Here we go, gang, coming into the home stretch. The last days of the fall semester. There we are, crouching in some godforsaken corner of the library, the taste of adrenaline on our tongues, and a singular desire on our minds: finish strong on our finals and head home for some well-deserved television watching and non-specific-winter-holiday celebrating. Imagine this, though, Reedie, if you dare. Two weeks into winter break you sit in front of your computer and browse your Netflix instant queue, but come up short. Its empty! Then you remember this amazing thing you used to know about, something you spent hour upon youthful hour engrossed in, protesting when your mother insisted you busy yourself with another activity for a scant thirty minutes. Reading! You gaze over at your well-worn book shelf and ponder, what should you pick up to peruse as you sit in front of a crackling fire and intermittently gaze out at the snow-speckled landscape on this wintry afternoon? Thankfully, your beloved professors will answer that question for you! Check out these recommendations from some of our esteemed faculty for your winter reading pleasure, and head to Reedthegrail.com for a more comprehensive list.
Dan Reisberg, Psychology
Paul Butler, Let’s Get Free: A Hip Hop Theory of Justice
Reisberg recommends this text because “in light of what's going on in the nations politics this is a very radical book. But its written by a wonderfully smart, very interesting guy who...its relevant that he’s African American, talking about some of his concerns about the criminal justice system. And so, I would choose it in some ways because its not directly tied to what's been in the headlines, but close enough. And by the way, Paul Butler has been writing, recently he had a piece in the New York Times about what's happening in New York City with the non-indictment, so if one wants to go from the book to current events, you could look at the book and look at Butler’s op-ed piece in the Times,” he said.
Kris Anderson, Psychology
Kay Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Jamison, a clinical psychologist suffering from bipolar disorder, shares her story in this insightful autobiography. Anderson is captivated by her descriptions of “her life leading up to her diagnosis and how her diagnosis informed her practice.”
Margot Minardi, History
Daniel Smail, On Deep History and the Brain
“This is a somewhat nutty and always fascinating book that explores the relationship between cognitive science and history. It made me question how we begin and frame Hum 110, and it made me think about addiction in startlingly new ways. If this seems like a strange pairing of topics, that is evidence of the eclecticism of this book.”
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
“I love the restrained and measured style of the prose. It's hard to say why I found this book so compelling without giving away the plot, which Ishiguro unfolds ever so carefully. In a very unexpected way, the book prompted me to reflect on questions relevant to my own scholarly work concerning which kinds of social reforms are worthwhile and which tend to reinforce the very systems they are attempting to change,” she said.
Chris Koski, Political Science
Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Koski enthusiastically recommends this post-apocalyptic thriller. The concept is this: at some point in the future the Earth is in such deep trouble that humans can only live within a virtual-reality world, called OASIS. Incorporating a quest for hidden treasures, a touch of romance, and a bunch of nerdy vibes, there is nothing not to love about this novel.
Stephen King, The Stand
Koski “used to read [this book] with some frequency.” King’s most famous novel tells the story of a flu virus wiping out a huge majority of the human population, leaving few people left to live on Earth. “Post-apocalyptic religion,” he says, “good stuff.”
Gail Sherman, English
Alice Munro’s short stories
A winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Munro’s stories are characterized by her propensity to move around in time within her narratives. Sherman says, “she is one of the most brilliant short story writers writing today,” and recommends any of her work students can get their hands on.
Suzy Renn, Biology
Robert Sapolsky, A Primate’s Memoir
This book is Renn’s “all time favorite.” The story is that of “an amazing neuroscientist telling about his time as a graduate student doing field biology with Baboons in Africa when he started his studies of how social hierarchy influences stress hormones. He studies baboons, rodents, humans and cell culture systems now but it is fun to hear him write about his time as a graduate student,” Renn said.
Douglas J. Emlen, Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle
A book about the evolution of animal weapons (horns, antlers, threat displays etc... (lots to do with mating strategies)) and each chapter has parallels to human weapons, warfare, defense etc..... I've not read it yet but it is written by an animal behavior researcher for whom I have incredible respect. I'm just betting it will be good. Just got my own copy in the mail today (just came out 2 weeks ago) and I'm going to go home and read it right now.
Sarah Schaack, Biology
Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates
it is a great read during vacation! Good adventures, great characters-- totally page-turning escapism that swings its readers "...into unnecessary risk and thus into enchantment"!
Pancho Savery, English
Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
The conventional argument is that slavery, although horrible, is a small blip in the larger story of American history, and that America becomes a world power after World War I. This book argues that slavery is absolutely fundamental to all aspects of American history, and that slavery, and the capitalism that comes with it is, in fact, what has made America a world power. As he says in the intro, "Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden" (xxiii).
Michael Faletra, English
Book recommendations? You're brave to ask a quirky medievalist with philosophic interests like myself, but here's what I'm reading over break:
1. Plato's dialogue Phaedo, and not just the little bit excerpted in Hum 110. Compelling arguments for the immortality of the soul ... or not. I recommend the Focus Philosophical Library edition.
2. I'm re-reading Owen Barfield's odd little book Saving the Appearances. It's hard to describe -- sort of anthropology mixed with metaphysics ... Barfield's earlier book, Poetic Diction, was a big influence on the Inklings.
3. J. R. R. Tolkien's long-awaited translation of Beowulf. This has been sitting in a file box among Christopher Tolkien's paper for decades, so it's nice to see it finally seeing the light of day. I suspect it will be an idiosyncratic translation, not a replacement for the splendid Seamus Heaney translation. Still, it will be fun to see what Tolkien does with various minutiae of the Anglo-Saxon epic and fun to see what general tone it strikes.
4. Or kick back with a little poetry. Charles Wright's new collection Caribou is excellent, but I'll also recommend W. S. Merwin's staggeringly good The Vixen (1996) or his more recent but equally amazing The Shadow of Sirius. Louise Gluck has a new book out this year too, but I forget the title. Or, hell, just read anything by William Stafford -- start with Stafford's anthology/collection The Way It Is, which has most of his best stuff.
5. Read anything good. Emma (or, hell, anything by Jane Austen). Moby Dick. Jane Eyre. To the Lighthouse. Dante's goddam Divine Comedy. Read something really good because life is finite.