UNE's Favorite Books in 2000

Dear Colleagues,

Well, it seems that Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is a UNE favorite. It appeared last year and continues to make our reading list. Who would have guessed that business faculty have a passion for entrancing Latin American fiction and literary reportages?  We all need better diets (to thine own blood type be true), healthy dosages of spiritual elevation, inspiring poetry, and good travel experiences. For all these journeys, the list provides helpful suggestions.  Forget about Descartes:  his stuff is too rational to be human.  Our community reads about Maine, India, Egypt, Southeast Asia, and even vanished islands.  Librarians like to read about horses and the blues.  It's all a holiday cheer.

Good reading and season's greetings.



Derek Chopra, The Path to Love
Brian Bachelder,  Asst. Professor/Director Athletic Training Education

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
David L. Baker, Assistant Professor, Dental Hygiene Program:
a--Illustration of how a dogmatic religious ideologue can have no impact on a culture whose core values are already strong yet different from the ideologue's unbending doctrine;
b--People can survive violent dislocation using different personality skills;
c--Once you get in tune with the land and its challenges you can never return to the mundane world of antiseptic culture.

Naguib Mahfouz, Palace Walk
Janice Beal, Public Services Librarian, UC Library:
Prof. Ali Ahmida strongly recommended this book to me, since it is a personal favorite of his which he incorporates in his classes.  The book begins in the old section of Cairo after the first World War, and is the story of a middle-class family subject to the cultural, political and social changes of the time. The characters are wonderfully portrayed; even though they are from another culture and time, we recognize in their story the timeless tensions between generations, genders, religious beliefs and political philosophies.  This book, followed by Palace of Desire and Sugar Street, comprise the author's Cairo Trilogy. I read them this past summer, and when I finished the last book found myself a little lost without the companionship of the three generations of this family.  You can read it as a compelling family saga without knowing much about Egypt's modern history; knowing a little bit about the political and social changes of the era make the book that much richer. Prof. Ahmida might be willing to contribute a short reading list.

Diane Solway, Nureyev
Norman Beaupre,  Professor Emeritus:
For those who love thick books (601 pages), this biography is a giant one. It's a New York Times Notable Book.  Rudolf Nureyev's story is a most dramatic one. His defection in 1961 sparked a Cold War showdown. A great dancer and artist who frequented celebrated people such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Mick Jagger. Solway does a good job tapping into the inner Nureyev while delving into the world of the stage.

Jack W. Germond, Fat Man in a Middle Seat: 40 Years of Covering Politics
John Bowie, Director of Financial Aid, Financial Aid Office:
Jack Germond's memoirs of a forty-year career reporting on local and national political campaigns make for a fascinating read.  Germond mixes dry humor, a sense of conscience, and a reporter's cynicism to create an entertaining narrative.  He gives the reader a good understanding of what happens behind the scenes in the newsroom and with politicians.  You see politicians with their guard down.  If you're a political junkie like me, this book is a must-read.

Richard Holmes, Coleridge (2 volumes)
Richard Buhr, Assistant Director of Communications:
This two-volume biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a fascinating portrait of a poet, critic, and philosopher who influenced British and American literature for a century or more. It is also a fascinating portrait of an individual who ran away from an unhappy marriage but did not believe in divorce, who battled opium and alcohol addiction most of his life, and who relied on the comfort of friends and strangers to make it through most of his life (and was betrayed by the friend he most admired, William Wordsworth).

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Marcia Cohen, Professor, Social Work:
I liked the book because of its integration of cultural, historical, political, and well crafted fictional elements. She is an excellent writer who can convey the intimate details of the life of one rather patriarchal American family within the broader, powerful  context of sweeping historical changes in the former Belgian Congo over a period of 30 years (beginning in the late 1950s).

