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Non-required reading: faculty members’ summer picks

A diverse group of faculty members from all four of Lehigh’s colleges in departments from theatre to entrepreneurship to chemical engineering share their picks for summer reading, following the lead of President John D. Simon, who discussed the impact of a recent read in the May 27 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In addition, Lehigh’s Class of 2020 and the wider community are invited to dive into Lehigh’s 2016 selections exploring the theme Food: What Nourishes Us? The goal is to celebrate the arrival of the freshman class and connect them with current students, faculty, staff and their peers through a shared intellectual experience. This year’s books are Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen and The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor, by Mark Schatzker.

Summer 2016 Lehigh University faculty picks:

Floyd Beachum, associate professor of educational Leadership
“I recommend Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. I really liked their first book, Made to Stick (2007). Switch seeks to discuss the tension between our rational mind and emotional mind and the impact on patterns of successful change. It is yet another in a list of interesting and insightful books like Freakonomics and The Tipping Point. I find these books to be both entertaining and informational, the perfect combination for summer reading.”

Bryan Berger, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering
“For the summer, I’m reading Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant. I like a good challenge and need to get myself off on a new, unconventional path this summer. I also see it as a great teaching tool for my undergraduate research students to inspire them in their own research projects this summer to run down the unconventional path.”

Yinzhi Cao, assistant professor of computer science and engineering
“The book that I am looking forward to reading is Unauthorized Access: The Crisis in Online Privacy and Security, by Robert H. Sloan and Richard Warner.  The book is written by a law professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law and a computer scientist at University of Illinois at Chicago.  It combines the perspectives of two distinct disciplines, explores how the concepts of privacy and security are changing in the digital era, and discusses technical, ethical and legal issues.  I expect that after reading the book, I will have a better understanding of this new concept, and the book may provide insights into how to build a digital world with better privacy and security.”

Pat J. Costa, professor of practice, the Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) program
“I am reading You Only Have to Be Right Once: The Rise of the Instant Billionaires Behind Spotify, Airbnb, WhatsApp, and 13 Other Amazing Startups, by Randall Lane and the Forbes Magazine staff.  It follows the journey of 16 different entrepreneurs as they started their world-changing companies including Spotify, Airbnb, Instagram, GoPro, Oculus VR and Snapchat.  The common thread among these entrepreneurs is that none started their company alone nor did they envision their company as a global solution.  They just wanted to help someone solve a problem or have a better experience using their product.  Making money was the least of their motivations ... And yet each ended up a billionaire.”

Joshua Ehrig, professor of practice in management and the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation
“I recommend Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  In entrepreneurial practice, we learn a lot about ‘self-awareness.’ What really drives us as individuals?  What is our passion?  What unique skill-sets and talents do we have to offer to the world?  How can we leverage these elements in a sustainable and productive manner?   Csikszentmihalyi discusses an optimal state of consciousness called ‘flow’ during which ‘people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.’ This book enables us to understand and harness ‘flow’ with our unique individuality to create a profound and positive impact on our respective entrepreneurial and life journeys.”

Sothy Eng, professor of practice, comparative and international education
“I am reading the recently published book Inside Cambodian Insurgency: A Sociological Perspective on Civil Wars and Conflict by German sociologist, Daniel Bultmann, which explores the power structure, leadership, and obedience. Based on interviews with 86 hard-to-reach respondents from different ranks of former Khmer Rouge soldiers and other guerrilla factions, this book offers readers what it’s like to be a leader/commander as well as a low-ranking official, and what drives their practices. Readers can relate to the rise of power of both current day and historical leaders who have the ability to reach out to a population receptive to radical changes in both political and social power. What intrigues me most is that the author manages to talk to one of the most dangerous groups of participants, those who spent more than 20 years living alongside the very people they targeted as the enemy, making this work rare and powerful.”

Arman Grigoryan, assistant professor, international relations
“Here is my summer reading recommendation: Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature.  Pinker does many interesting things in this book, but I would draw attention to two things in particular.  First he shows that the last several centuries of human history have been a period of remarkable moral progress.  Second, he puts forward a serious theory of moral progress - a topic which is a particularly strong magnet for silly theories.” 

