By Robel Tadesse || Contributing Writer
What are Franklin & Marshall College students, faculty, and staff reading this month? From poignant memoirs to heart-pounding thrillers, from to geopolitics to leadership essentials, the books on this month’s list offer a diverse array of perspectives and styles from established authors to new voices. Happy reading!
Peter Durantine, Director of Media Relations: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir by Paul Newman
Peter says: I’m reading, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir,” by Paul Newman, the actor who died in 2008. I enjoyed his films and thought he was an interesting man. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, went to Kenyon College, and led a complicated, but productive life. I’m a third of the way into the book and I find myself relating to him on different levels, which is quite strange. His prose are compelling and the telling he gives of his life is honest — he was not always a good husband to his first wife, struggled to be a father to their son; his second marriage to actor Joanne Woodward, which lasted 50 years until his death, was quite interesting. I’m looking forward to learning how he became a successful actor.
Melissa Betrone, Academic Department Coordinator, Earth & Environment/Business, Organizations, and Society: While Justice Sleeps by Stacy Abrams
Melissa says: In this novel crafted by former Georgia State Representative Stacy Abrams, a young law clerk unravels a mystery thrust upon her by her cantankerous boss, a Supreme Court Justice known for his aberrant rantings and conspiracy theories. She solves one riddle after another and along the way learns of her boss’s high opinion of her work, makes friends with unlikely people, and fights for her life against forces far more powerful than she. This work of fiction brings a human face to the machinations of government and industry, and moves the reader along at a clipping pace. I enjoy it for its suspensefulness and lack of gore and gratuitous violence, common to so many murder mysteries. I love following a female lead who exerts agency and resourcefulness. I won’t spoil the end, as I haven’t yet finished it, but I recommend the book to anyone interested in a riveting, digestible peek into Washington politics with an entertaining twist. (4 out of 5 stars)
Beth Throne, Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs: The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Shawn Ginwright
Beth says: I just finished reading The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Shawn A. Ginwright PhD, passages from which were featured during a recent leadership conference I attended. Thoughtful, reflective, and peppered with research, Dr. Ginwright’s work proposes four pivots for more effective social activism and collective leadership:
- Awareness: from lens to mirror
- Connection: from transactional to transformative relationships
- Vision: from problem-fixing to possibility-creating
- Presence: from hustle to flow
I find myself re-reading and referencing practices that immediately impacted how I enter and engage with spaces at and beyond F&M.
Lisa Gasbarrone, Department of French and Francophone Studies, Brooks College House Don: The Poem Has Reasons: A Story of Far Love by Sarah White
Prof. Gasbarrone says: I have on my list a book by my friend and colleague, Sarah White. Sarah is Emerita Professor of French at F&M, a poet, and a scholar of medieval French poetry, in particular the troubadours of southern France. In her recently published book, The Poem Has Reasons: A Story of Far Love, Sarah draws on various narrative and poetic forms to craft both a literary biography and a family story, her own and her mother’s, illustrated with her own original artwork. It’s hard to describe how beautiful, innovative, and moving this book looks to be. “Unclassifiable,” one reader writes, “in the best sense.” I am looking forward to reading it.
Theresa Stevenson, Evening Circulation Supervisor, Martin Library: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Theresa says: I am captivated by the main character and narrator Damon aka Demon and his turn of phrases reflecting on his upbringing in VA and how poverty and the opioid crisis destroys so many in his community. I’m rooting for Demon to rise above his circumstances but with so much abuse, addiction, and betrayal around him, it will be a miracle if he survives.
