Recommended Reading List

Recommended Reading List

“What should I read next?” You asked, and Converse professors answered with their favorite books and why they love them. Keep reading to find out what books are on Converse’s must-read list!

Erin Templeton

Anne Morrison Chapman Distinguished Professor of International Study, Associate Professor of English

  • Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
  • