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What Are You Reading?

KSC professors name their favorite books

Books photo Professors love to assign reading to their students. But did you ever wonder what your professors were reading while you were slogging through Norton's Anthology of English Literature or that five-pound tome on macroeconomics?

We asked several KSC professors to name the three best books in their field they've read in the last year. What better recommendations for your own reading list?

William Stroup, associate professor of English and chair of the department, assured us that he has also read Mark Kurlansky's Cod, the Keene Is Reading choice this year (and, for extra credit, Salt and Nonviolence: The History of an Idea, by the same author).

Professor Stroup's recommendations:

  • I am fascinated by what the scholar Charles Robinson has done in editing The Original Frankenstein, which lists the author as Mary Shelley (with Percy Shelley). Robinson has reconstructed Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley's first draft of this famous novel from her 1816-17 manuscript in order to analyze the effects of her poet-husband's intercessions. The format is brilliant and shows how important textual editing is to literary scholarship.
  • I'm rediscovering Great Expectations. On her retirement my great colleague Robin Dizard gave me her 32-volume 1894 edition, and I've been spending the winter in Dickens's company. Such a generous, creative imagination!
  • I have to stand up for John Irving's newest novel, Last Night at Twisted River, which got mixed reviews. Not quite The Cider House Rules, but his best since A Prayer for Owen Meany. The book also includes many Brattleboro and Boston scenes that Keene readers will enjoy.

Karen Jennings, associate professor of psychology and co-chair of the department, recommends four titles, one a foundational work and the others new releases:

  • The Working Brain by Aleksandr R. Luria (1976) is a seminal work in functional neuroscience written by one of the "fathers" of neuroscience. I reread this text periodically and deepen my understanding of theoretical principles.
  • The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex World by Elkhonon Goldberg, one of my former clinical supervisors. The author discusses the importance of the prefrontal cortex (executive functions) as we negotiate the challenges of contemporary life. Dr. Goldberg integrates state-of-the-art research with clinical vignettes.
  • Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio is probably best suited for students and professionals. Dr. Damasio, a foremost neuroscientist, incorporates case material with research in his articulation of the neural bases of complex phenomena such as altruism, emotion, and cognition.
  • What Is ADHD: Understanding What Goes Wrong and Why by Joel T. Nigg provides an excellent review of current research on the neuropathophysiology of ADHD. This work is particularly important in light of the potentially grave implications of overly diagnosing or misdiagnosing this complex disorder. This is best suited for students and professionals interested in disorders of attention.

Renate Gebauer, professor of biology and co-chair of environmental studies, suggests several titles she feels are accessible to a general audience:

  • The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future by Tom Wessels is a beautifully written book explaining some of the fundamental concepts of sustainability: the law of limits of growth, the second law of thermodynamics, and the law of self-organization. Tom Wessels makes a convincing argument that we need to question the basic assumption of continued economic growth and shift instead from a society of consumption to a community of connection.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan was last year's Keene Is Reading selection, and I recommend it highly. It is a great book that reflects on what we eat, where the food comes from, and how it gets onto our plates. One learns much about the scientific, historical, ethical, and environmental aspects of food production.
  • The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living by Fritjof Capra is a fascinating book that explores the connection between our understanding of living systems and the principles of societal structure. The book brings us a step closer to designing ecologically sustainable communities.