2009 Summer Reading List
I welcome you to the 13th Annual Bates College Store Non-required Reading List, or Good Reads for Leisure Moments XIII. As in the past, this list includes submissions from across the Bates College community. Enjoy! — Sarah Potter '77, College Store director
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Brother Fish by Bryce Courtenay
A good story about prisoners of war during the Korean conflict, racism and the strength of friendships. I actually listened to this one in audio form, and the reader was superb as well. A good one for a long car trip. The Great Influenza by John Barry Everything you EVER wanted to know about the flu epidemic of 1918. An absolutely fascinating story of the pandemic that killed more than 40 million people - the reason why we are so terrified of the emergence of H1N1. A good story that is well written and interesting (from a virology geek's point of view)-a very accessible account of how one virus changed history.
Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross
David Cummisky told me about this book a while ago and I finally read it this year. It was written when Ms. Montross was a first year medical student, dissecting her cadaver in the gross anatomy lab. Her prose is really beautiful. Whether she is describing her own thoughts about her right to violate the body of another, the high personal price one pays to navigate a medical education, or the glistening dura mater that covers the brain, the writing is equally compelling. I was really captivated (good call, Dave!). The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett OK, it takes me a while to get to some of these "classics". This is another one that I'm listening to on my iPod - I am hooked on listening to audiobooks in the car and on airplanes. So far I like it, and although it's a little contrived, I like the details in this historical fiction about the building of the Kingsbury cathedral in 12th century England. It's not so complex that I forget to get off the turnpike....
Lee Abrahamson, Associate Professor of Biology
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My reading has been eclectic: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa (Nicholas Drayson) was very fun: a love story in postcolonial Nairobi with interesting politics; School of Essential Ingredients: not my favorite, but a light, sweet food- and-relationships novel; Peace Like a River (Leif Enger): beautiful story of a family's struggles with faith, integrity, and the law in the upper midwest, gorgeously written; Emotionally Weird (Kate Atkinson): took me two readings to "get" it, but a very clever, fun, bizarre literary adventure — stories within stories; Metzger's Dog (Thomas Perry): rather hilarious heist-and-murder sort — surprisingly clever and lots of fun, though I usually enjoy stories more when there's a character I can really admire; (also The Island by Perry —same critique); Dick Francis novels — any of them — good fun around/involving the British horse-racing scene. Read too many, though, and you end up speaking and writing a little funny. Len is reading The Life You Can Save — Peter Singer — and loving it. It's an intellectual argument for increased philanthropy from individuals — giving consistently, because of justice and reason, rather than sporadically out of pity. He's also enjoyed The Starfish and the Spider andHere Comes Everybody, both about new organizational models of leadership, usually technologically mediated. And he worked through Breach of Faith which is about Katrina, though it was heavy.
Anna Bartel, Associate Director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships (and her husband, Len!)
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Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
Jim Bauer, Director of Network and Infrastructure Services, ILS
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The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch....should be a "must read" requirement for everyone. Very inspiring... Knit Two by Kate Jacobs.....sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, if you read the first book, reading this is like catching up with old friends.
Jane Bedard, Admissions Office Specialist
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Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Fascinating historical fiction about life in a quarantined leprosy settlement. The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin A perfect summer read that takes place at a fishing camp in rural Maine. The Double Bind by Chis Bohjalian A psychological drama with a twist - you'll want to read it twice. Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors Historical fiction about the building of the Taj Mahal.
Kristen Belka, Associate Dean of Admissions
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Finding Beauty in a Broken World, Terry Tempest Williams, Pantheon
A beautiful read indeed. For example: "A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken." There is, in the middle, an approximately 100-page exercise in what first feels like tedium and monotony. Then I got it! Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton, Doubleday Still remarkably fresh and relevant after almost 40 years. A Mercy, Toni Morrison, Knopf The language of an earlier South caught and kept my curiosity.
Bill Blaine-Wallace, Multifaith Chaplain
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Robert Whiting, You Gotta have Wa (1989). This is a fascinating account of how America's pasttime changed/evolved in Japan to be more compatible with the culture as it was in the 70s and 80s. A great read for anyone with an interest in baseball or Japan. Julie Norem, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. (2001). If you've ever been disgusted by someone telling you to "not worry so much" or "look on the bright side," then you may be a defensive pessimist. Norem argues that this may actually be a good thing for many people, as it can help them deal with what might otherwise be overwhelming anxiety. Moreover, she argues that for some people, being defensively pessimistic is better than being optimistic! This is an interesting book that turns the positive psychology movement on its head.
Helen Boucher, Assistant Professor of Psychology
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Matthew Kelly: The Rhythm of Life
An easy read for those who seek to get their emotional life in order. The author is best known for his public speaking and motivational skills. He has many other titles as well that cover other subjects. It is an easy and wonderful read. These titles are also available on cds.
Jane Boyle, Library Assistant, ILS
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Here are a few children's books that are/have been popular at our house. Ellison the Elephant by Eric Drachman A wonderful story about self-confidence and perseverance that you will want to read over and over again. The accompanying CD is priceless. The Dinosaur Who Lived in My Backyard by B.G. Hennessy A great book for little ones interested in dinosaurs. Dinosaur facts woven into a cute story that even includes lima beans. Do Like a Duck Does! by Judy Hindley The rhyming makes this a really fun book to read. Dig, Dig, Digging by Margaret Mayo An entertaining book for those fascinated by big machines such as bulldozers, tractors and firetrucks.
