Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: David D’Ambrosio

Question 1)

 david_dambrosio_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

Yes–I read primarily the newspaper, magazines, and professional music publications having to do with keyboard performance and pedagogy. I also read  novels mostly during the summer months.  However, I wouldn’t describe myself as an avid reader.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Life, Animated by Ronald Suskind
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Soloist
John Adams by David McCullough
Under the Tuscan Sun
Autobiographies or biographies

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book your read or any childhood favorites?

One of the first books was a story of an adventure along the Allagash river in Maine, however, I don’t remember the title.  There were also novels by Zane Grey. I enjoyed the fables from the Childcraft publication and later on the Mark Twain classics and the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. I always enjoy reading books about the great composers.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I didn’t always like to read that much outside of required reading for college.  I was able to acquire the desire to read more books over time.  I’ve never had a desire to read a lot of fiction. I love subjects of books having to do with historical figures and stories that recount actual historic events.  I don’t recall a person in my life who really inspired me to read. I had to find my own way in this regard.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I’m sure there was one or two, however, it’s difficult for me to remember what I read 40 years ago!

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Reading Habits: Mary Cain

Question 1)

mary_cain_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I love to read–everything. I wish I had more time for pleasure reading of fiction. But I read what and when I can–newspapers, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, whatever text is in front of me.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

I think there is a reason why the classics are classic, and except for Wuthering Heights, I’ve never regretted reading any one of them.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

I don’t recall the first books, but childhood favorites include: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Anne of Green Gables; Greengage Summer.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

My mother was an avid reader. She would read for  5-6 hours a day and consumed multiple books a week. She is my example.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I took an American literature survey course purposefully so I would read Moby Dick (I didn’t think I’d ever read it unless it was required). I’m so glad I did; that course–and reading that book–turned me into a nineteenth-century US historian.  I also have exceptionally fond memories of my courses on Shakespeare, and one of my favorite papers that I ever wrote was on Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Megan Drinkwater

Question 1)

megan_drinkwater_picDo you like to read? How would your describe yourself as a reader?

Yes. I am a daily– and nightly– reader.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Haruki Murakami– especially Kafka on the Shore. Just about everything, really, though I did not much like 1Q84Little Big by John Crowley. These are books I’ve enjoyed in the past five years or so…

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

Harold and the Purple Crayon, for some reason, was an early favorite. Later on came Caddie Woodlawn, Anne of Green Gables, Danny the Champion of the World, the Eloise books, and a memorable summer spent with Heidi.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

Yes, indeed. My parents are both readers, so perhaps I grew up in a family with its own literary culture bent, but I don’t recall specific inspiration.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

 Sexing the Cherry was one of my favorites by Jeanette Winterson. The others have largely faded due to erosion by the winds of time.

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Reading Habits: Donna Lee

 

Question 1)

donna_lee_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I don’t get to read as much as I would like to, but when I can, I love a wide range of books…from action/mystery/thrillers by James Patterson, John Grisham, Dan Brown to the inspirational, provocative, enlightening writings of bell hooks, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Lao Tzu, Thich Nhat Hanh, Margaret Wheatley.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Read what nourishes your spirit, tickles you, opens your mind, transports you to new worlds…

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

The Jungle Book, Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mysteries, and Dr. Seuss.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I found peace and solace in books as a young child… my most prized possession was my first library card.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Mina Ivanova

 

Question 1)

 mina_ivanova_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

There is rarely a waking moment that I do not spend read. I read incessantly, voraciously. Currently, my reading diet consists almost exclusively of non-fiction, particularly critical and rhetorical theory. Difficult texts energize me, especially when the author manages to avoid obtuseness through clear, even artful prose and vivid examples. I am an active, critical reader, who–for better or worse–can rarely take off her analytical hat and let herself be completely absorbed by a book. The most recent work of fiction I read were José Saramago’s novels Blindness and Seeing.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Paul Eisenstein and Todd McGowan’s book Rupture: On the Emergence of the Political. For a terrific and continuously updated sampling of great reads, I recommend visiting the website Brain Pickings–ʺa cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and moreʺ–   maintained by my Bulgarian compatriot and MIT Futures Entertainment Fellow Maria Popova at  www.brainpickings.org.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

Growing up, I loved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, because of her irreverent, audacious, imaginative character. There were many wonderful Bulgarian children’s books, as well.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

