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Summer Picks 2022: What Westminster professors are reading

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Posted on Monday, June 13, 2022

If you’re looking for a good book to get lost in this summer, Westminster College faculty members have a few suggestions. We asked our professors what books were on their summer reading lists, and they offered up a number of titles. Some reflect their scholarly interests, while others are purely for pleasure. If you’re hoping to expand your mind or are just looking for a light buzzy beach read, check out Westminster College’s Faculty Summer Reading List.

Dr. Russell Martin, professor of history and noted Russian scholar, says he is reading for both work and pleasure this summer. “Saint-Making in Early Modern Russia” by Isolde Thyret, “Paths to Kingship” by Bjorn Weiler and some Russian language books and articles round out his research-related reads, but for fun, he’s working on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s 50th anniversary edition of “All the President’s Men.”

“There isn’t a time year-round when I’m not reading a book or articles. Alas, I rarely get to read fiction anymore,” says Martin. But he does recommend picking up a copy of Richard Russo’s 1997 novel “Straight Man,” a humorous tale of a Western Pennsylvania college English professor suffering a mid-life crisis.

Professor of Biology Dr. Ann Throckmorton looks to Westminster’s First-Year Program summer reading selection for incoming first-year students for her book recommendation.

Mona Hanna-Attisha’s memoir “What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City” explores the many factors that led to the water crisis in Flint, Mich.—including racism, city mismanagement, corruption and greed.

Hanna-Attisha’s book also made the summer reading list of Dr. Tricia Ryan, assistant professor of nursing.

“I like to read what the students are reading,” she says. “Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. It keeps me sharp. I wish I had more time to read year-round, but summer is when I find myself with the most time to become lost in a good book.”

And she’s got several other selections to help while away the summer hours.  

For professional development, she’s reading “What Inclusive Instructors Do” by Tracie Addy, Derek Dube, Khadijah Mitchell, Mallory SoRelle, Buffie Longmire-Avital and Peter Felten, a book to assist her on her quest to make her teaching, classroom, syllabi and assignments more inclusive and student-centered.

For her summer pleasure pick, she is currently reading “The Singing Trees” by Boo Walker, a story of love, friendship and personal choices. But for those with an interest in historical fiction, she recommends curling up with any novel by Kristin Hannah and suggests Hannah’s “The Nightingale” or “The Four Winds” as places to start.

Dr. Angela Lahr, associate professor of history, says she aims to find books that will double as both pleasure and work-related reads. This summer she’s digging into “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, “My Broken Language: A Memoir” by Quiara Alegría Hudes and “Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom” by Kathryn Olivarius, all of which will help her prepare for her fall courses.
“‘Muslim Girl’ and ‘My Broken Language’ are memoirs, which are like literary candy to me. I love reading about other people’s stories,” Lahr says.

Professor of Chemistry Dr. Peter Smith is geeking out over his current summer selection, “Einstein’s Fridge: How the Difference Between Hot and Cold Explains the Universe” by Paul Sen. It may be work-related, but he recommends it to anyone interested in the secrets of the universe.

Smith says “Einstein’s Fridge”—which was recommended to him by Westminster College Trustee Glenn Thompson ’68—explains the historical details of the development of the laws of thermodynamics and is one of the best written popular science books he’s read.

“I know the book may sound very dry, but I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in how the universe works generally, and in energy specifically,” says Smith. “I’m willing to put it in the same tier as Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time.’”

Each June, after a full academic year in the classroom, Professor of Political Science Dr. Shannon Smithey said she “gets thirsty for reading” and this year she has some refreshing choices to help quench that reading drought.

Chances Are,” another Richard Russo novel, is one of the books she’s soaking up for a fun escape during the summer months, and “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe is also on her list.

Smithey is also adding some work-related books to her summer reading menu, specifically “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” by Timothy Snyder and “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

A book by culinary historian Jessica B. Harris is what Professor of Biology Dr. Diana Ortiz will be devouring this summer. “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America” celebrates African American cuisine and how it became such an important part of the American culture.

“I love to cook, experience multicultural/multiethnic food, and explore our history as a country. This book reveals so much about what Americans share in the food that we love,” says Ortiz, who says she added Harris’ book to her must-read list after watching the Netflix series by the same name. “We all have to eat and share our country’s history—which is not always pretty—but nevertheless it is our history as a country and how we have shared the dinner table. It is a truly inspiring book for food and history lovers and one that reveals why we eat what we eat.”

Dr. Kristin Park, professor of sociology, is also mixing business with pleasure this summer by rereading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Pigs in Heaven.”

“It is for pleasure and to broaden my learning for the teaching that I do about indigenous cultures today,” said Park of the book, which tells the story of a Tucson woman and her adopted Cherokee daughter and their tensions with a Cherokee lawyer who believes the child should be raised by the Cherokee Nation.

Park also recommends any book by Ukrainian-British author Marina Lewycka, who creates “quirky characters and laugh-out-loud plots.”

“If you love to read you will never be bored,” says Park.