Lit Hum withdrawal? Check out these book recommendations from professors
Yeah, Columbia almost made me forget that I like to read for fun. A few years ago, Spec compiled a list of book recommendations for winter break from celebrity professors. This year, we decided to bring that back. Spec asked our favorite professors what books they would recommend—here they are!
For those of you interested in art, read up on these recommendations by Barnard art history professor Anne Higonnet. Her specialty is 19th-century European art, museums, and the history of art history (oh, so meta). She recommends “The Best American Infographics 2013,” edited by Gareth Cook with an introduction by David Byrne.
About “The Best American Infographics 2013,” she said,
“I love seeing how facts can be powerfully translated into visual form, plus I’m getting a fast review of last year’s issues, from ‘your microbiome’, to ‘Gay Rights in the U.S., States by State,’ to ‘should I check my e-mail?’”
Higonnet also suggests Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” calling it “a classic … to give to my college-age son.”
For all you philosophy majors, check out the recommendations from Beau Shaw, a Contemporary Civilization instructor. He recommended “Philosophical Investigations” by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Shaw said this book is
“one of the two or three best books of 20th century philosophy, it flips on its head everything we’ve thought we’ve known for the past 300 years. It’s also a beautiful book, haunting and symphonic.”
Shaw also recommended “Sabbath’s Theater” by Philip Roth. Shaw said “Sabbath’s Theater” is
“not for the faint of heart, but what someone said about Rabelais is true of this book—if God could write comedy, this is it. About Mickey Sabbath, a very large, very slothful puppeteer who, after suffering a tragedy, commits himself to a mischief-making whose scale is almost unthinkable.”
The next one is for the English majors. These recommendations come from Emily Hayman, a Lit Hum instructor whose specialties are 20th-century British and global literature, translation studies, and women’s and gender studies. Hayman suggested several novels:
“(for those in Benedict Cumberbatch withdrawal and/or stuck in a less-than-exotic locale): The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, by Jamyang Norbu. A recent Holmes ‘reboot’ (of a sort) set in Tibet—brilliant, funny, and an interesting postcolonial take on the classic English sleuth.”
Hayman also recommended “The Brothers Karamazov” by (the one, the only) Fyodor Dostoyevsky. She said,
“It’s breathtaking, challenging, and, in the end, deeply human to an extent that few works of literature have ever quite achieved. A must for the lifetime reading list, and just the right length for winter break.”
Finally, if you’re a Rousseau junkie, check out his “Confessions,” recommended by Mark Lilla, a history professor and Lit Hum instructor whose specialty is Western political and religious thought. Lilla said,
“Start it over break and finish it at the beach over the summer. It brings alive all the issues we talk about in the Core within the context of one extraordinary life. It’s wonderfully written and racy…”
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