Talking Books

English Department's 'Faculty Favorites' Series Highlights Love of Reading

Ask any Central Michigan University English Professor in the halls and rooms of Anspach why they pursued the study of literature, and I bet they’ll take you back to the same place—a time in their childhood when they first felt transported by a book they loved.

This love for reading—which for each of these faculty members later became a passion for the study and teaching of literature—is the heart of the new Faculty Favorites Series. Debuting last fall, the series takes place twice per semester and features two English professors at each event chatting about a book they love.

In considering a location for this series, the most obvious choice was our town’s lovely book haven, Sleepy Dog Books. Located at 120 East Broadway in Downtown Mount Pleasant, the store is owned by book lovers Jenny and Riley Justis.

Of the series, Jenny said, “We are passionate advocates of the literary community in Central Michigan and are thrilled to take part in the discussions about the works that have made a lasting impact on each faculty member.”

In addition to hosting the event, Sleepy Dog Books has copies of that evening’s books available for purchase.

For some faculty presenters, the book is a favorite from years back, and others choose to talk about a recent favorite. In doing so, they narrow the lens further, focusing on one passage in that book they particularly love. The events are not intended to be lectures, but informal conversations, not only between the professors, but also between audience members who are invited to chime in and ask questions.

Guests seated in chairs inside a bookstore listen to two CMU faculty members leading a discussion.
Guests attend the English Department's Faculty Favorites series January 23 at Sleepy Dog Books.

Despite abysmal weather, it was a full house for the January 23rd event featuring JoEllen DeLucia, who discussed Civilizations by Laurent Binet, and Kris McDermott, who discussed Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Their chat inspired a lovely conversation about the differences between historical fiction and historical non-fiction, among other topics of discussion.

“We faculty are always so caught up in teaching and other university business that we rarely get a chance to talk to each other about what got us into the field in the first place – our love of reading literature,” McDermott said. “This event is not just fun for us; it helps us show our students that reading can be a lifelong pleasure and source of community.”

Master of Arts in Creative Writing candidate Wyn Babcock agrees.

“I am really passionate about my major and love talking about literature, so the series gives me more opportunities—and more importantly, non-academic opportunities—to engage with literature in different ways,” said Babcock.

All are invited to the next Faculty Favorites Series 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 20th to hear Ari Berk discuss Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and Anne Alton discuss Diane Duane’s Deep Wizardry

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