Recommended Reading

Back by popular demand, another batch of professors offers up the ultimate book list to get you through the winter.


Favorite Books to Teach
The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell

Must-Read Books in Your Field
The Federalist, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
Looking For History: Dispatches from Latin America, by Alma Guillermoprieto

Favorite Pleasure Read
True Grit, by Charles Portis

Most Recently Read
Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

“I realize the Manifesto isn’t a book—it’s a pamphlet—but word for word, nothing had a bigger impact on the political history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Reading it with students I’m always struck by the degree to which it feels like a museum piece: These guys really believed you could change human nature by overturning property rights. At the same time it’s full of passages that could be pulled from contemporary debates over trade policy, industrial policy, social welfare policy or the Greek bailout.”

“My field is the design of democratic institutions. There’s a lot of good scholarship, but most of the debates still come back to themes that Hamilton and Madison weighed in on during their debates with the anti-federalists. The writing has that 18th-century formality that feels so bound up and stilted and then suddenly breaks into revelation. I wish I could write like that—the revelation part, anyway—which reminds me of True Grit. I saw the Coen brothers’ movie from 2010 and the screenplay kept the language from Charles Portis’ original novel, which is just amazing. It’s worth reading aloud.”


Favorite Books to Teach
A Chapter of Hats and Other Stories, by Machado de Assis (translated by John Gledson)
La Respuesta, by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Women in Western Political Thought, by Susan Moller Okin

Must-Read Books in Your Field
Apology, by Plato
Annals, by Tacitus
The Odyssey, by Homer
The Law of the Twelve Tables
he Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois

Favorite Pleasure Reads
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Gadfly, by E.L. Voynich
The Painter of Battles, by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Seeing, by Jose Saramago

Currently Reading
African American Writers and Classical Tradition, by William W. Cook and James Tatum
Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them, by James Wright
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
The Road Back, by Erich Maria Remarque
The Collected Poems, by W.B. Yeats

“I co-taught a new course on slave societies in Imperial Rome and Brazil with my colleague Jessica Smolin and was introduced to the work of Machado de Assis, who is absolutely delightful. In teaching ‘Roots of Feminism’ I encountered Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s La Respuesta. The tract shows an educated woman deploying her learning to defend herself and save her life. The text exudes her enormous intelligence and her personality, and I felt that I had found a sister. Susan Moller Okin’s Women in Western Political Thought is one of the most eye-opening books I have read on gender and history. Moller Okin observes that thinkers, who have examined the capacities of men, have asked of women ‘what are women for?’ This observation literally changed my thinking about the problem of gender and how to read arguments about gender.”

“The dialogue in Plato’s Apology provides our best evidence for a trial of conscience in 399 B.C.E. An Athenian democratic jury decided that thinking was a crime. The historical, intellectual consequences are profound. Tacitus’ Annals chronicles history in the first years of the Roman Principate, from the death of Augustus to the end of Nero, and examines individuals who attempted to live with integrity—or not—in a political system that has betrayed the founding tradition that politics actually matter. Homer’s Odyssey is an epic account of homecoming from war. I use this book in reading groups with veterans. W.E.B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk articulated the idea of double consciousness, the differing self-conception and social judgment of African Americans within American society.”

Never Let Me Go examines the medical harvesting of human body parts. Kleenex required. The Gadfly is an historical novel set in Italy before the birth of the modern Italian State. It kept me reading all night. The Painter of Battles offers a meditation on violence and the effects on those who witness and are thus complicit in it. Jose Saramago is now one of my favorite authors, even though he has little regard for paragraphing.”

African American Writers and Classical Tradition, written by two colleagues and a product of their many years of collaboration at Dartmouth, has won the American Book Award for 2011. The Road Back is the sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front and chronicles the homecomings of German soldiers. As for Yeats—sometimes I just need a poem.”