Heather Bumps, Assistant to the President
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As The Earth Turns, Gladys Hasty Carroll '25, D.Lit '45
In one of the interviews that Pulitzer-winning author Elizabeth Strout '77 gave recently, she told Maine Public Broadcasting that it wasn't until she moved to New York, where people assume that all the New England states are all the same, that she began to focus on her own Maine background in her writing, with great success. That made me think about Carroll's most famous book, 1933's "As the Earth Turns" — about inland Maine farm life — which faded then rebounded in critical approval in the 1990s as people began to value the sense of place in Carroll's writing. It's a good lesson.
H. Jay Burns, Editor Bates Magazine
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Magazines: Mother Jones, Mental Floss
Books: The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You: A Guide to Self-Diagnosis for Hypochondriacs by Knock Knock; The Phantom Tollbooth by Justin Norton; Poor People by William T. Vollmann
Anne Marie Byrne, Staff Assistant-Dean of Students Office
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The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri I really liked this book! An interesting blend of Indian culture and contemporary life in Bombay, with the mythical world of the gods. The story loosely follows the death of Vishnu, a man who lives in an apartment hallway. We learn of the inhabitants of the building, while Vishnu goes in and out of delirium and/or death "truths." A clever combination and the characters are built well.
The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls This is an excellent book and a page-turner! It ranks right up there with Angela's Ashes — and I think I like this one better. A true story of a girl's horrific childhood. Told with humor and insight. My 12 yr old started reading this book "accidentally" and couldn't put it down until he had finished it. A Mercy, by Toni Morrison Since this is one of my all-time favorite authors, I have trouble saying anything negative about her most recent book. A friend ordered it for me as soon as it became available, and I finished in a couple of days. It was a satisfying read, wonderfully written. A bit shorter than I would have liked. I think she could have beefed out some of the characterization and depth more, but it was a good read. Not as good as Beloved, but that would be hard to compete with.
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, by Sebastian Junger
I guess I'm behind the rest of the world in reading this book, and no, I haven't seen the movie! The book was a thriller — kept me turning pages to find out what would happen next. It's told in intricate detail, sometimes more than I wanted, esp about the ships and the ocean statistics. It's not a "typical" book for me, but I liked it more than I thought I might. I kept dreaming about it, and I kept feeling like I was actually in the book at times, esp when the process of drowning is described. Now I guess I need to rent the movie! (Don't give away the ending... Oh yeah, the ship goes down.)
The Pilot’s Wife, by Anita Shreve I'm on a bit of an Anita Shreve kick. This book didn't disappoint. I like her writing style and her sense of the perverse. She takes the reader through the unfolding of a terrible discovery that keeps you turning pages. She takes the ordinary and makes it strange, and the strange ordinary.
Sea Glass, by Anita Shreve Again, another story where the reader gets pulled in bit by bit and washed out to sea with the unraveling of truths and deceptions! I didn't like the ending — seemed very abrupt and too wrapped up, but maybe the abruptness is part of the point.
Testimony, by Anita Shreve This book is dark, intense, and disturbing. Through multiple viewpoints, we see the cause and effect of one terrible moment caught on video — what led up to it is just as troubling as what happened afterward. This book is well written — and despite the darkness was hard to put down. But I warn you, it’s a bit on the weird side.
Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer I thought I would like this book more than I did, but it was a good read. By about the 3rd page, I was already sick to death of one of the narrator's overdone butchered English and smug crassness. But of course that sets you up for lots of change in the character as the book evolves. The book is about a young man who goes searching for the woman who saved his grandfather during WWII. The first-person narrator who opens the book is a "foil" of sorts, as the chapters from different viewpoints interweave with each other. One thing I really liked about this story was its nuances of what's real and what's fiction. The Ukrainian narrator alludes to shifting and "inventing" parts of the story, and some of the "historical" chapters by the other narrator are clearly fanciful.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Unlike his other book, this one was a definite win! I couldn't put it down and finished it in two days. I love the blend of narration, the puzzling out that the reader needs to do, the innocent child-narrator, and the story that presents one tale of the aftermath of 9-11 without overdoing the drama. I love the characters that the boy meets in his journey, and I enjoyed the mystery of the key. Nothing seems to turn out as you want it to, and yet it all does seem to resolve itself. Some of the book is quite unrealistic — a mom allowing her 9 yr old boy to wander the streets of NY for hours on end?? Improbable at best. A 103 yr old man who is able to participate in some of those hours-long wanderings? Again, not likely. Esp when he more or less disappears later. (Oops, was that a spoiler??) But I don't mind suspending my disbelief for a great book!
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer
I am just finishing up this book and have really liked it! It is somewhat-loosely based on the author's childhood experience of her father's imprisonment in Iran, and the family's subsequent escape. This story follows the lives of individuals in one family caught in the middle of a revolution. It's well-crafted, and you get inside the perspectives of the father in prison, the mother's helplessness, the young daughter's subversive activity of her own (and accompanying guilt), and the older son's passivity living in New York.
Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Series, by Charlaine Harris (Dead Until Dark; Living Dead in Dallas; Club Dead; and other novels in the series)
Okay, DON’T LAUGH!! Yes, this is a human-in-love-with-a-vampire book, and no it's not my typical read! So, if you're done laughing yourself out of your chair that I'm reading a whole series about a girl who loves a vampire, let me explain... A good friend recommended it, and I started reading them and found that the story line was lighthearted in an odd sort of way. Surprises along the way, and some fun, refreshing characters. The tone is very light, and there is absolutely nothing serious about these books. They are the ones I bring when I'm exercising on the treadmill and need something relatively mindless. I'm starting to get fond of these characters now. Kind of like a soap opera... (Note: I’m part way through the 6th or 7th one now and have to confess to growing weary of them. I give them 2 out of 5 stars. Fun, but after a while they become — dare I say it? — "deadly.")
Anita Charles, Lecturer in Education
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Some "light" summer reading! Peter Thomson, Sacred Sea: A Journey to Baikal. Read it and pretend you're coming with the Bates FSA to Russia! Lyrical and quirky and informative about Baikal and Siberia and Russia. By the former producer of Living on Earth. Thoughtful consideration about what it means to be an environmental journalist.
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness. There were moments when I wasn't sure that Karen Armstrong ever had ANY friends - but all in all I found this an interesting account, and a more personal approach to some of her work on various religious traditions.
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate. This is the War and Peace of the 20th century, only it's actually better. Without Tolstoy's ponderous philosophizing. Grossman was the most famous Soviet war reporter, his mother murdered by the Nazis in their invasion of the western Soviet Union. His novel takes on a vast cast of characters, interlinked by their connections to the Battle of Stalingrad. It's a novel about ideology and individual lives, but also about the Holocaust, state control of science, art and freedom and incredible heroism. My FYS loved it!
Anything by Andrei Platonov that you can get your hands on - but only if it's translated by Robert Chandler. Chandler is an AMAZING translator. And Platonov is the great unsung Russian writer of the 20th century, finally coming into his own. He was a true believer, an engineer who became a writer, with an uncanny ability to register the odd distortions of vision and verbiage that went along with the revolution. His prose is a kind of heartbreaking grotesque mysticism...The collection entitled Soul is a good place to start.
Jane Costlow, Professor of Russian
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I think Still Alice by Bates' own Lisa Genova '92 is the best read I've had this year. This is a fantastic novel that brings you into the life of an Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease patient - and beautifully demonstrates the struggles of the patient, her family and colleagues. There's enough humor to make it light, and you just fall in love with the patient and her family.
Marianne Cowan, Associate Director of Alumni and Parent Programs
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An excellent summer book is: Phyllis Rose -Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages
David Cummiskey, Professor of Philosophy
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These are quite diverse suggestions but since I turned 50 on Tuesday, my memory only serves my most recent reads. Marrying Mozart was a good historical fiction and Marley and Me couldn't be lighter. If you are a fan of nutty dogs it is pretty funny!
Karen Daigler, Assistant Director of Medical Studies
The first two are Swedish authors: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Firewallby Henning Mankell Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (yea Bates!!) Champlain's Dream(non-fiction) by David Hackett Fisher
Jerry Davis, Class of 1961
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How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill. Finally, now everyone knows why I am so proud of being Irish!
Sylvia Deschaine, Academic Administrative Assistant - Pettengill
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon; Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls; Divided Minds by Carolyn Spiro and Pamela Wagner; Home by Marilynne Robinson; Three Cups of Teaby Greg Mortenson and David Relin; The World Without Us by Alan Weisman; The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga; Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
Marty Deschaines, Asst. Dir. For Community Volunteerism and Student LeadershipDevelopment, HCCP
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Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is probably already on your list, but I just finished it an enjoyed it immensely.
Carol Dilley, Director of Dance
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Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a fascinating novel about the lives of two women (lao tang) who wrote to each other over many years in the Chinese women's language, nushu. Lijia Zhang's Socialism Is Great! is a memoir about growing as a worker in the "New China." Xiolu Guo. Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, novel about an unmarried young woman's life in contemporary Beijing is an interesting read, but her A Concise English Dictionary for Lovers is a better choice for those who have less time to read. This novel describes the cultural differences a Chinese woman encounters when she moves to the U.K., but it also focuses as much on the English and Chinese language as on her experiences. As the book progresses, the reader actually "sees" her fluency in English develop. And finally for those who are interested in schools and teaching,Relentless Pursuit by Donna Foote summarizes the history of Teach for America as it profiles the experiences of first-year teachers in Los Angeles. Engaging and thought-provoking read.
Anne Dodd, Senior Lecturer in Education
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I'd like to recommend A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the convicts of the Princess Royal by Babette Smith. It tracks 99 women who arrived in Australia in 1825 after being sentenced to "transport" in England and Wales. Some of them received life sentences for very minor crimes. It should be great reading for anyone with an interest in crime and punishment or Australia in general!
Amy Bradfield Douglass, Associate Professor of Psychology
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I recently discovered a gem; a very poetically written little novella called Welcome to Our Hillbrow, by Phaswane Mpe, set in contemporary times in a township of Johannesburg. I used it in a class this year, along with Benjamin Kwachye's The Clothes of Nakedness, set in contemporary Accra. I highly recommend either or both, though you are on notice: don't expect any familiar "North Atlantic" sensibility here, rather, be ready to encounter a distinctive moral universe!
