Faculty Reading Recommendations
Dr. Steve Harthorn, English Department:
1. Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (1851). A Victorian novel about middle-aged women in a small English town may sound about as exciting as an episode of “The Golden Girls,” but there’s a gentle wit to Cranford that renders it endearing to nearly all who read it. Its characters are at once sweet and comic: “Although the ladies of Cranford know all each other’s proceedings,” we find, “they are exceedingly indifferent to each other’s opinions.” Any resemblances to life at Williams Baptist College are purely coincidental.
2. C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (1964). Many people know C.S. Lewis as a Christian thinker and author of children’s books, but he was also a superb scholar of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In The Discarded Image, Lewis’s final book, Lewis uses his way with words to give a vivid sense of how medieval people saw the world. It’s a book that makes you realize how much you must check your assumptions at the door when studying the past (or other cultures in general). You can finish it in a day.
3. H. Rider Haggard, She
(1887). Before there was Indiana Jones, there was Allan Quartermain, the hero of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines
, a novel that brought archeological adventure into vogue. Haggard’s weirdest, most interesting book is She: A History of Adventure
, a novel that plunges professor Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey into the heart of Africa to seek out a lost civilization ruled for centuries by a mysterious white queen. You’ll love the adventure, the mystery, and the strangeness (wait until you see what they burn as torches). If for nothing else, read this book for its unforgettable term “She Who Must Be Obeyed” (which may lead some women to hide this book from the men in their lives at all costs), or to find out about the secret lives your seemingly staid professors lead.
Dr. Todd Ewing, History Department:
1. Bob Woodward, State of Denial. An in-depth look at the origins and development of the Iraqi War and a fair assessment of what went right and what went wrong in the early part of the conflict.
George Bush, Decision Points
. A great presentation of Bush's side of how he saw his decisions in his presidential years. It provides a nice
balance to the anti-Bush rhetoric and allows one to see what the man himself was thinking as opposed to the pundits. One may still not agree with his policies, but I think this work goes far in de-demonizing him.
3. Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin. A very readable biography of one of the arch villains of history and the development of his personality and leadership style.
1. Naguib Mahfouz, Palace Walk
(1990). This is the first book in The Cairo Trilogy that covers multiple generations of an Egyptian family’s life, dealing also with the changes to Egyptian life and society. Mahfouz was the first Arab writer to win the Novel Prize for Literature and is considered to be the father of modern Arab fiction. This book, set during and just after WWI, is about
the country as seen through the lives of a traditional family with an authoritarian head who tries to maintain that traditional family while allowing himself liberties in a time of tremendous change.
2. Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth
(1932). The culturally rich novel of family life in a Chinese village before the 1949 Revolution. Buck, raised in China as an MK, received the Nobel Prize for literature with this work specifically cited. The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of the fortunes of him and his family, going
from peasant to rich land owner to city peasant and back to rich landowner—all
the time believing that his fortunes depend
on the blessings of the good earth. The movie has only a shallow relation to the novel.
3. Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
(1913). As close as you will come to poetry in prose form. The novel is divided into seven
parts. Read only volume one unless you become entranced by it. It is a lyrical collection of memories and philosophizing containing several self-contained stories, and it ends with the famous "Madeleine cookie" episode, introducing the theme of involuntary memory. You will either fall in love with Proust or be bored to tears—there
is just no middle ground.
Prof. Daniel Spillman, History Department:
1. Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922). This classic novel offers an uproariously funny view of middle-class life in America during the Roaring Twenties. You’ll find the protagonist, George F. Babbitt, hilarious, especially when he tries to buy “bootleg liquor” from a speakeasy for the first time.
2. Frank McCourt, Teacher Man (2005). McCourt’s memoir about his thirty years as a high school English teacher in New York City is delightful. McCourt, an Irishman, responded to ornery American teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s with humor, wit, and occasionally wisdom. If you’re a secondary education major, you simply must read this little book.
3. Shusaku Endo, Silence (1966). Endo's classic novel follows a persecuted Portuguese priest as he tries to evade capture by Japanese officials in the 1600s. This is historical fiction at its finest, and it will make you think about all sorts of interesting subjects such as religious syncretism and the ethics of religious persecution. You’ll never forget the macabre torture scene.
Prof. Charlotte Wheeless, Education Department:
1. Loomens and Kolberg, The Laughing Classroom: Everyone’s Guide to Teaching with Humor and Play. Research proves that using humor in the classroom is beneficial to both students and teachers. This book is a great resource for how to easily add humor into everyday classroom situations.
2. Fay and Funk, Teaching with Love and Logic. The principles of classroom discipline presented in this book will save first year teachers from many headaches and problems. The principles are woven into entertaining stories of actual classroom situations. Very entertaining and helpful book.
3. James D. Sutton, 101 Ways to Make Your Classroom Special
. This short book has great ideas to help teachers make school fun and memorable for their students. The ideas are simple and inexpensive and can be implemented by anyone.
Dr. Ken Startup, History Department:
1. Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll (1972). Still stands—after a generation—as the premier “dissection” and description of Southern slavery and Southern culture.
2. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, In The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family(1994). Wyatt-Brown traces—across several centuries—the tragic and tumultuous (epic) story of this family of soldiers, planters, scholars, politicians, and writers.
3. Correlli Barnett, Desert Generals (1961). In 1961, a (very) young British military historian ignited a dramatic (and ongoing) controversy with his Desert Generals. Barnett certainly demonstrated the potential of well-crafted revisionist history to change the accepted narrative of great events.