Rudolf A. Wiley, Biobalance : Using Acid-Alkaline Nutrition to Solve the
Food-Mood-Health Puzzle
Michael Cox, Database Developer, UNECOM AHEC Program Office:
I am not following his diet advice: that would not be easy to do, I am not sure that I have complete faith in his offered diet program, and I don't know if it might be correct or not.   I do believe he is on the right tract, but I then found another diet prescription which I find to be more current, to have a stronger scientific argument for it’s foundation, and to be easier (not easy) to understand and follow.

However, I found Mr. Wiley’s discussion about how people have different biological/genetic make-ups and about how we all have different individual metabolisms which vary in the way that nutrition can affect (even determine) our physical health and how we feel to be very powerfully presented.  I am sympathetic to his argument that our individual biochemistry reacts differently to the wide diversity of the foods we eat (the curse of the omnivore), and how the resulting small but critical variations in our veinus pH balance can explain the tremendous variety of differing results (successes and failures) of how different people respond or not to similar diets.

I have chosen to review this particular book because I was especially impacted by his inditement of the abysmal quackery of modern psychiatry!  I think that Mr. Wiley’s comparison of the state of modern nutritional science to the seven wise but blind men of India feeling up the elephant is right on the money!  They each knew only a small slice of the whole truth.  It was my reading this book and another book about The Metabolic Typing Diet that lead me to reading the Eat Right 4 Your Type book by Peter D'Adamo, which is the diet that I am currently attempting to adhere to.

Cynthia Thayer, Strong for Potatoes
Anne Coyle, Resource Coordinator for GLBTQ Students, GMSA:
Although I hesitate to categorize—anything, even as “best,” I admit I liked this book for its presentation of rural Maine culture as told in the Southern-novel style of story-telling, which is much more palatable than Carolyn Chute’s style.  It’s a quick read, yet I felt like I lived with the characters for the few hours I spent with them—a nice little day trip.

Bao Ninh,  The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
Bill Croninger, Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy:
One of the things I remember about my father is the process he went through to "forgive" the people he fought against in WWII.  Bao Ninh, the author of this work, is one of ten survivors of five-hundred soldiers in his unit.  Reading his memories and thoughts adds not only a face but a soul to those who I fought against in my war.

Al Franken, Why Not Me?
Mark Danley,   A&P Instructor, DLS (WCC):
A satirical look at how comedian Al Franken  could  have been elected President of the United States in 2000.   The irony of his choice of Joseph Lieberman as Vice President  (the book was published in 1999)  makes  the book even more amusing!

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Sandra Featherman,  President
This is an extremely well written book, which shows not just sensitivity, but love, for Africa.  Barbara Kingsolver lets us see the growth of awareness and the development of maturity in her protagonists. This is a highly moral book.

JK Rowling, Harry Potter books (1-3)
Margaret K.  Frens, MS, ATC, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Performance Management:
Because it's nothing like my work or real life.  A great diversion and an easy read.

B.B. King  & David Ritz, Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King
Andrew Golub, Vice President for Information Resources:
This is such an honest, straightforward, and remarkable memoir, it is like sitting down and talking with B.B. himself.  His life spans the rural poverty of Mississippi to his becoming an internationally famous blues musician.  Incidentally, B.B.’s collaborator on this autobiography, David Ritz, is the author of another excellent musician biography, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, which I also recommend.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying
Marilyn Gugliucci (Ph.D.),  Director BodyWISE and Maine Geriatric/Gerontology Education Center:
Kubler-Ross was the woman who transformed how society thinks about death and dying. In this book, she faces her own dying process at the age of 71. This book is a real life account of Kubler-Ross’ quest and exploration of life and death through her conviction and service to the dying. Kubler-Ross is an incredible story teller which makes this book a very quick read. Any one in the health professions should read this book. One major personal criticism is that her spiritual accounts near the end of the book appear far-fetched; and even though I consider myself a spiritual person, I had difficulty with the way she presented this information.  This book would generate much discussion in social or academic circles.

