Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Robin Morris


She teaches the Charleston to students when talking about popular culture in the 1920s, plays Lil Wayne to illustrate modern history in the making, and makes hardtack for her students so they experience first hand this staple of the Civil War’s soldiers diet, but what does Robin Morris, Assistant Professor of History, read for pleasure?

We asked her a few questions last Fall and here are some of her responses:

Do you enjoy reading?  How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I enjoy reading, but I often go through cycles. Sometimes, I find a lot of amazing books that I cannot put down.  I just chug through them, even if it means losing sleep.  Other times, I cannot get beyond a first chapter and everything I pick up falls flat.  I usually have a few books going at once, so I just pick up what I’m in the mood for.

What kind of books do you read for pleasure/entertainment?

I’m often drawn to autobiography or memoir.  Usually, these relate to southern history—lately I’ve been hooked on civil rights movement memoirs.  I teach what I enjoy, so there’s very little difference between fun reading and work reading.

I also read fiction, but not really of any certain category.

Have you read anything recently that you would recommend?  Who do you think would like it?

I have read a lot of great books lately and I have reread books I have loved in the past.  It was an amazing summer of reading where everything I picked up was just wonderful!  I felt like King Midas of the library books!!

You really want a list?  Okay, here’s my favorites from the past year, in no particular order (because that’s unfair to the books).  Before you start any, grab a box of tissues.

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – This book will make you feel like a hundred dollars and is really one everyone absolutely must read at least once.
  • Waiting for Snow in Havana and Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire – Two volumes from his experience as a child in Operation Pedro Pan in which children came from Cuba to the U.S. shortly after Castro took over.  Really powerful, beautiful books.
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – Because he makes a strong case for narrative over theory and after six years of grad school, I just wanted to high-five and jump and shout reading that.
  • Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
  • The Wrong Side of Murder Creek by Bob Zellner
  • Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith –  Memoirs of the civil rights movement that make you appreciate simple parts of your day like getting a cup of coffee without harassment.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – I read this book at least once a year, usually when I need a reminder that the horizon is both a challenge and a comfort.
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – A true story of a Muslim man in New Orleans during Katrina who then gets caught up in the War on Terror.  A really powerful book for contemporary times.
  • The Good Soldiers by David Finkel –  Follows a unit of soldiers during the surge in Afghanistan.  You’ll really appreciate the soldiers, no matter what you think of the war.  Really a difficult book to read, but so valuable, especially for American citizens!

Do you have any memorable stories about reading that you can share?  For instance, was there a book that changed the way you read or did you struggle with reading as a child.

I remember taking my allowance and going to Northlake Mall to buy the Little Miss and Mr. Books.  I really identified with Mr. Messy.  I also absolutely loved Amelia Bedelia books and might blame/credit her with my sarcastic sense of humor.  Judy Blume got me through my awkward preteen years, before my even more awkward Sylvia Plath stage.

The book that made me want to be a southern historian was Killers of the Dream.  I read it as an intern at the Smithsonian my junior year of college.  I’m excited to teach it Spring semester.

Where do you get your books from?  Bookstore, public library, Agnes Scott Library, download to an eReader, etc.

Anywhere and everywhere!  I recently got a Kindle and have been surprised at how much I love it for what I call the “non-footnote books.”  I use it for fiction and memoirs and I read my Kindle everywhere—on Marta, in Evans, at Panera, waiting at the doctor, and all my usual reading spots.

I also use both the Agnes Scott library and the public library often.  Last summer, I think I checked out every book in McCain that related to Georgia history and politics!  I also have a real addiction to Amazon.com.  Martha can attest to how often I’m picking up boxes at the Post Office!

I also get audiobooks for when I work out or have road trips.  Not all books are good audiobooks, so I’m always looking for recommendations!

Additional thoughts? Comments on how your reading habits connect to your classes?

I assign books that I like to read, so there’s lots of connections.  What is great about Agnes Scott, though, is that the students really bring great contributions to discussion.  They exhibit the values of a liberal arts education, and they are always bringing connections from other classes to the readings I’ve assigned.  It is really a great environment where I feel like everyone I meet is a curious and excited reader!

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