Elizabeth Eames, Associate Professor of Anthropology
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Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
A classic. Don't let the movie with Leo and Kate scare you off! It's intense, well written and will make your head spin... The Underground City by H.L Humes A big book that takes a bit of time to read. A fascinating, detailed novel set in France during and after WWII from the perspective of an American special ops soldier.
Johie Farrar, Assistant Dean of Admissions
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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert; Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah; The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir by Victoria Rowell.
Heidi Gagnon, Advancement
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I have enjoyed re-reading some of the late Tony Hillerman's mysteries, set in the desert Southwest, with Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Some of the most recent are The First Eagle, The Sinister Pig, and Hunting Badger. The characters are very appealing, and the setting really takes the reader into the Native American cultures of Arizona and New Mexico. We will miss him.
Lois Griffiths, retired staff member, Class of 1951
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Two Rivers, by T. Greenwood. Suspense, love, and betrayal told in flashbacks is the story of a widowed father his daughter and an orphan. Setting is in the late 60’s in a small town, Harper has trouble dealing with a vicious act that happened while in his teens. Nice gentle mystery that kept me entertained. Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. Psychological thriller about a social worker and the homeless. There are characters brought in from the Great Gatsby era. I couldn’t tell if this was fact or fiction. I liked this authors book Midwives better but this was worth reading also. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Ms. Strout is a Bates alumna and now a Pulitzer Prize winner! How can you not read this novel? It is a collection of short stories of people from a small town in Maine. You get insight of Olive in almost every chapter as she tries to understand herself and her life in painfully honest ways.
Lorraine Groves, Bookstore Sales Floor Supervisor
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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. If you’re an alum who loved Professor Herzig’s courses, this book will make you wish you could return to discuss it in one of her seminars.
Bridget Harr, Institutional Research Assistant
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Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War
As a response to an administration that would not even include war costs in the normal yearly budgets, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist makes the case for calculating the real costs of the Iraq war, including such items as equipment replacement and lost income with life-long medical care for the tens of thousands of American wounded and brain-injured.
Margaret S. Creighton, The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg's Forgotten History
Elegantly written, a different view of the battle we think we know all about, looking at the experiences of women, Blacks and immigrants at Gettysburg.
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
This is a remarkable first novel (where has this guy been for 30 years, we wonder), somewhat reminiscent of another strong first novel, Charles Frazier's civil war saga, Cold Mountain. Wroblewski has written a powerful story around an inauspicious plot line, a mute boy whose family raises thoroughbred and well-trained dogs in rural northern Michigan. It is a kind of Hamlet story, with family betrayals and mis-communications, largely told from inside the mute boy's head and through lots of interaction with the dogs, a real trick for a writer.
William H. Tucker '67, The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science and Ideology.
Full disclosure: Bill Tucker was my Bates roommate and is one of my oldest friends. A psych prof at Rutgers, he has written three well-argued (and for a non-scholar, readable) books around the broad theme of individuals or organizations that claim to be doing unbiased social science when in fact they are advancing racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic or eugenic causes. His previous books,The Science and Politics of Racial Research and The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund, were in some ways fascinating scholarly detective stories — they traced the hidden agendas of organizations that claimed scholarly purity. This new book on Raymond Cattell, a leading 20th century psychologist often regarded as the father of personality trait measurement, traces the scholarly dismay when Cattell, the author of hundreds of books, articles and standardized instruments for measuring personality, was found to be the author of a series of publications on racial segregation and eugenics.
Two books and a related film on India: Bapsi Dishwa, Cracking India
A remarkable novel about a Parsee girl from an upper-class family caught in the swirling chaos of the partition of colonial India in the late 1940’s into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The partition of India as part of the end of the British empire created not only great suffering and violence, but one of the largest migrations in human history, with about 12 million people moving to get across national and religious boundaries that had not existed until the partition. Deepa Mehta's powerful film "Earth" is based on Cracking India. It is reasonably unusual to find a film and the novel on which it is based that are both top shelf, but true in this case.
Alex Von Tunzelman, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
A substantial book on the last months of the British empire in India, with fascinating portraits of some of the 20th century's major personalities. Gandhi, Nehru and the Muslim leader Jinnah were all trying to deal with the last British Viceroy, the royally incompetent "Dickie" Mountbatten and his socialite but surprisingly brave and very independent wife, Edwina, whose personal/political relationship with Nehru was a most unexpected facet of the withdrawal of Britain from their empire.
Bill Hiss '66, Vice President for External Affairs
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David Hackett Fischer, Champlain's Dream
A sweeping full-length biography of Samuel de Champlain, the explorer and founder of Quebec. Dozens of voyages to North America. A slice of history of France and North America. Mark Paul Richard, Loyal but French: The Negotiation of Identity by French-Canadian Descendants in the United States
A history of Franco Americans in Lewiston, Maine, from 1850 to 2007, who subscribed to neither survivance (maintaining their separateness) nor assimilation (erasing their heritage). They accomplished acculturation, becoming Americans, but retaining for a long time their identity. Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)
The human psychology of dealing with traffic. Considers the variation in different places in the U. S., as well as the world. Treats questions such as whether you should merge early or late when a lane is closed ahead. Quotes statistics that show "dangerous" narrow streets with distractions are safer than "efficient" thoroughfares like Russell Street (but maybe we knew this already).