Cormac McCarthy, The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain.
Jonathan Handelman, Healy Visiting Professor, English Department:
It is some of the most moving literature I have read. The novels are gemlike in their perfection. The language is spectacular; McCarthy writes fiction as if it is poetry. These books convince me that McCarthy is the best living writer in America and should be listed among our finest authors ever.

Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You & You Fall Down
Jill Harrison,  Instructor of Sociology, Dept. of Social and Behavioral Sciences:
The Spirit explores the true and often violent clash of cultures between a refugee family from Laos and western doctors in California. While the Hmong family believe their epileptic daughter has lost her soul and that she may only get it back through animal sacrifices, western doctors treating her believe they know what medical procedures are in the best interest of the child.  This book reminds me that the world is full of things that may not seem to be connected or relevant but actually are; that no event occurs in isolation; and that we can miss a lot by sticking with our own perceptions of reality. Beautifully written and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award 1999.

Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
Robert E. Haskell, Professor of Psychology, Dept Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Showing how what Descartes divided---emotion and reason--this book by a respected neurologist puts together the findings on neurological circuits in the brain responsible for emotion and shows how they evolved to be critical for what we call abstract cognition and reasoning; hence Descartes' Error

Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
Jaime Hylton, Professor of English:
I had heard that this was an interesting book, but I didn't go out and buy it immediately because of certain preconceptions about its probable contents.  Once again, however, the aphorism about judging a book by its cover rings true.  This is not a book about theology or organized religion.  Rather, it is a philosophy for living a satisfied life, wherein one's actions consciously and intentionally derive from personal accountability and responsibility, as opposed to pain and fear.  The book is uneven, i.e., not all chapters are equally well-reasoned and thought-provoking.  Nevertheless, I have read some sections  multiple times, and there are parts of the book that resonate for me on a daily basis as I go about my personal and professional lives. The Seat of the Soul codifies for me the kind of person I aspire to be and the kind of life I wish to live.

Wayne Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
Chris McKinnon, Technical Services Librarian, Library WCC:
Johnston's book is a fine work of historical fiction. It weaves an imaginative plot into Newfoundland's tortured emergence from British colonial domination. I found myself completely absorbed by the text's wintry landscape.

Harry Crews, A Childhood: the Biography of a Place
Joseph W. Mahoney, Associate Professor, Department of English:
Harry Crews was familiar to me as the author of the outrageous novel Cars.   This satire that ends up with a young man eating a Chevy viciously attacks the American gods of materialism and Technology.  When a brief excerpt of his biography (at least of his childhood) appeared among our class readings in The Oxford Book of the American South, I was so impressed I went back and read the 1978 book in its entire passionate fullness.  This is perhaps the least appreciated treatment of the subject of prejudice and racism in the American literary canon.  Crews is an expert writer, a model for any biographer to learn from.  The story--his story--is funny, honest, and explodes with insights we all need to pay attention to in our own development.

Ignatius Donnelly, Atlantis:  The Antediluvian World
Anouar Majid, Associate Professor, Department of English:
Known for mathematically proving that it was Francis Bacon who wrote Shakespeare's  plays, Ignatius Donnelly, a land speculator turned progressive politician, published Atlantis in 1882 and rather single-handedly started the seemingly inexhaustible fascination with the story of the fabulous drowned civilization.  Based on 19th century scientific information, the book is, in many ways, an interesting alternative world history, one that reflects the utopian and progressive impulses of the author. A classic in the Atlantis literature--and not just for those who think they are reincarnated Atlanteans!

Sara Donati, Dawn on a Distant Shore
Michelle Masse, Special Events and Publications Manager:
This is a continuation of the lives of Nathanial and Elizabeth Bonner that was begun in the book Into the Wilderness. This book takes you on their adventures to Canada and Scotland in the 1790’s. My favorite author, Diana Gabaldon of the “Outlander” series said of these books “one of those rare stories that let you breathe the air of another time and leave your footprints on the snow of a wild, strange place.”

