21, No. 2, July 19, 2001
More Sizzlin' Summer Reading
by Bill Wiegand
interim associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, College of
Fine and Applied Arts
One of the signs
of summer I anticipate with pleasure is contemplating the tall stack
of books on my coffee table. I even like the crinkly paper covers on
the library books, because they mean that the season to read self-indulgently
In the winter, I thoroughly enjoy novelists like Margaret Atwood ("The
Blind Assassin," "Cats Eye" and "The Edible
Woman" are favorites), who require that you pay attention. Summer
standards are different on the beach one can sport books and
clothing one wouldnt admit to owning the rest of the year. This
summers reading so far has included an autobiography by ice skater
Scott Hamilton, a Rosamunde Pilcher novel called "Winter Solstice"
and Jane Smileys "Moo," which is a must read for anyone
who works at a land-grant Midwestern university.
Being an Anglophile, I like to curl up with Maeve Binchy (all right
shes Irish, but close enough), P.D. James, Barbara Vine, Elizabeth
George (all right shes American but the books are set in England)
or Pilcher. In Pilchers world, tired folks routinely have a hot
bath and a cool gin prior to being served a broiled lamb chop, crusty
bread and crisp salad from the garden, served by an unhurried hostess
who lays the table with checked linen cloths and heavy silver. In her
tasty world the word "toothsome" applies equally to bakery
tarts and to a middle-aged male character. So I smack my lips as I consume
a PBJ in the Illinois heat and take a mental vacation in the cool English
J. Kushner, interim head, electrical and computer engineering, Founders
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
by Bill Wiegand
It seems as though
the only place I get serious reading done, even during the summer, is
on an airplane going to-and-fro on my university travel. So my criteria
for selecting summer reading material are that the book must be physically
small enough to fit in a crowded briefcase next to the laptop and be
of the appropriate length to be completed during a round-trip. Those
restrictions may eliminate a hardbound New York Times best seller, but
do leave open a great selection of interesting works. Some recommended
"Funding Science in America," by James D. Savage: This is
the story of "earmarked" funding (i.e., pork barrel) by Congress
for universities and colleges. Savage has skillfully picked his way
through an emotional and political minefield in presenting that which
we in universities secretly wish for but hesitate to admit to in public.
"Splinter Fleet," by Theodore R. Treadwell: Sub-chasers were
a hastily built fleet of small wooden ships tasked by the U.S. Navy
with performing a plethora of dangerous (and mundane) behind-the-scenes
missions during World War II. "Splinter Fleet" is the story
of the unjustly forgotten but gallant sub-chasers, largely crewed by
young former landlubbers, like Mr. Treadwell, who had never before been
on a ship but rose to the challenge of defending their country.
"Caribbean," by James A. Michener: I admit this violates the
one-plane-trip criterion (unless you are the speediest of readers) but
it is hard to resist an unread Michener novel. "Caribbean"
is classic Michener, covering 800 years of the history of the islands,
people and events of the Caribbean. There are enough facts, figures,
maps and familiar names and scenarios that you are tempted to believe
the stories are true.
"War as I Knew It," by George S. Patton: The wartime memoir
of perhaps our most accomplished and controversial WWII officer, Gen.
George S. Patton, is a fascinating window into his intricate thought
processes and motivations. His battle orders for Third Army (Appendix
D) are mandatory reading for department heads and deans.
"The Code Book" by Simon Singh: A blend of history and understandable
theory, "The Code Book" is an introduction to cryptography
for the interested layperson. You may not feel better about the security
of the Internet after this read, but at least you will know why you
dont feel better.