Reading recommendations

Tips compiled by Dr. Matthew M. DeForrest, Professor of English and Mott University Professor

Advice and Resources

The obvious first title or recommendation is whatever book you have been meaning to get around to but have never gotten the chance (don’t ask how long my list is. We would be here all day — although Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey looms large on that list — Available on AmazonApple Books, and Audible. According to the New York Times, it’s the first time a woman has a published translation into English!). Now is the perfect time to indulge yourself in picking up (or, perhaps, finishing) that work you have always wanted to but never seemed to have the time.

Dr. Brendan Kern (Associate Professor of Biology) shied away from recommending a single title in favor of reminding everyone that most libraries let you check out electronic texts. He recommended Libby

Hoopla is another popular app used by many libraries — including Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Library — which all current JCSU faculty, staff, and students have access to as a perk of being part of the JCSU community. Signing up is an online process, which means you have access to CMS’ collection 24-7.

JCSU’s Duke Memorial Library also offers a wide variety of electronic texts and resources worth pursuing. You can find them at Digital Smith.

Specifically Recommended Titles

Mr. Jemayne King (Instructor of English) is a poet, professor, entrepreneur, and podcaster (see his website for links to his work) recommends checking out Mark Anthony Neal’s What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (Available to purchase or rent on Amazon). If you would prefer fiction, he recommends Suzan-Lori Park’s Getting Mother’s Body (Available on AmazonApple Books, and Audible), which he compares to As I Lay Dying (Available on AmazonApple Books, and Audible)  — high praise coming from a Faulkner scholar.

Dr. Shawn Miklaucic (Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies) teaches our Creative Writing classes — making him an obvious person to ask. He wrote:

I would recommend Jesmyn Ward's novel, Salvage the Bones (Available on AmazonApple Books, and Audible).  I just finished it last week. It won the National Book Award in 2001.  It deals with one family just before and during Katrina. Maybe reading about another life-changing disaster will be both distracting and sustaining?  It's a beautiful book regardless.

Dr. Alfred Smith (Assistant Professor of Management) has been an avid reader for as long as I have known him. When asked, he wrote back:

I really enjoy urban fantasy.  These are books where magic is happening, not in some distant feudal land, but today in Chicago or London or Northwest USA.  Here are a couple of my favorite.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (Available for purchase through AmazonApple Books, and Audible and as an audio book at Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Library)

The story is a fantastic, wild creation with many fascinating characters you always want to more about. 

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Available for purchase through AmazonApple Books, and Audible)

Neverwhere is a short novel, but it packs a lot of twists and turns.  It has a Londoner who haplessly falls into a parallel world where he is forced to become more than he has been.  It is a really fun read.

One of the other items on my own wish list is to look at Aaron Manke’s three books series The World of Lore (Available for purchase through AmazonApple Books, and Audible and as an audiobook at Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Library), which is based on his Lore podcast, which you can learn more about on his website.

Specifically About Pandemics

This may seem an odd section to include but some people cope with times like these by immersing themselves in the topic rather than trying to put it out of their minds. For those, I’d recommend the following: 

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel DeFoe (Available on Amazon, on Apple Books — including an edition for free, and Audible) is a difficult book to classify. Although we ascribe it to DeFoe (better known for his Robinson Crusoe), he initially had it published under the initials H.F. — which match the initials of his uncle, Henry Foe. Whether it is Foe’s journal or a novel based on his journal, it is the story of one man’s life in London during an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1665 London. Samuel Pepys also records the events of this year in his diaries, which are also widely available. 

The Masque of the Red Death”, by Edgar Allen Poe, is a chilling short story about what happens to a prince and his courtiers who try to escape a plague ravaging his country by isolating themselves within one of his palaces. As you might imagine with Poe, it does not turn out well. It’s worth noting that all of Poe’s works are freely available and worth looking at if you enjoy horror, detective fiction (Poe invented it), and science fiction.