Book Recommendations by Iulia Sprinceana

October 6, 2015

sprinceana pic

Book Recommendations by Iulia Sprinceana
Favorite book in college:

José Saramago, “Blindness” –> what would you do if you suddenly went blind? What if the whole city went blind as if stricken by an epidemic? A fascinating story unfolding the fragile balance between humanity and barbarity that modern man must negotiate.

Favorite discipline-related book:

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, “Don Quixote” –> the first modern novel, a must read for all ages alike, following the adventures of the most celebrated Spanish “Don”. Decide for yourself if the adjective “quixotic”, derived from the protagonist’s name, is a proper attribute for our hero and his endeavors. After all, don’t we all search for what he is?

Book recommendation for students:

Gabriel García Márquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” -> a multi-generational portrait of love, hatred, loyalty and treason, set in the “magical” Colombian setting of fictional Macondo, which won its author the Nobel prize. Let yourself be carried away by its wonderful descriptions of inter-cultural encounters, family customs, and a host of extraordinary events. Ultimately a metaphor for Latin American history, the novel shows how history can be repetitive and hurtful when the human agent fails to comprehend the legacy of his ancestors.

Fyodor Dostoyevski, “The Brothers Karamazov” -> a literary masterpiece; a grappling mix of drama and humor, the story of three brothers and at the same time the political and religious panorama of the Russian empire at the end of the 19th century; a rich philosophical debate encompassing faith, doubt, free will, reason etc. and the all-time conflict between tradition and modernity. It will captivate you like no other book you’ve ever read.

Stendhal, “The Red and the Black” -> young, charming, ambitious, Julien Sorel has it all to succeed. But (how) will he resist the crude social atmosphere of Paris, ruled by hypocrisy and greed? A celebrated fictional character, Julien reflects the state of the French society after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, and thus links the social with the individual.

Albert Camus, “The Stranger” -> Why does someone kill another man? What is the connection between not crying at his mother’s funeral and the (trial for) murder? Camus delves into the apathy and dehumanization of man.

Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot” -> since my encounter with Godot in college, I have been an avid reader of all his plays. Deemed a writer of the “theater of the absurd” – in short, drama lacking a plot and using nonsense and wordplay in its dialogue – Godot tackles here a critical aspect for humanity: waiting. Whether waiting for someone, to board the plane, to receive news or a package from home, or simply to learn your final grades, waiting is a foible, inflicted upon us by “modern gods” who test our resistance to a world without apparent meaning.

Theodore Dreiser, “An American Tragedy” -> – Like Stendhal’s Julien Sorel, young Clyde Griffiths aspires to a better life. The novel traces his rise and tragic fall, brought on by the mere desire to succeed. Where does the pursuit for status and power end? An intense narrative rich in description and vivid detail, that will also show you the socioeconomic panorama of early 20th century America.

Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood” -> a non-fiction novel tracing four Kansas murders in the mid-20th century, investigated by Capote for six years. Why did they kill and what effect did the murders generate in the community?

Umberto Eco, “The Name of the Rose” -> a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the 14th century, the novel superbly combines fiction, philosophy, biblical analysis, medieval studies and semiotics, Eco’s specialty. Can logical deduction solve the mystery of the murder?

Plautus, “Miles Gloriosus” (The Braggart Soldier) -> a classical Roman comedy depicting stock characters in a series of situations that test their ability to trick and conceal in order to find a solution.

One book you would have on a deserted island:

Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo” -> a tale of injustice, revenge and retribution, featuring, of course, an island; yet, ultimately, a magnificent lesson of survival and adaptation in the harshest conditions.

Favorite authors:

Emile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Federico García Lorca, Benito Pérez Galdós, Cervantes, Javier Marías, Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Philip Roth, Graham Greene, Chuck Palahniuk, Fyodor Dostoyevski, A.P. Chekhov, Haruki Murakami

Last read:

Juan Gabriel Vázquez, “El ruido de las cosas al caer” (The Sound of Things Falling) -> inspired by the crash of American Airlines flight 965 in the mountains of Colombia in 1995, this is a story of loss and re-encounter, set during the turbulent 1990s in Bogotá, Colombia, and recreating many decades of history of the infamous drug cartels and drug contraband between Colombia and the United States.

