2006 Summer Reading List

Sarah Potter

Each spring, the College Store solicits from members of the Bates community their suggestions for good summer reads:

Lee Abrahamsen, Associate Professor of Biology:

Blink   — The Power of Thinking WithoutThinking by Malcolm Gladwell
This very engaging book explores the value of making decisions in a moment — in the blink of an eye. Some part intuition, some part experience, and some part keen observation, Gladwell shows us how (and why) our split-second decisions are often just as useful as the decisions we obsess over. Gladwell has written for the New Yorker and the Washington Post, and his style is clear and connected. I enjoyed this one, and am looking forward to reading his other best-seller, The Tipping Point.

•  •  •

Martin Andrucki, Charles A. Dana Professor of Theater:


Just finished rereading J. Conrad's Secret Agent, a deeply ironic vision of suicide bombers, circa 1890, written in 1907. Read it and see how little has changed.

Also, G. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, another thriller about nihilists, same era as the Conrad novel, equally relevant.

•  •  •

Aslaug Asgeirsdottir, Assistant Professor of Political Science:

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel

A delightful book about an unusual child. Very funny.

Appetite for Life: A Biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch
Great book about a fascinating woman whose career began in earnest in her 50s.

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now by Gordon Livingston Well the title says it all. Livingston has some interesting observations about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

An African in Greenland by Tete-Michel Kpomassie
A biography about a Togolese man who reads about Greenland as a young boy and is determined to visit the frozen tundra of the north.

•  •  •

Pam Baker, Helen A. Papaioanou Professor of Biology:

One I really liked was City of Djinns by a British travel writer named William Dalrymple. It was the best portrayal of the Delhi we were living in as any we came across.

•  •  •

Anna Bartel, Associate Director, Harward Center for Community Partnerships:

I've been reading lately:
Gail Godwin's Evensong
Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow
Jane Austen out my ears
Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti mysteries (set in Venice; much fun)
Len [Anna’s spouse] has been reading Seth Godin, especially All Marketers Are Liars.

•  •  •

Terry Beckmann, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer:

Mary Higgins Clark: Two Girls in Blue

•  •  •

Sarah Bernard, Programmer Analyst:

I would like to recommend Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer (a Maine author). A very enjoyable read about an artist who inherits an island on the coast of Maine from her (great?) uncle. Great beach reading!

•  •  •

Jane Boyle, Library Assistant, Public Service:

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

•  •  •
Dennis Brown, Office of College Advancement:

The Mermaid's Chair, Sue Monk Kidd

An enjoyable, relatively light and imaginative read that offers perspective and insights into the dynamics of long-term relationships and how they grow or die.
When Religion Becomes Evil, Charles Kimball

A timely distillation by an ordained Baptist minister and noted academic theologian of his decades of experience and observations of the inherent dangers in fundamentalist approaches to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions.

•  •  •

Marita Bryant, Assistant in Instruction in Geology:

Roadside Geology of Maine by D. W. Caldwell

Engel in Tiefflug by Heite Gerbig

This is a mystery series set in post-war Berlin, an interesting series if you are into Berlin and read German.

•  •  •

Ann Bushmiller '79, Trustee:

Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner

Made me want to cook!

•  •  •

Sean Campbell, Director of Leadership Giving:

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I read it last summer — LOVED it.

•  •  •

Ned Carr, Assistant Treasurer:

Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill

It's about how the ancient Jews, through the development of a moral and legal code of conduct (Ten Commandments et al.), really set the tone and many of the specific details for the Western world's present-day moral, ethical, and legal framework.

•  •  •

James Charlesworth, Bookstore Stock Assistant:

First, a couple Maine things:

Fair, Clear, and Terrible by Shirley Nelson

This non-fiction chronicles the Shiloh movement — a Christian-fundamentalist sect, the remnants of whose decrepit fortress still stand on the sand hills above the Androscoggin River in Durham. What makes the story interesting (aside from the local stuff and the megalomaniac at its center) is the personal approach: the author’s parents spent their adolescence as members of the group and met at the compound just after the turn of the century. (And no, this is not a shameless pitch to get people to buy the lovely hardcover copies on display at the college store for the astonishing price of only $9.95.)

