Alumni Book Lists

September 2020 Suggested Readings

Louverne Noble Williams ’55, retired Minneapolis Public School teacher, currently involved in church and community activities, recommends the work of recently deceased John Lewis, which she calls “an older title but a masterpiece.”

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis
In 1957, a teenaged boy named John Lewis left a cotton farm in Alabama for Nashville, the epicenter of the struggle for civil rights in America. Lewis’s adherence to nonviolence guided that critical time and established him as one of the movement’s most charismatic and courageous leaders. Lewis’s leadership in the Nashville Movement—a student-led effort to desegregate the city of Nashville using sit-in techniques based on the teachings of Gandhi—set the tone for major civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. Lewis traces his role in the pivotal Selma marches, Bloody Sunday, and the Freedom Rides. Inspired by his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lewis’s vision and perseverance altered history. In 1986, he ran and won a congressional seat in Georgia, and remained in office, continuing to enact change, until he died on July 17, 2020. The late Edward M. Kennedy said of Lewis, “John tells it like it was…Lewis spent most of his life walking against the wind of the times, but he was surely walking with the wind of history.” San Diego: Harcourt Brace; 1999

Elinor McKenna Temple ’60, shares current recommendations she offers bookstore customers. “I hope readers of all the books will enjoy them and that the novels will take them to times and places with no coronavirus.”

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning and Minnesota-based author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2020.

The Yellow Bird Sings, Jennifer Rosner
Set in World War II Poland in 1941, The Yellow Bird Sings is the story of 5-year-old Shira, a musical prodigy, and her mother Roza. As the Nazis round up Jewish people, Roza and Shira hide out in the loft of the barn of a neighbor. Neither mother nor daughter are allowed to make a sound. Then, a day comes when the haven mother and daughter are inhabiting is no longer safe.  Roza is forced to make a very difficult choice. The Yellow Bird Sings is a debut novel for Jennifer Rosner; she is the author of a memoir, a children’s book, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Massachusetts Review, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. NY: Flatiron Books, 2020.

Sandra Schuck Reynolds ‘67, president of the St. Catherine University student body in her senior year, suggests: “I’m delighted to recommend some books that I believe would add to the discussions that graduates are currently engaged in. These are some of my personal favorites.”

Intellectual Warfare, Jacob Carruthers
Testifying that the foundation of modern Western thought, theory, and practice can be traced back to ancient African thought, theory, and practice, this book exposes the African influence on Greek and Roman thought and its influence on the development of modern Western society. It then establishes the urgency to defend and honor the role of Ancient African civilizations on this major event. Exposing fallacies and reestablishing new and undistorted ways of viewing the formation of Western society, the book shows how classic literature shaped the contemporary world in intricate and sometimes startlingly and brutally honest detail. Not satisfied with simply challenging the reader to think about things differently, the volume goes further, citing specific examples and offering instruction on how to begin to retrain oneself to think about the origins of modern society in other terms. Chicago: Third World Press, 1999.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly
The book is the true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. “Just as islands – isolated places with unique, rich biodiversity – have relevance for the ecosystems everywhere, so does studying seemingly isolated or overlooked people and events from the past turn up unexpected connections and insights to modern life.  The idea that black women had been recruited to work as mathematicians at the NASA installation in the South during the days of segregation defies our expectations and challenges much of what we think we know about American history. It’s a great story . . .” New York: William Morrow, 2016.


August 2020 Suggested Readings from our Academic Leaders

This month we reached out to our academic deans and asked them to share with us their favorite books that they go back to time and again or that they love to recommend to others; books that are currently on their nightstands or that they have read this summer. Enjoy!

View August book list as PDF

Lisa L. Dutton, PT, PhD, Dean of Health Sciences, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

I just finished Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, an American classic that I’ve had on my list for a long time. It explores friendship, marriage and how our journeys and aspirations, both professional and personal, are shaped by our relationships and the challenges life puts in our paths. Penguin Books, 1987.

Another book I read this summer was The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff. I found there were a lot of details about that time that I either didn’t remember or never knew; the way the author used excerpts from interviews with a wide variety of individuals really brought the story to life.
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Lynda Szymanski, PhD, Associate Provost

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk
I have been learning more about my Polish roots and chose Tokarczuk’s book after reading reviews about her gift of painting literary pictures of towns in Poland and weaving history throughout her novels. Riverhead Books, 2019.

Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon

My 17-year-old son and I often read books and then watch the film versions together. We read Yoon’s, The Sun is Also a Star, on his recommendation and then had fun critiquing the movie (we usually agree that the book is better). This book led to so many good discussions with him about issues ranging from immigration to racism to falling in love, that I selected Yoon’s Everything, Everything as our next shared read. Delacorte Press, 2017.

