai Girlsfollows two sisters from Shanghai where they were carefree and “modern” until their father, who has lost all of his wealth, sells them to Chinese men from Los Angeles. There they live traditional lives in what some might call a Chinese ghetto. Finally Peter Hessler (whose previous books, River Townand Oracle Bones, were also terrific reads) takes the reader across today’s China in Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory.Hessler captures the people he meets and the places he visits with such detail, the reader feels as if s/he has been right beside him and learns a great deal about the lives and perspectives of diverse Chinese people.
Anne Dodd, Senior Lecturer Emerita in Education
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
This book recounts the experiences of Olympic Runner Louis Zampirini as an Olympic Athlete and World War II POW. Hillenbrand provides and extensively researched account of Zampirini’s life as a child, airman and post war hero. I highly recommend this book.
Stephanie Dumont, Administrative Assistant, Advancement
Digging to America – Anne Tyler
The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
One of her earliest books, and deserves to be better known.
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
Yes, really — it’s been a different book every time I’ve read it. So far, that’s been in my teens, 20s, and 30s.
The Patron Saint of Butterflies – Cecilia Galante
Ostensibly a YA book, but well worth reading.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Because it’s probably been a while since most people reading the list read this book. My 8th-grade daughter was blown away by it this year.
Knitting for Peace:Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time – Betty Christiansen
For knitters (obviously). Short chapters on ways you can knit for others in the hope that every tiny act helps things get better.
Elizabeth Durand, class of 1976
I read one of the books being discussed during Staff Enrichment Week, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It is a quick read and the messages are practical. For some reason it inspired me to proceed with getting our kitchen remodeled (something we had wanted to do for a long time) so I did get something out of it.
Ken Emerson, Associate Director of Human Resources
Following the Water- a Hydromancer’s Notebook by David M Carroll
I read this during the winter and felt like I was transported into SPRING. It is a beautifully descriptive notebook with wonderful sketches, then again I love nature.
The Power of the Rellard by Carolyn F Logan
I got this for my grandson, but had to read it first. It is a young readers’ adventure, much like The Golden Compass and Harry Potter.
Melinda Emerson, ILS Purchasing, Sales and Accounting Specialist
Justin Tussing – The Best People in the World — a quirky, but engaging novel about young people on the lam back to the land in VT back in the day.
Jose Saramago – Blindness — a ferocious but provocative apocalyptic novel by the Portuguese Nobel winner.
Aracelis Girmay – Teeth — one of the most vibrant first books of poems I have read in some years. She read here at Bates this spring.
David Lodge – Deaf Sentence — It’s very British, and often excruciatingly funny– you know, David Lodge.
Gregory Pardlo – Totem— another excellent first book of poems, by a young poet coming to Bates to read in September.
Rob Farnsworth, Senior Lecturer in English
This might have been on the list before, but: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
Johanna Farrar, Associate Dean of Admission
Life by Keith Richards.
I just finished Keith Richards’ autobiography, which I totally enjoyed but am embarrassed to recommend for fear that the Bates community would think that I ever partook in such debauchery while young.
But it really was a fun read.
Joan Fischer, Leadership Gifts Officer
May I recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak?
I do not want to spoil this book for anyone. Let is suffice to say that I had not cried over a book for many a year until I read this one. But, oddly enough, it is not a sad book!! Set in a small town in Nazi-ruled Germany, this book describes the daily life of young girl. Amazon ranking with over 1000 replies is 4.5 stars. It may be aimed at the young adult reader, but it one of the best-written and well-plotted books I have ever read. Once I figured out who the narrator of the tale was, I was hooked. I would love to read this in a book club so that I could discuss it with others.
Also, for a sweet “cozy” mystery, I just found Carolyn Hart’s 3 detective books about the ghost Bailey Ruth.Ghost at Work, Merry Merry Ghost and Ghost in Trouble. The well-dressed heroine is not a “ghost”, but an “emissary” from Heaven’s “Department of Good Intentions” who gets sent back to fix problems without interfering, but always interferes. Above all, she must not scare anyone by being ghostly or doing something unexplainable, but how else can she save the day? These stories are lots of fun with minimal mental aerobics required.
Jane Frizzell, Network Services Administrator
I just finished the Alex McKnight series of books by Steve Hamilton. The first book in the series is A Cold Day in Paradise, which won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Award for Best First Mystery by an Unpublished Writer. Once published, it went on to win the MWA Edgar and the PWA Shamus Awards for Best First Novel, and was short-listed for the Anthony and Barry Awards. Great series.
Shirley Govindasamy, Payroll Manager
If you like mysteries, here’s a good one for summer reading, centering on horses and a train trip across Canada:The Edge, by Dick Francis.
Lois Griffiths, Alumna and Retiree
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield : A mystery with magnetic pull.
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova: Interesting story of the impact of a brain injury that could happen to any of us. Character has lost the ability to perceive information coming from the left side. Enjoyed this story very much and if you liked “Still Alice” you will like this also.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Godrick: This is a thriller on the quiet side but an enjoyable read.
I Was a Dancer by Jacques d’ Amboise: I have to promote my cousin’s book!! But even if I were not related, I would love this book. Jacques speaks of a life well-lived with lots of hard work and much success. The back ground of the dance world in the US and in foreign lands is well documented. It is a joy to know that some famous people can live a good and healthy life in the entertainment world. He has accomplished a lot in his life with more to come I am sure.
Lorraine Groves, Bookstore Sales Floor Supervisor
Great book, would recommend to all: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Nicole Hastings, Assistant in Instruction, Physics
I can’t remember if I already suggested this in a previous year (books are so timeless!)–An Imaginary Life by David Malouf. A very edgy imagination of what Ovid’s exile in Tomis (on the Black Sea) might (not) have been like. Short but engrossing.
Also the field guides by David Sibley, the one I use when I go birding myself–The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.
Tom Hayward, Humanities Reference Librarian
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Longish, telling short stories.
Judy Head, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Under the Dome by Stephen King. On a normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mills, Maine, the town is suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.
Laurie Henderson, Director of Offices Services
Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia. Part travelogue, part history of where the Czars and Soviets sent the millions of people who annoyed them. Beautifully written with a droll sense of humor: lots can go wrong on a trip through a land that includes 11 time zones, and it does, starting with buying a second-hand car for the trip.
Antonia Fraser, Must You Go: My Life with Harold Pinter. A great historian’s elegiac account of her mid-life marriage to one of the great modern playwrights, up to his death. The wry sad title is reflective of the tone of the book.
Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A stunning book on the “HeLa” cells that form the basis of most modern cellular and genetic research. Part medical history, part social commentary and family portrait of a young Black woman who died of cancer in Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Her cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, were able to survive outside her body and were used for most modern medical research, helping to find cures for polio, cancer and viral diseases. The book includes Victor McKusick, a Bates parent and founder of modern genetics, who was a leader in the team who worked with the cells.
Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies. Another book on cancer, by a gifted and dedicated oncologist, with sections on the history of the disease and its treatment, layered with chapters on the author’s work with his patients. Powerful writing, and ultimately hopeful about the disease.
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. A powerfully told story of the Black migration from the South to other parts of America, following three families. The Amazon blurb calls it “an epic, beautifully written masterwork,” not an exaggeration for this book.
