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One Book Display

Posted by Peter Bremer on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013


If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? Choose carefully. This question was recently posed by Briggs Library Instruction Coordinator Kellie Meehlhause to UMM staff and faculty in honor of December's Read A New Book Month and January's National Book Month. The results may surprise you.

Spanning genres and and transcending stereotypes, the resulting list [see below] is a wild eclectic mix. A sampling of these desert island tomes can be found in the front lobby display at Briggs Library. See one you like? Request the item at the circulation desk. Happy reading!

Happy reading!


40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by G.B. Trudeau
Suggested by: Rebecca Webb, Computing Services
“My Doonesbury anthologies are something I read over and over. They reflect history, stimulate thought, and make me smile.”

A Book of Memories by Péter Nádas
Suggested by: Marynell Ryan Van Zee, History
“This book reads like an interwoven set of autobiographies or memoirs, crossing time and space of the European past. Each story is gripping on its own, but even richer in juxtaposition or comparison with the others. Every time I open the novel, I find something that feels new to me or touches upon a different interest of mine. Critics described it as an ‘inner history’ of the twentieth century I find it an endlessly fascinating exploration of the relationship between history and individual lived experience.”

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
Suggested by: Chelda Smith, Division of Education & Human Development
“The book, among other things, paints a real, yet alternative picture of Haiti, Haitian values, transnational existence, and Haitian-American culture. That perspective is missing from most discourses of Haiti, which often frame the country and citizens in a deficient light.”

Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Suggested by: Kalee Nuest, Admissions
“When I think about the first time I read these stories, I remember the experience as the first time I felt myself in the books. I still think about the storylines, the characters, and the metaphors. I’m still struck by the love of Aslan, the imperfections of C.S. Lewis’ heroes, and the beautiful pictures painted by his words.”

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson
Suggested by: Peter Bremer, Briggs Library
“The main character, Thomas Covenant, made an indelible mark on me when I was a senior in high school. Full of magic and epic in scope, the series of 10 books introduces a leper as the main character who is transported to a strange and beautiful place called The Land. An ancient enemy threatens the world, and its inhabitants view Covenant as the reincarnation of a mythic hero. His white gold wedding ring is viewed as a talisman of power. Thomas Covenant, however, doubts the reality of The Land, and doesn't have the slightest idea how to use the power in his ring. Issues such as free will, sacrifice, power and redemption are explored.”

Complete Poetry and Selected Prose by Walt Whitman
Suggested by: Athena Kildegaard, English
“Old Walt teaches us who we are, how to be whole human beings, even as we contradict ourselves, and that never gets old. When he’s bad, and he sometimes is pretty bad, then we get to laugh at ourselves, and that’s a good reminder now and then. Mostly though, he’s astonishingly good, which means he’s worth reading over and over, right through one’s whole Kosmic life.”

Dune by Frank Herbert
Suggested by: Nick Benesh, Psychology
“When I first read the book, the biggest thing that struck me was the ideas of how an entire planet functions from a global level to an individual animal level. In addition, it incorporates ideas of human growth (mental/physical), planning in terms of centuries/millennia instead of decades, and debated several aspects of what it means to be human.”

Suggested by: Ryan Schamp, English and Residential Life
“I am a Sci-Fi buff, and this is the type of literature I usually choose to read for entertainment’s sake. Dune is a thick tome, and I haven’t even begun to completely grok it yet.”

El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
Suggested by: Stacey Aronson, Spanish
“The first modern novel and a hilarious read.”

Failsafe by Eugene Burdick
Suggested by: Adele Lawler, Dean’s Office
“Intense and has a different ending.”

Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvaag
Suggested by: LeAnn Dean, Briggs Library
“My admiration for this book is both personal and literary. I believe Rolvaag has eloquently captured the essence of an American immigration saga for the time period and it speaks to my own great grandparents' struggle as they emigrated from Norway at about the same time as Beret and Per Hansa.”

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Suggested by: Kari Adams, University Relations
“I can read Good Omens over and over again. It’s witty, clever, apocalyptic, and heart-warming. You might not think a sci-fi novel would have so much to unpack, but every time I read it I find something new to laugh at or ponder. Plus, with just one book, I get to read two of my favorite authors!”

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Suggested by: Stacey Aronson, Spanish
“The interconnectedness of human experience and of human mythology.”

Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei’s Power by Ellis Amdur
Suggested by: Jimmy Schryver, Art History
“This book is layered, complex, challenging and difficult at times, and extremely rewarding. It provides an outlook on life and on training that encompasses the whole body and included exercises for the mind. It also reminds the modern reader that training takes time and dedication, and that true change never happens overnight or on the side. The focus on breath, mental, and physical training provides a model that one could follow, literally and to great benefit, for the rest of your life.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Suggested by: Adrienne Conley, Residential Life
“The Hobbit represents a grand tale of adventure, suspense and humor (and there is even song!). It is one of the first books that I remember as a child reading over and over until the binding eventually fell apart. As a child, I saw in Bilbo, a 50-year old pipe-smoking hobbit, a kindred spirit. As an adult, I see that the unlikely hero Bilbo was on an adventure of self-discovery. I had read many YA books as a child, but it was The Hobbit that kicked off my love of reading and fantasy. I would select this book because of nostalgia, but also because I still can get wrapped up in the adventures and discovery of Middle-earth. It is timeless!”

