Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Rutgers faculty and staff share the titles they can't wait to tackle

beach reads
Book play a starring role in the languid months of summer.

Each year, Rutgers Today asks faculty and staff members to discuss the reading material – fiction, memoir, poetry, biography, graphic novel  – whatever they’re anticipating picking up once the semester winds down.

Among summer’s pleasures, reading ranks high on the list of members of the Rutgers community. Each year, Rutgers Today asks faculty and staff members to discuss the reading material – fiction, memoir, poetry, biography, graphic novel – whatever they’re anticipating picking up once the semester winds down.

Here are some of their responses.

Joseph Barbarese, professor, Department of English, Camden: To start: a year's worth of un- or partially read issues of New York Review of Books and London Review of Books. This should take me through June. I reserve a month for books on the physical sciences (Paul Davies, Roger Penrose) that accumulate between August and May (this year: The Particle at the End of the Universe) and on the Tudors, the great mob family of the 16th century. With luck, I will go back to the films (DVD) of David Lynch and John Carpenter, who fascinate me, and, maybe, get through the next two pages of the great Giuliani's 120 Daily Studies for the Right Hand.

Haym Benaroya, professor of mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, New Brunswick: My choice is The Hidden Reality - Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene. I have always been fascinated by the possibilities physics allows, particularly those that are counter-intuitive. For example, that time slows down for those traveling at speeds a significant fraction of the speed of light, or the idea of curved space and gravity being linked, or that there are an infinity of universes and therefore for every choice we make here on Earth we make the opposite choice on one of these universes. And there are many more such "weird" realities. Since I am not a professional physicist, reading books like Greene's gives me a hint about these possibilities and puts our existence on Earth in a different light.

April A. Benasich, Elizabeth H. Solomon professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience and  director, Infancy Studies Laboratory and director, Carter Center for Neurocognitive Research Center for Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience, Newark:  When I finally have a little down time this summer, I am looking forward to reading the newest book from Oliver Sacks, his autobiography On the Move: A Life. I hope to learn more about his early life and what (and who) helped to shape his extraordinary personality and intensely accessible writing style.  I have had the pleasure of reading every book Sacks has written. The New York Times has referred to him as "the poet laureate of medicine," and thousands have read his books — but I have also had the pleasure of meeting and talking with him on a number of occasions and found him to be a fascinatingly complex man – shy and yet exuding warmth and an enduring curiosity about life, medicine and science.

Abena P. Busia, professor of English, School of Arts and Sciences, New Brunswick:  I will be reading, and listening to, Jackie Kay's 100-page epic poem The Lamplighter, for many reasons. First, the subject, the transatlantic slave trade and its consequences, is at the heart of much of what I do professionally, pedagogically and what inspires me culturally. It is also written by a black British writer, a member of a group of women with whom, because of my own childhood, I identify, and whose work therefore I like to keep abreast of. And it is an epic poem, a form which, as a poet, fascinates me.

Lee Clark, professor, Department of Sociology, New Brunswick: Searching for Certainty: What Scientists Can Know about the Future, by John L. Casti is on the top of my list because I'm writing about organizations, expertise and warning. Problems of risk and warning have never been more pressing: Who foresaw Fukushima? The Nepalese earthquake? Warnings about climate change are obvious, but why are we ignoring warnings about the New Madrid fault? Oh, did I mention we just learned that Yellowstone is a much bigger super-volcano than we realized? If that thing blows, it’s lights out for many millions of people. I will ponder these questions sitting by the pool. Might as well relax if things are really falling apart.


 
Joseph Charette, executive director of Rutgers University Dining Services: I plan on reading An Uncomplicated Life: A Father's Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter, by Paul Daugherty. Paul, who is a sports writer, tells the story about raising an exceptional child who happens to have Down Syndrome.  While my wife and I do not have any daughters, one of our two sons is a 28 year old man with Down Syndrome.

Karen Dentler, assistant dean, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program (SASHP), New Brunswick: I recommend the 2015 SASHP Summer Reading book, Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder. I generally prefer fiction, but this book is amazing and inspiring. It tells the story of Deogratias "Deo" Niyizonkiza, who grew up in the mountains of Burundi, surviving civil war and genocide before coming to the United States. After living homeless in Central Park, he found his way to Columbia University and ultimately became a doctor – then returned to Burundi to help its people. Over the summer, new SASHP students will discuss the book on our popular summer reading blog, and Deo – now the founder and CEO of Village Health Works -- will visit Rutgers on August 28. The book will also be the text for the Fall SAS Honors Colloquium. 

