The Leisure of the Theory Class
Your biochemistry text now rests at the bottom--very bottom--of your trunk, ready to be put out to pasture for at least the summer. And you've trashed your reading list for English 10. "The Tradition of English Literature": soon you'll forget what you were supposed to read.
Whether you are going to be quaffing martinis on your father's yacht or wiping grease from the spoons at the local diner or something in between, now may be the time to round out that coveted liberal arts education with some of those Great, and time-consuming, Books.
There is, of course, the other option: that is, forego seizing the intellectual world until next fall, and plan to vegetate with a copy of Garp or Stephen King's latest. Instead of straining your eyes over fine print, rest them, perhaps catching Conan.
The Crimson asked a number of Harvard professors their recommendations for summer reading lists for students caught in this annual dilemma. The responses were predictable and professorial, John Irving. Harold Robbins and Judith Krantz failed to make a single list, while the likes of Eudora Welty, Marcel Proust and Walker Percy made several. So will it be Princess Daisy or Remembrance of Things Past? Everyone from Bernard Bailyn to Otto Eckstein has an opinion. You decide.
Thomas Professor of English and American Literature Daniel Aaron, a lecturer in English 70. "American Literature from the Beginning through the Early Twentieth Century"--a course known for its insurmountable reading list and its professors who casually mention an extra half-dozen books on a related subject--rattled off these books for summer fun:
* Donna Perfecta, by Benito Perez Galdos;
* Red and Black, by Stendahl;
* Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy;
* Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain;
* A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh.
Kenen Professor of English William Alfred, who moonlights as a professional playwright, heartily endorses anything by Grace Paley. Walker Percy, or Eudora Welty. And for a change of pace from those authors. Alfred suggests reading from another multifaceted Harvard man. Brad Leithauser '78, whose recently published poems in Hundreds of Fireflies were primarily written during his stints here and at the Law School.
Everything has its place, even history, acknowledges Pulitzer Prize winning historian Bernard Bailyn. Adams University Professor. So for the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot he recommends lighter, fictional works:
* Personal Impressions, by Isaiah Berlin;
* Travels with My Aunt, by Graham Greene;
* Brothers Manns, by Nigel Hamilton;
* Letters, by Thomas Mann;
* Riders in the Chariot, by Patrick White.
1. Bernard Cohen. Thomas Professor of the History of Science, plans to re-read Michel Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge and plow through a tome or two of Sartre and Flaubert. But for an undergraduate not necessarily interested in chasing the history of science on every lazy afternoon, he chooses this septet, including three books by colleagues:
* The Winding Passage, by Daniel Bell, Ford Professor of Social Sciences;
* The Safety Net, by Heinrich Boll;
* The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould, professor of Geology;
* The Growth of Biological Thought, by Ernst Mayr, professor of Zoology emeritus;
* Fin de Siecle Vienna, by Carl Schorske;
* The Portage to San Cristobal of Alt, by George Steiner;
* Diary, vol. 4, by Virginia Woolf.
Robert Coles, professor of Psychiatry and never one known to tackle questions in a small or simple way, decided, after rummaging around in his library and some deliberation, simply to recommend his five favorite books of all-time:
* Little Dorrit; by Charles Dickens;
* The Habit of Being,by Flannery O'Connor;
* Collected Stories, by O'Connor;
* The Second Coming, by Walker Percy;
* Collected Stories, by Eudora Welty.
Associate Dean of the Faculty John E. Dowling '57 reports that he'll spend part of the early summer writing a book review on a work about color vision, but for others, he points to a few works on somewhat broader subjects:
* Life and Times of Einstein, by Ronald W. Clark;
* The Eigth Day of Creation, by H.F. Judson;
* The Origin, by Irving Stone;
* My Life and Hard Times, by James Thurber.
Just picture this! A sun-baked beach, the spray of the surf, a tall, cool drink, and the suggested reading list of Otto Eckstein. Warburg Professor of Economics.
* The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer;
* Years of Upheaval, by Henry Kissinger;
* Unofficial Guide to Life at Harvard, by Harvard Student Agencies;
* The Zero Sum Society, by Lester C. Thurow;
* The want-ad section of the Wall Street Journal.
Monroe Engel, senior lecturer in English, recommends four classics and an alumnus's latest:
* Troilus and Cressida by Geoffrey Chaucer;
* Middlemarch, by George Eliot;
* Civilization and its Discontents, by Sigmund Freud;
* Tess of the d' Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy;
* Rubbit is Rich, by John Updike '54.
Engel's own literary projects for the summer include Northrop Frye's The Great Code. Mather's translation of The Thousand Knights and One Knight, Irving Howe's edition of The Portable Kipling. The Letters of Oppenheimer, and a rereading of Andre Gide's The Counterfeiters.
Dean of students Archie C. Epps III, whose workload dips when there are no students around, said he plans to finish Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetralogy along with some Hugh Trevor-Roper history of 17th century England. For others he proposes reading:
* Death in a Tenured Position, by Amanda Cross, (a murder mystery that takes place in Harvard's English Department);
* Spring Snow, by Yukio Mishima;
* Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope;
* America in Search of Itself, by Theodore H. White '38;
* The Harvard Book, edited by William Bentinck-Smith '37.
"Passing over all of my own works" J. Kenneth Galbraith, Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus, suggests:
* Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies;
* The Manicore, by Davies;
* World of Wonders, by Davies;
* Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope;
* The Eustace Diamonds, by Trollope.