Peter Gomes, The Good Life. The great voice is stilled, but in this book are his rolling cadences and phrasing with the warm crisp insight from one who spent his life thinking about how to make a good life from the imperfect stuff we are given.
Bill Hiss ’66, Executive Director for International Advancement and Lecturer in Asian Studies
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a great read!
Aislinn Hougham, Assistant Director of Annual Giving
The Wedding by Danielle Steele
Another great book, Vanished by Danielle Steele
Also–titles that are part of a SERIES aka THE SISTERHOOD series and the Lt. DALLAS series, these are GREAT and are ongoing.
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant, Facility Services
To the End of the Land by David Grossman
This is a long and tender tale of an Israeli woman who hopes that a hike in the Galilee — with an old friend and lover who has fathered her son but never met him — will somehow protect the young man from his military service. If she’s not sitting at home waiting for the delivery of her son’s death notice, he can’t die. Written by one of Israel’s finest novelists and essayists who lost his own son to war, this book embodies the power of life and intimacy and rages against the idiocy of armed conflict.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Director of Photography and Video, Communications and Media Relations
Half Broke Horses– Jeannette Walls this is the follow up to The Glass Castle which I would also recommend.
Another I would suggest is Room by Emma Donoghue. It’s a difficult read in that it is about a woman abducted and abused by her captor, she has a son and together they escape and begin to live a normal life outside of Room. It’s beautiful, dark and sad but uplifting when you consider the resilience of the human spirit.
A lighter, feel good read: The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein. If you are a dog lover you will appreciate this book about the special bond between a dog and its human.
Ashley Jewell, Admission Coordinator, Campus Visits and Events
Has anyone recommended The Help yet? If you were raised by a Southern woman who came of age during the civil rights movement, this book will definitely provide insight into who she was. (I loved it!) Not a very lofty comment, but the book is a dang good read for the beach/airplane.
Beverly Johnson, Associate Professor of Geology
Cutting for Stone : a Novel / Abraham Verghese2009
Compelling story about a medical family – their relationships with the backdrop of Ethiopian’s turbulent history.
The Sherlockian / Graham Moore2110
Sherlock lovers, for sure, and others will enjoy this debut novel intrigue about the interim period when Sir Conan Doyle had “killed” Sherlock to when he decides to write him to life again, and the modern Sherlockian search for the lost diary of the same period.
Octavia’s Hill / Margaret Dickson1983
Margaret (Smith) Dickson ’68 writes a haunting account of a fictional place in Maine and the historical relationships that continue to affect the present generation of occupants on the hill.
The Poacher’s Son / Paul Doiron2010
I guess I’m on a Maine authors kick…. this is not as enthusiastically endorsed as the above ones, but I thought it was a good page-turner and an interesting look at the lives of those who live much further north.
Laura Juraska, Associate Librarian for Reference Services
Some years I offer more of a summary of my entries, but this year I’m especially tight for time so I’ll have to settle for a few random selections with little description!
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: somehow I missed this book 10 years ago when everyone else was reading it, so I’ll recommend it now to encourage anyone else who missed it to check it out (or anyone who forgot it because they read it 10 years ago to consider reading it again!).
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: I’m only about one-third of the way through this book, but one of my 17-year old sons is an avid reader who recommends it very enthusiastically, so I’ll pass that recommendation along.
The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates: this is another one that everyone else was reading a few years ago and I only managed to get around to recently.
Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times by Margaret Nelson: a very engaging sociological study of class variation in parenting styles and the use of surveillance technologies in parenting; many students in my course on “Privilege, Power and Inequality” considered it their favorite of the 5 books we read because they recognized their own experiences in Nelson’s analysis of her interviews with parents of teenagers (while I found it interesting both as a sociologist and as a parent of teenagers myself).
Winning by Francesco Duina: here’s a plug for one of my colleagues in the Bates sociology department- his new book is written for a broader audience than just sociologists, and a very engaging read.
The 2010 Bates College Accreditation Self-Study Report: working on this was a large part of the reason I got so behind on everything else this year, and did less leisure reading than usual, so I’ll include it on my list of what I’ve been reading, but I’m confident you’ll find many better suggestions throughout this year’s summer reading list.
Emily Kane, Whitehouse Professor of Sociology
Little Bee by Chris Cleave–Like the back of the cover says–it’s simply a magical book that will leave you wanting to discuss with others, and if you’re lucky, like I did when I discussed, learned totally different perspectives by the others who read. It’s a fantastic book club, summer read.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett–This book has gained steady momentum since coming out last year. The author truly captures the Southern way of life, right down to the language, and at times can be laugh out loud funny, and as well as sad and heartbreaking. Each chapter is a different character voice that weave together to form an incredible story. Highly recommend!
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay–A different take on the World War 2/Holocaust era, it deals with the French occupation, and a little known event called Vel’ d’Hiv. The story goes back and forth between 1942 and present day, and offers a heart wrenching take on loss and the destruction that family secrets can have, even across time. I read this book literally in 24 hours. I could not put it down.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo–This book is marked as a childrens’ book, however, like so many others, has messages within that speak directly to the grown- ups. A little less magical or whimsical than The Velveteen Rabbit, but still manages to touch you from within, and give a lesson simply on the power of love.
Blindness by Jose Saramago–I read this book over a decade ago, and have read it again for two different book clubs. This book was unlike any book I had ever read, both in content and style of writing. It takes you to a place that is raw and emotional, and asks the reader to consider what would happen if society were to completely breakdown, where all rules are broken, and what happens when individuals are taken to the very brink of humanity. It is captivating yet sometimes difficult to read because of its content, but it will leave the reader repeatedly asking the question “what if…?” and remind us how easy it is to take for granted the societal structure and comforts that we are so used to.
The Puzzle King by Betsey Carter–Just a really interesting and well crafted story based on the authors own ancestors–the puzzle king itself can mean so many different things as you journey throughout 30 years during a Hitler regime and how the tentacles of that occupation reached German Jews in the US, the struggle to fit in, despite enormous wealth, and the fact that not everything is as it seems. Another fascinating story from that time period.
Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home, a memoir by Caitlin Shetterly. My book club read this book recently and last night, we actually had the author come to our meeting. Suffice to say, it was such an inspiring evening, none of us wanted it to end. Caitlin lives in Portland with her husband, 2 year old son, and dog. She is down-to-earth, warm, and very genuine, and to sit and talk with her about this amazing book was just wonderful.
This book chronicles Caitlin and her husband Dan’s decision to leave Portland a couple years ago and drive across country to California where Dan is supposed to start work. During their journey they find out Caitlin is pregnant, and when they arrive in LA, things are not quite as glamorous as hoped.
It turns out Dan’s job has fallen through, they struggle financially and emotionally as they wonder how they made this decision and what to do with a baby on the way. After several months of searching, struggling, and optimistically hoping things would work out, Dan and Caitlin, now with a two month old and only $16 in their bank account, decide to travel back to Maine and live with Caitlin’s mother while they get their feet back on the ground and attempt to recapture the dream that they seemingly lost in LA.
This book is heartwarming, emotional, raw and in some way touches just about anyone who has ever had a dream and ever had to struggle to achieve it. The title comes from the song “This Land is Your Land, this Land is My land”…etc….with of course the last line being “this land was Made for You and Me…” and she points out that most people don’t know the one of the verses to the song goes like this:
“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?”
