Summer Reading Recommendations from CFT Staff
by CFT Assistant Director Nancy Chick
As the year shifts into the relatively quieter rhythms of summer for many of us, we turn to more focused activities like research, reading, and–if we’re lucky–relaxation. We look forward to time alone, or in the library or the lab, or with our families, or in faraway places.
In my 14 years as an English professor and now assistant director at the CFT, I’ve always been grateful for the summer’s gift of allowing me to catch up with some old and new favorite books. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison says that such reading gives us “the peace of the dancing mind.” Think ballet, rather than the tango: it’s a solitude that invites us “to sit in a room by [ourselves] and read for four hours and have those four hours followed by another four without any companionship but [our] own mind.”
My reading list for the summer ranges from a new entry in a favorite mystery series, to Morrison’s new novel Home, to a handful of work-related books.
What’s on your summer reading list?
I asked my colleagues in the Center for Teaching to recommend a book for others’ summer reading lists. Let us know what you’re reading, and consider one of the following:
I immediately thought of A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned by Jane Tompkins. Why? Tompkins is a literary scholar who finds herself struggling with her unquestioned assumptions about teaching, her students, and her role as a professor in and out of the classroom. In writing this educational memoir, she looks back on her own life from kindergarten through graduate school to examine her own values and assumptions as a student–and how they have formed who she became as a professor.
I reread A Life in School every few years. It helps me reflect on my own roles, my most recent students, and my goals for the next few years.
CFT Director Derek Bruff selected Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again by Roger H. Martin. He explains,
After surviving cancer, sixty-one-year-old college president Roger Martin enrolls as a freshman at St. John’s College, a “Great Books” liberal arts college in Maryland. In this memoir, Martin describes and reflects on his experiences that year, including taking classes, making friends with students, and joining the crew team. Martin offers an engaging look at the undergraduate experience, the value of a liberal arts education, and the challenges of getting older.
Jones has worked as a professor of history, an administrator, and a faculty development director, and is coauthor of Promoting Active Learning: Strategies for the College Classroom (1993). In books that blur the boundary between mystery and non-fiction essays, Deadly Professors and his earlier book, The Missing Professor, Jones uses the vehicle of a fictionalized crime mystery to discuss important dimensions of faculty life, including the ideals of liberal education, student culture, technology and the classroom, sports in campus life, academic freedom, and other topics sure to resonate with anyone who works in higher education.
Deadly Professors does not pretend to be great literature, nor does it have the absurdities or sardonic wit of, say, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a biting satire of higher education. However, in its irreverent and playful views on faculty life, it is a quick and easy read for summer that nonetheless provides some food for thought among those who struggle with various dimensions of faculty life.
CFT Educational Consultant Milt Cox offers his plans for summer (re)reading as his recommendation:
This summer I plan to revisit a wonderful book that I read many years ago, Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue by Gail Griffin. This book was given to me by my dear colleague, Muriel Blaisdell, who served as a mentor for several years to new faculty in one of my programs. Appropriate for early career faculty and their senior colleagues, the essays describe the author’s growth as a feminist teacher at a small liberal arts college as she encounters politics and resistance to a new curriculum and change. I gave this book to my daughter when as a new PhD she started her career at a similar kind of small college. Visiting her a few days this month on her sabbatical in Paris, many of the stories in this book came back to mind as she expressed the challenges of and a search for solutions to academic life back home.
Thanks, Derek, Joe, and Milt.
What about you? What are you reading? Let us know by commenting below.