Frank R. Gunter, professor of economics
“I am looking forward to reading Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World. I am interested in learning how this Muslim man born in Afghanistan rose to become a senior US diplomat. Zalmay Khalilzad spent most of his youth in the Middle East. He returned to the USA to get his Doctorate at the University of Chicago and pursue an academic career as a Middle East specialist. He joined the State Department in 1984 and after 9/11 was appointed US Ambassador to his former homeland, Afghanistan. As the most senior Muslim-American in the Bush Administration, he met the President on a regular basis and helped craft US policy in the region. At the President’s request, he left Afghanistan to become the US Ambassador to Iraq and later our representative at the United Nations. I first met Ambassador Khalilzad in Baghdad at the end of 2005 when I was the Chief of Economics for MultiNational Force – Iraq. I remember being impressed at how easily he moved between two very different cultures.”

Yinan He, associate professor of international relations
“As a scholar of nationalism and East Asian international politics, I highly recommend Prasenjit Duara's Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China. The book questions the traditional historiography of postcolonial nation-state that treats national history as following a linear, evolutionary pattern. As one will see from his case studies of primarily modern China but also India, ‘nation is represented and voiced by different self-conscious groups.’ Since national identity is highly contested and contingent, historians are encouraged to transcend the approach of national history that is premised on ‘the false unity of a self-same, national subject evolving through time.’”

Dawn Keetley, associate professor of English
“I recommend The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley. The Loney is a brilliant new entry in what has been called the ‘folk horror’ tradition, in which characters venture into an isolated community and discover that the locals have spiritual beliefs quite different from the mainstream. The novel is set on a bleak stretch of Lancashire coastline, and it follows a small group of devout Catholics who make regular pilgrimages to an abandoned shrine in the Loney in hopes of earning a miracle for Hanny, the disabled and mute older brother of the narrator. Events unfold with a beautiful slowness, from the perspective of a boy who is just starting to figure out the complicated lives of the adults around him. And all the time the sublime and dreadful landscape of the Loney looms over them, as do the poverty-stricken and increasingly sinister locals, who seem to practice a quite different kind of religion.”

Jenna Lay, assistant professor of English
“A year after reading it, I'm still thinking about Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, a novel that explores what remains after a pandemic wipes out most of the world's population. What do those who survive hold dear? How do they maintain a sense of self? Of humanity? Of community? For Mandel, literature functions as both a framing mechanism--her story opens with a performance of King Lear and follows a traveling company of Shakespearean actors navigating the dystopian landscape--and as an answer to these questions. Whether a Shakespeare play or a comic book, literature offers Mandel's characters reminders of the past, a unifying force in the present and tentative hope for the future.”

Jeremy Littau, assistant professor of journalism
“I’ve been reading The Boy Who Could Change the World, a collection of writing by the late Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a programmer, activist, and strong advocate for open-access publishing. In 2013, he tragically took his own life at age 26 after being harassed by the federal government in court via abusive application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The book shows why Swartz was brilliant and ahead of his time. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how digital media is changing centuries-old understandings of issues such as publicness, copyright, ownership, data and publishing.”

Krystle McLaughlin, professor of practice of biological sciences
“I teach Genetics, and after last year's class I received an email from a student who, while browsing at the Moravian Book Shop, stumbled upon this book: p53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong. She was very excited and recommended it to me, saying: ‘Given that we just learned about this in Genetics and I am very interested in cancer, I couldn't not get it! So far it is great! It has talked about ALOT of what we discussed in class and more.’ So this summer I picked it up and it is wonderful! The book tells the story of p53, a gene we all have whose job it is to protect us from cancer. It includes the fascinating history of the discovery of p53 (we first thought it was a cancer-causing gene!) and its future, where the science is now. Engrossing read for anyone interested in cancer or genetics.”

Chad Meyerhoefer, associate professor of economics
“One of my areas of research is the economics of mental health, and as a result, I am drawn to literary depictions of mental illness. A School for Fools, by Sasha Sokolov takes the reader on a journey inside the mind of an adolescent with schizophrenia growing up in the former Soviet Union. This book challenges the reader by mixing past, present and future in an internal monologue between multiple selves, but contains witty and satirical descriptions of several characters. Sokolov’s novel also has historical significance. It was censured by the Soviet authorities and originally self-published in secret before being formally published in the U.S.”

Ziad Munson, associate professor of sociology and anthropology
“My pick for the summer is the recent Pulitzer Prize-winner The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen.  The story provides an interesting window into both the power of friendship and the nature of belief at the same time as it provides commentary on issues of war, colonialism, and immigration. This isn’t a simple beach novel, but rewards the reader with clever, witty prose and a spectacular ending.  Plus I promise you will never look at squid the same way again.”