Maria Semple, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” -> Would you like to board on a cruise to Antarctica? I certainly would, after reading this novel. Unconventional in form (comprised of email exchanges, personal notes, memories, but also vivid dialogues), the book will take you from Seattle to Los Angeles and then to the coldest continent, seeking not only a missing person, but her life meaning.

Next read:

Ron Rash, “One Foot in Eden” -> I chose this murder mystery (one of my favorite genres) eager to immerse in the region of my new home.

Judy Blume, “In the Unlikely Event” -> The title, a phrase we all hear while on a plane, waiting for takeoff, caught my attention and I decided to purchase it.
David Harvey, “Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism” -> Faithful to my college double major (Economics/Spanish), I am eager to read this promising analysis of current economic and global market affairs by a leading anthropologist and scholar.

Book Recommendations by Daniel Arbino

February 11, 2014


Daniel Arbino,

Assistant Professor of




Daniel Arbino is an assistant professor of Spanish. He specializes in Caribbean literatures and Afro-Latin American cultures. He has previously published in Callaloo, Journal of Caribbean Literatures, Mester, Sargasso and most recently, Label Me Latina/o. Before coming to Centre, Daniel lived in Cincinnati, Albuquerque, Minneapolis, and Queretaro, Mexico. 

Favorite book in college:

The Beach by Alex Garland. They made it into a not-so-great movie, but as usually the case, the book is so much better. It is sort of like Lord of the Flies, but about travelers attempting to escape the constant demands of a capitalist society by forming a small, secluded beach community.


Favorite discipline-related book:

Vejigantes by Francisco Arriví. This is a Puerto Rican play about three generations of women living in the same household. The three of them struggle to deal with racial identity in Puerto Rico as a result of societal pressures to whiten. I find this work to be extremely powerful in promoting an Afro-Puerto Rican sense of identity.



 Book recommendation for students:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book balances humor with the struggles of immigrating to the United States as a result of a dark period in Dominican history under Dictator Rafael Trujillo. Students will appreciate Diaz’s use of language as well as his ability to mix hip-hop references, sci-fi references, and Dominican history into the same sentence.



One book you would have on a deserted island:

That would be La invención de Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. The novel, ironically, is set on a deserted island, but that’s not why I chose it. It’s a short novel, but one I would love to read multiple times. It’s about a fugitive who escapes to an island and then upper-class tourists begin to arrive on the island. The further you get into the novel, the more you realize what a beautiful love story it is set amidst technological innovation and different realities.



 Favorite authors:

Jamaica Kincaid, Carmelo Rodriguez Torres, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Juan Rulfo, Cola Debrot



Last read:

Bloedlijn Overzee (Overseas Bloodline) by Loekie Morales. This is a Dutch Caribbean writer from Curaçao. In the story, the protagonist, who currently lives in the Netherlands, goes in search of her family’s history and ends up in Venezuela. It’s ultimately about favoring a horizontal relationship between Curaçao and Venezuela over a colonial relationship between Curaçao and the Netherlands.



Next read:

They Came Before Columbus by Ivan van Sertima. This is an older, but still extremely relevant study on the African presence in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans.

Faculty Book Recommendations by Brett Werner

January 7, 2014


Brett Werner

Assistant Professor

of Environmental Studies


Brett is a professor in the Environmental Studies program, teaching courses related to policy, campus sustainability, and the interdisciplinary courses in the new major. His research addresses rivers, wetlands, climate change, and food systems. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, paddling, reading, photography, and gardening, along with any intramural or pickup sports he can find to stay busy. Brett is not a fifth generation Kentuckian, nor does he know the first thing about horse racing. He loves rivers, trees, and most charismatic megafauna.

Favorite book in college:


Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse by Hermann Hesse, translated by Jack Zipes.



Models of God by Sallie McFague.

Myths, Models, and Paradigms by Ian Barbour.




 Favorite discipline-related book:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Just Kidding Rowling.

Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee.


Book recommendation for students:

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray.

Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

The Monkeywrench Gang by Edward Abbey.

The Aims of Education by Alred North Whitehead.

Endgame by Derrick Jensen.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.




