From books by Aziz Ansari and Anthony Doerr to Rollins College’s very own James Driggers, English faculty share their favorite reads of 2015.
Kensington Publishing Corp.
By James Driggers
Recommended by: Lori Coffae, English lecturer
You’ll like this book if you like Southern Gothic, local writers, and rich, gorgeous storytelling.
10-second synopsis: Love and the twisted, dark things we do in the name of love appear as central characters in four loosely connected stories set in the Deep South.
It’s a must-read because it has characters that are unforgettable and stories that are breathtakingly heartwrenching. Our very own James Driggers has created a quiet masterpiece—plus you can get your copy personally autographed!
By Anthony Doerr
Recommended by: James Driggers, English lecturer
You’ll like this book if you like books by author Kristen Hannah.
10-second synopsis: A blind girl struggles to survive in occupied France at the end of World War II. Alternating chapters detail the story of the young German soldier whose story is intertwined with hers.
It’s a must-read because it’s no accident that it won the Pulitzer Prize last year. It’s beautifully written.
By Lauren Groff
Recommended by: Jill Jones, professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like intense and bitter stories.
10-second synopsis: An odd, twisted story of love, art, and marriage.
It’s a must-read because Groff is a fierce and lyric writer. Because the story questions the nature of love, ethics, and integrity. Because you’re not sure if it’s about cruelty or love.
By Emily St. John Mandel
Recommended by: Patrick Fleming, visiting assistant professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like Shakespeare, dystopias, contemporary fiction, and post-apocalyptic novels.
10-second synopsis: After a world-changing pandemic, a child actor joins a traveling Shakespeare company in a narrative featuring an aging Hollywood star, a graphic novelist, and a mysterious cult leader.
It’s a must-read because Mandel envisions a post-epidemic culture that finds solace in literary heritage while resisting the lure of violence and cult mentality. She brings characters to life in a story spanning decades.
By Aziz Ansari
Recommended by: Emily Russell, associate professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like authors Amy Poehler and Malcolm Gladwell.
10-second synopsis: Comedian Ansari teams with an NYU sociologist to explore how concepts of dating and marriage shift. Fascinating ideas include companionate vs. soulmate marriage and the importance of proximity in dating.
It’s a must-read because I read more high-literary works this year, but no other book caused me to put it down and say to the person next to me, “Listen to this…”
By Neal Stephenson
Recommended by: Paul Reich, associate professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like speculative fiction.
10-second synopsis: Following the disintegration of the moon, humanity struggles to survive on Earth and the space surrounding it.
It’s a must-read because if you’re a fan of epic, centuries-long stories, then this book will not disappoint. Stephenson writes with a masterful touch, and his characters are fully realized and heartbreakingly real.
By Hanya Yanagilhara
Recommended by: Carol Frost, Alfond Professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like elegant sentences and challenge.
10-second synopsis: It’s an epic story about love that travels to dark places in the human soul and somehow creates light.
It’s a must-read because no novel I’ve read has stunned me with its powerful story, elegant writing, and challenge as Yanagihara’s novel. I could barely keep reading and I couldn’t turn away.
Workman Publishing Company
By Jon Birger
Recommended by: Jana Mathews, assistant professor of English
You’ll like this book if you like knowing why it’s so hard for smart, successful women to get a date these days.
10-second synopsis: Birger uses statistics to show how the “man deficit” is real. As the jacket explains, “it’s not that he’s just not that into you—it’s that there aren’t enough of him.”
It’s a must-read because Rollins gets a dubious shout-out for being one of the top colleges with the highest gender imbalance. For Birger, this explains why hookup culture is so pervasive on our campus.