Web Exclusives: PawPlus

June 4, 2003:
Summer reading
Professor's Picks: A complete list

For Michael Cadden's theater recommendations

Christopher Eisgruber ’83, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values:

The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, by Philip Bobbitt '71 (Knopf, 2002). Bobbitt, a law professor and former senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, examines how the threat of terrorism may change the constitutional structure of the U.S. and other nations. At about 900 pages, the book may be more suited to a Russian winter than a week at the beach. Treat it like a swim in the ocean: Dip into the approachable parts, and dive elsewhere when the waters seem too deep!

Cabal, by Michael Dibdin (Faber & Faber, 1992). In Dibdin's darkly elegant mysteries, Italian detective Aurelio Zen battles crime and the corruption of his superiors. In this volume, Zen confronts murder and intrigue in the Vatican.

The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice, by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel (Oxford, 2002). This lucid and provocative book examines the ethical issues posed by the tax system. Written for a general audience by two of the world's leading philosophers — one of whom, Nagel, taught for many years at Princeton.

Simon Morrison *97, assistant professor of music:

White Swan, Black Swan, by Adrienne Sharp (Ballantine, 2002). This collection of stories, a balletomane's dream, meditates on the ephemerality of dancers' careers and the works in which they perform. Paradoxically, it suggests that the impermanence of dance is its most enduring and precious quality.

On Beauty and Being Just, by Elaine Scarry (Princeton, 1999). This short essay furnishes an antidote to writings about the political economy of artistic creation. For our less-than-beautiful times, Scarry intimates that the surface of art, rather than its philosophical or sociopolitical subtexts, has the potential to mirror the divine.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Penguin, 2001). One billion readers can't be wrong. This novel merits repeated leisurely reading for its miraculous examination of the entirety of human experience. Anna's affair with Vronsky is the least of Tolstoy's concerns.

Elaine Pagels, Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion:

Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James (reissued by Random House, 1999). In this groundbreaking work on religion, a century old, the philosopher and psychologist addresses questions about the nature and existence of God and examines topics such as the sick soul, conversion, saintliness, and mysticism.

Reinventing Paul, by John Gager, (Oxford, 2002). Through a close analysis of Paul's letters to the Romans and Galatians, a Princeton professor offers a new understanding of Paul and the apostle's beliefs about Judaism.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, by Elaine Pagels (Random House, 2003) explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945.

Andrew P. Dobson h'76, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology:

Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, by Robert Gordon (Little, Brown, 2002). An important cultural history of one of the United States' seminal music figures.

Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to the Present Crisis, by Michael Williams (Chicago, 2002). A masterly overview of how the world's forests have disappeared at a steady but now rapidly increasing rate. Read it and be very worried about the future of your children's world.

Searching for Yellowstone, by Paul Schullery (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). The best book on the history and biology of Yellowstone and its surrounding area. If you're visiting a national park anywhere, you should read it.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd (Knopf, 2003). About this novel, Publisher's Weekly said, "this rich, sophisticated, often hilarious and disarming novel is the autobiography of a typical Englishman as told through his lifelong journal."

Zanzibar by Giles Foden (Faber and Faber, 2002): "Whole continents, and much visual incontinence, can pass you by as you disappear into these novels." Taking place in 1998, this novel is about Nick Karolides, a marine biologist working in Zanzibar, who meets Miranda Powers, an American in the U.S. embassy. Together, the two become involved in a terrorist conspiracy.

A Sin of Colour, by Sunetra Gupta '86 (Sourcebooks, 2001): Booklist said about this novel: "Gupta, born in Calcutta and living in Oxford, spins a tale of two obsessive loves within the same family. Deben passionately yearns for his older brother's wife and tries to escape his desire by fleeing to England. There he meets and marries an Englishwoman, but mysteriously disappears while punting down the Cherwell River. He is presumed dead, despite the lack of a corpse. His niece eventually travels from India, too, to study in England and visit with his widow. There she meets the great love of her life, a married man who is also the last man to have seen Deben alive, and who leaves her because of his wife and small son. In an attempt to forget him, she goes to study in America. This story of great, disrupting ardor is told in a languid, utterly predictable manner, which doesn't diminish its pleasures, however, for in a rendering of delicately shaded emotions, it is the trip that counts."

Against Oblivion: Some Lives of the Twentieth Century Poets, by Richard Williams (Penguin, 2003): It presents characteristically sharp essays on poets who were famous in their lifetimes, and occasionally retained their fame. Williams provides examples of their work and informative essays that are both poignant and insightful.

Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, by Gerald Posner (Random House, 2002): "This book provides a cogent overview of the bizarre way the music industry worked."

Model Systems in Behavioral Ecology, edited by Lee Alan Dugatkin (Princeton University Press, 2001): "There aren't many books written about what its like to be a biologist and work in the field, trying to understand how other species make decisions. Despite its daunting title, this is a wonderful book that asks 20 leading behavioral ecologists to describe their careers and their work. Each chapter provides important insights into both the biological problems the scientists have worked on, and how their careers evolved."

