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 Rita Sallee

January 29, 2013
Rita Sallee, Administrate Assistant/Interlibrary Loan Lending

Rita Sallee, Administrate Assistant/Interlibrary Loan Lending

You may recognize Rita from her help with any of the myriad of responsibilities she performs in the library:  faxing, copying, interlibrary loan lending, transcription, etc.  Rita is also known to the library staff members as an avid reader of detective fiction.  There are still a few days left of the mini-break between Centre and Spring Term, so Rita recommended a few of her favorite writers of detective novels.  Stop by the library and check them out!

Camilla Lackberg

Since Lackberg burst onto the Swedish scene with 2003’s “The Ice Princess,” her nine novels have sold millions of copies and have been published in more than 35 countries. She was the best-selling female author in Europe in 2010. She has sold more books in Sweden than Stieg Larsson.

She debuted stateside in 2010, and her first two thrillers, “Princess” and “The Preacher,” have approached combined sales of 100,000 in hardcover, paperbacks and e-books. That’s good, but neither of the books made an appearance on any major bestseller list.

Jessica Case, the senior editor at Pegasus Books who signed Lackberg just as the Larsson phenomenon was beginning, thinks the first two books have built an audience that will grow.

“They’re sort of the definition of a locked-room mystery,” says Case. “You meet the criminal somewhere. No one’s coming in and out of this little Scandinavian town. They’re not overly political or overly graphic. They’re not your standard bloody fare.”

Tucker, Neely. “Camilla Lackberg, Swedish crime sensation.” Washington Post 26 April (2012).

Lee Child, Jack Reacher novels

For those who haven’t picked up one of these books yet, Jack Reacher is a hulking ex-Army MP. He’s a crack shot, a skilled street fighter, and a West Point graduate with an almost autistic and often hilarious obsession with the tiniest details of life. Think Rain Man with huge biceps and a Glock.

The funnest part about Reacher is that he is completely, religiously, unrealistically off the grid: no car, no home, no Visa card. Not even a suitcase. He wanders around the country with only some loose cash in his pockets — and a toothbrush. (Like everyone else, Reacher’s life changed after 9/11, and he now carries his passport, too). Laundry? No way.

He doesn’t own a car or a smart phone, doesn’t need one. He travels anywhere he wants to go, hitchhiking or riding the bus. And, of course, the fun begins when someone tries to tell him what to do or where he can or can’t go.

The formula is simple and delightful: Child drops Reacher into a small town, where he stumbles on some bad guys, and there’s maybe a really beautiful sheriff or lawyer former military officer around for some romance, and pretty soon Reacher’s racking up the body count.

Drummond, Steve. “Lee Child’s ‘The Affair’: Sixteen Books In, Has Jack Reacher Still Got It”,  Npr 20          October (2011) 4:58 PM.

  Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander Series

Henning Mankell‘s great creation, the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, is a depressive, unhealthy, ugly and violent man who is unable to sustain relationships with those closest to him and operates in a world of almost unrelieved bleakness and despair. Yet he is so attractive to a worldwide audience that Mankell has sold more than 35 million books and has seen his character make a remarkably smooth transition from page to screen with acclaimed Swedish TV adaptations preceding the critical and ratings success of Kenneth Branagh’s recent BBC version.

Praise for Mankell extends far beyond the crime-writing fraternity. Michael Ondaatje claimed his works “transcend their chosen genre to become thrilling and moral literature”.  John Pilger speaks admiringly of his “principled political life” and recalls talking enthusiastically about Mankell to Martha Gellhorn, another “huge fan”.

Wroe, Ni cholas. “A life in writing: Henning Mankell.”  The Guardian 19 February (2010).

Farewell to our seniors-thanks for the memories and the book recommendations

May 5, 2012

We have put up our last book recommendation display of the year.  We began last year reserving this particular display for our seniors.  Some of our student workers and staunch library supporters are highlighted below.  Take a moment to read their recommendations, they are insightful and surprising and fun!  

To these wonderful students and to all of our graduating seniors:  

We have enjoyed your time with us and wish you the best as you begin the next chapter in your of life.  

Book Preferences, By Joanna Myers

Joanna Myers

Best Historical Fiction

Beyond the Mist lies Thule  by Janet Neavles

This is an adventure tale set around 300 BC.  It features Hugh and Mari, two children who are captured and sold into slavery.  From there, they embark on a series of adventures to return home, meeting the Greek explorer Pytheas along the way.  This is a fairly quick read, but quite engaging.

Best Children’s Book

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This book is delightfully clever in its presentation, reading almost like a modern-day allegory or fairy tale.  The story follows Milo’s adventure through the Kingdom of Wisdom.  The word play and the references make it enjoyable reading for both children and adults.

Favorite Memoir

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This book is harsh much of the time, but it really sticks with you.  While her parents are intelligent, loving parents who give their kids a good education, they are also selfish and unrealistic.  The success of Jeannette and her siblings in the face of poverty and neglect is a truly remarkable story.  What is most amazing about the book is how Jeannette describes every scene, both good and bad, with calm objectivity.

