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What to read during the winter break

readinglist2011 By Wendi Wheeler ’06

When I was an undergraduate student in the Weekend College program at Augsburg, I studied a lot. I was that geeky student who began the homework assignment for the next class session immediately after class, and we typically had two weeks between classes. So, I studied a lot, and I loved being a student.

But every year in the break between the fall and winter trimesters, I would read as many books as I could just for fun. I was so glad that I didn’t have to take notes or underline passages or prepare a reflection, so I would generally spend the entirety of my winter break with my nose buried in a book. I got great grades, but I didn’t have much of a social life in college.

For those of you who love to read as much as I do, I offer the following book (and a few film) suggestions for the winter break from Auggie students, staff, and faculty. If you’d like to add to the list, please email me.

In case you’re interested in The New York Times‘ opinion, here’s their 10 Best Books of 2011 list.


Regina Hopingardner, CLASS program

Movie: Legends of the Fall. There’s nothing like watching a tragic, old-fashioned epic on a cold winter day when you don’t have anywhere to be or anything to do.

Book: The Godfather. As you gather with your own mixed bag of a family, this is a sweet reminder about the kind of “family” you could be stuck with.

Jody Sorensen, Mathematics

I just finished State of Wonder by Anne Patchett and really enjoyed it.

Anika Clark, student

I would like to recommend the book, Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and the film Crash directed by Paul Haggis.

Julie Edstrom, Enrollment Management

This summer I read Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison. For someone who has struggled to understand the nuances of emotional expression and social relationships, Robison is an articulate and gifted storyteller. A great read.

Sherry Jennings-King, Institutional Advancement

Left for Dead: A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis. Not a lot of people know it, but because of this kid in Florida’s research, and because of the outcome, the captain of the USS Cole was not court-martialed for leaving his ship vulnerable to an enemy attack. Read it last month. Recommended by my sis. Couldn’t put it down.

Billy Mzenga, student

A book I read this summer that I thought was really cool and gave me a better understanding of Christianity was The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.

Doug Green, English

Here are some of my favorite books this year, even though none of them are new arrivals: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, Room by Emma Donoghue, and Peter Bognanni’s The House of Tomorrow.

Jay Phinney, Academic Affairs

Not a book or film, but I plan to set aside an uninterrupted hour to listen to Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, recorded live in 1975. Wonderful stuff.

Laura Roller, Corporate, Foundation, and Government Relations

Here are a few that I’ve read over the past year. They’re kind of “off the beaten path” so may be new to many folks.


Eels, by James Prosek, which is about cultures around the world for whom eels are a food staple and iconic animal. Really well written and an interesting look at this migratory food source that’s incredibly important to many societies.

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. Just started this and it’s fabulous! It just came out in paperback. She uses the life stories of several people to illustrate the experience of African American people moving from agricultural to industrial America.

The Poisoners Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by Deborah Blum. Sounds grim but it’s really fun and interesting.


Just discovered Anne Porter, An Altogether Different Language. It’s really old (published in the mid-90s) and was a finalist for the National Book Award. She published this—her first book—in her mid 80s. The older I get, the more I love these stories about literary “late bloomers!”

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver. Again, published a few years ago…around 2005 I think. Mary Oliver writes about nature and won the Pulitzer a few years back.

Wendi Wheeler, Marketing

I know I’m behind on this, but I just read The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and absolutely loved the story! I totally cried on the plane to California when I finished the last book. I also have Love Wins by Rob Bell on my nightstand, so I’ll be reading that during the break.


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