The short answer is: yes. I learned to read very early, and I remember my conscious efforts to decipher the letters and words in the story-books that my parents and grandparents would read to me.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

The work of Julia Kristeva was a major influence during my undergraduate years in Bulgaria, where I studied English and Linguistics (or what is referred to as philology). During my undergraduate years in the U.S., I found Naomi Klein’s work thought provoking. It sparked my interest in global ideological, political, and social justice issues.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Alan Koch

Question 1)

 alan_koch_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I suppose if I said ʺno, I do not like to readʺ, then I wouldn’t be on this blog.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to reading. Once I start a book, finishing it becomes a high priority in my life. On the other hand, if I pick up a book I’m very excited about, I sometimes hesitate to start it because I know I will finish it quickly and then it’ll be all over. I rarely reread books.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

The best nonfiction book I’ve read recently is The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t by Nate Silver. It helps us make sense in a world where we are deluged with data. I wish everybody would read it. (It’s not as math-y as it sounds.)

The best fiction book I’ve read recently is The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I describe it as ʺHarry Potterʺ meets ʺThe Bourne Identityʺ, but that doesn’t do it justice.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you ever read or any childhood favorites?

We had a lot of Dr. Seuss books in the house, but I couldn’t tell you which one I read first.

My two favorite books from my elementary school years are Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Do not watch the movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth.)

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I have always liked reading, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t do it much (see below).

Certainly my inspiration to read is my mother. Throughout my whole life, she has loved to read in her spare time. There were always paperbacks scattered throughout the house. While I didn’t read many of the same books she did, she made the concept of ʺrecreational readingʺ a norm for me. After all, when you’re a child, and you want to know ʺwhat do people do in their spare time when they’re at home?ʺ the only source of data you have is your own family.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

Honestly, I did not read a lot in college (outside of class, that is). Once I start a book, it tends to keep my attention until I finish it; I worried that reading too much would distract me from my classes. I figured I could read whatever I wanted after graduation. My thinking changed when I went to graduate school: once I realized that I would be in school for the rest of my life, I knew I had to find a better balance.

During breaks in college I would read when I could. The two books I remember the most were Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick, and The Stand by Stephen King. They’re very different books.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Amy Lovell

 

Question 1)

 amy_lovell_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I love to read, but don’t always have as much time as I’d like for reading.  I read a lot of non-fiction, and love to discuss books I’ve read with other people who enjoyed them.

Question 2)

 What books would you recommend?

I like to recommend books that I found thought-provoking… I also enjoy lighter reading, but haven’t done as much of that recently.  A few recent books I have read and would recommend are listed here.

Half the Sky (the Agnes Reads book this year) is very high on my list for thought-provoking (and wrath-inducing) and I highly recommend it, but be prepared to get a bit angry and frustrated.

I Am Malala is a book I picked up in an airport over the summer to read during a flight, and I found it really interesting.  If you would like an advocate’s view of girls’ education, and a window into another culture that will help you think beyond the often simplistic view presented about women in Islam, this is the book for you.  Her affection for her homeland, her religion, and other aspects of her culture are clear, which makes this a poignant story as her family encounters threats and violence.

While we’re on the subject of women and opportunity, I also recommend Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg).  She has some important things to say about leadership and productivity in the workplace, and how we are all affected by issues of gender stereotyping and socialization (both conscious and unconscious).

Speaking of unconscious biases and other hazards of the human brain, Strangers to Ourselves (Timothy Wilson) discusses our adaptive unconscious brain functions and is a really interesting look at how we think even when we don’t know we’re doing it!  I think this book is a great companion read for the issues faced by introverts that are discussed in Quiet (Susan Cain).

Another great book about our brains is My Stroke of Insight (Jill Bolte Taylor), which documents the process of a stroke as experienced by a neuroscientist looking at herself from both inside and out.  She has a lot to say about how we understand the brain, how medical practice can improve in dealing with patients with brain injuries, and what it is possible to recover given the knowledge and the will to do so.