One book you would have on a deserted island:

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

Favorite authors:

Stephen Dunn, Janisse Ray, Silas House, Edward Abbey, John McPhee, Richard White, Robert Jordan, Barbara Kingsolver, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Pollan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kathleen Dean Moore, George RR Martin, Sandra Steingraber, Scott Russell Sanders, Derrick Jensen.


Last read:

 The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray.



Next read:

Global Weirdness by Climate Central.


Faculty Book Recommendations by Jason Doroga, Assistant Professor of Spanish

November 21, 2013

Professor Doroga teaches all levels of language and culture as well as courses in linguistics at Centre. His area of specialization is how the variation in verbal morphology contributes to the communication and reception of meaning. Other research areas of interest include Spanish/Portuguese contact, bilingualism, and language pedagogy. Professor Doroga enjoys teaching at Centre because in his classes he “gets to teach about things that I find fascinating, while surrounded by young people who do some pretty amazing work. Their energy is contagious.”



Favorite book in college:

Faust by Goethe
As a Spanish professor should I admit that a German play was my favorite book that I read in college? Don Quijote
is a close second, I promise.



Favorite discipline-related book:

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher
An accessible and entertaining book that is nothing short of mind-bending with its insight on how language shapes our thoughts and our perception of the world. Ever notice that Homer describes honey as being green? Weird, isn’t it?




Book recommendation for students:

Confessions of St. Augustine

Regardless of spiritual background or religious beliefs, this book is a must read for college students.




One book you would have on a deserted island:
Don Quijote by Cervantes. It takes a long time to read, and it will keep you entertained.



Favorite authors:

In no particular order: Ovid, Cervantes, Vergil, Wolff, Faulkner



Last read:

Cooked by Michael Pollan
It’s not often that a life-changing book falls into one’s lap. Especially, it has to be said, with “The New York Times No 1 Bestseller” splashed across the front. Yet Michael Pollan’s Cooked is one of them. One it’s impossible to read and not act on.” -The Telegraph, June 4, 2013



Next read:
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin has been on nightstand for months. Now that I walk by the Lincoln statue outside the library every morning, I feel very guilty that I haven’t read it yet.

Check out these books recommended by Willie Costley, Visiting Instructor of Spanish

October 1, 2013

Willie Costley – Visiting Instructor of Spanish



Professor Costley is a native of Arizona but moved to Kentucky as a child. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from Centre College in 2000.  After studying in Spain for a year, he obtained an M.A. in Spanish from Bowling Green State University in 2003. He returned to Arizona in 2005 to pursue a doctorate in Spanish with a concentration in border studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate there and plans to defend his dissertation, “The Anti-Immigrant ‘New Mediascape’: Analyzing Nativist Discourse on the Web,” in the spring of 2014.


Favorite book in college:

Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison. A probing, multi-layered examination of the racism deeply ingrained into twentieth-century American society, explored through a narrative of the convoluted twists and turns of the life of the nameless protagonist.


Favorite discipline-related book:

The Law into Their Own Hands: Immigration and the Politics of Exceptionalism by Roxanne Lynn Doty. If you think the age of anti-immigrant vigilante groups is long past, think again. Doty explores not only the multitude of groups out patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, but their links to avowedly racist organizations as well.



Book recommendation for students:

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Forget what you learned in high school history class—Zinn tells the story of our great nation not from the perspective of influential dead white men, but from the point of view of the ordinary people who lived it. Not surprisingly, Zinn’s version of American history is often at loggerheads with the “official” version taught in most secondary schools.


One book you would have on a deserted island:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García-Márquez. An epic so sprawling that the author includes a family tree on the first page so the reader can keep all the characters straight. This tale of the fictional town of Macondo is by turns both utterly fantastic and mind-numbingly mundane—yet there’s never a dull moment anywhere in its pages. This seminal representative of the “Latin American Boom” period is often described as a universal history of the gigantic region’s complex history of colonialism, brutality and exploitation.


Favorite authors:

Ralph Waldo Ellison, Gabriel García-Márquez, Michel Foucault, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar


Last read:

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. This book bypasses blustery political rhetoric about North Korea to show the incredible hardships faced by everyday North Koreans during the government-induced famine in the 1990s. This book will teach you that whatever you might have heard about how brutally repressive the regime is, the reality for the average North Korean is even worse.


