Books@Work

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Engaging Minds, Transforming Communities

Books@Work brings professor-led literature seminars to workplaces and community settings to build confidence, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Through shared narratives, Books@Work builds human capacity to imagine, innovate and connect, strengthening cultures of trust, respect and inclusion.

What are we reading? Check out our bookshelf.

The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

A narrative of American soldiers in Vietnam: “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”

Bartleby the Scrivener - Herman Melville

Subtitled “A Tale of Wall Street,” this story focuses on the relationship between a lawyer and his employees, most notably the enigmatic copyist Bartleby who, when given a task, replies that he would “prefer not to.”

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass

Published in 1845, Douglass’s memoir is a foundational account of American slavery, recounting his journey from childhood on a plantation to his role as a spokesperson for the abolitionist movement.

Germinal - Émile Zola

Facing extreme poverty, miners protest worsening working conditions in a French mine and confront societal norms.

Stoner - John Williams

A powerful novel that follows the quiet tragedies and dreams of William Stoner, a fictional English professor at the University of Missouri.

Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen

One of the most famous novels in the English language, Austen’s masterpiece explores the role of “first impressions” in society and romantic relationships.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Forget everything you know about green monsters covered in scars. Shelley’s gothic novel, which she began writing when still a teenager, is a tale of loneliness, hubris, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Written in 1931 and originally intended as a satirical novel, Brave New World depicts contemporary 20th century issues through a futuristic utopian lens.

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

A sincere and deeply human autobiographical graphic novel about the author’s childhood during and after the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Man's Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl

The story of Frankl’s imprisonment in Auschwitz and his theories of what keeps people going in life challenging situations: meaning and desire to live for something larger than the self.

Saving Fish from Drowning - Amy Tan

Eleven misguided, and sometimes oblivious, American tourists travel to China and Burma. A study in relationships against the backdrop of political instability.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg

An inventive novel about two woman, one middle aged and one elderly, enriched by the stories they share of the latter’s youth in Whistle Stop, Alabama.

My Ántonia - Willa Cather

A masterpiece of regional American literature, a novel of the prairie written in 1918 tells the story of the families of a fictional town in Nebraska.

Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell

First published in 1938, Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell's account of his experiences during the Spanish Civil War.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

A post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son, traveling a landscape marked by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and the majority of life on Earth.

Brother, I'm Dying - Edwidge Danticat

A powerful memoir, written in 2007, by a young Haitian writer whose life (and love) is split between family members in Haiti and the US, and the tragedies that befall both.

Noah's Compass - Anne Tyler

A solitary 60 year old man comes to term with his life as he engages with his three grown daughters.

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

The story of Amir, a young Afghan boy, whose closest friend is Hassan, his father's young servant.

The Republic of Wine - Mo Yan

A novel by Nobel Laureate Mo Yan about the Chinese people and their relationship to food and drink.

A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There - Aldo Leopold

A 1949 non-fiction book by an American ecologist, writing about the land around his Wisconsin home.

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. LeGuin

Winner of the
Hugo and Nebula prizes for science fiction, LeGuin's
powerful novel tells the story of a human voyager to a planet where inhabitants can change their gender at will.

Lost Illusions - Honore de Balzac

The story of the handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon, who learns that talent counts for less than money, intrigue and a lack of scruples. A classic of French literature.

Pygmalion - George Bernard Shaw

The classic play that inspired the much loved musical, My Fair Lady.

On the Road - Jack Kerouac

Perhaps the most famous book of the "beat generation," On the Road narrates a drive across the country in search of what Kerouac called "the inherent goodness in American man."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

The 1969 autobiography of the early years of the poet and writer, Maya Angelou. Through rich metaphor, the book explores the the difficulties of an African-American girl coming of age in a white and male-dominated society.

The Periodic Table - Primo Levi

A memoir in the form of short stories by Holocaust survivor and chemist, Primo Levi, linking chemistry and humanity in broadly relevant ways.

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

A novel of family love and the issues that arise when a child is conceived to help save the life of her older sibling.

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

A satirical novel, centered around the fire-bombing of Dresden, exploring the World War II experiences of a soldier named Billy Pilgrim. Broadly considered Vonnegut's best novel.

