2014 Summer Reading List
Receiving 3 or more recommendations on the 18th annual list!
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, '77
Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Remedy by Thomas Goetz, '90
Submissions are listed alphabetically by surname of the submitter. The submitter's name is italicized at the end of each submission. In an effort to conserve paper, we have condensed the list with very little regard for design or spacing! We apologize for overcrowding, typographical errors or other misrepresentations.
Our annual thanks to our friends in Office Services for co-sponsoring this effort and getting the list into booklet format with blazing speed.
Compiled and edited (well, tossed together, really) by Sarah Potter, Bookstore Director 5/14
Craigbridge Hall, Book 1 by Chad Morris
This is a great book to read with or to a 7 to maybe 11 year old. It's Harry Potter-esque, about a pair of twins (one boy, one girl) who go to their grandfather's special school, where his inventions allow them to witness history (things like the sinking of the Titanic). There's a bit of a mystery, a bit of a message, and some good fun. Not worth reading as an adult (it's pretty predictable), but it would be fun with a kid.
Philomena by Martin Sixsmith
This was recently made into a movie (which I did not see). It is about the trafficking of the children of unwed mothers from a convent in Ireland to American families looking to adopt Irish children. I understand that the movie focuses on the mother's journey to find her son, while the book is written from the son's point of view. It was a sad tale with lots of complications. I'm not sure I LIKED it, but it was worth reading.
The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
This is the story of a Pennsylvania plow horse who was rescued (not a moment too soon) from the knacker's truck and how he became the world jumping champion in the 1950s. Harry de Leyer was a Dutch immigrant and horse trainer who was looking for a horse of his own to take to the top. Harry arrived late at an auction, where this big white horse had not been sold and was among those being loaded to go to the slaughter house. In a moment of weakness and remarkable intuition, Harry bought the horse. Harry's children named the horse "Snowman", and quickly made the tolerant, gentle beast part of the family. Not thinking that a big old plow horse could ever be a champion jumper, Harry brought Snowman along to be a dependable mount and tried to sell the horse - who kept running home. Harry finally got the message and resigned to keep Snowman as a lesson horse, much to his children's delight. The rest is horse history. If you like stories in which the underdog wins, and the love between a person and animal brings you to tears, this one is for you.
The Remedy by Thomas Goetz
This delightful book by our own Thomas Goetz ’90 pushes every one of my “what I want in a book” buttons. History? Check. Suspense? Check. Bad guys? Check – very small bad guys. Heroes? Check. Microbiology? (OK, this is my geek button) Check plus! Even Sherlock Holmes. Does it get any better than Sherlock??
I expected to be interested in this book (it is, after all, what I do). But I didn’t expect to LOVE it, and I really did. Written in a very accessible style, the book conveys the incredible work of the “Germ Hunters” of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, to whom we owe the revelation that bacteria cause diseases. It also skillfully weaves in the state of medicine at the time, through the story of Arthur Conan Doyle. How he came up with Sherlock Holmes has everything to do with his appreciation for the “new” scientific method being proposed by the likes of (the very French) Louis Pasteur and (the very German) Robert Koch. Who would have thought it possible to put the rise of the Petri plate and the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes in one book and make it all fit together? Bravo, Thomas!
Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology
Here is my list. The last isn't scheduled to be released until May, but that should coincide with the release of the list.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt—The Goldfinch is likely on many peoples’ summer reading list after Tartt won the fiction Pulitzer, and it is well worth the time. This story of Theo Decker, whose mother is killed and life is changed by an explosion in an art gallery, intertwines the past and present with the world of rare antiques and art.
The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose—Rene de Florentin is an orphan raised in a monastery and taught the art and science of perfumery. He becomes the perfumer to Catherine de Medici, where murder is also part of his job description. This story moves between the past and the present, exploring reincarnation and reanimation of the souls of the dead.
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore—Plain and poor, Mabel Dagmar is a scholarship student at an elite East Coast college. She is befriended by wealthy, beautiful Genevra Winslow, and invited to spend the summer at Bittersweet, the Winslow family Vermont estate, where Mabel discovers that wealth and power is the perfect camouflage for evil.
Becky Albitz, Associate College Librarian for Collection Management
Latin: Story of a World Language. Jurgen Leonhardt.
