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CHECK IT OUT: Recommending Reading From The College Of Arts & Sciences

CHECK IT OUT: Recommending Reading From The College Of Arts & Sciences Celebrate National Book Lovers Day with some suggested reading material, courtesy of Arts and Sciences faculty and staff. August 9, 2023 By Grant Hawkins ’98 To commemorate National Book Lovers Day, select faculty and staff members of the College of Arts and Sciences at […]

CHECK IT OUT: Recommending Reading From The College Of Arts & Sciences

Celebrate National Book Lovers Day with some suggested reading material, courtesy of Arts and Sciences faculty and staff.

To commemorate National Book Lovers Day, select faculty and staff members of the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M University have revealed their current reading lists and the reasons behind their interest in the chosen books or genres.

Dr. Troy Bickham

Interim Director, Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research
Professor, Department of History

I am currently reading the shortlisted books for Texas A&M’s 24th Susanne M. Glasscock Book Prize. Details of the major, globally recognized prize in the humanities and the shortlist can be found on the Glasscock Center’s website. The endowed prize is unique in that it recognizes outstanding scholarship in the humanities that appeals to academic and nonacademic audiences alike.  

All of the shortlisted books were recently selected by shortlisting committees comprised of Texas A&M humanities faculty, graduate students and teachers from the Bryan and College Station school districts. As chair of the final selection committee, I am reading through all of the books this summer.

Dr. Marian Eide
Professor, Department of English 

On my nightstand right now are the novel Trust by Hernan Diaz and Selina Tusitala Marsh’s collection of poetry Dark Sparring 

Trust is an absorbing and tricky historical narrative about money and finance. Diaz asks us to think about how we negotiate between a symbol and the thing itself: between money and what it buys, between stories and how they alter our sense of lived experience. I have long admired Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh, who writes generous verse in playful and intricate patterns, sometimes equal parts accessible and experimental (Checklist), sometimes both inviting and opaque (Afakasi Archipelago).  

If you’re looking for books to put on your nightstand, I recommend Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Boys, which is also historical fiction that sheds light on the concept of reform in admirably gripping storytelling. Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Woods got me thinking about the mining practices that support emerging alternative power sources. Solito is a memoir I’ve been anxious to read since I first encountered the poet Javier Zamora through his phenomenal first collection Unaccompanied. Finally, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is my desert island book, not only because you can read and reread it, but also because it’s good for some serious belly laughs.

Angie McDonald
Professional Counselor III, College of Arts & Sciences 

Currently I am re-reading The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom. It is an accumulation of his 35 years as a psychiatrist and therapist. He has so much to offer to the current and upcoming generations of mental health professionals. 

I also love Brene Brown’s book called The Atlas of the Heart. She writes about meaningful connection and navigating life’s experiences. As a licensed professional counselor, I am always looking for books to make me a better helper and human.

Reyes Ramirez
Communications Specialist II, Division of Marketing & Communications – College of Arts & Sciences 

I love books so much that I wrote two of them! The first is a short story collection titled The Book of Wanderers that came out last year. Each story in the book plays with genre, from realist fiction to speculative and magical realism.  

The second book I authored is a book of poetry titled El Rey of Gold Teeth forthcoming in October 2023. In the book, I explore language and form to push their limits.  

I’m looking into writing a third book, a creative nonfiction collection. To help me write it, I read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon, a series of essays that processes the relation of personal and geographical history through the past and present.

Dr. Nicholas B. Suntzeff
University Distinguished Professor & Regents Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy 

I just finished Goodbye to a River by John Graves. In 1957, John Graves made a three-week trip down the Brazos River from Possum Kingdom to Highway 67. This was the river of his youth, and he wanted to experience the wild river one last time before more dams were built. It is a book about the trip, but really, it is a book about the soul of Texas; not the heroic cowboy or the Alamo. Instead, it is about the hardscrabble people that lived in the country. They were not noble or educated, but they lived on the land, fighting Native Americans and each other, scratching out a life. You understand more the deep-rooted feeling of independence and mistrust that is part of this state. It is an American classic of natural history and Texas culture.  

The other book I finished recently was Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester — a history of the volcano’s eruptions and a book that unfolds a mystery behind the history. 

One last book to recommend: I generally read non-fiction history and narrative. An excellent book of this genre is The Breaking of the Maya Code by Michael D. Coe. There is a documentary currently out on video that is based on this book. The history of the decipherment of written Maya is filled with unusual characters and dead-end decipherments. In the end, it was the priest who burned much of their writings because it was written in “Devil’s words” who inadvertently left the clues to decipherment.

Dr. Debbie Thomas
Professor, Department of Oceanography
Executive Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Texas A&M at Galveston
Associate Provost, Texas A&M University 

My nightstand book pile includes this year’s Galveston Campus Common Reader selection 1984 the Graphic Novel, and I’m also reading Octavia Butler’s Patternist Series novels. Big thank you to Dr. Liz Musgrove at Texas A&M Galveston for the recommendation!

Dr. Darrel Wanzer-Serrano
Interim Director, Race & Ethnic Studies Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Communication & Journalism

Given the time of year, all of my books are research- and teaching-related. As interim director of the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute in the College of Arts and Sciences and as someone teaching a CMJR graduate seminar this fall called “Communicating Race & Racism in the U.S.,” I’m immersed in related scholarly literature. But I’m also a dad.  

Current read for work: When I took a weekend trip at the beginning of August, I brought Gina Ann Garcia’s new book, Transforming Hispanic-Serving Institutions for Equity and Justice (2023, Johns Hopkins University Press), with me. It’s a passionately written book about Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and what we can be doing to better engage questions related to how we serve our students. For anyone wondering what’s the deal with HSIs, now that Texas A&M has been one for over a year, Dr. Gina Ann Garcia from the University of Pittsburgh published a 2019 book, Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges & Universities (published with Johns Hopkins). That is a great place to start.

Current read for my kid: My son LOVES dinosaurs and dragons. We just finished the most recent entry in the Dragon Masters series by Tracey West. These chapter books for primary school aged kids are truly fantastic. West offers kids a world in which characters work collaboratively with their dragons to solve global problems. The kids West writes are a multicultural and diverse group, including a strong balance of boys and girls, at least one nonbinary character, a deaf character and more. I recommend them for anyone interested in dragons and also trying to avoid all the blood and gore that often comes with the fantasy genre.

Dr. Cynthia Werner
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, College of Arts & Sciences
Professor, Department of Anthropology

I am currently enjoying a novel that I started on a recent vacation titled Ohio by Stephen Markley. The author focuses on the lives of four former high school classmates from a small town in Ohio whose lives have been affected by the Iraqi war, the opioid addiction, racial strife and suicide.   

The next book on my list is an academic book, Staple Security: Bread and Wheat in Egypt by anthropologist Jessica Barnes. Noting the cultural value placed on bread and wheat in the daily life of Egypt and focusing on the importance of bread subsidies for food security, this book relates to my interests in household economic life, gender and Middle Eastern cultures.

Dr. Mark Zoran
Interim Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
Professor, Department of Biology

I read things all day long, thus leaving little time for reading pleasures. As you will see from my current list, it does not always venture too far from that science.

On the table next to my reading chair are currently: 

  • A Very Short History of Life on Earth by Henry Gee
  • The Idea of the Brain – The Past and Future of Neuroscience by Matthew Cobb
  • And There Was Light by John Meacham 

They are in varied level of completion from top to bottom. As soon as Gee’s little book is finished, I have Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary next in line.

Book with open pages folded in a heart shape and stacked piles of textbooks on a reading desk in a library with stacks in the background
Image: Getty Images