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From The Nightstand

From The Nightstand: Professor Roxanne O’Connell

Interview conducted by Brittany Parziale ’17, Connections Intern

 

Photo courtesy of Roxanne O’Connell

Professor Roxanne O’Connell is Professor of Communication, teaching Visual Communication and Media Ecology. She has been with Roger Williams University since 2003.

 

Current Reads

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Dr. O’Connell is currently reading a collection of detective mysteries by Margery Allingham. Finding her stories similar to that of Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, O’Connell most admires how they “read as a puzzle.” Reading them is “a great way to disconnect— transforming oneself to a different time and place. I eat these stories up like candy.”

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To satisfy her thirst for nonfiction, O’Connell is also reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, the account of the harsh lives of tenant farmers during the Great Depression. Alternating between prose and poetry, this book is “a very moving account full of anger regarding the lack of social justice in America.”

 

Memorable Reads

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The eldest girl in her family, O’Connell had a fantasy of what life would be like as an only child left alone with her book. For Dr. O’Connell, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins fulfilled this fantasy. Eight Cousins is the story of Rose Campbell, a recently orphaned child living with her great aunts, and finding a place of belonging amongst her seven male cousins and numerous aunts and uncles.

 

Simon Garfield’s On The Map and Just My Type are O’Connell’s memorable nonfiction reads. Garfield taught her a lot about the art of storytelling by beginning his chapters with a story about a person who is “pulling you into their discovery or observations or the unbelievable mistakes they make.”

From her childhood, she recalls reading Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. His works consist of the original telling of fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Nightingale,” each teaching lessons on how to live in the world.

 

Upcoming Reads

Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, is on Dr. O’Connell’s list of upcoming reads. This story of Odysseus told from Penelope’s point of view imagines what it was like to be the wife of the great warrior, now left behind during the Trojan War. O’Connell is “waiting for a sunny hammock weekend where I can curl up and read uninterrupted.” O’Connell has many other books on her nightstand waiting to be read, as she fears “it being a Sunday and there being nothing left to read.”

 

Essential Reads

O’Connell believes there are two kinds of essential reads – “the timeless kind and the one that is a must read right now.”  An “eternal essential” would be Par  Lagerkvist’s The Sibyl as it “examines a person’s life and relationship with things they believe are predestined to provide an alternate realm of thinking.” The “right now read” would be Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Dr. O’Connell finds that its importance is in its thesis that the present is moving so fast that there “is no time to get over the shock of the new thing before being thrown into the next new thing–which is unsettling.” O’Connell believes that one reads to discover and that both of these books allow one to do just that.

 

 

 

 

From the Nightstand: Professor Edward J. Delaney

Interview conducted by Brittany Parziale, Connections Intern

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Edward J. Delaney, Professor of Creative Writing and Editor of Mount Hope magazine, has taught at RWU since 1990.

 

 

Current Reads

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Currently reading Literary Publishing in the 21st century edited by Wayne Miller, Kevin Prufer, and Travis Kurowski. This collection of narratives describes the transformation in the world of publishing brought about by technological developments, market pressures, and changing reading habits through a wide range of perspectives.

 

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“I am reading it to help with the literary publishing course I teach. But I also find it very interesting and insightful on a personal level.” As the editor of Mount Hope, the student run magazine operating out of Roger Williams University, Delaney finds himself gravitating to works about publishing and about the history of the modern publishing era. Also, to keep up-to-date, he regularly reads multiple magazines, including: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Paris Review, and scores of smaller literary journals.

 

Memorable Reads

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James Joyce’s Ulysses. Multiple works by Don DeLillo. Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. William Kennedy’s Ironweed. “You read a good book and find that your priorities in life at the moment change a little . . . Those are the types of books that stick with me.” Several books from childhood also remain memorable such as The Catcher in the Rye, and William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy. Delaney remembers reading Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, an anti-war novel, in his freshmen year of high school, and finding it “a very powerful read, telling the shocking story of the effects of war.”

 

“I have an interest in reading literary fiction and nonfiction of all kinds, ranging from historical context to biographies.” He enjoys short stories just as much as books, finding them “best when you want to get the entire reading experience in one sitting.” For Edward Delaney, it’s easy to be able to set aside time for pleasure reading. “I wanted to be a writer because I love to read; and a lot of the reason I read is because I write. Reading is an important part of my day. Every day.”

