Looking for books to read over winter break? President Knapp has some ideas

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Emily Holland

Once you dig through final papers and exams, winter break gives you a few weeks to take on some recreational reading that did not fit in the tight semester schedule.

The Hatchet asked various professors and faculty members for their current favorite books that would make for great leisure reading or last-minute holiday gifts. Here’s what they said:

University President Steven Knapp


Everything Is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us” by Duncan J. Watts

“It’s a fascinating and rather sobering account of how the human tendency to make sense of experience by devising ‘commonsense’ explanations is both necessary and highly fallible. For those of us in the business of either planning strategies for the future or reconstructing explanations of what occurred in the past, I think this is a good candidate for essential reading.”


Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens

“I was recently on a river taxi on the Thames River in London and was once again awed by the river’s sheer power, as well as the vast stretch of history it flows by. The experience reminded me of the astoundingly bleak and thrilling opening of Charles Dickens’s rich and highly entertaining late novel ‘Our Mutual Friend,’ which leads me to recommend for holiday shopping and/or reading over the break anything by Dickens you can get your hands on.”

Irene Foster – assistant professor of economics


Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

 “A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Kahneman discusses his research with Amos Tversky on the different ways we think. Much of this work is the basis for behavioral economics. The book is an easy and fascinating read.”

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

“A broad and sweeping discussion based on economic history and development economics on why some countries are rich and others are poor. The examples in the book are very interesting and will make for good holiday party conversations!”


March: Book One,” the first installment of a three-part graphic novel by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

“It is a vivid description of his involvement in the civil-rights movement – the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom rides, etc.  I was particularly interested in the fact that he wrote this as a graphic novel to interest younger generations. Since I spent many years teaching at Vanderbilt and Tennessee State University (an HBCU) in Nashville, Tenn. where the lunch counter sit-ins took place and where many of the Freedom Riders are from, I will be looking forward to installments 2 and 3.”

David McAleavey – professor of English


Slow Lightning” by Eduardo Corral

“Deeply empathic, startlingly imaginative, full of violence and love and desire. Could be tough going for those not very familiar with reading poetry, and his being an outspoken gay Hispanic writer means that there are many sharp edges here. Read with care! I’ve been having students read this the past couple of semesters, and I’d say that it’s the book that has had the strongest impact on them.”


I Am a Strange Loop” by Douglas Hofstadter

“I’m sure there are better books exploring the intersection of neuroscience and the philosophy of mind, but this suggests a way to understand our sense of being individuals that doesn’t posit any actual separate thing that corresponds to identity (no ‘soul’ or ‘true self’). Instead, Hofstadter suggests our sense of who we are is built up the way a loop in a circuit is created, as an epiphenomenon – real enough, but a byproduct. That idea has many intriguing repercussions, and it’s a book I’ve thought a lot about over the past few years.”

Beth Adams – adjunct assistant professor in the department of clinical research and leadership


To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“I’ve read this book countless times but each time I come away reminded that though there is a great capacity for evil in this world, there is a greater capacity for good. I believe that the greatest ‘tool’ we carry with us each day is our humanity and with that ‘tool’ we have the potential to change someone’s day by something as simple as a smile, a greeting or a helpful hand. Scout Finch reaffirms this belief when she averts evil by greeting a neighbor in the midst of an angry mob with torches & pitchforks.”

The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

“Narrated by Death, this beautifully written book tells the story of Liesel, a ten-year-old girl in Nazi Germany from 1939-1943. The books she steals mark events in her life and fuel her transformation from illiterate to literate to author, along with her understanding that words have the power to transform and cut the tension between human kindness and human cruelty. Imagine choosing 10 books to tell the story of your life.”

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