Behrend faculty and staff recommended reading – Part II

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator,
Penn State Behrend


Did you get through all those titles I gave you last week? No? Slacker! (Just kidding, of course). Break out your to-read list because I’ve got some more suggestions for you straight from lips, er, keyboards of the book-loving faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend.

Without further ado, recommended summer reading part two:

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is one of the shortest and most powerful books I’ve ever read.  It was published fifty years ago, and I read it as a teenager and reread it five years ago.  It is nonfiction and tells how the author, through medication and dye, transformed himself into a black man to experience what it was like to be black in the south in the 1950s. It’s hard to believe how recent this history is.” — Dr. Eric Corty, associate director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of psychology

“I’ll second Black Like Me. I read it several years ago and it really sticks with you. I use Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down in class, and every time I read it I’m stuck by how well she captures both the culture clash of the new Hmong refugee and the western medical model’s failing. For fun, I’m reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It consists of eight historical novels written about the Scottish Jacobite upraising and those who eventually immigrated to America. I’ve heard there is a TV series about it being filmed in Scotland now.” — Dr. Dawn Blasko, interim associate dean for Academic Affairs and associate professor of psychology

I recommend House of Breath , Come, The Restorer and Arcadio, all by William Goyen, who is considered in Europe to be one of the greatest writers America has ever produced. Ironically, he’s little known here. All his stories and novels are wonderful, but the books recommended are, in my opinion, his best three novels. The House of Breath was his first novel and Arcadio was his last (published posthumously). Enjoy. — George Looney, professor of English and creative writing

I would recommend The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. Not only is he one of the best science fiction writers ever and not only did he receive his fourth Hugo Award for this novel, but this book is really imaginative and captivating. Heinlein depicts an entire society on the moon (and its rebellion against Earth) several years before we had even step foot there. This novel is science fiction at its best. — Dr. Amy Carney, assistant professor of history

I found The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy to be inspiring. It’s about how current and former presidents have cooperated through time to accomplish great things.  For fiction, I recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It’s a great story about “life, death, and hope in the Mumbai undercity.” — Dr. Greg Filbeck, professor of finance

I’ll recommend One Summer: America in 1927 by Bill Bryson. Bryson is a classic storyteller known for his bestsellers such as A Walk in the Woods and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, but One Summer is the book we all should have all read in some high school or college history class. It consists of juicy and amazingly true stories of Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge (who seems to have been the worst President ever), and many others of that era. It’s fun and kind of makes you feel intellectually thin for not knowing more history. — Dr. Darren Williams, professor of physics and astronomy

I recently discovered that British author Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave, among many others) died this year at age 97. Her suspense and romance novels featured independent females in exotic locales and they enthralled me as a teenager. I’ve been picking them up at yard sales for years and want to re-read them this summer. She also wrote several Arthurian novels that were very popular. — Jane Ingold, associate librarian at Lilley Library

I just finished Delivering Happiness a Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh who is the CEO of Zappos. I had heard that Zappos was a tremendous company, and I like inspirational books. It was good for me to read something out of my field, too. It caused me to do a lot thinking outside of the (shoe) box. — Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology

Mr. Spaceman by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler is an intensely clever, funny, and poignant book.  The prose is spare and lovely.  The plot weaves historical events from the flight of the Kitty Hawk through the Vietnam War into a larger, compelling story about Desi, the spaceman of the title, his wife, Edna Bradshaw, their cat, and a bus of twelve people he abducts. — Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center and lecturer in English

The Atomic Chef by Steven Casey contains true stories of human error and things that go really wrong and why, from switching embryos to getting locked in an ATM room. I actually use this as a textbook in my upper-level human factors psychology classes. The Zen of Zombie Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore is a fun and easy read. It is kind of like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff but from a zombie’s point of view. The Sword of Truth is the first in a large fantasy series by Terry Goodkind. And, finally, 1408 by Stephen King is an interesting, shorter horror-type story. They made it into a movie a few years ago, but it didn’t do the book justice. — Dr. Heather Lum, research associate in psychology




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