Summer Reading Recommendations, Part II

Following up on last week’s reading recommendations, here’s advisor Kevin Seymore’s summer reading list, Part II:

6.) Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. This is an academic novel written in the form of letters of recommendation and is quite hilarious. As students you might have asked for letters of recommendation. If you become professors or academic advisors, you will certainly write them someday. Having been in academia nearly my entire adult life, I recognized a lot of what I’ve experienced, but Schumacher has given it a very humorous slant through her narrator, an aging English professor that has become quite the cynic, but still has a hint of idealism inside him to press on and write the next letter. However, some letters are doing the exact opposite of praising the person it is for, and those are often the funniest.

7.) Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams. This novel is a Western in genre, but a very metaphysical one that looks deeply into the American experience and our relationship with nature. Butcher’s Crossing is a frontier town in Kansas near the line with Colorado, and it is a town that exists because of the profit to be made out of killing buffaloes for their hides. A college drop out from Harvard comes West to experience the buffalo hunt, and ends up experiencing something like Moby-Dick on land. There’s a mad buffalo hunter that is very much in the mode of Ahab. Excellent prose, though the description is rather detailed at points, and the first third is pretty slow, but it builds and builds to a rather apocalyptic ending. [Dr. T says: If you like this one, try Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian].

8.) Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I am interested in art history, so I enjoyed this opportunity to look at the world of Vermeer through the eyes of a servant girl in 17th century Holland. Like Toibin, the author does a brilliant job of capturing a young person’s view of the world, the journey from innocence to experience. If you’ve taken a Gender and Women’s Study course, or an art history class, or a course in developmental psychology, I think you will bring a good deal to this short novel. And you’ll leave with I believe a greater appreciation for just how hard the twists of fate can be, and at the same time, how the remarkable can emerge from the seemingly ordinary.

9.) The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver. The more I think about this dystopian novel, the more I disagree with it, haha. But if you want a strange, tough, economic forecast of what the future of the country could look like, then this is the book for you. If you took an ECON course, such as micro or macro, then you’ll probably appreciate the long monologues about economic policy more than the average reader. If you identify as a Libertarian, you will feel like you are at home with Shriver and the travails she takes the Mandible family through, as America becomes a financial wreck where Nevada has left the Union and Americans experience Great Depression level poverty. NOT a feel good story! haha.

10.) The Circle by Dave Eggers. This novel is now a currently showing movie with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. I have not seen the movie, but I can testify to the book being very thought provoking. It too is a dystopian look at the future where privacy has just about completely disappeared thanks to the efforts of a giant media company (combination of google, facebook, youtube, amazon, twitter) that runs by the idea that nothing should be hidden from anybody. As good satire does, it uses an extreme to draw new light upon current circumstances. I contemplated leaving facebook a number of times while reading this story of  young May who goes to work for The Circle thinking she has made it, but discovers that she has to give up more than she expected. A much darker version of Eilis Lacey’s story. [Dr. T says: If you’re taking Dr. Gray’s Readings in the American Experience course on “Work,” you’ll likely be reading this in Fall (or possibly spring?)]

So there you have it. The theme of young people venturing out into the world seems to predominate this list, which I didn’t plan, but seems all the more fitting. One of the gifts that reading gives us is being able to feel less alone in the world. If you ever feel like you are the only one experiencing some thought, anxiety, emotion, loss, you name it, go to a bookshelf, and you’ll find that you are not alone at all – very far from it!

Best wishes, for all your reading ahead . . .


. . . via Dr. Takacs. Thanks, again, Kevin, for some timely recommendations]

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