Summer Reading List, Part II

May 23, 2012

Pacific University English faculty members share their summer reading recommendations. Second of two parts.

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What are you reading this summer? The Pacific University English faculty members each offer a couple of recommendations, ranging from light fiction to poetry, graphic novels to nonfiction. Have you read any of these books? Have your own recommendations for the summer? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments. The following is the second of two parts (Part I here):

Professor Pauline Beard’s recommends:
Russian Winter (fiction) by Daphne Kalotay
“Rollicking good story: An old Russian Ballerina from the glory days of the Bolshoi, defected to America, now aged and in a wheelchair living in Boston. She has donated her jewels to the museum to raise money for the ballet. What I loved was not only the story, which is gripping, going back and forth between present and past and referencing ballets, especially Giselle, but the structure. Each chapter is headed as if a catalogue description of the jewels, then each chapter mentions that piece, a brooch or earrings or watch in the story...amazing technique. Bit of a romantic escape...nothing wrong with that, but multi-layered and worth it for the technique.”

Professor Alex Bove’s recommends:
Home (fiction) by Toni Morrison
“I haven’t even got my hands on a copy yet, but the buzz is that it’s a great novel and an interesting new direction in her career. It’s about a vet coming home from the Korean war, suffering from post-traumatic stress, to face racist issues at home in America, as well as other personal issues. It’s supposed to be written in a gripping, minimalist style. This also has the benefit of addressing diversity issues.”

Professor Kyle Lang recommends:
Habibi(graphic novel) by Craig Thompson
“This is a great graphic novel about the environment, sexuality, language and writing, economic inequality, and social justice. It is a big book, but it is also a graphic novel so it feels accessible in a way that a regular text would not. Fascinating!!!”

Professor Darlene Pagan recommends:
My Own Country (nonfiction) by Abraham Verghese
“My Own Country by Abraham Verghese is about an Indian doctor who winds up in the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee in 1985, when he treats his first AIDS patient. An outsider who finds himself sought out by gays who were considered an ‘urban problem,’ Verghese finds himself challenged by and challenging notions of identity, faith and community.”

Professor Kathlene Postma recommends:
State of Wonder (fiction) by Ann Patchett
“I've been saving this book to read on one of those inevitable rainy days in June. An American doctor turned pharmaceuticals researcher heads to the Amazon in search of a missing colleague. The combination of elements is too tempting for me to resist. Patchett is brilliant at crafting characters who can carry the weight of current controversies in pursuit of answers. She can also deliver places in stunningly good detail. Patchett went to the Amazon to do research for this novel, and I can't help wondering how she'll artistically distill a potentially overwhelming location for purposes of her story. I'm also susceptible to the shape writers give places, so I'm trying to anticipate already how Patchett's Amazon will take hold in my imagination. The fictional Africa that Barbara Kingsolver crafted in the The Poisonwood Bible is still the first rendition that flashes into my mind when I think of that continent.”

Professor Lara Vesta recommends:
Arcadia (fiction) by Lauren Goff
“I just finished Arcadia by Lauren Groff in a two-day (grading procrastination) sweep and would recommend it to students who want a swift, fluid read and who wish to discuss voice, timing, the importance of research (as the child of hippies I can tell you firsthand that some of her facts are off), and the work of an emerging writer.”

Professor Doyle Walls recommends:
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (nonfiction) by Christopher Hitchens
“Not merely an attack on any one religion (all are attacked), this book is a defense of reason, of courage, and the liberal arts. It’s a passionate, thrilling piece of scholarship: journalism, poetry, science, drama, politics, travel, war, scoundrels, heroes. The writing is clear—often hilarious—and the takedowns are so devastating that one is likely to stand up and cheer in a coffeehouse in Portland while using up pens to underline every sentence. I cannot think about this book now without thinking of the recent loss of Hitchens to cancer. Losing him was a blow to our chances for having a real culture. But we have this book. Finalist for the National Book Award, 2007.”

Professor Doyle Walls recommends:
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (nonfiction) by Stephen Greenblatt
“I’m about 100 pages in. Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and National Book Award. You name it: scrolls and books, politics, philosophy, science, progress, those who would purposefully hinder thinking and progress, and a radical, old school poet named Lucretius. I’m reading insightful passage after insightful passage on minds in the classical world and who we are now, that is, those of us who live in the modern world.”

What are you reading this summer?