Cornel West and Sylvie Hewlett, The War Against Parents
Mike Miles, Director of Human Resources:
This book provides an incisive analysis of the many ways in which changes during the past 40 years in public policy, tax policy, education, media, work, and popular culture have made effective parenting in America so much more difficult.  The critique is interesting and familiar.  What is particularly compelling to me about this book is the work that West and Hewlett have done to go beyond the critique, to propose a public policy change agenda to deal with the problems that they identify.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, News of a Kidnapping
Lucia F. Miree,   Associate Prof and Chair, Department of Performance Management:
I really like his writing because it is strongly visual and evokes a full range of   emotions.  His earlier fiction books, such as Love in the Time of Cholera and
One Hundred Years of Solitude, are masterpieces of story telling—providing rich characters and glimpses of worlds unknown.  This book is based upon an actual
event, a political kidnapping.   He combines news reports with speculation to build an excellent story that keeps you spellbound. I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries, suspense, adventure, or politics.

Anthony C. Samuels, Day of the Savior
Lucia F. Miree,   Associate Prof and Chair, Department of Performance Management:
A political mystery set in Central America

Ken Follett  The Third Twin
Vern Patterson,  Associate Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Although I read this book a while ago, it has stuck with me as a good read.  It is a mystery/thriller based on the misuse of genetic technology.  In addition, for me it held special interest since one of the protagonists is a psychologist and the story deals with the nature-nurture issue throughout the book.

Anne Lamott,  Operating Instructions
Deb Podolin, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physiology & Pharmacology:
Have you ever read something that strikes you as so insightful or humorous that you simply must read it to whomever is in the room? This is just that kind of book. Operating Instructions is the journal entries of single parent Anne Lamott during the first year of her son's life. Her hourly mood fluctuations and commentary on children, relationships, politics, religion and men had me laughing out loud.

Alexander Frater, Chasing the Monsoon:  A Modern Pilgrimage through India
Brenda Robinson, Director, CAGS Program, Education Department:
Wonderful book for the India-phile or those who love excellent travel Stories.  Mr. Frater, who grew up on a Pacific Island, has always been fascinated by weather, especially rain.  As a result of a childhood experience, he set as a life goal the chasing of the monsoon in India, from the southern tip of the sub-continent to the wettest spot in the world.
The book is exceptionally engaging as it teaches about Indian culture and weather phenomenon through experience.  It is charming and holds the reader's interest exceedingly well.  The book is full of Indian characters who sometimes frustrate, sometimes assist, sometimes charm Frater as he travels throughout the nation.  I loved it for its honesty, humor, education, and charm.  A fun read on a wet afternoon!

Robert Subby, Lost in the Shuffle: The Codependent Reality
Brenda Robinson, Director, CAGS Program, Education Department:
This very small and easy to read book is focused on adults who grew up in homes where alcohol defined daily life.  It reaches to the myths, fears, and secrets that are maintained in such a household.  The text continues to describe how the alcoholic parent defines a child's behavior and how this behavior is carried into adulthood.  One of the book's greatest benefits is helping adults realize that there are many folks walking the earth who experienced alcohol dependent childhoods.
I really liked this book for its simplicity and its ability to relate to children of alcoholics, to help them learn that they are not alone and they are not bad people.  Moreover, the examples used to describe the impact on adult thinking and behavior are realistic - things with which the reader can identify.  The publication is non-threatening, helpful and a must-read for those whose lives have been plagued by a history of alcoholism.

