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December 15, 2017

What We’re Reading Over the Winter Recess

‘Twas the week before recess, and all across Pitt,
Not a student is stirring, the dorm rooms aren’t lit.
Their finals are through, Cathy’s empty — go look;
Now employees have time to read a good book.

No matter your genre, author or interest,
The winter break’s long enough to start and to finish
A library loaner or just-received gift,
So see what we’re reading when we finish our shift.


Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

Müge Finkel

Assistant Professor of International Development

“The Red-Haired Woman: A Novel” by Orhan Pamuk.

“I love Pamuk and I want to make some sense of what’s happening to Turkey,” said Finel.


Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

Jeffrey Inman

Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Marketing

“The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis

Said Inman: “I have always been interested in consumer choice behavior and this book describes the origination of Prospect Theory that launched the field of behavioral economics.”
“The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire” by Andrew O’Shaughnessy

“I guess my interest here stems from listening to the ‘Hamilton’ soundtrack. The book describes how the British leadership’s strategies and decisions led to the American Revolution.”


Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Julie Fiez

Department Chair and Professor, Department of Psychology

The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

“It is a work of historical fiction set in early 1800’s Charleston,” said Fiez. “My book club chose to read it for the perspective it provides on the abolition and women’s rights movements.”


Michael Goodhart

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Director, Global Studies Center, University Center for International Studies
“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia


Meredith Guthrie

Media Scholar, Department of Communication

“Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Caroline Fraser

Guthrie said that she’s looking forward to reading the new biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books, “because of the huge impact the LHOTP books have had on American popular culture (and my own childhood).”


Melanie Hughes

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

“Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris

“It’s escapism — I want to read anything that isn’t close to my work,” Hughes said.


Kristin Kanthak

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

“History of Women in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1923-2005” by Jean Hearn Schmedlen

“I’m hoping to learn more about the history of political women in Pennsylvania, possibly even get some more insight into why there are still so few women in politics in Pennsylvania.”


Jennifer Silk

Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology

“Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders

Silk said that she’s reading it for her book club, which includes several other female Pitt faculty in the schools of social work, law and education.


John Twyning

Professor, Department of English
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

“Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness” by Peter Godfrey-Smith

“It’s certainly changing my mind,” Twyning said.


Office of Community and Governmental Relations

Jamie Ducar

Assistant Director of Community Relations

“Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink

“God Help the Child” by Toni Morrison

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabell Wilkerson

“On my reading list right now, I am juggling a few books,” said Ducar. “One is purchased, one is an e-book from the Carnegie Library OverDrive app on my iPhone, and the last is a physical check out from the Carnegie Library — so I’ll never be without a good book nearby!”


Office of Institutional Advancement

Mark Nootbaar

Senior Writer and Editor

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World” by Eric Metaxas

“It is the 500th anniversary of the reformation and what better source than a Metaxas book?” said Nootbar.

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone” by George Black

“I’m heading out west for a family vacation this summer and I always like to read one history from a region where I’m visiting and one fiction set in the region,” said Nootbaar.

Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

“Because sometimes you need an easy read and it’s near the top of my pile of light fiction.”


Jane Rollman

Director of Strategic Initiatives

The Overachievers” by Alexandra Robbins.

Rollman said that the book that profiles families and kids through the college application process hits close to home. “We have a high school senior who just submitted her applications, so I thought it would be interesting.”

The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman

The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult

Rollman said that a trip to Berlin’s Topography of Terror Museum, formerly a headquarters for Nazi Secret State police, inspired her to do more reading about the Holocaust.


Office of University Communications

Robyn Coggins

Senior Editor, Pittwire

“Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson 

“I wanted a book similar to Erik Larson’s historical nonfiction (I spent last break tearing through ‘In the Garden of Beasts’), and this seemed like a good analogous pick with plenty of crime-y intrigue,” said Coggins.

“Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung” by Min Kym

“A reviewer in the Guardian called it his favorite book of the year, which sounded like a good endorsement. It’s also a little off-subject from the kinds of books I usually read, so something different.”

“Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon” by Henry Marsh

“I loved Marsh’s first book (‘Do No Harm’) about his work as a neurosurgeon, so I figured I’d pick up his next one.”


Katie Fike

Communications Specialist, University Times

“10% Happier” by Dan Harris

“I hope to learn more about how to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life,” Fike said.


