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Stocking stuffers for book lovers

With the holidays approaching, we asked a cross-section of faculty and staff to name one book you should buy for a friend or family member.

Here are their ideas:

Anne Meltzer, Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
“An excellent example of how life takes unexpected turns and how one person can make a difference in ways that are significant and profound.”

Joachim Grenestedt, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008, by Jerome Groopman and Tim Folger (Editor)
“A collection of very good and easily digestible short scientific stories, most of which are well beyond what I usually read. All stories are fascinating, many are real eye openers. Dark energy and the universe, forensics, bioengineering, and ancient languages are just some of the two dozen topics touched upon. The writing is excellent and the book, once opened, is hard to put away. The 2009 edition is good, but the 2008 edition is excellent.”

Jame’l Hodges, director of Multicultural Affairs

PUSH, by Sapphire
“PUSH is a book that was written about the struggles of an inner-city young woman. She battled issues of molestation, early pregnancy and abuse. During the holiday season, we tend to try to give back to the community to make the world a better place. It is very important to understand the struggles of others as we give back to communities and people of need.”

Tricia Long, marketing communications manager, University Communications and Public Affairs

Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser
“This is a good book for anyone who enjoyed reading or seeing Julie and Julia. New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser tells a fun, sweet story of how she built a relationship with her husband by recounting the memorable meals and dishes they shared. Each chapter includes coveted family recipes as well as recipes from some great New York restaurants. Light, fun reading and some delicious dishes.”

Jack Lule, director of the Globalization and Social Change Initiative and Joseph B. McFadden Distinguished Professor of Journalism

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, by Paul Collier
“Who can forget the powerful scene in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in which the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the wretched and poor twins, Ignorance and Want? ‘Beware them both,’ the Ghost tells a quivering Scrooge, ‘and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.’

“Those twins, in some way, are the subject of The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Written by Paul Collier, a professor of economics and director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, the 2007 book reminds us that one billion of the world’s six billion people have not benefited, and indeed have fallen further behind, in our age of globalization.

“Much like Jeffrey Sachs, Collier discusses the ‘traps’ that keep people and countries mired in poverty and want. And he provides some ways in which those traps can be confronted. Much like A Christmas Carol itself, The Bottom Billion can call us to spend part of our holidays remembering those less fortunate.”

Fran Troyan, head softball coach

Wooden, by John Wooden with Steve Jamison
“This is a book for anyone who likes to read, is involved in some way in sport, but lacks the time to really get through a longer book. In this book, Coach Wooden distills his vast experiences into a game plan for life that will help anyone who truly is looking to bring out the best in themselves and others. Read it first—then give it as a gift!”

Mary Nicholas, associate professor of Russian in the department of modern languages and literature

Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, by Stephen F. Cohen
“Stephen F. Cohen’s masterful new Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War is perfect for the historian on your list. Timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain, the book offers an authoritative and provocative look at what happened when the largest state in the world fell apart. Cohen brings unique access and decades of experience to explore the end of the Soviet Union and the shape of the post-Soviet peace. The current administration has argued that we need to “press the reset button” on our relations with Russia. This thoughtful, elegant, and probing book helps imagine what that might mean. For original thinkers of all ages!”

Stacy Burger, coordinator of the Botstiber Scholarship in the office of admissions

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
“This is one of those books that when you put it down after reading the last word you weep for it ending—and look forward to enough time passing when you can read it again.”

Benjamin Wright, department chair and professor of religion studies

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie
“Perhaps one of Rushdie’s least known novels. A delightful story about young Haroun and his father, Rashid, the professional storyteller. Haroun can’t quite believe his father’s fantastic account of the origin of stories until he finds himself in the middle of it all. A deceptively simple tale of youthful disbelief and adventure in which the young protagonist encounters Butt the mad bus driver, Cutmaster Khattam-Shud. Through young Haroun, Rushdie the storyteller reaffirms for his readers the power and magic of stories for both young and old.”

Brynn Buskirk, assistant director of marketing in the office of business services

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
“Patchett was inspired by the Lima Crisis in 1996, and out of that came her award-winning novel, Bel Canto. It is a story of love, passion, and ultimate sacrifice. Characters are impeccably drawn so the reader sees them as true people, views their hardships, and ultimately, sees the underlying goodness in all human nature. No matter how many times I read this book (and I have read it many times) it still always takes my breath away.”

Bill Forster, assistant professor of management

The Economics of Waste, by Richard Porter
“This book gives a straightforward and surprisingly unique look at waste in our society. Its open-minded focus on the data of waste, recycling and government policy is refreshing and needed as we address one of society’s biggest challenges. As it points out, there are no simple or easy answers when it comes to waste management, recycling, and environmental protection. Porter uses data and theory to confront some common assumptions about waste and challenges the reader to both define the problem and to think about solutions differently.”

