Alumni Book Lists

July 2020- More Racial Justice Suggested Readings

View July book list as PDF

Gretchen Hintz Wronka ’66 and Melissa Reuter Brechon ’77, both professional librarians, offer a selection of books on race and racism.


June 2020 — Racial Justice Suggested Reading

View June book list as a PDF

This month, alumna, trustee and activist Kathleen O’Brien ’67, and sociology Professor Daniel A. Williams share reading recommendations to help us reflect on the social justice changes we seek.

Recommendation from Kathleen O'Brian '67
Kathleen has worked as a historian, Minneapolis elected official and administrator for the city and the University of Minnesota. Her work involved increasing access to affordable housing, health care, education, addressing racial disparities, human rights and justice for all. She works to build coalitions with all groups impacted by systematic racism and injustice.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Won the National Book Award in 2015.  Coates’ story of growing up and becoming a journalist as a Black Man.  Really, a must read. NY: Spiegal and Grau, 2019

Hope in the Struggle, Josie Johnson
This memoir is of particular interest regarding the struggle for justice here in Minnesota by one of our Civil Rights icons. Johnson is frequently interviewed during these days about her experiences and very effective work on past civil rights issues. 
Mpls, MN: Univ of Minnesota Press, 2019.

The War Before the War: The Fugitive Slave Act and the Struggle for America’s Soul, Andrew Delbanco
This is the history of slavery before the Civil War.  It focuses on the conflict between Abolitionists and Slave Owners climaxing with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850--then leading to the Civil War.   Well written and thoroughly researched history.  Helps you understand why we should call the lake in Minneapolis Bde MaKa Ska.  Painful but well worth the read. 
NY: Penguin Books, 2019.

The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates
This novel tells the story of slave life in a Virginia plantation, the Underground Railroad, and the struggle for freedom and justice.  Well researched, moving story and for those who prefer novels recounts the same life experiences as the historical works. 
London: One World Publishing, 2019.

Recommendations from Daniel A. Williams
Daniel Williams is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology.  Daniel Williams' research and teaching focus on race and ethnicity, immigration and belonging, and inequality in society in both the US and abroad.  At St. Kate's, Professor Williams teaches courses in Sociology and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity as well as the Global Search for Justice.  Prof. Williams is a son of parents who grew up in St. Paul's Rondo and Frogtown communities, and a son of a St. Kate's alumna and CSJ consociate, Janet Williams, '59.

How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
A Wall Street Journal story quotes author Ibram X. Kendi: “Many people are trying to figure out how they can be part of the struggle to build a nation anew, and they want an affirmative perspective. Being an antiracist allows them to understand what they can be and how they can join the struggle to eliminate racism.” 
London: One World Publishing, 2019.

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
A powerful book, White Fragility holds out the thesis that change is possible.  DiAngelo invites readers to engage in deep personal inquiry and collective change about race. White fragility stands in the way of our conversation and action about racial equity but, it is possible to overcome this obstacle. The book offers important antiracist understanding and essential strategies for going forward. 
Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018.

Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis
Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She makes the case for “decarceration”, and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole. 
NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003

May 2020 — Reading Suggestions for Young Adults

View May book list as a PDF

For alumni involved in working with or teaching young adults, Kelly Barnhill ’96, poet and writer, suggests several young adult reading selections.
Kelly Barnhill ’96, Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories

A collection of short stories, among which is “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch.” A story of loss, love, and basic humanity, Mrs. Sorensen stretches the imagination of the reader in new ways. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2018.

Laura Ruby, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
A ghost story set in Chicago told through historical fiction. Thirteen Doorways was a finalist for the National Book Award. NY: Balzer + Bray, 2019.

Shannon Gibney, Dream Country Through historical fiction, Gibney weaves a story of five generations of family members connecting Africa and America. A finalist for the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards. NY: Dutton, 2018.

Ibi Zoboi, Pride
Haitian-American author, Ibi Zoboi, retells the classic Pride and Prejudice story, in a Brooklyn setting. Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable. NY: Balzer + Bray, 2018.