In today’s economic climate, where so many are struggling to live by their means, this book reflects a real voice, a Maine voice, and is one for the permanent shelves.
Alison Keegan, Administrative Assistant, Dean of Faculty’s Office
Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was excellent. And since you suggest comic books, allow me to suggest my favorite comic book of all time: “Radio: An Illustrated Guide” by Ira Glass.
Colin Kelley, Digital Media Specialist
I am sorry to say that I haven’t read ANYTHING this year that I would recommend. I enjoyed The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant, but I certainly don’t recommend it as good literature.
John Kelsey, Professor of Psychology
Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley. A mystery set in Los Angeles just after the Watts riots. Mosley confronts racial stereotypes in the context of a good story. This book is one in a series, and I would suspect any book by the author would be equally good.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese . Mostly set in a hospital in Ethiopia, though most of the main characters are Indian or have ties to India. Great characters and an interesting story. I’ve had to look up more medical terminology than I ever have before!
Invisible by Paul Auster. A story about the strange life of aspiring poet, Adam Walker. Although it is a bit of a bizarre read, it all comes together at the end. I’d suggest not reading the book description on the cover as it gives too much away.
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Three detective stories, which focus much more on the detective than the story. Intriguing and strange but pulled me in to the stories.
Jennifer Koviach-Cote, Associate Professor of Chemistry
The Civil War by Shelby Foote
A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton
Curtain by Agatha Christie
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, trans. Julie Rose
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater
I am guessing others may have probably already mentioned this one but I just finished The Paris Wife and absolutely loved it! It kept my interest into the wee hours (even on school nights!).
Also, The Help; might have been on last year’s list as I cannot remember when it came out but I just finished it a few months ago and still keep talking about it to people–telling everyone I know to read it. Probably one of the best books I have ever read–I cried, I laughed, was angry, mad, happy…you get the picture.
Cleopatra: A Life–wow…if only my history classes about Ancient Egypt had been this good!
Alli Lambert, Assoc. Director of Annual Giving, Parents’ Fund Director
Unfortunately this year my titles aren’t for the light-of-heart. That’s the way it is. Recommended:
Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War (N.Y. : Atlantic Monthly, 2010). Our Vietnam War, strictly grunt-side.
Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (N.Y. : Basic Books, 2010). An harrowing account of an horrible period in the history of East Europe. The numbers are staggering.
Jim Lamontage, Library Assistant- Cataloging
I’m only halfway through this but think it’s very interesting: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Genevieve Leslie, Assistant Director Alumni and Parent Programs
This past year I have read some of Carolyn Chute’s latest work, specifically Merry Men, Snow Man, and The School on Heart’s Content Road. I liked them all, but I loved Merry Men so much I wanted to cry when it was over. I also read Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex which was fabulous and horrifying all at the same time. Linda Greenlaw’s non-fiction is good beach reading. I could go on and on and on….don’t even get me started on kids’ books!
Heide Lester, Gift Administration Specialist, Office of College Advancement
This spring I’ve been reading At Home on This Earth: Two Centuries of U.S. Women’s Nature Writing edited by Lorraine Anderson and Thomas S. Edwards. It includes stories and excerpts from the works of over fifty women. I’ve enjoyed the better-known authors such as Ursula Le Guin, Louise Erdrich and Terry Tempest Williams but the best part has been discovering names that are new to me. One day I’m alongside Gene Stratton Porter as she observes and reflects upon the last passenger pigeons. Next I am on horseback with Mabel Dodge Luhan in the Southwest. And then I’m winter camping in the high country with Pam Houston, 32 below, and she’s the one lucky enough to have a dog snuggled into her sleeping bag. This is a great anthology.
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager
I feel fortunate to have been turned on to the author W.G. Sebald, “A writer of almost unclassifiable originality, but whose voice we recognize as indispensable and central to our time.” —The New York Times Book Review….and highly recommend the two books of his that I’ve read so far:
Austerlitz – If the mark of a great novel is that it creates its own world, drawing in the reader with its distinctive rhythms and reverberations, then W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz may be the first great novel of the new century. An unnamed narrator, resting in a waiting room of the Antwerp rail station in the late 1960s, strikes up a conversation with a student of architecture named Austerlitz, about whom he knows almost nothing. Over the next several years, the narrator often runs into his odd, engaging acquaintance by chance on his travels, until finally, after a gap of two decades, Austerlitz decides to tell the narrator the story of his life and of his search for his origins in wartime Europe. Slow and meditative, relying on the cumulative effect of its sedate, musical prose and its dark subject matter (illuminated here and there with hope), Sebald’s novel doesn’t overturn the conventions of fiction, but transcends them. It is a love story to history and vanished beauty. Don’t let the slow beginning turn you away.
After Nature – Alas, Sebald didn’t live to see the National Book Critics Circle give him its 2001 fiction award forAusterlitz. At least readers have the consolation of this three-part prose poem, which limns the life journeys of Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald, explorer/botanist Georg Stellar, and Sebald himself. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“The language of After Nature, as conveyed in Michael Hamburger’s flawlessly clear translation, is classically lucid…. It is [Sebald’s] ability to enter diverse inner landscapes, and evoke, with an impartial empathy, entire geographies of experience, that gives [his] writing…its gravitas and its somber beauty.” —The New York Times Book Review
Bill Low, Curator, Museum of Art
Anything by David Mitchell is spectacular, including his new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I also really liked Tinkers by Paul Harding–an exquisitely written and achingly brief first book, and Richard Holmes’ Age of Wonder.
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology
Here are some recent favorites…
Autobiography of Red (Anne Carson)
Is it poetry? Is it a novel in verse? A fable? A myth? However you define Carson’s distinctive and wildly inventive new work, it is riveting reading. At the center of the narrative is a winged red monster named Geryon; throughout, we see him struggling with his family, falling for the indifferent Herakles, and discovering photography as a means of comfort and escape. Wistful yet whimsical, offhand yet intense, funky yet erudite (Carson, a classics professor at McGill, grounds this work in ancient Greek myth), this is a reading experience like no other. -Library Journal
Nox (Anne Carson)
Starred Review. In order to discuss Carson’s latest work—a foldout, Jacob’s ladder collage of letters, photographs, and poetry, all housed in a beautiful box—one must first address its resistance to being addressed. Rather, what Carson does (and with furious precision) is impress upon us her grief over a life she cannot recapture—for Carson, this life is her brother’s, for whom this collection is both an elegy and a history. What results is a work of astonishing candor, in which Carson manages to define the elegy anew by exploring the lacunae of her brother’s life. It is when you are asking about something, she writes, that you realize you have survived it, and so you must carry it, or fashion it into a thing that carries itself. Carson accomplishes just that, creating a physical record of a life in the form of a book that allows its fragments to carry her brother’s absence. To call this art object extraordinary—more than a book, it’s a reproduction of a scroll Carson made by hand—would be to understate. What Carson has given us is an act of devotion of such integrity that it carries its grief on its back. -Publishers Weekly
High Wind in Jamaica (Richard Hughes)
“This brilliant, gorgeously written, highly entertaining, and apparently light-hearted idyll quickly reveals its true nature as a powerful and profoundly disquieting meditation on the meaning of loyalty and betrayal, innocence and corruption, truth and deception.” -Francine Prose
Heavenly Questions (Gjertrud Schackenberg)
“A fascinating invocation of the wonders of eternity, and a human relationship to eternal questions. Schnackenberg pursues these wonders on all fronts—in mathematical iterations as well as references to science and philosophy, and it is this integrated approach, along with the sheer density of her imagery, that characterizes her compelling new poetry collection.” -Aisha K. Down, The Harvard Crimson
For Now (William Eggleston)
For Now is the result of film-maker Michael Almereyda’s year-long rummage through the Eggleston archives, a remarkable collection of heretofore unseen images spanning four decades of work by one of our seminal artists. Unusual in its concentration on family and friends, the book highlights an air of offhand intimacy, typical of Eggleston and typically surprising. Afterword by Michael Almereyda
Perrin Joel Lumbert, Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery
Here’s my list – a repeat perhaps on the Belsky book, but for good reason…he might be coming to campus later in the fall to speak at our “Day of Slowing”:
Ethan Dahlin Magoon, Director of Creative Technology
I have been in murder mystery mood this year so my recommended books are from that genre.
