What Should I Read Next

What a great idea: ask some 70 colleagues at your university -- in this case the University of Virginia -- to provide a short essay with a list of five books on a subject in their fields. The result here is even better than the premise, since each prof responds in his or her own way, some recommending tried-and-true canonical works, others listing books in their areas that reach out to general readers, and others simply suggesting five ways of sampling a masterpiece. The contributions span the university curriculum and include suggestions on historical and political topics (the Founding Fathers, poverty in modern America, 19th-century Chicago); on science and mathematics (the evolution of visual perception, symmetry and group theory, the history of logic); and on literature and the arts (the poetry of mourning, 100 years of jazz, the 19th-century Spanish novel). Other essays explore religious ideas, child development, and issues in illness and mental health. In short, it's a real educational smorgasbord, much like an annotated course guide. Some authors find their way onto more than one list, but not always for the reason you might expect. Shakespeare shows up in readings for a study of ethical values as well on a more conventional list for the English "word hoard." Among contemporary writers and scholars, Jared Diamond, Michael Klarman, E. O. Wilson, Julia Alvarez, and Michael Pollan all make multiple appearances for their recent work in a wide range of disciplines. The delights here are many, and the intellectually curious will consult this clever collection time and again. Let's hope other universities follow the format -- a first-class education at your fingertips.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.