Favorite Author

Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey is a science-fiction/fantasy writer.  Mostly she is known for the Dragonriders of Pern books, but her other stuff is just as interesting.  Each book, and they’re usually a series, starts with a fascinating aspect, like scientifically valid psychic powers, or deformed children raised to operate starships.  There’s always a lot going on in the story because of the intricacies of the worlds involved.  Because of this, and because they tend to switch perspectives a lot, they can be hard to read.  But the stories and characters are very good, and completely worth it.  Most recently, I read The Ship who Searched, part of the Brainship series. For a science-fiction story, it has a surprising amount of heart.  The main character, Tia, is intelligent and endearing.

Favorite Mystery

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman

Every Mrs.  Pollifax story is good, and this one is no exception.  Mrs. Pollifax, the sweet, innocent grandmother who became a spy, is one of the best characters in literature.  Each book is fast-paced and well-written, keeping readers in suspense until the very end, always ending on a satisfactory note.  Dorothy Gilman has a talent for writing groups of characters, producing a diverse assembly of strong, believable people.  Even the minor ones are well-developed, and the tension between them on the tour is fascinating to see.  This is even better because one is a fellow agent, and one is an enemy.  While this isn’t my favorite of the series, it’s definitely one of the best.

Favorite Quote

“There are no happy endings, only happy people.” – Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station


Book Recommendations, by Allen Schagene

Allen Schagene

A couple of books that I would suggest:

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

Storms of My Grandchildren: the Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity, by James Hansen

Democracy in America is a fine look into our past.  It is written in the perspective of a French aristocrat and it offers us an interesting looks at self-interest rightly understood.  The author uses this to suggest that if every man were to follow his self interest then the world would work itself out.

Storms of my grandchildrenthen comes in to show us exactly where this self interest gets us.  The author talks about why we need to start thinking about our world offering us means and ways to reduce our coal emissions so that our world may be habitable for the future.  These books offer us an insight to our world, through this idea of self interest.  One author endorses the idea, while the other author despises self interest because we need to think about others.


Book Recommendations, by Brian Klosterboer

Favorite book

Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank


Book that changed my life

The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay


Favorite history book

Peter the Great, by Robert Massie


Favorite book I’ve read for class:

A Thousand Splendid Sons, by Khaled Hosseini (Professor Hamm’s Middle Eastern Civilization)


Currently reading

The Social Animal, by David Brooks


Book Recommendations, by Shuang Liu

Shuang Liu

Wuthering Heights , by Emily Bronte

It is the oddest love story that I have ever read.  Unlike any sweet romances, the story of Cathy and Heathcliff is so intense and wide.

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca has gone before the story started, but she is everywhere in the book.

Letter from an Unknown Woman 

Peaceful narration, with extremely intense emotion hidden underneath.

Fortress Besieged, by Qian Zhongshu

I like the ways the author uses all kinds of sarcastic expressions.

The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot

A poem full of metaphors, sophisticated, esoteric and alluring.

Le Petit Prince by,  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We can always find empathies from some details and dialogues.

Brandon Adcock’s Recommended Reading List

Brandon Adcock


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is currently my favorite book (although Infinite Jest may soon take its place once I’ve finished it). This work really has so much to appreciate. 1) It has an intriguing premise: that a young guy’s friend drags him over to an old man’s apartment after his mysterious death (he looked ungodly old enough though). Turn out this young man stumbles upon a chest of loose leaf that the old man had been working on, which was an independent film criticism. Here’s the catch: the old guy was blind as a bat and the film doesn’t actually exist. That was only the first point. 2) This is ergodic literature, meaning the text is organized in such a way as to mirror action in the book rather than kindle-esque line-by-line. It’s challenging, it’s bizarre, it’s awesome. 3) Along with it being meta-textual (story within a story, the book references itself, etc.) it’s a wild romp that takes stabs at what critics in academia do. It’s filled with footnotes, appendices, vaguely intelligible jargon, and references other works that no normal person reads (i.e. some don’t even exist). I’ve not even spoiled anything you wouldn’t get in 20 pages plot-wise. This book made me think not only about humanity, darkness, and imagination but the nature of books themselves.


The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

This was the book that turned me on to reading. It’s a collection of short stories, which appears to be Bradbury’s favorite form (even Fahrenheit 451 began as a short story). The collection also taught me that science fiction can tell very real, human stories. Don’t want to be bogged down by overwrought sentences and layers of inaccessible meaning? Bradbury makes it easy to just enjoy the story and then come back wondering what it might say about humanity. Ray Bradbury is the type of guy that you read and you know he’s been writing every day of his life since he was young and imbibing his excitement into sentences.


