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 suggestions:
Marie-Hélène Chabut, professor of French Literature, Chair, department of modern languages and literature
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbéri
The beautifully written story of an unlikely friendship between Paloma, a privileged rebellious teenage girl and Renee, the middle aged autodidact concierge in her apartment building in a rich Parisian neighborhood. The novel alternates between Renee’s philosophical thoughts on life and society and Paloma’s musings on her meaningless life. All in all an erudite, humorous and moving novel.
Maddy Eadline, assistant to the provost of Student Affairs, and director of special projects
The Art of Driving in the Rain, by Garth Stein
This is a wonderfully written story of a man as he faces many of life's challenges. It’s often moving and funny as it highlights one man’s journey as he learns to love and grow as a husband, father and a person. His evolution is told through the eyes of his dog, Enzo, and it’s a must-read for dog lovers.
Peggy Plympton, vice president of Finance and Administration
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, by Nelson Mandela
For a trip to South Africa this past summer, our (doctoral program) class had to read several books, one of which was Nelson Mandela's autobiography. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone. It is inspirational to hear his personal story of growing up in apartheid South Africa, making a place for himself and his family in such a restrictive environment, and the sacrifices he endured in order to fight to transform his country into the multi-racial democracy that it is struggling to be, today. His descriptions of his time in jail, and the impact on his family—but also of the beauty of the countryside, and the ways in which he and his colleagues continually worked to better the environment for all, black and white and Indian and all South Africans—are breathtaking, each in their own way. An amazing man and an amazing book.
Scott Paul Gordon, professor and chair, department of English; director, Lehigh University Press; co-director, Lawrence Henry Gipson Institute for 18 Century Studies
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed
A brave, careful, brilliant, and moving story of an early American family. Gordon-Reed manages to reveal clearly and patiently all the subtle distinctions in the complicated relations between the Hemingses and the Jeffersons without missing the big picture. It's a big book—800 pages—but you won't put it down. And you won't forget it.
Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center
Woman's World: A Novel, by Graham Rawle
Rawle collected over 40,000 words, phrases, and images from women's magazines published in the 1960s and literally reworked—through physically cutting and pasting—them to create the novel Woman's World, which exposes the ways in which women's magazines marketed femininity and appropriate womanhood to women of the mid-20th century. The novel itself is a kind of photocopy, providing readers the sense of reading a collage that actually creates its own narrative about a family with a secret. The narrative takes readers through a thought-provoking inquiry into constructions of femininity, gender-queering, and family relationships.
Jame'l Hodges, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange
From its debut as an experimental play in 1975 its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp's Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Award-winning literary work has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, Shange's words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the 20th century. This book, in my humble opinion, is great for fathers, brothers, uncles and all family members to truly understand what struggles and obstacles their daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts and other loved ones experience. Most recently, Tyler Perry transformed this story into a movie starring Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopie Goldberg, Cicely Tyson and others.
Jeremy J. Littau, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communication
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky
The digital revolution that led to the reorganization and outright dismantling of traditional media structures has become a much broader phenomenon, Shirky argues in this seminal work on how user-generated media is changing the way society functions. The barriers for publication and interaction are so low for the average Web user that they are at times without monetary cost, and because of that it allows people to organize themselves in new ways without regard for traditional institutions. In this new environment, driven by interactive media, the status quo is constantly under threat from more agile networks of people who have no stake in seeing traditional institutions survive. In this work, the author argues that these new ways of organizing runs counter to a status quo that often is backed by what Kevin Kelly calls the Shirky Principle: "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." The book is filled with examples of how traditional institutions have little choice but to preserve problems as a way of preserving their own model for survival, but they encounter resistance from new kinds of groups that are loosely affiliated but come up with creative new paradigms and solutions. Society, then, must wrestle with the question of whether to embrace newer, better, and more efficient solutions that endanger traditional institutions even when they come at a high transaction cost, such as the loss of jobs. While this is a book about media, its application is far more broad and argues that crowds and flash forms of collaboration are going to have an impact on many non-media industries if it is not happening already. We can all collaborate and have a voice in this new evolution of the Web and that will have lasting effects on how society organizes itself.
Timonthy Gardner, director of LGBTQIA Services
GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens, by Kelly Huegel
This book is a fantastic resource for those of us who are LGBTQ, have LGBTQ children or relatives, those interested in the experiences of GLBTQ youth and for educators. This book will warm your heart and fill your mind with stories of LGBTQ teens, provide helpful information to combat violence against LGBTQ populations, and teach you ways to embrace, empower and build healthy identities as LGBTQ and Ally people.
Kathleen Hutnik, director of Graduate Student Life
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Marion and Shiva are twin boys, born to an Indian nun and an English surgeon who fall in love while working in a field hospital in Ethiopia. Their mother dies in childbirth and his father abandons his sons in his grief, yet the boys are lovingly raised by two doctors who also work at the hospital. This novel, narrated in the first person by Marion, tells the story of their upbringing in the hospital in the context of the political turmoil in Africa. I love rich and organic characters that are rendered in deep and complex relationships and this novel satisfies that beautifully. The boys grow up to become healers themselves and circumstances transpire so that they cross paths as adults with their biological father. This is a beautifully written novel that I had a very hard time putting down.