The Big Question

What’s the One Thing That Everyone Should Read?
Illustration by B Creative Group Jennifer Turner Associate professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” offers a unique perspective on slavery. Dana, the 26-year-old African-American protagonist, travels back in time to her ancestors’ plantation in antebellum Maryland, and readers learn how complicated choice is for the enslaved African-Americans. Although published in the 1970s, “Kindred” centers on timeless themes such as race, identity, family, legacy, power, resistance and resilience.
Katy Newton Lawley M.L.S. ’01, Ph.D. ’11 Lecturer and doctoral program associate director, College of Information Studies “Metaphors We Live By” by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson awakened me to the understanding that our ability to think abstractly is grounded in our ability to use metaphors. Our concrete experiences come in through our five senses, and we extrapolate our sensory knowledge to enable us to manipulate ideas that have no physical embodiment. This book gave me more insight into thinking than anything else I’ve ever read.
Andrew Fellows M.A. ’97 Community and outreach program manager, College of Information Studies and the National Center for Smart Growth, and former mayor, College Park The United States Constitution. An aspirational document that includes the Bill of Rights, written as a set of legal defenses against tyranny, this living document is the supreme law of the United States and a timely reminder of the need to fight for human rights.
Christina Walter Associate professor, Department of English Frederick Douglass, the writer and abolitionist, declared, “once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Reading is a pathway to changing your circumstances—to charting new networks of belonging and pursuing civic engagement and responsibility. Everyone should read as much and as widely as possible, and “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” would be a good place to start.
May Rihani Director, George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. “​Ideas and products and messages and behaviors,​” Gladwell writes, ​“​spread just as viruses do.​” He ​explains how the idea of the tipping point ​can be used to describe natural ​as well as social phenomena, insisting that we can discover the scientific principles that govern both.
Victoria Chanse Associate professor, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture In our digital, big-data age, “Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places” by John R. Stilgoe reminds and inspires us to get outside, to look around and to wonder about what we see. The author examines the history of his own explorations of abandoned railways and other places, and the origins of different patterns and forms in the American landscape. Share your answer or suggest a future question in the Comments section.


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