We recently caught up with several Shattuck-St. Mary’s faculty and staff members who shared their thoughts on the books they are currently reading.
I chose “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose for several reasons. First of all, I love exploring remote, wild areas, places miles away from civilization, and requiring several days of hiking or paddling to find. Being in the wilderness forces you to re-prioritize everything to only your most important primal needs: What am I going to eat, how am I going to get to my next destination, and how do I protect myself from the elements and other dangers? And there is perhaps no greater journey into the wilderness than the Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
I also recently completed a Wilderness First Aid certification. So I find it fascinating to learn how Lewis and Clark dealt with accidents, illnesses, and other health concerns with no doctors, no penicillin or aspirin, and no way to evacuate anyone seriously hurt. Their ability to spend two years in the wild over two hundred years ago among grizzly bears, hostile natives extreme weather, and at times a total lack of food is a testament to their courage and resourcefulness, and I try to take a lot from that.
My US History classes discuss the Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery in some detail. But even more fun is that my family and I have also traveled to many locations visited by Lewis and Clark, and intend to see many more this summer. Knowing the history of the land makes visiting these places more meaningful to me. And I don’t just mean the history of exploration and the economic exploitation of its resources, but the natural and anthropological history as well. The United States hosts natural beauty unlike any other place in the world. Reading Undaunted Courage permitted me to see these places unspoiled by settlement, as seen by the first Euro-Americans who set foot there.
- History Instructor and Boys Varsity Soccer Coach Rich Bailey
I recently read “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers. When I bought it, the man ringing me up glanced at the cover with a pained look and said, “Oh. That’s a…special book.” If I had to de-code that whole look/cryptic comment situation, I’d guess he meant Lonely Hunter was heartbreaking and tormenting and he wasn’t quite over it yet. If that’s the case, I’m with him. This is a special book.
The novel takes place in the time and setting in which McCullers was writing: rural Georgia in the late 1930s. You understand that when McCullers’ characters make jokes about Nazi Germany (and get shunned by other characters for it), it’s not as retrospective commentary, but as a reflection of the real context as she saw it. World War II and the Jim Crow South are the ugly realities which frame the story. In this way, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a relic of its time.
But in this world of large-scale horrors, each character must endure their own individual pain, too. This speaks not only to late 1930s rural Georgia, but to all humans who have ever lived, regardless of when or where. McCullers’ view of life is far from cheery, but it is profound in its vision for how we all seek beauty and friendship amidst the crushing loneliness of being alive. I would not recommend this book if you are on the brink of an existential crisis. But if you do want to go there, read on, and see for yourself how “special” this story really is.
- English Instructor Hayley Rosenfield
I recently read “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s a really good dystopian tale centered around the spread of a mysterious flu that becomes an epidemic and devastates most of the world’s population. The story begins just prior to the outbreak following one of the protagonists, who watches the lead in a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear fall to a heart attack.
From there, the story branches off through several characters who share a connection to the actor that played King Lear, advancing from the days and weeks of the epidemic to the post-flu civilization 20 years later. The book does a great job of connecting the characters and intertwining their stories as they grow up, evolve, and learn more of their connections to one another.
- Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Johnnie Walker