Recommended Reading

Eighteen professors share a wide-ranging list of 36 must-read books.


By the Book
by Jasmine Guillory 
“In this Beauty and the Beast riff, a publishing assistant ends up in a majestic Santa Barbara mansion to help a gruff, misunderstood actor write his memoir. Guillory is a Black woman, and she writes fantastic Black women protagonists.”

Middle Eastern Studies

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy
by Nathan Thrall
“Expertly unpacking a single event and introducing the individuals impacted by it, Thrall crafts an intimate history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond the headlines—a timely and important story that promises to resonate with a wide community of readers.”


The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho
by James Ferguson 
“When I read this as an undergraduate, it helped me to better understand inequality and power. And it made me want to become an anthropologist.”

My Name Is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
“Strout’s writing is so intimate and affective, it transported me into another person’s inner world. That’s my favorite thing about good fiction.”

Dear Committee Members
by Julie Schumacher
“This novel is hilarious. Comprised of fictional letters that a disaffected professor writes to various academic committees and colleagues, it gives a humorous take on the academy.”


Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison
“I first read this in high school, and the story has stayed with me ever since.”

Medgar and Myrlie: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened America
by Joy-Ann Reid
“The author, an MSNBC journalist, centers her engrossing history on the bond between civil rights activist Evers and his wife, who never gave up on bringing her husband’s killer to justice. The Klansman who assassinated Evers just after midnight on June 12, 1963, in the couple’s driveway was finally convicted in 1994.”

Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
by Rebecca Solnit
“I enjoyed this and think it would be interesting to map different phenomena on campus and in the Upper Valley.”

Psychological and Brain Sciences

Anticancer: A New Way of Life
by David Servan-Schreiber
“This is the true autobiography of a brain scientist who jumped into the MRI scanner to fill in for a research participant and found out that he had brain cancer. He devoted the rest of his life to understanding why some people live so much longer with cancer than others. The book is full of research on things you can do for yourself to fight cancer—effects of anti-inflammatory foods, physical activity, meditation, and more. One of the main revelations is that there will probably never be large-scale clinical trials of these things, because there’s not enough money in raspberries or shiitake mushrooms to justify the costs, so we have to figure things out for ourselves.”


Silk Roads: A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan
“Shortly before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I read this wonderful sneak preview of what a resurgence of all the ancient autocracies of Eurasia might look like.” 

The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine
by Robert Conquest
“This includes the memorable line by a Bolshevik activist looking back ruefully on the party’s persecution of the ‘kulaks’: ‘Not one of them was guilty of anything; but they belonged to a class that was guilty of everything.’ ” 

Best Things First
by Bjørn Lomborg
“Lifting the gloom a little, Lomborg’s 2023 Copenhagen Consensus volume is both a reminder of what people can do when they coordinate under favorable institutions, and a glimpse into a very different future: one shaped by humane values and reasoned priorities based on honest cost-benefit assessments.”

Comparative Literature; Asian Societies, Cultures and Languages; Film Studies

The Tale of Genji
by Murasaki Shikibu
“Literally life-changing for me, this book is extraordinary, both beautifully written and challenging, and my efforts to translate it have profoundly affected the way I think about literary art and the ethics of reading across cultures.”

The Technological Singularity
by Murray Shanahan
“As a total nonspecialist, I found this a fascinating, clearly written, and accessible examination of the possible futures humans may face as a consequence of the development of general artificial intelligence.” 


The Odyssey
by Homer
“This thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be part of a community and of a family is wrapped up in a rip-roaring adventure story.”

The Hotel New Hampshire
by John Irving
“This will resonate for anyone living in Hanover, New Hampshire.”

The Sense of an Ending
by Frank Kermode
“This is a dense but rewarding discussion of the relationship between mortality and storytelling.”

Computer Science

Love in the Time of Cholera 
by Gabriel García Márquez 
“I was reading this in a hammock in Costa Rica 30 or so years ago when I met my husband, who stopped by to tell me how much he liked the book. It is often the time and place when you read a book that is as important as the book itself. In this case, the book is pretty great, too. It is the story of Florentino and Fermina and their secret love, set in a time and place filled with cholera.”

The Covenant of Water
by Abraham Verghese 
“Set in Kerala, India, with a background of mystical beliefs, death and the family curse, rural hardships, gender expectations, and leprosy, this book paints its full, flawed, yet wonderful characters in a beautiful way.”

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
by Gabrielle Zevin 
“This is the story of friends who come together through video games. They love to play them, but also to design and make them.” 


