MICHAEL CADDEN, chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts:
One novel I want to reread this summer is Tim Winton’s Breath. Winton is my favorite among Australia’s many great novelists, and this psychologically astute coming-of-age story, at once both personal and epic, spends a lot of time at the beach and in the water, which is where I hope I'll be as well — even if for just for a few days! No one writes about the human body’s relationship to the ocean as well as Winton.
Reading a memoir by someone you know can be an unnerving affair, but given my love of her poems, I wasn’t going to pass on my colleague Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light. It too is a coming-of-age story, as American as Winton’s is Australian. Although Tracy focuses particularly on her relationship with her mother, Ordinary Life is an epic book in its exploration of race and faith, love and loss, family and identity in these United States.
Cadden is teaching this summer at the Bread Loaf School of English at Lincoln College in Oxford, England.
KARIN TRAINER, University librarian:
The prize-winning novel Brooklyn by Colm Toibin economically and compellingly charts a young woman’s emigration from Enniscorthy, Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 1950s. Toibin was the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Visiting Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Princeton from 2009 to 2011.
Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson is perfect for a summer vacation read. Atkinson, whose recent novels Life After Life and A God in Ruins have been bestsellers, also is the author of four witty, well-written, non-formulaic mysteries featuring unconventional private investigator Jackson Brodie. Started Early, Took My Dog is my favorite of these.
Trainer has been University librarian since 1996; during her tenure, more than 1.5 million books have been added to the University’s collections.
STEPHEN KOTKIN, professor of history:
China is moving fast, and David Shambaugh’s China Goes Global: The Partial Power offers one of the most incisive, balanced assessments of its rise to date in measuring today’s China against the still immense power of the United States, which is groping for the right policy to protect American vital interests without leading to war in East Asia. The greatest challenge in the world today.
Yemen is making news yet again, part of the wider instability and tragedy in the Middle East, and Jesse Ferris *08’s Nasser’s Gamble: How Intervention in Yemen Caused the Six-Day War and the Decline of Egyptian Power is one of the best books in decades on how the Middle East got to be where it is today. Digging up formerly secret documents in Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Russian, he illuminates the surprising ways that Gamal Abdel Nasser’s adventurism in Yemen and the failures of pan-Arab nationalism provoked both the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel and the spread of political Islamism.
Kotkin is the author of Stalin: Volume 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928.
MARTHA SANDWEISS, professor of history:
I’m fascinated by how novelists address the same questions I wrestle with as a historian. Where I have to rely on footnotes, they can rely on their imaginations. Two favorite books in this regard: Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, a brilliant investigation of how history works and a page-turning story about the life of a woman in the 19th-century American West; and Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, a book about academic politics and racial passing that is as relevant now as ever.
Sandweiss is the author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.
PATRICIA FERNANDEZ-KELLY, senior lecturer in sociology:
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie is a startlingly compassionate portrait of a Jihadist assassin by an author who was forced into hiding for nearly a decade on account of a fatwa put forward by Ayatollah Khomeini. The book’s luscious language will delight you; its moral integrity will inspire you.
Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb by Princeton professor Douglas S. Massey, Len Albright, Rebecca Casciano, Elizabeth Derickson, and David N. Kinsey bears testimony to the power of ideas and offers the best argument yet for residential integration and affordable housing.
Fernandez-Kelly is the author of The Hero’s Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State.
SUSAN WHEELER, professor of creative writing:
Two new books have stayed with me since I read them this spring. The pair together could give one a sense of the range of contemporary poetry. In Repetition by Rebecca Reilly (a former student of mine), a father’s death exposes and unravels the broken threads of a family, and the grief that is an exile — dead words substituted for living, and each iterative loss represented in a new tongue and impossibly aping the first — manifests in a piercing lament.
Of equal parts wariness and devotion, music and restraint, wit and loss, the moving poems in Christian Schlegel ’09’s Honest James (to be published in August) mark him as a poet with a subtle feel for the English language, a living relationship with its (as well as German, French, and Russian) literatures, and the gift of a precise wisdom.
Wheeler is the author of the poetry collection Meme.