In addition to these I highly recommend authors Julia Spencer-Fleming and Louise Penny. Start at the beginning of their series and you will be racing to get the next book. These two authors have quite a loyal following at Bates!
Pete Morris Mystery Series by Maine Author, Woody Hanstein
Woody Hanstein is a trial lawyer in Maine. His books are published by a small local press and each one is a gem. Were they published by a larger, more famous press, they would all be best sellers. Pete Morris, a small town lawyer, his family, friends and town develop and become more colorful as each book progresses. The plots are tight and innovative and you will find yourself cheering for Pete Morris.
A Drink Before the War – Patrick Kensie Series – by Dennis Lehane
Author of Shutter Island, this is a very good, fast moving novel. The first in his Kenzie – Gennaro series about Boston private detectives and I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.
Mary Main, Director of Human Resources
Forest Forensics, Tom Wessels
If you’ve read “Reading the Forested Landscape” (or even if you haven’t) you’ll love this! Tom Wessels, a master at interpreting the land use history of the Northeast woods, takes the precepts of his well-known book, condenses them into pocket size, adds clear and beautiful photos, and creates a field guide for figuring out what’s been going on in the land you walk. Ever seen a plow terrace? Of course–but maybe you didn’t know it. Stone walls, aging trees, fire scars, pastures vs. hay fields vs. crop fields? It makes your walk in the woods even more fun.
Cold Wind, C.J. Box
The latest in the Joe Pickett series, about a game warden who solves mysteries in the mountains and foothills of Wyoming. This novel is interconnected with wind energy development, and deals with many of the same questions Maine has been debating. An intriguing mix of personalities and issues; it may entice you to read the series backwards.
The Last days of Ptolemy Grey, Walter Mosley
How often do you get to see the world through the eyes of a 91-year-old (that is, until you become one?) Ptolemy Grey, living alone in a Los Angeles apartment and becoming progressively isolated, suddenly finds a way to take action that makes a difference in his own life and that of his extended family and neighbors. He proves it’s never too late to be a hero.
The Ice Princess, Camilla Lackberg
Complicated characters unravel a complicated murder in the tiny town of Fjallbacka, Sweden. The cold permeates…
The Map of True Places, Brunonia Barry
A respected psychotherapist deals with a patient’s suicide, reexamines her own life, and redraws her existing map of both her past and future. Caring for an aging, and ailing, parent helps her figure out what is most important for the rest of her life: not what she thought it was.
Judy Marden ’66, Retiree
Jean Auel released the 6th and final installment of her Earth Children series in March 2011. The Land of Painted Caves was a great finish to Ayla and Jondalar’s Journey. And if you haven’t read the first 5 books, don’t worry. The book stands up on its own.
Karen McArthur, ILS, Systems Analyst
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
“An American western with a most unusual twist, this is an imaginative fictional account of the participation of May Dodd and others in the controversial “Brides for Indians” program, a clandestine U.S. government-sponsored program intended to instruct “savages” in the ways of civilization and to assimilate the Indians into white culture through the offspring of these unions.” Excellent!
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
“A 600-page time-travel romance, strong-willed and sensual Claire Randall leads a double life with a husband in one century, and a lover in another. Torn between fidelity and desire, she struggles to understand the pure intent of her heart. But don’t let the number of pages and the Scottish dialect scare you. It’s one of the fastest reads you’ll have in your library.” I LOVED this book. It will be on my list of all time favorites. Can’t wait to read the sequel and more of Gabaldon’s books.
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
“Pacific Northwest apple country provides a beautiful, chilly setting for this family drama ignited by the death of a loving father whose two daughters have grown apart from each other and from their acid-tongued, Russian-born mother. How these three women find each other and themselves with the help of vodka and a trip to Alaska competes for emotional attention with the story within a story of WWII Leningrad.” An intense, good read about family relationships. I picked it up in an airport and couldn’t put it down.
Laurie McConnell, Carnegie Science AAA
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, by MaryAnn Shaffer & Annie Barrows
A great story told through correspondences between the characters, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of the people in London and the island of Guernsey during the latter part of WWII and the months of recovery following the war. It’s like finding a footlocker full of letters and learning a history of a family or group of friends through the eyes of other people. Very entertaining.
Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova
Lisa has done it again! She has written an intriguing story about a woman whose life has been changed by a disabling phenomenon caused by a car accident. The woman in the story describes her life before the accident and the trials of living with a brain that no longer comprehends the meaning of “left”. Lisa’s story-telling style makes the character wonderfully “real” by pulling in research and medical prognoses in a way that lets one feel what the main character is feeling and allows one to celebrate her accomplishments as she progresses in her abilities to do things normally taken for granted.
For those who enjoy historical novels – or have considered reading one – I recommend two books by Kenneth Roberts, Arundel and Rabble in Arms, that describe events during the American Revolution occurring in Maine and New England and Quebec, Canada. The novels are rich with descriptions of the people and lands of Maine, the trials and tribulations of the colonists who lived during that time and fought in the skirmishes and battles that took place along the St. John and Hudson Rivers, and beyond… As someone who has participated in living history events, I found Mr. Roberts’ characters and activities to be accurately depicted and believable.
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator, Bates College Store
For some light reading I recommend The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch. For anyone who enjoys mysteries and thrillers this has a unique and interesting twist as there is a time-travel element. The story unfolds backwards as Nick Quinn, the protagonist, is accused of having just murdered his beloved wife in the opening pages of Chapter 1 and is mysteriously presented with a way to relive the previous 12 hours of the day, hour by hour, in a race to save his wife and, in doing so, make right other events related to her murder. It isn’t the strongest writing but it is clever, the plot is fast-paced, and the time-travel threads are deftly handled by Doestch. I also recommend On Writing by Stephen King. The title suggests an instruction manual on the subject of writing but this is much more. It is both a captivating memoir with Mr. King sharing recollections of his life and their influence on his writing style, as well as an instruction manual for the student of writing with suggested readings, writing assignments, and advice on the business of writing. I’m actually not a huge fan of his fiction but found this to be an engrossing read as well as an insightful and inspiring writing instruction manual.
Mary Meserve, Registrar
Here’s a recent favorite.
Patti Smith: Just Kids.