Judith E. Deutsch, professor and director Rivers Lab, Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science, School of Health Related Professions: Right now I am reading the Lonely Planet's Guide to Spain and Rick Steve's Guide to Spain. Later this summer the Rivers Lab will be presenting four papers at the International Conference for Virtual  Reality, in Valencia, Spain. After the meeting, for the first time in about eight years, we are taking a family trip through Spain. The combination of these books gives me the practical, nuts and bolts information, as well as informative and amusing self-guided tours. I will be reading these books through the month of June and then I have a long list of fiction to catch up on.

Marshall Jones, professor, Theater Department, Mason Gross School of the Arts, and producing artistic director of Crossroads Theatre Company, New Brunswick: Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth just arrived yesterday from Amazon. I'm re-reading this book to come in contact again with great stories. Two plays produced at my theater last season had an epic feel and scope to them. They dealt with family, politics and capitalism over various generations.

Kriste Lindenmeyer, dean, faculty of arts and sciences, Camden: The book I’m reading right now is Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus, by David Quammen. I think it’s timely, and we’re going to have it as a required book for all students enrolled in our reading comprehension class in the fall. The author takes an approach that integrates science, culture and world politics.

Gwendolyn Mahon, dean, School of Health Related Professions and professor, Department of Clinical Laboratory Studies: I have two books on my summer reading list this year. Our family has two shared loves: one for running and one for summers in Maine. Every year for the past 10 years we have travelled  to Acadia National Park for two weeks of outdoor bliss. So, now that it is May, and Maine is so close I can almost smell it, I have started once again my 16-week half marathon training plan, and have picked two books to inspire me and prepare me for our annual family trek. The first is Running with the Buffaloes by Bill Lear, and the second is A Year in the Maine Woods by Bernd Heinrich. Running with the Buffaloes, written in journal style, details a season with the University of Colorado’s cross-country team, the Buffaloes. The second book is written by a University of Vermont zoology professor and describes his one-year sabbatical in a remote area of Maine without modern amenities. This second book is an escapist fantasy for me. Whenever we leave Maine at the end of each summer vacation, I always feel a little regret and a little sadness, and I fantasize that one day, I too will escape to the Maine woods for much longer than two weeks. For now I will have to live vicariously through Heinrich.

Pam Mertsock-Wolfe, associate director, pro bono and public interest program, Camden-School of Law: I’m reading The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, by Charles Freeman. I’m fascinated by the Apostle Paul’s influence on Christianity, and also with the comparison between Greek logic and the Christian faith.

Janet Mock
Zaneta Rago, director, Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities: I will be reading Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. She is a transgender advocate, author, and currently an MSNBC contributor. I think it's especially important for allies to the transgender community to learn about trans narratives directly from those who self-identify. Often, the media tells their story for them, but it is important to support platforms that allow for self-authorship. 

Julia Sass Rubin, associate professor, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, New Brunswick: This summer, I will be reading Public Housing and School Choice in a Gentrified City by Molly Vollman Makris, which is based on the author's dissertation from the Urban Systems doctoral program at Rutgers University-Newark. The book examines the education and overall experiences of youth who live in public housing in the much gentrified city of Hoboken. The public schools in Hoboken are predominantly Latino and low-income, while the three charter schools are predominantly white and affluent. Makris explores what this dynamic means for the city's low-income youth, and I look forward to learning from her insights.

Brian Strom, chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences:  I am looking forward to reading Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. This is the book which established “emotional intelligence” as part of the leadership literature. It was highly recommended to me by one of my incoming deans, and I have never read it before.

Jessica L. Ware, assistant professor of biology, Newark:  I’m very eager to read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, with photographs by Susan Kuklin. This book is a series of interviews with teens who fall at various points along the gender continuum. Kuklin talks to them about their lives as gender non-conforming kids and what their plans are for the future. The teenage years are universally ones of great emotional highs and lows. I'm interested to learn more about how these teens are able to grapple with the usual triumphs and pitfalls while living in an often hostile and intolerant society that is biased against them because of their gender identities. I'm excited to read about what these remarkable teenagers are doing to help shape a more inclusive and less binary society.