Improbable beach-read, I know, but really enthralling if you're interested in the confluence of language, literature, and history.
Lucky Jim. Kingsley Amis.
Still one of the best campus comedies.
Martin Andrucki, Professor of Theater
Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark. Appropriate reading given that WWI began 100 years ago this year.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen. A wonderful read on food in the Soviet Union.
The Mortal Sea: Fishing in the Atlantic in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster. Centers on the long history of human impact on the oceans. Timely reading as we continue to impact oceans.
Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, Associate Professor of Politics
My favorite was Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I loved the characters (and they are characters), loved the settings, and the ending was wonderful.
Also would recommend The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko. This is about going down the Grand Canyon in dory boats. We did this in 2012, with some of the guides mentioned in the book. We had high water, and the book focuses on the highest water ever and the near failure of Glen Canyon dam that led to it. Fedarko really captures what the dory boats and life on the River are like.
Cheers! It's great to have time now to read!!
Pam Baker, Helen A. Papaioanou Professor of Biological Sciences
I really like most of Ken Follett's stuff. Having read only about 2/3 of his books, I'd like to recommend Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End. Both are fairly lengthy and though they take place a couple hundred years apart, they kind of go together.
Peter Beach, Professional Machinist - Physics
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri The Psychopath Test by Jon Rosen Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch The Pema Chodron Audio Collection The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Rachel Boggia, Assistant Professor of Dance
Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley
There’s a section in Horse Heaven, a great and funny book of fiction about horse racing (training, owning, riding and what it might be like to be a horse), about one trainer’s “Tibetan Book of Thoroughbred Training,” which comprises six rules (below). In my experience as a racehorse owner — a sport where it’s soooo tempting to “hanker” for a better outcome or to bemoan misfortune— the Tibetan rules are splendid.
1. Do not pay attention or investigate; leave your mind in its own sphere.
2. Do not see any fault anywhere.
3. Do not take anything to heart.
4. Do not hanker after signs of progress.
5. Although this may be called inattention, do not fall prey to laziness.
6. Be in a state of constant inspection.
Jay Burns, editor, Bates Magazine
The best book I've read in recent years is Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. It's not very obscure, but I thought it was excellent.
Jonathan J. Cavallero, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric
On my reading list is Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. I find Hoffman's voice very compelling and am curious how the argument shapes up against the larger narrative (I already know how it ends -- or, rather, begins -- but I won't give it away :) Raluca Cernahoschi, Assistant Professor of German
Divergent by Veronica Roth The Fault in Our Stars Jo Nesbo's crime novels featuring Harry Hole The Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley Anita Charles, Lecturer/Director of Secondary Teacher Education
Jacob Hacker, Paul Pierson: Winner-Take-All Politics
It’s all about how awful elected politicians are—not all but many!
Mark C. Elliott: The Manchu Way
John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven
This is on my to-be-read list.
John Corrie, Music Lecturer
This was incredible fun to read - Big city journalist falls in love with a farmer and goes off to upstate New York. Kimball has a gift for description and the book is as much about finding a community as it is about farming.
Jon Mooallem, Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America
Mooallem's account of three different species: polar bears, butterflies and whooping cranes. This is a book about extinction, but it's also a book about the amazing efforts of various groups to protect and in some cases restore disappearing populations. Mooallem is often hilarious. Very worth reading.
And for my "Literatures of Agriculture" course this past semester, we read short stories by Ron Dash and Annie Proulx - from the latter's collection Bad Dirt the story "What Furniture would Jesus Pick" was a particular favorite.
Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffiths Professor of Environmental Studies
Fiction: Headhunters by Jo Nesbo - troubles abound for a corporate headhunter who moonlights as an art thief. A dark and twisted story by the highly acclaimed Norwegian author. Bel Canto by Anne Patchett - about a collection of party-goers, including an opera star, held hostage by a group of terrorists. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - about a teenage girl with terminal cancer who falls in love with a boy she meets at a cancer support group. A wonderfully told story. Don't let the cancer theme prevent you from reading. Don't wait for the movie. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - set in Nazi Germany during WWII, the story is about her love of books and the relationships with her foster parents, some of the townsfolk, the Jew hiding in the basement. Narrated by Death. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - about a boy in NYC coping with the loss of his father after 9/11 while he searches for the lock that fits a key he found in his father's belongings. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs - pure escapist fiction about a (criminal) fixer brought in to clean up the messy aftermath of a heist gone wrong. It's dark, but also a non-stop thrill ride. The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz - more escapist fiction about a former soldier with PTSD who's suicide attempt is interrupted by a bank robbery. He stops the robbery but his reward is to be kidnapped by the Ukranian mobster who masterminded the robbery. Non-fiction: The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan Koerner - about spate of plane hijackings that took place in the late 60s and early 70s. Fascinating. Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception by Houston, Floyd, et al. - title says it all. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing - the harrowing story of the survival of the expedition members from Ernest Shackleton's failed attempt at a transcontinental crossing of Antarctica
Grace Coulombe, Director, Math and Statistics Workshop
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh – “The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth."
Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood
I liked it, set in Maine, some twists and turns to the plot line.
Currently reading Palisades Park by Alan Brennert which is a simple but engaging story about the famous Palisades Park in NJ. The reader is brought back to the years 1925 to about 1975. The author calls Palisades Park "a love letter to a cherished part of my childhood".
Karen P. Daigler, M.A.,Senior Associate Director for Graduate and Professional School Advising, Bates Career Development Center
Stoner by John Williams. Not what you think. Rather, as Tom Hanks commented (yes, that Tom Hanks): "It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across."
David Das, Assistant Director of Off-campus Studies
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin- lengthy but well written book about the political careers of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and how they intertwined.
Police by Jo Nesbo- excellent Norwegian crime novel by one of the best.
The Ghosts of Guilt by Michael Connolly- LA murder, mayhem, corruption, and intrigue. Great read.
Light in the World- James Lee Burke. Wonderful, fast moving murder mystery.
Jerry Davis, Class of 1961
A Permanent Member of the Family, by Russell Banks (2013)
This is a collection of short stories, most of which are tragic, melancholy, or mildly disturbing in one way or another. The strongest of them sort of wash over you, and you need to put the book down and just process for a little while before you can start the next story. They're certainly not all great -- some are too predictable or trite or contrived -- but there are a couple of real gems here, too.
Don Dearborn, Professor of Biology
My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
Far from the Tree, Andrew Soloman
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
Marty Deschaines, Assistant Director - HCCP
My book of choice:
Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery by Imbrie and Imbrie
Perhaps it's a target audience, but I think it is well written, provides an interesting history of how ice age theory came to be and provides some of the big questions of today. If you are looking for something newer, try:
Fixing Climate by Broecker and Kunzig
OH! I just thought, if you can include maps on this summer reading list, add the Downeast Ice Age Trail map (copies in the book store), that I would recommend above the others as it is fun, clear, informative, and you can use it as a wall decoration! Alice Doughty, Geology Lecturer
Capital in the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Piketty
“In a review, Krugman, who appeared on Moyers & Company last week, called the book magnificent, adding: “The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to 19th century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”
Glenn Dudley, Desktop Support Technician, ILS
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children -- Probably one of the most unusual books I've read in a long time. It was originally intended to be a children's/young adult book, and that is obvious from some of the plot, but it still kept me engaged. Plus, it incorporates really cool, old, vernacular photographs, which is what hooked me and made me buy the book, which sets a wonderfully eerie tone for the entire story.
Susan Dunning, Gift Planning Associate – Office of College Advancement
I loved NoViolet Bulawayo's new novel (perhaps a collection of inter-related short stories?) called We Need New Names, following a young Zimbabwean from her girlhood among community in Harare to her coming of age in Detroit. Perhaps the tone of the book can be captured with this minor moment: In a chapter heading Darling, the protagonist, denotes the latter as 'Destroyed, Michigan'. The author manages to capture a genuine fresh voice as our young protagonist struggles to make sense of her disrupted world.
Elizabeth Eames, Associate Professor of Anthropology
This is a little different recommendation as it is a blog. diseasediary.wordpress.com or google Dis Ease Diary. The author is my brother-in-law, Bruce Kramer, now a former Dean and educator at St. Thomas College in Minneapolis, so I am close to his situation. This blog began in March, 2011 and you can go back and read the blog from the beginning. It is a journey of a man who had been recently diagnosed with ALS and his telling of the lessons learned through his Dis Ease. With ALS he is living an accelerated life, and he is learning to live with Dis Ease rather than to try and fight against it. Some of the stories and lessons are painful, others joyful but all are thoughtful and cause me to reflect and think about my own Dis Ease.
