Hearing about what other people are reading can be interesting, especially if they think their current book is a good read. Over the past few weeks, WSU Today has asked several WSU faculty and staff: 1) What is the best or most influential book you have read recently, and 2) What book do you have on your reading list for the summer? Here are the results:
* Nancy Magnuson, molecular biosciences professor
1) There are two “best books” I have read so far this year. The first is titled, “Waiting,” by Ha Jin, a love story with many complications. It concerns a Chinese doctor after the Cultural Revolution who is in a loveless, arranged marriage and who falls deeply in love with a nurse. The story tells how the customs of centuries have more control over people’s lives than one would believe possible.
The second is simply a fun read with a local setting. “Resort,” by J. J. Hunter, spins a tale of international intrigue and murder that takes place at the Coeur d’Alene resort. Anyone familiar with the resort will find that this story holds their attention.
2) The book I want to read for the summer is called “Germs,” concerning biological weapons. It is by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad. From what I understand, this book is a groundbreaking work of investigative journalism, showing why biowarfare and bioterrorism are fast becoming our worst national nightmare.
V. Lane Rawlins, president
1) The year’s most influential book for me was Clark Kerr’s memoirs of his years at UC Berkeley, “The Blue and the Gold.” This two-volume work should interest people who lived through some of those years at Berkeley or who may enjoy a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest leaders that public higher education has ever produced.
I also was deeply moved by a WSU press publication, Wayne MacGregor’s “Through These Portals.” His account of the Pacific theatre in WWII is vivid, detailed, and feels like real war, where there is danger, filth, killing and the human bonding that only such hardship can bring. It was brilliant.
2) My reading for the summer includes Robert Caro’s recent work on Lyndon Johnson, titled, “Master of the Senate.” Caro is a top biographer, and Johnson remains one of the most studied enigmas of the past century.
Anjan Bose, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture
1) “Tournament of Shadows,” by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac. This is a history of Central Asia and the “great game” played by the Russians and the British to exercise control. It helped me understand what’s going on in Afghanistan today.
2) “From Dawn to Decadence,” by Jacques Barzun.
Robert Bates, provost
1) “The Northern Lights,” by Lucy Jago. It is the true story of the man who unlocked the secrets of the Aurora Borealis. This great book captures the extraordinary scientific investigation that occurred in the late 1800s and the personal quest of Professor Birkeland to explain the nature of the Northern Lights. It is written in a factual manner blended with details of human interest.
2) “The Academic Self: An Owner’s Manual” by Donald E. Hall. The book encompasses academic life and the basic responsibility academics have for their actions and attitudes. It applies to all educators at all levels, from graduate students to administrators.
Tim Steury, co-editor of “Washington State Magazine”
1) How about best two? “Bel Canto,” by Ann Patchett. I don’t read much fiction, but this one moved me. It is about the transforming power of art (though countered by political power and stupidity). Also, “The Botany of Desire,” by Michael Pollan. His ability to explain is breathtaking.
2) Again, how about a couple? Or three? “Baudolino,” by Umberto Eco. “Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food,” by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. “Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne,” by John Butt. Actually, I’m reading these already, but as I tend to read a number of books at one time, I’ll have them finished by the end of summer. And “Selected Essays,” by John Berger.
Sherri Murrell, women’s basketball coach
1) “Left Behind,” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I purchased the book because I was curious in knowing why this novel is such a hot best seller. Now I’m reading one right after the other. I have a love and passion for life on earth now, but reading about life after death is very intriguing to me.
(Editor’s note: The “Left Behind” series includes 11 books and has sold over 50 million copies.)
2) “Failing Forward,” by John C. Maxwell. I have read many of Maxwell’s leadership books. This particular book caught my eye since I went through the first losing season of my career. I think failures are stepping stones not stop signs. This book really expands on how to not only avoid failure, but how to turn it into success if it happens.
Bill Doba, WSU football coach
1) “Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare,” by Alan Axelrod. It relates to my new position.
2) For summer I just got the book “When Pride Still Mattered: The Life of Vince Lombardi,” by David Maraniss.
Pat Caraher, co-editor of “Washington State Magazine”
1) “Kalakala,” by Steven J. Russell. As a Seattle native, I’ve always been intrigued by the Kalakala — the flagship of the Blackball Ferry System. It was unveiled in 1935 in Seattle and retired in 1967. For more than three decades, the state-of-the-art “Silver Bullet” transported cars and passengers across Puget Sound. In 1970, it was beached in a cove at Kodiak, Alaska, and used as shrimp cannery, where it fell in disrepair. It has been towed back to Seattle, and there is a movement to restore the ferry to its former grandeur.
2) “Two Voices,” by Jim and Brian Doyle.
Victor Villanueva, chair, English department
1) I’ve been reading a series of Michael Chrichton books for just plain fun. The most recent were “Airframe” and “Prey,” which were okay.
Before that, I read “Timeline” and “Eaters of the Dead — Ibn Fadlan meets Beowulf” (the first three chapters of this book come from the diary of Ibn Fadlan, from Baghdad, an emissary to Russia in the 13th century). Both of these were great.
The book that I’ve been reading with the greatest affect and effect has been “The End of the World as We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-First Century,” by Immanuel Wallerstein. Why? Because I am compelled to attempt to make sense of current world events from a multidisciplinary perspective.
2) Number one on my summer list is “The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf,” by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, for the same reason.
Jim Sterk, athletic director
1) “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive” by Patrick Lencioni. I read the book in December. It was timely reading for me, as well as our staff. For our executive staff in Athletics, it became assigned reading — a Christmas gift. The lessons regarding organizational issues were simple yet powerful.
2) I have read most of Tom Clancy and John Grisham’s books. I have just finished “The Summons,” by Grisham and have “The King of Torts” waiting.
Ev Davis, executive director of Facilities Operations
1) “Once Upon a Town,” by Bob Greene. It recounts efforts of the residents and nearby communities of North Platte, Neb., to greet and meet all the servicemen who traveled through North Platte on troop trains during World War II. I particularly enjoyed this because of the human element — the sacrifices that these volunteers made in time and resources to ensure that each train was met, and the impact they had on those servicemen. It’s just an easy read that gives some insight into an important event in the lives of some average citizens, both volunteers and servicemen.
2) I’m embarrassed to say I don’t have a reading list. I generally just pick “targets of opportunity” and start reading whatever looks interesting at the moment, or whatever someone gives me.