Anita Jones Thomas, PhD, Executive Vice President and Provost

The first book I would suggest is Lead from the Outside; How to Build your Future and Make Real Change, by Stacey Abrams. This is a reprint from a book that she wrote before she ran for governor of Georgia. The book is written as a how-to manual for developing leadership skills for marginalized populations and women. The focus of the book is to empower others through ethical leadership, following values, and seeing worth in others. Picador, 2019.

I also suggest Dare to Lead by Brene Brown as it provides important leadership lessons for us to consider as we engage in educating women to lead in challenging and unprecedented times. Brown’s emphasis on social-emotional components of leadership, particularly the role of vulnerability, helps leaders to connect to others in a way to promote empathy and resilience. The book ends with a focus on values-based approaches, aspects of integrity that are needed more than ever in our country. Random House, 2018.

Laura J. Fero, PhD, MSN, RN, Dean of Nursing, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

I go back to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It is a powerful memoir of her childhood and brings understanding and depth to her subsequent writings. It speaks to difficult experiences and how they inform the future strength of a powerful woman. Ballantine Books, 2009.

I currently have Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean on my nightstand and it unfortunately has been there since we had the pleasure of hearing her speak to the St. Kate’s community. I have seen the movie many times, but did not read the book. After hearing Sister Helen speak that night, I wanted to revisit her writing and appreciate her direct words about her experience. Vintage Books, 1994.

The last book I am currently working my way through is Start with the Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. This is a great book on how to lead an organization to a place of innovation and inspiration. Portfolio, 2011.

Benson K. Whitney, JD, Dean, School of Business

I am (very happily) about ready to re-read the Lord of The Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien which I have been doing every few years for decades since it captivated me as a sixth grader. Escaping to another world seems particularly enticing right now. Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

On my nightstand is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson about Churchill and the early parts of the war, a paralleled story of courage and leadership. Crown, 2020.

Earlier this summer I read The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers that could have used a stronger editor but the sections about the life of trees are hugely captivating and a must read if you love trees and nature as I do. W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Tarshia Stanley, PhD, Dean, School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, Adrienne Maree Brown
Brown’s work is a great example of a liberal arts pedagogy. She grounds her activism in the literature of Octavia E. Butler. From there she incorporates economists, psychologists, sociologists, and historians to create a social justice platform and methodology she calls “emergent strategy.” AK Press, 2017.



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.

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, Latasha Morrison
A leading advocate for racial reconciliation uses biblical principles to issue a clarion call for Christians to move toward relationship and deeper understanding to overcome racial division. 2020 Christianity Today Book Award. Waterbrook Press, 2019.

Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, Ejeris Dixon, et al.
“Transformative justice seeks to solve the problem of violence at the grassroots level, without relying on punishment, incarceration, or policing. Community-based approaches to preventing crime and repairing its damage have existed for centuries. However, in the putative atmosphere of contemporary criminal justice systems, they are often marginalized and operate under the radar. Beyond Survival puts these strategies front and center as real alternatives to today’s failed models of confinement and correction.” AK Press, 2020.

Eloquent Rage: a Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, Brittney Cooper
In her debut, Cooper, cofounder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, reflects on the role that racism and sexism have played in her life-and the lives of black women in the United States. “To be black is to grow up in a world where white feelings can become dangerous weapons.” Being a black woman, she adds, is to be both visible and invisible. (Library Journal) St. Martin’s Press, 2018.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall
If feminism is defined as political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, then how does it account for a lack of that parity among women? Mainstream feminism is just that, normative, and tends to work for everyone save those who live on the margins. Blogger, speaker, and essayist Kendall is a Black woman who knows what it’s like to live outside the majority patterns of society in general and feminism in particular. (Booklist) Viking, 2020.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, Michael Eric Dyson
This book is structured as a religious service divided into chapters of “Hymns of Praise,” ” Invocation,” “Benediction,” and Sermon. Here is what he calls “a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours,” because what I need to say can only be said as a sermon, one in which he preaches that “we must return to the moral and spiritual foundations of our country and grapple with the consequences of our original sin.” (Kirkus Reviews) St. Martin’s Press, 2017.


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.

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

Dream Country, Shannon Gibney
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.

Pride, Ibi Zoboi
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.

Trace Elements, Dona Leon
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

This Tender Land, William Kent Krueger
In this novel Krueger steps away from his Cork O’Connor series and crafts a standalone 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 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

A Divided Loyalty, Charles Todd
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

A Bitter Feast, Deborah Crombie
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

Mistaken Identity, Lisa Scottoline
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

Many Rivers to Cross, Peter Robinson
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

In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin
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.

The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
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

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
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 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

The Mirror and the Light (Book 3 in the Cromwell trilogy), Hilary Mantel
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