 

Upcoming Reads

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Viet Thang Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. It tells the story of a Vietnamese, French communist spy living a double life in Los Angeles. “Primarily, I am interested in reading this because it recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s important for me to know what is being considered as among the best work out there right now.”

 

Essential Reads

 

“I don’t think there is an essential read, because no one needs to read any one book. So many different books speak to different human experiences. I don’t think any one good book can speak to everyone the same.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Nightstand: Maia Farish

Interview conducted by Brittany Parziale, Connections Intern

 

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Maia Farish, wife of President Donald J. Farish, is First Lady of RWU.

 

 

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Current Reads

Maia Farish is currently reading Norwegian by Night written by Derek B. Miller. This thrilling literary novel tells the story of Sheldon Horowitz, an 82-year-old Jewish widower living in Oslo with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband, who becomes a party to a hate crime in which he finds his long sought out opportunity to protect and help others. The novel is a unique hybrid of part memory, part police procedural, part sociopolitical tract, and part existential mediation.

 

“It is a crazy book,” She says. “It is funny but at the same time it is really dark.” Maybe not one of her normal reads, the protagonist being a cranky old Jewish man from New York “took me back to growing up in New York surrounded by Jewish friends and their fathers and grandfathers.”

 

 

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Memorable Reads

All of Reynolds Price’s books, – including A Long and Happy Life and Three Gospels. Other memorable reads include Three Junes (2002) and The Widower’s Tale (2010) both written by Julia Glass. The Widower’s Tale is particularly interesting as it is written by a female author in the first person perspective of a man. “I have a strong admiration for authors who are able to successfully write in the opposite gender.” Several books from childhood also remain memorable, such as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Cricket in Times Square, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm as a child.

 

“I find myself mostly reading personal, dense novels with various levels of complexity, gravitating towards favorite authors more so than subjects.” Mrs. Farish looks for authors who can manage dialogue that captures the actual voices and lifestyles of their characters, adding very realistic elements to their works of fiction. She notes high praise for literary writers such as Marilynne Robinson and Ron Rash, but also has a soft spot for crime novels by authors including Donna Leon, Kate Atkinson, and Colin Dexter. Nathaniel Philbrick, who she admires, remains on the top of her list for his ability to teach his love of history through storytelling, bringing historical events to life in a unique way. “One of my favorite aspects of reading is being able to come away from books knowing there are so many human experiences one cannot begin to consider without reading.”

 

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Upcoming Reads

M Train by Patti Smith. Mrs. Farish has taken with Smith’s 2009 memoir Just Kids for “the fluid and luminous writing that was so different from her music.” Mrs. Farish appreciates how Smith’s writing balances a very intimate manner with respect and authenticity.

 

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Essential Reads

Armistead Maupin’s book series Tales of the City. The series consists of nine novels all taking place in Northern California during the outbreak of the AIDS crisis. The first book was published in 1978.”These books are the perfect combination of heartbreaking and funny consisting of amazing dialogue.” Mrs. Farish has made it through the first six, and is clearing out space on her nightstand for the final three.

 

From the Nightstand: Hannah Goodall

Interview conducted by Jacquelyn Voghel, Connections Intern

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Hannah Goodall is the Learning Commons Coordinator, and has been at RWU for 2 years.

 

Current Read

Martian

Hannah is currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir, which tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after his crew, assuming he is dead, evacuates the planet without him. Alone in a hostile environment, Mark must use all of his resources and scientific knowledge to accomplish the daunting task of returning home.

 

Hannah decided to read the novel after seeing a trailer for its movie adaptation, which was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon. Hannah praised the novel for its use of humor, and expressed that while the movie looks impressive, she is confident that the book is even better.

Memorable Reads

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Hannah regards J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as among her favorite books. She was 11 years old when the first Harry Potter book was published, and she ardently followed the series as each new book came out, even taking two days off from work in order to have time to finish the final book without interruption. Although the series has now concluded, Hannah continues to reread books four through seven nearly every summer.

 

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Aside from Harry Potter, Hannah also counts The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald as among her most memorable reads. She read both books as a teenager, but has since revisited them. While Hannah was initially lukewarm toward The Great Gatsby, it has since taken on new meaning to her.

 

Upcoming Reads

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For her next read, Hannah plans to pick up Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance: An Investigation. Ansari is an actor and comedian known for his work on shows such as Parks and Recreation as well as his stand-up comedy, and his book examines the interplay between technology and romance today.

