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Friday, April 12, 2024

English majors, professors share their favorite book recommendations

Who better to recommend you a book than someone who has read, well, hundreds?


By FAITH DEMEULENAERE — features@theaggie.org  


In the halls of UC Davis, the English department serves as a sanctuary for those who find solace in the written word. Beyond the rigors of academia, a group of literary experts, both students and professors alike, share a collective passion for storytelling that transcends the boundaries of the classroom.

From the pages of classic literature to the contemporary world of undiscovered new voices, these authors extend their influence, offering students a curated roadmap to navigate the vast and enchanting realms of literature. 

If you’re in a drought of good reads this rainy winter, fear not. These seasoned English majors and professors have read a plethora of books, and some might be to your taste. 

Theodore Sprague, a fourth-year English major, recommends Kurt Vonnegut’s “Galapagos.” 

“It’s a sci-fi novel set in the not-so-distant past that unpacks questions about fate, thought and human nature in a darkly comedic way,” Sprague said. “I would recommend it to those who struggle to rationalize the rough edges and inconsistencies of mankind or maybe to those who want to read something that’s poetically unhinged.”

English Professor Matthew Vernon likes classics that never get old. 

“The book I return to most often is Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man.’ It’s one of those books that changes with you over time,” Vernon said. “When I first read it as a teenager, it was a book about growing up and aspiring to make it in a big city. As I entered my 20s, it was a book about disillusionment and having to find yourself. Still, later, it became a book about trying to make yourself visible in a world that often wants you to resemble it.”

Vernon continued by describing what the book offers to the reader. 

“The point is that if I had to recommend a book to someone I didn’t know, it would be one that could meet them where they were,” Vernon said. “‘Invisible Man is one of those books that contains multitudes inside of it, and I could imagine that most people would find some part of the book to speak to them.” 

English Professor Chip Badley recommended a story that lingers and sticks with you for a long time. 

“I’d have to recommend Rachel Cusk’s ‘Outline,’ which taught me that literature, like love, offers a crash course in how to pay attention,” Badley said. “I inhaled the trilogy during the COVID pandemic and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.”

Jeff Solomon, a fellow UC Davis English professor, couldn’t help but recommend two.

“For someone younger than me, reading in English, living in Davis right now who’s looking for a book that would suck them in and hold their attention in a delightful way — and relieve a book drought — I’d recommend Gabrielle Zevin’s ‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,’” Solomon said. “Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad​’ would be my very close second choice, for mostly the same reasons. Both are technically playful, but not in a taxing way that requires tons of attention; both offer great moments of surprise and delight. Fun reads, thought-provoking, good payoff at the end. Five stars.”

Even though the books listed above are the stars of this literary stage, some honorable mentions the people above also recommended were Haruki Murakami’s “Hard Boiled Wonderland,” Christina Sharpe’s “Ordinary Notes” and Susanna Kaysen’s “Girl, Interrupted.”

Hopefully, these top-tier recommendations stir up some curiosity, and you can find your new favorite novel. Stay well-read, Aggies.


Written by: Faith DeMeulenaere — features@theaggie.org



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