Dan Mills, Director of the Museum of Art
Best American Short Stories, 2010, edited by Richard Russo.
For that matter, any edition of BASS – little gems, every one.
Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard, Nicholas Money
A mycologist’s view of the world. Fungal, pithy and sexy. I found my first Phallus ravenelii shortly after reading this book and laughed myself silly.
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
First read when I was 13. I think I missed a few things first time around. Like Heinlein’s pro-sexual liberation, homophobic stance.
How We Die, Sherwin Nuland
For those of who aren’t content to just enjoy the ride, it’s nice to know how it might end.
How Democratic is the American Constitution? Robert A. Dahl
I’m still digesting this one. Get back to me.
The Economic Naturalist, Robert A. Frank
Great browse for fun facts.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King
Concise, great plot, character development and pace. Didn’t know King had it in him.
Faith for Beginners, Aaron Hamburger
Quirky first novel. Nice gay Jewish boy recovering from a little drug problem goes off to Israel with his neurotic family and falls in love with a nice gay Palestinian boy. What could go wrong?
Today’s Best Maine Fiction, edited by Wesley McNair
Again, little gems, every one.
The Frontrunner, Patricia Nell Warren
Written in the 70’s it’s considered a classic of gay fiction. I thought it was dreadful.
Grief, Andrew Holleran
Pensive, repetitious, sepia-toned novel, based in contemporary Washington, D.C., muses on the death of a parent and what might Mary Todd Lincoln have done in a similar situation. There’s grief and then there’s depression. I think this book would have been better titled the latter.
Spiral, Paul McEuen
Bioluminescent fungus, killer bacteria, micro robots tending an herbarium, murder, espionage and a love story. What more could you want? Fantastic thriller – loved it!
Teague Morris, Interim Technology Coordinator, BCDC
I’m probably a few years behind, but some of my favorite books read in the past few months are:
Cutting for Stone (Verghese)
The Glass Castle (Walls)
Sarah’s Key (de Rosnay)
Water for Elephants (Gruen)
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
QB VII (Leon Uris)
Trinity (Leon Uris)
Watership Down (Adams)
1984 (Geo. Orwell)
Animal Farm (Geo. Orwell)
The Stand (Stephen King)
Into Thin Air (Krakauer)The Endurance
The World According to Garp (Irving)
It’s Not About the Bike (Lance Armstrong)
Horton Hears a Who (Seuss)
Steve Mortimer, Advancement
Favorite non-fiction of the year: Bossypants by Tina Fey
I feel like if the title and the author haven’t already sucked you in, then maybe you need to check out the two photos of Tina Fey that appear on the book jacket. If those pictures don’t compel you to read this book, then you probably don’t have a sense of humor.
In all sincerity, this book is so much more than funny. This will be widely read by young women for years to come, and much is being made lately of the role Fey has played for female writers and comediennes in the past decade or so, but there’s something in this for everyone. It’s also the perfect Read Before Bed Book because the chapters are perfectly chunked stories that will end your day on a warm fuzzy note.
Favorite fiction of the year: One Day by David Nicholls
This is the perfect book to read in print if you are a lady, or the perfect book to read on an e-reader if you are a man, because the cover is absolutely ridiculous. Its splashy hot pink and neon orange title and kissy-faced silhouettes look like every run-of-the-mill chicklit available for 75% off in bargain bins around the country, but it could not be more un-that. The story traces Em and Dex, on the same day (the titular “one day”) for two decades as they develop their relationship – which is at times friendship, romance, or antagonism. These are some of the most genuinely human characters I’ve seen written and that humanity gives the book an accessibility that makes it incredibly easy to “see yourself” in. Hollywood is of course paying off on such a cinema-ready theme by making it into a movie being released this summer that is surely going to play up the more “rom-com” aspects of the story, so read it fast so you can say you read it first and “the book was better.”
Favorite Unreleased Book of the Year that I Already Know I am Going to Love and Here’s Why…: Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
These are the guys that brought us Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live back in 2002. If you’ve not yet read that amazing oral history, you’ve just got to, because it is amazing. After seeing the thorough treatment these authors (really, more “story curators” I like to think) gave to the living-breathing cultural institution that is SNL, I am practically beside myself with excitement for what they’ll do for ESPN. If you like inside scoop, juicy but real gossip and honest-to-goodness great storytelling, I’d highly recommend both of these books. (Releases May 24, 2011)
Carrie Murphey, Housing Coordinator and Residential Life Assistant
Here’s my recommendations from my reading this past year:
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleson: A languorous, compelling story of a Missouri farm family in its early 20th century beginnings and late 20th century adulthood. Beautifully written. Jane Smiley put it on her list of “100 greatest novels” and I can see why, even though I am only half way through.
Deafening by Francis Itani: A powerful, psychologically rich rendering of a woman’s life without hearing blended with the life of her love in and after WWI.
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny: This latest of the Inspector Gamache series has set me to reading them all. Good yarns set in Canada. Light stuff, but if you like detective stories, this one’s terrific, with characters you want as friends and three intertwined mysteries to keep you guessing.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: Historical fiction very well done. See Henry VIII through the eyes and life of Thomas Cromwell.
Middlemarch, by George Eliot: Fortunately, I didn’t have to read this book in high school. Today I can appreciate it. Another slow tale with a now predictable plot. But the psychological insights of the author give the book some modern force.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels by Stieg Larsson: I inhaled these. Not for the squeamish.
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics
Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. Full disclosure: author is my best friend from college, but this is also a wonderful, aching coming-of-age book about a girl whose father is deployed to Iraq. Alice Bliss looks at the devastating impact of the current wars on families and communities. This book goes on sale around Memorial Day.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. It turns out The Imperfectionists is perfect. It’s a group of character profiles, it’s a bunch of short stories, it’s a novel — structurally genius. A brilliant story of a crumbling English-language newspaper in Rome.
Private Life by Jane Smiley. This is an incredible book about a mindful woman, a suffocating marriage, the pursuit of scientific “truth,” and the tumultuous epoch in San Francisco between the earthquake and the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II.
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton. This book should be required reading for the Material Culture GEC. Book artist, illustrator, and writer Leanne Shapton reveals an entire relationship — in amazing depth and sophistication — through a faux auction catalogue of a fictional couple’s belongings. In its attention to authentic detail, it could easily pass for a catalogue from a major auction house, but them when you start looking closer… it’s unbelievable.
If you want to look really erudite at the beach this summer, pick up a copy of Kirk Read’s new book, Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France: Stories of Gender and Reproduction. I can honestly say I have read this great book many times. It’s a fascinating look at the most intimate and contested aspects of life in Renaissance France, from literature and social life to gender politics and sexuality identity. A tour de force, if I may borrow from the French!
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the Faculty
Eye of the World by Robert Jordan – I’m two-thirds way through first book and there are twelve more to go! For those who enjoy fantasy/fiction, it’s one of the best Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia which defines quite well….”The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism and the concepts of balance, duality, and a matter-of-fact respect for nature found in Daoism. It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy‘s War and Peace.
You may have received numerous reviews for My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira – the book that BOPN read over the summer – wonderfully written with a meaningful look at the civil war in the eyes of a woman who wants to help as a doctor and the obstacles she goes through to prove herself
Lori Ouellette, Administrative Assistant-Dean of the Faculty’s Office
My suggestion is Made for You and Me, a memoir by Caitlin Shetterly.
My take: A Maine author describes in raw honesty her young family’s journey from Maine to California, and back. A Maine lens on the struggles of an American family during the most recent recession. Overall, a funny and heartwarming/heartbreaking story of failure, family and finding what is important. Bonus: I had the privilege of meeting and having dinner with this author and she is every bit what the memoir portrays.
Amie Parker, Employment Manager – Human Resources
Books I’d like to finish/read:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Juno Diaz – Quirky and sad but interesting story of Oscar and his family from the Dominican Republic and their assimilation into US culture. Hampshire College gave it to their incoming Fall 2010 first year students to read over the summer. I’m having some trouble getting into it, but since it’s a Pulitzer-prize winner…I feel I should try. I don’t know why. Sigh.
Luka and the Fire of Life, Salman Rushdie’s sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I loved.
A Widow’s Story: a Memoir, Joyce Carol Oates
The Alice Behind Wonderland, Simon Winchester
Carole Parker, Library Assistant-Acquisitions
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig- Set in rural Montana in the early 1900’s, the story surrounds a father and his 3 sons who decide to employ a widow as a housekeeper. Her advertisement in the newspaper is, “Can’t cook but won’t bite”. To their surprise, her brother arrives as well. What follows is a wonderful story of their lives over the next year and the transformations that ensue.
A Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers – Written in 1946, this autobiographical novel focuses on a 12 year old adolescent as she struggles with feelings of loneliness, anger, anticipation and anxiety during the 3 days prior to her older brother’s wedding. The author is so adept in her writing that she transports you back to your own adolescence- for better or worse. At the same time, she creates a setting and relationships that confront issues of sexuality, racism, and gender. Remarkable for a short book.
Camille Parrish, Learning Associate-Environmental Studies
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. Moloka’i is the island leper colony to which Hawaiians with leprosy were sent from the mid 1800’s through the 1930’s. This book tells the tale of a young girl with leprosy, and describes her time at Moloka’i. In addition to creating compelling characters and a compelling story, the book is also full of Hawaiian history and culture (so rich!) and information about leprosy (now called Hansen’s disease) and its impact on not only those who contracted the disease, but rest of the community as well. I couldn’t put this one down.
These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner. This tale is based on the writings of one of the authors’ ancestors, Sarah Prime, and shares her journey of making her way as a woman in the unsettled southwestern United States in the 1800’s. I loved how the narration of this book changed as the central character grows and learns.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Okay, I’ll admit it. I bought this book at Marden’s, several years ago – because I liked the title, and I just loved the look and feel of the published book. But then, I read it. I was blown away by the insights and perceptions, if not by the characters who live such painfully beautiful contradictions. It is brilliantly written and oh, so very human.
Ellen Peters, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment
If you want to escape and just be engrossed in good old fashioned thrillers with good guys, bad guys and some unpredictable twists and turns try Jack Dubrul and Douglas Preston. My selections from Dubrul included River of Ruin, Charon’s Landing, The Medusa Stone, Pandora’s Curse and Havoc. The hero is a geologist and there are often some historical tie-ins for those who like to speculate about the details of obscure events in history. It’s always good to imagine there is a person of exceptional character and intellect who can save the world from its most evil inhabitants.
Douglas Preston often writes with Lincoln Child though they both write their own thrillers from time to time.Tyrannosaur Canyon was my most recent read and it was fast paced and intense. Preston managed to tie together an Apollo moon walk, a murder in the high mesa country near Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the New York Museum of Natural History, dinosaurs, a special CIA operative, a scientist, a convict who never should have been let out of prison, a monk novitiate who has an interesting past and a couple of characters of high moral fiber from a previous novel. It was great fun and didn’t last nearly long enough.
For more serious reading, if you are interested in zoos, I read three very different books. It started when we planned a March vacation which included time in Tampa, Florida. We have visited lots of zoos on various vacations and there was a recent book, The Zoo Story by Thomas French, which was written specifically about the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. One review describes it as Animals Make Us Human meets An Inconvenient Truth. It’s a history of the evolution of this particular zoo which includes some very pointed questions about the ethics of keeping animals in captivity, especially the elephants saved from culling and brought to Florida. The Zoo Story doesn’t answer the questions for you but it sure makes you think. It changed the way I experienced this particular zoo. But then it led me to want to know more about the two sides of the argument. So I read Last Animals at the Zoo by Colin Tudge. Tudge is a British science journalist with a comfortable style and an occasional clever wit. While I found a lot of reasons to be comfortable about the way zoos have been re-inventing themselves some of his arguments seemed a bit weak. So I looked for something that might represent the other side of the argument. What I found was Metamorphoses of the Zoo edited by Ralph Acampora. This was not a pleasant experience for me. The essays collected for this book made me angry. I suppose one reason we read is to arouse our emotions but something about the style and arrogance of these essays really disturbed me without really helping me to fully understand the other side of the captive animal argument. I think it was too much idealism and not enough reality, though there were some pretty realistic facts about mortality of captive animals.
Ray Potter, Environmental Health and Safety Manager
Salt by Jeremy Page. This is an odd, first-novel by a British screenwriter. I picked it up at “The Big Chicken Barn” in Ellsworth (if you haven’t been there and you love a good browse amidst old books and antiques, it’s well worth the trip!) because it looked enticing. This line from a “Booklist” review captures the essence. “Every story heads towards tragedy, given the time,” writes Pip, the mute teenage narrator in Page’s bleak debut set in marshy, mid–twentieth century Norfolk, England. Quirky characters and the pervasive theme of water build a story that reads like a dark fairy tale.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. This was my first Franzen novel and a pretty good read. I came away from the novel empathizing most with Richard. Does that seem right? I think I was supposed to be more connected to Patty! Let me know what you think!
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I can recommend this read wholeheartedly!
And in my ongoing effort to check off yet another title from “1001 Novels to Read Before You Die,” I am finally reading Madame Bovary by Flaubert. The edition is a Doubleday, 1997 hardcover translation by Mildred Marmur. While thetranslation is a bit 1990s, I have to admit that this particular edition is a tactile pleasure—an eReader could never duplicate this delight! I recommend finding the real book and enjoying every page.
Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976). Basis of the movie. A reminiscence of growing up in the West in close-knit family in the early 20th century. Light touch, but with depth. Long time English professor at the University of Chicago.
Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story (2007). A true survival story of people trying to maintain the Warsaw Zoo after the Nazis came in during World War II. Loss of animals; hiding Jews; connections to the Warsaw Ghetto; and rebuilding after the war.
Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (2002). Who knew Salt could be so interesting. His point is that only in the last century has salt been plentiful enough that cities and countries no longer rise and fall based on harvesting and using salt. Lots of recipes going back hundreds and thousands of years. And lots of history.
Kate Buford, Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe (2010). Just bought this for a long summer read after hearing Buford speak. Biography of a great athlete, but history in the context of being an American Indian in the early 20th century. 1912 Olympian; major league baseball and professional football player.
