Rutgers faculty and staff share the titles they can’t wait to tackle

Books play a starring role in the languid months of summer.

Rutgers Today asked faculty and staff members to tell us what one book they’re most looking forward to reading after the rigors of an academic year.

Whether they’re weighty and deep, or fluffy and fun, books play a starring role in the languid months of summer. Rutgers Today asked faculty and staff members to tell us what one book – fiction, history, memoir, poetry, essay, whatever – they’re most looking forward to reading after the rigors of an academic year, and why. Below are their responses. Happy reading!

Elizabeth Beasley, director, Rutgers Summer Program, New Brunswick: I've just begun Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. This was a birthday gift from my daughter, who is expecting her first child in August. It's a well-researched and -written discussion of the challenges and gifts of parenting (and being) "different." In particular, Solomon talks about "horizontal" identities (qualities not inherited from or shared with one's parents, for example, gay sexual orientation), as opposed to "vertical" identities (qualities shared with one's parents, for example, race), and the challenges they represent for child and parent, alike. He also notes that what may seem a disability (e.g., deafness) to the hearing parent may be experienced as identity by the deaf child. I'm looking forward to reading and discussing the book with my daughter as we move through the chapters together.

Elliot J. Coups, associate professor of medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; member, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick: I’m looking forward to reading Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece by David P. Colley, with photographs by Elizabeth Keegin Colley. This book is the first monograph about Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which was designed in the mid-19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert B. Vaux, who had previously created Manhattan’s Central Park. I have lived near the park in several different neighborhoods for quite a few years and have spent many hours – mostly while running or walking my dogs – exploring a good proportion of its 585 acres. I have come across some interesting sights in the park (including a cemetery, remotely located memorials, and an unofficial mountain biking course!) and look forward to learning about its origins and development during the past 150 years

Lloyd Deans, supervising mental health specialist, Vets4Warriors, Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare, Piscataway: My choice is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, a best-seller which sold more than 1.2 million copies in the United States. The 48 Laws of Power provides interesting stories using past and present examples of success and failures due to the lack of discipline. Law 28 is Enter Action with Boldness. If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous:  Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

Karen Dentler, honors dean, School of Arts and Sciences, New Brunswick: This summer, new School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program students and I will be thinking about a future post-oil America while reading World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler. The novel follows residents of a small community in upstate New York as they reconstruct their lives after major catastrophes. In July and August, new SAS Honors Program students will begin a conversation about the book on our wildly popular SAS Honors Program Summer Reading Blog. Last summer, our blog had over 1000 comments! In August, our students will attend a lecture, book signing and reception with James Howard Kunstler.

Cecile A. Feldman, dean, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Newark: Several years ago, I decided to read James Michener’s 868-page Alaska before going on an Alaskan cruise.  It was a great way to learn about the history of the state while enjoying some wonderful storytelling.  I struggled to finish the book in time for my trip, so I read at night and used an audio book during my commutes. This year, I will be going to South Africa to participate in the International Association for Dental Research, so I decided to read Michener’s 879-page book The Covenant. I started well before my trip, but it can be hard to carve out time for reading. At an average rate of 50 pages a week, I’ll be back from South Africa for months before finishing the book. But the novel’s historical fiction is already bringing the South African culture alive for me. 


Christine Giviskos, associate curator of European art, Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick: The book I am most looking forward to reading is The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. I actually had started it earlier this year, but it got recalled from my library before I got very far!  I was drawn to the book because I already knew McBride is a wonderful writer from his memoir The Color of Water, I enjoy historical fiction and it got a great review in The New York Times.  I also heard an interview with Ann Patchett, another writer whose work I also love, in which she raved about the book. 

Thomas Izbicki, interim associate university librarian for collection development, New Brunswick: I am eager to read The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott. Scott was more than a novelist with a talent for plot and character. He examined social history through his characters. This book tackles the coming together of England and Scotland in the reign of King James I (1603-1625).

Ellen Lieberman, associate dean, Douglass Residential College, New Brunswick: When I’m not reading books and articles about living-learning communities and women in science, technology, engineering and math (for research purposes), my “go to” type of book is science fiction, and my favorite fiction writer is Dean Koontz. Koontz captivates me with his integration of “light” and “dark” magic woven into wonderful storytelling. It’s the type of book you can read in a short period of time and escape to another world. His new book, The City, which is being released this summer is described as, “a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.”

Felicia E. McGinty, vice chancellor for student affairs, New Brunswick: I'm reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for my own pleasure and enlightenment. I'm part of a panel at a conference next month and we're discussing the importance of helping staff advance their careers, so I'm currently reading Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. That’s what's on my docket for now.  I hope to read several others some for fun and a few to stay current.

Craig Oren, professor, Rutgers School of Law-Camden: My summer read will be Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war, an event of unimaginable suffering that had few good consequences. Clark's book traces the long- and short-term events that led to a war whose horror was foreseen by none and whose results we can still see in the Middle East.

Barbara Ostfeld, professor, Department of Pediatrics, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick: I first read Rabbi Harold Kushner's book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, shortly after it was published in 1981 and found his story and insights to be powerful, memorable and of great comfort. From the perspective of 33 more years of helping families facing the loss of a loved one and viewing such tragedies all too often in our daily headlines, I wondered if the years have deepened or diminished my appreciation of its message. Having started the first chapter, I am optimistic and very glad to be revisiting his wisdom.

Cheryl Wilson, associate director, Office of Multicultural Student Involvement, Department of Student Life, New Brunswick: I hope to read the book 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. It was brought back to popularity by the Oscar-award-winning movie made in 2013, but the book was introduced via a made-for-TV movie back in 1984 titled Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northup's Odyssey starring actor and Rutgers alumnus Avery Brooks. I've seen the latter, but before I see the more recent and more widely known movie version, I'd like to read the book to get all of the facts as told by the author. However, as an African American, I'll have to prepare myself emotionally for what I will read, as the experiences are not fictional and are highly personal for me.