2010 Alumni Summer Reading List
June 28, 2010
Have we got the summer reading list for you! It is varied, demanding and enlivening, like the liberal education you attended Emmanuel to receive. A liberal education enables and impels us to continue to seek knowledge and understanding ourselves, and to share it with others, directly and indirectly, consciously and in the natural course of events.
In recognition and continuance of our shared project, the Emmanuel faculty offers this list of summer reading suggestions to our graduates. We do not mean to sound preachy; although a liberal education is devalued in some American practice and discourse, the fact is, our educations fit us to find more delight in our own minds and in our world. You will, we hope, derive pleasure and challenge from some of the books below. A few are repeats from lists of previous years - if you did not heed a suggestion earlier, you may want to now, or, you may decide to engage in that most interesting act - rereading!!! We hope that some of these books might contribute to the summer we wish for all of you -one that is full of rest and relaxation and enjoyment.
Two books Cynthia Fowler found intellectually provocative and engaging are After Photography by Fred Ritchin and Thinking through Craft by Glenn Adamson:
After Photography is "a fascinating consideration of the possibilities for reinvigorating documentary photography by fully embracing the powerful potential of digital photography."
Thinking through Craft is a "brilliant theoretical treatise on the position of craft within the discourse of the fine arts tradition. Adamson suggests the ‘positive side' to the positioning of craft to a status below the fine arts, in that it has been conceptually useful to those working in the craft tradition."
Joe Kurtz would like to suggest that graduates, especially those interested in science and law, read the recent District Court decision on the invalidation of patents for the BRCA1/2 genes (implicated in breast cancer). This will have major implications on the field of medical diagnostics. Joe will be using the decision in the Sophomore Honors course next fall. You can also read an article from The New York Times on the subject.
From Chemistry and Physics
For those alums interested in science (or history for that matter) Aren Gerdon recommends Napoleon's Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. "It includes some of the really intriguing stories behind the chemicals involved in historic events, and some great science as well!"
Mary Elizabeth Pope just finished reading Lit, Mary Karr's new memoir about her struggle with alcoholism and conversion to Catholicism. She would recommend Mary Karr's memoir The Liar's Club too, which came out about 15 years ago. Anyone who has already read The Liar's Club and liked it will enjoy reading the rest of the story in Lit. Lit was also named one of the ten best books of 2009 by The New York Times.
From Foreign Languages
Cheryl Tano recommends The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is Jose Ignacio Alverez-Fernandez' pick. It is not, Jose Ignacio observes, "an immaculate work, but very moving and well written." Jose Ignacio and Melanie Murphy from History are both big admirers of the work of the recently deceased Portuguese Nobel Prize winning writer, Jose Saramago. As Jose Ignacio notes, with the death of Jose Saramago, "We have lost one of the most clear and conscious voices of the European left. Long live Saramago's literature!"
Two books that immediately come to mind for Katherine Smith are Nadine Gordimer's July's People and Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria or the Wrongs of Women.
Caroline Reeves has a "most excellent book for the list," Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies.
Thomas Childers' Soldier from The War Returning: The Greatest Generations' Troubled Homecoming from World War II is Melanie Murphy's pick. The book describes the lives of three vets who survived the War in Europe but later experienced problems attributable to the largely unrecognized after effects of their wartime experiences. Childers counters platitudes about "the greatest generation" in this moving and quite engrossing work.
From Information Technology
Gouri Banerjee recommends Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Political reporters, one reports for The New Yorker, the other for Time Magazine. "The book is a must for those who enjoy reading about the machinations of modern political campaigns. It is an inside, behind the scene look at Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin and John Edwards' campaigns for the presidency in 2008. It shows the candidates as real human beings, tortured by doubt, and miscalculations. The book narrates how the Obama campaign strategized as early as 2006 to take Iowa, and how the message of "hope and change" resonated with voters after 8 years with George Bush and the Republican Party. I found the book to be a real page turner, full of interesting dialogue, and political insights into the brutal nature of the presidential campaigns. I recommend the book to the politically wired amongst you."
