I was surprised last week when I inadvertently caused a fuss in the office. I had asked my colleagues to give me some book picks for a Summer Reading List. I wanted the books to be ones that we either had, in fact, or might, in the future, recommend to Fletcher students in a casual way. Over coffee in the Hall of Flags, for example. I thought our book choices would tell our readers a bit more about the Admissions staff.

And I think it’s true! The fuss was caused by everyone’s indecision about which of many favorite books to include. It turns out that we all have a ready list in mind of Fletcher-friendly books to recommend. So here goes. I’ve included the book title and author, and a note on why it was chosen. (Be warned, though, that these are the books to help you prepare for coffee hour only! Not for Fletcher classes!)

Covering many geographic locations, Peter recommends:
Ghostwritten, by David Mitchell
“This novel loosely weaves together nine interconnected stories that span the globe and follow such characters as a Japanese cultist, a corrupt British lawyer in Hong Kong, the owner of a Chinese tea-shop, a Russian art thief, an Irish physicist, and a late-night radio host. Each story takes place in a different location — Okinawa, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mongolia, St. Petersburg, London, Ireland, and New York — and explores themes of coincidence, causality, and fate.”

Roxana, who has spent most of her life outside the U.S., looked for a book centered in a place she knows, and chose:
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, by Fatima Mernissi
“This is an excellent book about a harem in 1940s Fez, Morocco. The book touches upon issues of gender equality, Islam, and Morocco during World War II.”

Laurie decided to offer a book to prepare you for Social Hour, rather than Coffee Hour:
How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine, by Jancis Robinson
“We often chat socially with students during social hours or at one of Fletcher’s many wine and cheese events; therefore I’d like to recommend this wine book. It’s a great book for beginners who are starting to explore the world of wine, a fun thing to do with international friends at Fletcher.”

It turns out Justin’s book selection works well in or out of Fletcher classes:
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
“I initially heard about this book on a radio show with Lawrence Wright. The discussion focused on topics like the historical rise of radical Islam, how Al-Qaeda evolved and why it went on to view the United States as a mortal enemy of Islam. I’m impressed by the scope, depth, and clarity of Wright’s reporting on the motivations of people like Osama Bin Laden. It is a landmark book in the search for answers as to why events like 9/11 happen.”

Sticking with the non-fiction trend, Kristen chose:
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy
“In 1965, Murphy set off — alone — on her bike, riding from her native Ireland to India. This book mainly chronicles her journey across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. While it’s fascinating in its own right as an extraordinary story, it’s even more poignant from today’s perspective when thinking about the massive change in the region.”

And as for me:
My own summer reading can be all over the map. (In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that my whole family is waiting for the final Harry Potter book. My daughter will read it first – I’ll need to get in line. When I have finally read it, though, I’m sure I can count on many HP conversations at Fletcher.) But my choice for this reading list is Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s a collection of short stories with much to share about Indian culture and themes of assimilation. A special characteristic, for a Fletcher over-coffee conversation, is that some of the stories (as well as Lahiri’s novel The Namesake) take place in the Boston area.

So that’s our first attempt at a Summer Reading List. If you read any of our choices, please let us know what you think. Or post your own Fletcher-friendly choices in a comment. Happy Summer Reading!


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