Summertime Beach reads: professors recommend their favorites for your holiday

Brandeis book-a-palooza continues with faculty recommendations for Independence Day.

Our last story on faculty summer book recommendations was so popular, we thought we’d bring you another round. This holiday weekend, consider these thought-provoking, yet highly entertaining suggestions from Brandeis professors.

Struggle by Coates

Abigail Cooper, assistant professor in history “The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Before Coates wrote his newest bestseller, "Between the World and Me", as a letter to his son, he wrote this book about his father. Paul Coates was an autodidact archivist for the Black Panthers who worked at Howard University so his children could go there for free. Of seven children, Ta-Nehisi — the James Baldwin of our current moment — is the only one without a college degree. Therein lies the story of struggle between Coates and his father. Still, Ta-Nehisi stood on the shoulders of an underground black intellectual tradition and found a fully realized voice. He writes with unpretentious, electric honesty of people with a whole lot riding on each other. Today Coates writes as a father. "Beautiful Struggle" is by the son before he was that father.

War that Forged

Eduardo Undurraga, senior research associate at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy

“The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters” by James M. McPherson

The book is a collection of short essays about the American Civil War and covers various topics from the role of Lincoln in the abolition of slavery to the question of why no other nations intervened in the war. Most of all, it is very thought-provoking book about how the Civil War still strongly shapes U.S. society, culture and politics.

How I became a Nun

Fernando Rosenberg, associate professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature

“How I Became a Nun,” “Shantytown” and “The Hare” by César Aira

I would suggest these recently translated short novels by the Argentinean writer. It is difficult to pin down what is the trick of Aira's mischievous, joyfully absurd and utterly captivating prose. Like “Alice in Wonderland” or the best Haruki Murakami’s novels, nothing remains stable while everything seems entirely logical.

odds against tomorrow

Caren Irr, professor of English

“Odds Against Tomorrow” by Nathaniel Rich

This mildly absurdist satire imagines the reactions of a very anxious young statistician when his worst fears about natural disasters begin to come true. An enjoyable, amusing read on a serious topic, climate change.

Dear Committee Members

David Engerman, Ottilie Springer Professor of History

“Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumacher

An epistolary novel in the form of letters of recommendation.  It’s a beach read that might hit a little too close to work.

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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