Next read:

1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. (From what I’ve heard), Mann’s exhaustive comparative study of pre-Columbian society cuts our assumptions about Native Americans as simple, peace-loving, tree-hugging “noble savages” to ribbons. Much more technologically advanced than any European society in many ways, Native American societies dominated their environment with spectacular urban planning that we are only just beginning to understand.

Check out these books recommended by Professor Jennifer Muzyka

April 2, 2013


Jennifer Muzyka is professor of chemistry at Centre College, where she has taught since 1994.

An organic chemist, Muzyka is committed to working with her Centre students in collaborative research.

From contacts made during her 2001 sabbatical work, Muzyka has helped a number of students arrange internships with Kentucky’s Central Forensic Laboratory in Frankfort. She assists students interested in attending pharmacy school, and supervises internships at pharmacies and hospitals. She also serves on the Health Professions Advisory Committee.

Muzyka develops technology to help students learn general and organic chemistry. One of her technology projects, published in the Journal of Chemical Education, involves chemistry game shows (Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionare?). She has given presentations and organized symposia at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education about the tutorials on her organic chemistry Web site, and conducts workshops to assist other chemistry faculty members to develop their own interactive chemistry web sites.

Muzyka has published the results of her research in scholarly journals including the Journal of Organic Chemistry and the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Muzyka received her B.S. from the University of Dallas and her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin.


Favorite book in college:  Alexis DeToqueville’s Democracy in America and/or The Complete Works of Plato

In my Introduction to Politics course, we read DeToqueville’s Democracy in America as well as The Federalist Papers.  It struck me as odd that a foreigner would have such perceptive insights into the American political system.  In the philosophy courses I took as an undergraduate, my favorite philosopher to read was Plato.  I actually kept that book and read it on my own after I graduated.


 Favorite discipline-related book:  Mechanism and Theory in Organic Chemistry by Lowry and Richardson

We used this textbook for the physical organic chemistry course I took as an undergraduate.  It was the main text for one of my grad school courses as well.  I appreciated seeing the more mathematical and physical side of organic chemistry and learning about the experimental methods used to understand the mechanisms.  In the course I took as an undergraduate, I was intrigued to discover that organic chemists would argue vociferously about different mechanistic explanations for experimental observations.  My professor shared a story about one chemist saying Nobel laureates should retire before they go senile in a very public argument with a prominent chemist who had previously won the Nobel prize.

This book helped me realize that I am a physical organic chemist.  When that realization hit me, I suddenly understood that different people think in different ways and these ways of thinking often explain choices of college major or career.


Book recommendation for students:

I recommend Look Me in the Eye and Be Different, both by John Elder Robison.  I enjoyed these books deeply and was happy to learn that Robison would be giving a presentation on Centre’s campus.  Weissiger was packed for this week’s convocation, and Robison enchanted us by sharing his interesting experiences and thoughtful perspective about life as an individual on the autism spectrum.  Whether you heard his talk or not, you will be enlightened and entertained by these two books.


One book you would have on a deserted island:  I would hope to have a field guide to the flora and fauna of the region where I found myself shipwrecked, since I suspect I would be spending a fair amount of time cozying up to nature.  I love field guides.  We have many of them on the bookshelf in the living room at home to assist in identifying the plants and animals we encounter in the woods where we live.


Favorite author:  Robin Cook

I have always loved mystery novels, and Robin Cook adeptly intertwines mystery with fascinating medical science that verges on science fiction in its strangeness.  


Last read:  Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Spring break was a wonderful time to do some reading for fun, and I finally took the time to start reading this series of books that are making a big splash with the series on HBO.  I am moving more slowly through the second book than the first because I don’t have as much time to read now that we are back into the routine after spring break.


Next read:

I’m looking forward to reading Raising Cubby by John Elder Robison.  I was intrigued to learn about Cubby’s interest in chemistry during Robison’s convocation presentation.   The book touches on lots of father-son adventures like how Robison helped his son drive a train, so I am confident it will be full of wonderful tales.

Check out These Books Recommended by Professor of Music, Barbara Hall

March 5, 2013



Barbara Hall is professor of music at Centre, where she has taught since 1980. She has held the Stodghill Professorship in Humanities since its inception in 2004 and is the former chair of the division of arts and humanities.