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells

A science fiction novel of Mars and martians, first serialized in 1897 and made famous by Orson Welles' radio broadcast in 1938. First presented as a news bulletin, Welles' production caused panic among the listeners who thought the report was real.

A Savage Conflict - Daniel E. Sutherland

In his work of non-fiction, Donald Sutherland examines guerrilla warfare in the Civil War and argues its crucial role in weakening the Confederate war effort.

About a Boy - Nick Hornby

Will Freeman, a forever-single bachelor living off the royalties of one Christmas song written by his father, discovers the perfect way to meet single women: attend support group meetings for single parents (even though Will doesn't actually have a child). Through this, he meets Marcus, a quirky 12 year old boy with whom he strikes up a friendship.

An Unquiet Mind - Kay Redfield Jamison

In her memoir, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, details her first-hand experiences with the illness.

Benito Cereno - Herman Melville

This book explores happens when an American merchant ship comes upon a mysterious Spanish ship where the nearly all-black crew and their white captain are starving and yet hostile to offers of help.

As We Are Now - May Sarton

This book tells the story of Caroline Spencer, a 76 year-old woman who, while mentally sharp, is physically frail and placed in a "home" by her relatives. Subjected to humiliation and cruelty, Caroline fights back.

Citizen 13660 - Mine Okubo

A memoir describing the author's time spent in relocation centers as one of the 110,000 Japanese-American citizens who was placed in "protective custody" during World War II.

50 Great Short Stories - Milton Crane, editor

A comprehensive selection of the world's finest short fiction. Authors represented include James Joyce, Henry James, Edgar Allen Poe, Katherine Anne Porter and E.B. White

Whale Talk - Chris Crutcher

T. J. - an adopted teenager living in the fictional town of Cutter, Washington, jumbles together a shabby swim team of student underdogs in order to aggravate and shame his high school's elitist athletics program.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Classic story of the orphan Pip, and his personal growth and development as he is granted a large sum of money - or "great expectations"

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift

This classic satire follows its main character, Lemuel Gulliver, through his adventures with the little people of Lilliput and his subsequent encounters with the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the philosophical Houyhnhnms and the brutish Yahoo - each giving Gulliver different insights into human behavior.

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

17-year-old Mia Hall deals with the aftermath of a catastrophic car accident involving her family. In a coma, Mia has an out-of-body experience, and watches as friends and family gather at the hospital where she is being treated. The only choice she has is to decide whether to wake up.

In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson

The true life story of William Dodd who served as the American Ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937. The book traces the relationship between Dodd and his daughter, Martha as the personal and political intersect as the terror of the Nazi regime unfolds.

In the Gloaming - Alice Elliott Dark

In these ten stories, Alice Elliott Dark visits the fictional town of Wynnemoor and its residents, present and past.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust - Immaculee Ilibagiza

This memoir of the Rwandan genocide traces the author's search for God and forgiveness while surviving 91 days with 7 other women hiding in a cramped bathroom as machete-wielding killers hunted for them.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

The story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals (and ex-lovers) who use seduction as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games and boasting about their manipulative talents.

Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

A tale of two families and how their destinies intertwine over the course of fifty years on and around a North Dakota reservation.

Looking For Alaska - John Green

In this young adult novel, Miles "Pudge" Halter attends boarding school where he meets the gorgeous, clever, self-destructive and damaged Alaska Young. She steals his heart and nothing is ever the same.

Messenger - Lois Lowry

The fourth young adult novel in "The Giver" quartet of books. Something sinister has seeped into Village where Matty lives and the townspeople vote to close it to outsiders. Matty must leave Village to deliver one last important message.

Red Leaves - Thomas Cook

Eric Moore has a successful business and good family life until one night, when the girl his son is babysitting goes missing. Eric struggles with the aftermath and the fact that he isn't sure of his son's innocence.

Sandalwood Death - Mo Yan

Set during China's Boxer Rebellion, the novel centers around Sun Meiniang and the three paternal figures in her life.

The Blood of Lorraine - Barbara Corrado Pope

The second in the Bernard Martin mystery series, the book follows a magistrate battling anti-Semitism in the province of Lorraine, France.

