The 2018–2019 cohort of Radcliffe fellows includes scholars, scientists, artists, and writers. Below, a selection of Radcliffe fellows share books that inspired their research, activated their imaginations, and sparked their enjoyment. These fellows provided reading recommendations as one way to thank Radcliffe’s donors, whose support is critical to the Institute’s people, programs, and research collections.
University of Vienna (Austria)
Physics and Astronomy/Astrophysics
João recommends The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars (Viking, 2016), by Dava Sobel, who has spoken about her fascinating book at Radcliffe. The author brings gracefully to life the groundbreaking work done at Harvard in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the pioneering women who made it a reality. (One of these women has inspired artwork at Radcliffe’s Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery.) João is this year’s Edward, Frances, and Shirley B. Daniels Fellow.
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
Katie recommends a book by one of her “fellow fellows,” Francisco Goldman RI ’19. His memoir-novel, Say Her Name (Grove Press, 2011), based on his memories of loving, losing, and grieving for his wife, Aura, is an emotionally devastating read but offers one of the most honest and beautiful meditations on love and loss that Katie has ever read. Bugyis is a Joy Foundation Fellow.
Hernan del Valle
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (Netherlands)
Hernan, this year’s Rita E. Hauser Fellow, recommends The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, by Francisco Cantú (Riverhead Books, 2018). The book is a moving, nonfictional account from a third-generation Mexican-American who spends four years as a border patrol officer in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Cantú conveys a different perspective on the border and its impact on ordinary lives—a timely perspective, given the current debates about migration control in America.
Corinne T. Field
University of Virginia
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Corinne recommends Martha S. Jones’s Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2018). This book explains how African American activists first defined US citizenship as a birthright, the opposition they faced, and why birthright citizenship—although guaranteed by the 14th Amendment—remains under threat today as Americans once again debate the boundaries of national belonging. Corinne is this year’s Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow.
Malick W. Ghachem
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Malick recommends Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books, 2017), a vivid reimagining of the contemporary refugee crisis with a magical realist twist. Malick is this year’s ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stefan, this year’s Katherine Hampson Bessell Fellow, recommends Dexter Palmer’s Version Control: A Novel (Pantheon, 2016), a science-fiction tale set in the very near future about time travel, race in the United States, algorithmic remakings of identity, self-driving cars, gravitational waves, and the meaning of growing up when you’re already a grown-up.
National Taiwan University (Taiwan)
Chang-Ling, this year’s Radcliffe-Harvard Yenching Institute Fellow, recommends Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World (Scribner, 2015). This book is a fascinating commentary on geopolitics and history. Marshall shows how we usually underestimate the importance and significance of the “geo” part—especially regarding physical landscape—when we think of geopolitics.
Charlotte Lloyd recommends Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa, by Antjie Krog (Crown, 1999), a South African poet and journalist who reported on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was formed after the fall of South African apartheid. Her memoir reflects on violence, justice, guilt, hatred, memory, trauma, truth, fear, healing, redemption, and the nature of evil in the hallowed footsteps of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. Charlotte is a Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow.
Aniruddh (Ani) D. Patel
Ani, this year’s William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fellow, recommends The Spaces Between Us: A Story of Neuroscience, Evolution, and Human Nature, by Michael Graziano (Oxford University Press, 2018). Graziano’s book is a fascinating and accessible introduction to the neuroscience of personal space, with implications for understanding how the brain constructs the sense of self and for diagnosing and treating certain neurological disorders.
Michigan State University
Sarah recommends Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (Metropolitan Books, 2017). This book provides riveting and sobering detail about New York City’s close encounter with municipal bankruptcy during the 1970s and the extraordinary steps required to avoid that fate. More important, the book shows how New York’s experience signaled a broader turning point in American politics: a turn toward austerity amid the rising prominence of financial elites in shaping the political arena. Sarah is this year’s Maury Green Fellow.
Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Evie recommends Counternarratives by John Keene ’87 (New Directions, 2015)—a beautifully written, stunningly imaginative book. Its stories and novellas write people of African descent into some less predictable (but not implausible) locations in the history of the Americas. The result, says Evie, is that readers understand how thoroughly the official narratives have excluded African Americans.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Katherine, this year’s Mary I. Bunting Institute Fellow, recommends The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir (Random House, 2017), by Ariel Levy, about a modern woman’s pursuit of a full life on her own terms. The book has received praise from such memoirists as Cheryl Strayed and David Sedaris. Sedaris writes, “Every deep feeling a human is capable of will be shaken loose by this profound book. Ariel Levy has taken grief and made art out of it.”