Growing up, I loved books. In high school and college, I was assigned all the great works of American literature. The Great Gatsby. The Sun Also Rises. The Grapes of Wrath. As I Lay Dying. A great American canon written by white men whose reputations and personal stories continue to mesmerize us.
I loved them all. I still do.
But by the time I entered graduate school, cultural attitudes about what made for great American literature had begun to shift. I was introduced to Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Amy Tan, authors whose books made me think about the voices that I hadn’t heard when I was reading about Jay Gatsby’s tragic love for Daisy and the odyssey of the Bundren family traveling across Mississippi to bury their dead mother. Specifically, I hadn’t heard the stories of women, and of women of color in particular.
When I read Their Eyes Were Watching God, it moved me in a way no other book had. I read the last page and started right over again at the beginning. Zora Neale Hurston’s training as an anthropologist and her command of regional African American dialects and folklore paint for the reader a rich picture of the American experience through the eyes of Janie Crawford. Janie’s is a story both of feminism and black identity. It is also one of failure, growth, and triumph, like any good American novel. The fact that Hurston’s work was not celebrated in her lifetime is an extraordinary tragedy.
Their Eyes Were Watching God should be part of every American high school student’s English curriculum. I’m happy to make a place for it here in the Wentworth library.
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Work, play and stress form the center of much human effort and time, but often without an understanding of how these relate. Thus, the struggles of life may seem to be random, with no clear direction of what to do. The author has explored how many aspects of play are fundamentally related to the core of life, and success at functioning in life. This exploration has helped me to pull together how work, training and study can seem to oscillate between play and forced actions having unpleasant anguish. Maybe this tension or oscillation between a more playful spirit and a more forced action spirit is healthy, and is actually key to almost all of the most satisfying and rewarding accomplishments of life. The author’s exploration of play resonated with many observations I have made throughout life, including the experiences of good stress and bad stress. I have also often wondered why I can be profoundly serious about a topic, such as related to work, life-relations, religion or politics, and simultaneously be making jokes and having reverse logical thoughts on the same topic. This may come down to the productive interplay within our minds, with the moments of “play” freeing our minds to mix new thoughts possibly lead to new solutions, and the moments of “forced action” to follow through with a previously made plan or solution.
Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics. In his notable life, he worked on the Manhattan Project, taught all over the world, and investigated the Challenger explosion. He was also an artist, bongo player, and practical jokester. Feynman’s unique view and inquisitive nature are inspirational. He was passionate about education, prized real understanding over memorization, and is well known for his fascinating conceptual explanations of physics. This book gives an insight into the mind of a great physicist, including his quirks, sense of humor, and flaws. Feynman demonstrates that even world-renowned scientists can be funny, mischievous, and inappropriate. This collection of anecdotes shows the personal side of science and underlines the need to approach all aspects of life with curiosity and imagination.
Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
This is an engaging biographical story which shows the human significance of technology and engineering. In an impoverished country, in a poor rural farming community, simple appropriate technologies save lives, create livelihoods and empower communities. When I teach Wentworth students about political economy, I hope to show the broader socio-economic impact of what they do.
Associate Professor, Department of Applied Mathetmatics
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." 'Oh, the Places You’ll Go!' celebrates the successes and the challenges that we experience in our journeys through life. It provides a powerful and inspirational message for children and adults alike. I highly recommend the writings of Dr. Seuss to anyone seeking a break from the routines of academic life.
Associate Professor, Department of Sciences
Rosalind Franklin has always been one of my favorite scientists. She was overlooked during her life; however, she made one of the most important contributions to the field of molecular biology: photo 51. This was the first photo of crystallized DNA, thus providing the foundation needed to solve the structure of this incredible molecule. This biography delves into Rosalind as a person, including journal entries throughout her life and letters to her family and friends. It highlighted her love of travel, and fierce loyalty to those whom she held close; a stark contrast to the image depicted by James Watson in his memoir. This biography demonstrated that, like many strong and confidant women, Rosalind was not cold nor was she unfriendly, but rather she was passionate about her work and assertive. She was focused on solving problems and driven by genuine curiosity opposed to recognition and accolades. Learning about her life made me feel like it was acceptable to speak of for myself and just go for it—whatever, IT may be. I often think of her quote, “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.”
Professor, Department of Sciences
I love China Mieville as an author. His books always have unexpected depth and explore interesting and often subversive themes. Embassytown is a science fiction novel that explores ideas about language, communication and how our languages can shape our behavior and thought. It also explores the interactions of drastically different cultures, as well as dramatic changes when the underpinning of a culture fails. I found this exploration to be intellectually invigorating. And it’s a really good story to boot.
Professor, Department of Industrial Design
Keeping it classic, keeping it simple. My book selection is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Each day I give my best effort at recognizing and describing an elephant being eaten by a snake, and sometimes I have to box up a sheep.
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Computer Networking
This book is a gift from my Ph.D. advisor at MIT. My Ph.D. research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) focuses on readability enhancement on desktop and mobile browsers, and this is my first book in this field. Although it is an easy-to-read book, it contains wisdom and insightful observations in life. Before coming to the U.S., I was not aware that there can be so many different kinds of designs in daily things, such as door handles, light switches, faucets, keyboards, clocks, etc. The book provides a lot of interesting examples. The concept in the chapter of user-centered design not only becomes the core of my research in HCI domain, but it is also embedded into my regular teaching. Hope this book also inspires you to discover interesting design of everyday things.
Douglas D. Schumann Library & Learning Commons
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