2011 Faculty-Suggested Summer Reading
June 29, 2011
With summer again upon us, Emmanuel faculty members have suggestions for books from their areas of expertise, for pleasure and for almost everything in between. There are a few classic novels and a few new ones, some specialized works and some popular. Two books will be of particular interest to parents and one, under Theology & Religious Studies, is the Emmanuel College community reading for next year.
We wish you interesting reading and viewing, as well as rest and delight this summer!
As an art historian, Associate Professor of Art Cynthia Fowler is interested in the ways in which art functions to either reinforce or challenge systems of power. This summer, Cynthia will be reading Boris Groys' Art Power (MIT Press, 2008.) Groys examines works of art both as a commodity and as a tool of political propaganda. "Books like this, generally raise more questions than they answer and I look forward to engaging these questions as I read," she said. "They will certainly find their way into the course material for my freshman seminar, ‘Art Talks Back.'"
From Chemistry and Physics
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Aren Gerdon writes, "I just finished reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, which was actually recommended to me by Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies Laurie Johnston. Although the title may be intimidating, it was actually an entertaining read about the life of Primo Levi, who was a chemist by trade, before and after World War II, told in the context of elements of the periodic table. Each chapter is a new story or anecdote from his life. For a chemist, this is particularly enjoyable, but it is accessible, worthwhile and fun for any reader."
Several recommendations come from Associate Professor of English Mary Elizabeth Pope, who says, "The latest book I read and really loved was Ann Packer's new collection of short stories, Swim Back to Me. Readers may know her award-winning novel, The Dive from Clausen's Pier, which I can also recommend. Another great (but older) story collection I recently read is Elinor Lipman's Into Love and Out Again, though she is best known for Then She Found Me, a novel that was made into a film starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler. I finally got around to reading Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls this year, and it was the best thing I've read in years. I can't believe I waited so long!"
From Foreign Language
"For my first recommendation," Special Instructor of Foreign Languages Katherine Smith writes, "I strongly suggest Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye, which takes place in the late 1940s. This novel delves into the protagonist's unobtainable, obsessive desire to have white skin, blond hair and the bluest eyes, which she equates with being loved. The protagonist's down-spiraling journey into madness is both heart-breaking and historical. My next recommendation is Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, which will be an appropriate and timely transition from The Bluest Eye."
Special Instructor of History Michael McGuire suggests Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (New York: Oxford, 2007.) "Manela's award-winning book (Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize, Society for the Historians of American Foreign Relations) considers how Wilson's "Fourteen Points" and other wartime pronouncements found audiences beyond Europe, particularly in two regions that endured imperial rule (India and Korea) and two that endured quasi-imperial rule (Egypt and China)," states McGuire. "It also considers how the 1919 rebellions in these territories was a response to Wilsonian promises of self-determination in the "Fourteen Points," and how disillusionment with the Wilsonian promise influenced future leaders of independent India (Jawaharlal Nehru), China (Mao Zedong) and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh)."
The Breaking of Eggs, a novel by Jim Powell, is Associate Professor of History Melanie Murphy's pick. "Luckily I started reading it over Thanksgiving vacation, because I really couldn't put it down," she says. "Felix Zhukovski, the Pole living in France who is the protagonist, was a Communist and remains a leftist, and made his living writing and revising travel guides to Eastern Bloc countries. By 1991, Communism has collapsed in Europe and Felix's French publisher is closing his business. Felix has to reasses the world and his world; the book presents a generation and more of Europeans who experienced a harsh history, including the Second World War and its aftermath, and shows how Cold War politics shaped their lives, to a degree they did not entirely realize. I am not sure what worldview the author is leaving us with, but I found the discussion of different individual experiences and fates in postwar Europe very compelling."
From Information Technology
Associate Professor of Information Technology Gouri Banerjee loved Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. "An elegantly written book about a tragic subject," she said. "Civil War deaths reached enormous proportions, not seen by Americans before or since. Dead men of different ranks would get different burials, yet the experience of such an extensive and deep loss affected the whole nation during and after the Civil War; it was a, perhaps the, formative experience for the nation."