Jennifer Tucker, assistant vice president, University Communications and Public Affairs

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, by Dave Eggers
“The plight of the Lost Boys of Sudan was widely publicized before this book came out. However, I had not read anything that provided such stark detail on the struggles of Sudanese refugees while trying to convey the hope that many felt, and the humor they tried to find in unbearable situations. What is the What tells the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, moving through refugee camps, losing family and friends to disease and violence, and then coming to the United States to start a new life. For me, the book also highlighted the struggles that immigrants—and more importantly victims of war—have in coming to a country where you get the independence you so sorely wanted without the support you so desperately need to ‘make it.’ The reason it is such a great gift: Holiday season is a great time to be thankful for everything you have. This book obviously is a reminder of that. But, more than that it proved how resilient the human spirit can be in the face of unbelievable odds. Pretty amazing.”

Kelly Grim, director of the Center for Academic Success

Ahab’s Wife: or, The Star-Gazer, by Sena Jeter Naslund
“This book sat on my shelf for years and when I finally picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It depicts the life story of Captain Ahab’s wife, Una, detailing her childhood with relatives in a lighthouse, her own adventures at sea, and her life with, and without, Ahab in Nantucket. As much as I enjoyed the references to Melville’s Moby Dick, I enjoyed even more the captivating story of this strong and fascinating woman and the people closest to her. The novel is beautifully written, and the vivid descriptions of life at sea and on Nantucket have stayed with me long after I finished reading.”

Perry Zirkel, professor of education and law

Rain Gods, by James Lee Burke
“This book’s protagonist, Hack Holland, like Burke’s Cajun character Dave Robicheaux in many of his previous books, captures the heroic heights and human depths of what looks on the outside like a stereotypical lawman. Burke’s love of language, his mastery of local lore—here, Texas, rather than his usual Louisiana or Montana, and development of colorful characters in creative plots all make for a refreshing break from the intellectual rigors of academia or the humdrum routine of daily life. For hearty entertainment, not heady challenges, Burke’s books are my personal, not professorial, recommendation.”

Kelly Holland, coordinator of the dean’s office, College of Business and Economics

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne
“This wildly descriptive story is narrated by a nine-year-old boy named Bruno, who is growing up in a privileged household in the early 1940’s in Nazi Germany. Through his eyes, Bruno’s highly ranked father is uprooting the family for no good reason and now there is no one to play within their new home along a long stretch of barbed wire fencing. Wishing for his home and his friends in Berlin, Bruno wanders out to the fence and starts a relationship with ‘the boy in the striped pajamas.’ They make plans for future adventures, as young boys do, without fully realizing the consequences of their actions. It is a chilling story, told in the honest and forthright manner of a child, and one that will stay with me for some time.”

Seth Goren, director of Jewish Student Life and associate chaplain

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, by Michael Chabon
“Hearing Michael Chabon read snippets from Manhood here at Lehigh last spring led me to pick up this book when it was released this fall. From his failed childhood attempt to start a comic book club to musings over the consequences of Obama’s election for the First Daughters, Chabon leads readers through engaging personal vignettes with humor and an eye toward lessons learned. His ability to present as compelling stories that are as mundane as the evolution of Lego minifigs makes for some wonderful reading.”

Gisella Gisolo, director of the Global Citizenship program

The Life You Can Save. Acting Now to End World Poverty, by Peter Singer
“I would like to recommend Peter Singer’s newest book, The Life You Can Save. Acting Now to End World Poverty (Random House, 2009). I do not necessarily agree with Singer’s approach to ending world poverty, but this book represents an interesting closure with respect to an original (and quite famous) article, published in 1972, in which Singer was already making, in essence, the same points but in a much more succinct way. Thirty-seven years and several books later, Singer begins his intellectual journey with the very same simple challenge (on what grounds can we say we have a moral duty to save a drowning child, assuming that doing so will be a nuisance for us?), but then develops a multi-pronged plan that is hard to be indifferent to. The book is very well informed, relies on authoritative literature (while at the same time being a very engaging and easy read), and appeals to our most self-centered selves, at times making us feel very uncomfortable... By emphasizing the importance of personal giving, activism, awareness and political participation, Singer challenges us to try and find an answer to the question, Is there a price to life, and if so, how much can a life cost? If you are in for a book that will mostly slap your face and remind you of how many unnecessary things we surround our lives with, this is the right one: it may either annihilate you under a heavy coat of guilt or shame, or it will elevate you and make you desire to raise the bar of your personal, day-to-day ethical behaviors aimed at helping to put an end to world poverty.”

