Sanford's Summer Bookshelf
Summer reading sometimes shows up on syllabuses (or syllabi, for the Latin aficionados) so we were wondering – What did Sanford School faculty members fill their heads with this summer? Some of them took time to let us know, and here’s what they said.
Marc F. Bellemare
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics
1. Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco (Mariner Books, 1988)
"This book is to The Da Vinci Code what The Wire is to CSI: Miami. In it, Eco tells the story of three friends who work for a Milanese publisher. After their boss decides to launch a series of books on the occult, which forces them to meet with crackpot conspiracy theorist after crackpot conspiracy theorist, the three friends decide to make up their own conspiracy theory. By the time they realize that many crackpot conspiracy theorists have taken them seriously, our three friends are trapped in their own game.
This is my favorite novel. Ever. It is also the only book which I have read in French, English, and Italian. I read it in French first while I was in middle school in Montreal. I read it in Italian when I worked in Rome, in between my master’s and my PhD. I read it in English while I was doing fieldwork in Madagascar for my dissertation. This book is my cultural litmus test. Every time I read it, I realized that I have learned something new since I read it last. I read it this summer while crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 after a year on sabbatical in Belgium. This time around, I realized that what I had learned in the meantime was the physics behind Foucault's experience aimed at demonstrating the rotation of the earth, which I learned about when my wife and I visited the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris."
2. What Works in Development?, Jessica Cohen and William Easterly (Brookings Institution Press, 2009)
"This edited volume consists of papers that were presented at a conference organized by the authors and held at Brookings in 2008, along with comments by discussants. I plan to include some of the chapters in the seminar I teach in the fall on the Microeconomics of International Development Policy.
Lant Pritchett's essay on the policy irrelevance of the economics of education was the most thought-provoking. In his chapter, Pritchett essentially explains how economists have been using a framework which assumes that education policymakers choose an allocation to maximize social welfare, but that the model derived from that hypothesis is wrong. Rather, Pritchett posits that the goal of education is to convey certain values, social norms, and behaviors. This hit pretty close to home, because in Canada where I am from, it is constitutionally up to the provinces to manage their education systems, and the federal government really has no say in what is being taught in schools. I always thought a great deal of the political attitudes in Quebec were due to this particular feature of the Canadian constitution."
3. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (Penguin, 1967)
"There are two storylines in this novel. The first one is about the Devil paying a visit to atheist, Stalin-era Moscow and playing tricks on its inhabitants, which constitutes a satire of life under Stalin. The second is about Pontius Pilate meeting Jesus face to face, which turns out to be the storyline of a novel written by the eponymous Master. Bulgakov burned the first draft of the novel because he did not think it could ever be published in the USSR, and he portrays that experience in the character of the Master. As someone who cares about free speech, I found this book fascinating. This was also the first book I read on my Amazon Kindle. The book was an inspiration for Mick Jagger when he penned 'Sympathy for the Devil,' apparently."
William “Sandy” Darity Jr.
Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies, and Economics;
Director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality
1. Sea of Poppies: A Novel, Amitav Ghosh (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2008)
"I've been a Ghosh fan since I read his ethnography/ memoir/ novel/ historical detective work study, In an Antique Land. That led me to his sci-fi novel The Calcutta Chromosome. And now I'm reading his latest work, a zany novel set on the eve of the Opium Wars where he sets a genuinely motley crew a sea going from India to Mauritius. Terrific read thus far.
2. Fire on the Mountain, Terry Bisson (PM Press 2009; originally published in 1988)
This is one of my favorite pieces of speculative fiction, describing the world that would have emerged if John Brown had been successful at Harpers Ferry and had sparked a war of liberation by enslaved Africans that resulted in the formation of the nation of Nova Africa below the Mason-Dixon line.
Newly republished, I reread it this summer and found myself surprised at how clever it is as a revisioning of North American history. The "true" history (our history) is summarized in Bisson's novel in a white supremacist tract called John Brown's Body that constitutes an alternative history for the world he has created; instead of Scientific American the premier popular science magazine in Bisson's world is Scientific African. And Nova Africa has progressed so rapidly technologically that they are about to complete a manned landing on the surface of Mars in 1959!"
3. Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Muhammad Yunnus (Perseus Books Group, 2007)
"Albert Karcher, a 2010 public policy graduate, sent me Yunnus' book as a gift. I have been absorbed by it trying to discern what Yunnus' answer is to a question that long has puzzled me about the microcredit revolution: if these loans are so profitable why have traditional lenders been so reluctant to make them? At the risk of heresy, I'm not convinced yet that there is a satisfactory answer to my question in Yunnus' discussion of the Grameen Bank experience. So,unfortunately, I remain suspicious that microcredit as a route to eliminating global poverty is grossly oversold."
4. Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, John Hartwell Moore, ed. (Gale Cengage Learning, 2008; 3 volumes)
"Due in part to a hugely controversial entry on “Zionism,” Cengage has decided to commission the development of a new edition of its Encyclopedia of Race and Racism and has asked me to serve on the editorial board for the project. Consequently with other editors I am reading the entire encyclopedia to determine which entries should be retained, which should be rewritten, and which entirely new entries are needed."