Ken Emerson, Associate Director of Human Resources
Unexplained Forest by Eleanor Morse, Maine Author
Anyone who makes the most out of the unexpected things that happen to us, will enjoy this book. Eleanor does a really good job of character building and the interweaving of people's lives.
The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel by Hazle Gaynor
Hazle weaves the past and the present so well in this novel. I loved the ending.
The Outermost House - A Year of Life on the Great Outer Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston
Love how he writes about nature. Cape Cod is calling me.
John Muir - Rediscovering America, A Biography by Fredrick Turner
I wish I could have met John Muir. He was so passionate about our Wild Planet and so against the sheer abuse (clear cutting, mining, etc) for Money. Some of his own writings are included in the book.
Madeline's Ghost by Robert Girardi
Love story, Ghost story and Mystery all rolled into one. Takes place in Brooklyn NY and New Orleans.
Historical Novel - A Daughter of Frances Martin by Virginia Chute, Biology Professor Emeritus, Robert Chute's wife
Hard to get into at first, it is written in Old English (1600's). Very enlightening book on the 1640's in New England and the Puritan faith.
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbreg
This book should be read by every woman. It can be read one chapter at a time.
Melinda Emerson, Purchasing, Sales and Accounting Specialist, ILS
With the death of Nelson Mandela earlier this year, I was moved to read an old classic, Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, and I recommend it highly. Holly Ewing, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
I urge all to read the poetry of Nobel-Prize-winning Bates honorary degree recipient Seamus Heaney, who died last September. A good place to begin is with Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996.
Rob Farnsworth, Senior Lecturer - English
A few faves, not all brand new:
Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford
Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Philanthrocapitalism by Mathew Bishop and Michael Green
When the Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott
Laura Faure, Director, Bates Dance Festival
The King's Grave, by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones: a riveting first-person account of the archaeological dig in Leicester, England which found the remains of Richard III last summer. His burial location had been a mystery for the last five hundred years! Lois Griffiths, Alumna and Retiree
W. Jeffrey Bolster, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (2012). I recommend this in part because I need to finish reading it myself. What I remember so far: a marvelous combination of social, technological, and environmental history: Why were there so many "sea serpents" off Marblehead in the early 1800s? And what does that tell us about fishing? His answer depends on all three perspectives. What I also remember: a useful warning about the challenges of regulating an ecosystem that we cannot see.
Joe Hall, Associate Professor of History
John Cole suggested I read Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Percent Solution, a very light sort of reading. I have not read it yet but sent for a copy from Amazon.com. Why not something fun for a change. Apparently there is a movie version with Lawrence Olivier et al.
Atsuko Hirai, Kazushige Hirasawa Professor Emerita of History
Joel Harrington, The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century. OK, part of me is also surprised to include a book about a 16th century German executioner as one of my “good reads.” But if you can deal with a few details not for the squeamish (torture was commonly used to speed along confessions, and corpses of the executed were often strung up outside city walls to be eaten by birds, as a public reminder of the wages of sin), this very well-written book of history uses one man as proxy for much of what was happening all over Europe at the time. The executioner inherited his post from his father, and spent his entire lifetime trying to free his family from the shame of the profession, ultimately succeeding: he was voted a citizen of Nuremberg, and his son became a physician. All over Europe, states were slowly forming around kings rather than regional warlords--think of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I establishing their authority against both feudal nobles and the Pope. People were sorting out, albeit messily, how to be a citizen instead of a serf, how to change their social and professional status, and that of their children. Even in the rough justice of that time, with many more capital crimes in part because there were scant prison options, some of the punishments were logical. Forgery, for example, was a capital crime in part because the early national states were just beginning to establish their authority to issue a reliable currency. So this executioner, complete with 5’ beheading sword, is a kind of 16th century equivalent of the Better Business Bureau, and he played his part faithfully, keeping a meticulous journal for decades that is the basis of the book. Yes, an odd topic, but a quite admirable book of history, scholarly, wide-ranging but personal.
Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. I confess to more than a passing interest in the Battle of Midway, as my father’s cousin, Raymond Spruance, commanded one of the two American task forces at this battle, the turning point in the Pacific war. The Japanese came out with four carriers, and lost them all in a few hours. There are several previous well-done books on Midway, but Shattered Sword is monumental, partly for the painstaking research, and partly for presenting the battle from the Japanese side. It corrects some long-held major errors about the battle, and is elegantly written, which cannot be said of all military history. Not an evening’s read at 640 pages, but very satisfying.
Ruth Reichl, Tender to the Bone: Growing up at the Table. Ruth Reichl is the food editor of the New York Times, so you would expect the autobiographical account of her childhood and early adult years to involve good food. It does, but is also very funny and painfully touching. Reichl’s mother was bi-polar in the years before lithium, and made the lives of her family members unpredictable, to put it mildly. Reichl fled into one off-kilter adventure after another, trying to put space between herself and her mother, and food often ends up being the salve and savior of an otherwise bizarre outcome. Most chapters end with a recipe. Not your grandmother’s cookbook, for sure, but a wonderful read.
Milton Osborne, The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future. The Mekong runs from a source high in Nepal through eight countries to end in the Delta of southern Vietnam. Largely impassible for long stretches through mountains and huge rapids, it fascinated both South Asians and especially the French, who hoped the Mekong might provide a trade route to interior China. It was never tamed for trade, played a major part in South Asian political struggles, and now is the subject of bitter national feuds as China builds massive power dams across it. Carefully written, with the personal disasters of various explorers, and covering centuries of the river’s history. A fine account, it is one of 16 books on the Mekong listed on Amazon.
Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club. A tender account by her son Will of the last two years of life with Mary Anne Schwalbe as she died of pancreatic cancer. Both Mary Anne and her son Will were voluminous and skilled readers, she as a former director of Admissions at Harvard and he as a publishing executive. As she gets progressively more ill, they form their own two-person book club, sometimes discussing a book in the waiting rooms at Sloan-Kettering, and we see her values through the lens of her reactions to the various books.
James Holland, Dam Busters: the True Story of the Inventors and Airmen Who Led the Devasting Raid to Smash the German Dams in 1943. The RAF “bouncing bombs” breached two of Nazi Germany’s major hydro dams with major destruction to war manufacturing and transport up to 50 miles downstream. In one of the greatest flying feats in history, 4-engine heavy bombers flying at night with only 60’ of altitude would drop an 8000-pound spinning cylindrical bomb so that it would skip across the top of the water over torpedo nets up to the dam.
David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. Not a quick read at 650 pages, but like The Best and the Brightest, his well-known book on America’s experience in Vietnam, a masterful piece of journalistic history, listening to people and telling their stories around the larger setting of political and military issues. Halberstam wrote 21 books, and was killed in a car accident less than a week after turning in the final typescript of this book.
Bill Hiss, Class of ’66, Retired
Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
Power Play by Danielle Steele
Joan Houston, Administrative Assistant-Facility Services
Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years By Mark Lewisohn 944 pp. Crown Archetype, Oct. 29, 2013 The first of three volumes in Mark Lewisohn's definitive Beatles biography, Tune In is the best pop-music history I've read in years, or ever. Starting with their family histories decades before John, Paul, George and Ringo were born, Lewisohn brings the reader right up to the end of 1962 and the brink of Beatlemania. The subject matter is fascinating, and Lewisohn's style even more so. He combines obsessive focus on historical detail with a supple musical knowledge and a narrative urgency that propels the reader right through this nearly 1,000-page book. A lifelong Beatles fan, I was surprised and intrigued by much of what I learned, including the facts of the fractured and impoverished social setting that produced the Fab Four. Doug Hubley, College Writer - Bates Communications Office
Big Data by Mayer-Schonberger/Cukier - The social scientists in our group thought it was intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. The less numerically inclined thought it was a good overview and introduction to the topic.
Capital of the Mind by James Buchan - This book is a wonderful introduction to Scottish Enlightenment, and for me and surprising road into the profound impact Scots, as settlers, churchmen and politicians played in the American revolution. Very accessible.
