One of the best things about being in college is exposure to new ideas.


A professor opens your eyes to an author and you want to get your hands on every book she has written, a block in a new area of study taps into an undiscovered passion that you want to explore in great depth, and classmates describe favorite books that you add to your reading list.


With winter break here, you will have time to read anything you want. If you are like me, you already have unread books stacked high (or loaded on your Kindle), waiting to be cracked open.


But also, you are curious about what other people are reading, always looking for new titles and authors, excited to discover a new favorite.


In the interest of discovering a new favorite, I asked several people for their reading recommendations. As always, when I put a question to the people in this community, the responses are varied, thoughtful and intriguing.


My stack of books has just gotten taller.


Steven Hayward, Associate Professor of English


Over the holidays, I’ll be getting ready for the upcoming MacLean Symposium that I’ve organized for late February on “Globalization, Literature, and Culture.” It’ll be bringing writers to campus from all corners of the globe, and I’m going to take the chance to re-read some of my favorite novels: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and NW; Rawi Hage’s Cockroach; Madeline Thien’s beautiful and unforgettable first book, a collection of short stories called Simple Recipes. Maybe what I’m most looking forward to is a new translation of one of Ondjaki’s novels–he’s the Angolan writer who was just awarded the Saramago Prize–called os transparentes.


Dick Hilt, Professor of Physics


I’m looking forward to the finale of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, which is about the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s “facilitator.”  The first two books won back-to-back Booker Prizes for Mantel.  The Mirror and the Light is the title of the third book of the trilogy.  Unfortunately, it isn’t out yet.


In the meantime, there’s the latest Alice Munro short story collection, Dear Life.  Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature—enough said.  I first met her in The Runaway, which leaves you with an apprehension you never want to feel for real.


David Mason, Professor of English


Ransom, by David Malouf. If you’re familiar with Homer’s Iliad, you might find it hard to believe anyone can give us a fresh take on the ancient material, but Australian novelist Malouf does just that. He pares the story down to one element, the meeting of enemies Priam and Achilles to negotiate over the body of Hector, and adds a surprising third character, a cart driver with a mule named Beauty, and wrings still more beauty and tragedy out of the story. Malouf is one of those great, simple prose stylists for whom every sentence matters. You can learn worlds from him.


Zak Kroger, Residential Life Coordinator for Loomis Hall


Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) by Richard Feynman – A collection of hilarious and brilliant stories from the life of Nobel-Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman. From cracking the most secure safes in the country during WWII, to decoding Mexican hieroglyphs on his honeymoon, to solving the mystery of the Challenger Shuttle explosion (because no one at NASA could), Feynman’s was constantly outsmarting everyone around him (but always made time to have lunch at strip clubs, where he would work on new physics equations). A very curious (and genius) character whose appetite for knowledge and new experiences knew no bounds.


Jessy Randall, Curator and Archivist, CC Special Collections


I’d recommend Jo Baker’s novel Longbourn, available at Tutt Library ( It’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants in the Bennet household. Elizabeth’s cross-country tromps in bad weather don’t seem as charming when you think of Sarah having to clean up the muddy mess.


Manya Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Education


I would recommend reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This first time author uses beautiful imagery to tell a tale of family, self-healing and self-discovery. His refreshing marriage of religion and modern medicine is a light-handed critique of the perhaps not-so-great human inclination to never give up.


Joan Taylor, Senior Accountant


I love the world I live in and always seek to understand it better.  Here I’ve added one book on navigation, one modern poet for the things we cannot touch but know exist, one book for what happens when we sit still for too long and one building set for living.

  • Noam Chomsky’s “Understanding Power”
  • Gabriel Gadfly Poetry
  • Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”.
  • Open-sourced Blueprints for Civilization htttp://


Jane Hilberry, Professor of English


One of my favorite books is Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness (even the title is great!), about a girl growing up in a conservative Mennonite town in Canada.  Her mother and sister have left under circumstances she doesn’t understand, and her father is virtually absent, so she is steering herself–or stumbling—through her adolescence.  The writing is absolutely gorgeous, and the book is sad but also funny and vibrant.


A book that I love that seems to fly under the radar is Rachel DeWoskin’s Repeat After Me.  It centers on a young woman teaching English as a Second Language in New York who falls in love with a troubled Chinese student.  DeWoskin has an amazing ear, and it’s worth reading the book just for the letters that the Chinese student, with his limited English, writes to his teacher.  It’s a moving and beautiful book.






Jill Teifenthaler


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