Native-American Studies

Favorite Book to Teach
The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River, by Richard White

Must-Read Books in Your Field
Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, by Tiya Miles
Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethno-history, by Christian McMillen
Indian Blues: American Indians and the Politics of Music, 1879-1934, by John Troutman
Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache, by Keith Basso

Favorite Pleasure Read
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Most Recently Read
Red Power Rising: The National Indian Youth Council and the Origins of Native Activism, by Bradley Shreve
Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life, by David Treuer

The Organic Machine is one of the best, most accessible examples of the New West history—it marries Western, environmental and Native-American history in a complicated, beautiful story about one of the most important U.S. watersheds. White makes his histories both true to the complexity of the past as well as accessible to the non-academic. He does so with such elegance that sometimes students don’t realize the craft of his writing the first time they rush through the book as an assignment.”

“Miles’ book tells the intimate, familial and deeply gendered foundations of the assertion of tribal sovereignty, race and identity in the 19th century. McMillen shows us how tribally based land-claims activism has generated much of federal Indian case law and proves how local concerns and claims are just as influential as top-down stories of federal decision-making. Basso’s book gives a beautiful explanation of why tribes’ connections to their land bases are so central. These books answer the question of how cultural concerns around land and resources continue to drive Native legal, political and economic life.”

“I love East of Eden because I love history as a discipline. This novel deals in the complexity, unfairness and attempts at redemption that lie at the heart of every human story.”


Favorite Book to Teach
Narrative of the Incas, by Juan de Betanzos

Must-Read Books in Your Field
The Incas, by Terence D’Altroy
Ancient Cuzco: Heartland of the Inca, by Brian Bauer
The Conquest of the Incas, by John Hemming

Favorite Pleasure Reads
Dangerous Laughter, by Steven Millhauser
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell

Most Recently Read
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

“Betanzos was a Spanish interpreter in early colonial Peru who married an Inca princess. When the Spanish crown asked him to write one of the earliest histories of the Inca Empire, he interviewed his in-laws, placing them prominently in the narrative. His fluency in the Quechua language and royal Inca connections make for a detailed, informative and flawed account that helps to illustrate what we do and don’t know about the most powerful indigenous empire in the Americas.”

The Incas is a thorough and detailed introduction to the Inca Empire. Ancient Cuzco offers the most up-to-date account of the Inca imperial heartland region, and Hemming’s book is a magisterial account of the Spanish conquest and Inca resistance from the 1530s to the 1570s.”

“I read something recently that referenced Jane Eyre, and free e-books made it easy to indulge that curiosity.”

Computer Science

Favorite Books to Teach
Introduction to Algorithms, by Tom H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest and Clifford Stein
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams

Must-Read Book in Your Field
Introduction to Algorithms, by Tom Cormen, Charles Leiserson, Ronald Rivest and Clifford Stein

Favorite Pleasure Read
The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, by Bill James

Most Recently Read
Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities, by Richard DeMillo

Introduction to Algorithms was written by four devilishly handsome fellows. It’s the second-most cited thing—article, book or anything else—in all of computer science.”

“If I’m restricted to books that I did not coauthor, then I would choose Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace. I became aware of this book back in 2004, when I became director of the writing program, and I have used it twice in the computer science (CS) graduate course I teach on how to write CS papers. The Williams book shows you how to take sentences that are syntactically, even semantically, correct, yet have something off about them—you’d like to write ‘awk’ in the margins—and diagnose what’s wrong with them, leading to much-improved revisions.”

“James combines quantitative analysis, broad-brush baseball history, minutiae and idiosyncratic opinion to give the reader a flavor of the history of the game and insights into what its greatest players really did to help their teams win.”

English, Women’s and Gender Studies

Favorite Book to Teach
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

Must-Read Book in Your Field
Community-Based Learning & the Work of Literature, edited by Susan Danielson and Ann Marie Fallon

Favorite Pleasure Reads
The Alanna Quartet, The Immortals series, Wild Magic and The Tricksters series, by Tamora Pierce

Most Recently Read
Earth’s Children series, by Jean Auel
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, by E.L. James
Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, by J. Jack Halberstam

Lighthouse is the richest piece of poetic prose I know, in language, allusion and psychological insight, and absolutely fascinating as a fictionalized portrait of an artist and her accomplished parents. Every time I read it, I discover more layers.”

