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For your reading pleasure

With all assignments given to college students every semester, it’s hard to find time to read books just for the sake of enjoyment. But if you find yourself with some down time during your busy college life, here are some noteworthy books to check out suggested by Belmont faculty and staff — no research paper is necessary.

Jung Chang

Ernest Heard, Director of Library Services

In this heart-wrenching memoir, Chang chronicles her life as well as her mother and grandmother’s experiences within China during the 20th century. “Wild Swans” has been translated in more than 30 languages, giving its readers an accurate historical look inside the Chinese communist movement.

James Joyce

Michael Davis, Lila D. Bunch Tech Support Specialist

James Joyce, known mostly for his works like “Ulysses” and “Finnegan’s Wake,” wrote this collection of 15 short stories, published in 1914, about his native Dublin.

“It’s worth reading for the final story alone, ‘The Dead’,” Davis said. “The mixed and conflicted emotions conveyed in that story are truly memorable.

If you ever tried to read Joyce and failed to get past the first page, Davis insists that “Dubliners” is an easier read.

“I have reread this little book many times over the years, and always find something new,” Davis said.

Maya Angelou

Jenny Mills, Lila D. Bunch Reference Services

After hearing Maya Angelou’s insightful lecture at the 2011 Humanities Symposium, it’s no surprise one of the books on this list would be the first of what became a three-volume autobiography, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” In the New York Times bestseller, Angelou recalls her childhood and early adulthood growing up in the South: “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.” Through her engrossing stories, readers discover why Angelou is such a renowned and inspiring individual.

Richard Wright

Don Cusic, Music Business

In this classic novel published in 1940, Richard Wright tells a poignant tale of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man who murders a white woman during the 1930s in Chicago, and his forthcoming trial. Considered to be one of the most profound novels of its time, “Native Son” changed the face of American literature.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Vance Wilson, Lila D. Bunch Circulation Manager

“Cancer Ward,” set in post-Stalin Russia, follows protagonist Kostoglotov on his journey through a Soviet cancer ward where he falls in love with one of the doctors. But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that “Cancer Ward” is a metaphor for Soviet government, which led to the book’s ban by the country’s government for many years.

“It’s not a ‘nice’ title, but it has a good, movie-like ending,” Wilson said.

The dreary Russian backdrop may not make this the best beach read, but it’s a great story and novel, he said.

Mary McDonagh Murphy

Sally Holt, School of Religion

Most every American student has either read through or knows of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” In “Scout, Atticus and Boo,” Murphy offers insight into this quintessential coming-of-age story and interviews people like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Brokaw about how this powerful novel has influenced them.

Herman Melville

Peter Kuryla, Department of History

Truly an iconic piece of literary history, “Moby Dick” follows a crazed sea captain, Ahab, on his quest for the elusive white whale. As a defining novel of the 19th century, “Moby Dick” has been the basis for many works of modern literature.

If you have already set sail with Ishmael in a high school English class, Kuryla also suggests “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann.

“The Magic Mountain” takes place in pre-World War I Europe, specifically in a tuberculosis hospital in the Swiss Alps. When the protagonist, Hans, visits an ailing cousin at the facility, he contracts the disease and begins his journey of learning and self-discovery.

Although the two books differ in subject and plot, Kuryla says that a common theme holds them together.

“Both of these books are novels of ideas that depict fragile worlds in the process of passing into oblivion,” he said. “What can be better than that?”

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