5. “The ArchAndroid,” Janelle Monae (released May 18, 2010, on Wondaland Arts Society and Bad Boy Records)
"The most interesting new work that I've come across this summer is not something that I've read. It is this CD by the remarkable young vocalist/composer Janelle Monae. It is a concept album where she has appropriated and refashioned the structure of Fritz Lang's remarkable 1927 silent film "Metropolis" to provide the frame for her songs. My favorite on the album filled with spectacular music is the hauntingly romantic, 'Neon Valley Street.'"
Charles S. Sydnor Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Political Science and Economics;
Director, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
"These books allow two journalists to describe the human costs of current wars. The stories they tell are daily narratives that go much deeper than what an individual story in a paper or update on TV would allow. One of the byproducts of major papers posting reporters abroad is that they have the time to research long-form journalism projects. I'm concerned that as fewer US reporters are stationed abroad, we'll see fewer books like these."
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research; ITT/Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Economics and Sociology and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Child and Family Policy
1. Deaf Sentence, David Lodge (Viking, 2008)
"I'm a fan of David Lodge’s novels about his version of academic life. This one includes a fascinating and disturbing reflection on the social isolation caused by becoming deaf, something Lodge himself has experienced."
James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science
1. War Stories: The Causes and Consequences of Public Views of War, ed. Matthew A. Baum and Tim J. Groeling (Princeton University Press, 2010)
"One of the most difficult research tasks is the isolation of the effect of the media on the object of study: elite politics, audience consumption, credibility of medium, and many others. This book is a very valuable step in the direction of drawing apart the different strands that can make up effects, while counter-arguing convincingly against other explanations. A study such as this one is particularly important, these days, when the issue at hand is U.S. foreign policy -- how it is covered; and how administrations, party elites, and journalists attempt to frame conflict.
Only two chapters treat cable news—in this case CNN and Fox news—and only one attempts to enter the blogosphere. Disappointingly, much is still centered on the Big Three evening television newscasts, whose audiences are declining in number and aging quickly. The methodology is fascinating, as is the detailed building on previous studies of support for foreign policy. One gripe: sometimes, not often, polls are used from organizations with a fairly low reputation for accuracy and reliability.
My own work on media effects will surely be richer for the insights provided by this work."
2. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan (HarperCollins, 2008)
"This is a magnificent biography of Lincoln’s writing. History, in general, enters the scene, but the intensive study of the finest presidential speeches and other writing make the reader wonder with awe at the power of speech never before or since equaled. The Second Inaugural, arguably the finest work of a leader we shall ever see, comes into being as part of the increasing ability of Lincoln to find his mature style and his profound emotion and command of words. Both the Bible and Shakespeare provide the common background between him and the Americans he addressed.
It didn’t come easily. The early works—written and spoken—are too ornate or too micro-specialized and micro-directed to achieve greatness. Kaplan is a master of tracing the path to what we all know as fine presidential communication. I also found again and again the power of words to project and to create policy. At the level Lincoln used in his finest speeches, quite specific policies were put forward. They were not obscured by his rhetoric, but rather, to the contrary, made far more real and necessary.
What leaders say; how they say it; what medium they choose is today fractionated in every country, even though authoritarian leaders believe (erroneously) that pronouncements to the citizens are assimilated as given. My research has shown this is not so and publics are far more skeptical and able to introduce supplementary or contradictory information from their own experience. It is inspiring and quite impressive to go back to a time when the greatest of them all developed and perfected an unequaled ability to speak to us."
Visiting professor in Public Policy
1. Beatrice and Virgil: A Novel, Yann Martel (Mariner Books, 2010)
"I was five years behind everyone else in reading Martel’s Life of Pi. I found that so intriguing I wanted to read more. This latest work is about the Holocaust. Much like Pi, it poses but does not answer moral questions. Martel makes me question my own thought processes and how I make my decisions."
2. Imagination in Place, Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 2010)
"I try to read at least one book related to the environment each summer. Berry has long been a favorite."
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot (Crown, 2010)
"I realize I lag behind most of the Duke community in reading Rebecca Skloot's nonfiction account of the woman whose cervical cancer cells have outlived her in test tubes worldwide. My neurologist in California recommended this book to me in April just before I went to California for the summer. It took two months to get a copy from the library, but it was worth the wait. The book is a masterpiece of writing and research. I will make it part of my course materials next summer."
Research Professor of Public Policy, Department of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine, and Department of Biology;
Director of the Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy, Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy
1. Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family, Pauli Murray (Beacon Press, 1999) and 2.“,” Pauli Murray (HarperCollins, 1987)
"Both of these books are very well written, deal with the social history of our region—Durham specifically—and capture what it was like to be a black woman of mixed racial background from 1910 through the Civil Rights Movement and into the 1980s. Bill Chafe, Bob Korstad and others could no doubt say much more about these books than I can, and my only observation is that they have special resonance for those of us who live here, with many allusions to places and events in Durham and Chapel Hill."