We’re All in This Together by Owen King

I’m happy to be the first person ever to recommend this book without mentioning it’s by the son of Stephen King. (Oops.) The short stories that comprise the second half aren’t so hot, but the novella that kicks it off is pretty special. Set in Maine, it tells the story of George, teenage son of a single mother and grandson of a union organizer obsessed with the 2000 election. Anthony Doerr put it best when he called it “hilarious and frequently bizarre but always — somehow — deeply sincere.” And, I think it’s getting ready to come out in paperback.

Some other older stuff I just got around to recently:

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

If you’re suspicious of any novel capable of spawning a big-trailer movie starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, good for you. But don’t blame Louis if his book got Hollywood-ed. This one has all of his trademark humor and pathos and strangeness, and, unlike some of his other stuff, he manages to keep it all together right to the end.

Salt by Earl Lovelace

This one had me from the opening sentence: “Two months after they hanged his brother Gregoire, king of the Dreadnoughts band, and Louis and Nanton and Man Man, the other three leaders of African secret societies, who Hislop the governor claimed to be ringleaders of an insurrection that had a plan, according to the testimony of a mad white woman, to use the cover of the festivities of Christmas day to massacre the white and free coloured people of the island, Jo-Jo’s great-grandfather, Guinea John, with his black jacket on and a price of two hundred pounds sterling on his head, made his way to the East Coast, mounted the cliff at Mananilla, put two corn cobs under his armpits and flew away to Africa....” (Actually, that’s only the first half of the first sentence, but my fingers got tired.)

The Fall of a Sparrow by Robert Hellenga.

Hellenga seems to know a little bit about everything from classical literature to the blues, from Plato to NATO. Here he pulls it all together to tell the story of a Midwest classics professor overcoming the senseless death of his oldest daughter in an Italian terrorist bombing. (He also has a new novel out in hardcover called Philosophy Made Simple.)

Last but not least, I’ll also pre-recommend two new novels coming out in the fall:

A new one by Jane Hamilton, author of Map of the World, and Short History of a Prince, among others. And the new one by Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander, who’s kept us waiting for a while.

•  •  •

Margaret Creighton, Professor of History:

I have been listening to audio books and haven’t done much reading lately that I would recommend. However, my mother often recommends to others Saturday by Ian McEwan.

•  •  •

Marty Deschaines, Volunteer Office Coordinator:

March by Geraldine Brooks

Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
Abide with Me, Elizabeth Strout '77
The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger, Lois Lowry
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling

•  •  •

Vicky Devlin, Vice President for Advancement:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I was conflicted about wanting to read this book, but it was a gift so I decided to soldier through. Grief is not an easy topic. It is an amazing book; Didion is a magical thinker.

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

While this is non-fiction, it reads like a detective story. It is the story of the discovery of a lost Carravaggio. The characters alone make it a book that is difficult not to read in one sitting.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout '77

A beautifiully written novel set in small town Shirley Falls, Maine. A minister suffers through a personal crisis that changes not just him but his entire congregation.

The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard

A crash course about the geology, settlement, social history, triumphs and challenges of life on the Maine coast. A great book of insights and information for someone "from away."

•  •  •

Elaine Dumont, Dining Services:

Anything by Tom Robbins!

•  •  •

Ken Emerson, Associate Director of Human Resources:

I submit for my wife Melinda two books she read this past year by Michael Ondaatje. In the Skin of a Lion which is a predecessor book to his more famousThe English Patient. She did not know he was the author of the English Patient when she read In the Skin of a Lion and was pleasantly surprised when The English Patient carried on the tale.