Holy Bible
Suggested by: Rita Bolluyt, Grants Development
“Because it is God’s word and applies to all of life.”

Suggested by: Diane Kill, Office of the Registar
“I try to read it daily and couldn’t be without it.”

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Suggested by: Chris Atkinson, Mathematics

Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov
Suggested by: Sylke Boyd, Physics
“I came across Chingiz Aitmatov while browsing our local library as a kid. I read a couple of his stories out of a collection. To my surprise, soon I found that my mind kept reliving them. The locations, people, their destinies, dreams and drivers of action invaded my dreams and spirit, to remain with me to this day. All his writing has in common a deep believe into the essential goodness of humans, and a just as pointed aspect on all the destructive difficulty to bring visions to reality. The story above, Jamilia, is a love story, set in Kirgizstan during World War 2, told from memory by the brother of the young woman Jamilia. She fell in love with a crippled soldier who returned to serve on a farm, and takes us on her journey out of her loveless marriage. You need to read it yourself, and perhaps find yourself resonating with the deep desperation of humanity that pours from Aitmatov's writing. This particular novel was required reading in school in East Germany, where I grew up. But I never could find that a 7th-grade school class could possibly do justice to this work.”

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Suggested by: Julie Kill, Division of Math and Science
“This book has been very helpful every time I read it. I find something new each time it is read. Life is totally about ‘practicing’, and improving and learning, ‘perfecting’ oneself in your own state of imperfectness.”

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
Suggested by: David Johnson, Chancellor Emeritus
“Because of the meticulous way Undset describes medieval times in the far north.”

A Little History of the World by Ernest Hans
Suggested by: Windy Roberts, Spanish
“History leads us to the future there’s so much to learn from our past. We should all read over and over to learn how to repeat the good things that we have done and avoid the bad ones.”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Suggested by: Ann DuHamel, Music

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Suggested by: Julia Dabbs, Art History
“Like the current popular televisions eries, Downton Abbey, this historical drama has something for everyone: characters that develop over time and touch your heart strong women (young and old) who don’t back down in the face of adversity, humor, sadness, war, and the homefront sibling rivalry as well as the strength of family ties and of yes, romance too.”

The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
Suggested by: Tim Lindberg, Political Science
“[Sanderson’s] ability to weave story-telling, interesting and believable systems of magic, and tales of politics and human struggle together is astounding and inspiring to me.”

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
Suggested by: Frederick Wallace, Economics
“It has everything: adventure, romance, a good vs. evil plot, compelling characters, and even a (kind of) happy ending.”

My Antonia by Willa Cather
Suggested by: Janel Mendoza, Office of Equity, Diversity, and Intercultural Programs
“I read it in high school and was quite taken with it. It was the first real love story I had ever read, and found it so emotional and moving. I haven't read it for a few years, but I own it and I still think about it from time to time.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Suggested by: Tim Lindberg, Political Science
“The first in a trilogy of books that tell the tale of a young man who grows up to be a spectacularly powerful wizard, but is told with an eye toward the realistic, the mundane, the truth.”

Night by Elie Wiesel
Suggested by: Stacey Aronson, Spanish
“Haunting, poetic, unforgettable.”

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Suggested by: Clement Loo, Environmental Studies
“I think On the Road questions how we prioritize values. It seems to me that we’re socialized to think that a good life involves a very specific set of things, perhaps including stuff such as family gainful employment, and material comfort. Kerouac challenges all that and suggests that perhaps happiness is more about the freedom that comes from rejecting all those things and being completely unencumbered.”

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Suggested by: Mary Thrond, Spanish
“I feel blessed to have lived during the time that Garcia Márquez has written. His creativity is beyond my imagination. This is the only book I have finished and immediately started to read all over again.”

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Suggested by: Jennifer Deane, History
“I read it first as a college student, and Dillard’s wonderful explanation of the individual within nature resonated with all kinds of questions I didn’t even realize I’d had. I love re-reading it whenever I need a reminder about the mystery and beauty and inexplicable danger of the world unfolding around us.”

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens
Suggested by: Ernie Kemble, Psychology (retired)
“Because [Dickens] apparently sees the world as I choose to.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Suggested by: Kristi Erickson, Briggs Library
“Pride and Prejudice, for me, is THE classic love story. I will forever be in love with Mr. Darcy. And Elizabeth is an awesome role model for girls, I think. It shows not to always accept things as they are . . . sometimes you have to speak up, and out.”

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Suggested by: Kristi Erickson, Briggs Library
“I have read The Secret History about 4 times. I always get so engrossed in the characters’ lives and their eerie predicament. [Tartt’s] really a wonderful writer.”

The Stand by Stephen King
Suggested by: Daniel Magner, Athletics
“At 1152 pages and posing the question, ‘Can the human race learn from its mistakes?’, it has the ability to captivate for the duration if it were the one book I had to read for the rest of my life.”

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Suggested by: Craig Moxon, Theatre Arts
“Why? Quite simple—The Remington SL3 has yet to produce a better work of fiction.”

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Suggested by: Kristi Erickson, Briggs Library
“I remember loving Where the Wild Things Are as a child. Max, even though he was a ‘naughty’ kid, was brave and ruled the wild things . . . so cool! He has many adventures, but still came home for dinner. It’s a classic that tells a great story with more pictures than words.”