From Sports to Sci-Fi: What the Graduate Center Is Reading
Find some summer books with this inspiring list from faculty and administrators.
Looking for a book that will carry you through the rest of the summer, and you’ve already gotten through the list of recent books from Graduate Center faculty and alumni? Here’s a sampling of what professors and administrators are reading — or at least hoping to read — in these sweltering summer weeks.
I am reading Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge this summer. Set in the 19th century, the novel is about the daughter of the first Black female doctor in New York and her decision to move to Haiti. It is fascinating and lush and says a lot about mother-daughter relationships.
Distinguished Professor Herman Bennett (History), director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC):
Among other books, I am planning to read Rebecca Clifford’s Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust. The themes that seemingly inform this highly acclaimed study of trauma, memory, and identity surely resonated among both the post-WWII Afro-German and Afropean population whose lives I am examining in a forthcoming study.
I like sports and science, so on the sports side The Last Enforcer by Charles Oakley and Frank Isola, about when the Knicks were actually good and Charles Oakley was considered the toughest player in the NBA. On the science side, The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson about Jennifer Doudna and the development of the CRISPR technology for gene editing — amazing science with a heavy sprinkle of ethical issues.
Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell:
I am midway through three books! This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Erhlich. The author seamlessly blends memoir, poetry, and anthropology in revealing the essence of Greenland. It’s background reading for my upcoming trip there.
Asemic: The Art of Writing by Peter Schwenger. This book is about writing without language, and how lines can be read as words or stories. The illustrations are inspiring my next art projects, which incorporate text/not-text. Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism by Laura E. Gómez, with whom I had the opportunity to work at UCLA. It is an ambitious effort to illuminate the evolution of Latino identity in the United States.
I have three books on my desk for August reading. I’m looking forward to diving into The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein, because several colleagues have told me that it’s a brilliant analysis of how public policies in the U.S. — federal, state, and local — have created the residential segregation that damages so many U.S. cities. Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, by Andrea Elliott, updates and deepens a 2013 New York Times series about 11-year-old Dasani Coates, as her family struggled with poverty and homelessness. I’m eager to return to the story of this remarkable girl’s complicated life. Those first two are candidates for my fall syllabus. Just for me, I’ll read The Family Roe: An American Story, by Joshua Prager. This timely book tells the story of Norma McCorvey, the woman at the heart of the Roe v. Wade case, relating the trajectory of her life over several decades.
I'm going for A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Two family members who have read this book have told me it’s one of the most humorous and insightful visions they’ve seen about how civilization could endure after total catastrophe — something a lot of us have had on our minds lately. As a bonus, it’s not that long, which is a real plus for someone with as short an attention span as I have!
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) looks like a promising and constructive critique of identity politics, of which we are badly in need.
Professor Branko Milanovic, Stone Center Senior Scholar:
I hope to read The Triumph of Broken Promises by Fritz Bartel. Bartel argues that after the fast period of post-World War II growth, both the West and the East faced, beginning with the oil crisis in 1973, the difficulty of maintaining the implicit social contract under the conditions of slower growth. The East crumbled because of lack of legitimacy of governments. The West turned to Reaganomics and later to the culture wars as a way to compensate for lower growth.
And I also hope to read March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This just translated book of Solzhenitsyn’s historical fiction takes us to the February (March) 1917 revolution. Far from seeing in it the lost chance for a liberal renaissance of Russia, Solzhenitsyn argues that the ineptness of the new government facilitated the Bolshevik uprising and the October revolution.
Jennifer Furlong, director of Career Planning and Professional Development:
I recently read Elif Batuman's Either/Or, which I found really funny — I very much enjoyed reading about the main character's attempts to master an undergraduate literary curriculum that was not dissimilar to my own from years back. Quotes like “‘How I loved our church, and how clearly I can see it still,’ Proust wrote, about a place where he had clearly been bored out of his mind,” made me laugh out loud, and reminded me of summer reading I should be doing, so this summer I’m planning to finish Le côté des Guermantes.
I’m about to read Mary Beard’s Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern. Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome was the best book I’ve read on ancient Rome, and I’m sure she won’t disappoint.
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