Queen’s English Professors’ Favourite Books

Queen’s English Professors’ Favourite Books

BY CASSANDRA LITTLEWOOD                       

ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR

How many books do you think you’ve read in your life? 5? 50? 500?

I wish I knew how many books have come across my eyes but I’m rounding it in to about 250. In comparison, when I think of all the books English professors at Queen’s have probably read, my 250 pales in comparison. Which lead me to think, of all the book English professors have read, what are some of their favourites and why? Keep scrolling to see some Queen’s English prof’s fave reads.

 

Dr. Heather Evans

 

What’s your favourite book?

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard

Why?

“When I was thinking about the question I was struck that all the books were all children’s books or books geared to young readers. It’s something that was encountered at a formative time and the more I thought about it the more I thought that my very favourite books were the ones I had grown up with. It wasn’t the ones that I encountered and left so if I had to absolutely pick one and I moved around all week I think I would go with Winnie the Pooh. Everybody loves it whether they knew it as a child and are re-encountering it or encountering it for the first time as an adult; everybody always seems to find something to love. They find a character that seems to particularly resonate for them; some people feel small like a little Piglet or a moody Eeyore or Pooh. I think it offers a little bit for everybody.”

 

Dr. S. Brooke Cameron

 

What’s your favourite book?

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Why?

“I would have to say my favourite book is Dracula and I like it because it is a lot of fun and every time I go back and reread it I always discover something new. I know it’s perhaps not the most impressive piece of writing and maybe even a bit trashy. I love it because there’s all sorts of exciting stuff happening in terms of gender, it is a real reflection of some of the changes happening with women in the 19th century and all sorts of interesting things happening with gender and sexuality, men and homo-social bonds. I’m also a secret horror fan. I love horror because it tells us about our culture there’s all sorts of interesting possibilities in horror too, especially with gender. There are lots of really conservative horror stories out there but there are also really interesting stories of ‘the last girl’ and women taking control and saving men. Horror works really well when it can tap into cultural politics, it doesn’t just go for cheap thrills. I think Stoker gets that right.”

 

Dr. Yael Schlick

 

What’s your favourite book?

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis and Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence by Geoff Dyer

Why?

“[These] are two of my favourite books by contemporary authors I adore: The first is Lydia Davis’s The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Her stories are unique: cerebral, idiosyncratic, insightful … and some of them are just one sentence long! I also love Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence.  It’s a rollicking account of trying to write a book about Lawrence, and, mostly, procrastinating and digressing instead.  I pretty well agree with Steve Martin’s blurb on the cover: It’s ‘the funniest book I have ever read.’”

 

Dr. Scott-Morgan Straker

 

What’s your favourite book?

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dowkins, Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie and poetry by Robert Browning, John Donne, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edmund Spencer

Why?

“One book, that really completely changed my mind about a whole bunch of things is The Selfish Gene by Richard Dowkins. It completely changed my sense of what it means to be alive. The category of life is not the organism, whether it be a human being or a fish or a plant. The category that carries information that makes you distinct from every other thing out there is the gene. So what an organism is, is a temporary collection of genes. It will die and its genes will be dispersed through its offspring if it has offspring but those genes are eternal. Genetic information lasts longer than rocks. This idea completely blew my mind, it just it made me think very differently about what it means to be alive. It’s not everyday that you read a book and you come out of it thinking ‘I cannot look at the world the same way.’

One of my favourite literary authors is Salmon Rushdie. I cannot choose between my two favourite Rushdie books, one of them is Midnight’s Children and the other one by him, the Satanic Verses, which was very controversial. What I love about Rushdie is partly because he is a great storyteller and the stories are just so inventive. Even when he is writing about very difficult material like violence and oppression and racism, the language is so inventive and full of creativity. Now, I know that there are a lot of readers who have a lot of hesitation about Rushdie, especially if you come from a Muslim background. His name is still guaranteed to generate controversy and there are some people who I know just can’t go there because they feel that he is attacking their faith, even though he himself is a Muslim so he would argue against that. So I know that this will be difficult material for some readers but I would still urge everyone who has a curiosity and feels like they can to at least approach it with as open a mind as they can.

I really admire poets like Robert Browning, John Donne, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edmund Spencer who can write short poems which are so worthy of close reading. You can practically open these books at random, pick a stanza at random and there’s stuff going on. I deeply deeply admire Tennyson, because this man, I’m convinced, was a practitioner of the black arts when it came to rhythm and sound. He could make any idea or statement fit into a poetic container and he could make the rhythm absolutely regular if he wanted to but when he departs from the pattern it is always meaningful. I’ve taught [Tennyson] maybe a dozen times every time I teach it again I notice [new things].  It’s so rewarding to read.”

 

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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