Gouri also loved the exhibit described below and thinks it may be of interest to alums as well:
"SALEM, MA -- A singular selection of Indian ritual bronze and metal sculptures will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) from April 10, 2010 through January 16, 2012. Faces of Devotion: Indian Sculpture from the Figiel Collection presents nearly 40 dramatic sculptures of Hindu gods, goddesses, animal spirits and deified heroes as depicted in the folk traditions of western and southern India. These works, dating from the 1500s to the 1800s, are exquisite examples of vernacular folk art and offer unique insight into the region's compelling iconography, craftsmanship, and ritual."
From Management and Economics
"If you want an optimistic overview of capitalism and economic theory," Bill Carlson observes, Douglas Thompson's The Age of Declining Turbulence provides it. Bill adds that Thompson, a 91 year old retired Economics professor, "weaves the latest economic theories into a coherent story that explains the current economic crisis, inflation, the growth of world capitalism, and how social services ameliorate the social tensions produced by income inequality. He hopes to reach a general audience, so there is no algebra, and only a few graphs. One warning: he assumes that many readers will focus on a chapter or two, so he repeats his major points over and over, which can be annoying if you read the book from beginning to end."
Thomas Hall "really enjoyed Drive by Dan Pink. It is an excellent book that focuses on what motivates people today and includes research presented in an interesting and easy-to-read manner."
Matt Tom is eager to finish reading about the "silent crash" before the stock market crash, so, now that the semester has ended, he is getting back to Michael Lewis's The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. After that he has to get his hands on James McManus's Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker.
Jeanne Trubek has been enjoying Hyperspace by Michio Kaku and Snow by Orhan Parmuk. Neither is new, but, Jeanne says, "I live in the past." And, she adds, "Here's a new one that is WONDERFUL: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou.
The contribution of nuns and religious women to American life is insufficiently recognized. To fill in the picture in the area of health care, we can turn to Say Little, Do Much: Nursing, Nuns and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century by Sioban Nelson, Helen Ahearn's first recommended summer reading. Helen also enjoyed Carlo D'Este's Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945, which she thought was brilliant. Finally, Helen suggests Phenomenology of the Human Person by Robert Sokolowski. One insight in this work is that "being a person means being involved with the truth." A profound trio of books from Helen!
From Performing Arts
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is Tom Schnauber's pick. He advises that it may look like a big comic book, but it's one of the most complex, multi-layered, and emotionally fraught books he's ever read; truly powerful and engrossing.
From Political Science
Marie Natoli is currently reading Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World and thinks others would find it very interesting reading, too.
Joyce Benenson notes that, although she is not a big novel reader, she loved Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.
From Religious Studies
Here are a couple of Laurie Johnston's favorites that she's read recently:
"Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains - biography of a refugee from Burundi who spent years homeless in New York City but is now building a medical clinic in Burundi.
Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace - a wonderful, gripping historical novel set in Northern Italy during WWII.
Jon Hassler, Simon's Night - Hassler is a Catholic novelist and this is a gentle novel about an old man facing some of life's transitions."
Jon Paul Sydnor says of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges that "it is one of the best books I have ever read, and provides a profound insight into human nature, both individual and collective. This book is especially relevant now, as America is fighting two wars, a fact which we often overlook."
Sr. Mary Johnson used Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot's The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the Twenty-five Years after Fifty in her "Age and Generations" class and recommends it enthusiastically.
Kati Kriz recommends a book she "read for pleasure, The Man from Beijing, by Henning Mankell. This is a mystery novel by a famous Swedish author who lives in Mozambique and Sweden. The novel connects a recent murder in a small Swedish village to the slave trade of Chinese laborers to the United States 150 years ago. The protagonists/sleuths are two Swedish women-a detective and a judge. The novel is also set in China and Africa, and it is a must for anybody interested in mystery novels, human trafficking, modern-day Africa, China, Scandinavia, globalization and gender equality. Enjoy!"