The Faith Club - Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner

Three American mothers of three different faiths come together to try and understand each other and their three religions.

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway - Ernest Hemingway

The definitive collection of Hemingway's short stories, including "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", "Hills Like White Elephants" and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place".

The Giver - Lois Lowry

In a dystopian society where emotions have been erased, the child who retains deep feelings struggles to find his place.

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The Stories of John Cheever - John Cheever

Sixty one stories from a master short story writer that explore people beneath the surface: the dichotomy between outer appearances and inner thoughts.

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In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

One of the most influential works of literary non-fiction, Capote tells the story of a murdered family in a small Kansas town.

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Dracula - Bram Stoker

Written in 1897, Dracula is the gothic novel, written in letters, that introduced the famous vampire and his efforts to move to England from Transylvania.

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Five Dialogues (Euthyprho, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo) - Plato

Five powerful dialogues covering the most famous aspects of Socrates' life: his trial and subsequent execution.

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Close Range: Wyoming Stories - Annie Proulx

Known best for the story Brokeback Mountain, Proulx’ stark and often brutal short stories explore the rough edges of hardship, missed opportunity, sadness and spirit.

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A River Runs Through It - Norman McLean

A semi-autobiographical collection of short stories marrying nature, religion, humanity and fly fishing.

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Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain - David Eagleman

A neuroscientist answers the question: "If the conscious mind—the part you consider you—accounts for only a tiny fraction of the brain’s function, what is all the rest doing?"

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The Vintage Book of Latin American Short Stories - Carlos Fuentes, Julio Ortega, editors

An anthology of short stories by prominent Latin American writers, including stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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Broken Harbor - Tana French

Fourth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series finds its main character, cop Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy trying to solve a triple homicide. This triple homicide reminds him of something that that happened in his past that he's tried to keep to keep tightly under control.

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The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton

The first woman to
win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel, Edith Wharton explores the values, biases, and institutions of people living in nineteenth century New York.

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Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

Set on the fictional San Piedro Island in the northern Puget Sound region of the state of Washington coast in 1954, the plot revolves around a murder case in which Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American, is accused of killing Carl Heine, a respected fisherman in the close-knit community.

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The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

Private investigator Philip Marlowe is called to the home of a dying millionaire to help handle the blackmailer of one of his two daughters. Marlowe soon finds himself involved with more than extortion.

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir - Jeanette Walls

A memoir of the author's unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing with dysfunctional parents.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

The touching, hilarious tale narrated by Christopher, a gifted and incredibly logical teenager who struggles to interpret the world around him. When his neighbor's dog is found killed, Christopher takes it upon himself to investigate the murder.

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Othello - William Shakespeare

A tragedy of jealousy, manipulation, and revenge. Alongside Hamlet, the villain Iago may be one of Shakespeare’s most remarkable characters.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

The story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line HeLa, that came from her cervical cancer cells in 1951.

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The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

The classic novella in which a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man.

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Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges

Borges' Collected Fictions brings together his genre-bending and deeply philosophical works, showcasing his contributions to what would come to be called "magical realism" and his monumental place in Latin American literature.

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Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

A heartbreaking novel set in England that raises questions about what it means to live for yourself and for others. Never Let Me Go tells the story of children attending a special school for those who have been cloned and raised to live as organ donors.

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Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

This book tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate who attempted to live life on his own terms, culminating in his death in the Alaskan wilderness. In Krakauer's painstakingly researched work, he examines modern values expectations and the price of going against them.

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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf - Ntozake Shange

The second play by an African American woman to be performed on Broadway, Shange's "choreopoem" is now a classic reflection on what it means to be black and female in America. Confronting issues such as rape, abandonment, abortion, and domestic violence, it is both unflinching and deeply compassionate.

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Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a young woman in modern Africa. The story takes place in Rhodesia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and centers around female cousins who, until their early teens, lead very different lives. 

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The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

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The Postmortal - Drew Magary

In this absorbing post-apocalyptic novel, a cure for aging profoundly alters the social, moral, and political landscape of the Earth.