April 2020 — Mysteries

View April book list as a PDF

We know that many St. Catherine graduate readers enjoy good mystery stories; Judie Martens Flahavan ’60, panelist for Conversation with Books, has put together a list of mystery stories that might include some you have not yet read.

Dona Leon, Trace Elements
When Dottoressa Donato calls the Questra to report that a dying patient at the hospice wants to speak to the police, Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni quickly respond. Even though he is not sure the patient, Benedetto Toso, can hear him, he promises that he and Griffoni will look into what concerns her which appears to be only a family tragedy. But it turns out that this case affects more than a single family and justice in this case proves to be ambiguous. 2020

William Kent Krueger, This Tender Land
In this novel Krueger steps away from his Cork O’Connor series and crafts a stand alone novel about an orphan’s life and his adventures traveling down one of America’s great rivers during the Depression.  Odie O’Banion, his brother, Albert and and two friends decide to escape the harsh disciplines of the Lincoln School and set out in a canoe on the Mississippi looking for a place they can call home. 2019

Charles Todd, A Divided Loyalty
Inspector Ian Rutledge twenty second case revolves around two young women found dead in utterly unexpected places.  One young woman’s death had been previously investigated by his colleague, Chief Inspector Brian Leslie.  Leslie had been unable unable to identify the victim or discover her killer.  Rutledge is asked to take a second look at Leslie’s inquiry.  Will Rutledge succeed where Leslie failed?  If so, at what cost to himself and to Leslie. 2019

Deborah Crombie, A Bitter Feast
A chance to spend a quiet weekend in the Cotswolds soon turns into a “working” weekend for Scotland Yard detectives (and husband and wife) Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James.  A fatal car accident is quickly followed by several other fatalities.  The deaths all seem to link to local chef, Viv Holland, who’s returned to her home town after years in London.  Is it coincidence or a conspiracy to undermine Viv’s recent success? 2019

Lisa Scottoline, Mistaken Identity
Nothing can prepare criminal attorney, Bennie Rosato, for her new client, Alice Connolly, accused  of killing her lover, a highly decorated police detective.  Connolly, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bennie, tells the astonished lawyer, “Pleased to meet you.  I’m your twin.”  But Bennie grew up an only child.  She doesn’t have a twin. Or does she?  Bennie takes the case and digs into the mystery of the murder and the secret of her own identity. 1999

Peter Robinson, Many Rivers to Cross
In Eastvale a young Middle Eastern boy is found dead, his body stuffed into a trash wheelie bin.  Tensions rise when Detective Inspector Alan Banks and his colleagues discover that the victim had been killed elsewhere, then brought to the East Side Estates and dumped.  Who is this teenage boy?  Who wanted him dead and why? 2020

Ian Rankin, In a House of Lies
A missing private investigator is found locked in a car hidden deep in the woods.  Worse still — both for his family and the police — the body was in an area that had already been searched 10 years ago.  Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case.  There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled, and now — after a decade without answers — it’s time for the truth.  Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems that everyone on the case has something to hide — and everything to lose.  None more so than John Rebus. 2018

Suggestions for fiction that is not in the mystery/thriller category but that is new and good.

Ann Patchett, The Dutch House
This is a novel about a brother and sister, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their family and the house they grew up in.  After their father’s death, they are exiled from that house by their stepmother.  Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they are together.  The Dutch House has been described as “a dark fairy tale about two very smart people who cannot overcome their past. 2019

Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman
This novel was inspired by letters written by Erdrich’s grandfather who was himself a night watchman.  In the novel, Tom Wazhushk is the night watchman.  He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member trying to understand the new government bill described by the government as as the “emancipation bill” but it isn’t about freedom — it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity.  Interwoven into this narrative is the story of Pixie Paranteau and her struggles to support her family and to locate her missing sister. 2020

Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light (Book 3 in the Cromwell trilogy)
This is the final book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell. Anne Boleyn is dead and it would seem that Cromwell and his cronies are sitting pretty.  But not for long: rebels rouse in England, traitors scheme abroad, invasion remains a constant threat and Henry’ third wife dies delivering his much wanted son.  Henry demands loyalty of his followers but he is loyal to no one. Cromwell better watch his back. 2020