The English Department’s professors all have one thing in common: their love of books.
As winter break approaches, some of the English Department’s professors have provided a list of their current favorite books, or ones they think students should read over break.
I would suggest the book I am currently reading, Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which is an extraordinary study. It’s making me re-think how I will teach The Scarlet Letter this spring.
The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
I just finished reading Louise Erdrich’s most recent novel, The Future Home of the Living God, which is a very intriguing Native American, dystopian novel that involves adoption, which is a key area of interest for me.
Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers
I also think everyone should read Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels.
His Dark Materials novels by Phillip Pullman
And I have a rather new guilty pleasure in young adult/fantasy novels, in these uncertain times — I re-read all of the Harry Potter books which I hadn’t read since my kids were young, but I also just completed the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials books, including the just released prequel The Book of Dust, which I quite liked.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I am planning to finally dive into Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad. Its title is somewhat telling: it’s a novel that illuminates, I’ll bet in true Whitehead fashion, a haunting blemish on the American historical record.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
It’s a graphic novel memoir of a girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
It’s a kind of literary mystery, with a group of modern scholars hot on the trail of a previously unknown relationship between two major Victorian poets. There’s third-person narration, a diary, a set of correspondence, some faux-Victorian poems, and more. It’s brain-candy of the highest order.
Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron
For sheer escapist fun, Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries are a hoot. They purport to be the discovered secret journals of Jane’s own life as an amateur sleuth. Fair warning: it’s hard to read just one. Start with The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery.
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwalds
With the events in Ferguson, Missouri, with all the stories of police excesses that followed, and with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the phrase “implicit bias” has made its way into our headlines. This book by a couple of the leading researchers on the topic offers an interesting and readable account of the ways our minds rush to judgments — often to the detriment of people who don’t look like us, talk like us, love like us, and/or worship like us.
I imagine this book is on other folks’ lists (Dr. Askeland has been an avid reader of Coates for a while). This open letter from a black father to his teenage son is a powerful essay on the experience of race in our day. Toni Morrison says, “This is a required reading.”
Feed by M.T. Anderson
I’ve been using it in English 101 for a couple of years, and though it’s a young adult novel, it’s a good, provocative read (and can be done in a day or so). How much does technology affect our lives, and how much could it? If you’re someone who is attached to their cell phone, this book asks how far you might take that attachment. Would you choose to be permanently hooked up to the internet?
Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski
This book showed me that poetry can be relevant, moving, outrageous and fun. Bukowski is cynical and wise, wild as a three-day party, down-to-earth as the ground beneath your feet. He writes about the great joys, pains and mysteries of life, all couched in narrative poems about drinking, sex, classical music and good times at the race track. Get the book, read a few each day, and watch you preconceptions about poetry toddle off into Bukowski’s smoke-filled night.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers’ The Circle will make you rethink using social media.