On the lighter side, two space books are fun and inspiring so I can recommend them as well:  Packing for Mars (Mary Roach) and My Dream of Stars (Anousheh Ansari).  Packing for Mars was recommended to me by Alan Koch, and is an in-depth look at what goes into human spaceflight in many ways that most people don’t consider.  The book is investigative and interesting, yet lighthearted, and acknowledges the humor that often intersects with humans in space.  Ansari’s book introduces the concept of space entrepreneurs, and documents her entire journey to the ISS, including her childhood dreams and nightmares in Iran.  It is another great read about a Muslim woman and her accomplishments as well as her lifelong love of space.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

I don’t remember the first book I read, but as a child, I really loved the ʺLittle Bearʺ books.  As a parent, I loved reading them to my kids too – the stories are so sweet and true to the nature of childhood and imagination, I never get tired of them.  My other childhood favorites were funny books like Pippi Longstocking or things written by Dr. Seuss.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there any person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I have loved to read since before I can remember. My mother taught me to read at an early age, and always encouraged my love of books. Whenever we moved to a new town, we’d get library cards right away, and would take me to the library often. I think every summer of my childhood, I joined one of those summer reading clubs that local libraries run.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I read Contact by Carl Sagan… it helped inspire my interest in astronomy and space exploration.  I did a lot of reading for my classes, and while I was in college, most of the pleasure reading I did was during the summers or other breaks when I didn’t have homework!

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Charlotte Artese

 

Question 1)

charlotte_artese_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I spend more time thinking about what books to take with me when I travel than I spend thinking about what clothes to pack, and I’m pretty thoughtful about clothes. Reading is central to my life, both professionally and personally. I have long lists written down of books I want to read, both for work and play, and those two lists overlap. I don’t get involved in book groups because I don’t want someone else picking books for me. I sometimes worry that I read too much.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

We all want other people to love our favorite books. When I worked in a bookstore after college, I would try to sell everyone who came in the door Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, whether they came in for a spy thriller or a book on business management. Now I try only to recommend books to someone if I think they are a good fit for that person. I think everyone in the world should read twelve Shakespeare plays and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but even I wouldn’t recommend those to someone I didn’t think would enjoy them.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

The first book I read all by myself was called Bears, Bears, Bears. Bears on stairs, bears with hair, millionaire bears. You get the idea. I was thrilled, and I still have that little book. As a child, I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis was also an important scholar of Renaissance literature, and later when I read Paradise Lost and The Faerie Queene, I recognized that he had rewritten scenes from those epics for the Narnia books. I suspect I specialized in Renaissance literature because it already seemed familiar to me when I studied it in college.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I don’t remember the precise moment when I became a really avid reader. My father was in the army, and we moved a lot when I was a child. Books are an excellent way for the new kid who hasn’t made friends yet to occupy herself. They’re cheap or free–my mother took me and my brother to the library every two weeks. Lots of adults encouraged me–a school librarian pointed me to the Madeleine L’Engle books, another passion; my third grade teacher loaned me his book of Swedish fairytales; my grandmother read and told me the Brer Rabbit folktales.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I took five classes on Shakespeare in college. I latched on to Shakespeare and clung like grim death. I had a summer job at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and I was a volunteer ticket-taker for a free Shakespeare in the Park performance series. And yet I was dumbfounded recently when a student asked me why I like Shakespeare so much. Because he’s awesome! I need to come up with a better answer. I decided to write my dissertation on something not-Shakespeare (okay, one chapter was on The Tempest) because I thought I should take a broader view of Renaissance literature. But I’m back to my first love now.

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!

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Hiram Ramirez

As the Assistant Director for Campus Life & Intercultural Engagement, Hiram Ramirez is a familiar face to many on campus.  …

Here are his responses to our Reading Habits questionnaire:

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

Yes!  I enjoy reading a lot.  I am constantly reading during my free time.

I would describe myself as an avid book reader.  I am always  looking for new books to read and checking-in on my favorite authors to see what new books they are attempting to publish.

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

I truly enjoy reading Fantasy/Sci-Fi books.  Anything with dragons and mages in it pretty much has me hooked.

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

I recently finished Kushiel’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey.  I think anyone who is enjoys intrigue, compassion and a world where the motto is “love as thou wilt” would love this book.

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.

One book series that changed my life was Dragonlance.  The three books in this trilogy where the first books that showed me it could be fun to read.  Once I devoured these books, my addiction to fantasy books has been unquenchable.

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

I enjoy to get my books at Barnes and Nobles when I have the time but I also have a Kindle so I can download my books on the spot when the need arises.

 Additional thoughts? Comments on how your reading habits connect to your classes or work with students?

I think that the reading I do in fantasy helps me to expand and push my creativity to new heights.  The books I read help me see the world in a different way and allow me to explore the various identities our amazing students here at Agnes could potentially be exploring!