 

Essential Read

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Hannah was introduced to the works of David Sedaris when she read his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, and would now recommend any of his works. She recalls that the book was so humorous that she laughed out loud while reading it in public, and now regards Sedaris as her favorite author. In addition to his books, Hannah also called Sedaris’ personal essays “hilarious and also insightful and moving.”

SHORT TAKES: Upcoming Books

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The Givenness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

October 2015

 

Marilynne Robinson’s new collection offers seventeen essays that probe the state of humanism, theology, and morality in our contemporary culture. Readers who know Robinson through her fiction (Housekeeping, the Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead) will not be surprised at the depth and intellect that Robinson brings to her essays (a thoughtfulness well on display in the November 5 issue of the New York Review of Books, in which Robinson is interviewed by President Obama on many of the issues addressed The Givenness of Things). In looking forward to the book, we will expect to find ourselves in states of contemplation, in states of rage, and in states of hope.

 

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The Fate of Ideas: Seductions, Betrayals, Appraisals, by Robert Boyers

Columbia University Press

September 2015

 

In his most current book, noted literary and cultural critic Robert Boyers brings us essays that are as much criticism as they are memoir. As someone who has been on the frontlines of much of the intellectual culture of the past half-century, Boyers is able to take his experiences with some of the great minds of the last century and fuse them into personal essays that address specific ideas that permeate our contemporary culture, asking why some fade into fashions of the time while others define us.

From the Nightstand: James Tackach

Interview conducted by Ryan Monahan

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Dr. Tackach, a Professor of English Literature, has taught at RWU since 1979, totaling 33 years.

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Current Reads

During the semester, Dr. James Tackach finds no time to read any novels besides those taught in his courses. For example, his American Realism class is reading William Faulkner’s tragic tale of a southern plantation family’s spiral into ruin, The Sound and the Fury. Dr. Tackach also currently instructs thesis students in 1950s American literature, and they have just finished reading Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, about a black family living in poverty in Chicago. Dr. Tackach currently teaches another book set in 1930’s Chicago, Native Son. Written by Richard Wright, Native Son tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, a black man living with his mother, sister, and younger brother in the slums. Under pressure by racial labels and intense discrimination, he inadvertently murders a white woman. and, to hide his crime, incinerates her body, instigating a wild manhunt through the streets of Chicago. Talking about Native Son caused Dr. Tackach to recall teaching an English course in a prison in which he was allowed to teach one novel among the short stories. One semester, he picked Native Son, and he still wonders why he picked that one, for, as he says, “one of the reasons we read fiction is to take us somewhere else we can’t go.” Why would a book about murder, a manhunt, and an eventual death sentence be enjoyable for people incarcerated in prison?

 

MemorableReads

Memorable Reads

With Native Son on his mind, Dr. Tackach recalls reading Richard Wright: From Black Boy to World Citizen. Jennifer Jensen Wallach’s biography tells the reader about Richard Wright, who was born in in a sharecropper’s cabin in extreme poverty in 1908 and wound up as one of the major social commentators of his age. Another of Dr. Tackach’s historical and literary passions is Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the emancipation of slaves. Books about Lincoln, he says, come out about one per month; one of his recent favorites is Todd Brewster’s Lincoln’s Gamble, which chronicles Lincoln’s path towards the Emancipation Proclamation and the beginning years of the war. And, of course, Dr. Tackach occupies himself in the summer with at least one baseball book; last summer, he read Mariano Rivera’s autobiography, The Closer, about his rise from poverty in Panama to be the longest relief pitcher in the history of the New York Yankees.

 

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Upcoming Reads

Dr. Tackach’s planned baseball read for the summer is Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry, about the longest game in baseball history between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. As the title suggests, the famous 1981 game lasted 33 innings and lasted until about 4 AM before officials elected to return the next day to finish. Dr. Tackach is interested in reading this particular book because McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, where the 33-inning game took place, may close in a year or two. Also on Dr. Tackach’s bookshelf is Yasmina Khadra’s novel The Attack, about the Israeli surgeon Amin Jaafari, a dedicated community activist who advocates peace and is stationed at a hospital near Tel-Aviv. One fateful day, while attending to the victims of a suicide bombing, he learns that his beloved wife was the bomber, revealing her evident double life. The novel raises the disturbing question of how well anybody really knows their loved ones, and Dr. Jaafari has to find some way to retain his positive memories of his wife while recognizing her double life.