Winesburg, OH by Sherwood Anderson


This is a guy who gets tossed around in the American Literature world but most people today haven’t the slightest clue on what he wrote. My English III AP course in high school divided us into groups to read either As I Lay Dying, The Color Purple, The Things They Carried, or Winnesburg, OH. The teacher stuck me with this one and I loved it. It’s an acquired taste at first but once you get past “Hands” with Wing Biddlebaum you may get hooked like me. This short story cycle really turns suburbia from paradise to dystopia in a way Desperate Housewives never could do justice. Above all, for me, it was the truest growing up story I ever read. George Willard, like many of us, discovers the dark side of his hometown bubble and needs to carve his own path. If you grow up in even a sort of small town, I think you could relate to what Anderson writes.


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


This little gem is something Dr. Kinkade shared with my Junior Seminar. Instant love. It’s the only commercial success Shriver has yet written and it’s not hard to figure. This one stars the mother of a high school shooter and exploring parenthood and marriage from a shocking stance. If you’re disturbed by it, good, that means you’re reading it right (the first time through). The ending is one that unsettled me, obsessed me, and ultimately satisfied me more than any non-traditional ending has.


As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Currently writing my Senior Seminar Thesis on it and for good reason. This book is the best dark comedy I’ve ever seen in print. It’s one of the easiest Faulkner work to follow and brings something new to each reading. Fifteen stream-of-consciousness narrators switch through 59 sections to give the book an authorless quality that raises the question of what is true. Arrested Development fans may find some intriguing echoes.


The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Anyone touched by cancer and/or a vested interest in its research should look through this book. The author heralds it as “the biography of cancer,” digging not only at when humans first realized its distinctness as an ailment but also how complicated its research has been. All of this is told by an oncologist that felt people should know that cancer is no disease-of-the-decade trend but a collaborative research into curing ourselves. Could cancer be a more evolutionarily fit version of our own cells?


Robert Browning’s Poetry

Browning and Blake are my go-to guys for weird poetry. They were the ones that demonstrated poetry was fun to me. Browning remains my favorite for his dramatic monologue style of verse. “Guess how the narrator is a maniac” is the name of the game and the realization always has a resounding sense of disturbed humor.

John Keat’s Poetry

Keats gives the average person a poetry that teaches what its all about…at least to me. If Bradbury inspired my prose reading then Keats is certainly inspired my poetry reading. Read “Bright Star…” or “When I Have Fears…” and see if you don’t ponder what it means to love and live at least for the briefest moment. Far from an Emo starter kit, Keats shows genius in every sense of the word. If he’s not your thing, maybe Byron’s pompousness will cheer you up.


The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

This comic strip has a little bit to teach everybody. It’s funny, sweet, philosophical, and reads like an old friend catching up with you over coffee.

Watchmen by Alan Moore


Where Adam West killed the integrity of comic books, Alan Moore revived it into the “graphic novel.” Don’t trust the movie, it’s in comic book form for a reason. Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach are personal favorites into what I think Superman and Batman would be like in reality. Let this one be a lesson that comics raise serious social issues under the hood of costumed vigilantes.


What I Am Currently Reading:


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace


DFW’s most famous work and certainly comparable to the Norton Anthologies English Majors lug around. I’m fascinated by this man’s ideas, his writing styles, and why he took his life all too soon. He’s as earnest a voice as I ever read and smarter than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s the voice that I hope echoes through this century without changing pitch.


Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon


Not for the faint of heart and undisciplined of will. I’m testing my skills as an English Major with this sprawling dive-bomb (pun intended) of twentieth century postmodernism. It’s wild and crazy with slapstick to ease the pain of not getting the point. Between him and Wallace, my summer looks booked as it is.


Most Recurring Work of Literature That I Have Yet to Read:

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

References to this work have occurred in every English course I’ve taken at Centre. I’ve read Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream twice and King Lear three times but they don’t get near the amount of hits as Hamlet does on the useful parallel scale. A few synopses and The Lion King can only get you so far. Heck, even “Infinite Jest” is taken from a line in Hamlet.

Loran Crowell’s Book Recommendations

Loran Crowell

I am a Math Major, so not a big reader, but I have enjoyed the following books in the past year.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Her biography is so good! I really fell in love with her when she played Sarah Palin. She is so funny!

Book Recommendations, by Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

We read this book in Dr. Hamm’s HIS 120 class. I normally don’t read many books, but I enjoyed reading this book from the beginning to the end. Through this book, I learned the lives in the middle east, the suffering of women, etc. This book is being made into a movie, so it is interesting to think as a director about what you want to show as you read.


The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.


This book tells story of Tom Ripley’s journey to Italy, trying to persuade Dickie Greenleaf to return to the United States and join the family business with his father the shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf.After a series of stories, Ripley murdered Dickie and disguised as him and started a rich life. In the end, he is suffering from paranoia, but the author left the story untold whether Tom turned himself in to the Police.


Book Recommendation, by Harry Chalmers


Harry Chalmers

I suppose there is one book I can think of at the moment that I really like. The book is Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person. It’s a book about having a healthy self-outlook and having positive relationships with others. In particular, Rogers emphasizes empathy, honesty, and unconditional valuation as key qualities that promote individual growth in ourselves and others.