While the path back to normalcy seems unclear, many Americans are vowing to self isolate even if they are given government permission to travel. For those choosing to remain out of the public, here are some books to consider diving into while at home.
May is Jewish American History Month, so English instructor Mara Cohen Ioannides suggests books from the Jewish culture. Ioannides recommends “Burnt Bread and Chutney,” a collection of memoirs by author Carmit Delman regarding her Indian and Jewish ancestries.
“We often forget that the Jewish community in the United States is multicultural,” Ioannides said. “This memoir gives us an insight into the world of the Jews of India and how brown Jews feel in the white Jewish world, absolutely worth the read!”
Ioannides also suggests “Zayda Was a Cowboy” by June Levitt Nislick, and “Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom,” by Abraham Cahan. “Zayda Was a Cowboy” is about a boy interacting with his Zayda, which is Yiddish for grandfather. “Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom” is a collection of Jewish-American fictional stories.
Distinguished English professor, James Baumlin, recommends everyone, including students, immerse themselves in the culture and ecology of the world around them.
“Recent events have shown how fragile our world is,” Baumlin said. “So let's fill this time with local nature and history and culture, so that we can better appreciate the blessings of life here, in the Ozarks.”
Baumlin recommends “TechnOzarks: Essays in Technology, Regional Economy, and Culture” by MSU Dean of Libraries, Thomas Peters and biology professor at MSU, Paul Durhama. An albeit tedious publication, this deep dive delves into the Ozarks from multiple viewpoints. Any history buff or amatuer ecologist is sure to get a kick out of it.
Another suggestion from Baumlin is one of his books on the subject, “Living Ozarks: The Ecology and Culture of a Natural Place” also written by William Edgar and Rachel Besara.
“If we are ever to develop the collective will to preserve local ecology and culture, we have to expand our capacity for caring, ” Baumlin said. “I use that word, ‘caring,’ in a double sense. First, we have to learn to care about the world around us — we must learn, that is, to see it with loving eyes.”
For those looking to make sense of a pandemic, professor Jennifer Murvin suggests “American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic” by Nancy Bristow and “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert. Kolbert’s book is about climate change but it discusses the relationship between climate issues and pandemics. She also recommends “Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Indigenous Life” by James Daschuk. For fiction, Murvin suggests “World War Z” by Max Brooks, “The Stand” by Stephen King and “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
“I just think they're really wonderfully written and pertinent to our current crisis,” Murvin said.
According to professor Kenneth Gillam, the best thing to look for in literature right now is something to help keep a positive outlook.
“I think self care is important now, when everything is weird and it's easy to be gloomy,” Gillam said.
Gillam suggests “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts. The book dives into issues surrounding the anxiety of modern society and seeks to address these fears through eastern philosophy and spirituality influences.
“Because weirdness and anxiety are the order of the day,” Gillam said. “I think that love stories and comedies are essential.”
For these, Gillam recommends the love stories by Haruki Murakami 1Q84 and Sputnik Sweetheart. For comedies, Gillam suggests any of David Sedaris' collections of stories, David Foster Wallace's “A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again,” and “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.
If you have any recommendations, tweet us @TheStandard_MSU with your responses!