Campus Community Members Share What Books They’re Reading


By Sheila Eppolito

It’s summertime, and the reading is easy. 

We surveyed more than two dozen people from across the campus community to find out what’s on their summer reading lists. Their responses run the gamut—with authors ranging from the Dalai Lama to Kurt Vonnegut and topics spanning quantum physics to dieting strategies, and everything in between. 

We’ve spotlighted some respondents here.

"Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads"

Asst. Prof. Juan Pablo Trelles of Mechanical Engineering is reading “Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads.” The book was a gift from Asst. Prof. Hunter Mack, himself a father of two, upon the birth of Trelles’ daughter, Sofie, now four months old.

“The book has a lot of information as well as solutions to common problems and surprises, from what an actual newborn looks like to what and how to feed your baby,” says Trelles.

“Anything by Elin Hildrebrand”

Roseann Sdoia ’91, a Boston Marathon bombing survivor who is now a motivational speaker, is packing “anything by Elin Hildrebrand,” into her beach bag. Hildrebrand’s Nantucket-based summer beach sizzlers consistently top the fiction charts.

“I enjoy her books as they are a light read and are about Nantucket, which is one of my favorite places. I can picture the scenes that she describes as if I am there with her,” Sdoia says.

"Bottom of the 33rd"

Head Track & Field Coach Gary Gardner is planning to read about a historical game in baseball, one in which he just happened to be in attendance.

“I just ordered ‘Bottom of the 33rd: Hope and Redemption in Baseball's Longest Game,’ by Dan Barry. This is the story about the longest baseball game in history, which took place at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My grandfather purchased my family season tickets to the Pawtucket Red Sox and I was at the first 10 innings of the game and left. It reminds me of all the great years with my friends and family that we had at those games.”

“Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France”

Victoria Denoon, senior assistant to the provost, is diving into “Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France” by Leonie Frieda.

“I’ve been watching a drama about the life of Mary Queen of Scots and her life in France and I wanted to learn more about the real story behind Catherine de Medici and the French court during that period,” says Denoon. “I’ve read a lot of books about strong women in history, including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Elizabeth I.”

“The Book of Proverbs”

Chief of Police Randy Brashears’ reading plans include “The Book of Proverbs” from the Old Testament, and “Changed Lives: 10 True Stories from Addiction to Freedom” by Pasco Manzo.

“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” 

Earl Ada, manager of the Materials Characterization Lab, is getting philosophical this summer with “The Basic Works of Aristotle” edited by Richard McKeon. But Ada also plans to read “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth.

“I bought a copy of this book for my teenage daughter’s upcoming birthday, and I wanted to read it first so I can talk about it with her,” he says.

“Ethics for a New Millennium”

Recent alum Daniel Muise '16 is not resting on his graduation laurels: He’s taking on “Ethics for a New Millennium” by the Dalai Lama.

“The title of the book sounds intimidating, but the Dalai Lama’s style is conversational,” says Muise who is heading to Stanford University in the fall for his Ph.D. “Each of his books essentially reawakens my appreciation for the ‘Golden Rule’.”

A Prayer for Owen Meany”

In a recent email to the Honors College mailing list, Dean James Canning encouraged lots of summer reading.

“No matter what decade of your life you are in, I encourage you to connect with the great authors, both past and present,” says Canning, who uses traditional and audio books.

Canning’s own “mandatory summer reading” also includes Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” and a smattering of selections from Pearl S. Buck, Robert Parker and others.


For Director of Libraries George Hart, it’s time to “step out of present-mindedness a bit” with the pre-1900s novel “Germinal” by Emile Zola.

“I find reading from this period helps to counterbalance the narrow focus and noise that floods the internet,” says Hart. “Some French historians call this the ‘longue durée— it's a different perspective, one that focuses much less on the flood of current events.”

"Vers le Sud”

In addition to a slew of curricula-based tomes, Department of Art and Design Chair Jehanne-Marie Gavarini is staying in touch with her French roots through her summer reading list, which includes “Vers le Sud” by Haitain novelist Dany Laferriere. The story is set in Port-au-Prince in the late 1970s and explores politics, racism, artistic freedom and colonialism.

A whopping 85 percent of respondents still rely on hard-copy books over e-readers and audio books. Here are some more suggestions.

  • “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin 
    Laurie Dimitrov, assistant to the dean, College of Health Sciences 

  • “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace 
    Sam Linstead-Atkinson, news editor, “The Offering” 

  • “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas
    Joseph Hartman, dean, Francis College of Engineering 

  • “Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Timothy Cook, asst. prof. of physics 

  • “The Fast Metabolism Diet” by Haylie Pomroy
    Norma Levasseur, administrative assistant, Chemistry Department  

  • “Colors: A Natural History of the Palette” by Victoria Finlay
    Carole Salmon, assoc. prof. of French  

  • “Close Your Eyes” by Iris Johansen
    Nancy Ficarra, coordinator, student services, Francis College of Engineering 

  • “The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry” by Gabrielle Zevin
    Lori Weeden, lecturer, Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences  

  • “Always Hungry?” by David Ludwig
    Melissa Junchniewicz, adjunct, English Department  

  • “Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur” by Lancaster & Blundell
    Joel Therrien, assoc. prof. of electrical and computer engineering  

  • “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald
    Rowdy, campus mascot  

  • “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” by Amy-Jill Levine
    Imogene Stulken, Protestant campus minister 

  • “Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut
    Daniel Schmidt, assoc. prof. of plastics engineering  

  • “Security Mom” by Juliette Kayyem
    Rich Lemoine, director of Environmental and Emergency Management  

  • “The Nature of Solids” by Max Born
    Tzuyang Yu, assoc. prof. of civil engineering 

  • “The Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
    Susan Hudson, administrative assistant, College of Health Sciences