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Books to Ignite Your Imagination

There seems to be no need to justify the importance of books in an academic environment that prizes critical thinking. But is that still the case? It’s no secret that the world of book publishing, and especially academic publishing, is undergoing tremendous change and challenge at a time when reading is increasingly limited to tweets and texts, and young students in particular tend to seek information from online sources rather than the printed page.

So Insight wanted to check in with Smith faculty to get a pulse on how books continue to influence their teaching, research and scholarship. We asked faculty members from six diverse disciplines to share their thoughts on a recent book (within the last decade or so) that further shaped, altered or redefined how they think about their fields.

“Deep, sustained reading is one of the best ways we can expand our vision and better know ourselves,” asserts essayist William Deresiewicz. In the six essays that follow, faculty members’ own words are testament to the sustaining power of books to transform our thoughts and beliefs, to ignite our imaginations (as one professor put it), and sometimes, as another professor poignantly notes, change the very course of our lives and work.—Jane Falla