ASU professors choose must-read books for college students

ASU professors choose one book every student should read

College is meant to be a time of intellectual growth, but as students get caught up in the rigors of everyday life, it becomes harder and harder to stimulate the brain outside of the classroom.

One of the best ways to do this is through reading, so The State Press took to asking ASU professors which books they thought were critical to the college experience.

The first book on the list comes from English professor Neal Lester, whose background is in African American literary and cultural studies.

He chose the novel “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

Most critics praise Morrison’s later novels as her best, but Lester said "The Bluest Eye" is a "visceral and nuanced" look into the African-American identity several levels.

“Through the lens of beauty and beauty standards ('The Bluest Eye') addresses class, race, gender and religion,” he said. “(Morrison) essentially deconstructs American ideals and shows what it means to be miseducated in one of the greatest countries on the planet. It’s just very honest and raw.”

Lee Bebout, a literature professor whose work touches on transborder studies, picked Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man."

This book is considered to have changed the landscape of American literature and is hailed as Ellison’s magnum opus.

Bebout said he thinks this is a crucial read for college students because of its complexities.

“It’s probably my favorite book, and it does a wonderful job of explaining racial and political dynamics in the U.S.,” he said. “The narrator’s exploration of what it means to be invisible — not seen as a fully complex human — is critical to understanding the past, present, but hopefully not the future of U.S. racial politics.”

Associate professor Ronald Broglio reflected his research on philosophy and how humans interact with their environment through aesthetics with his pick of Friedrich Nietzsche’sGenealogy of Morals." He picked the book because it provides a threshold into our contemporary world, he said.

“It undermines authority and the values we hold as most important for judging what is right, true, and good. Nietzsche’s claim is that these values come from a need by those who hold them for power over others,” he said. “He believes contemporary (Christian) morality is a mode of power, control and violence shrouded in righteousness as a way to justify actions.” 

In the book, Nietzsche opens the gates to contemporary continental philosophy, which looks at how power relations are configured between peoples, systems and even nations, Broglio said.

Associate professor of English and literature Sally Ball picked collection of poems: Liu Xia’sEmpty Chairs."

Liu Xia is the wife of deceased Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who died in prison on July 13, 2017.

“Empty Chairs” is an emotional collection of Liu Xia's poems, and Ball picked it as a must read because of its striking display of raw humanity, she said.

“I recommend these poems — which are stark, beautiful, and incredibly moving — in particular to an incoming college student for this reason: here’s a person whose life has been driven by three essential commitments — creative expression, political courage, and love," Ball said. "(Liu Xia) writes, ‘The more magical a creature is/ the more it should display its strangeness.'"


 Reach the reporter at aalmouai@asu.edu or follow @zamurai_96 on Twitter. 

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