A veteran teacher, conductor, and performer, Hall directs Centre’s choral program, which includes student groups such as Centre Singers, Women’s Voices, and Centre Men. She teaches humanities, music history, theory, and conducting. Hall founded and directs the Danville Summer Singers and Sounding Joy, an auditioned women’s ensemble of 30-32 singers.

Hall is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Collegiate Choral Organization, and the College Music Society. She is past governor of the Association of Teachers of Singing.

Hall earned a B.M. at the University of Michigan, an M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a D.M. from Indiana University.



Favorite book in college:

Leonard Meyer:  Music, the Arts, and Ideas and Emotion and Meaning in Music

I took an undergraduate course in music aesthetics that completely changed my thinking about how music works intrinsically and in relation to other arts and society.  Who wouldn’t want to read chapters such as “Forgery and the Anthropology of Art” and “Value and Greatness in Music”?

Favorite discipline-related book:

Dean Robert Blocker:  The Robert Shaw Reader

I am among the last generations of singer/choral directors to be privileged to sing under conductor Robert Shaw.  He was a tyrant, a poet, a musical musician.  This book quotes liberally from the letters he sent to his choirs after every rehearsal and from interviews with people who sang under him.  It’s a book I dip into frequently and always come away with new ideas and strengthened resolve to get to the essence of music and song.


Book recommendation for students:

 Great biographies – of anyone in any discipline. Whether it’s of Cleopatra, Franklin Roosevelt, Stravinsky, Picasso, Sotomayor, a fine biography offers multiple rewards:  clear and elegant prose, intimate knowledge of another person, and a socio/cultural/historical slice of life.

One book you would have on a deserted island:


It has to be a CD:  Bach Mass in b minor (I can live without books but not without music!).  This work, more than any other I can think of (and many people agree from across ages and lands), brings together the intellectual, aesthetic and emotional world into sublime music.


Favorite authors:

Jane Austen

Shakespeare (really!)

For fun:  Donna Leon – great mysteries set in Venice


Last read:

Leonard Slatkin:  Conducting Business:  Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro.  Though self-serving, the look into the practical side of conducting on the international stage is revealing of the joys and frustrations of being an orchestral conductor and also gives some entertaining backstage and behind-the-scene tidbits.  Very likely the only other person to want to read this one is Jaemi Loeb!


Next read:

Garry Wills:   Verdi’s Shakespeare:  Men of the Theater 

Reading during the school year comes down, almost always, to preparing for class!


Check out These Books Recommended by Professor of History, Steve Beaudoin

February 5, 2013

Steve Beaudoin joined the Centre College faculty in 1997 as a visiting assistant professor of history and he currently serves as Ewing T. Boles Professor of History.

As an undergraduate, Beaudoin earned a double major in history and French, and his scholarly interests bring those fields together. He has taught courses on various topics in early modern and 19th-century European history, as well as world and Chinese civilization.

Besides essays in the Journal of Social History, the Encyclopedia of European Social History, the Encyclopedia of Social History, and the Encyclopedia of World History (6 ed.), Beaudoin is author of The Industrial Revolution, a reader in Houghton Mifflin’s “Problems in European Civilization” series, and Poverty in World History, published by Routledge Press.

Beaudoin holds a B.A. from Bates College, M.A. degrees from University of Maine and Carnegie Mellon University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.

Professor Beaudoin has put together a varied list of recommended reading.  The list covers books of the popular mystery genre, works in historical fiction, and non-fiction titles in his specialized area of history.  Stop by the library to see a display of his recommended titles and check one out today!

 Favorite book in college:

 Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann.  I read this book for a class on German history and I was fascinated by this tale of a proud German family weathering the great transformations that rocked the 19th century.

Favorite discipline-related book:

 The Trial of Mme Caillaux, by Edward Berenson.  This is a fine example of a technique known as “microhistory,” in which the historian places one event into its deepest contexts and then uses that to explore the mindsets of the times.  In this case, Berenson focuses on the 1914 trial of Henriette Caillaux, the wife of a former prime minister of France, for murdering the editor of one of Paris’ most important daily newspapers.  He uses this single case and the lives of those involved to explore the cultural tensions surrounding the emergence of new gender roles and the rise of the popular press.  For a relatively small book, it packs a great punch.

