What students are reading this summer

August 06, 2008

In the happy absence of assigned readings, students and recent grads have been hitting the books — and blogs — of their own choosing this summer. From Plato, Nietzsche and Shakespeare to Jackie Chan, Barbara Walters and fashion essays on the Web, their recreational reading tastes run the gamut.

Keith Ludington Adams ’10, a Music Composition and Theory major, is currently reading “Lolita,” by Vladimir Nabokov, and “Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,” by Douglas Hofstadter. He’s completed more than a dozen others since classes ended, including, “The General in his Labyrinth,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Qur’an, translated by N.J. Dawood, and an autobiography of Miles Davis.

Adams, whose band Turtle Buddy just released its first CD, “It's Bright Bright Moon,” is into many of the classics from literature and philosophy. “My friend and I started a reading group together in which we discussed Shakespeare, Plato, Nietzsche, and bits of the New Testament. We wrote essays sometimes and watched adaptations of our selected Shakespeare works on the stage and screen to further our understanding and joy of them,” he reports. “It was, and is, invaluable to discuss and write about what we read.”

English major Michelle Menner ’09 enjoyed a couple of F. Scott Fitzgerald classics, as well as “Audition,” the memoir by Barbara Walters, and “Chasing Harry Winston,” by Lauren Weisberger. She also returned to “One Special Summer,” by Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier.

“I have revisited the Bouvier sisters’ book every summer for a few years now,” she says. “Jackie’s artistic talent paired with her sister’s perfect handwriting tells the tale of their whirlwind European trip in the summer of 1951. Every time I read the book I am filled with more grand ideas about the European vacation I hope to have one day.”

Her passion for fashion drives her to the blogs Fashion Forward, by Aubrey Allia, and
Obsessions, by Lisa Sokol (Both from paperdollmag.com). She has been a daily visitor to the Cole Haan website. “I was monitoring the price of a purse for about a month that was featured in the designer’s summer sale. Finally the price was right and I bought the perfect black handbag.”

Menner remains a fan of The Best Blog Ever, by Mike Habegger, former co-editor of the McDaniel Free Press. “He’s such a good writer,” she says.

Habegger ’08, who graduated in May with a degree in Political Science and International Studies, says “I haven’t taken a break from the school-type reading because I’m trying to keep my mind sharp.”

For blogs, he regularly checks Daily Kos for political news and analysis, and sometimes MyDD and Talking Points Memo. Two books he highly recommends are “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein and “The Great Derangement,” by Matt Taibbi. “The Shock Doctrine basically explains everything you need to know about neo-conservatism and neo-imperialism. It is a must-read for anyone who is either skeptical about so-called free market capitalism, or is concerned with the negative effects of U.S. / European intervention throughout the world after crises shake the region, i.e. floods, tsunamis, wars, economic shocks, etc.”

Matt Taibbi’s book is “amazing, funny, and filled with great analysis. It’s amazing because he, as a Rolling Stone reporter, assumes a few undercover identities to get a firsthand look at how people are living at the fringes of American society on the right and left.”

Habegger has read much more this summer, but he says these two books are particularly inspiring. “They have refocused me on my mission to get to grad school, but more importantly, to make a positive impact on the world after my schooling is complete. We can’t keep living in this world like this. These books help me gain an understanding of where we are, and where we need to go.”

Meanwhile, Katy Griepentrog ’08, who graduated in May with a degree in English, is enjoying the escape of romance with a dash of science fiction. She’s re-reading “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger. She says, “Clare and Henry’s unlikely romance and struggle with unpredictable time travel stayed with me long after I finished reading it the first time.”