Doug Hodgkin, Professor Emeritus of Political Science
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I have been meaning to send you this, excellent book about college girls who's identity got switched unintentionally at an accident scene where one died and one nearly so, months of recuperation... Mistaken Identity by Don and Susie VanRyn and Newell, Colleen, and Whitney Cerak.
The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, I may have put this on last year's list, but it is worth repeating. It is so inspirational, it's a must! Not for everyone, but I love the series by J.D. Robb, Lt. Eve. Dallas, Homicide books, great if you love crime drama!! Happy reading...
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant, Facility Services
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I'm enjoying biologist Bernd Heinrich's Summer World: A Season of Bounty very much, though I think it should be titled, "Bug World: A Season of Bounty." I thought there would be more about flowers, other plant life, and mammals, but much of the book concentrates on moths, wasps, caterpillars, and other insects and their alternate forms. But that's fine, because it's fascinating! There's also some great stuff on why male wood frogs all sing together, when only one really needs to in order for them all to attract females. And he answers the question: Why do hummingbirds come north before many of the nectar-bearing flowers bloom? After I finish this book, I'm going to start in on his others. There are enough to keep me going for quite a while. He lives in Vermont, with a camp in Western Maine, and is a graduate of the University of Maine.
Sue Hubley, Senior Researcher, College Advancement
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The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester
The Control of Nature by John McPhee
This book has been around for awhile, but affected my thinking more than about any other.
Jim Hughes, Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics
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I'd like to suggest Water Dogs by Lewis Robinson. A novel based in Maine.
Amy Jaffe, Career Counselor
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Guy Delisle's graphic novel Burma Chronicles eloquently portrays daily life in Myanmar, the official name of Burma since 1989 when a militaristic government seized power. Canadian animator Delisle joins his French wife who works for the humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and their infant son for a year in this tightly controlled Southeast Asian nation. Humorous and observant, Delisle's treatment demonstrates that drawings with text can match solo prose, no sweat. Give me a comic book, please.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Senior Staff Writer and Photographer
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For fans of Patrick O'Brian's and C. S. Forester's naval adventure fiction try the collection of short stories edited by Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of Sea Battles, 2001. I laugh to tears with David Remnick's and Henry Finder's Fierce Pajamas. These are the best humor from the "New Yorker" magazine. A terrific new history of the Christian and Islamic struggle for the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages is Stephen O'Shea's Sea of Faith, 2006.
Michael Jones, Christian A. Johnson Professor of History
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Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, a book we read aloud to each other, is a powerful story of a young, intelligent, literate woman who is sold into slavery at the age of 12, and who is obsessed with being free and returning to her native village in West Africa for the rest of her life. We followed her through about sixty years of her life on three continents, with all the hardship, prejudice, and soul-wrenching pain of enslavement, which is often complicated by her abilities and intelligence which she must hide from her masters. Freedom does come decades later, but it is a freedom in a world where only the force of her will and personality keep her surviving. The ignorance of even the "good" whites to the implications and cruelty of slavery become a vehicle for her to further her goal, but only as a tool of the abolitionists and often at the cost of her personal dignity. (To a white authority figure who insists that she has "profited by being enslaved" and vehemently deny's slavery's cruel branding, she bares her old breast to show the brand she was given at 12.) Lawrence Hill has written a breathtaking book and created Aminata Diallo, a remarkable woman.
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres was a wonderful book, and I enjoyed it as much as a previous book of de Bernieres, Corelli's Mandolin. Both books deal with the everyday experiences of the life of civilians during a war. "Birds" takes place in Turkey at the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the modern Turkish state. Greeks and Turks, some of each of whom are either Muslim or Christian, and most of whom happily rely on each other's religions when it suits their needs (Muslim woman concerned for her soldier son asks her friend to "light a candle to the Virgin for me"), live together in simplicity and peace until WWI starts far away in Europe. Turks and Greeks are forced to choose sides in a war that has nothing to do with them. And then religion and nationalism imposed by others starts ethnic cleansing, forcing Greeks who don't speak Greek to leave Turkey for Greece, where they are shunned, and Turks are forced from Greece to Turkey. The small town life and ambiance is destroyed, the friends and fellow citizens scattered, and no one has a clue about what it is all about. A poignant, anti-war story, and for me a reminiscence of my time in Turkey and Greece. I recommend this book to anyone who still thinks that war is an answer to any problems, and to all who think that Muslims and Christians can't live in peace and harmony together.
Laura Juraska , Associate Librarian for Reference Services
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My suggestion for summer reading is: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from the French). It is tender and funny, and a sly critique of French social conventions.
Leila Kawar, Visiting Instructor in Politics
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I have just finished reading the new autobiography by Harold Varmus, The Art and Politics of Science. Dr. Varmus was the director of NIH under Clinton and the co-winner of the Nobel Prize in 1989 for his work on oncogenes, and he is now the director the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The book is a generally well written summary of his career and his opinions of and his involvement in the major health issues of our day. Written for a general audience, I learned a lot about retroviruses, oncogenes, stem cells, Congress, pharmaceutical companies, publishing companies, and open access journals.
