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What we're reading

Welcome to a new column highlighting what faculty and staff are reading (or listening to, or watching) outside of their classrooms and offices

October 26, 2017
Cover art for the novels Exeter faculty members are reading

English Instructor Tyler Caldwell

I’m excited to dive into Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I read her first novel, Everything I Never Told You, over the summer, and I fell in love with her work. Her piercing and precise details really resonated with me. Everything I Never Told You focuses on a Chinese-American family living in the Midwest; the novel opens with the death of the middle child, Lydia, and later explores the struggles and hardships of communication and identity. I haven’t yet started Little Fires Everywhere, but the flap on the cover slip reads: “This novel explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood — and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”

Math Instructor Aviva Halani

I recently finished My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, an odd but endearing book about a precocious young girl whose best (really only) friend, her grandmother, passes away. The book weaves in her grandmother’s stories of the Land-of-Almost-Awake with Elsa’s adventures while delivering a series of letters her grandmother asks her to pass along. As someone who was always a little “different” as a child, I saw a bit of myself in Elsa and I loved the unusual fairy tales. I’m also reading one or two “chapters” from Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed each night. I’ve never sought out advice columns before, but I really like how it also serves as a bit of a memoir. Her personal stories are powerful and lend her word a weight that platitudes without context wouldn’t have.

Science Instructor Alison Hobbie

I just finished reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which is a charming story of an aristocrat sentenced to a lifetime of “house arrest” in an elegant Moscow hotel during Stalinist Russia. Full of wit, the writing is verbally playful and filled with lively imagery and diverse literary references. The tone is gently funny, the meandering plot brought to life with surprising characters and an even more surprising ending.

Mathematics Instructor Jeff Ibbotson

On my nightstand at the moment are A Primer of Analytic

Number Theory by Jeffery Stopple, the most recent Smithsonian magazine, and Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero — Scooby-Doo meets the [H.P.] Lovecraft mythos! It’s a pretty entertaining read full of personal depth beyond the original Scooby-Doo. I was afraid this would be yet another dark and tragic reimagining of one of my childhood favorites, but it saved itself by pulling several switcheroos worthy of the original. The characters are updated, more diverse and more than mere caricatures.

Dean of Studies and Academic Affairs Brooks Moriarty ’84

I like to keep a short pile on the nightstand and pick at all of the books until one of them convinces me to be faithful and monogamous.

Right now, the pile is:

Shame by Salman Rushdie

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

M Train by Patti Smith

Who Rules the World by Noam Chomsky

The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams

All but the first reward my middle-aged bedtime fatigue — short essays or stories or vignettes that I can savor and digest in small chunks. The first is reserved for sleepless nights. Once I’m wed to one of the others, I’ll need to carve out longer chunks of time.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.