Also, anyone enjoying outdoor adventure would find Nevada Barr's mysteries featuring the exploits of National Park Ranger/sleuth Anna Pigeon to be an easy fun read. However, I'm told that herHard Truth novel was somewhat of a disturbing departure from her usual yarn.

•  •  •

Melinda Emerson [spouse of Ken and submitting for herself!]:

Just wanted to add a book to the "Must Read" list, if it hasn't been put there already. It’s called The Travelers Gift, by Andy Andrews. A great story and an even GREATER lesson, we could all take to heart. My father in-law gave it to us for Christmas.

Paul Farnsworth, Project Manager, Facility Services:

Give Me a Break by John Stossel

1776 by David McCullough (like this one hasn't shown up on your lists)

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Applied Economics by Thomas Sowell (The Bates library has this one)

Through a Howling Wilderness by Thomas Desjardin (I'm biased on this one. I went to high school with Tom. Tom's recent presentation at the Lewiston Public Library was very good.)

•  •  •

Rob Farnsworth, Visiting Assistant Professor of English:

William Trevor,The Story of Lucy Gault (short novel)
Alice Munro, Runaway; Selected Stories (short stories)

John Banville, Athena (novel)
Tobias Wolff, Old School (novel)
Peter Carey, My Life As A Fake (novel)
Brian Turner, Here, Bullet (poems)** excellent, vivid work by an Iraq and Bosnia vet Kay Ryan,Niagara River (poems)
Seamus Heaney, District and Circle (poems) due out in the US soon.
Andrea Barrett, Servants of the Map (stories)

•  •  •

Sylvia Frederico, Assistant Professor of English:

I liked Elizabeth Strout's Abide with Me

•  •  •

Erin Foster Zsiga, Assistant Dean of Students:

My book is one I read to my 22-month-old son every night. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Nightby Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. It is a rhyming story about going to bed. These authors also writeHow Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food.

•  •  •

Rebecca Fraser-Thill, Visiting Instructor in Psychology:

Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
A startling story collection. Particularly remarkable are her use of ordinary details that typically go unnoticed but that tell so much about character. My personal favorite is the first story, “A Temporary Matter,” about a couple’s life after having a still-born child. Remarkably, painfully rendered.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
I revisited this classic for a reading series in my local library and I’m so glad that I did. To find such a pitch-perfect voice, depth of character, and resonance of theme in a book that’s also a true page-turner is, in my opinion, all too rare. This is a book worth revisiting every few years.

Any Bitter Thing
, Monica Wood
This novel about a woman who reexamines her past after being hit in a hit-and-run is captivating because of its structure (it moves backward in time while simultaneously moving forward) and the realistically flawed characters. Monica is a Portland-based writer with whom (full disclosure) I’ve taken classes, but I honestly would’ve loved this novel whether I knew her or not. A compelling, quick read.

Dog, Michelle Herman
A cute, short novel about a quirky professor who gets a dog. Not much more than that happens in the novel, but it’s a fun, quick read. And it’s short enough that I almost didn’t notice that nothing happens. Besides, can a book based around a dog really be all that bad? (Wait — don’t answer that!)

•  •  •

Rebecca Gilden, Mellon Learning Associate:

The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I've read it 4 times!)
Katz on Dogs by Jon Katz

•  •  •

Lois Griffiths '51:

All of my favorite books this year have a Maine twist!

1491: New Revelations of America Before Columbus by Charles Mann has a segment about northeast native culture, although it covers the whole hemisphere with fascinating new insights.

The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard is a human and natural history of the lobster industry, told by a native son, a real storyteller.

Through a Howling Wilderness by Tom Desjardin is a masterful retelling of the story of the Arnold Expedition to Quebec in 1775, based on the mens' journals, and garnering uniformly glowing reviews (and his mother works for Bates!)

Voyage of Archangell by James Rosier, annotated by David C. Morey, puts a new spin of the question of which river George Weymouth ascended in 1605, the Penobscot, the St. George or the Kennebec.