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The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

The young narrator of this post-apocalyptic thriller lives underground in a bunker and is retrieved every day by armed guards for school. The novel plays with several genres as it reveals surprising information about the narrator and raises questions about adaptation and survival.

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The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

Seven-year old twins who live with their affluent family in India see their world changed forever with the arrival of their beautiful young cousin.

The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin

This "fictional biography" of Charles Lindbergh's wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, details her fairy-tale romance and subsequent struggle to establish a career and reputation in her own right.

The Imperfectionists - Thomas Rachman

This debut novel follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome as they try to keep a paper afloat as the age of print news gives way to the Internet age.

The Tempest - William Shakespeare

In one of Shakespeare's most lyrical plays, Prospero—a magician on an enchanted island—punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power.

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

The story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction.

What Work Is - Philip Levine

A poetry collection exploring many themes, including physical labor, class identity, family relationships and personal loss.

Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson

A cycle of short stories concerning life in a small town at the end of the nineteenth century.

The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Satrapi's memoir-in-comic-strips is the story of her coming of age in a large and loving family in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven - Sherman Alexi

These darkly comic short stories create a complex and grim portrait of life in and around the Spoke Indian Reservation.

The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics - Arthur Frank

A collection of illness stories, ranging from the well-known to the private testimonials of people with cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and disabilities.

Walden and Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau

"Walden" details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years in a cabin he built near Walden Pond. "Civil Disobedience" is an essay that argues that individuals should prioritize their consciences over the government and laws.

Wild - Cheryl Strayed

A memoir of the author's 1100 mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail after her life has fallen apart.

Sheherazade Goes West - Fatima Mernissi

The world-renowned Islamic feminist tells her life story and experiences as an independent Moroccan woman facing Western culture.

My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki

A cross-cultural tale of two women brought together by unusual circumstances -- Jane Takagi-Little, a producer of a Japanese TV show, and Akiko Ueno, a Japanese housewife trying to escape her overbearing husband.

Farmer's Almanac: A Work of Fiction - Chris Fink

The author works to crack open rural America in his imaginary handbook for rural living.

Daphnis and Chloe - Longus

The classic, ancient Greek story of a shepherd boy and girl who fall desperately in love, yet face incredible obstacles.

A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four - Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet marks the first appearance of famed detective Sherlock Holmes as he and Dr. Watson unravel a mysterious murder after their first acquaintance. In The Sign of Four, Watson confronts Holmes about his growing dependence on cocaine while they solve a mystery that links England, the Indian subcontinent, and Mormon country in Utah.

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle weaves an eerie tale about the recent death of a baronet, seemingly caused by a spectral hound that has been haunting his family for generations. Set on Dartmoor in Devon, this is one of Doyle's most atmospheric and haunting works.

Selected Stories - Andre Dubus

In stories often compared to those of Carver and Chekhov, Dubus chronicles the struggles of blue-collar manufacturing towns in Massachusetts.

"We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better" - Dave Eggers

Adapted from his novel, The Circle, "We Like You So Much" depicts Mae's arrival on the fictional campus of the world's largest tech company. Eggers slyly satirizes contemporary corporate culture, most notably in an obsession with rankings of employees via an in-house social media system.

Bacchae - Euripides

The story of a king who defied a god and, as punishment, was torn apart by women. One of the classics of ancient Greek drama, Bacchae reflects on the human duality of rationality and sensuality.

Medea - Euripides

An ancient greek tragedy wherein Medea takes revenge on her faithless husband by killing the children she shares with him as well as his new wife. Considered shocking when it was first performed, Medea continues to provide a nuanced portrait of a woman struggling to exist in a male-dominated world.

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara - Ben Fountain

From Burma to Colombia, Haiti to North Carolina, Ben Fountain's collection tells the stories of everyone from a Duke graduate student who finds himself trapped in difficult circumstances in the Colombian mountainside to an aid worker in Sierra Leone faced with the ultimate of ethical dilemma. Fountain creates funny and approachable stories of both daily life and extraordinary situations.

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert's memoir -- which was later turned into a movie -- traces the year that she left her ordinary American life for adventure and learning. Gilbert travels to Italy, India and Bali, finding that what she previously thought was important may not have been so important after all.