“From reading with my children when they were young, I was introduced to young adult fantasy, and that is my current favorite pleasure reading. Strong young female protagonists, gender politics, political intrigue, action and magic galore. I highly recommend the Earth’s Children series, an amazing, well-researched and very sexy sojourn into the Pleistocene era.”

Music, Asian and Middle Eastern studies

Favorite Book to Teach
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford

Must-Read Book in Your Field
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David W. Anthony

Favorite Pleasure Read
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin

Most Recently Read
On China, by Henry Kissinger
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks

“Students in my interdisciplinary course on the Silk Road have found Weatherford illuminating, even revelatory, in his revisionist view of Genghis and the abiding impact of Mongol civilization on the West.”

“The history of music in Central Eurasia, where I’ve been doing fieldwork for the last 35 years, is intimately tied to language, material culture and spiritual culture. Anthony’s book is a summary of interdisciplinarity—as relevant for a music ethnographer as for a linguist, archaeologist or art historian.”

“As a lifelong traveler and sometime travelogue writer, I continue to draw inspiration from Chatwin.”

“I don’t care for Kissinger’s politics, but he’s a lively and lucid writer and a keen observer of the Chinese political elite.”

Physics and Astronomy

Favorite Book to Teach
Introduction to Cosmology, by Barbara Ryden

Must-Read Books in Your Field
Accretion Power in Astrophysics, by Juhan Frank, Andrew King and Derek Raine
Galaxy Formation and Evolution, by Houjun Mo, Frank van den Bosch and Simon White
Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy, by Kip Thorne

Favorite Pleasure Reads
The Aubrey-Maturin series, starting with Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian

Most Recently Read
Dr. Thorndyke mysteries, by R. Austin Freeman

“Cosmology is a remarkably beautiful but highly mathematical subject, and many of its elegant fundamental concepts (such as the relationship between dark matter and dark energy in determining the expansion of the universe) can be obscured by the math in traditional treatments. Ryden’s book does a lovely job introducing the ideas of cosmology in a highly conceptual but still rigorous way.”

“My research is focused on the growth of supermassive black holes, which gain mass by devouring interstellar gas and dust. Accretion Power in Astrophysics is the definitive reference for the physics of this accretion process, which releases so much energy that the growing black holes can outshine the hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxies that host them! The growth of supermassive black holes is intimately linked to the formation and evolution of their host galaxies. Aimed at a popular audience, Thorne’s book tells a compelling story about black holes, singularities, wormholes and other exotic phenomena of general relativity, and the pioneering theorists who grappled with the mind- and space-bending consequences of Einstein’s theory.”

“I have a particular interest in historical fiction. I’m fascinated by the parallels one can find in the human experience in very different historical periods, despite obvious contrasts in culture, politics and technology. To me the gold standard for historical fiction is the Aubrey-Maturin series, which captures the world of the Napoleonic wars in amazing detail with a cast of wonderful characters.”

“Dr. Thorndyke is a ‘medical jurispractitioner’ who solves crimes using
real contemporary scientific techniques, like a proto-CSI.”

English, Asian-American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies

Favorite Book to Teach
Dictée, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Must-Read Books in Your Field
Immigrant Acts, by Lisa Lowe
Native Speaker, by Chang-Rae Lee

Favorite Pleasure Read
Momofuku, by David Chang and Peter Meehan

Most Recently Read
Debt, by David Graeber
Automaton Biographies, by Larissa Lai
Cruel Optimism, by Lauren Berlant

“I love teaching Dictée in my Asian-American literature classes because it helpfully complicates all three of those words: ‘Asian,’ ‘American’ and ‘literature.’ It is hauntingly cinematic while conjuring up the lived histories of war and imperialism in Korea that inflect Korean migration to the Americas.”

“I first encountered Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts when writing my undergraduate thesis, and it made me realize that cultural forms such as literature constitute a political terrain where we work out our ideas about the worlds we inhabit. On a related note, Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker illuminates the power of speech and language to shape, distort and inform experience.”

