We’re all doing our part to flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19, but physical distancing doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspiration from old familiar places.
This could be the perfect time to dive into a book (or audio book) that’s been collecting dust on your shelf or playlist. If you’re looking for what to read next, don’t worry, we’ve got you sorted.
We asked a cross-section of U of T Scarborough faculty to name some of their favourite books of all time and what makes them so great.
Here’s what they recommend:
Maydianne Andrade (professor, biology) is vice-dean of faculty affairs & equity who recently hosted The Nature of Things on CBC.
Reading now: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay.
Recommends: "Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. It’s the first of three novels in the Imperial Radch trilogy. I recommend all of them, but the first can be read as a stand-alone. This is a science fiction series with themes about identity and power, and elegant, compelling writing. At the risk of a (slight) spoiler, one of the species in the novel is gender-neutral, and I found it fascinating because I would periodically realize I was thinking of a character as ‘he’ but the character would flip (in my mind) to ‘she’ as a function of what was happening at that point in the story. Strange and thought-provoking effect. It was also full of great action and fantasy technology."
Hilary Brown (assistant professor, health studies) is an expert on reproductive, maternal and child health.
Reading now: Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al-Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung.
Recommends: “I’m currently (slowly) working my way through the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist. Everything on the shortlist is great, especially Brother by David Chariandy, which is set in Scarborough. Both are a bit somber, but have beautiful storylines that draw you in. My favourite book is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – no particular reason, it’s just beautifully written.”
Marc Cadotte (professor, biology) is an expert on urban forest conservation and biology.
Reading now: Fargo Adventure Series by Clive Cussler.
Recommends: “The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson. It’s a book to get you thinking about the outdoors, far-flung places, and about the diversity of life around us. Since you’re indoors, why not explore the jungles of the Amazon or the birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea? There are valuable lessons about our impacts on Earth’s biodiversity as well. Much food for thought.”
Jeffrey Dvorkin (lecturer/program director, journalism) is a former CBS, NPR and CBC journalist.
Reading now: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson.
Recommends: “When I was 19 years old I read The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. It’s about a young man who decides to leave the road set out for him by his family and his class. He seeks instead a different way of seeing and experiencing the world. It was written after World War I, but it was a book that really spoke to me as a young man, trying to find his way during a time of conflict and confusion, not unlike what we are going through now.”
April Franco (associate professor, management) is an expert on entrepreneurship and how knowledge is transferred across organizations.
Reading now: The Broken Spears by Miguel León-Portilla.
Recommends: “As an economist, I often am surprised by the idea that all economists care about is money. My teenage son was included in this group until we had a long discussion. Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar presents the history of the development of economics as a social science, and the drive by individuals like John Stuart Mills to improve the lives of the poor. I highly recommend it.”
Yoel Inbar (associate professor, psychology) is co-host of Two Psychologists Four Beers podcast along with Michael Inzlicht.
Reading now: The Book of Why by Judea Pearl.
Recommends: “I always find myself going back to fiction, particularly the classics, when times are bad. The Sun Also Rises, which is Hemingway's first novel, has always been one of my favorites. It has just the right balance of despair and optimism for tough times. It also has wine and bullfighting.”
Michael Inzlict (professor, psychology) has co-edited several books and co-hosts the podcast Two Psychologists Four Beers with colleague Yoel Inbar.
Reading now: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.
Recommends: “I recommend The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. This book introduces us to Daniel Kahneman and Amost Tversky, two Israeli psychologists whose friendship changed how we think about rationality, and in the process transformed not only psychology and economics, but also the world of sports and medicine.”
Katie Larson (professor, English) is chair of the English department and author of two books.
Reading now: The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.
Recommends: “One of the most inspiring books I’ve read in the last decade is The Overstory by Richard Powers, a beautifully crafted book that interweaves stories of individuals, families, and trees across generations and geographies. It has forever changed how I look at and relate to trees.”
Nick Mandrak (professor, biology) is a renowned expert on aquatic invasive species.
Just finished: Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson.
Recommends: “For those into biology, but one that is very accessible, there is The Aliens Among Us by Leslie Anthony. It’s a Canadian book about global issues on invasive species and includes research done at U of T Scarborough. Then of course there’s On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.”
Adam Mott (assistant professor, biology) is an expert on plant biology whose research is helping to develop more disease-resistant vegetables.
Just finished: Sisters and Spies by Susan Ottaway
Recommends: "The only book I’ve read more than once is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. It's a series of nostalgic vignettes of life on Cannery Row, roughly centered around Doc, a marine biologist, and the party that his friends are trying to throw for him. It's just a sweet story of friendship and trying to do your best in a community. It’s exceptionally well written."
Mary Silcox (professor, anthropology) is a paleontologist and expert on fossil mammals.
Reading now: Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald.
Recomends: “The book I recommend for right now is Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. Since none of us are going to be traveling in the near future, it might be fun to go along with him as he travels the world trying to locate members of species that are on the brink of extinction. There is actually a series available on DVD with British comedian Stephen Fry, who tries to trace Adams' steps. The book is both wonderfully funny, and terribly sad. A good distraction.”
Michelle Silver (associate professor, sociology) recently published her first book Retirement and its Discontents.
Just finished: The Glass Castle by Jeannetee Walls.
Recommends: “I highly recommend My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; or better yet the whole series of four books that make up the Neapolitan Novels. It’s a story of friendship, relationships, politics, and much else, that span a life course.”
Julie Teichroeb (assistant professor, anthropology) is an expert on primate behaviour and human evolution.
Just finished: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
Recommends: “My favorite book is a field work/science memoir called A Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky. It is really funny and gives an accurate portrayal of what it is like to study wild primates in Africa.”
Dan Weaver (assistant professor, physics) is an atmospheric physicist as well as a photographer and musician with two recommendations.
Recommends: What If? by Randall Munroe. The author is an engineer by training and applies rigorous math and scientific analysis to “absurd hypothetical questions” with entertaining results. I love that it applies serious scientific analysis to whimsical questions about the world. Science is curiosity and fun. Parts of it are also free online. Also, Aurora by Melanie Windridge is a fascinating exploration of the science and culture of the northern lights.”
Full list of recommendations
Maydianne Andrade – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Hilary Brown – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Marc Cadotte – Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson
Jeffrey Dvorkin – The Razors Edge by Somerset Maugham
April Franco – Grand Pursuit: the Story of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar
Yoel Inbar – The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Michael Inzlicht – The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
Katie Larson – The Overstory by Richard Powers
Nick Mandrak – The Aliens Among Us by Leslie Anthony
Adam Mott – Cannery Row by John Steinback
Mary Silcox – Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
Michelle Silver – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Julie Teichroeb – A Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky