The Best Books We Read in 2014

You won’t be surprised to hear that the staff at Duke University Press are avid readers. Here some of our staff members share the best book they read this year (besides all the wonderful Duke University Press titles they worked on, of course). We hope you’ll find your own next great read among their suggestions or perhaps a great gift.

9781620406380Marketing Director Emily Young recommends New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant: A Memoir. “It’s a brilliant, multi-layered, complicated, funny, heartbreaking, visually arresting  look at aging and caregiving. Chast’s  story of  taking care of her ‘sunsetting’ parents matches honesty and humility with craziness and sadness.”

Emily Dings, Managing Editor of American Literature also chose an illustrated book, Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. “A collection of the beautiful, bizarre syllabi she uses in her art and writing courses at the University of Wisconsin, as well as samples of student work, the book is an inspiring reflection on the creativity and visual art ability that is available to anyone willing to indulge it.”

Invisible ManAdvertising, Design and Production Coordinator Dan Ruccia chose a classic, Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. “I was reading this for the first time just as the protests in Ferguson began. Ellison’s prose deserves all the superlatives it has been given over the years. And the fact that its depiction of race relations still seems fresh is a reminder of how far we still have to go.”

Copywriter Christopher Robinson went slightly more lowbrow: “After finishing grad school my brain was fried, so I needed something fun, engaging, easy to read, and completely different than what I had been reading. I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy. And putting on my nerd hat, it’s a great primer on neoliberalism.”

Charles Brower, Senior Managing Editor of Humanities and Social Science Journals, recommends both a fiction and a nonfiction book. “Mark Harris’s Five Came Back is about the World War II experiences of the movie directors Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, and George Stevens, who were on hand for Midway, the Allied invasion of Europe, and the liberation of the concentration camps. In addition to being an fascinating account of how these men were affected by what they saw, the booWe Are Not Ourselvesk also raises a lot of provocative questions about authenticity and ethics in the propaganda battles for hearts and minds. The fiction book is Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves. There’s nothing high-concept about it—it’s the story of several generations of an Irish American family and particularly of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s—but it’s the most beautifully written novel I read this year.”

Books Art Editor Christine Riggio says, “Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan was hands down one of my favorite reads from this year. I had to continually remind myself that the story was real, not some crazy medical novel. I bought the book on a whim and now recommend it to friends and family looking for a good read.”

euphoria-cover-flatPublicity and Advertising Manager Laura Sell recommends Lily King’s novel Euphoria. “We publish a lot of anthropology here at Duke University Press so I enjoyed this historical novel based on the love affair between two of the discipline’s icons, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. King beautifully captures the way the life of the mind and the desires of the body intersect.
Digital Content Developer Steve Grathwohl couldn’t choose one favorite either. He recommends three books.  “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis is a wonderful book on the British Everest expeditions of the 1920s. No one has explored this thoroughly the effect of the war on the motivations behind and psychology of these expeditions.” He also recommends The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized by Duke philosopher Owen Flanagan. “Can anything resembling Buddhism survive after removing all its metaphysical pretensions like karma and rebirth? Well, yes, argues Flanagan in this readable but challenging book.” And finally he suggests Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Duke Mathematical Journal-published mathematician Edward Frenkel. “He tries to convince us that we have math all wrong because it’s being taught all wrong. Works for me.”

Thanks to all our staffers for these great recommendations. May 2015 be another great year of reading for us all!

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