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KPU Faculty Picks for Diving into the Disciplines


A must-read to understand the underpinnings of racial issues in North America, this is also truly a poet's novel. This book will challenge and provoke the reader to explore and deconstruct cultural norms and expectations.
~ Deb Blenkhorn, English

A Room of One's Own

Within this slim volume is a glimpse of a mind at work unpacking questions about women and fiction that continue to matter. Even though I didn't know all the literary references as a teenaged reader, Woolf's evocative images and wise, wry voice drew me along.
~ Jennifer Williams, English

Food Is Culture

This is one of the books that really drew me into medieval studies. Although Montanari focuses on food rather than literature, this is a fun read by a medieval historian that provides a compelling perspective on how cultural production is shaped by a wide variety of internal and external forces.
~ Leanne MacDonald, English

What It Is

A book of life-writing that is also about writing, What It Is inspires flexible, reflexive thinking with its profound and fun meditations (in word and image) on imagination and creativity. The first question this book asks is a great one to think about when writing and when reading: What is an idea made of?

~ Dale Tracy, English

Purple Hibiscus

Amazing, absorbing, riveting! This first novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Kambili who sees her family disintegrate into violence, confusion, and ultimate sacrifice. It deftly weaves the personal and political to reveal the insidious reach of colonial influence. This book will grab your attention from page 1. 

~ Ranjini Mendis, English

Discovery of Poetry

This is an accessible entry into the world of poetic form. While the examples are almost all from American lit, they are still diverse in their structure and content. Definitions of various poetic terms are clearly defined and the writing is playful and engaging.

~ Geoffrey MacDonald, English

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us about the Art of Persuasion (Revised and Updated ed.)

I use this book in ENGL 1100, as it is an excellent introduction to analyzing and using rhetoric. Very readable and funny, with chapter summaries and a study guide at the end. Heinrichs provides great examples that show the reader the relevance of rhetoric and argumentation in their lives.

~ Joachim Nilsson, English

America City

Incorporates technology and social media as well as the spread of misinformation into the climate change discussion.

~ Tom Andrews, English

Making Movies

 This is an engaging and thoughtful account of what it is actually like to make a big-budget movie from beginning to end, by one of Hollywood's all-time great film directors. Over the course of his long career, Lumet directed many of film's most acclaimed (and difficult) actors, so he knows whereof he speaks. Although the book is from the 1990s and so from the pre-digital era--much of what it says is still highly relevant to us today. If you are interested in learning about the craft and passion that go into making a film, this is a wonderful place to start.

~ Kegan Doyle, English

How Theatre Means

Knowles makes a powerful connection between drama and semiotics. His chapter on analyzing a play script is accessible and interesting. He emphasizes Indigenous theatre. The title is also a solid crossover for those who wish to specialize in producing theatre as well as analyzing drama.

~ Geoffrey MacDonald, English


Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?

This is a book about teaching great works of poetry to children. Not a new book by any means, but it is wonderful for anyone interested in poetry and/or eventually teaching it. In my opinion, this is one of the most wonderful examples of learning something (ie. poetry) by doing it.

~ Kiran Clements, English

The Allegory of Love

No one accepts Lewis's ultimate argument any more.  (I have a colleague who thinks that Lewis went clinically insane partway through the writing of the book.)  But I read it when I was 17, and was overwhelmed by it: so many fascinating comments about so many fascinating works of literature, expressed with such clarity and vigour and wit.  I was in love: with language, with literature and with Lewis.  I've never fallen out.

~ N.P. Kennedy, English

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Wave: A Memoir of Life after the Tsunami

Natural disasters are an all too frequent occurrence in our time. Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave is a memoir of one such disaster. The narrator is a young woman who, with her entire family, was pummeled by a mile-high Tsunami that crashed on to a beach in Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004.  Her mental and emotional journey testifies to the human ability to survive our darkest times.

~ Ranjini Mendis, English

Beyond the Culture Wars

Graff is an English professor with a long-standing interest in the history of education in the U.S. In Beyond the Culture Wars, he discusses the politicization of literary studies and post-secondary education in general since the 1980s and argues that teachers can help students develop their own views as readers and writers by exposing them to some of the critical debates and controversies that exist in academia. The book is relatively short and very accessible, and Graff does an excellent job of drawing on his own experiences as a university student to explain some of the challenges involved in joining in academic conversations. His widely anthologized essay "Hidden Intellectualism" first appeared in this book, though it was then called "Disliking Books at An Early Age." I wish I had read Graff when I was an undergraduate. I think my own experiences as a student would have much more sense to me.

~ Paul Tyndall, English

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How does a Poem Mean?

My tastes are rather outdated perhaps (this book is from 1959!), but I think it qualifies as "an oldie but a goodie". This book was recommended to me when I was a student, and I found it transformative. While so many of us are so concerned with WHAT a poem means, Ciardi redirect us to examine HOW a poem means. It is also filled with many examples of great (and deliberately not so great) poetry.

~ Kiran Clements, English

Clueless in Academe

In this sequel to Beyond the Culture Wars, Graff explains how high schools, colleges and universities often make what he calls the life of the mind more esoteric or obscure than it needs to be. He argues that many of the debates and controversies that exist in academia are directly relevant to students and to society in general, but specialized jargon and unfamiliar ways of explaining ideas frequently obscures this fact for the average reader. Like all of his work, this book is both accessible and filled with interesting insights into the challenges students face finding their voice as readers and writers.

~ Paul Tyndall, English