English Department

at the University of Michigan-Flint

Once upon a time there was a series of blog posts that demonstrated that English Department faculty did other things besides write syllabi and take too long returning student work.  Now, after far too long a break, Who Are These People, Anyway? returns with shocking revelations about what we plan to read this summer as well as, in some cases, what we hope you’ll peruse.  If this doesn’t slake your thirst for faculty peculiarities, feel free to read back over the entire WATPA? archive – if you dare!

Scott Atkinson
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, by Michael Finkel
A fantastic nonfiction book that follows a man who spoke a total of one syllable over the course of 27 years while he hid in the main woods. In that time he became a living urban legend, a master thief who subsisted on the groceries he stole from local vacation cabins. After being caught, one reporter delved into his story and found that he might have been the most alone human being on the planet. A great read for anyone going camping–it will make them tempted to never come back.

The Heather Blazing, by Colm Toibin
Almost done with this, and I love it. It’s tough to say why. Not much happens. People die. The protagonist, if I heard about him on the news, would be someone I would probably hate. And yet I keep following him around these pages. A quiet, beautiful novel.

Planning to read
King of the World, by David Remnick
Combine my weird passion for combat sports with my huge journalism crush on New Yorker editor David Remnick (his Talk of the Town essays might be the only thing getting me through the Trump era) and I’m looking forward to reading this.

One of Charles Yu’s story collections. I don’t even know what they’re titled, but I’ve been meaning to ever since I read his story “Fable” in the New Yorker, and almost fell out of my chair laughing, then crying.

James Schirmer
For the summer

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell
  • Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet
  • Educated by Tara Westover

For students

  • Field Notes From a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

Kazuko Hiramatsu
This summer, I’m planning to read Amy Tan’s Where the Past Begins and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.

W. Kamau Bell

For students:
A few books that I’ve read in the past few months that I enjoyed include:
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Endurance by Scott Kelly

D. J. Trela
One of the first stories that made me cry was E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I still admire this book more than fifty years after I first read it. So I’m looking forward to reading the book about the book, Michael Sims’ The Story of Charlotte’s Web. White was fascinated by nature from an early age, lived much of his adult life in the countryside on a working farm, and invested his animals with both natural characteristics and human neuroses.

In preparation for development of an introductory course on science fiction, I also expect to read broadly in this genre, from originating works by Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, and George Orwell, 1984, as well as more recent authors like Asimov, Foundation, Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, and Octavia Butler, Kindred.

Stephanie Roach
A good portion of my summer reading happens when I can sit in a beach chair at the ocean.  I take a yearly trip to Maryland with my cousin and our entire agenda is soaking in the restorative salt and sand of the ocean—and racking up as many hours of uninterrupted reading as we can.  Friends and family who know that I tend to read six to eight hours at a time when I’m at the beach, gift me books throughout the year so that I build up quite a stack of options.  They know I’m always on the lookout for smart and witty reads and that I’m a sucker for a debut novel.  That current stack has books like The Dry (Jane Harper), The Gunners (Rebecca Kauffman), and Woman #17 (Edan Lepucki).  I can hardly wait to put my toes in the sand and start poring through the stack.

Dave Larsen
If I get to half of these, I’ll be happy.  I have big hopes. The Tom McGuane thing is just me getting around to an author I’ve been curious about for a while.

Thomas McGuane

Tom McGuane Books (some essays, some short stories, a novel):
Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing
Outside Chance
Sporting Club
Crow Fair

John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own

Habit of Rivers, edited by Ted Leeson
Astream: American Writers on Fly Fishing, edited by Robert DeMott.

I don’t have a particular reading recommendation for students. I  recommend finding an author and diving in.  See what they’re about. Find someone new to you.  If, after reading some of their work, you don’t like it, move on.

Steve Bernstein
Two years ago I got rid of hundreds of books, but in the time since I’ve amassed a small pile of (mercifully) short new ones to taunt me.  These are gifts or recommendations, though I couldn’t necessarily tell you who or what pointed me toward each one.  I hope I get through the whole stack:

Tarjei Vesaas – The Birds
Lisa Halliday – Asymmetry
Ian McEwan – On Chesil Beach
Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Claire-Louise Bennett – pond
Mathias Énard – Compass
Rachel Cusk – Kudos  (not in my stack, but out June 5; the conclusion of the fascinating Outline trilogy)

Short Stories
Peter Orner – Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge
Stephanie Carpenter – Missing Persons

Jana Prikryl – The After Party
Mai Der Vang – Afterland

James Elkins – What Heaven Looks Like
Kassia St. Clair – The Secret Lives of Color
Alexander Nehamas – Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art


And recommended:
Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol. 1
The most amazing graphic novel in years.  Hurry up, because the concluding second volume is coming this October.

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
A beautiful, funny, and moving novel about grief.  What’s not to like?

Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City: Poems
Graber is a conversational poet whose poems thrive on juxtaposition and connection.  Here’s one of them.  This is a stellar collection – just read her!

Mary Jo Kietzman
Summer reading (for fun):
George Eliot, Adam Bede
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (again)
Orhan Pamuk, A Strangeness in My Mind
Owen Lattimore, The Desert Road to TurkestanTerence
O’Donnell, Garden of the Brave in War:  Recollections of Iran

Recommendations for students:
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and one book of poetry … Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III or James Fenton’s Out of Danger

On behalf of the UM-Flint English Department,
Happy Reading, and Have a Great Summer!