Literary Faculty Offer Summer Reading Recommendations

Dr. Clay Reynolds

Dr. Clay Reynolds

Just in time for summer, UT Dallas literature professors have offered their picks for best poolside, beach or airplane seat reading.

The recommendations cover a variety of styles, including history, poetry, humor and a 19th-century fiction classic.

Dr. Clay Reynolds, director of the creative writing program at UT Dallas, recommends a turn to the past that will shed light on the present and keep readers amused as well.

For anyone interested in the shaping of American society and political culture, and in the heroics of World War II, Reynolds recommends Eisenhower in War and Peace, by Jean Edward Smith.

Eisenhower, written by Dr. Clay Reynolds

“For younger readers for whom Eisenhower is a historical president, this is an indispensable introduction to the generation of the ‘baby-boomers’ and the source of a lot of our current social and political institutions and structures. It’s entertaining, as well, very nicely written with a good flow,” he said.

Reynolds also recommends a new volume by Jim Donovan, The Blood of Heroes.

“For many who have come to Texas too late to be born here and claim honest citizenship in the state, this is a marvelous accounting of a story that most people think they already know, the siege of the Alamo and the struggle for Texas’ independence from Mexico.”

Susan Briante

Dr. Susan Briante

Dr. Susan Briante, assistant professor of creative writing and literature, says that with the longer days and slower routine, summer reading should include a book of poetry.

Robert Hass' Praise

“Robert Hass’ second collection Praise is filled with a prolonged attention to quotidian detail that rises to a marvelous profundity. His poems match the season’s gentle rhythms,” said Briante.

Briante also says readers can escape the heat with Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day. Written on December 22, 1978, the poem documents one day in the life of the poet with her husband and two daughters in snowy Lennox, Mass.

“In six parts, Midwinter Day takes readers from awakening and emerging from dreams through a whole morning, afternoon, evening and return to sleep. In any season, it is an important meditation on the relationship between the domestic and the artistic, as well as a work of great inspiration for anyone trying to make a life out of both.”

Dr. Kenneth Brewer is teaching a literature course this summer on the anti-hero. On the class reading list is Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.

Thackeray's Vanity Fair Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Vanity Fair has one of the great anti-heroines of modern literature, Becky Sharp. The plot takes place around the Napoleonic Wars, so there’s war, intrigue, handsome men, beautiful women, crime, mystery, people making it to the top and tumbling down, social satire – including satire about the stock market, which is very relevant to the present, obviously,” Brewer said.

Dr. Peter Ingrao is teaching a course on 20th-century American literature. He recommends Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

“Thompson’s writing has great humor and momentum to hold a reader, but also moments of great insight and pathos concerning important cultural shifts in American history.  In short, the book is fun and has moments of great beauty,” Ingrao said.

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