Associate Professor of Mathematics Jeanne Trubek, on a Fulbright in Rwanda, writes "here in Rwanda, I do not have to clean my room or house, do the laundry or take care of the yard, I am not department head and my commute is about 100 yards. So I have had much more time to read than usual. Alas, being who I am, I have read a lot of junky books, but I have a few that I can recommend, [such as] Stephen Kinzer's A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. I read a lot of books about Rwanda, and this is one of the best for giving both historical background and a good sense of Rwanda today." Also she gives kudos to Momentum is Your Friend by Joe Kurmaskie. "I love books by Joe Kurmaskie," she said. "He is a bicyclist who does long-distance bicycle touring and writes about his experiences. I've read several, but this one was exceptionally enjoyable. In 2005 he set out from Oregon on a bicycle, with his seven-year-old son on a trail-a-bike behind him and pulling his five-year-old son behind him to ride across the United States. They did it. It is a book about a bicycle adventure but mostly it is a wonderful book about parenting."
Next, Jeanne recommends a novel, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. "This book was greeted with a great deal of controversy when it was published," she notes. "It is one I'd be interested in discussing with people. It certainly introduced me to a world I had never experienced: upper-class or upper-middle class life in the deep south in the 1960s."
Jeanne concludes, "Right now I'm reading (maybe re-reading, I can't remember) Anna Karenina and keep thinking about how so many questions Tolstoy raises are relevant today. And it's great reading about cold dark Russia while sitting in a balcony in warm sunny Rwanda."
Assistant Professor of Nursing Helen Ahearn recommends The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (New York: Doubleday, 2009) by George Friedman. "Friedman is the founder and CEO of STRATFOR, the world's leading private intelligence and forecasting company, according to the book jacket," she says. "He gives us a look at our future."
From Performing Arts
Associate Professor of Performing Arts Thomas Schnauber writes, "Here's my recommendation: The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramind, The Golden Apple, Leviathan by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (1975). The granddaddy of all conspiracy books, combining everything from Atlantis to Area 51 to the Templars to JFK in one bizarre, raunchy, dizzying epic tale of the ultra-absurd."
From Political Science
Associate Professor of Political Science Petros Vamvakas shares with graduates the reading list he has sent to political science students. "Recent publications that I would like to bring to your attention and that you should consider," are:
Henry Kissinger, On China
Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order
Robert Putnam, American Grace
Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded
Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of American Power
"And of course," he adds, the first-year reading, "Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."
Assistant Professor of Psychology Clare Mehta picks two, one recent, one classic. Of Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she notes, "This controversial book has received a lot of press, but I recommend withholding judgment until you have read the book. The book contrasts 'Chinese' (authoritarian; the author states that you do not have to be Chinese to be a Chinese parent) and 'western' (permissive) parenting styles. It is not a how-to manual, but rather a parent's tale of the struggles associated with trying to raise two daughters. Provocative and thought-provoking, this book is one I could not put down. I expected to wholeheartedly disagree with the author, but as I read more I found myself agreeing with aspects of her approach. Interesting for parents and teachers alike, and anyone who is interested in how we raise our children."
Clare's second choice is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. "I recently read this classic novel as part of my book club and couldn't put it down. It has all the elements of a good story and keeps you turning the pages. Funny, well-written, and incredibly romantic, this book has made it to the top of my list of favorite books - as well as the BBC's top books list."
From Theology & Religious Studies
Besides being a member of the theology & religious studies faculty, Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies Laurie Johnston is chair of "EC Reads" and so wishes to remind everyone that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is not only the first years' summer reading, but a community read for the entire College next year.
There you can find suggestions for a variety of readings in connection with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, as well as visuals, such as a cell dividing over 27 hours. The website includes further reading recommendations on a variety of topics, as well.
"Departures," a Japanese film which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film is Associate Professor of Sociology Christine McKenna's recommendation. She used this film as one option for a film analysis for her "Introduction to Sociology" students. She writes, "Protagonist Daigo is a 20-something musician who returns with his wife to his hometown after losing his job. He answers an ad for what he thinks is a position in the tourism industry, only to realize that the position actually entails working in the funeral industry with the recently departed. The movie offers a fascinating glimpse into the rituals of death and mourning in Japan and the cultural and demographic changes taking place there. The subject is particularly compelling given the recent tsunami."