2014 Faculty Summer Reading List



Christa Craven, PhD

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney. Ever since author-cartoonist Alison Bechdel came to campus to talk about her graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother? I’ve been devouring graphic memoirs. 


Karol Crosbie

Editor of Wooster Magazine

Refuge, An Unnatural History of Family and Place, by Terry Tempest Williams. This nonfiction book about the intersection of people and nature took literary and ecological communities by storm when it was released in 1991, with accolades like the one from the San Francisco Chronicle: "There has never been a book like Refuge, an entirely original yet tragically common story, brought exquisitely to life ... Powerful and regenerative."


Joan S. Friedman

Associate Professor of History and Religious Studies and Campus Rabbi

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, who also wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Its counterfactual premise is that FDR designated a section of the Alaska Territory as a refuge for Jews fleeing Hitler (and then the Arabs, who overran Israel in 1948), but that the arrangement was only for 60 years and now it's coming to a close. It's a detective story with a contemporary twist that I won't give away, but of course from a writer like Chabon it's far more than just a good plot. I enjoyed this book so much that I've read it three times, but this summer I'm going to read it in Hebrew as a way of keeping up my language ability.

David Gedalecia

Emeriti Faculty

I am recommending two, because I really cannot choose a favorite between them. These are two really excellent books.

  1. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics, by Daniel James Brown (2013). The "boys" in the book were students at the University of Oregon who came from humble farming and working-class backgrounds and managed, against stiff competition from the Ivy League and British universities, to become rowing champions. It is an extremely well-written book, and the story of these unique young men is set against the turbulent political background of the 1930s and the Great Depression. It is an inspiring and gripping read.
  2. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, by Bill Dedman and Paul Newell (2014). This is an investigative study of the life of an incredibly rich, reclusive heiress who owned, but did not reside in, lavish palatial homes, and it reads like a mystery novel, even though it is completely factual and reveals much about American society and the vagaries of great wealth at the turn of the 20th century. It was named as one of the best books of the year by Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

Ron Hustwit

Frank Halliday Ferris Professor of Philosophy

The House of Wittgenstein by Alexander Waugh (Doubleday). It is a family history of three generations of Wittgensteins who, as the wealthiest industrial family in Vienna, were entwined in the intrigues of two wars, the holocaust, and the musical culture of Vienna.


John Rudisill

Associate Professor and Chair of the Pre-Law Advising Program

One book at the top of my summer reading list is Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by the philosopher Philip Kitcher. I am a former English major and now regularly teach our department's Art, Love and Beauty course so this title has really grabbed my attention. Kitcher is a very clear writer and a first rate philosopher known primarily for his work in philosophy of science. The title of the book obviously indicates a focus on Thomas Mann's excellent and famous 1913 novella.  The plural "Deaths" signals Kitcher's consideration of the original novella alongside Benjamin Britten's adaptation for the opera and Luchino Visconti's adaptation for film.  The book's description explains that Kitcher considers how the three treatments "illuminate the tension between social and ethical values and an artist's sensitivity to beauty."