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport ’04
“Newport urges readers to resist the temptation to overextend, multitask, and spread ourselves too thin. We are better workers—and better people—when we cultivate a ‘fierce concentration’ and give a small number of targets our ‘rapt attention.’ Deep Work combines the stories of people who have embraced this lifestyle with practical tips for developing one’s own ‘depth philosophy.’ ” 

English and Creative Writing

Wide Sargasso Sea 
by Jean Rhys 
“This wild novel narrated by Bertha Mason, the ‘madwoman’ kept in the attic in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, changed my life. We get Bertha’s full story, from her wild childhood in Dominica to her doomed romance with Edward (who’s a monster, no surprise) to her mental illness and imprisonment. And then she strikes back and burns the place down! That book taught me that everyone—everyone—has a story. Never dismiss anyone, no matter how prickly. There’s treasure in there.”


The Fool (Khenté)
by Raffi (Hakob Melik Hakobian) 
“Set during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, this novel tells the story of Vartan and the tragedies he endures to find the love of his life. This prophetic book, published in 1880, was a wake-up call to Armenians living in the Ottoman empire and foretold the calamities that would befall them in the coming years.”

Dear Committee Members
by Julie Schumacher
“This highly amusing novel that is part of The Dear Committee Trilogy, uses letters of recommendation as a satirical tool to skewer academia. Its sequel, The Shakespeare Requirement, is equally hilarious.” 

How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything
by Mike Berners-Lee
“This book provides the carbon footprint of everything from an email to the World Cup. Some of the figures are counterintuitive (for instance, paper bags have a larger carbon footprint than plastic ones), underscoring the intricate nature of environmental protection.”


To the Lighthouse 
by Virginia Woolf
“One of my lifelong favorites, this all-time classic offers a beautiful portrait of family life, with the dense emotions that bring its members together and push them apart.”

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine
by Rashid Khalidi
“This history of the Palestinian people from the early 20th century until recent times powerfully blends erudite research and gripping memories, since Khalidi was an eyewitness to many key events and tragedies he discusses. It offers a much-needed perspective to one of our time’s most burning issues.”


A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
“Beautiful and tragic, this life-changing book tells the story of four individuals from different parts of India whose personal stories come together in the turbulence of the Emergency years and their aftermath. The ending is so terribly sad that I don’t recommend it lightly, but it reflects the Indian social and political landscape, which is simultaneously replete with harmony and horror, love and violence, and many other apparent contradictions.”

The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
“This book speaks to some of the same features of India. It also helped me see and hear laughing small gods and howling big gods, not just in India but elsewhere in the global South too.”

French and Italian

The Divine Comedy  
by Dante Alighieri
“I ended up building my entire academic career around this medieval masterpiece. It gave me the opportunity to imagine how to ask questions that connect people and ideas across time and space, to identify the preoccupations and pleasures that tie us together as humans. Also, Dante’s ability to earnestly burst through his poetry and speak directly to the reader is uncanny.”

The Power Broker
by Robert Caro
“This biography of Robert Moses tells the story of New York City, the development of urban planning in America, and the way the space we live in determines who we are and how we interact. A massive tome that is nonetheless a page-turner.” 

American Mermaid
by Julia Langbein 
“This novel contains a story within a story, told from the point of view of a young female author of a book/film script who has written about a mermaid forced to live as a disabled human on land. Beautifully written, funny, totally weird.”


Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls
“I read this in one sitting one summer day in backwoods Maine when I was 11. Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann live large in my heart like old friends.”

The Creative Act: A Way of Being  
by Rick Rubin
“I’m two-thirds the way through, enjoying Rubin’s words of wisdom, feeling inspired to get back to the woodshed and see what emerges.”

A Visit from the Goon Squad  
by Jennifer Egan
“I love the cast of characters and improvisatory feel of this book, dark and twisted in the best way possible. I bet Jennifer Egan and Rick Rubin would enjoy sharing a meal together if they’ve not already done so.”


African and African American Studies

Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light
by Tyler Stovall
“In this pioneering exploration into the lives and times of African Americans in Paris since the 19th century, published in 1996, Stovall unapologetically and fearlessly wrote against prevailing ideas of scientific racism while demonstrating how Black Americans in Paris, throughout the long Jim Crow era, were part of a broader narrative of immigrant upward mobility typically reserved for Europeans who fled to the United States; only Black Americans were fleeing their country. At the same time, Stovall’s book reminds us that the idea of a ‘colorblind’ France is a myth and terribly flawed.”


The Ministry for the Future
by Kim Stanley Robinson
“This climate fiction happens in the near future, as humanity is grappling with the consequences of climate change and trying to mitigate them. Robinson’s meticulous approach involved extensive consultations with both physical and social scientists, resulting in a rich narrative with accurate and detailed descriptions of all the themes he addresses. Some characters are inspired by glaciologists and colleagues I know, which added a personal dimension to this book.” 


Shared Experiences
Excerpts from “Why Black Men Nod at Each Other,” by Bill Raynor ’74
One of a Kind
Author Lynn Lobban ’69 confronts painful past.
Going the Distance

How Abbey D’Agostino ’14 became one of the most prolific athletes in Dartmouth history. 

Joseph Campbell, Class of 1925
The author (1904-1987) on mythology and bliss

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