Laura Katz Olson, professor of political science
“An important book and a must read for anyone interested in the future of this country is Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer. It is the tale of how the private political network of Charles and David Koch, joined by several hundred other billionaires and multi-millionaires, have bought their way to political power through think tanks, academic programs, news media outlets, campaign contributions, lobbying and other means. The book shows how, among other issues, they methodically promoted climate change deniers, action against voting rights and taxes on the wealthy, the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, and the takeover of state legislatures and governorships by Republicans. It gives readers a larger perspective on the American political system and our current presidential election.”

Stephanie Olexa, Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation
“I am reading a book titled, Built to Sell, Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, by John Warrillow.  As an entrepreneur, all too frequently, we identify with our businesses so it's hard to recognize where the person ends and the business begins or vice versa.  The idea in this book is that for a business to be really successful it has to be separate from the owner, founder or the controlling family. The book is a story of a man who is the owner of a marketing firm who finds himself on a "hamster wheel" of work and wants to stop.   But because he plays such a big role in the company, it has little value without him.  Through a consultant, he learns the steps to make the business successful on its own.   I think all entrepreneurs should read this book and build their businesses to succeed without them, creating a true legacy.”

Mark Orrs, professor of practice, political science; director of sustainable development
“Sustainable Development is both analytical and normative: it’s a holistic way of learning about the world and how we got where we are, and then providing guidance for the path we should follow into the future. The more you contemplate these questions, the deeper you must go into what it means to be human, and our shared ancestry. In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian Yuval Noah Harari embraces these questions in provocative fashion, and offers some counter-intuitive reflections. One of my favorites? That history’s biggest fraud was humans' shift to agriculture. Enjoy!”

Dominic Packer, associate professor of psychology
“I’m reading On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac famously banged it out in a single creative impulse: three frenetic Benzedrine-fueled weeks typing nearly unceasingly on a 120-foot scroll constructed from bits of taped together tracing paper.  Except that’s not quite true. The scroll-fest happened, yes.  But Kerouac—more coffee- than drug-addled—had taken extensive notes and written drafts for years prior and continued to rework it long afterwards.  The result is a novel where events whoosh past like scenes through a side-window, and what matters is the mad rushing rhythm of the road, a sense of yearning, searching, never quite reaching.”

Joshua Pepper, assistant professor of physics
“My pick is Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan. This is a novel in the grand tradition of the golden age of science fiction.  It gives modern readers a taste of the political and technical optimism that fueled the imagination of writers who saw the future as an inevitable path of progress.  As naive as we might see such attitudes now, this vision gives us a glimpse of the best of human potential in science and exploration.  It also happens to involve an interplanetary mystery, in which the scientists trying to solve it are unfalteringly human, but all bent toward a common goal.  It conveys the frustration, joy, tedium, and exhilaration of scientific discovery.”

Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business and Economics
“I am reading Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble, by Dan Lyons. It’s the inside story of working at a start-up by a journalist brought up in print journalism. It examines changes in US corporate culture on several levels--strategy, finance, human resources  through the eyes of a mid-career professional who takes a job in a pre-IPO start up. Old dog new tricks.”

Corinne Post, associae professor of management
“My research and teaching center around organizational behavior and workplace diversity. In my class on managing diversity in the workplace, I use the headscarf debates that have occurred in France to show how diversity and inclusion may be interpreted very differently across cultures. So, I was intrigued when I came across The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging by Anna Korteweg and Gökçe Yurdakul. The book explains and contrasts how the Muslim women’s headscarf elicits very different interpretations in four national contexts: France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands. What is especially interesting is the way the authors draw on each country’s national context to analyze the debates about where, on what occasions, and how the headscarf should be worn. It is also noteworthy that they include the viewpoints of both headscarf wearers and non-wearers.”

Marina Puzakova, assistant professor of marketing
“I recommend Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. This book is a fascinating read, as Jonah Berger is creative, thoughtful, and playful at the same time. Contagious provides answers to important questions, such as how companies can develop and deliver integrated content that engages consumers, resonates with them, goes viral, and increases conversion rates. I especially like how the book uses up-to-date examples and case studies to catch a reader’s attention and demonstrates real-world applications. This is a very engaging and at times surprising book that ads both practical and entertainment value.”

