LOOKING FOR A GOOD READ? HERE ARE A FEW SUGGESTIONS FROM SOME OF OUR FACULTY:
From Gary Malecha, Political Science
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. This is a good of account of the forces that have contributed to the current breakdown in the American political process.
Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do. This work sheds light on a cast of first term members of Congress swept into power by the Tea Party movement.
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter. This is a compelling historical and personal account of Czechoslovakia from the end of the first world war to the earliest days of the Cold War.
Robert Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power. This a detailed work that follows the career of Lyndon Johnson from his last days as Majority Leader of the Senate through the first weeks of his presidency.
From Fr. Charles Gordon, Theology
Alice Thomas Ellis, The 27th Kingdom (1982): An unregarded jewel of an English Catholic Novel.
From Molly Hiro, English
Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (1901). This is a work of historical fiction, based on the actual 1898 race uprisings in Wilmington, North Carolina. Chesnutt’s novel uses the real-life events as a backdrop for a gripping story about the emotional interdynamics of black-white relations at the turn of the twentieth century.
Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves (2008). Erdrich is a prolific author of fiction and poetry, but this is my favorite of hers. Set on and near the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, it’s a multigenerational family saga that engages powerfully with issues of ethnicity, sexuality, family, and tradition.
Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy. One of the most insightful explanations of religion’s role in modern, secular societies.
From Lars Larson, English
Wilson, Edward O. The Social Conquest of Earth. Here, the famous zoologist of ants tries to answer the Great Questions of where we’re from, who we are, and where we’re going, using the scientific aggregate to retell a sweeping account of biological existence. His use of the guiding theory of group selection (as opposed to kin selection) for the account makes a lot of sense as humans rapidly become the species of Facebook.
Patrick DeWitt. The Sisters Brothers. A tragicomic road-trip (by horse) of two gold-rush gunslingers plying their trade between Oregon City and San Francisco. The novel uses the historical and ethical distance between us and them to offer a meditation on the mysteries of fraternity, the development of self-awareness of our actions, and how we decide to respond to the pull of our competing hungers.
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany. This novel about friendship, Faith, and the coming-of-age of two boys in New England just prior to and during the Vietnam War is one of the saddest and most compelling books I’ve read.
I highly recommend the poetry of Mary Oliver. In one of her poems, “Instructions for living a life,” she writes:
Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.
Mary Oliver follows her own advice in her poetry, paying attention to all of creation, from the smallest creature to the grandeur of the cosmos. She is astonished at what she sees and experiences. Then she tells about it in language rich in insight, wonder and beauty.
Robert Osserman, Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos. Wow! A description of Mathematics, and how it has developed over time, written for non-math majors by a Stanford professor. If I had only read this earlier . . .
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. The difference between humans and animals is that we tell stories, that we need to fit everything into a story, that we seem hard-wired to understand everything as a story.
Gary Nash, The Unknown American Revolution. The familiar story looks completely different, told from the perspective of the people in the streets, rather than from the Founding Fathers.
Walter McDougall, Let the Sea Make a Noise. A mega-history of the northern Pacific Rim, from about 1500 to 1970. Reads like a great novel, and full of little known people and events who need to be better known!
Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism, by Paula Fredriksen (2010). This book skillfully traces the long story of Jews in antiquity, and describes Christianity’s difference and eventual estrangement from Judaism. Then it analyzes the North African Church Father Augustine’s innovative approach to a renewed Christian understanding that honored Jews as Jews. Well written, readable scholarship.
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Or ANYTHING by Willa Cather!