 

EssentialReads

Essential Reads

            As an English professor, Dr. Tackach has a hard time narrowing down all of his favorite books to label just one as an “essential read.” However, he finally came up with two: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Dr. Tackach appreciates Mark Twain’s classic 1884 novel about Huck and Jim floating down the Mississippi on a raft because “that raft is a lot like our country,” with diverse people who need to work together to create a unified, strong community. Dr. Tackach first read Catch-22 in high school, and has loved it ever since for the startling contradictions in the American political and militaristic systems that Heller reveals. He finds the first three quarters of the book riotously funny, but abruptly turns dark when the reader finally learns Snowden’s elusive secret, hinted at throughout the novel.

From The Nightstand: Danny DiCamillo

Danny DiCamillo, Assistant Director of Residence Life, has been at RWU for 8 years, and for the past 3 as Assistant Director.

Interview conducted by Ryan Monahan

 

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Current Read

The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, a fantasy series about a modern-day wizard, are high on Danny’s list of favorite books. The wizard, Harry Dresden, acts as a private investigator for regular people who have magical things happen to them. Danny, passionate about fantasy and science fiction, attributes his active imagination as a child to his love for this genre. As a child, his father read him The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling to fall asleep at night, which greatly influence his reading taste now as an adult.

As Assistant Director of Residence Life, Danny also chooses to read a number of books that can aid him in interacting with students, parents, and his coworkers. Currently, he is reading Getting to Yes by William Ury and Roger Fisher, which Danny describes as a guide on how to have productive conversations with people in difficult situations, and how to reach mutually beneficial outcomes for both parties. Once finished with Getting to Yes, he plans to read the sequel, Getting Past No by William Ury.

 

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Memorable Reads

What stands out in Danny’s mind is Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a powerful read about a professor from Harvard with Alzheimer’s and her struggle with losing aspects of herself. Danny found himself sucked into the novel, in part due to Genova’s description of Boston, an area Danny knows well. “When you can read an amazing book and put yourself in the reader’s shoes, [it’s] difficult… I found myself thinking of my own mortality.”

Prefacing his next choice by saying, “this is not a plug for the University,” Danny describes The Circle by Dave Eggers, RWU’s freshman common read selection, as a book that predicts the possible outcome of “eliminating all secrets.” The novel depicts the protagonist, Mae, as she gets a job at a fictional corporation based on Google and quickly loses her personal identity to the vast company. In response, the novel made Danny very conscientious of how much technology has become a crutch, pointing out the “Jawbone” bracelet he wears that records activities such as sleep patterns and fitness routines.

 

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Upcoming Reads

Danny has a tremendous list of upcoming books to read; he’s stopped buying books, as the bookshelves in his house are filled with both fantasy novels and books to read for his career. Besides working on the stacks of un-read books, he intends to re-read the Harry Potter series. Danny loves to receive suggestions for new books, and if you have a book in mind Danny may enjoy, he wants to hear from you. E-mail him at ddicamillo@rwu.edu to suggest great reads.

 

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Essential Read

            When asked what book everybody should read, Danny took much consideration. He finally chose Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, but with a disclaimer that this was “his” book. This book is the most important for him, but he knows that “it won’t change everybody’s life.” His wish is that everybody will find a book that will change their lives, just as Harry Potter did for him.

 


 

From the Nightstand: Karen Bilotti

Interview conducted by Ryan Monahan

Karen Bilotti, Coordinator of Writing Tutorial Services and Adjunct Instructor of Writing, has been at RWU for 26 years.

 

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Current Read

Although between books at the moment, Karen Bilotti intends to re-read The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Published in 1952, the narrator begins the novel by claiming that he is an “invisible man,” as other people refuse to see him as a person. As a black man growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, the narrator details the enormous struggles his race faced in America during the 20th century. Powerfully written and compelling, and Karen highly endorses Ellison’s novel.

 

 

 

 

memorablebilottiMemorable Reads

Karen has a long list of memorable reads, most of which she wants to re-read. Among many others, Karen listed The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill, and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Didion writes a heartbreaking novel about her grief in response to her deceased husband and daughter, both lost within two years of each other. Karen raved about the writing techniques Didion applied, and has used the novel in her Expository Writing classes in the past.