Augustine Ripa, Theatre
“I'm reading The Year of Lear, Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro. This book was an unexpected and delightful gift in the mail from a beloved former Lehigh student who knows my birthday is also thought to be Shakespeare's birthday.  Actually we know so little about Shakespeare.  We have a baptismal record of April 26th, 1564 and we therefore infer he was born on the 23rd because all healthy infants in the parish were baptized three days after birth and we have no indication baby Will wasn't healthy.  And that's what's fun about the book--sheer unapologetic inference.  Shapiro looks at the events of a specific year and relates them to the crafting of plays like King Lear and Macbeth.  Shapiro infers much about what Shakespeare would have been aware of and how he delicately navigated the politics of the day in his writing.”

Slava Rotkin, professor of physics
“I recommend two books. One is Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco which started a series of Eco's novels treating a common theme about the truth and news-making. Another author I value a lot is Milorad Pavic, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize but did not live long enough to be selected. His writing is best to read in the e-version, because they are full of cross-links. His famous book Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel is a maze of characters, historical and fictitious (and you can never tell which one is real), philosophemes and terms, discussions and arguments, and human relations. One of the central themes of Pavic's books is the role of women in history and society. He knows how to catch your attention: for example, The Lexicon comes in two editions, one labeled Male Edition and the other Female Edition. I leave to the careful reader to find out the difference between the two. You may need to read it more than once to figure it out.”

Sarah Stanlick, professor of practice, sociology and anthropology, and director of the Center for Community Engagement
“I love autobiographies from characters, famous and infamous, well-known or undiscovered.  Last summer, I decided to set a theme for my summer reading: ‘Women Who Rock’ and read a number of excellent rock memoirs covering everything from Ann and Nancy Wilson's battle to create the hard rock band Heart in an era of male-dominated super-groups to a volume exploring interconnections between Carly Simon, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell. If I had to choose one that stood above the rest, it would be Patti Smith's Just Kids.  In poetic, loving, and almost lyrical fashion, Smith draws you into the world of 1960s and 70s life in the Chelsea Hotel, her complicated relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and the struggle to find sustenance - literal and metaphorical - as a poet and burgeoning rocker.  This beautiful tale tackles questions of grit, reinvention, forgiveness, and identity and will appeal to a wide range of readers.”

Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain
“Since it may be useful for a Fall class I’ll be teaching with entering students, James F. Keenan’s University Ethics: How Colleges can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics makes my summer reading list.  Keenan argues that some professional areas—medicine, law, and business for example—have worked to create cultures of ethical accountability while others have not.  A Jesuit distressed about the ethics crisis in his church, Keenan, a professor (Boston College), focuses on the need to make university culture more responsible, accountable and transparent. Not for the beach, but I suspect time with this book will be well spent.”

Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences
“Right now I'm reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.  It’s about writing.  The book is wonderful - motivating and educational with a nice sense of humor.  I am considering reading Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg next. This book is one of the few books by a woman in the leadership genre.  It was recommended to me during a recent conference on business degrees that I attended.  I’m reading both as audio books because otherwise I would not read at all!”

Bruce Whitehouse, associate professor of sociology and anthropology
“I’m reading Alex Nading’s Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health and the Politics of Entanglement about how human behavior and non-human vectors intertwine with an epidemic of Dengue fever. It's drawn from the author’s fieldwork on public health and sanitation campaigns in urban Nicaragua, and I’m adopting it for my upcoming medical anthropology seminar. I’m also halfway into Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, by Declan MacManus, a.k.a. Elvis Costello. This memoir is part social history, part meditation on the creative process. It features fantastic prose and wry observations (e.g., describing two members of the Sex Pistols as ‘leery lads who, in another life, might have been nicking lead off a church roof, and I mean that in a complimentary way’).”

Alexander W. Wiseman, program director and associate professor of comparative and international education
“The summer has just begun and I'm already reading two new-to-me books. Both are related to work I'm doing with the Tübingen-Lehigh International Partnership (TüLIP) in Germany this summer. The first is, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, by Ray Kurzweil. The increasing scientization of life, work, and play is on my mind a lot, especially as I write this on my cell phone. The idea that technology will outstrip humans in the evolutionary development of intelligence, knowledge, and skill is fascinating. The second is The Hangman's Daughter, by Oliver Pötzsch. It's a historical fiction murder mystery set in mid-1600s Germany. This is a nail-biting mystery where religion, science, and superstition play equal parts in both complicating and unraveling the murders of orphaned children in a German town transitioning from Medieval times to the Renaissance. It sates my appetite for the German cultural context, and is a classic tale of the underdog using reasoning and 'real' science to solve the unsolvable.”

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