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WSU English Professors Share Book Recommendations

Reading Recommendations | Graphic by Bethany Althauser | The Wright State Guardian

English Professors Marjory Wentworth and Dr. Barry Milligan share some of their top picks for students to read that do not appear on their syllabi.

“This is Honey, An Anthology of Contemporary Black Poets” by Kwame Alexander

Professor Wentworth worked as an editor for this collection, which includes poems that are deeply inspiring and tender, showcasing works from well-loved poets, such as Ross Gay, Amanda Gorman and Alice Walker. 

“‘This is the Honey’ is a rich and abundant offering of language from the poets giving voice to generations of resilient joy,” the anthology’s description reads. 

The anthology’s works explore themes of joy, love, resistance and devotion. 

“A Woman in Berlin” by Anonymous

For nonfiction, Wentworth offers two recommendations, the first being “A Woman in Berlin.”

This book highlights how Berlin fell to the Russian army in 1945 while a young woman kept a diary of her life, showcasing the relationship between civilians and the army.

“Possession” by A.S. Byatt

Milligan teaches and researches 19th century British literature and culture and describes “Possession” as “a surefire hit for any lover of Victorian British literature and culture, and pretty likely to hit with any geek for history and culture, really.”

Two young scholars are researching the lives of Victorian poets, and along the way, they discover what lies beneath the passions and the past. 

“‘Possession’ is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and a triumphant love story,” the Goodreads description reads.

“Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” by Ross Gay

Professor Wentworth currently teaches introduction and advanced poetry at Wright State. This is Wentworth’s recommendation for a poetry collection.

The book details the passing things in life, like loved ones and seasons, as a way to study life and its intricate wisdoms. Gay uses processes of the garden and orchard to study these ideas. 

“That is, this is a book that studies the wisdom of the garden and orchard, those places where all—death, sorrow, loss—is converted into what might, with patience, nourish us,” the Goodreads description reads.

“Hiroshima” by John Hersey

“Hiroshima” by John Hersey is a journalistic re-telling of Aug. 6, 1945—the day the first atom bomb was dropped. Hersey tells the stories through memories of the survivors. 

“Suite Française” by Irène Némirovsky

Némirovsky was deported to Auschiwitz in 1942, dying just months later at the age of 39. The author had finished two parts of the novel before being arrested, and her daughters kept her hand-written manuscripts. 

“A Storm in June” is the first part that details the 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of Nazi invasion, highlighting the stories of different people and families. 

“They share nothing but the harsh demands of survival—some trying to maintain lives of privilege, others struggling simply to preserve their lives—but soon, all together, they will be forced to face the awful exigencies of physical and emotional displacement, and the annihilation of the world they know,” the Goodreads description reads. 

“Dolce” is the second part, which showcases the relationship and tensions between villagers and German soldiers in a German-occupied provincial village. 

“Some choose resistance, others collaboration, and as their community is transformed by these acts, the lives of these men and women reveal nothing less than the very essence of humanity,” the description says. 

“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Professor Wentworth recommended this novel because it showcases a side of humanity in deep, meaningful ways. 

“I think we need to read about war because there is so much suffering in the world now—in Gaza, Ukraine etc. As Americans, we need to consider our role in these conflicts,” Wentworth said. “The articulation of human suffering is felt more deeply in stories.”

The book is set in Saigon in April 1975, when a South Vietnamese army general is compiling a list of people to give access to the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots eventually move to Los Angeles, but their captain is secretly reporting on the group to the Viet Cong. 

“A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, ‘The Sympathizer’ explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today,” the Goodreads description reads.

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