OLLI

18 covers of books recommended by faculty

The season of summer reading has arrived! We asked faculty to recommend a favorite book or two, and they were happy to oblige. 


TAMIM ANSARY

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

  • "Riveting writing, presents as a memoir but it's a novel, so--brilliantly daring literary experimentation and yet as profluent as really good suspense-thriller, if you're into that (I am). The book is full of insights and implication for all sorts of things from high-finance to hyphenated Americanism. Akhtar is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Pakistani-American playwright. Read the first few pages; if you can put it down (I couldn't) then maybe this book isn't for you because it just keeps going the way it starts."

MICHAEL BAKER

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

  • "A great read, well researched into the times while it is very engaging, and reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, which we hopefully can avoid repeating."

This is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race by Nicole Perlroth

  • Deeply researched and well put together. Explains how the US developed Cyber War and then got taken to the cleaners by hackers from other adversarial nations because of hubris and inattention.

MARCIA BAUMAN, YONI MAYERI and BILL SMOOT

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Yes, three faculty recommended this Pulitzer-Prize winner. According to Smoot, "The voice is captivating and soulful and the story is heart-wrenching." Mayeri says, "A well written, intriguing story, that was thought provoking, renewing, moving and kept me engaged." Bauman said simply, "highly recommend!"

GEORGE BRESLAUER

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

  • "A cautionary tale re de-democratizing leadership."

The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown

  • "For those who took my leadership course, how does his approach to consequential leadership differ from mine?"

J B

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

  • "It shows how our cities have been, and remain, segregated through the complicity of our legal system."

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami

  • "Provides a good understanding of the meaning of citizenship from an immigrant's perspective."

KIP CRANNA

Alec by William di Canzio

  • "Anyone who was touched by E. M. Forster's groundbreaking gay novel Maurice will enjoy this well-written and imaginative sequel, Alec. The story of two men in Edwardian England separated by class but united by a strong romantic bond is retold from the gamekeeper Alec’s view. Author William di Canzio imagines their life both together and apart during World War I. A good summer read."

PETE ELMAN

There is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century by Fiona Hill

  • "Because it is great, and she is great, and she speaks the truth."

BERT GORDON

The Seine: The River That Made Paris by Elaine Sciolino

  • "The story of the Seine written by Elaine Sciolino, who now lives in Paris and covers the French scene for the New York Times, The Seine: The River That Made Paris radiates with love for the river and its history. In a personal account, Sciolino describes the Seine and its life from Gallo-Roman times through French history to the present, including her own tales of accompanying the river police in their patrol boats and taking a swim in its waters. In the book is also an afterword that tells the story of how the waters of the river were used to help save the Notre-Dame cathedral during the fire of April 2019."

Transnational France: The Modern History of a Universal Nation by Tyler Stovall

  • "An excellent overview of French history from the 1789 Revolution to the present written by the distinguished American historian of France, the late Tyler Stovall, Transnational France is an informed and readable study with emphasis on France’s image and role in world history. It focuses on French political, social, and cultural history together with France’s relations with Europe, the United States, and its colonial empire. Currently in its second edition, Transnational France brings the account through the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, including issues related to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the gilets jaunes."

LOUISE NAYER

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

  • "The characters are drawn with humor, compassion and precision, and the book looks at race from the inside of two families, both coping with identity and class issues. Each person must find his/her true path."

SARA OREM

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

  • "This is Patchett's first novel, published in 1992. Having read most of her more recent ones and loved them (Bel Canto, State of Wonder, The Dutch House), I was curious about her earliest published fiction. It is not a happy story. Without spoiling it the story is girl leaves boy (young married adults) without telling him she is pregnant. Girl arrives at Catholic home for unwed mothers during the 1960s when abortion was not yet legal and becomes the cook's assistant, then the cook. The main character, Rose, is not a very sympathetic character. Others in the story are! Her mentor in the kitchen, Sister Evangeline, her second husband Son, and her daughter, Cecilia, orbit around her, try to love her without much reciprocation. Why, then do I recommend it? Patchett has often put her characters in complicated situations and helped her reader to find the humanity in them. This was the first of those characters and her story is a fascinating one."

Tasha: A Son's Memoir by Brian Morton

  • "Tasha is both the title of this book and the main character.  She was the author's mother, a colorful, brash, Jewish mother and teacher in Teaneck, New Jersey. It mostly describes their relationship toward the end of her life, after dementia sets in. Morton's description is funny, loving, self-reflective. I'd recommend it to any of my peers and their children."

RICHIE UNTERBERGER

Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice: 1967-1975 by Richard Thompson with Scott Timberg

  • "Covering the first decade of his career, this memoir by the esteemed guitarist hits all the bases, discussing the records, tours, and musicians with whom he collaborated with detail, wit, and clarity. He neither romanticizes nor complains about the ups and downs of the life of a musician who can maintain a career without stardom."

MINA WITTMAN

Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas: A Novel by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

  • "Avant-gardist irony from beyond the grave in a superbly written masterpiece."

African Europeans by Olivette Otele

  • "A fascinating history of Africans who had a vital presence in European life in an unusually and densely layered work."

DARREN ZOOK

The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout

  • "Hailing from Algeria, simply one of the best novels I have ever read on the corrosive dystopia of extremism. For writing this book, the author was assassinated...by an extremist."