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From the English Department: Book Recommendations

Are you looking for book recommendations this holiday season? St. Mary’s English teachers have each recommended a title with a brief description to serve as a gift for a beloved bookworm or an absorbing treat to be devoured by the fire, mug of tea in hand. Please enjoy the following selections during this joyous season!

All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day, Jim Forest

Recommended by: Anne Hainley

When Pope Francis spoke to Congress, he recognized Dorothy Day and her vision of social justice and Catholic spirituality. I first “met” Dorothy in college through reading her autobiography The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day. In 2011, a more extensive biography, drawing on her diary and letters, was published. Authored by Jim Forest, All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day provides new insights to the extraordinary life of Dorothy and the founding of the Catholic Worker movement.

My Brilliant FriendElena Ferrante

Recommended by: Sara Salvi

This is the first in a trilogy about an unusual friendship of two very bright girls who grow up in hard-scrabble Naples just after World War II. The novel remains on The New York Times best sellers list and has fueled even more interest in the mysterious author whose reclusive nature makes Salinger look gregarious!

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended by: Francesca Cronan

An exploration of how artistic expression and the human spirit endure after a virus has wreaked havoc on civilization, this novel offers intriguing and occasionally enigmatic characters as well as poignant insights. While the dystopian setting may initially seem familiar and trendy, this novel offers a fresh perspective with unexpected twists.

Every Man Dies Alone, Hans Fallada

Recommended by: Ashley Whitty

In his 1947 novel Every Man Dies Alone, Hans Fallada offers a thrilling portrait of wartime Berlin. Inspired by true events, this novel captures the daring activity of a husband and wife who became an important part of the German Resistance during WWII. Fallada’s beautiful novel is perfect for WWII enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates a tale that examines the power of the human spirit.

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, Ann Patchett

Recommended by: Mary Barrett

A memoir about Patchett’s complicated friendship with the dynamic but demanding writer Lucy Grealy. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship is a beautiful and engaging story about the challenges, changes and choices within friendships.

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz The Great Sufi Master, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Recommended by: Kirk Ellis

This collection of poems by the 13th century Persian mystic can provide healing, joy and humor. The beauty of the book is that it can be picked up and put down frequently, yet each short read can be powerful. Enjoy!

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, John Seabrook

Recommended by: Ellie Gilbert

You may have noticed that in the last decade a new song structure has emerged: one that includes an inescapably catchy hook that seems to be repeated over and over and over… Turns out – you’re right. What you may not know is that there is a precision to that repetition, a finely tuned formula that dictates—to the second—how often the hook is repeated: every seven seconds. What may stun you is, 80 percent of the last decade’s top radio hits are written by just 5 people: an African-American actress from Oklahoma who starred in the movie Pitch Perfect, two forty-somethings from Norway,  one high school dropout from Sweden, and one former lead guitarist in the Saturday Night Live house band. If you don’t have time to tackle the book, you might consider reading the piece that started it all: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/blank-space-what-kind-of-genius-is-max-martin

Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, Richard Dawkins

Recommended by: Carrie Housley

Especially entertaining in this autobiography of the evolutionary biologist’s life is Dawkins’ description of interview questions used at New College, Oxford. Prospective students were asked to ponder topics such as “It has been proposed that El Greco, who painted elongated figures, suffered from an eye condition. What is your assessment of this theory?” Students’ correct answers did not matter so much as their willingness to engage in critical thinking. That is precisely the attribute that makes Dawkins’ book so engaging.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

Recommended by: Carrie Housley

Glimpsing something shocking on her morning commute on the train, Rachel does her duty as a citizen, telling the police, but she also cannot stop herself from becoming immersed in the mystery. Divorced and lonely, Rachel finds a new purpose in following the trail. This psychological thriller is a perfect gift for mystery lovers.