Jack Pribram, Professor Emeritus of Physics
The book that I am more than half way through reading is Saved By Her Enemy by Don Teague, and Rafraf Barrak. This a compelling and remarkable story of a Muslim woman living under the regime of Saddam Hussein, and totally convinced that Americans were her enemies. She was hired to work with the American press and slowly learning the truth about her country’s dictator. Her experiences with the outrage of her family and friends, their fear of retaliation because of her relationship with the American press was difficult to even imagine.I am not finished with the book so I cannot expound on her experiences once she came to the U.S. I have been so busy and too tired to read at night lately.
Carmen Purdy, Assistant Director, Office of Equity and Diversity Resources
Gender Outlaws: the Next Generation, coedited by S. Bear Bergman and Kate Bornstein, hot off the presses, 2010. There are more people to learn from than Chaz Bono. Great essays, poems, and more.
Erica Rand, Professor of Art & Visual Culture
London by Edward Rutherfurd. Easy summer read. If you enjoy historical novels with the temporal sweep of James Michener, you love this book. A history of the city from Roman times to the present through the eyes of generations of seven families. Also by Mr. Rutherfurd- Sarum (history of the Salisbury Plain in England) andRusska (a history of Russia).
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin. For anyone whose had to deal with learning disabilities and undiagnosed autism, this is a great resource. Temple Grandin’s life story (she is autistic) is a real inspiration for developing strategies to deal with the non-autistic world.
John Rasmussen, Project Manager, Facility Services
Abigail Adams, Woody Holton
Jill Reich, Dean of the Faculty
We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich
Louise’s description of life on the Rapid River in the 1940’s was very soothing to me after reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
Julie Retelle, Assistant College Librarian for Access Services
LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender
If you ever played with Lego, if you or someone you know is a “collector” or “fanboy” of anything, you will enjoy this. I recognized way too much of myself in there. Laughing out loud kind of read.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
This trilogy sounds awful: kids used in a to-the-death televised contest in a post-apocalyptic USA but it’s insanely addictive. Don’t get caught finishing one without the next one in hand!
Brenda Reynolds, Audio Supervisor, Ladd Library
It hasn’t been a year with a “You have to read this book!” experience for me, but here are a few I enjoyed:
The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. I just finished the last of the 10 books in this younger adult series, about a young Ranger (think Strider from the Fellowship of the Ring) as his undergoes his initial training to growing up and saving the kingdom. Fun adventures, the importance of friendships, finding your gifts. Good summer reads for girls and boys.
The Ghost Writer by Robert Harris. I haven’t seen the movie, but enjoyed this thriller where a ghost writer asks just a few too many questions while writing the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Harry Potter for grown-ups, not kids. Some nice twists on the wizard genre and I’m hoping for a second book.
The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Still haunting and creepy after all these years. I recently re-read this after reading her very strange After the Flood, and it really makes me wonder about her World View.
Next on my list is a book many in my book group love, The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. This is a fictional rendering of the life of Emily Carr, a Canadian painter from the earlier 20th century.
Stephanie Richards, Visiting Assistant Professor, Biology
I have read the book The Help and it was incredible (the audio version is even better as you can hear the southern accents – makes me think of home).
I am also currently reading Belong to Me by Marisa De los Santos. I don’t have time to read much fiction, but so far this one is a winner and well worth the read.
Marsha Roy, ILS Programmer Analyst
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Bronwyn Sale, Lecturer in Education
I Was a Dancer, Jacques D’Amboise – great story-teller as all who attended his book tour lectures here and in Portland can attest. Wonderful personal “gossip” about the ballet greats from the ’40s to the ’80s.
The Honey Thief, Elizabeth Graver – easy read about an 11 year old girl and her mom and their move to the country for a “geography cure” for her petty theft habits.
Songs of Three Islands, Milicent Monks – autobiography by Cape Elizabeth woman who started Ram Island Dance Company (alum, John Carrafa, danced their), about her family’s history and struggle w/mental illness. Compelling story from a woman who now does education and fund-raising events about mental illness and the effects on families. Great love story, too, and wonderful that someone of her stature is “out” about this still taboo subject.
Nancy Salmon, Assistant Director of the Bates Dance Festival
Ishmael : An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn
Sharon Saunders, Systems and Catalog Librarian
I loved The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
I also enjoyed The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten and Connie Willis’ books- Blackout and All Clear.
Paula Schlax, Associate Professor of Chemistry
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.
Susan Schomburg, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Cutting for Stone, Verghese
Laura Sewall, Assistant Director, HCCP
I really like The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann. Light, funny, and educational reading!
Anthony Shostak, Education Curator, Museum of Art
Alice Walker, Now is the Time to Open Your Heart. Kate, the protagonist, is a well-published author, something like Alice Walker, and goes through a transformational magical journey where she confronts herself as she travels down the Colorado River, into the Amazon jungle, and into her deep inner places. She meets shamans, and other mysterious spiritual guides. Riveting and full of wisdom, laughter, love and sorrow — a classic Walker mix!
Carol Schaefer, Grandmothers Counsel the World. I studied with these 13 indigenous elders at Omega Institute in October, and it changed my life forever. Women Elders offer their vision for our planet. A collection of each of their stories (with pictures) filled with wisdom told “as if the future matters.”
Joanna Macy, Pass It On: Five Stories That Can Change the World. 5 stories that will inspire and bear witness that collective faith and effort can transform our consciousness and help heal the planet. It will leave you open to possibility.
Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace. If you’ve read Jack Kornfield, then the title says it all. If not, the title probably still says a lot, and you should be prepared to experience the tranformative power of forgiveness, and “to remember that no matter where you are and what you face, within your heart peace is possible.”
Lama Surya Das, Buddha Is As Buddha Does. “We are all Buddhas by nature. We only have to recognize and awaken to that fact — and anyone can do it.” This book can help you get there, it surely was inspirational and life-changing for me. The author writes in a down-to-earth, wise, humorous and clear way. He’s a GREAT teacher!
Karen Maezen Miller, Hand Wash Cold. A very playful, yet profound exploration of what it means to be aware within our daily routines. Here is an ordinary woman, finding happiness and wisdom at the bottom of a laundry basket, and love in the kitchen sink. I LOVED this book! Wise and gentle and reminds us of the preciousness of our lives.
Susan Moon, This is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity. The subtitle says it all! These stories about getting old and aging with grace is funny, wise, sad, and deeply moving. The intimate style and vulnerability of the author are totally engaging. How to face death — your own and others — and the in between stages — with grace and humor, looking at every stage as an opportunity to “be here now.”
Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Mathematics
John Coltrane: His Life and Music by Lewis Porter.
A great biography of a major jazz figure that includes lots of musical analysis to aid the aspiring jazz musician, as well as copious notes and a complete chronology of Trane’s performances and recording sessions.
John Smedley, Professor of Physics
The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross.
Submitted by Dean Stein, Violin Teacher
I just enjoyed “reading” P. D. James’ murder mystery, The Murder Room, on a drive down to Cape Cod to visit my mother. I hold James’ writing in high esteem, especially for the social and psychological detail she gives to each one of her very different characters. When I read the “about the author” statement at the back of the book, I realized that James, just like my favorite Japanese mystery writer, Miyuki Miyabe, had a career as a civil servant working with the public before becoming a writer. James worked in London, Miyabe in Tokyo. That social work career seems to be where both writers acquired the rich knowledge they show of human character and the many varied social situations of urban life. I recommend both James’ The Murder Room and Miyabe’s For All She Was Worth for anyone who loves a good plot and lots of social detail. Reading both would be a nice cross-cultural exploration.
