Fictional free-time, books beyond the Core

Amanda Jesse, Contributing Writer

Students enjoy reading in their free time and as a means of procrastinating on other, class-assigned readings. Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

There’s no denying that students, and even professors, have very little in the way of free time to do much reading outside of books assigned for class. However, there’s nothing like a good book to help maintain sanity.

“I want to say ‘hurray for reading as a way of procrastinating from reading!’ ”  history professor Susan Hanssen said via email. “I think some of the best reading one does is reading that you squirrel away in ‘illicit leisure’ when you ought to be reading something else for school.”

In light of such an enthusiastic blessing, here are book recommendations from the University of Dallas’ very own.

Anne Janas, fiction fanatic:
Janas, who “can’t live without books,” likes to change up the genres she reads but always returns to fantasy and historical fiction.

Currently she is in the throes of the C.L. Wilson’s “Tairen Soul” series. According to Janas, it tells a tale of insurmountable odds, allies in unexpected places and high-quality villains.

“Often villains are used for comic relief — these ones are just evil,” Janas says.

Janas also recommended “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Emma Orczy. Set during the French Reign of Terror, Janas described the story as “fun and swashbuckling,” with elements of cleverness, suspense, mystery and romance.

Titus Willard, dark humorist:
Willard, a junior history and English major, enjoys Southern Gothic, describing it as “heavy but humorous.” Willard first recommended Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer,”  for both its hidden depth and for being an  entertaining “light read.”

Willard also suggested “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy and the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, such as “Parker’s Back.”

For spiritual reading, Willard highly recommended C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.”

“It’s unsettling how much you can relate to devils writing letters to each other,” Willard said. “I could relate to their method of attack.”

Dr. Susan Hanssen, intellectual subversive:
Hanssen first recommended C.S. Lewis’  “The Abolition of Man,” which she has heard students recommend to each other as a “basic backdrop for the core thinking around here.”

For those looking “to be swept away into a great historic tale,” she recommends Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” and Robert Massie’s “Nicholas and Alexandra.”

Finally, she recommended G.K. Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday.”

“It was written when Chesterton was very young,” Hanssen said. “It is a college guy’s book, [an] intellectual battle turned into a struggle between a terrorist group and the police.”

Joseph Pecha, vicarious adventurer:
A sophomore biochemistry major, Pecha recommended books from a variety of genres, all of which contain adventure.

Brian Jacques’ trilogy “Castaways of the Flying Dutchman” describes a boy and his dog who are cursed along with the crew of the famed ship.

Or, for  a  realistic, engaging and “well-developed” choice, Pecha recommended Nicholas C. Prata’s historical novel, “Angels in Iron,” about the knights of Malta.

Dr. Charles Sullivan, wild card:
For those disposed toward cultural commentary, Sullivan recommended “The Giveness of Things,” a series of essays by Marilynne Robinson, an author who Fr. Thomas Esposito also appreciates.

Sullivan also suggested the “eccentric” and “original” short stories by Robert Sheckley in “Store of Worlds” and Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”

“ ‘Confessions’ can be read quickly and just for the pure enjoyment of its sometimes cheesy British humor,” Sullivan said. “It can also be read, with some recent political economy, as an exploration of the addictive character of contemporary consumerism.”

Ruth Fritz, dystopian connoisseur:
Senior Ruth Fritz may be a Classics major, but in her reading she looks to the future, preferring Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” to current young adult dystopian novels.

“[Farenheit 451] actually guides through the discourse about why you should read, for school or for fun,” Fritz said. “So if you’re having trouble coming to terms with the Core it might help you get back on the right track.”

Fritz also enjoys murder mystery novels as light reading to stimulate the mind.

Fr. Thomas Esposito, seeker of deeper meaning:
Esposito enjoys Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” and appreciates the French Revolution and Biblical themes “all rolled into one.”

Esposito highly recommended “The End of the Affair” and “The Power and the Glory” by Catholic author Graham Greene, since, though they offer a Catholic perspective, they are “not the typical pious Catholic novel.” While he appreciates classics, Esposito advocates light reading.

“Not everything you read has to be the greatest, most profound piece of literature,” Esposito said, “You have to put your mind at rest every now and then.”


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