The Carl Online


Nonrequired Reading: Faculty Members’ Favorite Books by carlmagazine
October 17, 2010, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Literature | Tags: , , , ,

By Marika Cristofides

 

Roy Elveton, Philosophy

Quite honestly the things I go back to with some regularity are Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Tomas Beckett’s Molloy/Malone Dies/the Un-nameable. The Wolf novel is just incredibly beautiful, thoughtful prose — eminently readable. She’s a master of the English language. For the Beckett, it’s just some of the most thought provoking writing I’ve ever read. Also, Heigell’s Phenomenology of Spirit. It’s bizarre and obscure but immensely suggestive. I don’t know that I understand it.

Pierre Hecker, English

Can we just presume all of Shakespeare and Austen? Books sometimes come to you at the right moment. I was a teenager when I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for the first time, and its depiction of how dehumanizing we can be to one another made a powerful impression. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, which I also first read in my late teens, struck me not only as scathingly funny but strangely comforting. It confirmed my suspicions that Scheisskopf was in charge. You think you’re alone in seeing the world a certain way and then books like these — even if they’re about a black man in a New York basement in the 1930s, or a bombardier over Italy in the Second World War, make you realize you’re not.

Angela Curran, Philosophy

Umberto Ecco’s The Name of the Rose. I’m a huge mystery fan; I gobble up all different sorts of mystery stuff. It’s an intellectual’s DaVinci Code. He gives an elaborate set of clues that you have to figure out. It’s a whodunit murder mystery in this 12th century abbey, and William of Baskerville is a sort of stand-in for Sherlock Holmes. It’s a book about different ways of looking at the world; the coexistence of religion, philosophy, and science. The guy solves the mystery using science and philosophy and feels that this is not incompatible with his religion. It’s a lot of interesting intellectual history. It’s about the birth of modern philosophy out of medieval philosophy. There’s a great film version of the book with Sean Connery and Christian Slater. I like the Harry Potter books too.

John Weiss, Astronomy

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I’ve heard rumors that Pratchett wrote 90% and Gaiman wrote 90%. It’s sort of this weird hybrid of both of them. Terry Pratchett, he has this way of twisting the English language around his little finger; he takes these common English sayings and makes them interesting. When I was writing my thesis I couldn’t fall asleep at night, thinking about the job market. I read an article that said you should read something funny when you couldn’t sleep. I would read Pratchett for a while and be out. Gaiman is also very good at language, but it’s more the stories. He tells wonderful stories.

Raka Mitra, Biology

My favorite book ever is the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. My family is from India — from Calcutta. That’s where Jhumpa Lahiri is from. She writes about second-generation kids. There are so many little idiosyncrasies in the book that are specific to how I grew up. The food that they mention is like what my mom made. The main character had a formal name and was called by his nickname; I have a formal name, but Raka is my nickname. I also really like Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the Red Tent by Anita Diamant, and the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Connie Walker, English

All of Austen, but especially Persuasion, because it is the most emotionally thrilling of her books. And Cloud Atlas, which is a new book by David Mitchell. It’s technically brilliant – a wonderfully told story, and deeply interesting.

Bill North, History

I think the book that sort of made the biggest impact on me and that I’ve gone back to a couple of times is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I like it both for the ideas, and how it talks about teaching and different ways of teaching — how we see or don’t see the world around us. The main character teaches rhetoric. He tells his students to describe a building in Bozeman, Montana. One particular student can’t seem to do it. There’s nothing to write about. “I don’t know how to write,” she says. He tells the student to choose a more specific topic. She says, “I still can’t figure out what to write.” “Write about this one specific brick.” She has too much to write. It was sort of my first encounter with philosophy of science. How do they choose the hypotheses they make? I liked the way it was exploring that choices are made.  Also at that time the idea of a motorcycle trip across the country appealed to me.

Ross Elfline, Art History

My favorite book is Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I have a nasty habit of changing my favorite book depending on what book I’ve read most recently. His prose is so flat and clunky — not flowery, and I love that. It harkens back to this sort of noir-ish style. I love the completely bizarre quality of the writing. There’s this deep engagement with the trauma of World War II in Japan that I find amazing. Another book that used to be number one for me is Possession by A. S. Byatt. It’s now a really shitty movie. Possession I like because it’s a book by a nerd about all of her nerdish passions. It’s an interweaving, or a sort of archival of things.

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