John E. Kelsey, Professor of Psychology
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Here are two suggestions for the book list, each arguably a "coming of age" story but from distinctly different cultural contexts and literary styles: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006) Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1920)
Nancy Koven, Assistant Professor of Psychology
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Home by Marilynne Robinson; Memorial Day by Vince Flynn; Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo; American Babylon by Richard John Neuhaus; Christ the Lord by Anne Rice.
Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater
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The English Major by Jim Harrison (N.Y., Grove Press, 2008)
Works by this modern master now come fewer and farther between, sparser and at times even less erudite than previous writings, but nonetheless still brilliant: here an academician in mid-life crisis roams the western landscape with a younger woman.
Dark summit: the true story of Everest's most controversial season by Nick Heil (N.Y., Henry Holt, 2008)
Could things on our highest mountain get any worse after the 1996 disaster (see Into thin air)? Well, ten years later, in a world that is as ever totally unforgiving to careless humans, risky expeditions and unscrupulous outfitters have done it: eleven deaths, two abandonments, and recriminations galore.
Jim Lamontagne, Ladd Library Assistant, Cataloging
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What is the What? by Dave Eggers, and if I have never given you this before, and even if I have,Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry, by Elizabeth McCracken
Peter Lasagna, Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach
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I'm on a mystery jag. Margery Allingham's brilliant Albert Campion mysteries. A real delight. And, Akunin's two different mystery/detective series. Great distractions.
Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology
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Book of Embraces (Eduardo Galeano); L'Assommoir (Emile Zola); Design in the Age of Darwin: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright; (Stephen Eisenman)
End of the World Book: A Novel (Alistair McCartney) The Night Watch (Sarah Waters)
Perrin Lumbert, Library Assistant-Interlibrary Loan
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Grown Up Digital by Dan Tapscott. Here's a link to the book's site.
Ethan Dahlin Magoon, Online Media Producer, CMR
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Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
This is the intriguing story of Trond, an aging, grieving man living in a self-inflicted isolation. He has given up his former life for a solitary existence partially out of a life-long yearning to be left alone, but mostly out of grief for the sudden death of his wife. But when he realizes that his new neighbor is a figure from his past it triggers a host of feelings and memories that Trond has been trying to avoid for a long time, and in flashbacks we are taken back with him to the summer of his fifteenth year — a summer that forever altered the course of his life. Beautifully written and memorable!
Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
Based almost entirely on the life of Ines Suarez who lived from 1507 to 1580, this is the historical fictional account of life in the 16th century and the birth of a nation. I love Allende’s wonderful descriptions and just as in her book, Zorro, she brings her characters to life. Poor and nearly destitute, Ines had a rough life in Spain. Alone because her husband has left to make his fortune in the new world she eventually sets out to search for him. When she arrives Ines learns he has been killed. Determined to make a new life for herself Ines decides to remain in the new colony. She eventually meets Don Pedro de Valdivia, field marshal of Francisco Pizarro. Together they undertake the founding of the country of Chile. You will not be able to put this book down!
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The book starts when the main character, Towner, receives a call from her brother telling her that her 80-something-year-old Great Aunt, a lace reader, is missing and she must return home to Salem, Massachusetts. The reading of lace had been a tradition of the all the women in their family, and Towner was no exception. Although she wants no part of it anymore, she loves her aunt and feels she has to face her bad memories and go home. Towner returns after being away for over 15 years and is immediately immersed in all the troubles of the past. It is interesting to follow the writing of author Barry as she writes through the eyes of Towner, who sometimes lives in her dreams of the past. The story moves quickly as you try to determine if what Towner is thinking is real, or the memories from childhood twisted over time. Interesting information about lace reading and lots of surprises in this book!
Mary Main, Director of Human Resources
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This year, my three personal favorites are recent reads: Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
I finished it just before her Pulitzer Prize was announced, and was happily surprised that she received recognition for a really special book. All through the book, I felt: "I know these people. I know this town—maybe better than the people I really know, and the town where I really live." But what I can't understand is how a young woman from the Class of 1977 knows how it feels to be as old as the characters she creates.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 60's—as seen through the stories of black "maids" in upperclass white households, written by a young white woman who has grown up in the culture and encourages the middle-aged women to tell her their stories. The stories are powerful, chilling, and especially shocking to me, as a college student from the 60's. Perhaps reading it then would have made me more of an activist.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A book of letters, written in the aftermath of World War II, about the residents of Guernsey, and a writer who comes to the island by a chance connection. Her involvement with characters who grow real though their letters and telegrams weaves a heartwarming story of love, quiet heroism, friendship, and loyalty over time.
Judy Marden, Bates Retiree and Class of '66
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History: A Novel by Elsa Morante. Trans. by W, Weaver
Set in WWII in Italy, Morante explores the intersection between individual lives and the larger forces of political events in a way that is utterly compelling and authentic. Never preachy, Morante forces us to see that we are always subject to political forces, even when we don't want to be. Morante herself went into hiding from the Germans during WWII in the mountains south of Rome. She won several awards for her novels and is one of Italy's premier authors.
Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson
He came and spoke here. His book celebrates those moments when we are not quite right with the world and our lives, and when we are compelled to reflect and generate new ideas and new ways of being in the world.
Lisa Maurizio, Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies
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The Oregon Files are a group of novels written by author Clive Cussler and co-author Craig Dirigo and later co-author Jack Du Brul. The books follow the mysterious "Corporation" and its leader Juan Cabrillo. Juan Cabrillo is Chairman of the Corporation, a special US Government-sponsored group that operates out of a ship called Oregon, a marvel of scientific research equipment bristling with state-of-the-art weaponry - but disguised as a heap of junk. Cabrillo and his crew of mercenaries with a conscience are able to cross the high seas in their 'rusting' tub unmolested, seeking out those beyond the arms of the law and dealing out justice to any who would plot chaos on a global scale. The Oregon Files series currently consists of 6 books: Golden Buddha (2004), Sacred Stone (2004), Dark Watch (2005), Skeleton Coast (2006), Plague Ship(2008) and Corsair (2009).
Karen McArthur, Systems Administrator, ILS
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My favorite book this year was Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was probably on last year's recommended list. I also liked Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan, "a historically imagined novel that is at once fully versed in the facts and unafraid of weaving those truths into a story that dares to explore the unanswered questions of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney's love story." In line with our Bates year of contemplating food, I recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp (I love every book by Kingsolver) and, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Here if you need me: A true story by Kate Braestrup. A wonderful memoir by the chaplain to the Maine Warden Service.
Laurie McConnell, Academic Administrative Assistant , Carnegie lobby desk,
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I'm not one who usually reads autobiographies, but I recently picked up the book, What's It All About by Michael Caine. His writing style is friendly and conversational, as though he is telling his story face to face with the reader. His story as a struggling actor making it into the limelight of celebrity carries you on a personal journey that is laced with comedy and sadness. With the pending release of yet another acclaimed movie, one may be interested to learn what life experiences made him the person and actor that he is today.
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator-College Store
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The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie — One of the best books I have read in recent memory. An engaging story, memorable characters, and a dynamic writing style. And the extreme controversy surrounding the novel only makes it more appealing! A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry — This is a story about India in the 70s, during the State of Emergency. Four strangers are thrown together and are forced to live together and grow, learn, and develop together during troubling times. A very moving and deeply emotional story. The Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky — A very long, very interesting Russian novel centering on the four Karamazov brothers and the murder of their father. It combines courtroom drama with mystery with many musings on man's place in the world and the existence (or lack thereof) of God. Gripping and powerful! Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan — A story that centers on a fateful trip to Burma. Narrated by the ghost of the trip organizer who dies before the trip commences. This book includes a lot of historical fact regarding Burma. A very engaging and interesting read. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver—This book is about a family of missionaries who are working in the Congo. Each chapter is narrated by a different daughter. Another book that integrates the actual history of the Congo and its post-colonial history.
Andrew McGeehan, Housing Coordinator and Residence Life Assistant
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Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004)
Only 247 pages, this was a surprisingly rich and welcome meditation each night. Really fine, spare writing. Readers are transported to a small town in 1950s Iowa, where we get to intimately understand John Ames, an old Congregationalist minister with a young second wife and a six-year-old son. Ames is dying of heart disease, and he is crafting a family history and memoir to leave behind for his boy. At the same time, he is feeling conflicted about how much he should say to his wife about a friend's son who left Gilead in disgrace but recently returned, befriending and bonding with his wife and son. It is truly wonderful how the author gets inside the head of this 80-year-old man and shares his thoughts as he is approaches the end of life, and the peace he wants to make with life. (This novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005.)
Bryan McNulty, Director, Communications and Media Relations
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The Gathering by Anne Enright - The Irish family can be a rich trove of sadness, and Enright mines it as few can. The Art of Strategy by Dixit and Nalebuff - Game theory offers myriad strategic insights. Here those insights are illustrated with examples from everyday life, business, and sport. An easy introduction to better strategic thinking.
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics
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Here are some great books I've read lately: Thinking In Pictures: My Life with Autism(Expanded Edition), by Temple Grandin — A very interesting perspective on the world. I learned things in this book — about animals, about the different ways people think, about 'disorders,' and so much more — which, I think, will forever influence my own perspective on the world. It certainly has defended my desire for lots of hugs (or squeeze machines) — you'll know what I mean if you read the book! Water for Elephants, but Sara Gruen — This book sweeps you up, right along with its protagonist, onto the traveling circus train.
Boy's Life, by Robert McCammon — This book is filled with the magic of being young but also the realities of change and the passing of time. It takes place in a small, Alabama town, but every chapter is action and imagination-packed, from shoot-outs to dinosaurs. McCammon encourages nostalgia in the reader, not only for the innocence of childhood, but that time in history, not too long ago, in which people were sure that "the world'll always need milkmen." But he also plays close attention to the darker facts of life (and death), using clever metaphor and skilled writing to blur the lines between fact and fiction, and to ask us to question the need for this distinction in the first place. Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan — This might be a cliche choice, but, more than any other book, this has made me rethink my lifestyle. I like that Pollan not only presents the problems with our current food consumption, but offers more efficient solutions. The book is full of wellthought-out points and counter-points which force you to chew on your own daily decisions, as well as lots of tasty factoids. I just fine Pollan's writing so persuasive, and yet so honest and common-sensical.