Zeyu Wang ’23: Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace by Klein & Pettis
Zeyu says: Is ethics an appendage to economics, or is economics a corollary to ethics? In their 2020 book, Pettis and Klein examine global trade imbalances by meticulously applying Keynesian methods to the balance sheets of households, businesses, and central banks of several large economies: US, EU, and China in particular. Pettis and Klein provide a counterintuitive finding that “the structure of international trade and capital flows does not pit the interests of nation against nation so much as it pits the interests of certain economic sectors against other economic sectors,” giving us far reaching implications: how do we understand the American military-financial complex that dominates the global order by keeping a net positive capital inflow into the US, at the cost of rising domestic household debts, government fiscal deficits, and unemployment (while keeping the inverse for exporters such as China and Germany – benefiting an arising global class of capitalist-industrialists). This brings us to confront inequity head-on. Global trade is a mélange of dependencies of individual economies: for example, PRC banking system has developed its “increasing dependence on moral hazard to maintain stability” (that is, the authors’ coded lingo for modern workforce slavery, not to mention the re-education camps of ongoing ethnic cleansing, aiding precisely this economic growth). It all reminds us of our own unimpressively mundane complicity to a global system of oppression. Are crises inevitable then? I recommend pairing this book with Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism, a very different approach from the Keynesians’, revealing societal implications of sexual repression leading a society to fascism. Have we as a society learned anything from history? Or are we making it ever more fragile and ripe for more fascism? Certainly our present system of international trade is not of much help. Let us re-examine and find out.
Benjamin Xingyuan Chen ’23: Republic by Plato
Benjamin says: I have been reading (or rereading, shall I say) the Republic by Plato and will continue reading this month for my research project. The first time I finished reading this book was in the first semester of sophomore year, which happens to be the first semester I spent here on campus. I fell in love with the Republic instantly, insofar as I believed this must be the greatest book of all. And I stand by it.
The Republic starts with a discussion on what justice is and eventually covers everything, from education to ruling to what a man should be like, to what a soul is like, etc. Someone once said to me that studying ancient philosophy gave one a chance to work on anything; given what I have done in my research and reading, I couldn’t agree more… Some may argue that philosophy is about reasoning and logic, but for me, at least when I am reading the Republic, philosophy is a life guide. And that is the magic of this book.
Gyana Guity ’24: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Gyana says: I’m currently reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. If you love fantasy or this is your first time picking up a fantasy book, I think this is a great choice for you! Erin Morgenstern in my opinion makes it easy for first-time fantasy readers to enjoy a genre out of their comfort zone. If you like magicians, competitions, romance, and the idea of a circus that arrives randomly every night and disappears by the morning, definitely give this book a read! Even with my busy schedule, I always look forward to reading a chapter of the book. It reminds me of a childhood fairytale, a book that leaves you feeling like a Disney movie would have when you were young. I haven’t read many fantasy books like this, so I can’t wait to finish it and hope you decide to give it a read if you ever see it in a book shop!
Lyla Loria ’26: Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman
Lyla says: Many books claim that they can change lives. We have all heard that one before. Yet, all the reviews I have read on this novel argue that the wisdom preached in this book is unmatched. The ‘Way of The Peaceful Warrior’ is to appreciate every moment, regardless of how dull or ordinary it may seem. It is important to recognize that living in the past or future tends to lead to overthinking and unhappiness. The time is now; the place is here. I am looking forward to reading this novel, which is said to speak to all people from all walks of life. We can all benefit from unfolding toward true self-awareness.
Tech Oh ’26: The Slave Girl by Buchi Emecheta
Tech says: I briefly talked about this book with you a few weeks ago, but I’m currently, very slowly, reading Buchi Emecheta’s “The Slave Girl”–a historical fiction novel about an Igbo (Nigerian) woman who was sold into slavery after her parents died. Emecheta immerses the reader in the flow and sound of her language and culture by merging English with Igbo words, names and cultural descriptions. Additionally, her clear and unadorned prose works to understate the complexity of every character, which has the effect of capturing the spectrum of admirable and embarrassing aspects of the human condition in a nonjudgmental, uncompromising, ‘c’est la vie’-esque tone. It speaks about subjects such as the loss of innocence and identity, class dynamics from the perspective of an individual without power, survival in an unfamiliar and threatening environment as a woman, and more. I appreciate it as a book that provides a rare perspective about life that is essential to hear from to understand the breadth of the human experience, as a beautifully composed novel in the literary sense, and as a book that is fun to read.
A special thank you to our contributors for sharing their March reads with the F&M community.
Senior Robel Tadesse is a Contributing Writer. His email is email@example.com.