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Stanford humanities scholars tell us what they’re reading this summer

Beyond their research activities, Stanford humanities scholars make time for leisure reading over the summer break. Here, a few of them share what they’re carrying in their beach bags.
 
If you want to do some vicarious traveling, you may be interested in Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France (Norton, NY 2007), which is on linguistics professor Eve Clark’s reading list for the summer. The book examines how dialects in France evolved into one French language during the 19th century as the railway system brought people into closer proximity. “A new way to view history that is highly engaging,” Clark says.
 
Lisa Surwillo, Associate Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures, will be reading three novels this summer – Sandra Cisnero's The House on Mango Street, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Greg Grandin's The Empire of Necessity. The last book, Surwillo says, “draws together history of Spanish America and the United States through the frame of Melville's literary works.”
 
History professor Joel Beinin plans on reading by Elias Khoury’s epic novel Gate of the Sun, about the Palestinian experience since 1948. The intense narrative interweaves a love story, history, and political commentary.
 
Fans of undead lore might consider The Walking Dead, Compendium 1, a massive collection of graphic novels that inspired the AMC hit zombie show (produced by Stanford alum Gale Anne Hurd) and the main attraction on screenwriting lecturer Adam Tobin’s summer reading list.
 
On a lighter note, Scott Bukatman, Professor in Art & Art History, plans on filling his summer reading list with simply “a whole bunch of comics.”
 

Works by Stanford writers

Acclaimed author Richard Powers who teaches in Stanford’s English department published his latest novel Orfeo earlier this year. In Orfeo, Powers intertwines the subjects of music, genetics, and government surveillance to ask big questions about what art should and should not be allowed to make.
 
Another great option if you’re looking for a novel to lose yourself in is A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Stanford lecturer and former Stegner Fellow Anthony Marra. Marra’s debut novel, about a father searching for his daughter in war-torn Chechnya, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award earlier this year.
 
We could put together an entire reading list comprising fiction and poetry works by Stanford Stegner Fellows, including NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel We Need New Names about a young girl’s journey from Zimbabwe to America. Bulawayo’s book received the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year. For poetry and fiction suggestions, check out the list of current and former Stegner fellows and their publications
 
If you need even more beach reading inspiration, check out the special summer edition of Philosophy Talk, the weekly radio show hosted by Stanford philosophers Ken Taylor and John Perry. In their “Summer Reading” episode, Taylor, Perry, and their guests offer summer readings suggestions with a philosophical twist, like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.