“Favorite pleasure read was perhaps the most difficult category to fill, because, on the one hand, I derive great pleasure from reading philosophy and theory, and on the other, so much of my research deals with popular culture. So pleasure and work are productively co-constitutive in my life. ‘Guilty pleasure’ reading might have been easier to answer: The Hunger Games trilogy recently took five days of my life. If we’re counting in terms of total number hours of pleasure, then it’s a tie between the Ant and Bee children’s book series and J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, which both my brother and I read annually dating back to our ’tween years—but there’s something pointedly awkward about calling either one a favorite pleasure read. Thus, I settled on something rather more hedonistic. David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook opens with an account of a deep appreciation of jjajangmyun—a dish I also hold in that esteemed category of comfort food. A gripping read and a heart-wrenchingly delicious meal make for a winning combination.”


Favorite Book to Teach
Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata (translated by Edward G. Seidensticker)

Must-Read Books in Your Field
War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, by John W. Dower
Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop, by Michael Bourdaghs

Favorite Pleasure Reads
Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell (and just about anything by this writer)
Collected Works of Tsuge Yoshiharu, by Yoshiharu Tsuge

Most Recently Read
A Room Where the Star Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard, by Hideo Levy

“I squeeze Snow Country into almost any course I teach on modern Japan. Kawabata, Japan’s first Nobel laureate in literature (1968), invariably captivates students with his haiku-like depiction of a pristine Japanese mountain village. The novel is a great way to break down reductive visions of national identity.”

“Dower’s comparison of wartime cultures in Japan and the United States is fabulous, as is the way he incorporates everything from political comics to propaganda tracts.”

“You just can’t beat Orwell for clear thinking and concise, polished prose.”

“Levy is perhaps the most famous non-Japanese writer working in the Japanese language. He was a professor of Japanese literature before launching his career as a novelist.”

Film and Media Studies

Favorite Books to Teach
Experimental Animation, by Robert Russett and Cecile Starr

Must-Read Books in Your Field
Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics, by Maureen Furniss
Visionary Film, by P. Adams Sitney

Favorite Pleasure Reads
Stephen Sondheim librettos

Most Recently Read
Cutting Edges: Contemporary Collage, by R. Klanten, H. Hellige and J. Gallagher
Ghosts in the Machine, by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari

Experimental Animation is one of the only existing introductions into fine-art, non-commercial animation.”

Art in Motion is one of the first texts to treat animation studies as a viable discipline of film studies. Visionary Film is a must- read for anyone interested in the expressive powers of the cinematic medium.”


Favorite Book to Teach
How I Became a Nun, by César Aira

Must-Read Book in Your Field
The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel), by Macedonio Fernández

Favorite Pleasure Reads
El baile de las locas, by Copi
The Buenos Aires Affair, by Manuel Puig
The Crack-Up, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Miles de años, by Juan José Becerra
Diaries, by Franz Kafka
Proust & Signs, by Gilles Deleuze
How I Became a Nun, by César Aira
El aire, by Sergio Chejfec Sade/Fourier/Loyola, by Roland Barthes
Urban Voodoo, by Edgardo Cozarinsky

Most Recently Read
Lata peinada, by Ricardo Zelarayán

“From the very first page of Aira’s ‘autobiographical’ novel, students understand that, literally and literarily, everything is possible in a story.”

The Museum of Eterna’s Novel is one of the greatest works of fiction ever written in any language. The Museum is an experimental novel about love, politics and fiction. Fernández’s aesthetic ideas have had a great impact on Argentine literature. Jorge Luis Borges explains: ‘I imitated him, to the point of transcription, to the point of devoted and impassioned plagiarism. I felt: Macedonio is metaphysics, is literature. Whoever preceded him might shine in history, but they were all rough drafts of Macedonio, imperfect previous versions.’ ”


Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (November/December 2023)
Fresh Takes
Blogger Ray Padgett ’09 covers the covers.
The Secret Life of the Brain

Michael Gazzaniga ’61 divulges the inner workings of the human mind. 

Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82
A CEO on the state of the nation’s healthcare

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