And it all happened here!

•  •  •

Lorraine Groves, Sales Floor Supervisor, College Store:

Daughters of the Earth by Carolyn Niethammer

Chronology of the native American Women past and present. Explores their lives and legends. Reads like rich tapestry!

Abram's Daughters a series of 5 books written by Beverly Lewis starting with THE COVENANT, THE BETRAYAL, THE SACRIFICE, THE PRODIGAL, and ends with THE REVELATION. Go right into the heart of the Amish in Lancaster County. Bittersweet with some suspense and romance.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Very interesting and good story!

Pineland’s Past by Richard Kimball

Wonderful piece of history right in our back yard!

•  •  •

Ned Harwood, Associate Professor of Art & Visual Culture:

Cat from Hue by John Laurence

Laurence was a reporter for CBS in Vietnam.

Any of Robert Goddard’s mysteries.

•  •  •

Tamara Heligman, Maine Campus Compact:

If on a Winters Night a Travelerby Italo Calvino
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

•  •  •

Leslie Hill, Associate Professor of Political Science:

For relaxing reading, anything by Alexander McCall Smith or Janet Evanovich. The audio version of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver was fabulous.

•  •  •

Bill Hiss '66, Vice President for External Affairs:

Getting ready to teach a First Year Seminar involving Vietnam and going to Vietnam with our family this spring to let our adopted daughter Jessie see her home country, I have been reading a lot of Vietnamese fiction. A great deal has happened in the last two decades; perhaps since few Americans are aware of modern Vietnamese fiction, this can be a kind of beginner's punch-list. Only with the arrival of the French in the 1850's did the Vietnamese begin to write in forms other than poetry and in Vietnamese instead of Chinese. Then after over a century of literary repression by the French and communists, there was an explosion of wonderful fiction starting in the 1980's as the economic and cultural lids began to come off. Most of this work has only been translated into English in the last decade, and while some of it is about war (the Vietnamese fought five back-to-back wars from the late 1930's through early 1980's, including the "American war"), much deals with the complex and fascinating transformation of a feudal oligarchy with an emperor through the wars into the attempt to create a pure communist economy, and now into a cautious evolution into an international market economy.

Dumb Luck, Vu Trong Phung

Regarded as a Vietnamese classic, banned in Vietnam until 1986, a funny satire of the rage for modernization and aping of the French in the late Colonial era.
Duong Tu Huong: Beyond Illusions, Memories of Pure Spring, Novel Without a Name, and Paradise of the Blind

Four expertly written novels about the last century in Vietnam, a loose series that are far more than historical novels, but collectively cover most of the time since WWII in Vietnam.

The Stars, The Earth, The River, Le Minh Khue

14 stories, some harrowing, from an author who was a girl sapper in a youth brigade. Written in the language of a patriotic soldier, but with painful and touching humor.

A Time Far Past, Le Luu

Beautifully written winner of the national prize for fiction in Vietnam, widely read there, and often cited as the most authentic, in that lots of the Vietnamese have experienced the book's description of the movement of the son of a Confucian scholar in rural Vietnam through war service to trying to adapt to the postwar world of urban Hanoi.

The Sorrow of War, Bau Ninh

Fictional account of a young soldier in war, with brutal detail and great sorrow. Of 500 men in the author’s brigade, he was one of 10 survivors.

Behind the Red Mist, Ho Anh Thai

Short stories dealing with the transformation of life in post-war Vietnam.

The Women on the Island, Ho Anh Thai

Dark humor about the bizarre economic redevelopment projects that tried to put people to work after the wars.

The General Retires and Other Stories andCrossing the River, Nguyen Huy Thiep Stories by a rural writer with a deft hand--a kind of Vietnamese Faulkner who focuses on the world he knows well.

And three anthologies:

Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion, John Balaban and Nguyen Qui Duc, eds. Seventeen short stories, organized around the geography of Vietnam: the jungles, villages, rivers, Hanoi, HCM City, etc.

Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam, Linh Kinh, ed.

A collection of short fiction, some by authors living in Vietnam, but also including several ex-pats living elsewhere. Like the African-American literary diaspora in France in the early 20th century, a part of Vietnamese fiction is from writers who left for other countries, by choice or necessity.

The Light of the Capital: Three Modern Vietnamese Classics, Greg and Monique Lockhard, edoitors and translators

Two pieces of urban reportage and 1 autobiography. Interesting reading, but more essays on Vietnamese history or culture than fiction.

•  •  •

Kimberly Hokanson, Director of Alumni and Parent Programs:

Pretending that it was work-related, I dug into Abide with Me, by Bates' own Elizabeth Strout '77. Loved it. (Also liked Liz's first book, Amy & Isabel, but like the new one better). Also recommend anything by Elizabeth Berg. For women approaching the half-century mark, I particularly recommend reading The Pull of the Moon. Also enjoyed Range of Motion, but would have read it at a less hormonally-influenced time of the month if I'd had more of an idea what it was about. Very heart wrenching.

•  •  •

Jim Hughes, Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics:

Mao: The Unknown Storyby Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
Anything but neutral, the authors spent over a decade combing archives and conducting interviews to write this biography of Chairman Mao. The compilation of information is impressive, and the work will change anyone's view of the Great Helmsman's role in China's history.
Not beach reading, or even light reading, but a thoroughly engaging read for those who like history.

John Illig, Men's and Women's Squash Coach:

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

1,000-plus pages of ingenious mayhem; set in the future, largely in Boston, in a time when even the calendar years themselves have corporate sponsors, such as 2012, "The Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment." Mind-boggling stuff. Not bad for a Williams College grad.

Sorry for shameless self-promos but I need the sales:

Pacific Dream, by John Illig

Review: editor D.W.St.John: "Unflinchingly honest, vividly told, funny, true, fascinating, exciting - - Pacific Dream is all these things. It's the best book I've read this year and I'll never forget it. John writes with a candor that's shockingly fresh and real." Review: Maine Sunday Telegram 8/7/05 L. Ferriss: "A fascinating, thought-provoking book that ranks with the very best literature on long-distance hiking." A narrative account of 2,657-mile Pacific Crest Trail hike. Book is available with reviews on Amazon; is also available 24 hours/day over the telephone at Book Clearing House: 1 (800) 431-1579.

Green Tunnel, by John Illig

Review: John Hanson Mitchell (Ceremonial Time; Trespassing; Living at the End of Time): "Just in time to counteract Bill Bryson's lumbering 'A Walk in the Woods,' here is a book by a guy who actually made it through. John Illig is light on his feet and writes with tripping prose." A narrative account of 2,147-mile Appalachian Trail hike (book formerly published by Windswept House as 'Trail Ways, Path Wise' - now out of print). Book is available with reviews on Amazon; is also available 24 hours/day over the telephone at Book Clearing House: 1 (800) 431-1579.

•  •  •

Rachel Jacques, Assistant to the VP for ILS:

Beauman: Kate Remembered

Julia Child-My Life in France

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

•  •  •

Phyllis Graber Jensen, staff writer and photographer:

Phone Ringsby Stephen Dixon
I was drawn to this novel by its cover but expected nothing. Once reading, I was swept off my feet. After a phone call in which he learns of his older brother's unexpected death, the aging narrator reminisces seemingly at random about their lives together. A series of tales about siblings and family over the course of a lifetime, Phone Rings overflows with exquisite emotion.

•  •  •

Charles Kovacs, Director of Career Services:

Hand-Me-Down Dreams. How Families Influence Our Career Paths and How We Can Reclaim Them. Mary H. Jacobsen. Three River Press, New York, NY

One of the more persistent issues in career counseling is the presence of the ‘gray eminence’ of family expectations. Students often express what their parents and family expect of them in terms of jobs, graduate schools, careers, and life. On occasion, some students express what their family expects them to major in! Clearly, students’ parents and families’ love and want only the best for the young folks in their lives. However, those expectations and hopes are often expressed in terms of what students ‘ought’ and ‘must’ do, become, think, and act. Living one’s own life is never easy; it is especially hard if you are living out another’s ideas and dreams.

