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President’s Bookshelf: Memorable books of 2014

December 22, 2014 — 

For more reading highlights, UM Today caught up with our book-loving President and Vice-Chancellor, David Barnard, who supplied us with a list of 5 books he enjoyed in 2014, with some context for each.


President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard’s 2014 reading list


Collins_Aimless-LoveI see that in this past year I read a lot of poetry — starting early in the year with (1) Aimless Love by Billy Collins, moving on to the Collected Poems of my friend Micheal O’Siadhail (which was a rereading), then everything I could find by Frank X. Walker (having first been introduced to his Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride by a colleague a couple of years ago) and ending late in the year with The Best American Poetry 2013, edited by Denise Duhamel, the most recent volume in the long-running series edited by David Lehman, with other things interspersed along the way.


Thrones,DominationsI also made a second attempt to read Jill Paton Walsh’s continuation of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories by Dorothy Sayers. I came to Sayers by way of The Nine Tailors, recommended by a member of my advisory committee when I was a Ph.D. student, and then consumed the Wimsey series and her other books. When it appeared some years ago, I tried (2) Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, with Paton Walsh building on some material left by Sayers, and moved on to one or two of the subsequent books that Paton Walsh produced by herself, but had not developed my usual compulsive urge to read them all. In the summer I decided that I might have misjudged, tried again this year and found them pleasurable in a different way than I had enjoyed Sayers herself, and so read the rest of them.



Reading the delightful (3) Grammar Matters: The Social Significance of How We Use Language by Jila Ghomeshi, our faculty colleague here at UM, provided an occasion for me to ask for Jila’s views on some of the patterns of English usage that irk me the most — for various reasons that she did not find compelling!




I met Northrop Frye when I was a student, though as a computer science major I was never in any of his classes. Over the years I have read a number of his books (sometimes twice) but this year decided to read (4) The Educated Imagination by Northrop Frye and, as usual, found him to be stimulating and a bit intimidating.




Warlords-CookI read history usually because specific books are recommended to me by several friends who read much more of it. (5) Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada’s World Wars by Tim Cook is an example of such a book. It broadened my perspective on this country and on the political complexity of leading in such stressful times.




The President’s Bookshelf is an occasionally appearing column by U of M President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard.


>> See more Best of 2014 lists here.

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