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July 2, 2004
Volume 41, No. 12


Off the shelf: What's on your summer reading list?
Tachau: Strengthen tenure, retention
Retirees look forward to new opportunities

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The University of Iowa

The University of Iowa

Off the shelf: What's on your summer reading list?

Photo: Book stacks at the Iowa City Public Library
Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

What goes best with the vacation trio of sun, sand, and surf? For starters—sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, sleeping in until noon, and settling in with a great book.

You’re on your own with the first two, but to help with the third, several University employees have offered up their suggested summer reading titles. The books run the gamut, from timeless classics to groundbreaking new novels, from natural disaster nonfiction to essays on American history.

So kick back and start your summer reading adventure by perusing this issue of fyi.

Nicole Knapp, chemist at the Hygienic Laboratory

At the top of my summer reading list is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It’s my follow-up to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It examines the concept of a strong female presence in the role of developing Christianity.

I didn’t start it during the academic year—I would’ve been too tempted to read it rather than my books for class (I’m a graduate student in industrial hygiene). But during my down time in June, I read it in a matter of days!

Philip Ahrens, surgical technologist in Nursing Services

I am currently reading a masterful nonfiction work by Simon Winchester, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883. It not only describes vividly the volcanic eruption itself and its physical consequences, but how it relates to news transmission and the rise of militant Islam.

University Book Store’s best sellers for summer 2004

My Life
by Bill Clinton

Dress Your Family in
Corduroy and Denim

by David Sedaris

Pledged: The Secret
Life of Sororities

by Alexandra Robbins

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

The Dark Tower VI:
Song of Susannah

by Stephen King

How the Light Gets In
by M.J. Hyland

The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003
edited by Dave Eggers

The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

The Dirty Girls Social Club
by Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez

Stupid White Men
by Michael Moore

Plan of Attack
by Bob Woodward

How to Survive Your
Freshman Year

by Mark W. Bernstein

During the summer, I’ll continue to dip into Brian Lamb’s collection, Booknotes: Stories from American History. These essays are not only entertaining on their own, they serve as great introductions to the larger works of some superb historians.

Purely for pleasure, I intend to reread my favorite novel in many years—Any Human Heart by William Boyd. Spanning the years of the brutal and exhilarating 20th century, it bubbles over with great characters, wild irony, and profound insights on humanity. The writing is restrained but elegant, and Logan Monstuart becomes one of my favorite literary heroes in its pages.

Tom Dean, special assistant to the president

First on my reading list is A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson, a biography by David Backes. I’ll be reading this book as my family and I enjoy our annual retreat to a remote cabin in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota. Olson is best known as both a nature writer and a conservationist—one of the great wilderness and conservation activists of the 20th century. He spearheaded the creation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota and was instrumental in much national public policy relating to wilderness areas.

His most well-known writings are nine books of essays on the North Woods (predominantly Minnesota) and Canada. I read all of those last summer. This year, after the biography, I’ll read The Meaning of Wilderness: Essential Articles and Speeches, a collection of some of Olson’s most important miscellaneous pieces.

Carolyn Jacobson, program assistant in the English department, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

I can’t wait to start Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club. Fowler is terrifically smart and funny, and this recent book of hers has been getting great reviews. It’s about the members of a book club who decide to read Austen’s six major novels. (Apparently it is not necessary to have read the novels yourself: Fowler provides plot summaries.)

After seeing Fowler read at Prairie Lights in May, I went home and reread her novel The Sweetheart Season, which is about a group of women who work for a cereal company after WWII and form a baseball team.

I’m also currently on an Iris Murdoch kick. There is nothing wishy-washy about her books—sharply defined characters face tough moral situations and then act. Things happen in these books as the result of people’s decisions. I have particularly enjoyed The Bell, in which a young woman tries to reconcile with her husband at a religious retreat. If you’re in the mood for something serious this summer, you might take a look at some of her books and see if one strikes your fancy.

Linda K. Kerber, May Brodbeck Professor in the Liberal Arts, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Richard Kerber, professor of internal medicine, Carver College of Medicine

For summer reading we recommend a pair of books that are set in Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, a land of beaches, dunes, and sea. Two remarkably different Provincetowns are described.

UI Writers’ Workshop alumnus Michael Cunningham’s Provincetown, as he describes it in the book-length essay Land’s End, is a place of haunted beauty, a home for the eccentric, artistic, and sexually marginal—a setting for the AIDS tragedies of our time.

The Provincetown of Francis X. Gaspar’s novel Leaving Pico exists in the same time and space, but it is the home of a self-sustaining Portuguese fishing community barely recognized by the artists and tourists, haunted by internal rivalries reflecting the pains of immigration, and sliding, at the end, into magical realism.

Kristin Weber, program associate at the Center for Conferences and Institutes

I’m reading Reagan: A Life in Letters, edited by Kiron K. Skinner. This is a collection of Reagan’s letters, dating from his radio days in Iowa to his final letter to the American people in 1994, disclosing his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This is a must-read for any Republican, anyone who admires a person who retains optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, or for the person who just plain enjoys good writing. This proves why Reagan was called “the great communicator.”

Carol Severino, associate professor of rhetoric, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Because I went to Cuba in June for an international conference, I’ve been reading about the culture, history, and politics of Cuba. The conference was in Cojimar, the fishing village that was the setting for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, so of course I reread that classic for the first time since junior high.

Other books I read that I would recommend are Ann Louise Bardach’s Cuba Confidential, a journalistic exposé about Elián González, Fidel Castro, and the Cuban exile community in Miami; Isadora Tattlin’s Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, a litany of the devastating economic effects of the U.S. trade embargo; and Travelers’ Tales: Cuba, edited by Tom Miller, a collection of travel essays by authors of different nationalities such as James Michener, Ruth Behar, Cristina García, Andre Codrescu, and Eduardo Galeano.

compiled by Amy Schoon


Published by University Relations Publications. Copyright the University of Iowa 2003. All rights reserved.


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