Mary H. Jacobsen, a psychotherapist and career counselor, presents in some outstanding insights into the transference of generational expectations and the negative effects they can have in a young person’s life. She explains the dynamic of feeling trapped or disappointed in a career or job when one tries to live up to your “family’s wishes, rather than your own natural talents, interests, and passions.” She also touches on critical topics such as: identifying a family system and web of relationships, breaking the cycle, sibling order and gender, family values and how they work for and against us, overcoming beliefs that block change and personal success, and an outstanding section on reclaiming your career.

This book really should be required reading for every parent of a college age son or daughter or anyone who may feel the internal distress of an unhappy job. Or as a Wall Street Journal reviewer put it: “Any reader who has drifted into an unsatisfying career is likely to experience several shocks of recognition here, and to pick up helpful hints.”

10 Things Employers Want You to Learn In College. The Know-How You Need to Succeed. Bill Coplin. Ten Speed Press, Berkely, CA
It comes as no surprise that Bates graduates do well in the world of advanced studies and work: The Bates education experience and training has a profound relevancy. Bill Coplin is the director and professor of the public affairs program at Syracuse University. He identified in his book those core qualities that a college educated individual can offer to an employer. Coplin has developed a skills-based liberal arts curricular for over 30 years and has through his research and verified methodology identified 10 crucial skills groups: work ethic, physical performance, speaking, writing, teamwork, influencing people, research, number crunching, critical thinking, and problem solving. It was a delight to see the skills, work habits, and motivations the Bates curriculum instills affirmed in Colpin’s book.

Type Talk at Work. How 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job. Otto Kroeger, Janet M. Thusesen, and Hile Rutledge. Dell Publishing, New York, NY
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] is the most widely-used style preference behavior scales in the world. We offer students the option of this diagnostic information gathering instrument through confidential counseling and interpretation. Based upon the personality theories of Karl Jung, the MBTI captures the essential comfort zones of an individual’s way of being energized, taking in and processing information, and engaging the world. The unique combination of ones’ preferences results in a profile with proven behavioral relations to academics, communication needs, management styles, and a host of other critical performance expressions. Kroeger and his team focus on the work styles of the MBTI and gives one of the best analysis of type in the work place. He expresses the unique dynamic of the MBTI typologies, their needs, natural expressions, and potential strengths and weaknesses. Within the workplace he covers for each profile such issues as: leadership, team building, and problem solving styles, conflict resolution, goal setting, time management, hiring and firing, ethics, stress management, and sales. Additionally, he offers in-depth profiles of all 16 types with specific emphasis on their workplace contributions, pathways to professional growth, leadership qualities, and team spirit.

•  •  •

Paul Kuritz, Professor of Theater:

The Second World War, Winston Churchill

The Presence of the Future, George Eldon Ladd

•  •  •

Jim Lamontagne, Library Assistant-Cataloging:

A tragic honesty: the life and work of Richard Yates/ Blake Bailey
A chilling look at the troubled life of a forgotten American novelist of the 60?s-80?s. Alcoholic and manic-depressive, a Fitzgeraldian disciple with a post-WWII outlook, Yates observed middle-class angst in America in relative obscurity with only occasional critical acclaim. This thorough bio may continue a well-deserved career re-evaluation that has begun already with re-issues of works such as Revolutionary Road and Easter Parade.

•  •  •

Charlotte Lehmann, Research Technician in Geology:

Wanderlust: The Story of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

Holy Clues-The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Kendrick

What the Bleep Do We Know!? By William Arntz et al

•  •  •

Lynne Lewis, Associate Professor of Economics:

I have recently read, Marley and Me. And while it is very light reading it is immensely enjoyable for a dog lover.

•  •  •

Becky Lovett, Assistant Bookstore Manager:

I recommend two books of the pioneer West: Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart gives a remarkable view of the challenges, joys and sorrows experienced by homesteaders during the early twentieth century. And from a fictional point-of-view, Willa Cather’s My Antoniatakes you to Nebraska during the same time period. Cather’s descriptions of the weather and landscapes that defined daily life, as well as the immigrants struggling to manage, are so real that you feel the grit in your eyes.

•  •  •

Bill Low, Assistant Curator, Museum of Art:

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel.

March by Geraldine Brooks

Brooks's luminous second novel imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Kathy Low, Professor of Psychology:

March, by Geraldine Brooks

Fforde's trilogy: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, Well of Lost Plots

Elizabeth Strout, Abide with Me

•  •  •

Judy Marden '66, Director, Bates Morse Mountain/Shortridge:

One of my Baxter-in-winter buddies let me take Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief after he was finished; a story of the MacDonald clan that settled on Cape Breton Island. It inspires me to go back to that lovely land for a visit --or farther, to find a few roots in Scotland.

Just re-read Kenn Kauffman's Kingbird Highway. Kenn took off to go birding at the age of 16--dropped out of high school, and followed his passion. His mantra: "Any day could be a special day, and you just had to get outside and see..." Now, an author of many books, he teaches at Maine Audubon's Hog Island Camp for part of the summer. Sometimes he leads groups to Morse Mountain. And maybe, if I get outside on just the right day, I will finally meet him.

I still love murder mysteries as candy, and one of the best this year is Tami Hoag's Kill the Messenger. Ever wonder what being a bike messenger might feel like? Great descriptions of urban and suburban chases!
Well, one of these days, my dream is to make my most interesting book, my own diary!

•  •  •

Maggie Maurer-Fazio, Associate Dean of the Faculty:

Two books on China:
River Town by Peter Hessler
China Candid: The people on the People's Republic by Sang Ye
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

•  •  •

Lisa Maurizio, Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies:

I recommend Sacred Country by Rose Tremain.

Sigrid Nunez: A Feather on the Breadth of God
Kate Atkinson: Human Croquet

•  •  •

Laurie McConnell, Area Coordinator, Carnegie Science:

The Dive from Clausen's Pierby Ann Packer
Emotional roller coaster! Moral complexity. From the jacket: "How much do we owe the people we love? Is it a sign of strength or weakness to walk away from someone in need? Carrie Bell is 23 years old, engaged to her high school sweetheart and has had the same 'best friend' forever when her fiance is paralyzed in a diving accident. She has lived her entire life in Madison, Wisconsin and had lately been finding this life suffocating. But now, leaving seems unforgivable." Carrie's response to this dilemma makes you delve into your innermost feelings and keeps you wondering how you might react. And, of course, there is no right or wrong answer. But there is inner turmoil no matter what you decide. Provocative!

•  •  •

David McCullough, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Commencement, offered titles in his address:

For your summer list let me recommend just three, none long, all marvelous: Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, about the pioneer days in aviation and about responsibility as the core of morality; The Lives of a Cell, by Lewis Thomas, which is about fish and bats and social insects, birdsong, and the miracle of language; and read the funny, very wise essay on the devil and his ways called The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis.

•  •  •

Monica McCusker, Office Coordinator, College Store:

Cold Sassy Treeby Olive Ann Burns
I read this book as a "relief" book between a series of books I was reading and was genuinely refreshed by Ms. Burns' way of writing. It's a coming-of-age story as told by a young man living in the small town of Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia, in the early 1900's. With a keen knack for story-telling, he describes events in his family life with a focus on the personal interactions and aspirations of his patriarchal grandfather whose independent way of thinking and philosophies on life are passed on to his grandson. The author writes in the vernacular of the characters and I found myself "thinking southern" as I read. Having lived in the southern part of the country during parts of my life, I could relate to the slang and way of thinking of the people in the story. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy and enjoyable story.