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Food, by Gary Paul Nabhan (Norton, 2002). "I have to confess I'm fascinated by food, how it's produced, and the whole culture of how you prepare and eat it. No one writes better about this than Gary Nabham, and for me there's the pleasure of combining the expectation of sampling a new meal with the added benefit of gaining important insights on natural history and anthropology."

Daphne A. Brooks, assistant professor of English:

The White Boy Shuffle, by Paul Beatty (St. Martin's, 2001). A wickedly irreverent post-civil-rights satirical novel. Blending Toni Morrison's elegant cogency and black feminist perspective with Ishmael Reed's biting humor, yoking James Baldwin's sharp racial commentary with the hip-hop savvy humor of Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks" comic strip, Beatty has produced a manifesto about American multiculturalism.

Caucasia, by Danzy Senna (Penguin Putnam, 1999). A modern-day racial-passing narrative in which a young girl, a twin in a biracial family, creates a new identity as the daughter of a deceased white, Jewish professor. Along with Zadie Smith, Senna was one of the most promising young writers to emerge in the 1990s.

Elaine Showalter, Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities and professor of English. (She offers "students' favorites from the past decade of reading lists" in Contemporary Fiction 351.):

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Warner, 2000). In Eugenides's acclaimed first novel, five teenage sisters in the Lisbon family commit suicide. Later, the narrator describes how he and his young suburban pals had tried to understand the sisters, and how neighbors reacted as the sisters became unhinged and events unfolded.

Monkeys, by Susan Minot (Vantage, 2000). A depiction of the troubles and strife of the large, well-to-do Vincent family, with its seven children, living in the suburbs of Boston. One reviewer wrote that "not since J. D. Salinger has an American writer so feelingly evoked the special affections and loyalties that may develop among children in a large family."

The Beach, by Alex Garland (Berkeley, 1998). The Beach tells of several young, Western travelers who are adrift in Thailand's backpacker culture, searching for mystery and that last untrampled spot.

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham (Picador, 2002). This novel, an homage to Virginia Woolf, interweaves the lives of three women across several decades.

Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore (Picador, 1999.) Of this collection of short stories Publisher's Weekly said, "Though the characters in these 12 stories are seen in such varied settings as Iowa, Ireland, Maryland, Louisiana and Italy, they are all afflicted with ennui, angst and aimlessness. They can't communicate or connect; they have no inner resources; they can't focus; they can't feel love."

Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer '99 (Harperperennial, 2003). Kirkus Reviews said about this first novel, about the Holocaust in the Ukraine, "Comedy and pathos are braided together with extraordinary skill in a haunting debut. . .riveting intensity and originality."

Close Range, by Annie Proulx (Scribner, 2000). Peter Kemp of The Times London,wrote, "With her second set of stories, Close Range, Proulx trains her gaze on the state where she now lives: Wyoming. The results are magnificent, but unlikely to elate the region's tourist board."

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby (Riverhead, 1996). About this novel, Publishers Weekly said, "British journalist Hornby has fashioned a disarming, rueful and sometimes quite funny first novel that is not quite as hip as it wishes to be. The book dramatizes the romantic struggle of Rob Fleming, owner of a vintage record store in London."

Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage, 1993). Publishers Weekly wrote, "Stevens, an elderly butler who has spent 30 years in the service of Lord Darlington, ruminates on the past and inadvertently slackens his rigid grip on his emotions to confront the central issues of his life." P.W. called this Booker Prize-winner "a tour de force — both a compelling psychological study and a portrait of a vanished social order."

White Noise, by Don DeLillo (Penguin, 1991). From Publishers Weekly: Chairman of the department of Hitler studies at a Midwestern college, Jack Gladney is accidentally exposed to a cloud of noxious chemicals, part of a world of the future that is doomed because of misused technology, artificial products and foods, and overpopulation. P.W. appreciated DeLillo's "bleak, ironic" vision, calling it "not so much a tragic view of history as a macabre one."

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories, by Alice Munro (Vintage, 2002). A collection of nine stories, all taking place in small towns and burgeoning cities of southern Ontario and British Columbia.

Mary Swann, by Carol Shields (HarperCollins, 1992). In this novel, Shields writes about the mystery surrounding the murder of a Mary Swann, a poet.

Unless, by Carol Shields (Fourth Estate, 2003). Shields explores a mother's grief over her eldest daughter's decision to drop out of society and take up panhandling.

Lawrence Rosen, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology:

My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk (Knopf, 2002). Set in Turkey, this novel tells about miniaturist painters whose concerns with innovation lead them to challenge and violate many of their own moral views.

Man and Wife in America: A History, by Hendrik Hartog (Harvard, 2002). A Princeton professor demonstrates that American marriage did not have a golden age of stability, but often offered possibilities for escape.

Islam in the World, by Malise Ruthven (Oxford, 2000). A comprehensive and insightful assessment of Islamic cultures.