The Black Count by Tom Reiss - Alex Dumas was the father of the writer, Alexandre Dumas, who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers and the grandfather of the writer, Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the novel on which Verdi based his opera, La Traviata. The book is best described as a swashbuckling biography. Alex Dumas was an extraordinary man whose father was a disreputable French aristocrat and whose mother was an African slave in Haiti. Dumas was an unusually talented soldier and begin the general in charge of Napoleon's cavalry. An extraordinary man in extraordinary times, he is even more intriguing a figure than Edmund Dantes.
Margaret Imber, Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu and The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Two unforgettable books that explore themes about family, relationships, immigration, and politics.
Phyllis Graber Jensen, Director of Photography and Video, BCO
My own (non-work-related) summer reading includes Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? and Pema Chodron's Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. I'd also recommend Douglas Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home:How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants.
Lea Johnson, Biology
Harry Sidebottom, Fire in the East--a rip-roaring historical novel about the conflict between the Roman and Persian empires in the third century.
Michael Jones, Professor of History and Classical and Medieval Studies
Luminaries by Eleanor Catton A remarkable story, a thriller, really, but you are more actively drawn up into the setting and characters of the New Zealand gold rush era of the mid-nineteenth century by Dickensesque descriptions. Poldark by Winston Graham Yes, that's right...in preparation for an upcoming trip to Cornwall, we read the first two volumes of this series with delight, Ross Poldark and Demelsa, and little comparison to the cheaply-filmed, romantically-contrived BBC production some of us might remember. That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx All I could think is that she must have chuckled herself through the writing and weaving of this odd and amazing story of the panhandle area where the land is one of the major characters in the book. Laura Juraska, Assistant College Librarian for Research Services
I'm sure I'll be joining many others on the list when I recommend Liz Strout's ('77) The Burgess Boys. Another alum-authored book I really enjoyed this year is Thomas Goetz's ('90) The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis. Once I finished it, I quickly started sharing it with various relatives who are history buffs and science lovers, and it has much to offer anyone who's interested in medicine, public health or detective fiction too. On our summer vacation last year, one of my college-age kids insisted that I read Eric Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, and though I usually prefer fiction on summer vacation this was a very engaging read. I also want to recommend an intriguing edited collection that I reviewed for an academic outlet, which should be appealing in lots of ways to folks in their 40s or older (and also interesting to anyone who likes to think about gender and childhood): When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference it Made. It was edited by two historians, Lori Rotskoff and Laura Lovett, and includes a very eclectic set of selections by celebrities and activists and gender studies academic types (historians, social scientists, etc).
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, by Matthew Dicks. This book is so creative, and told in the most believable way. In this case, the imaginary friend, "Budo", is the narrator, and the author has written him in a way that makes you question constantly whether or not he really is a figment of a 4 year old's active imagination. The book is a quest for belief, love, and a child's unwillingness to let go of a part of himself even in the most desperate of situations. A surprise of a book but such a good read.
The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin. A hauntingly beautiful book set in the rural Pacific Northwest that captures your attention with the descriptive landscape and the slow expression of detail that the author uses to describe each character, of which there are not many, and the land itself can probably be described as the main one. It's also a story of unconventional families and the beauty of opening ones solitary heart to let in worlds of unknowns, only to find the true power of love and compassion.
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Who knew flowers could tell such a story? The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey expressions of love and romance...this book uses flowers to depict fragility and vulnerability of the human spirit. Told elegantly by dipping into the past and the present, the reader is taken on a journey that at times is heartbreaking, yet hopeful and always poignant. A random booksale find, I really enjoyed it.
The Outside Boy, by Jeanine Cummings. Probably my favorite book of the year. This story takes the reader to the world of Irish gypsy's in the 1950s, also known as 'tinkers'. It's a quest for truth about the heritage and family of a young boy, Christy, who is searching to discover his true self among familial secrets and the struggle to figure out what and where home is. From the beginning, you'll root for Christy and will hold your breath until the truths are finally revealed.
Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. You know the kind of book that from the first page, has you obsessed and wanting to spend every free moment curled up somewhere inhaling it? This is that book. It's not necessarily the best book, nor the most well-written, or even the most original story. But there's an 'it' factor here that will have you completely absorbed, late into the night, dying to find out how it ends, and when it does, racks you with sobs and leaves you utterly breathless. This is a book that did not leave my mind for several days after. If you were to read the jacket of this, it sounds light and sort of fluffy, and while there are those elements on the surface, the underlying messages are political, thought-provoking and wrenching. A perfect summer book.
Alison Keegan, Admin. Assistant and Supervisor of Academic Administrative Services
Here are some good reads (and not-so-good reads) that I've experienced this year:
Speak to the Winds by Ruth Moore -- This is the first book that I've read by Ruth Moore, a Maine writer. It's a story of the development of a Maine island and the generations of families who nurtured the community and, ultimately, nurtured feuds and divisions that threatened the island's future. Her characters are true-to-life and her descriptions of the island, landscape and seascape are wonderful. Now, if only I can find one of those "I Read Ruth Moore" bumperstickers!
When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood -- I'm so glad that this book was chosen as the "community read" for the first-years. It was a sweet, touching book that celebrates place and family.
Runaway by Alice Munro -- It took the Nobel Prize Committee to introduce me to Alice Munro and I am grateful. The first story in the collection took my breath away. She is able to draw vivid characters and situations, making every single word count. I'm looking forward to reading more of Alice Munro.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich -- I enjoyed reading Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club several years ago and this book didn't disappoint. Set 30 years or so ago, it recounts a horrible crime and how a teenage boy takes it upon himself to find the perpetrator, when the traditional investigation and prosecution resources fail because of conflicting tribal, local, and federal laws.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver -- Although I'm a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver's previous books, I couldn't finish this one. Although the subject matter is important, the characters didn't resonate with me.
Margo Knight, Director of Advancement Research
I've been reading a lot of science fiction recently, with my favorite this year being Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh (1981).
Nancy Koven, Associate Professor of Psychology/Neuroscience
I read and really enjoyed
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Lynne Lewis, Elmer W. Campbell Professor of Economics
At first I thought it was about endings, but as author Kate Atkinson drew me into her latest, Life After Life, I realized it is about beginning. The beginning of the same person over and over leads to different lives, and changes other lives and even history in this novel. Prepare to have your own narrative fade as Atkinson takes charge. Begin in 1910 … and then begin again and again.
A student browsing in the bookstore recommended Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in the U.S. and stays for 15 years, writing a blog addressing race, ideology, politics, and region in America. Adichie carves this novel so skillfully, not asking us to read between the lines or marching on with pages of dogma, instead showing us the issues on a personal level. When Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, she and her country have changed, and she discovers what remains of the core of each. A remarkable book and thank you to the student for the recommendation!
Rebecca Lovett, Assistant Manager – Bates College Store
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Ben Fountain's remarkable debut novel - a razor-sharp satire set in Texas during America's war in Iraq, it explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad.
Bill Low, Curator – Museum of Art
Hmmm. I'm going to reveal myself as a reader of British mysteries. A long time addict. I always like a good Elizabeth George, and her latest was terrific, One Evil Act. Read the whole series, however. Deborah Crombie is similar. Barbara Pym, Colin Dexter and Ngaio Marsh are all must reads. And then there's always Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey. Wonderful escapist reading. A newer fast paced read is Donna Tartt's, The Goldfinch. This year I read Strout's new book, The Burgess Boys, and liked it, as well as Powers' Orfeo. Everyone should read Wilkerson's, The Warmth of Other Suns. I also am just finishing Bunker Hill, by Philbrick. A good read if you're interested in Boston/New England history. Kathy Low, Associate Dean of the Faculty, Professor of Pscyhology
The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman
Treading Air by Jaan Kross
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Venice - A New History by Thomas Madden
Three Lives: A Biography of Stefan Zweig by Oliver Matuschek
Human Landscapes from my Country: An Epic Novel in Verse by Nâzim Hikmet
Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany by Olaf Peters
Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna
My Life In Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
A Tale for the Time Being Ruth Ozeki
Perrin Lumbert, Library Assistant, Interlibrary Loan
Faced with the very real possibility of abandoning all work just so I can comb through my Good Reads lists and select ALL my favorites, I'll list just a few here:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente: Ostensibly for younger readers this book has a timelessness reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland not to mention Valente's trademark vocabulary and rich imagery. Plenty of fun for older readers plus she's a local author (from away) who lives on Peaks Island off the coast of Portland (and also she's a friend!)
Lisey's Story by Stephen King: If you don't have a King book on the list yet, this is the one I recommend to everyone. It's a fantastic story for all readers--not just Horror fans. I certainly don't read Horrror but LOVED this.