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Chris McDowell, Assistant Professor of Theater:

Books I like, in no particular order:
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The story of an inflexible Baptist minister and his wife and four daughters who travel to the Congo on the eve of its revolution and independence. The book is told from the point of view of the women in the family.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Brilliant theatrical language in two parallel stories set 150+ years apart in the same English country house. The story of a young girl in the early 19th century who has an amazing grasp of theoretical mathematics and physics.

The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
Not his best known work, but a very sensitive story about a Christian family in Goa.

The Master and Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov
An early Russian surrealist novel about the Devil's visit to Moscow, Pontius Pilate and his dog, and a woman who turns herself into a witch for the love of a writer.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The story of a family of "genetically engineered" sideshow freaks. Very dark and bizarre, but hard to put down.

What's Bred in the Bone
by Robertson Davies
The life and career of a Canadian art forger. Part of a larger trilogy by Davies (the master of trilogies), all involving the fine and performing arts.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A comic look at the Apolocalypse (no, really!). For anyone who knows the writing of Terry Prachett (the author of the Discworld series), this book has all of his wit, but is set here on earth. Neil Gaiman is also known as the author of the graphic novel series The Sandman.

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Bryan McNulty, Director of Communication and Media Relations:

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. (Paperback came out in 2004.)

Of all the Founders, I think that Franklin would be the least distressed by time travel to the present day. He was amazingly multifaceted, and had such a modern and practical approach to life. He was a skeptic and world-class scientist, an entrepreneur and editorial spinmeister. Most fortuitously for the new country, he was brilliant and wise in crafting compromise, and in building French support for the United States. All of this and a great sense of humor. This is the American historical figure that I would most like to invite to a party.

Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain

This was written in 1933, but it's new to me. Brittain turned 18 in 1914, and she writes about her youth through 1925. I am not halfway through the book, but I find it fascinating to see World War I through the lens of her life, with all of its intensity, love and loss. There was certainly a more pronounced societal naiveté about the glory of war for king, kaiser and country. But we still go on making bad choices, don't we?

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Jessica Mellen, Residence Life & Student Activities Assistant:
Plum Island by Nelson Demille--a great thriller
Sloppy Firsts; Second Helpings; Charmed Thirds-- an ongoing series by Megan McCafferty--great for anybody with teenage daughters or any woman who remembers that awkward phase of life! Chick lit at its snarky best.
Lily White by Susan Isaacs--simply wonderful--about family and how they come in all forms.
A Widow for One Year by John Irving--I think one of his less-well read novels, but I really enjoyed it.

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach--absolutely wonderful--one of my favorites.
The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne--hysterical. I actually laughed out loud through most of the book--chronicles the adventures of some self-made queens in Mississippi, and includes recipes for some of the most delicious and fattening things EVER.
The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond--a very interesting look at why we do the things we do, and how close we really are to chimps!
Bone Voyage: A Journey into Forensic Anthropology by Stanley Rhine--true forensic tales, anybody who loves CSI/Bones/that genre of TV would find it super interesting.

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Erika Millstein, Biology Research Assistant:

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
Ian McEwan, Atonement

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Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics:

Handling Sinby Michael Malone - A rollicking, somewhat surreal road-trip and redemption novel.

Mountains Beyond Mountain: the Paul Farmer Story - The inspirational story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world. Farmer's unorthodox pursuit of better medical care for the indigent of the world is fascinatingly well told by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi - an enlightening window into women's lives in revolutionary Iran and the nourishment that literature can furnish to hungry souls.

Econometrics: A Modern Introduction by Michael Murray - a drug-free soporific to put on your bedside table.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss - Never has understanding grammar been so much fun.

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Dan Nein, Assistant Director of Facility Services:

Outdoor Life

Maine Sportsman

Northland Journal

All magazines—


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