Ian Duffy, professor of history

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes
“This is a fascinating account of intellectual developments in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In a series of biographical sketches, Holmes reveals the close personal and creative links that existed between the romantic poets and scientists such as Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Humphry Davy, and Mungo Park. He thus connects two groups that are often described as antagonistic. Along the way, he treats us to hot-air balloonists, sexual shenanigans in the South Seas, dangerous experiments with laughing gas, Frankenstein’s monster, and numerous other colorful characters and episodes. Guaranteed to surprise, inform, and entertain.”

Greg Reihman, director of faculty development and adjunct professor of philosophy

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
“I started reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog because I heard it contained interesting ruminations on matters philosophical, literary and aesthetic. And, sure enough, there are cultural and intellectual references aplenty. But what I really enjoyed about this novel was how it provided an opportunity to witness the enchanting inner worlds of its two main characters: Renée, a secretly intellectual concierge, and Paloma, the whip-smart twelve-year-old aesthete who lives upstairs. Both think carefully (and constantly) about the big questions of life as they negotiate the complexities of their social worlds. I think this book would make a fine gift for anyone who does the same.”

Silagh White, director of ArtsLehigh

Patronizing the Arts, by Marjorie Garber
“Garber supports rethinking prejudices that oppose art’s role in higher education, rejects assumptions of inequality between the sciences and humanities, and points to similarities between the making of fine art and the making of good science. She examines issues of artistic and monetary value, and transactions between high and popular culture. She even asks how college sports could provide a new way of thinking about arts funding. Using vivid anecdotes and telling details, Garber calls passionately for an increased attention to the arts, not just through government and private support, but as a core aspect of higher education. Compulsively readable, Patronizing the Arts challenges all who value the survival of artistic creation both in the present and future.”

Janice Bially Mattern, associate professor of international relations

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupery
“A beautiful story, ostensibly for children, that reminds us that ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.’”

Brett Reed, Murray H. Goodman ‘48 head men’s basketball coach

Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life, by John Wooden with Jay Carty
“A book that I have really enjoyed and I feel has an excellent message is Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success; Building Blocks for a Better Life. This short book is written by John Wooden, a Hall of Fame basketball coach. Jay Carty provides further explanation about John Wooden’s famous “Pyramid of Success” model. This model examines Wooden’s definition of success and compares that definition with other, sometimes less accurate, measures of success that are often identified in our culture.

“According to Coach Wooden, fame, fortune and other readily accepted measures of success are not accurate. Instead, he provides a working definition that is based upon ‘peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.’ This book also helps to clarify character traits that are consistent with achieving success in relationships, teams and other organizations. Traits such as industriousness, enthusiasm, self-control, initiative and many others are explored and discussed in relation to the overall goal of finding individual success.

“This book not only further explains Wooden’s definition and the ‘Pyramid of Success’ but also provides a perspective that is based upon his personal Christian faith. Although the core messages of Wooden’s model are not directly correlated with Christianity, he and Jay Carty take the opportunity to delve deeper into this framework to develop their examples and illustrations. I hope this book can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers who may appreciate some of the foundational insights into the human search for significance.”

Barbara Traister, professor of English
 

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
“The book is filled with short stories set in a New England town in which the title character appears sometimes as the main character and sometimes simply in passing in a story about someone else. It gives a wonderful sense of what it's like to live in a small town and how one resident can be seen from many perspectives. Olive Kitteridge herself is a prickly individual, a retired teacher of elementary school math, but one whom I eventually grew to grudgingly admire.”

Henry Odi, executive director of academic outreach and adjunct professor

Megacommunities, by Mark Gerencser, Reginald Van Lee, Fernando Napolitano and Christopher Kelly
“How leaders of government, business and nonprofits can tackle today’s global challenges together. The emphasis is on collaboration, creative new thinking on problem solving and the challenges confronting leaders.”

Michelle Issadore, assistant director of the Women’s Center

Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, by Judith Warner
“My recommendation is a book that came out a few years ago addressing the unrealistic expectations placed on mothers and the fallout women experience because of them. It’s by New York Times writer Judith Warner and is called Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. For new moms, those with teenagers, or those trying to figure out work-life balance, it’s a great way of realizing you’re not alone. For men, it helps them understand the pressure society places on moms and how they can help.”

John Savage, associate professor of history

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
“This is a really moving and funny personal memoir, about a girl growing up in a sleepy Pennsylvania town during the 1970s amidst a very dysfunctional family. It’s a graphic novel, and the combination of text and image is used really effectively, while there is still room for passages of surprisingly powerful writing. The mix of high- and low-brow references complements the paradoxical format (comic book/Bildungsroman). The literary allusions, to passages from Camus, Fitzgerald, and especially Proust, are integral to the story and feel unforced and natural. The main character’s combination of struggle and identification with her father as she develops her own identity is unique but somehow made accessible and universal.”

