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Still need a good book? 14 summer reads by Mason faculty, staff and alumni

July 18, 2018

Looking for a great book to read this summer? Browse through the faculty, staff, and alumni reading list and find some books that are sure to please.

The White Working Class: What Everyone Needs to Know® 

Justin Gest, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Schar School of Policy and Government. Powered by original field research and survey analysis in the United States and the United Kingdom, The White Working Class: What Everyone Needs to Know® provides a comprehensive and accessible exploration of white working-class politics and the populism that is transforming the transatlantic social and political landscape.

Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives Are Surveilled and How to Work for Change

Angela Hattery, Director/Head, Women and Gender Studies and Earl Smith, Adjunct Professor, Sociology. From Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray, the stories of police violence against Black people are too often in the news. In Policing Black Bodies Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith make a compelling case that the policing of Black bodies goes far beyond these individual stories of brutality. They connect the regulation of African American people in many settings, including the public education system and the criminal justice system, into a powerful narrative about the myriad ways Black bodies are policed.

A Hundred Weddings

Cathy Cruise, MFA ‘93. Katie Jacobs has dreaded weddings since she was a kid, when she was dragged too far too many ill-fated ceremonies by her mother, a wedding planner. Now her sister’s getting married at their childhood home, and after Katie’s job and relationship come to a sudden halt, she heads to Florida for wedding prep, including fixing up the now run-down house.​

Sgt. Rodney M. Davis: The Making of a Hero

John D. Hollis, Communications Officer, Office of Communications and Marketing. How Far Would You Go to Honor a Code? Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the pillars of United States Marine Corps values. So why Sgt. Rodney M. Davis lunged atop that enemy grenade at the expense of his own life on Sept. 6, 1967, is the quintessential question that has haunted not only those who stood closest to him at that critical moment, but his own family and friends for over fifty years now.​

When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter's Tale

Matthew Davis, Founding Director, Alan Cheuse International Writers Center, English. At 23, Matt Davis moved to a remote Mongolian town to teach English. What he found when he arrived was a town—and a country—undergoing wholesale change from a traditional, countryside existence to a more urban, modern identity. When Things Get Dark documents these changes through the Mongolians Matt meets, but also focuses on the author's downward spiral into alcohol abuse and violence--a scenario he saw played out by many of the Mongolian men around him. Matt's self-destruction culminates in a drunken fight with three men that forces him to a hospital to have his kidneys X-rayed. He hits bottom in that cold hospital room, his body naked and shivering, a bloodied Mongolian man staring at him from an open door, the irrational thought in his head that maybe he is going to die there. His personal struggles are balanced with insightful descriptions of customs and interactions and interlaced with essays on Mongolian history and culture that make for a fascinating glimpse of a mysterious place and people.

The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

Michael V. Hayden, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government. In the face of a President who lobs accusations without facts, evidence, or logic, truth tellers are under attack. Meanwhile, the world order is teetering on the brink. North Korea is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon that could reach all of the United States, Russians have mastered a new form of information warfare that undercuts democracy, and the role of China in the global community remains unclear. There will always be value to experience and expertise, devotion to facts, humility in the face of complexity, and a respect for ideas, but in this moment, they seem more important, and more endangered, than they've ever been. American Intelligence--the ultimate truth teller--has a responsibility in a post-truth world beyond merely warning of external dangers, and in The Assault on Intelligence, General Michael Hayden takes up that urgent work with profound passion, insight and authority.

Discovering the South: One Man's Travels through a Changing America in the 1930s

Jennifer Ritterhouse, Associate Professor, History and Art History. During the Great Depression, the American South was not merely "the nation's number one economic problem," as President Franklin Roosevelt declared. It was also a battlefield on which forces for and against social change were starting to form. For a white southern liberal like Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, it was a fascinating moment to explore. Attuned to culture as well as politics, Daniels knew the true South lay somewhere between Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. On May 5, 1937, he set out to find it, driving thousands of miles in his trusty Plymouth and ultimately interviewing even Mitchell herself.

The Juliet

Laura Ellen Scott, Term Full Professor, English. The Juliet is a novel that braids the history of a cursed emerald called The Juliet with the story of an ailing, retired cowboy actor who comes to Death Valley to search for her. Rigg Dexon, best known for his role as Holt Breck in the classic but controversial seventies Western, Gallows River, holes up for months in a shack known as the Mystery House, until he is driven out of seclusion by the record-breaking wildflower bloom of March 2005 that draws swarms of tourists to the desert. After an intense encounter with an ardent fan named Willie Judy at a local bar, Rigg impulsively signs over the deed for the Mystery House to her in a gesture straight out of one of his corny films. But Willie, a rootless, unlucky young woman from a family of short-lived dreamers, takes it as a sign: Dexon wants her to find the Juliet, now that he’s too frail to continue his search. What Willie doesn’t know is that Dexon is giving away everything that’s precious to him, following the advice of Holt Breck: leave like you ain’t coming back. When Dexon’s gift turns out to be the scene of a crime that implicates Willie in drug trafficking, she tries to cover it up, only to be drawn into the chaotic wake of The Juliet. 

Solo

Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess, BA ‘95. Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy, including the loss of his mother. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming Blade will become just like his father.​ In reality, the only thing Blade and Rutherford have in common is the music that lives inside them. And songwriting is all Blade has left after Rutherford, while drunk, crashes his high school graduation speech and effectively rips Chapel away forever. But when a long-held family secret comes to light, the music disappears. In its place is a letter, one that could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.

Oil on Water: A Novel

Helon Habila Ngalabak, Associate Professor. In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, the wife of a British oil executive has been kidnapped. Two journalists―a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq―are sent to find her. In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, Oil on Water explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences.

Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being

Beth Cabrera, Senior Scholar, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Over the course of a decade, positive psychology authority Dr. Beth Cabrera has surveyed and interviewed more than a thousand women to gather insight into how to effectively balance career and family responsibilities. Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being gathers essential findings and offers women proven strategies for living more authentic, meaningful lives.

The First Rule of Swimming

Courtney Brkic, Associate Professor of English. When free spirit Jadranka mysteriously disappears shortly after emigrating to America, her older sister Magdalena must leave their ancestral Croatian island home and follow her to New York City. Magdalena's search begins to unspool the dark history of their family, reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.

Call Me When You Want to Talk about the Tombstones

Cynthia Marie Hoffman, MFA ’03. In this book-length poetry sequence, a mother inherits a leather box that was her grandmother’s. Her daughter joins her on a reconstruction of family history. Together they traipse through graveyards and sift through endless photos and clippings, piecing together what used to be in order to understand who they are.

The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold

Joyce Lee Malcolm, Patrick Henry Prof of Constitutional Law & the 2nd Amendment, Antonin Scalia Law School. A vivid and timely re-examination of one of young America’s most complicated figures: the war hero turned infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold. Proud and talented, history now remembers this conflicted man solely through the lens of his last desperate act of treason. Yet the fall of Benedict Arnold remains one of the Revolutionary period’s great puzzles. Why did a brilliant military commander, who repeatedly risked his life fighting the British, who was grievously injured in the line of duty, and fell into debt personally funding his own troops, ultimately became a traitor to the patriot cause? Historian Joyce Lee Malcolm skillfully unravels the man behind the myth and gives us a portrait of the true Arnold and his world.