Book recommendation for students:

 I have four recommendations.  For anyone interested in history, I would suggest Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map.  This is an engaging analysis of the different circumstances that led to the recognition in 19th-century London that cholera is a waterborne illness.  Although I’m not completely convinced by his very optimistic vision of what urban life has to offer humanity, it’s a great read.  For a more serious historical analysis, I would recommend Michael Miller’s The Bon Marché, the history of the first great department store in Paris, which is still in operation and well worth a visit.  Miller does an excellent job of explaining how tradition could be and was adapted to make the new and modern more accessible and accepted.  After all, there was a time when department stores were new and seemingly “dangerous” – their success was never guaranteed.  Finally, I would recommend Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Balzac’s Père Goriot for identical reasons; both tell the story of young people trying to find their way in a turbulent world.

One book you would have on a deserted island:

 I’m going to cheat on this one!  I would choose a compendium of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  (Technically, I think the first 3 books are in one compendium and the last 3 are in a second compendium.)  Maupin does a great job of bringing the era and his characters to life.  Whenever I pick up one of these books, I feel like I’m getting back in touch with long-lost friends.

Favorite authors:

Since I read mainly non-fiction for work, I tend to gravitate to fiction, especially mysteries, for pleasure reading.  So my favorite authors include those who can use history to tell a great yarn and mystery writers.  In the first category, I loved James Michener and Leon Uris when I was younger.  By Michener, I especially enjoyed Centennial and Poland, and by Uris, I liked QB VII and Trinity.  Among mystery writers, I would highly recommend everything by P.D. James and Henning Mankell.  Caleb Carr has written a couple of nice novels that combine both history and mystery, The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness.  You can find similar works set in France by Barbara Corrado Pope.  I’ve read Cezanne’s Quarry and The Blood of Lorraine.  Finally, I also enjoy the work of Richard Russo.  He freaked me out a little with Empire Falls, however.  Its main characters include a high school student living in a decaying mill town whose father owns a diner and whose mother is named Jeannine.  I grew up in a decaying mill town, my father owned a diner, and my mother’s name is Jeannine.  Spooky!

 Last read:

Christopher Rice’s The Snow Garden, a story set in an elite New England college, but whose characters enjoyed a much more “exciting” life than I did at their age!  [OK, this may not be the best choice, since one of the characters is sleeping with his professor, but it is the last book I read!]

Next read:

 Harlan Coben’s Hold Tight. (Though technically, this isn’t my next read, since I’m in the middle of it right now.)  I had never heard of Coben until last year, when Astrid Hullar, who teaches French in Strasbourg, lent me a couple of his books.  He writes fast-paced thrillers and mysteries whose main characters are often as sarcastic as they are resourceful.  The books are pure escapism, and I can’t put them down!

For my “real” next read, it will probably be David Leavitt’s most recent book, The Indian Clerk, though frankly I’m hoping it isn’t too mathematical.  I’ve read some of his other works, The Lost Language of Cranes, Equal Affections, and While England Slept, so I’m looking forward to this new one.

Check out these Books Recommended by Dan Manheim, Professor of English at Centre College

March 29, 2012

H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele Stodghill Professor of English

Dan Manheim has taught at Centre College since 1991.  Professor Manheim has taught Centre courses on major American writers, environmental literature, American autobiography, and the modern short story. He has pursued research on American historian and philosopher Henry Adams, poet Emily Dickinson, architect Ralph Adams Cram, and novelists Herman Melville and Edith Wharton, and his articles have appeared in such publications as The New England Quarterly, Biography, and ESQ.

Prior to joining the Centre faculty, Manheim was a visiting professor at Bard College and an instructor at Columbia University and Barnard College.  Professor Manheim holds an A.B. from Amherst College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia.

Take a look at Professor Manheim’s recommended reading list below or stop by to see the display of books and check one, or more, out for yourself!


Favorite Book in High School

                Tom Jones—Henry Fielding

No book ever kept me laughing for a longer time.


Favorite Book in College

Love’s Body—Norman O. Brown

—it was an undergraduate staple for years.  I think my reading of this strange, aphoristic book was my first religious experience.  Everyone thought N. O. Brown must live on a commune, experimenting with controlled substances, when in fact his life was uncommonly simple, decorous, and clean.