Greg Strobel, assistant director of external relations for athletics

Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge
“The best book I’ve read over the past several years is Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. I think this is a must-read for parents raising boys. The author lives in Colorado and is an avid fly fisherman. That intrigued me from the start since we used to live in Colorado and I love to fly fish. The central plot in movies like Braveheart is easy to follow after you read chapters titled ‘A Battle to Fight,’ ‘A Beauty to Rescue’ and ‘An Adventure to Live.’”

Tim McGeary, team leader for library technology, Library and Technology Services

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky, but Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan E. Isaacs
“Susan Isaacs had a bad year in 2003: her father died, her mother had a stroke; her acting career tanked while four best friends got their big break; she broke up with her almost-fiancé as four friends got married, and then saw that same almost-fiancé French-kissing another girl in Central Park. Feeling abandoned by God, and hearing a friend describe faith as a love story, Isaacs decides to take God into couples counseling ‘because we’re not getting along’ The back-and-forth dialogue between Isaacs and God (with a counselor named Rudy moderating) is raw, real, and laugh-out-loud funny. The conversation turns into a therapeutic journey through conflicts of faith, family and art. Her honesty and disarming humor about darkness, church and issues around alcohol, eating disorders, and sex, pull readers deeper into her story. The transformation of Susan replacing the God of her mind with the real God is powerful and is a refreshing view of grace rediscovered.”

Lynne Cassimeris, professor of biological sciences

A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore
“Lorrie Moore has published several outstanding short story collections (including Anagrams and Birds of America), and she’s finally come out with a new novel after a 15 year gap. A Gate at the Stairs is the coming-of-age story of Tassie Keltjin, a freshman at a Midwestern university. What I’ve always loved most about Lorrie Moore is here again—characters who face heartache and tragedy with wit and self-deprecating humor.”

Sally Gilotti, communications associate, University Communications and Public Affairs

Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
“This book is a must read for those who love mysteries entangled with wacky characters, judicial quirks and cultural history—all factual. Mystery author Douglas Preston moves his family to Florence, Italy, where he hopes to leisurely write his next novel. Instead he becomes intrigued, and at times entwined, in the region’s unsolved mystery involving a serial killer who pursued lovers in the countryside. With help from Mario Spezi, a journalist who covered the killings for years, Preston recounts the details of the investigation, its theories and suspects. The pair even become targets in the investigation. An interesting tie to current events: the attorney who led much of the bizarre Monster case prosecuted Amanda Knox, the American college student who was recently convicted of murder in Italy.”

Floyd D. Beachum, Bennett Professor of Urban School Leadership, College of Education

Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
“This book is immensely interesting because it utilizes popular culture, history, research and even stories to explore the notion of why some ideas stick and others do not. It is written in a style that is not too conversational, yet not too academic, piquing the reader’s interest throughout. This book would be of interest to people in leadership or managerial positions or someone just interested in how to make good ideas stick.”

Edward Whitley, assistant professor of English and director of the American Studies program

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
“This is the first graphic novel ever to be recognized by the National Book Foundation, and it’s easy to see why. This is a wonderful coming-of-age tale that blends fantasy with reality every bit as elegantly as it blends text and art. Highly recommended for young adults and old adults alike.”

Chad Davis, associate director for student and young alumni programs, Alumni Association

More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies, by Robert Gordon and Tom Burgoyne
“For any Philadelphia Phillies fan, there will always be certain teams that you will remember. Naturally, the World Series championship teams of 1980 and 2008 hold a special place in our hearts, but perhaps the team that will be most remembered is the lovable team of 1993. While this team fell just short of accomplishing the ultimate goal, this wonderful group of throwback players took fans on a ride for seven months, letting fans get to know them and feel like a part of the team. The 1993 Phillies played the game hard and played it the right way. This wonderful book takes fans back along for that magical ride, detailing all of the heroic comebacks, letting you into their locker room to tell you fantastic stories about the team, further revealing these great personalities, and describes several funny moments from the eyes of the Phillie Phanatic.”

Frank Pazzaglia, department chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences

The World Without Us, by Alan Weissman
“Weissman explores human interaction with and transformation of the environment. The book leads the reader through many examples of how nature quickly erases traces of human impacts, but also illustrates how many past civilizations have succumbed because of their poor stewardship of the environment.”

Thomas J. Novak, associate director of the Health and Wellness Center

Twilight Wish Moments: Making Our World a Nicer Place to Age—One Wish at a Time, by Stanley Bronstein
“I’m actually not much of a reader but I picked up a copy of this off the coffee table (my wife was reading it as she volunteers for the Twilight Wish Foundation) and although I haven’t finished it, it is definitely one of those feel-good books for the holidays. It’s easy to get mired down with all the tragedy and negativity in the world—after all, that’s what monopolizes the media, but this inspiring collection of stories serves as a reminder that there are still many ‘angels’ out there whose stories are often not heard. If you have a senior citizen in your life, then this book is for you.”

 

Story by Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, December 11, 2009

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