It's no secret that Claremont McKenna College professors tend to be a prolific bunch, cranking out books and publishing articles as fast as their research, schedules, or sabbaticals permit. On the other hand, we probably know far too little about what they read for pleasure. So, just before the winter break, we asked a sampling of faculty what books they looked forward to starting–– or finishing–– during those leisurely, holiday-season weeks outside of class. We share their answers here with you, and bid you happy reading:
• “I’m reading Robertson Davies’ Murther and Walking Spirits. Davies was Canada’s most renowned novelist, and this book (among many he wrote) conveys a fascinating perspective on the American Revolution from the Tory perspective, the emigration of the Welsh to Canada, and the virtues and constraints of religion and family.”––William Ascher, Donald C. McKenna Professor of Government and Economics
• “Next up on my reading list is Elie Wiesel’s Open Heart. It is a brief reflection/memoir written after his emergency heart surgery at the age of 82. Also on my list is Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. This study is based on the author’s conversations with philosophers who are pondering versions of the metaphysical question: Why is there something rather than nothing?––John K. Roth, the Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
• “I just started reading the novel, La Justification, by Dmitri Bykov, a contemporary Russian author. He is one of the most intellectually nontrivial and creative Russian writers in recent decades, and his prose is marked with an unusually bright combination of clever elegance, brilliant style, deep philosophical insight, and clear historical perspective. Having just recently read his remarkable novel, Orthography, I am very excited about Justification.–– Lenny Fukshansky, associate professor of mathematics and computer science
• “(CMC colleague) Andy Busch just published Truman's Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America. For those of us who love political history, such a book is a real treat. It digs through the mythology to get at what really happened in an enormously consequential election.”––John J. Pitney, Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics
• “I've just finished The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens, a very readable nonfiction account of Greitens' personal experiences as he sought opportunities to do good while having a grand adventure. He was an undergraduate at Duke, a Truman scholar, and a Rhodes scholar who volunteered serially in humanitarian efforts in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, then became a Navy SEAL, eventually earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He founded The Mission Continues, which encourages and helps disabled and wounded veterans who want to volunteer and serve as leaders in their communities. The book raises important questions about power, responsibility, limits, and what it means to lead a good life.”––Jennifer Taw, assistant professor of government
• “I’ll be on the beach in Los Cabos. I will finish The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust, by a Wall Street trader-turned-neuroscientist. I have very much enjoyed it so far. It tells us a lot about why we behave the way we do.”––Henrik Cronqvist, McMahon Family Associate Professor of Corporate Finance and George R. Roberts Fellow
• “Now and again I've been reading the Selected Stories of Alice Munro. The severe beauty of her writing as she explores the lives of imaginative, though typically uneducated, people under straightened circumstances gives me enormous pleasure page by page. I'm also in the middle of the Swiss novelist Max Frisch's book, I’m Not Stiller––a bit of a shaggy dog tale but it keeps you reading. I like to read history right before bed, and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, David Nasaw's biography of Hearst, gave me lots of food for nocturnal thought. Hearst was an interesting monster who was his own man but changed with the times. I've just finished it, and now onto Reinhard Bendix's intellectual biography of the German sociologist Max Weber.”––John Farrell, professor of literature
• “Tom Ricks’ stunning The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today argues that America’s top commanders fail because they reduce war to fighting; never relieve their own, however incompetent; and discourage daring and innovation in favor of mediocrity among junior officers. Bottom line: our generals do what they know how to do, instead of what is needed, wasting soldiers’ lives until our wars are nearly lost.
“Gershom Gorenberg, The Unmaking of Israel, an American who immigrated to Israel 30 years ago, his children in Israel’s Defense Forces, asks Israelis to end the occupation, separate state and synagogue, and guarantee full equality.
“And, on my list: Stella Adler, two volumes on master playwrights from Albee to Strindberg; Aman Sethi: A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi; Anne Appelbaum: Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56; Robert Hughes, Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, Yang Jisheng, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962; Karen House, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future; and two on Afghanistan: Jake Tapper: The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor; and Dakota Meyer and Bing West, Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.”––P. Edward Haley,the W.M. Keck Foundation Chair of International Strategic Studies, and director of the Center for Human Rights Leadership
• “My wife and I will be reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice out loud together over the break, in celebration of the book's 200th anniversary on Jan. 28, 2013. Shared oral reading was a feature of everyday life in Austen's day, and the dialogue, characters, and story come to life in a more dramatic way when you read her writing aloud. A perfect way to pay tribute to this beloved novel!”––Audrey Bilger, faculty director, Center for Writing & Public Discourse, professor of literature
• “Among many other books, I am planning to read Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search or Identity, a thousand-page tome about crises of empathy in contemporary world culture––including a long chapter on one of the Columbine school shooters. Solomon’s analysis, especially regarding the violence that grows out of this root problem, is said to be remarkable, and his book––already acclaimed––has become, alas, newly timely.”––Jim Morrison, professor of film and literature