Mason Staff Indulge in Summertime Reads

Posted: June 7, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Gazette Staff

Ah, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer … well, not so lazy, it appears, for George Mason faculty and staff who have ambitious plans to read lots of books in less than three short months.

The Gazette did an informal survey via e-mail to see what people around the university are reading this summer. In many cases, respondents thoughtfully provided a little background on their choices as well.

Diane Coppage, assistant director, Development, who just earned her MA in English, says, “I’m re-reading Austen and Wharton this summer. Also hope to catch up on books I’ve missed while I was taking classes – for example, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and some of the new P.D. James mysteries.”

Steve Klein, coordinator of the electronic journalism minor in the Department of Communication, has come up with a long list that he’s vowed to plow through. His selections, most with a journalistic bent, include:

  • “Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism” by Eric Burns. “The book is about the beginning of journalism in America and why it was never meant to be purely objective.”
  • “Letters to a Young Journalist” by Samuel G. Freedman. “Advice for young journalists.”
  • “Reporting: Writings from the New Yorker” by David Remnick. “The master of the journalistic profile.”
  • “Best Seat in the House: A Father, a Daughter, a Journey through Sports” by Christine Brennan. “Christine is a USA Today sports columnist, figure skating authority, frequent guest to my classes at Mason and a good friend.”
  • “Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball’s Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded” by Gene Carney. “The subject of my master’s thesis – and I’m quoted throughout the book!”
  • “The Sand Café,” a novel by Neil MacFarquhar on war correspondents during the first Iraqi War.
  • “Everyman,” a novel by Philip Roth, “because he is one of our greatest living authors and I read everything he writes.”

Katie Mirick Thomasson, assistant director, Alumni Affairs, plans on reading her book club’s choices:

  • “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
  • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

    As well as:
  • “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
  • “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” by Pearl Cleage

Andrew Wingfield, assistant professor, New Century College, has only one book on his summer list so far:

  • “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. Wingfield explains that the book traces four different meals – a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald’s; roast chicken, vegetables and a salad from Whole Foods; grilled chicken, corn and a chocolate soufflé (made with fresh eggs) from a sustainable farm; and, finally, mushrooms and pork, foraged from the wild – back to their origins.

    “The idea is to help us think about what Americans eat and how it gets from field to table. From what I gather, Pollan is especially interested in the ecological and ethical issues arising from food production, distribution and consumption. This subject fascinates me, and I really like Pollan’s writing. His book on gardening, ‘Second Nature,’ is excellent.”

    Terry Zawacki, director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, says:

    • “I’m starting ‘Sidewalks,’ an ethnography on street vendors by Mitch Duneier, the scholar Steve Vallas [chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology] brought in to speak in the spring. Probably the closest to a beach book – it’s a great read even though by an academic.
    • “I’m also reading a history of Scandinavia in preparation for a trip to Sweden for my son’s wedding to a woman from Stockholm.
    • “And I’m reading ‘What We Really Value: Beyond Rubrics in Teaching and Assessing Writing.'”

    Chris Jones, chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, has picked out two books:

    • “The Storm,” which is about what went wrong and why during Hurricane Katrina – the inside story from one Louisiana scientist, by Ivor van Heerden and Mike Brown. Jones hopes to try to understand better the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the ecosystems of Louisiana.
    • “At Canaan’s Edge,” America in the King years, by Taylor Branch “to try learn more about those times.”

    David Kuebrich, associate professor of English, also has two books on his summer reading list:

    • Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” which he says is “a page-turner – quite a long one, but still a fast read.”
    • Antonia Juhasz’ “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time.”

    Members of Mason’s nonfiction book discussion group are keeping it topical this summer by reading “The Gospel of Judas,” edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer and Gregor Wurst. Pages from the codex are currently on display at the National Geographic Museum Explorers Hall in Washington, D.C.

    The group will discuss the book on Tuesday, June 20, at 5 p.m. on the third floor of the Johnson Center. Plans are also under way for a field trip to take a look at the pages on display. For more information, e-mail Nancy Murphy.

    Fairfax County Public Library chose “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie for the All Fairfax Reads program. Book discussions have already begun online. Live discussions facilitated by Mason alumna Wendi Kaufman, MFA ’97, are planned during September at libraries throughout the region.

    Write to at