I’ve been putting together summer reading lists for the blog for the last few years now.  Scroll down through the posts in the Our Faculty category and you’ll see the previous compilations. I hasten to add that you are not, in any way, obligated to do any summer reading!  Feel 100% comfortable sitting on the beach with your favorite Calvin and Hobbes collection!  But I know that some students want a little something more, and my goal is to provide it.

This year, I may have presented the professors with a tougher assignment than I realized.  I had thought it would be a nice complement to previous lists if we went with a new theme.  I gave them two choices:  to suggest something newly published; or to suggest a work of fiction.  I think that’s where I lost them.  Even several reminders didn’t (with a few exceptions) shake works of fiction out of their collective brains.  So here’s the short list I was able to pull together this year.

First, on the new publications theme, Michael Klein came through right away, writing, “There have been a spate of books this year about the financial crisis.  I would recommend:  Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; and In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel.  I’ve not read Simon Johnson’s book 13 Bankers, but it has gotten a lot of press, and is less complimentary of the efforts to combat the crisis than the other two books.  I also enjoyed the book The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox, which is more broadly about the development of the field of financial economics.”

Sticking with new non-fiction, Kim Wilson suggests an upcoming book on which she served as co-editor:  Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings, along with 2009′s Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day.

And then, after a wee bit of pestering on my part, I did receive a trickle of fiction suggestions.  None other than Dean Stephen Bosworth came through for me with a few picks.  On the fiction side, he suggests a series of North Korea-centered mysteries by James Church, which he describes as “written by a westerner but one with a remarkable feel for life in North Korea.”  Dean Bosworth also threw in a non-fiction selection:  Nothing to Envy:  Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick.  Finally, he wrote that “students interested in Asia might enjoy the book I wrote with Morton Abramawitz:  Chasing the Sun, a series of essays on the U.S. and East Asia.”

John Perry suggested a book that was later suggested by a student and included in the list I posted earlier.  He told me, “I would recommend Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brooks.  It is a beautifully written account, using some of Vermeer’s paintings to provide a window into the world of the 17th century.  Both Andy Hess, as I hear, and I are using it in classes.”

And, last, Bill Martel, who so kindly stopped by the office to apologize for failing to send me a selection, not knowing that I would bar the door until he came up with something.  He finally chose The Kite Runner, for its portrayal of society in Afghanistan.

So that’s this summer’s list from the professors.  Next year, I’ll define their assignment differently so that I can develop a longer list.  Meanwhile, a little bit of fiction could be just the thing for a summer day.

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