Ellie Graves

Editor, University Times

“Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics” by Jason Porath

“I bought this earlier this year with the intention of eventually sharing it with my daughter. The short stories and bios are empowering and fun to read. I love sharing it with her and I’m looking forward to having time to read more of the stories over the break.”


Marsha Lee

Media Relations Associate

“I Almost Forgot About You” by Terri McMillan

“It’s a fun book that I had started reading back in the summer and never finished,” Lee said. “A few weeks ago, I found out Viola Davis may be staring in a movie version and am excited about that. I plan to finish reading it during the break.”


Marty Levine

Writer, University Times

“My Adventures with God” and “The Dangerous Animals Club” by Stephen Tobolowsky

These two are atop Levine’s pile for winter break reading. “His readings – really performances – on The Tobolowsky Files podcast are always wonderful.”

“Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years” by Michael Palin

“The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests” by Chris Smith

“Amusement, melancholy and hidden truths — what more can you ask from books?” said Levine.


Bruce Steele

Senior Web Content Editor

“Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings” by Dennis Tedlock

“I am prepping for a Maya-themed expedition to Belize and Guatemala in May,” explained Steele.


Susan Wiedel

Assistant Editor, Pitt Magazine

“Conversation in the Cathedral” by Mario Vargas Llosa

“Ever since I traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia, as a Pitt student, I’ve had an interest in Latin America, especially the Andean region of South America.”


School of Law

Chaz Arnett

Assistant Professor of Law

“Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel” by Isabel Allende

“Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” by James Forman Jr.


Deborah L. Brake

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development
John E. Murray Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law

“Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson” by Gordon S. Wood

“Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” and “The Story of the Lost Child” both by Ellen Ferrante


School of Social Work

Larry E. Davis

Dean and Donald M. Henderson Professor
Director, Center on Race and Social Problems

“We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson


Swanson School of Engineering

Joel Haight

Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering
Director of the Safety Engineering Program

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848” by Daniel Walker Howe

The Impending Crisis 1848-1861” by David M. Potter

The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” by James M. McPherson

“Not sure I can finish all three, but I am 500 pages into the first one already…we’ll hope,” said Haight.


George Stetten

Professor, Department of Bioengineering

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Stetten said that “Sapiens” is “an amusing and somewhat depressing book about our species, where it came from and where it’s headed.”


Staff Council

Andy Stephany

President, Staff Council
Pre-Award Administrator, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“It’s a fun, whimsical and emotional story,” said Stephany. “I read it to my 3-year-old daughter at bedtime chapter by chapter… It has given me perspective on how an individual’s environment has so much to do with attitude and how important attitude is toward personal growth and relationships. I was expecting to read a children’s book, but it goes beyond that for me.”


Debbie Whitfield

Parliamentarian, Staff Council
Assistant Patient Services Manager, School of Dental Medicine

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

“The lessons he left for them [his children] serve as great roadmaps for all of us,” Whitfield said.


University Center for International Studies

Ariel Armony

Vice Provost for Global Affairs

The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen


University Senate

Robin Kear

Vice President, University Senate
Liaison Librarian, University Library System

“Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan

“Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life” by Jessica Abel

“These are for pleasure reading,” said Kear. “Plus, the first [‘Manhattan Beach’] is for my book club and the second was recommended by a colleague.”


University Store on Fifth

John Burns

Buyer and Manager

“SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome” by Mary Beard

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers

Burns said he has an advance copy of book that is due out April 18 and that it ‘looks to be very interesting and ambitious and will probably end up being in the National Book Award conversation next year.”

“Year One” by Nora Roberts

“Believe it or not, Nora Roberts of all people, has an end of the world novel coming — just in time for Christmas, called Year One. I am a sucker for a good apocalypse novel so I will check it out; beyond the quality of the book, I am even more curious if the romance fans that send her typical books to the top of the bestseller list will follow her down this dark path. (Spoiler alert: It will probably sell more pre-orders than most novels published this year will sell — period).”


Looking for more inspiration on what to read — or what to buy for others as gifts — over the winter recess? John Burns, buyer and manager at the University Store on Fifth, recommended checking out the holiday book catalog where 148 titles, including descriptions, are available to purchase online.

“These are all books that the major publishers have selected as ones they wanted to feature and promote for the holiday season,” Burns said.

Shop before Dec. 22 to receive 20 percent off the regular price of titles listed in the holiday book catalog.

Ellie Graves,, 412-624-4360


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 9

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