Holiday Break Reading Recommendations

Dec 2, 2016

by Dr. Erica Bernheim
Associate Professor of English

Chances are that if you’re an English major or have expressed any interest in becoming one, you’re going to receive gift cards and blank books at some point over the next few holiday months. While the blank books are useful for all kinds of plotting and taking notes about who said what over the dinner table, those gift cards sometimes pile up on your desk while you try to decide what to read during those long winter months when it’s dark by 7:00, and curling up with a good read feels like the right thing to do.

To help you out, I’ve asked some of my colleagues—both in and outside of the English department—to recommend some of their own favorites to you … let us know what you think!

Dr. Brad Hollingshead, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Dahl and Lottie Pryor Endowed Chair in English

Dr. Brad Hollingshead

Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Dahl and Lottie Pryor Endowed Chair in English

Straight Man by Richard Russo

“The protagonist of Straight Man is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rustbelt. In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if an adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television. All this happens while he is coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions.”

Dr. Lisa Carter, Assistant Professor of Criminology

Dr. Lisa Carter

Assistant Professor of Criminology

“I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin this past summer (recommended by Associate Provost Mary Crowe). I really enjoyed this story about a man who had a major life shift due to circumstances beyond his control. A baby was left in his bookstore and he decided to raise her as his own. He learns to love again after his wife died unexpectedly and he finds joys in parenthood.”

Dr. Keith Huneycutt, Professor of English

Dr. Keith Huneycutt

Professor of English

“Since I'm considering David Kirby's The House on Boulevard Street for next semester's Florida Lit syllabus, it's my favorite book today. This collection of poems provides a perfect introduction to one of Florida's best contemporary writers. Kirby's poetry works for lovers of poetry and for those who usually avoid it. Its range of ideas is broad, deep, and thought-provoking, but the poems are [still] witty, fun, and understandable.”

Dr. Catherine Eskin, Associate Professor of English

Dr. Catherine Eskin

Associate Professor of English

As You Like It by William Shakespeare

“The famous phrase ‘All the world’s a stage’ comes from this Shakespearean romp in the forest with the cross-dressed Rosalind (who goes by Ganymede). Rosalind is forced to flee after her uncle (who has usurped her father) banishes her from court. Rosalind, her cousin Celia, and the court fool, Touchstone, flee to the forest where they become shepherds and dally in matters of love. I suggest the Folger version (free online version from Folger) for light reading and the Arden for academic study. A terrific film version from 1992 was directed by Christine Edzard and features a thick Scottish accent that’s sure to tickle you.”

Dr. David Valdivia, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Dr. David Valdivia

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. 
“A young man promises his undying love to a young girl with conviction, but of course nothing goes as planned. It's a discussion on how life is messy, life is hard, life can drag you down and never go the way you expect, but in all of that life is beautiful and full of humor if you know where to look.”

Dr. Louis DiLeo, Assistant Professor of English

Dr. Louis DiLeo

Assistant Professor of English

“In Gabriel García Márquez’s 1981 novella, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, an anonymous narrator returns to his village to discover the truth behind a decades-old murder. The story unfolds in a backwater Colombian town near the Caribbean Sea through the narrator’s non-linear, journalistic investigation. He recounts the events surrounding a wedding twenty-seven years ago that bring about the murder of his friend, Santiago Nasar. As he quickly learns, though, the lines between criminal and victim are not so clear. Questions about action versus inaction, innocence versus culpability, and tradition versus oppression steer him—and us—toward the final, blood-splattered page.”

Dr. Bruce Darby, Professor of Psychology

Dr. Bruce Darby

Professor of Psychology

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary

“I read this a year or two ago and it was a fave! I’m not so hot about the ending, but the characters are interesting and the plot twists are involving. The setting is Paris, and an 11-year-old girl in a wealthy apartment building decides she wants to commit suicide by the time she turns 12. A bit grim, or so you think, then the book's other characters enter the picture and the connections between all of them are charming and intriguing.”

Finally, let me add my own recommendation! Geek Love by Katherine Dunn—maybe you didn’t expect me to recommend a novel, but this one is almost like an epic poem. Or maybe not. It’s just the best. Trust me. Read it. And when you’re done, stop by my office and check out the painting a student made inspired by it!