Tag Archives: Good Reads

Good reads: Anne Anlin Cheng ’85

Looking for a good read? PAW asked some professors for their recommendations.


Anne Anlin Cheng ’85

Acting Chair, Department of English
Professor in the Center for African American Studies
The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens
Praise by Robert Hass
Asking a professor of literature what is her favorite book to read is bound to incite feelings akin to panic because the de-selection process seems impossible. But there are two books of poems on my nightstand, because I return to them repeatedly over the years. One is Wallace Stevens’ The Palm at the End of the Mind, and the other is Robert Hass’ Praise. There are many books to love but only a few in one’s lifetime that shift the fundamental tectonic plates of one’s mind; these are two such books for me. Reading them changed what I thought poetry could be. They show me how lyricism can fuse into serious philosophical inquiry, and they remind me of the profound rewards and pleasures of being a reader.  

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Good reads: Jill Dolan

Looking for a good read? PAW asked some professors for their recommendations.

Jill Dolan (David Dobkin)

Jill Dolan

Director of the Program in the Study of Women and Gender
Professor of English and Theater
Since I teach theater and performance studies, my favorite books tend to be plays, rather than novels or nonfiction.  One of my favorites is Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (both parts).  The plays always excite my students, because they use theatricality in imaginative ways to address a wide swath of issues relevant to our common situation.  Kushner manages to launch an intellectual conversation about democracy and faith through the apparatus of theater, while telling a story full of heart and soul about the human condition.  I’m always moved by his (characters’) declarations of faith, not in a religion, per se, but in the potential of human connection across our many differences.
At the risk of sounding entirely self-serving, I’m going to recommend my own book, Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre. The book’s premise is that we go to live theater as a way to connect with one another in profound ways, ways which, in the moment of being together as strangers, allows us to experience, just for a moment, what utopia might feel like.  The book describes performances at which I felt this, and engages with issues about performance and theater from the perspective of hope and fellow feeling.  I write only about performances that moved me in this book.  It’s a critical project, but it’s not about “criticizing,” per se, and offers an alternative model of engagement for spectators and for artists (for anyone, really, who cares about and loves going to the theater).

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Good reads: Engineer Michael G. Littman

Looking for a good read? PAW asked some professors for their recommendations.

(David Dobkin)

Michael G. Littman

Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The Innovators, by David Billington ’50. Billington and I co-teach CEE 102, “Engineering and the Modern World.” This is the first of two Billington textbooks that we use in the course. The book is written for a broad audience and discusses the scientific, social, and symbolic aspects of engineering starting from the time of the industrial revolution. Great engineering works in the areas of structures, machines, networks, and processes are considered as well as the engineers and entrepreneurs who were responsible for their development.

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Good reads: Musician Anthony Branker ’80

Looking for a good read? PAW asked some professors for their recommendations.


Anthony D.J. Branker ’80

The Anthony H.P. Lee ’79 Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies
Founder and Director, Program in Jazz Studies
Associate Director, Program in Musical Performance
Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation by Paul Berliner (The University of Chicago Press, 1994)
I often reference Paul Berliner’s Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation in my research and teaching, and simply find it to be an inspiring read. This historically significant ethnomusicological work examines how jazz musicians learn to improvise and speak the language of jazz, both as an individual activity and through social interaction with like-minded peers, experienced jazz performers, or utilizing the jazz community as an educational system. As Berliner notes, this book “tells the story of the remarkableness of the training and rigorous musical thinking that underline improvisation [and] elucidates the creative processes that lie at the heart of the music culture of jazz.” Plus, there are a number of incredible interview excerpts from noted jazz artists who share their experiences as creators and practitioners, including Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch, Dizzy Gillespie, Curtis Fuller, Lee Konitz, et al.

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Good reads: Neuroscientist Samuel S. Wang

Looking for a good read? PAW asked some professors for their recommendations for the following categories:

1.     Your favorite book to teach
2.     The must-read book in your field
3.     Your favorite pleasure read
4.     The book you are currently reading
Each Tuesday for several weeks PAW will post a professor’s suggestions on The Weekly Blog, starting with those of Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute Samuel S. Wang. In upcoming weeks, look for the recommendations of Director of the Program in Jazz Studies Anthony D.J. Branker ’80, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Michael G. Littman, Director of the Program in the Study of Women and Gender Jill Dolan, and Acting Chair of the English department Anne A. Cheng ’85.
(Laura Straus)

Samuel S. Wang

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute
For my course NEU101, “Neuroscience and Everyday Life,” I give readings from Phantoms In the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. Rama is a well-known neurologist whom I have hosted for a Princeton public lecture; Blakeslee is an excellent science writer. They use the strange phenomenon of phantom limb syndrome to write about how everybody’s brain works. The representation of an amputated limb lingers in the brain. As a result it hurts even though it’s gone. Why that is, and how it can be addressed by simple tools that cost pennies, are the topic of the book. It’s a fascinating read.
I also love A Hole In the Head, a collection of essays by my colleague Charles Gross in psychology. Gross is an eminent neuroscientist and a lucid writer. His writings on everything from trepanation to dyslexia are amazing — valuable to scientists and historians of science alike.

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