Brian Edwards’ Best Reads of 2016

edwards
Photo by Lynn Trautmann

My name is Brian Edwards, and I’m the Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and a professor of English and comparative literature at Northwestern. I am also the founding director of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA), which partners with EPL in a monthly lecture series on the region.

My wife Kate Baldwin, also a Northwestern professor and author, and I moved here originally because of work. We were both born in New York City, but I grew up mostly in Connecticut, she in California (we met in graduate school at Yale). After more than a decade in Evanston, and raising four children ranging from a high school senior to a pre-kindergartner, we have deep ties in the community and love it here.

I’m constantly reading both for work and pleasure. These five books, which come from my reading this fall, are the ones I’m most excited to share right now. Four of them are relatively new: three of them works of fiction and one a work of social history. I also included an overlooked novel from the 1980s that I finally read last month and now cherish. And please also take a look at my own new book, After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East, which is also available at EPL.

1)  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize in fiction went to a first novel by an American studies professor at USC. Set in Vietnam and Los Angeles during the late 1960s and 1970s, Nguyen’s novel is structured as the confession of an unnamed south Vietnamese narrator who is secretly a mole for the communist north. What makes the novel an instant classic is the narrator’s voice: wry, critical, and ruthless as he dissects himself, the Vietnamese refugee community in SoCal, and the excesses of American anti-Communism and violence in the war. The chapters on the making of a fictional Hollywood film called The Hamlet, which closely resembles Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, are devastating. Beyond the sheer pleasure it generates, The Sympathizer shows what the contemporary novel can do to disrupt and deconstruct America’s sense of global superiority and the follies of military occupation in the name of exporting American principles.

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NU’s Scientific Images Contest Winners 2015

nu images 2015
“Chaos to Order” by James Hedrick (2nd Place)

Don’t miss the twelve stunning winners of Northwestern University’s 2015 Scientific Images Contest as they make their annual stop at EPL.  Selected by a panel of artists, scientists, and community leaders, the eye-popping images were captured during wide-ranging scientific research and “invite you to enjoy both the aesthetics and innovation of NU science.”  Prints of the images are available for purchase, and you can learn more about the annual contest by visiting HELIX – an online magazine produced by NU’s Science in Society.

Claire Kissinger’s Best Reads of 2014

claireMy name is Claire Kissinger, and I’ve lived in Evanston for the past three years.  I am a senior at Northwestern majoring in Art History and minoring in Gender & Sexuality Studies, and I work at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art as the Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow and as a Student Docent.  I love working at the Block Museum because it allows me to learn and talk about art with both professionals in the field (artists, curators, preparators, scholars) as well as our patrons who come from a variety of backgrounds.  In my free time, I love to drink coffee, dance, visit museums, and watch movies.

1) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1970)

I loved reading One Hundred Years this summer. The book features an INCREDIBLY extended and unique family and the changes the family undergoes over many years as their community evolves.  My favorite part of reading the book is that it was entirely unpredictable and fantastical, with characters constantly coming in and out of the narrative, always with ridiculous stories.

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