Our Holiday Reading Lists

What are you reading this Christmas?


Jim Piccininni, Library Director:

I am currently reading China Road: a Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. Gifford, who lived in China for several years as an NPR Correspondent, embarks on a road trip across China traveling a continuous stretch of roadway known as Route 312. The book is a fascinating description of his journey along Route 312 as he makes his way from thriving Shanghai to the western border at Kazakhstan.  As Gifford writes in chapter three: “In the Western mind, a road trip conjures up images of the 1950’s and ‘60s, of Jack Kerouac, of beatniks and hippies hitting the road to find themselves, or lose themselves, whichever they need to do. In China, traveling by highway is a very new phenomenon, and Chinese people have not yet fallen in love with the open road. Rather, it is a marriage of convenience. They are traveling mainly out of necessity, to find work, in order to feed themselves and their families…”
Still, there is a hint of “Kerouac” thrown into China Road and Gifford also gives ample insights into Chinese culture, history and politics.  The author skillfully takes conversations he has had with a variety of Chinese citizens, and together with some interesting anecdotes, successfully entertains and enlightens the reader.  If you want to travel to modern day China, but lack either the time or money to do so, then China Road can serve as your exit visa out of the West and directly into this dynamic Asian society.

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Rev. George Hosko C.S.B., Inter-Library Loan and Archives:

“I like to read the insightful articles found in First Things: A Journal of Religion.”

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Dr. Mary Kelleher, Reference and Periodicals:

“Over the holiday I hope to FINALLY get to Maeve Binchey’s newest book, Whitethorn Woods. In this book Binchey returns to her familiar themes of Catholic traditions and the modernization (and secularization) of Ireland. Thus in a small town in Ireland a battle erupts between believers and non-believers over the destruction of a local shrine in order to make way for a new highway. In another return, this time to format, Binchey, in order to tell the story, combines the personal tales of a variety of characters and as Publisher’s Weekly says “orchestrates it into a masterful whole.”

I would also like to read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, as I am now reading Mad Cowboy: The Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat. The author of the latter, Howard F. Lyman, is the rancher who appeared on the Oprah Show that got her sued by Texas ranchers for defamatory statements about meat.

And I should add, that I usually end up re-reading Pride and Prejudice sometime over the Christmas break. I don’t necessarily intend to, but it happens.”

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Lisa McNamara, Reference and Instruction:

“With the semester finally winding down, I’m looking forward to relaxing at home with my cats and curling up with some good books. Lately I’ve been in the mood for animal stories, so I’m definitely going to read Cleveland Amory’s The Cat Who Came for Christmas and The Cat and the Curmudgeon. Last year, I read Amory’s Ranch of Dreams, which we have at Doherty, and I loved it!

In the fiction category, I’m a bit undecided, but I’ll probably read Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and some low-key British mysteries. For nonfiction, I’d like to read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is about the work of Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti and beyond.”

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Rachel Matre, Reference and Instruction:

I’m currently reading the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It is the story of two magicians who emerge in England during the time of the Napoleonic wars. Mr. Strange, the younger and less experienced magician, becomes Mr. Norrell’s pupil. But soon Strange feels confined under Norrell’s tutelage. Their differences lead them to part ways and become rivals. I don’t want to give too much of this wonderful adventure away, so I’ll just add one more thing: Don’t mess with faeries – they are not nice!

What’s next? As usual I have a pile to choose from. First on my list is the nonfiction Her Majesty’s Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage by Stephen Budiansky. I recently read Joanna Denny’s biography Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen and think I will find the intrigues of her daughter’s reign interesting. A couple of weeks ago I listened to an interview with Katherine Ashenburg on NPR which made me want to read her book The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History. As the title implies it’s a social history on standards of cleanliness. From Doherty, I have just checked out Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants (Robert Sullivan). Those three are my non-fiction picks for the holiday.

Under the category “guilty pleasures,” I have Sarah Dunant’s novel In the Company of the Courtesan. It’s a historical romance set in 16th century Venice.

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Pat Gerson, Acquisitions:

“I’m looking forward to a relaxing, peaceful holiday and hope to find some cozy, comfortable books to read. First I’ll start with Louisa May Alcott’s Flower Fables, a book about fairies dedicated to one of the Emerson children in Concord during those “American Bloomsbury” days. Speaking of fairies, I’ll probably look at Cicely Mary Barker‘s wonderful illustrations of fairies and flowers from her Flower Fairies series. And speaking of Louisa May Alcott, there’s a mystery series The Louisa May Alcott Mysteries written by Anna Maclean where Louisa solves all kinds of interesting mysteries.

For even more peace and tranquility I might try Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (translated by David Hinton).

And I’m sure I will want to read Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas In Wales to my grandson again this year. There’s not much here that’s either academic or mentally taxing but I promised myself a lot of pure fantasy this year.”

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