Karen shared with me a story of meeting one of her favorite authors, Junot Díaz. One day while she was working in the Writing Center, two of her tutors exclaimed that Díaz was presenting that day at Johnson & Wales University. Immediately, Karen, abandoning work, drove to Providence to see him speak. Karen describes “this mob of students, which had to be illegal and unsafe” at the doors of the auditorium, but nevertheless she and her tutors shouldered their way to the front of the throng, claiming front row seats amongst the JWU faculty. Afterwards, the members of the front row had the good fortune to receive an autographed copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, on of Karen’s personal favorites.

 

 

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Upcoming Reads

Recommended by Karen’s colleague, This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann tells the story of the “sandhogs” in New York City at the turn of century, who were tasked with digging the tunnels under the East River that would carry the trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Also on Karen’s “to-do” list of books is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. After reading Housekeeping by the same author, Karen can’t wait to pick up Robinson’s second novel, about the relationships between fathers and sons ranging from the Civil War to the twentieth century.

 

 

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Essential Read

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, about the complex relationships and allegiances of the family of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, is to Karen “the closest I’ve seen in a novel where what the author describes is a painting.” Woolf’s writing techniques and style are strikingly impressive to Karen, and she highly recommends it to any avid reader.

 

From the Nightstand: Susan Pasquarelli

Interview conducted by Ryan Monahan


Dr. Pasquarelli, Professor of Literacy Education in the School of Education, has been on faculty for 21 years.

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The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome by Elisabeth Storrs fits neatly into Dr. Pasquarelli’s collection of historical fiction centered on Ancient Rome. The  story follows a Roman woman named Caecilia who, in 406 BC, has been wedded to an Etruscan noble to help create a truce between the two warring nations.Although she moved just twelve miles from Rome, the Etruscans are dramatically different than the Romans, and Caecilia must learn to adapt to a pleasure-seeking Hedonistic society.

Dr. Pasquarelli was drawn to this novel in an attempt to continue her education about Ancient Rome and Roman artwork. The Romans conquered Etruscan civilization, but many elements of Roman artwork can be traced to Etruria, located along Italy’s western coast. For Dr. Pasquarelli, Roman artwork is of high interest, as every summer she visits Rome with a group of students from RWU, exploring the history, culture, and artwork of the ancient city.

 Memorable Reads

Dr. Pasquarelli’s favorite book by Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is narrated by a 22 year old girl named Rosemary, who gradually reveals more and more of her childhood relationship with her sister. Dr. Pasquarelli is adamant that those who read this book should shy away from book jacket summaries to allow the book to unfold naturally. Readers who do so will have a pleasant surprise a third of the way through the book, one that made Dr. Pasquarelli jump up onto her bed and scream aloud! Another novel from her collection of Ancient Rome, Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger analyzes the life of the renowned Renaissance artist Michelangelo through his works of art.

Upcoming Reads      

High on Dr. Pasquarelli’s list is Ian McEwan’s latest novel The Children Act, a suspenseful novel about a devoutly religious teenage boy refusing a treatment that could save his life and the efforts of a compassionate judge to convince him otherwise. Also on her bookshelf is Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, a “hilarious book about professors for professors,” which details the humdrum and woeful life of a dispirited creative writing professor.

 

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What are people in the Roger Williams University community reading? The From the Nightstand team asks which books are on people’s nightstands—either being read, or waiting to be read.

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From the Nightstand: Adam Braver

Adam_Braver_zps29dfac9d.jpgabraver_books_zps64f848ed.jpgOver the past year, the “From the Nightstand” section of the Connecting With Your Library website has asked staff and faculty from around the RWU community to share the books they are reading, as well as recall meaningful reads from the past. Through these snapshots, we have seen a wide variety of titles, as vast as the campus community itself.As I look over at what my own nightstand has held this summer, among the many I see a half dozen biographies centered on an era of the 1930s I have been researching; the first volume of Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård’s six-book autobiographical series that has been nothing short of a literary sensation this year; Thomas Beller’s smart and engaging essays on J.D. Salinger; Joanna Scott’s upcoming novel, De Potter’s Grand TourThe Snow Queen—a beautiful and haunting novel by Michael Cunningham; this year’s common reading, The CircleMy Grandfather’s Gallery—a biographical memoir about stolen art in Nazi occupied France; short stories and essays in various magazines and journals, as well as those sent to me by students from RWU and other workshops from over the years.

All of that is a way to say that as a new academic year is set to begin, all of us here at the library look forward to a new season of “From the Nightstand;” where we can be introduced to, and be inspired by, new books.

 

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What are people in the Roger Williams University community reading? The From the Nightstand team asks which books are on people’s nightstands—either being read, or waiting to be read.

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