Winter break is one of the best times to sit down and escape with a book that resonates with you. Free from the distractions of the semester, you can finally snuggle up with a good book and give it your full attention.
Every year, we ask our faculty and staff to let us in on some of their favorite reads of the year. This year, we have submissions ranging from sci-fi to history to fiction. Check out the recommendations below to see why our staff and faculty chose each book. You might find a new favorite!
(Re)born in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home by Roger Bennett
Recommended by Lisa Beverley, Co-Director for Graduate Studies.
Publisher Description: "(Re)Born in the USA is Roger Bennett’s homage to an adolescence as a triple outsider (Jewish in largely Catholic Liverpool, middle class in an overwhelmingly working-class community, and obsessed with American culture while his peers tended towards more deviant, borderline hooligan, behavior.) Throw in the fact that his father was a judge who campaigned on behalf of Margaret Thatcher in a town who thought of her as Medusa—the perfect recipe for ostracism. Bennett was happiest when playing chess with his grandfather, watching The Love Boat and Miami Vice, reading his hoarded copies of Rolling Stone, and blasting John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow, Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush the Show, or Tracy Chapman’s debut Fast Car. An American stuck in his native England.
Bennett gives voice to every teenager who longs to leave their hometown behind, who pines for a different life, and who will do just about anything to escape what makes their formative years awful. In this funny and moving book, he beautifully captures the universality of growing pains, growing up, and growing out of where you come from. And when given the chance to taste the sweet fruit of his dream and travel to the US of A, Bennett expresses the reckless abandon that prevails when youth experiences freedom (and The Beastie Boys) for the first time. Rich with late ’80s and ’90s pop culture references from both sides of the pond—and with Roger’s over-the-top sense of humor—(Re)Born in the USA is both a truly unique coming-of-age story in the vein of Jon Ronson and Chuck Klosterman and the love letter to America that this country needs right now."
Why I recommend it: I adore Roger Bennett, one half of "The Men in Blazers" duo. I was really looking forward to his book release when I heard about it, and it did not disappoint. It made me laugh hysterically and even cry a bit. It is delightful, thoughtful, and intelligently funny. The retelling of the night of the Beastie Boys visit to Liverpool in 1987 is alone worth the read.
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Recommended by Deb Kelly, Academic Program Specialist.
Publisher Description: "Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for....
When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction."
Why I recommend it: Dune is one of those rare Science Fiction novels that feels real. Frank Herbert created a universe with its own language, belief system, and survival-driven inventions. However, the most compelling reason for recommending Dune is its optimistic view of human potential.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, by Ibram X. Kendi & Keisha N. Blain
Recommended by Mia Hines, BS/MS Advisor for Teacher Education
Publisher Description: "Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume 'community' history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present."
Why I recommend it: I really enjoyed this book because it told the history and stories of African Americans/Black people and how they came to this country and their lived experiences up until present day that has not been taught in history courses. A lot of the information I learned was brand new to me. This book is also not written like a text book; it is a collection of short stories, research, and poems and each chapter is by a different author.
The Midnight Library: A Novel, by Matt Haig
Recommended by Svenja Wolf, Assistant Professor, Sport Psychology
Publisher Description: "Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place."
Why I recommend it: The book is much less predictable than you might think and the theme of life regret seems applicable to all of us. Hence, it was great to read an exploration of whether this sort of counterfactual thinking actually is justified and to what extent we are actually ever in charge of our own faith.
No One Tells You This, by Glynnis MacNicol
Recommended by Taylor Thompson, Clinical Director of the Adult Learning Evaluation Center (ALEC)
"Despite a successful career as a writer, and an exciting life in New York City, Glynnis was constantly reminded she had neither of the things the world expected of a woman her age: a partner or a baby. She knew she was supposed to feel bad about this. After all, single women and those without children are often seen as objects of pity, relegated to the sidelines, or indulgent spoiled creatures who think only of themselves.
Glynnis refused to be cast into either of those roles and yet the question remained: What now? There was no good blueprint for how to be a woman alone in the world. She concluded it was time to create one.
Over the course of her fortieth year, which this memoir chronicles, Glynnis embarks on a revealing journey of self-discovery that continually contradicts everything she’d been led to expect. Through the trials of family illness and turmoil, and the thrills of far-flung travel and adventures with men, young and old (and sometimes wearing cowboy hats), she is forced to wrestle with her biggest hopes and fears about love, death, sex, friendship, and loneliness. In doing so, she discovers that holding the power to determine her own fate requires a resilience and courage that no one talks about, and is more rewarding than anyone imagines."
Why I recommend it: I liked this book because it was well-written, honest, and provided the perspective of a woman pursuing a non-traditional lifestyle (being an unmarried female in her 40's) and making meaning of that.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein
Recommended by Timothy Baghurst, Professor, FSU COACH
Publisher Description: "Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see."
Why I recommend it: This book is eye-opening, and made me question why we do what we do when it comes to academics, sports, and the workplace. Are we doing the right thing by focusing too much on one thing? How can we shake up the status quo in a positive way that stimulates growth? I, for one, will be keeping this book on my shelf.
The Raw Shark Texts: A Novel, by Steven Hall
Recommended by George Kantelis, Media Specialist
Publisher Description: "Eric Sanderson wakes up in a house he doesn’t recognize, unable to remember anything of his life. All he has left are his diary entries recalling Clio, a perfect love who died under mysterious circumstances, and a house that may contain the secrets to Eric’s prior life. But there may be more to this story, or it may be a different story altogether. With the help of allies found on the fringes of society, Eric embarks on an edge-of-your-seat journey to uncover the truth about himself and to escape the predatory forces that threaten to consume him. Moving with the pace of a superb thriller, The Raw Shark Texts has sparked the imaginations of readers around the world and is one of the most talked-about novels in years."
Why I recommend it: This book is successfully experimental. It plays with the concept of being a book: like, being a bunch of pieces of paper with words that, when printed in a specific order, make sentences, which make paragraphs.
The book creatively uses tons of different syntax, fonts, and text size to convey its story and imagery. In addition to the book's 36 chapters, 36 un-chapters exist across the internet in various places. The un-chapters help piece together the protagonists' identity, so us readers get to go on an interactive journey that is similar to the protagonists'.
I don't know that the book has amazing diction or character development, but it's such an interesting and refreshing read that I can't help but love it.
All publisher descriptions were courtesy of the books' descriptions on Amazon.com.