Book That Taught Me That Books Could Actually Matter

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—James Agee

It was a book about the Depression that appeared as World War II began, so no one paid any attention to it until the 1970s.  Too bad—it models what it can mean to care passionately about the world.


Book That Got Me through Graduate School—Professionally

The Education of Henry Adams—Henry Adams

He turned his whole life into an idea:  and then he used that idea to make sense of all modern history!  I thought I was the only person who could like this grouchy old post-Victorian autobiography, and then the Modern Library named it the best non-fiction book of the 20th century.


Book That Got Me through Graduate School—Non-Professionally

Lucky Jim—Kingsley Amis

Read this book and then look at your professors again:  it will make you feel better, I promise.


Favorite Book to Teach

The Poems of Emily Dickinson

Nothing else comes close.

Favorite Book for a Grown-Up

The Age of Innocence—Edith Wharton

Anyone can read it and enjoy it, of course, but I found that as I got older, it really got into me like hot lead.


Books Currently Reading

Wanderlust:  A History of Walking—Rebecca Solnit

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary—M. R. James

Tourism in History—Maxine Feifer


Favorite Author for Idle Amusement

 P. G. Wodehouse

Lots of Candidates—Robert Parker, Lee Child—but facing it squarely, what I really like best is to laugh.

Check out Kyle Anderson’s Recommended Reading List

February 29, 2012

Kyle Anderson, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow

Kyle Anderson came to Centre in 2010 as Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow.

Anderson has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from The Pennsylvania State University. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. in comparative literature from Brigham Young University.

Kyle has submitted his recommended reading list, which will be highlighted in The Cento.  His books are also currently on display on the library.  See below for his list and stop by the library to check out the books on display!

Favorite book in college:

Jiddu Krishnamurti’s Education and the Significance of Life

Krishnamurti was a 20th century thinker who turned down religious investiture in order to pursue meaning in life for himself.  He toured all over the world giving lectures and interviews on the importance of nurturing and educating the whole human being apart, and often times against, the conventional teachings of community, nation, religion, and other organizations.  This book made me seriously reconsider just what kind of education I was giving myself during my college years: education is so much more than vocation–its your life!

 Favorite discipline-related book:

Zhuangzi’s  Zhuangzi

You’ll never be the same after reading the Dao according to Zhuangzi, China’s most challenging piece of literature, and arguable its first pscyhological study.  It’ll blow your mind.

 Book recommendation for students:

Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

Kaplan is one of the most informed and prolific journalists writing on contemporary world history and politics today.  This book makes the case for the emergence of South and Southeast Asia as the next arena and battlefield for international politics as India and China grab for precious resources and allies.

 One book you would have on a deserted island:

Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia (in the original Italian)

It was either this or the Bible; no other book could keep one so busy for so long.  Plus, I am curious to know if I could memorize it, since Dante swore up and down he did so word-for-word with the Aeneid.

 Favorite authors:

 Lu Xun is the father of modern Chinese literature.  His angsty short stories wrestle with the contradictions of life in a modernizing China, especially the experiences of the downtrodden and bewildered intellectuals.  His prose and poetry are tight and provocative–a masterful storyteller who comprehends the complexities of life in the modern world.

Pablo Neruda needs little introduction, but the Chilean poet, diplomat, and Nobel prize winner has always enthralled me with his silky and serpentine romantic verses.  He writes a sumptuous Spanish that at the same time delivers a complex array of surreal imagery to keep the mind busy.

Last read:

Liao Yiwu’s God is Red

Liao Yiwu is a renowed dissident writer with ties to the Tian’anmen Massacre of 1989.  He still remains in the cross-hairs of the Central Party in China.  This book is a collection of interviews Liao Yiwu conducted with rural Christian Chinese who suffered and survived oppression under the Maoist regime.  The central government discouraged the publication of the book, but Liao Yiwu printed it all the same in English with HarperCollins.  He snuck out of the country last year through Vietnam and is now living in Germany.

Next read:

The Dalai Lama’s An Open Heart

I’m reading some of the Dalai Lama’s literature now to get ready for a couple of upcoming trips to Tibet.