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link: A short story collection that uses magical realism to explore what it means to be human--with beautiful writing and quirky humor.
Jennifer Lyford, Admission Specialist, Receptionist and Application Support
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
It is the summer of 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota and young boy recounts the events of a series of deaths, each under different circumstances – accident, suicide, murder. It was a compelling book that I could not put down. It recently won the Edgar Award which is the Oscar of mystery writing.
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penney
This is the latest in a long mystery series set in Quebec. You can read this as a stand alone and then go back to the beginning if you like the book. She is my favorite author, and this book will not disappoint!
Mary Main, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety
Loyalty. Ingrid Thoft. Thoft’s first novel introduces Fina Ludlow, a tough, smart young woman working in her family’s Boston law practice after dropping out of law school. Her father and brothers run the firm, but Fina serves as PI, investigating routine insurance claims. As she gets involved in the disappearance of her sister-in-law, and unearths more and more family secrets, she begins to remind me more and more of a Bostonian Lisbeth Salander. Lots of intriguing questions for her to solve; not only the core mystery, but what is “loyalty?” To whom? To what? Looking forward to the next in the series, Identity.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot. I could not put it down. First, the basic information about the origin of cells used since the 1950’s to enable so much valuable research (all new to me as a non-biologist), but even more importantly, the ethical and cultural issues behind the treatment of the donor, a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951, never knowing that some of the tumor cells removed would thrive in laboratory conditions and be instrumental in polio, cancer, and virus research to this day. Skloot works with Lacks’ children and other relatives to create an intimate portrait of the woman whose cells continue make so much research possible. She explores questions of privacy, compensation, racial discrimination, family relations, and simple friendship, with sensitivity and compassion.
White Fire. Preston and Child. Great read for a hot summer day—the snow and chills will cool you off! It’s a complex tale set in a Colorado ski resort/former mining town, featuring FBI Special Agent and his protégée as the crime solvers—sort of. Arson, bears, old bones, mysterious deaths: all the important components of a good thriller. A bonus is the clue from a long-lost Sherlock Holmes story, woven into stories from the town’s history.
Judy Marden, ’66 (and retiree)
I recommend Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 Maggie Maurer-Fazio, Betty Doran Stangle Professor of Applied Economics
This past year was spent mostly reading textbooks or books that were suggested in last year's Good Reads listing. I was very impressed with one of the books required for my current course:
Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography, by Nelson Mandela. An excerpt from the book's cover description says it best: "tells the extraordinary story of Nelson Mandela's life, an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph. . .With nearly 200 stunning photographs - many of them published here for the first time - and with text from his remarkable memoir, Long Walk to Freedom, this book captures the indomitable spirit of a moral giant..."
I also enjoyed the book, I Always Loved You, written by Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter, (a summer read for BOPN [Bates Office Professional Network] members). Her story centers on the life of American painter, Mary Cassatt, as she worked to develop and establish herself in Paris as an accomplished painter during the late 1800s. Through Mary's perspective, the reader is able to share the trials and successes of artists such as Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet; including her tempestuous relationship with Edgar Degas.
I liked the book because the author is adept with period story-telling and incorporating historical references to mannerisms and practices of Parisians during an unsettled period in history.
Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator - Bates College Store & Contract Office
Here are a few I have recently read and would recommend.
Hoosh, Jason Anthony
Roast penguin, scurvy day, and other stories of Antarctic cuisine. Anthony spent eight seasons in Antarctica and chronicles the importance of food in expeditions (Amundsen, Scott) and many others. Written in a very humorous way by a Maine author (Bristol, ME).
Seaworthy, Linda Greenlaw
A swordboat captain returns to the sea. Highlights the importance of teamwork and picking the right team, critical on a small boat but relevant to any organization. Linda Greenlaw was featured in Sebastian Junger's book The Perfect Storm and lives on Isle of Haut.
The Circle, Dave Eggers
Interesting tale of a recent graduate who finds a job at an internet company in the not too distant future. Explores how social media and metrics can become all-consuming and the challenges that are inherent in a data driven world.
David McDonough, Director Bates Career Development Center
The Cross Gardener by Jason Wright
I liked this book so much that I read it twice!
Deb McLaggan, Sales Floor Supervisor, Bookstore
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