The Good Husband - Gail Godwin

This book traces the relationships between two couples -- Magda and Francis and Alice and Hugo. A scholar slowed by ovarian cancer, the husband who cares for her, and two others pulled apart by tragedy. Beautifully told, the novel weaves the narratives of the four characters, reflecting on grief, loss and love.

In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway

In Our Time is Hemingway's first book, published in 1925 when he was only 26 and offers a look at his writing before he became famous. It contains several classic Hemingway stories, set in northern Michigan, which provide a key for understanding and appreciating his signature prose style.

Learning to Swim - Sara Henry

Learning to Swim centers on an amateur sleuth protagonist living in the Adirondacks in New York who rescues a child and uncovers dark secrets in unraveling the mystery of who the child is and how he came to be endangered in this gripping novel.

Zoo Story - Thomas French

Based on six years of research, Zoo Story is an unprecedented account of the secret life of a zoo and its inhabitants.

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

This is a story about how the women of Afghanistan try to live with the dangers that surround them—both in the streets of Kabul, as well as in their own homes. The novel follow Mariam and Laila, two women of different generations brought together by war, loss and fate.

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston's most famous novel -- but one that was largely forgotten when it was first published -- tells the story of Janie Crawford, an African American woman in central and southern Florida in the early 1900s. Told in the first person, the book traces Janie's life across three marriages, and family and community tragedies and celebrations.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

This novel depicts a middle-class family commonplace in all ways but one--the narrator is raised believing that a chimpanzee is her sister. Raising questions about scientific experimentation, memory, and human identity, Fowler thoughtfully explores the unintended consequences of a well-meaning choice.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Milan Kundera

Published by the Czech writer, Milan Kundera in the 1970s, this book reflects on human existence in various forms -- music, philosophy, and memoir, to name just a few. The book is divided into seven different brilliant reflections on aspects of life and living.

Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri

Eight stories by Jhumpa Lahiri move from the U.S. to Asia as they explore questions of race, nation, and family dynamics.

The Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Winner of the Pullitzer Prize and the Hemingway/PEN Foundation Award, this moving collection of Lahiri's short stories depicts the lives of Indian Americans who struggle to reconcile their new culture with the one they've left behind.

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?: From the Projects to Prep School - Charlise Lyle

Living in the projects in Cleveland, Ohio and experiencing the race riots of the 1960's, Charlise Lyles, placed in a slow learners' class, refuses to give up her dream of getting a better education. She wins a scholarship to a prestigious prep school and discovers that there is a world which she never knew existed. Through hard work and many challenges, Lyles succeeds in entering this world and finding out who she is.

H is for Hawk - Helen MacDonald

Winner of several awards, in H is for Hawk, MacDonald shares how she processed her grief on losing her father by training a goshawk, in solitude.

Asterios Polyp - David Mazzucchelli

The protagonist of this critically acclaimed graphic novel, Asterios Polyp, is middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. As Polyp’s story unfolds, Mazzucchelli creates an extraordinarily imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception.

Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Alan Moore's now classic graphic novel imagines a world where superheroes helped the U.S. win the Vietnam War, but have since either retired or worked for the government. The murder of a superhero sponsored by the government brings them together again in this gritty, critically acclaimed work.

McTeague - Frank Norris

This 1899 novel tells the story of a turn-of the century dentist, his courtship and marriage, and his ultimate decline into poverty. Often described as the one of the most representative texts of the American "naturalist" literary movement, McTeague explores the darker impulses behind the American drive for success.

No-No Boy - John Okada

This is the story of Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese-American man who was imprisoned after refusing to serve in the American military or swear loyalty to the United States. Against the backdrop of the internment of Japanese-Americans, and based on the lives of real “no-no boys”, the book asks us to reflect on how we engage with communities who aren’t always accepting.

Snow - Orphan Pamuk

An epic novel from Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk that depicts Poet K's silent odyssey into the heart of Anatolia (Turkey), his rekindled love affair with Ipek, and a fascinating narration of the conflict between modernity and conservative Islam.

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: A Novel - Don Robertson

This forgotten classic of urban transformation in mid-century traces the actions of a nine year old boy during Cleveland's gas explosion of 1944, one of the worst industrial disasters in American history. It is at once a story of childhood, but also a story of Cleveland, a changing city.

Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales - Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks brings his usual wit, insight, and sensitivity to seven stories of people living with neurological disorders.

Kokoro - Natsume Soseki

Originally published in 1914, Kokoro examines Japan's rise to modernity in the early twentieth century through the story of the relationship between a the narrator (a young man) and the older man he thinks of as his teacher. Dealing with themes of guilt, responsibility and isolation, the novel traces changing mores and resulting anxieties of the time.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson's famous exploration of humanity's capacity for evil has become synonymous with the idea of a split personality. More than a morality tale, this dark psychological fantasy is also a product of its time, drawing on contemporary theories of class, evolution, criminality, and secret lives.

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

Trust Me: Short Stories - John Updike

The theme of trust, fulfilled or betrayed, runs through this collection of short stories by beloved American writer John Updike.

Into the Beautiful North - Luis Alberto Urrea

This is the story of a young Mexican girl named Nayeli who sets out on a quest to rescue her town. She begins in search of her own father, but quickly realizes that all of the men have left to go North to work leaving no men to protect the town from bandidos or to serve as potential husbands and fathers as she and her friends consider marriage and family.

Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir - John Edgar Wideman

Brothers and Keepers is John Edgar Wideman's memoir detailing the divergent paths that led one to become a prize-winning author and professor and the other, his brother Robby Wideman, to become a fugitive wanted for robbery and murder.

The Maid's Version - Daniel Woodrell

Alma DeGeer Dunahew, a maid to a prominent family in Missouri investigates the explosion that killed her sister and dozens of others in a local dance hall in 1929. As she digs deeper and deeper into her family and community’s past, Alma and her son become estranged, though she is able to build a stronger relationship with her grandson through her recollections of the past.

Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson's book of poems capture her experience as an African American girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s in the midst of a historical turning point away from Jim Crow and toward the hope of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

In this dystopian novel, Atwood imagines a future where the American government has been overthrown and replaced by a totalitarian regime that strips women of their rights. Exploring questions of women's subjugation and reproduction, the novel richly illustrates the necessity of an equal order.

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin

Baldwin's lyrical masterpiece recounts a fourteen-year-old boy's coming of age within a religious family context. Baldwin movingly portrays the main character's realization of his own sexual identity.

Regeneration - Pat Barker

Regeneration takes place in an “asylum” where battle-scarred soldiers are being treated by the then new practice of psychiatry. This story is based on actual people and recounts early treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Long, Long, Way - Sebastian Barry

Set in 1914, Barry's novel depicts the Irish protagonist's experience of World War I and his return to an Ireland divided by political tensions.

Henderson, The Rain King - Saul Bellow

Eugene Henderson is a wealthy man who can’t stop the voice inside him that says, I want, I want.  Almost like a character in a tall tale or fable, he sets off for the ancient villages of Africa on an adventure that he hopes will address the spiritual void in his life.  What he discovers is completely open to discussion.

Herzog - Saul Bellow

Herzog fails as writer, teacher, father, husband, but in the letters he writes but doesn't send to friends and family, colleagues and famous people, he reveals his wry perception of the world and the deepest secrets of his heart.

In the News

Beyond the workplace, Books@Work programs build networks of readers in community settings, like schools and libraries. Texts, ideas, and voices move from the seminar to homes, schools, public spaces, and the broader community. In this manner, Books@Work encourages creativity and critical thinking everywhere.

For the community

Latest chapter from the notebook

Weekend Reading: July 2016

Should companies help their employees learn? A recent article for the Harvard Business Review argues for lifelong learning in the workplace, and offers three tips for cultivating it. We have this, as well as essays on meaningful work, book deserts, storytelling, and literary quizzes in our most recent Weekend Reading.

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What are people saying?

The first Books@Work session that I led was for a well-established law firm. The participants were from every branch of the firm and, as the seminar progressed, they all began to speak openly about their experiences and values. It wasn’t only that they felt free to challenge each other, but that they found spaces of community and common experience. Our discussion of literature created a safe space, a welcoming and vibrant community of readers.

-Alexis Baker, Professor

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