Marjorie Garber, professor of English evidently figures that Harvard students read enough Shakespeare in her two courses, and she stays clear of the bard's plays in her recommendations. She does suggest, however, reading the sonnets, as well as:
* Emma or Persuasion, by Lane Austen.
* Divine Comedy, by Dante (the Sinclair Italian English translation).
* The Interpretation of Cultures, by Clifford Geertz;
* The Armada or Katherine of Aragon, by Garett Mattingly;
* The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey.
Garber adds that she plans to read the sonnets herself, along with other Renaissance poetry, mystery novels she hasn't yet read and some of Rebecca West's essays and novels.
Although he has no definite reading plans for the summer. Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France Stanley Hoffmann says that he has always wanted to consume the works of Proust and Musset some time. But, for students, he recommends that this be the year for.
* The Fall, by Albert Camus;
* Sentimental Education, by Gustav Flaubert;
* Trial, by Franz Kafka:
* Fin de La Siecle Vienna, by Carl Schorske;
* War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.
When asked for his selections, Robert J. Kiely said "This is barely one notch above asking professors what they want for Christmas." He then relented, suggesting:
* Letters from the Desert, by Carlo Carretto;
* The Professor's House, by Willa Cather;
* David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens;
* Chinabound, by John K. Fairbank '29;
* The Country of Pointed Firs, by Sara Orne Jewett.
David Layzer, Menzel Professor of Astrophysics, proposes:
* The Sense of Order, by Ernst Gombrich;
* The Growth of Biological Thought, by Ernst Mayr, professor of Zoology emeritus;
* Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust, the new Terence Kilmarton translation;
* Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith;
* The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman.
Layzer says that in his spare time this summer after writing a book on Cosmology, after starting a book on Chance and Order, after revising his course Science A-22 "Chance, Order, and Necessity," he will try to reread the Proust trilogy. He didn't comment on his work for the summer.
Albert B. Lord '34, Porter Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature, advises reading:
* The Book of Genesis, of the Bible;
* The Hiad and The Odyssey, by Homer;
* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Spy Who Came out of the Cold, by John Le Carre;
* Gawdy Night, by Dorothy Sayers;
* Hamlet or MacBeth, by William Shakespeare.
Along with reading whatever detective stories "come to hand," Lord would also like to read whatever epics "I haven't read before" in languages such as French, German, or Russian. Most Harvard students might want to read the recommended epics in English first.
Professor of Greek and Latin Gregory Nagy plans to delve into some Pindar this summer, but he suggests a singular literary journey for students. If they read anything at all, they must read the Robert S. Fitzgerald '33 translation of Homer's The Odyssey, Nagy assigns the Richard Lattimore version for his perennially popular course Lit & Arts C-14. "The Concept of the Hero in Hellenic Civilization." He lauds the Fitzgerald translation as a "beautiful experience because of its artists unity."
Stephan A. Thernstrom. Winthrop Professor of History, says he would read these books this summer if "I already hadn't read them."
* The Ice Age or Realm of God, by Margaret Drabble;
* A Bend in the River, by V.S. Naipaul:
* Porterhouse Blue, by Tom Sharpe;
* Oxford Quintet, by J.I.M. Stewart;
* The Warden, from Anthony Trollope's series The Chronicles of Barset.
Thernstrom said that during his vacations I likes to read books after a full day of hiking, but I added he hasn't had a chance to choose his selections or routes yet.
"There are three reasons to read a book-for pleasure, for self improvement, or because you are assigned it" says Emily D. Vermeule, Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor. Vermeule believes that reading the history of countries concurrently with travel falls into the first category. Several summers ago she took along a copy of Gibbon's stately tome. "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" on a cruise through the Bosphorous
* For those planning a visit to the Soviet Union, she recommends Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massey;
* For those travelling to South America. The History of Corte, by William Prescott;
* Or, for a beach just about anywhere. Vermeule suggests Collected Stories, by Eric Ambler, or Late Innings, by Roger Angell.
But it you're having trouble squeezing in the extra t-shirt and can't find room for Prescott or Massey, travel guides are available at the local AAA.
Caroll M. Williams is Bussey Professor of Biology. And if you didn't know that, you might be able to guess from the books he suggests:
* Cancer, Science, and Society, by John Cairns;
* The Eight Days of Creation, by H.F. Judson;
* The Growth of Biological Thought, by Ernst Mayr, professor of Zoology Emeritus;
* Advice to a Young Scientist, by Peter Medawer (if that book's been grabbed at the local library. Williams recommends The Uniqueness of the Individual by the same author):
* On Human Nature, by E.O. Wilson.
Williams has read those books. So he plans to tackle A Collection of Nobel Lectures in Molecular Biology from 1933-1975, edited by his friend David Baltimore. In addition to reading numerous journals including Science, Nature. The New Scientist, Scientific American, and Natural History, he plans to peruse G. Ledyard Stebbin's Darwin to DNA: Molecule to Humanity.
Another source for summer reading suggestions sits untapped by the reference desk at Lamont Library, with the names of 35 books recommended by students. Authors range from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Garry Trudeau, but not Medawer or Homer.
The most official Harvard reading list will emanate out of the Freshmen Dean's Office and go to members of the class of '86 as recommended reading Dean's Office occupants explain the list is not firm because the roster of Freshmen Week speakers has not yet been finalized. So there seems to be a correlation between those two vestiges of Harvard absentia.
And then there's the non-reading list courtesy of William H. Bossert '59, McKay Professor of Applied Mathematics. "I don't want to presume on their summer," he said. "I'm happy enough if they read my required books during the term."