Recommended Reading

House of Leaves, Me Before you, Ender's Game and many of the other books recommended by Behrend faculty and staff.

House of Leaves, Me Before You, Ender's Game and many of the other books recommended by Behrend faculty and staff.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Is there anything more relaxing on a cold and dreary day than curling up in a soft chair with a warm blanket, a hot beverage, and a good book?

We turned to the biggest book lovers we know among the faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend and asked them to recommend a book (or a few) that had a powerful effect on them. Here are some of the titles that stuck out:

  • Growing Up by Russell Baker, a former New York Times columnist. Baker writes about growing up in Baltimore and his career in the newspaper business. It is on my list of the best books I have ever read because of the honesty with which he looks back and recounts behaviors that he now sees as hurtful. — Dr. Eric Corty, professor of psychology and interim director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker. This book taught me that our brains are aware of danger even when we don’t consciously accept it. I also liked Mindshare: Igniting Creativity and Innovation Through Design Intelligence by Nikos Acuna, which taught me how to better analyze information and make decisions, not just react out of emotion. — Kelly Shrout, associate director of Student Affairs
  • Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt. It has footnotes in every other chapter, but they are part of the adventure! I also enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond; and When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy. — Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal, associate professor of anthropology
  • It’s an emotionally rough read, but A Child Called ‘It’ by Dave Pelzer opened my eyes to the reality that some children do not grow up in loving homes. It made me more aware of the signs of abuse, and it is the reason I treat every child I meet as if they were my own. — Abigail Biebel, assistant coordinator, Positive Youth Development, Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation
  • Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi was unforgettable. The protagonist is a dwarf who struggles to find acceptance in her small German town during the span of two world wars. Another book I’ll never forget is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. It’s a hilarious book about a topic (cadavers) that’s not typically funny. — Ann Quinn, director, Greener Behrend
  • I am a huge sci-fi fantasy novel fan. Three books that made me that way are: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony; and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Each book made me think, question assumptions, and realize that anything is possible. — Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, associate professor of psychology
  • The Alexandria Quartet (a set of four books) by Lawrence Durrell. The first three novels tell the same story from the perspective of a different character in Egypt before and during World War II. The fourth book is set six years later. These books solidified my desire to travel the world, study language, and appreciate the poetry in everyday speech. These books continue to inspire me more than forty years after first reading them. — Dr. Mary Connerty, senior lecturer in English
  • Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray really opened my eyes to the fact that looking at statistics across the entire U.S. population is not a fruitful exercise in identifying trends. We actually have at least two "populations" in the United States and the trends are very different for each. — Dr. Greg Filbeck, professor of finance and interim director of the Black School of Business.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I found it to be very slow at first, but it turned out to be a beautiful story, full of emotion and honesty. I also loved Me Before You and its sequel, After You, by JoJo Moyes. — Emily Cassano, lecturer in theatre
  • Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol. I read it as an undergraduate and it both broke my heart and reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher. It helped me to realize I could be an agent of change through my profession. Now, as a math education teacher, I get to discuss the book with the next generation of teachers who are also inspired by it. — Jodie Styers, lecturer in math education
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson. It is as beautiful and insightful as it is gritty and dark. It predicted many aspects of our digital lives in the 21st century, and it continues to be a warning about our economic, ecological, and social future. — Dr. Aaron Mauro, assistant professor of English and digital humanities
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck inspired my family to take a cross-country road trip together. Actually, we did it several times because it was such an amazing adventure and gave us an opportunity to meet some unforgettable people. — Margo Kertis, senior lecturer in nursing
  • The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches us About Being Alive by Brian Christian explores the author’s participation in the Turing test experiment, pitting sophisticated software programs against humans to determine if a computer can “think,” and the implications of that. It’s a read for anyone interested in how technology is shaping us and we it. — Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. This book encourages individuals to find and focus on their natural gifts (empathy, communication, etc.) and not waste too much time trying to fix their weaknesses. It’s especially helpful for those who aren’t sure what career path to follow. — Courtney Steding, director of Career Services
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. The author lost his son at a young age and wrote this elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. I found it to be enlightening and inspiring. — Dr. Laurie Urraro, lecturer in Spanish
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is an incredibly odd book that breaks convention. It’s like a work of art within a book. It really challenged my preconceptions of what a book is. It contains transcripts of audio, several coinciding storylines, and the best footnotes ever. If you enjoy books that make you question everything, try this one. — Heather Cole, lecturer in digital arts