Aubrey Nelson, Americorp VISTA
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Leo Lerman, The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman. Knopf, 2007
Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Algonquin Books, 2005
Bob Morris, Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with My Dad. Harper, 2008
Max Birkbeck, Deconstructing Sammy (Davis, Jr.): Music, Money, Madness, and the MobAmistad, 2008.
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (A Novel). The Free Press, 2008
Charles Nero, Associate Professor of Rhetoric
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Two novels I enjoyed this year: The Swarm by Frank Schätzing is a big, fat thriller for readers who love science as well as speculation about alien forms of intelligence. If you don’t enjoy science fiction, you might still enjoy this thriller because the alien form of intelligence turns out to share the planet with us. The story explores possible outcomes of our unsustainable ways of treating the world’s bodies of water.
Mr. Emerson’s Wife by Bates graduate Anne Belding Brown is a fictional imagining of the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s second wife, Lydia(n). She was a fascinating member of the transcendental circle, who may or may not have reacted to Emerson’s request that she modify her common name to the less common Lydian, as Brown has her do. But whether she spoke up or not, we understand something about the shape of the marriage to come.
Georgia Nigro, Professor of Psychology
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The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel
A short read, certainly a summer beach read. Angela tells her hilarious stories of being broke in college. Great comical detail and a fun read.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
You probably already have this suggestion, as it was a big seller this year. But this is an excellent book and a great graduation gift! Highly recommended.
The New Kings of Nonfiction - Edited & Introduced by Ira Glass (NPR's "This American Life")
A great collection of short non-fiction stories by popular names such as Malcolm Caldwell and Chuck Klosterman.
Sara Noyes, Residence Life and Student Activities Assistant
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The Air We Breathe, by the great Andrea Barrett, is a brilliant, transcendent book. Written in the first person plural (go figure, but for a reason), it chronicles the lives of inmates at a New York TB sanitorium, hitting on class, immigration, anarchism, women in science, public health, power, and of course love, deception, healing landscapes, big meals, revenge: this book has everything! Go immediately to the College Store and buy it! The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery is a very different book but has some of the same themes about class, knowledge, and humanity. Its protagonist is the concierge of a swanky apartment building in Paris who is compelled to hide her formidable intellect, till she is discovered by two other outsiders. A great book about why it matters to educate yourself. And I did read and love Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout ’77, long before it won the Pulitzer Prize. Life in a small Maine town told in a series of precise and unnerving stories. Liz Strout has an uncanny ability to make you love and loathe a character at the same time: so lifelike!
Kerry O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the Faculty
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I wish I could remember the others I've read this year, but those are ones that stand out to me. The Latehomecomer, A Hmong Family Memoir, by Kao Kalia Yang The author is a young woman, not too much older than our students when she wrote this. She writes beautifully about her experiences as her family is resettled in Minnesota after the Vietnam War. I Remember Warm Rain, Telling Room's Story House Project This is a collection of writings by immigrant and refugee teens living in the Portland area. It is a very quick read that provides a glimpse into the lives of these young adults as they begin to make their ways here. Godmother, The Secret Cinderella Story, by Carolyn Turgeon This is the Cinderella story from her fairy godmother's point of view. It is an interesting take on the story, one you don't expect at all. It would be a great choice for a book group. On the darker side, though.
Karen A. Palin, Lecturer in Biology
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Here are two novels I'm very excited about: Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Jim Parakilas, Music, James L. Moody Family Professor of Performing Arts
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I recommend The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. It is the story of an autumn's adventures of a very quirky family of four young (ages 4-12) sisters and their dad. The characters are marvelous: quirky, like I said, and some nerdy, some obstinate, all well-meaning and very accepting of one another. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments.
Liz McCabe Park, Director, Maine Campus Compact
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I'm just finishing up Wally Lamb's newest novel, The Hour I First Believed. I gave it to Ian, who loved Lamb's previous novel, I Know this Much is True, for Christmas. He recommended I read it but be prepared. It's not for everyone, and it brings in the Columbine tragedy and images thereof in a big way, but if you like Lamb's other books, you should like it. I still think I like his previous one better. I also have been reading..."They were very beautiful. Such things are" : memoirs for change from Dadaab, Kenya and Lewiston, Maine, which I've enjoyed very much. In a different genre, Julian was telling me about the wellknown juvenile fiction novel Holes, by Louis Sachar, which I had come upon in one of my cleaning forays. I knew the other 2 kids had read it and that a movie had been made of it, but he piqued my curiosity, so I read it, quickly of course (a treat in itself). I liked it!
Ian and Julian are Carole's sons — Editor.
Carole Parker, Library Assistant-Acquisitions
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I would like to recommend Kenneth Roberts' novel Lydia Bailey. With action ranging from New England in the early 1800's, to Haiti during Toussaint L'Ouverture's rebellion, to the Barbary Coast, this novel is fairly typical of Roberts' style. It is a little bit detective story, a lot of adventure and a little bit of romance, extensively researched with plenty of historical details.
Heather L'Hommedieu Perreault, Assistant Director, Financial Offices