Looking for a new read? PC professors have you covered.

Looking for a new read? PC professors have you covered.

September is National Literacy Month, and today is Read a Book Day.  In honor of these holidays, we asked some of our faculty members for book recommendations to add to your reading list. Some of their recommendations are from their subject areas, and some are their personal favorites.

Here are eight books to add to your reading list.

“Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment” by James Gaines

Recommended by Dr. Christian Elser, Associate Professor Music

“Johann Sebastian Bach created what may be the most celestial and profound body of music in history; Frederick the Great built the colossus we now know as Germany, and along with it a template for modern warfare. Their fleeting encounter in 1757 signals a unique moment in history where belief collided with the cold certainty of reason. Set at the tipping point between the ancient and modern world, ‘Evening in the Palace of Reason’ captures the tumult of the eighteenth century, the legacy of the Reformation, and the birth of the Enlightenment in this extraordinary tale of two men.”


“Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges

Recommended by Dr. Latha Gearheart, Professor of Chemistry

“This book is an interesting, and at times emotional recount of a portion of the British mathematician, Alan Turing’s life and his efforts to decode the German Enigma cipher. More generally, it is an important example of diligence and perseverance when applying the scientific method. One interesting tidbit, the book briefly references Alan Turing’s visit to a small South Carolina town around the 34th parallel. Presbyterian College is located around the 34th parallel. Perhaps Turing visited Clinton.”


“One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad)” by Gabriel García Márquez

Recommended by Dr. Sharon Knight, Professor of Spanish

“It’s an example of the kind of storytelling that takes you out of yourself and transports you to another time and place, with an ending that will leave you shocked and in awe at the final lines of the novel.”



“How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders” by Marcus Cicero

Recommended by Dr. Erin McAdams,  Associate Professor of Political Science

“This is a classic collection of Cicero’s writings when he was elected to the Roman Republic’s highest office in 63 BC. It may seem that advice about running a country wouldn’t apply in today’s setting, but as the book’s description indicates, he was elected at a time when his country was ‘threatened by power-hungry politicians, dire economic troubles, foreign turmoil, and political parties that refused to work together. Sound familiar?’”


“Hannah Coulter” by Wendell Berry

Recommended by Dr. Austin Shull ’11, Assistant Professor of Biology

“This book is not really science-themed at all, but it is a book I’m enjoying currently! This book follows the life of Hannah Coulter, who lives in the small, rural town of Port William and is trying to maintain her family farm throughout the decades, from the 1940s to the 2000s. The book’s theme focuses a great deal on the importance of community and the impact community has on the overall development of a person. I like this book because of PC’s goal of promoting its own community for the purpose of developing students.”


“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Recommended by Dr. Suzie Smith ’82, Robert M. Vance Professor of Business Administration

“It’s my single favorite business book. Carnegie understood human nature and developed insightful principles about best practices in dealing with people. Through the power of stories, he illustrates his principles with compelling anecdotes featuring Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Queen Victoria, Henry Ford, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and dozens of less well-known people. My students are amazed that this 1936 volume with the cheesy title could help them address modern business problems. Human nature hasn’t changed. Understanding the principles isn’t hard; practicing them consistently and sincerely is. If I were to rename this book today, I might title it ‘Achieve Results Through Winsome Leadership.’”


“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

Recommended by Professor Robert Stutts, Associate Professor of English

“One of my favorite books, ‘The Awakening’ blew me away when I first read it in college. The writing is, of course, sublime, and I love the complex and often contrary nature of Edna Pontellier, but my favorite aspect of this short novel is Chopin’s structure, which brings everything full circle (even sentences from early in the novel are repeated at the end). While the novel is not what I would call uplifting, ‘The Awakening’ is gorgeous and important.”


“The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail” by Jason de Leon

Recommended by Dr. Jaclyn Sumner, Assistant Professor of History

“The book is invaluable for anyone who wants to understand more about the history of Latin American migration to the United States, and the role that U.S. migration policy has played in shaping migratory flows from places like Mexico and Central America. I recommend it highly, although it is definitely not light reading!

“For easier, less academic reading, I have been enjoying Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming.’ Regardless of your political leanings, she has some really important things to say about women in leadership.”


Enjoy National Literacy Month

The friendly staff at the James H. Thomason Library helps PC students find the books and other resources they need. Visit your local library during National Literacy Month to find these professors’ favorites or one you’ve been putting off.