Neta Bahcall, professor of astrophysical sciences and director of the Council on Science and Technology.

Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, by J. Richard Gott (Houghton Mifflin, 2001). Gott, a Princeton astrophysicist, offers a guided tour of the potential of traveling through time. Gott explains how time travel to the future is possible, and examines whether travel to the past might be possible as well.

Our Cosmic Habitat, by Martin J. Rees (Princeton University Press, 2001) Rees, a cosmologist, provides a comprehensible summary of how we got here, how the universe began, and how it might end. Reviewers have lauded the book for its clear prose on a tough subject.

Just Six Numbers: the Deep Forces that Shape the Universe, by Martin J. Rees (Basic Books, 2001). From Library Journal, " Science writer and astronomer Rees summarizes the history of the universe, pointing out that six numbers related to basic physical constants (for example, the relative strengths of the gravitational and electromagnetic attraction) determine how the universe developed. In addition, he shows how, if these numbers were only slightly different, stars and galaxies would not form, complex chemistry would not be possible, and life could not evolve."

Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe, by Martin J. Rees (W.H. Freeman, 1998). From Book News,Rees "describes the technological advances that have allowed scientists to gather evidence on black holes, tracing the observations and accidents through which black holes, quasars, and related phenomena were discovered. Explores questions surrounding black holes and how they relate to the structure of the universe, and whether they will refute or confirm our present theories describing the physical laws of the universe."

First Light: the Search for the Edge of the Universe, by Richard Preston *83 (Random House, 1966). This book tells the story of scientists at the Palomar Observatory in California; they peer through the Hale Telescope at the edges of space and attempt to understand the beginning of time.

Theodore Rabb *61, professor of history:

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada, by Garrett Mattingly (Houghton Mifflin, 1984). One of the most dramatic stories of all time, told by a master of history and prose in a book that was a bestseller when it first appeared.

Montaillou, by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (Ashgate, 1978). A fascinating evocation of life in a medieval village, full of surprises and dramatic characters.

Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, by William Cronon (Norton, 1992). A beautifully written account of Chicago's rise to prominence, and the heroes, villains, and economic forces behind it.

Theater recommendations

Michael Cadden, senior lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and Theater and Dance and director of the Program in Theater and Dance says: "Why not supplement your summer reading with some summer viewing? After all, plays are written to be seen!"

The Birds, by Aristophanes; Stratford Festival of Canada. Stratford, Ontario. Through June 27: :The Stratford Festival kicks off its second half-century with a look at some ancient Greek plays, including this comic fantasy about two guys who just want to get away from it all and emigrate heavenward to establish the avian paradise or is it? — of Cloudcuckooland.

Jerry Springer: The Opera, by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee. Royal National Theater; London. Through August 30. "The unlikely critical and popular hit of last year's Edinburgh Festival opens Nicholas Hytner's reign as artistic director of the National Theatre. Sounds positively Aristophanic to me!"

Travesties, by Tom Stoppard. Williamstown Theatre Festival; Williamstown, Mass. August 6 -17: "Our modern Aristophanes, Tom Stoppard, takes a comically surreal look at modernist art and politics, featuring James Joyce, Lenin, and Dadaist Tristan Tzara in a situation partially derived from Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. I wonder if Williamstown's version will outclass the one just produced by our undergraduates as a creative thesis?

Lorca in a Green Dress, by Nilo Cruz. Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland. July 8 — November 12: "Cruz won this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama for Anna in the Tropics,which will open Princeton's new Roger S. Berlind '52 Theater in September. His latest play, Lorca in a Green Dress, places Spain's most important 20th-century dramatist in a dreamlike afterlife.

The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci, by Mary Zimmerman. Second Stage, New York. Through July 20: "A Tony Award-winning director for her adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Zimmerman turns her high-gloss theatricality to the most protean of Renaissance masters.

Homebody/Kabul, by Tony Kushner. Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago. July 10 — August 31: "From the author of Angels in America, another timely investigation of the way we live now; in this instance, Kushner looks at how dangerous our ignorance of other cultures can be."

The Plough and the Stars, by Sean O'Casey. Abbey Theatre, Dublin. June 4 — July 12: "A celebrated revival of O'Casey's sobering look at the underbelly of Dublin's 1916 Easter Rebellion."

Diana of Dobson's, by Cicely Hamilton. Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, . Through October 4. "Actress and British suffragette Hamilton wrote this rather Shavian feminist comedy in 1908, but it's still fresh as paint. A perfect choice for the Shaw Festival!"

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla. Through June 29: "Imported from Princeton's McCarter Theatre and directed by Emily Mann, this revival aches with Chekhov's insights into the laughter and pain our illusions bring us. Mid-life crisis at its best."

Henry V, by William Shakespeare. Royal National Theatre, London. Begins July 23: "As director Nicolas Hytner describes it: 'a play about a charismatic young British leader sending his troops to war in a cause of dubious international legitimacy.' Adrian Lester, Britain's leading black actor, will star in the role that helped establish the reputations of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh.