What Are We Reading?
Sean Desilets: The epistles of St. Paul are just about the weirdest sacred texts you can imagine. Anybody who wants to separate politics from religion can read them and weep. Paul is writing to the various new religious communities he has founded, and he deftly tailors his rather unyielding theological vision to the diverse problems in these communities. The bravest person is the one who expects the world to end any second and still thinks like a salesman.
Georgiana Donavin: The Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory's compilation, translation, and adaptation of medieval Arthurian tales, is my perennial favorite. Because the Arthurian heroes continue to be reinterpreted in every age, the Arthurian sagas are a microcosm of literary history and reception.
Katy Evans: I recommend all of Louise Erdrich's writing: fiction, poetry, memoir. But a student recently lent me her copy of Erdrich's novel Shadow Tag. It was breathtaking—like punched-in-the-gut breathtaking. It braids together an intensely unhealthy marriage, disturbing cultural appropriation, and how manipulation and betrayal become quotidian and banal—until they're not.
Peter Goldman: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993) by Roberto Calasso is marvelous and original evocation of the ancient Greek myths by a contemporary Italian scholar. It's not so much a retelling or a work of criticism but rather a poetic and philosophical meditation on the myths and their meaning, by someone with an absolute mastery of the original texts and language.
Elree Harris: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is a depressingly apocalyptic sci-fi novel with engaging protagonist and solid plot.
Chris LeCluyse: Since I focused primarily on medieval literature and linguistics in college and graduate school, I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein embarrassingly late. The delight of discovering that novel still stays with me. It truly has everything--commentary on gender and class, education, and parenting, all wrapped up in a compelling narrative told from multiple perspectives.
Lance Newman: My favorite big books are the kind that don't fit into any categories, like Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Henry Thoreau's Walden, or Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller. Mostly, though, I like to read little batches of poetry that I find in print or online, like the beautiful visual poems in the September 2013 issue of Evening Will Come.
Natasha Saje: I recommend Frank Bidart’s new book of poetry, Metaphysical Dog. A memoir I also recommend highly is Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy If You Can Be Normal? What intrigued me is the structure—how she skips over 25 years, for instance, and still creates a whole, pun intended!