Fairfield University's community shares its '2011 Best Book List'



Fairfield University's 2011 Best Book List is as diverse as the people who comprise its community.

Memoirs, novels, non-fiction, spiritual essays, works of literary journalism find a home on it. Individuals from all walks of campus life - nursing, engineering, business, education, the arts, the sciences - were asked to share their favorite book read during the year. The results take readers to such places as backstage at "Saturday Night Live," Albert Einstein's office, a World War II prisoner of war camp, and on "a groundbreaking tour of the mind." The writers include Nobel Prize winners and a first time author who went straight to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there. The list is not a traditional 'best of the year" list; instead it contains some standouts from the past year along with a few treasures that are worth a place on your bookshelf. For those interested, the new Fairfield University Bookstore in downtown Fairfield has some of the books in stock and others can be ordered.

Following, in no particular order, is a list of tempting titles recommended by members of the Fairfield University community:

Image: Between Heaven and MirthRecommended by Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., Fairfield University President - "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of The Spiritual Life," by Rev. James Martin, S.J. (HarperOne). From The Colbert Report's "official chaplain," Fr. Martin, author of the New York Times bestselling "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything," comes a look at how joy, humor, and laughter can save our spirits. A Jesuit priest who writes for America magazine, Martin is a frequent visitor to the Fairfield campus.

Recommended by Sydney Johnson, coach of the men's basketball team, the Fairfield Stags - "So Long a Letter," by Mariama Ba (Heinemann Books). This landmark book by Ba, a prominent women's activist, explores in a fascinating way African men and women.

Image: Bossy PantsRecommended by Zachary Gross '12, director of recycling for Leaders for Environmental Awareness at Fairfield (LEAF) - "Bossypants," by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company). "Fey's mix of intelligent quips and self-deprecating humor, combined with the behind-the-scenes perspective she offers about Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock (two of my favorite TV shows), made this collection of essays a hilarious read," Gross said.

Image: Thinking Fast and SlowRecommended by Donald E. Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business - "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The author received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his remarkable work in psychology. "Kahneman is an amazing thinker, and this book is an excellent summary of his work," Dr. Gibson said.

Image: EelsRecommended by Dr. Jill J. Deupi, director of the Bellarmine Museum of Art - "Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish," by James Prosek (Harper). "The multi-talented Mr. Prosek, who authored his first book ("Trout") at age 19 and whose work is being exhibited at the Bellarmine Museum of Art through late January 2012, does not fail to disappoint with this account of one of the most unusual fish in the world," Dr. Deupi said. "In Eels, Prosek explores both the biological complexities of these remarkable creatures as well as the prominent role they continue to play in native lore and creation myths amongst traditional peoples such as New Zealand's Maori. This book will remove for its readers the 'ick' factor generally associated with the much-maligned eel once and for all!"

Recommended by Joan Overfield, university librarian & director of Library Services of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library - "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House). "I was inspired by the heroism, resilience and ingenuity of Louis Zamperini, who was aboard an Air Force bomber downed in enemy territory in May, 1943 and who spent the rest of WWII in Japanese internment camps. Despite being pushed to the limits of his endurance, he persevered with amazing courage, spirit and humanity."

Image: The Cross and the Lynching TreeRecommended by Ellen M. Umansky, Ph.D., Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies - "The Cross and the Lynching Tree," by James H. Cone (Orbis Books). "This heart-wrenching, scholarly work by African-American theologian James Cone explores the symbolic and historic connections between the crucifixion of Jesus and the lynching of blacks in 19th and early 20th century America," said Dr. Umansky. "This book contains many important insights into the nature of white supremacy, forms of black resistance, and, for Christians, the enduring paradox of a crucified savior."

Recommended by Shanon Reckinger, Ph.D., Clare Boothe Luce Professor, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering - "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Phillips Feynman, Ralph Leighton, Edward Hutchings (W.W. Norton & Company). "This classic provides fascinating insight into the mind and life of Richard Feynman," said Dr. Reckinger. "Throughout the various stories, you get to see all the sides to this iconic physicist, and also see him interact with the other major figures in science during that time including Albert Einstein."

Recommended by Suzanne Hetzel Campbell, Ph.D., WHNP-BC, IBCLC, dean of the School of Nursing - "The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God," by Ronald Rolheiser (The Crossroad Publishing Company). "It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from St. Exupery's Le Petite Prince - 'It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eyes,' " Dr. Campbell said.

Recommended by Virginia Kelly, Ph.D., associate professor of Counselor Education - "The Book Thief," by Markus Zusak (Knopf Books for Young Readers). Set during World War II in Germany, the story follows a young girl who steals books, falls in love with reading and later shares those books with her neighbors as bombs fall. "I think it would be hard for anyone to not fall for this book," Dr. Kelly said.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 8, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 141