As autumn leaves set campus ablaze, it is clear that the days of summer bliss and reading simply for pleasure are behind us as homework and responsibilities add up. With the “Twilight” series holding its grip on best-seller lists across the country, it is hard to think there is anything else on the shelves worth reading. Talk to professors and students in the English department, though, and you will get enough book recommendations, none of which deal with vampires, to last you the entire year. Anna Keesey
Assistant professor of English Anna Keesey said she tends to read selections recommended by her writer friends or books that were influential to her favorite writers. Keesey also said she reads a lot of nonfiction and books that are not very popular right now. “I tend not to read newly written books,” Keesey said. “I tend to read those five to 10 years later because there’s just not enough reading time in a lifetime, so I don’t want to read something that’s not worth my time.” Keesey pulled these recommendations directly from the shelves that line her office walls and tried to find ones that students would not run across in school or find easily at a bookstore. Three fiction books Keesey recommended are “So Long, See You Tomorrow” by William Maxwell, “The Fountain Overflows” by Rebecca West, a favorite of Keesey’s, and “Endless Love” by Scott Spencer. “I always recommend ["Endless Love"] to college students, because I think that it is one that maybe you need to be young to really love,” she said. Keesey also recommended various nonfiction books that were influential to her when she was young. Two of those books are “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner, a book on the politics of water in the Western states, and “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts, a book about the AIDS epidemic. “[Shilts' book] is [one of] the [most] page-turnyist nonfiction books I’ve ever read,” Keesey said. “It’s written in a really exciting way. You get to see all the people who are involved in it from the very beginning. It’s just fascinating.”
1. The Boys of my Youth – Jo Ann Beard 2. True Grit – Charles Portis 3. Flaubert’s Parrot -Julian Barnes 4. The Mountain Lion – Jean Stafford 5. The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
Q: What books would you take with you on a deserted island? A: Give me Moby Dick, the collected poems of Emily Dickenson, Hamlet and the Bible, and I’m good. Laura Allison
Senior Laura Allison would put “The Great Gatsby” on her list of recommendations, along with historical fiction and comic books. “I like ‘real books.’ You know, like, ‘The Great Gatsby’ or books you read in high school [that] you didn’t really get,” Allison said. “You go back to it again and you’re like, “‘Oh, this is really good.’” One title she would recommend is “The Watchman” by Alan Moore, a novel about superheroes during the Cold War era. “They are really interesting characters psychologically because theyÕre kind of screwed up, flawed characters, but they’re still heroes trying to save the world,” Allison said. When it comes to finding a good book, Allison said she goes through a bookstore, finds the ones that look interesting and adds them to a list of books she wants to read. Allison said she is drawn to books that make the reader care about the characters and have interesting prose and plot twists.
1. The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory 2. The Watchman – Alan Moore 3. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury 4. Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri 5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Q: What books would you take with you on a deserted island? A: The Other Bolelyn Girl, The Watchman, [and] The Illustrated Man. Lex Runciman
Professor of English Lex Runciman’s office, like Keesey’s, is also overflowing with books. He was prepared to recommend three books he read during the summer: “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “Bodies in Motion” by Thomas Lynch and “What Narcissism Means to Me” by Tony Hoagland. “Summertime reading for me falls into two categories,” Runciman said. “The first one is reading books I’m pretty sure I won’t teach, and the [second] is books that I might teach and I need to find out whether I should or could or want to.” From the humorous-yet-touching essays of Lynch, an undertaker in real life, to the contemporary account of what it is like to live, to the offbeat poetry of Hoagland, Runciman’s summer reads cover a variety of topics and tastes. How Runciman finds these books is quite simple. “I ask people like you what they’re reading,” Runciman said. Taking a tip from one of his advisees, he began reading “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of the summer. “I started it in June and finished it three days ago,” Runciman said. “But at some point I was liking it so much that I was rationing how much I was reading because I wanted it to still seem like summer every time I picked it up.”
1. The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri 2. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy 3. Bodies in Motion – Thomas Lynch
Q: What books would you take with you on a deserted island? A: The collected poems of Elizabeth Bishop, collected [works of] Shakespeare and Moby Dick.
Senior Thomas Ross said one of the best books he ever read is “Nothing in Sight” by Jehns Rehn. “I read it all in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down,” Ross said. “I started it in the afternoon, and I read very, very slowly, and I read it through the night.” The novel is about a German and an American soldier who end up stuck together on a buoy after blowing up each other’s vessels. “It’s a really powerful novel [and] a lot about the difference between being dead and dying,” Ross said.
1. White Noise – Don DeLillo 2. Nothing in Sight – Jens Rehn 3. The Confessions of Max Tivoli – Andrew Sean Greer 4. Timoleon Vieta Come Home: A Sentimental Journey – Dan Rhodes
Q: What books would you take with you on a deserted island? A: I’d probably take “White Noise” and “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pinchin, books that are huge that I’d probably need to read again. “Nothing in Sight” [as] it would represent my situation very well, and a book of James Tate’s poetry.