There’s nothing like a good book to wait out a rainstorm or to soak in the summer sun at the beach.
With that in mind, Dartmouth News asked 10 faculty members and staff what one book they are looking forward to reading this summer, and why.
Answers ranged from thrillers to serious history to novels across the literary spectrum.
And being avid readers, many of the participants couldn’t help themselves and recommended more than one book to consider.
Distinguished Chair, Digital Humanities and Social Engagement; Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures, by Merlin Sheldrake.
As someone who thinks about how we are entangled in and through media, I love Sheldrake’s observation that mycelium are “an original tangle, one of the first living networks.” It’s a magical kind of defamiliarization of networks and a reconnection to networks much older than 21st century ones.
Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director, Hood Museum of Art
I read Tim Johnston’s book Descent this spring and it was fabulous. I love thrillers, but not the mind-numbing sort—this was a literary page-turner with a great plot and character development.
So, now I am about to start his follow-up story The Current. Though it is not a sequel, according to reviews it’s as nuanced and gripping as his first book. Johnston has a terrific vocabulary that brings scenes to life vividly—even describing scents as a way to add depth to our reading.
Vice President for Culture, Belonging, and Strategic Engagement
I have three summer reads that I am making my way through. First is The Night Watchman by Dartmouth alumna Louise Erdrich ’76. It was gifted to me by trustee Caroline Kerr ’05 and it’s a beautiful novel that manages to describe both the fine details and broad strokes of life on a reservation.
The second is Why Didn’t You Tell Me by Carmen Rita Wong. This memoir explores the lived experiences of a multiracial blended family who left New York City for New Hampshire. It explores ideas of family, belonging, and the importance of a sense of place.
Third is Sisterhood Heals by Joy Harden Bradford, founder of Therapy for Black Girls. This book provides a framework through which the fictive kinship of Black women can lead to connection and healing in their personal and professional lives.
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research and the William and Josephine Buchanan Professor of Management at Tuck
I am enjoying the fantastic Persians: The Age of the Great Kings by Lloyd Llewellen-Jones. It is an in-depth history of a truly fascinating and immensely important empire in the ancient world. Much as I love the book, I’ll confess that it’s taking me a while to get through because there’s so much to absorb on every page. I delve into it in spurts but then put it down for a while.
For pure escapism and pleasure, I read a lot of page-turners. I’ve just downloaded a few for my upcoming vacation, including one by George Pelecanos, whose books I always enjoy, and also the espionage thriller A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming. I have not read any of his books yet, but he’s recommended by authors I like such as Ian Rankin, so I’m hoping it’s a good holiday read.
Victoria K. Holt
Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
I loved Clint Smith’s How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America. Smith, a poet, transports you to the sites he visits—from the Angola prison in Louisiana to Jefferson’s Monticello, from Manhattan’s slave market to an event with the Sons of Confederate Veterans—where he meets people engaged in understanding (or failing to understand) America’s history of enslavement. Each chapter stands on its own, so you can carry it around if you don’t finish it in one sitting.
A great companion is the wonderful, fierce book by Dartmouth’s own Matthew Delmont, Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad. Delmont vividly documents a history we all should know, bringing to life the experiences faced by African Americans who saw the threat from Hitler early on and sought to fight him as Americans—even as racism stood in the way at home.
Both are searing, lyrical, and written with extraordinary grace (and some humor) that allows the reader to enjoy them, even as they lay bare the brutality of America’s history and the consequences of racism and slavery that we grapple with today.
Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century Professor in Computer Science
I am currently reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, a brilliantly funny book about Jim Dixon, a lecturer in the history department at a fictitious British university. Amis, having spent several years as a faculty member at University College of Swansea, brings insightful perspective on university life and departmental politics.
Up next is volume two, Everything She Wants, of Charles Moore’s superb biography of Margaret Thatcher. Growing up in the United Kingdom during the early years of Thatcher’s leadership, I strongly disagreed with her philosophy and her narrow-minded stance on the working class and trade unionism. Nevertheless, I have always been fascinated by her ascent to power as the first female prime minister in the late 1970s and her lasting impact on contemporary UK politics.
Associate Dean of Libraries, Collections and Content Strategies
Summer is always a nice time to explore things that were out of scope of past research projects, and this summer I’m reading Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle by Shannen Dee Williams. The book explores the work of these women as educators, civil rights activists, and theologians.
I’m excited to dive into the stories of these women in their work for racial justice in the U.S. as well as within the church and the book’s demonstration of the ways that secular and religious life have intertwined and interacted in recent history.
Professor of Hebrew Studies
Jürgen Leonhardt, Latin: Story of a World Language. Accustomed though I am to portraying the Asian and Middle Eastern communication space as tectonically riven between a spoken language (or several) and a daunting script and/or classical tongue—whereas the efficient West has no more time for dead languages or demanding scripts—the deep cultural and linguistic presence of Latin, historically and in our own times, proves otherwise
I look forward to Leonhardt’s argument that “dead” vs. “living” language is a false binary—and that “we have no real concept of what it means to speak a ‘dead’ language.”
Professor of Mathematics
I have recently discovered the books by Gabrielle Zevin. Last spring, I read two of her novels: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Young Jane Young. I enjoy reading fiction, and I have found Zevin’s writing to be delightfully insightful.
Associate Professor of Engineering
I’m looking forward to reading Africanfuturism: An Anthology, edited by Wole Talabi. This is a collection of eight science fiction stories from established and emerging authors of African science fiction.
The book was recommended to me by Mukhtara Yusuf ’12, visiting assistant professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, while I was sharing about the forthcoming Dartmouth Speculative Fiction Project that I am helping to develop as co-director of the Design Initiative at Dartmouth.
In this context I am taking time this summer to reflect on the relationship between speculative fiction and human-centered design in addressing complex problems in society. I’m excited to read Africanfuturism to gain some new perspectives on this question. (A PDF of the book is available for free download).
Check Dartmouth Library holdings to see if a book mentioned in this story is available.
Also, looking for recent books by Dartmouth faculty? Check out the Faculty Bookshelf, which features recent books by faculty in the Arts and Sciences.