Annie Proulx, Shipping News
Linda Shary, Administrative Asst. to the Development Director, University Relations:
Since 1995 I have read anything by Annie Proulx, in particular Shipping News.  Her prose and story telling are like eating truffles; so rich you savor it.  A little goes a long way which is great for a busy working Mom who has little time to read for pleasure.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Northeast
Cynthia Simon, DLS:
Finally, I only have to carry two field guides on my hikes!  This guide is fairly small, has full color photos and brief descriptions. Each chapter is devoted to a different category: wildflowers, fauna, weather, shrubs, trees, amphibians, insects, the night sky, fungus, etc., all in one book.  Although the chapters lack depth, the guide is great for identifying the common flora and fauna on any Northeast trek. I carry my favorite animal tracking guide, and I carry this guide for everything else.

Ulla Segerstrale, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology  Debates.
David Livingstone Smith,  Visiting Professor, SBS:
This is a marvelous, compelling study of the sociology of science which provides an accessible yet scholarly account of the dramatis personae, ideas and debates that appeared in the wake of Edmund O Wilson's Sociobiology.

Tim Winton, The Riders
William C. Snyder ,  Math Dept. :
The book was the most disturbing thing I have ever read but it was so compelling that I couldn’t stop reading.  I hesitate to say too much for fear of  being too revealing.  I would classify it a psychological thriller by a well known  good australian writer.

Paul Theroux,  The Pillars of Hercules
Carlo Spirito, Assoc. Professor of Physiology, School of Nurse Anesthesia:
This is another wonderful travel memoir from a gifted writer. The book describes Theroux’s odyssey around the rim of the Mediterranean Sea, clockwise, from Gibraltar to Morocco, and beyond. He stays as close to the shore as possible, using only local trains, buses and boats as transportation, and also visits several offshore islands.
Theroux offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of people in several Mediterranean Rim cultures, where he tries to minimize the differences, and show the similarities among them, including their common dependence on the sea. His descriptions are lyrical, and he stays away from the obvious tourist destinations, preferring to wander the small impoverished coast of Albania rather than Venice or the French Riviera. When he does occasionally visit tourist landmarks, it is only to provide contrast and comic relief.
My favorite bits were his visits to Malta and Crete, where he encounters British expatriates, and we get a good balanced view of their lives and of the local inhabitants  there. I have read and enjoyed several of Theroux’s other books, both fiction (Mosquito Coast) and travelogue (The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia and “The Old Patagonian Express: by Train Through the Americas) and I found this one to be my all-time favorite.
Of course, I could have been slightly influenced by my obsessive love of the Mediterranean, but I doubt it.

Jane Smiley,  Horse Heaven
Barbara Swartzlander, Library:
A love of horses is not a prerequisite for enjoying this book-- a fascination with human perversity is.  A great read from an author with a sense of humor!

Billie Letts,  Where the Heart is
Cindy Vakas, Assistant to the VP for Information Resources:
This story about a down on her luck teen, pregnant, abused and completely lost, thoroughly entertained me from cover to cover. With its light humor and sorrowful tragedies, it appealed to all of my emotions and as a result made me appreciate how lucky in life I’ve been. This came recommended to me by my sixteen-year old daughter, and now I in turn recommend it to anyone looking for that “feel good” book.

Jedediah Purdy,  For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Community in American Today
Shirley Weaver, Director, AHEC Program/COM:
Young Jedediah Purdy has earnestly approached a subject that increasingly concerns me: civic disengagement in the United States.  He paints (as the publisher states) “a vivid picture of the contemporary cynicism and malaise that infect policymaking and public discourse” that is convincing to me. I am concerned that all levels in our society—even here at UNE—we have become technical problem solvers (akin to the “medical model) rather than problem preventers.  We are more likely to ask “how do we get there?” than “what shall we become?”  He helped me understand the insidious nature and expression of this modern version of irony.   Better, his passionate call to responsibility for the fundamental structures of our culture (education, law, environment) resonated with my values and gave me some ways to critically appraise my own actions (and non-action.)  And best, his erudite treatise broadened my much too narrow grounding in the humanities.  In two or three more readings I might even grasp his full intention…for me, the mark of a meaningful reading journey!