Sarah Strong, Professor of Japanese
This year, a little said about a lot.
Pen of Iron by Robert Alter details the influence of the majestic style of the King James Bible on American literature.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (widely recommended and finally read) is a fictional/factual account of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s faithful fixer.
The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester is a history of dictionaries, mostly the most famous of all dictionaries – the OED, and its principal shepherd, James Murray.
Passionate Sage by Joseph Ellis is a biography, using the subject’s own correspondence, of John Adams, to whom Ellis refers as “… perhaps the most misunderstood and underappreciated great man in American history.”
William Blackstone by Wilfrid Prest is the story of the Oxford Doctor of the Civil Law who became the most famous chronicler of the Common Law.
Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero makes the claim that, while America is probably the most devout of modern Western nations, it is also the one most ignorant of religion. Prothero aims to correct this with his primer on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
My list ends with two books on the history of libraries – Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles, andThe Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart A. P. Murray. I should add to these a book of gorgeous photographs of libraries at home, At Home with Books by Estelle Ellis, et al. And if your home happens to be Chatsworth, you might be able to say, like the current Duke of Devonshire, “What I set out to do was to produce a library so wide-ranging that a person of reasonable education could stay there for two years and emerge quite happy.” And lastly, the last word on books, the ultimate book on books, the “Companion” of all Oxford “Companions” – The Oxford Companion to the Book.
Sheila wants to add one more book that she thoroughly enjoyed, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simenon, finding it “utterly charming.”
Sawyer Sylvester, Professor of Sociology (and Sheila Sylvester, Administrative Assistant Emerita, Dean of the Faculty’s Office)
Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss.
It’s really hard to describe this book, as the long title perhaps suggests. It begins with the author’s account of inheriting a collection of Japanese netsuke, tiny delicately carved objects often used as ties for a kimono. His investigation traces the history of the first owner, the wealthy nineteenth century Jewish art collector, Charles Ephrussi who lived in Paris, and was a partial model for Proust’s Swann. From there the trail leads to Vienna and “the tears of things” as de Waal writes of what happened to the Ephrussi family during World War II. The book moves slowly at first, and it took me a while to get into it, but by the end I was reading more and more slowly because I just didn’t want it to end. De Waal is a wonderful and meticulous writer, and I know this description doesn’t do justice to the book, but it’s a must read for anyone who has time.
Emma Donoghue, Room
And now for something completely different! A popular page-turner of a novel which I avoided for a long time because the description sounded like some kind of soft porn horror story: girl kidnapped by pervert, kept in locked room for years, gives birth to a son while she’s there… And yes, Donoghue admits the idea first came from the real life creep who did something like this. BUT it’s really a wonderful, even inspiring book. What moved me was the way the girl creates in one tiny room, where her only resources are her imagination and an ancient black and white tv, a world that is rich enough for her and her child to survive.
Anne Thompson, Professor Emerita of English
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
If you read just one book this year, read this one. It’s eye-opening and inspiring, while still being an entertaining story. Kingsolver takes us through a year’s worth of eating locally with her family (much of which they grew on their own farm). Heartfelt, funny, informative, and timely, with recipes to boot!
Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Liana Thompson, Office Coordinator, Multifaith Chaplaincy
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a wonderful book. It won the Man Booker Prize a couple of years ago.
Tom Tracy, Phillips Professor of Religious Studies
Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day) has “five stories of music and nightfall”, from a crooner to a cellist:Nocturnes.
Manning Henkel has another Kurt Wallender mystery: Wallender’s Last Case. Do you think it really is?
And in anticipation, Adam Hocschild has a new book out that got a rave review from Christopher Hitchens recently: To End All Wars. The “First” World War focusing on the men on the ground. (Apparently a French diplomat, upon seeing the terms of the Versailles Treaty, mumbled “the peace to end all peace”! Part of the argument is that the First World War lasted until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, with a brief truce between 1919 and 1939.
Dick Wagner, Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Here is my suggestion: How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition:2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, by Mark Bittman.
Simply put, this book was a revolution in my kitchen. It is the perfect guide for making the transition from “bachelor-cooking” (everything goes in one pot and it is usually pasta!) to “family cooking” (this has to be a balanced meal because now there are kids involved!) Rather than being a compendium of finicky recipes, it is a how-to book for cooking just about anything they sell in your grocery store. It walks you through the process of getting the basic cooking techniques down for everything from simple hard-boiled eggs to the perfect soufflé, then lets you expand your horizons by suggesting variations, tasty add-ins, etc. I use it basically day!
Phil Walsh, Office of College Advancement, Assoc. Director, Gov’t. and Foundation Relations
Legacy of Ashes – Tim Weiner
Shadow Country – Peter Matthiessen
Heaven and Hell – Jon Kalman Stefansson
Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast – Bill Richardson
Andrew White, Director of User Services, ILS
So what’s different about this year? I usually listen to the news on the way to work and back. Sometime around the election in November I decided it isn’t a good idea to arrive at work angry, and especially not a good idea to arrive home that way. So I started diligently listening to audio books instead. This year has thus been the year of, among other things, Ivan Doig, whose writing about Montana, growing up, and growing old is an excellent antidote to contemporary politics. I have not met anyone who thought my recommendation to read The Whistling Season(2006) was off base. It’s a fictional account of growing up in Montana, matched in “real life” by his Montana memoir This House of Sky (1978). His trilogy Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987), English Creek (1984) andRide with Me, Mariah Montana (1990) creates 100 years of fictional Montana family history that you won’t want to end. These combine to make a fine recipe for peaceful thoughts.
Gene Wiemers, Vice President for ILS and Librarian
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy Frost & Gail Steketee. Good if you are thinking about downsizing.
Handle with Care, by Jodi Picoult. Interesting medical and legal dilemmas.
The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. True tale of family treasures (netsukes) found, then lost, then found.
Shell Game, by Sarah R. Shaber. Beach reading – Professor Simon Shaw the forensic historian.
Anne Williams, Professor Emerita of Economics
A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine diRollo
A tale of twin sisters in Victorian England (1857). One sent to India and the other remaining in her father’s bizarre country home. It can be described as a fairytale, Gothic romance mixed with realism but that doesn’t do it justice. The characters are eccentric, strong willed females, a father obsessed with scientific discoveries. By turns silly, serious and surprising.
LaVerne Winn, Science Reference Librarian, Ladd Library
I just had this book returned to me ten years (!!) after a friend borrowed it, and was reminded of how good it is:
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton.
Colton went to the Little Big Horn reservation hoping to do a newspaper story on the HS boys’ basketball team, but instead found that the girls’ bball team was where all the drama was at. He follows the girls’ team the entire school year, and it’s absolutely riveting and heartbreaking.
Jenny Woodruff , Lecturer, Music Department
Receiving 3 or more recommendations on the 15th annual list!
- Cutting for Stone (Verghese)
- Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and the rest of the series (Larsson)
- Sarah’s Key (de Rosnay)
- The Help (Stockett)
- Left Neglected (Genova)
- Wolf Hall (Mantel)
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 getting this list into booklet format with blazing speed and to our friend in Communications and Media Relations for their assistance with our web version of the list.
Compiled and edited by Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director, 5/11
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