The following are the choices my students in the Fall Semester 2016 had to read all semester in preparation for the final exam, an in-class academic review essay. These titles were carefully chosen for their worth, depth, and beauty, and they should appeal to students in a variety of disciplines.
--Cindy Marsch, Instructor
Deep linguistic and classical cultural scholarship helps us consider the character of Paul and the context of familiar passages from the Bible.
"To show sympathy and sincere deference to those with power over me, to trust them with my life as if on a battlefield and forgive the very costly mistakes they make, is . . . like managing to love my damn parents." (144)
Theology, classical civilization, personal ethics, biography
How does one reconcile his sexual attractions and his faith commitments, seeking the deep human connection we were all made for?
"Admitting this to myself ... was like an awareness that steals up on you one day out of the blue. It was there all along, but you saw it just then." (29)
Theology, personal ethics, sexuality (Also consider his Spiritual Friendship)
Heartbreaking account of the faith struggle of a scientist.
"This book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences and almost two epochs. It ended, as was inevitable, in disruption. ... One was born to fly backward, the other could not help being carried forward." (35)
Biography, history, evolution, theology, science
This mentor of Francis Schaeffer revolutionized my worldview with his study of how art and theology and philosophy intertwine.
"Could it be that the false ideas many people ... have of Christ as a sentimental, rather effeminate man, ... never really of this world, are the result of the preaching inherent in the pictures given to children?" (75)
Theology, philosophy, art, history
A classic treatise "on the culture of the ancient world."
"The temper of mind that made them carve their statues and paint their pictures from the living human beings around them, that kept their poetry within the sober limits of the possible, made them hard-headed men in the world of every-day affairs. They were not tempted to evade facts." (67)
History, classical civilization, philosophy, art (Option:The Roman Way)
Space explorers encounter sentient beings on another planet, enter their culture with catastrophic results, and one man, a priest, returns to Earth.
"They went for the reason Jesuits have always gone to the farthest reaches of human exploration ...: for the greater glory of God.
"They meant no harm." (3)
Theology, philosophy, science fiction
What happens if human beings suddenly become infertile? And then one woman becomes pregnant? The suspense and speculation enthrall.
"The female Omegas [youngest generation] have a different beauty, classical, remote, listless, without animation or energy. ... They seem incapable of human sympathy." (10)
Bioethics, science fiction
A stirring novel of Apartheid South Africa, capturing the landscape and the culture to tell an extended parable of parents and children.
"There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it." (3)
History, race issues, fiction
Choose from Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery or his rival W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk for one man's experience.
"I was awakened by my mother kneeling over her children and fervently praying that Lincoln and his armies might be successful, and that one day she and her children might be free." (Washington, 32)
History, race issues, politics, work, business, education, autobiography
Classic mid-20th-century exploration of how Americans responded to the challenges of this definitive war.
"I will always consider it one of the privileges of my life that I was born into a generation which still knew the Civil War veterans personally. ... They taught me, for instance, what patriotism is." (68-69)
History, warfare, American culture
"How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think"
"This sudden sobriety ushered in on September 11 also reminded us of the vast differences between freedom and tyranny in a supposedly uniform global culture at 'the end of history.'" (252)
History, warfare, culture
Eloquent journalism recounting a great storm of 1888 with historical and meteorological records and first-person accounts. If you choose this book I will give you a free copy of my short story "Blizzard," though it is not to be included in the assignment.
"The blizzard literally froze a single day in time. It sent a clean, fine blade through the history of the prairie." (7)
American history, weather, journalism
Jesse Owens competed in 1936. "Athletics and politics collide in a critical event for Nazi Germany and the contemporary world."
"Germany's Olympic officials and their backers in the Nazi regime believed themselves to be closer in spirit to the ancient games ... than to the uplifting ideals of peaceful 'fair play' and international understanding surrounding the modern Olympic festivals." (9)
History, sports, politics, race
A botanist and Native American "takes us on a journey ... every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise." Elizabeth Gilbert
"When we braid sweetgrass we are braiding the hair of Mother Earth, showing her our loving attention ... in gratitude for all she has given us." (5)
Botany, Native American culture, spirituality
Christian conservationists strive to make a sustainable community in British Columbia.
"Is this worth it? Quitting a secure job, begging for money, selling our house and moving from our beloved community - for what? Seaweed!?!" (5)
Theology, conservation, agriculture, community, personal ethics
"Bad governmental policies and the struggle of the farmer." Glenn Marsch
"Agriculturists who still prefer to produce food at a loss have been singed, scorched by the agricultural inferno, but not yet altogether blackened." (220)
Agriculture, corporate ethics, government policy
Bestselling story of a woman whose cancer cells have been used for sixty years in groundbreaking medical discoveries and treatments.
"Deborah fell apart. She spent days and nights crying, imagining the pain Henrietta must have been in. She couldn't close her eyes without seeing her mother's body split in half, arms askew, and filled with tumors." (210)
Medicine, bioethics, race issues, biography
An oncologist's view of medical treatment in America, using many anecdotes and studies to illustrate its "famine" and its "gluttony."
"Let's focus on not doing harm, refraining from peddling snake oil and false hope." (24)
Medicine, health care policy, bioethics
"[The] first book on the modern history of exercise in America" in the mid-20th century. (I am open to other titles on this topic.)
"Multifocal mission concealed the [President's Council on Physical Fitness]'s true aims of curbing juvenile delinquency, offsetting the dangerous effects of postwar affluence, and creating a generation of soldiers who could resist communist brainwashing." (11)
History, physiology, exercise, politics, sociology
Forward thinking from 1999 provides a context for us to consider our own future from here. (I am open to more recent titles on this topic.)
"Unless a producer can manage to supply a context for the product - great service, convenience, brand image, ... - the product itself becomes a commodity and can only be priced accordingly." (130)
Business, computer science, sociology
A follow-up to Carr's popular title The Shallows, this volume appreciates but warns about our changing technology.
"Google's car ... tells us that our idea of the limits of automation has always been something of a fiction. We're not as special as we think we are." (10)
Business, computer science, physiology, psychology
Recommended by my son-in-law Garrett Kimball (GCC '11, Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center '13), now with SimCoach Games.
"Virtual experience ... can teach you about your true self - what your core strengths are, what really motivates you, and what makes you happiest. ... These crucial twenty-first-century skills can help all of us find new ways to make a deep and lasting impact on the world around us." (Introduction)
Computers, culture, leisure
Addressed to parents and educators, an examination of how so much we take for granted hinders children's best development. (Hardcover only)
"For the first time in human history, most people are doing things that could never interest a child enough to make him want to tag along. ... The bigger the school, the more dangerous and upsetting a single act of imagination can be." ("Introduction: A Bad Day for Grendel")
Education, child development, culture, philosophy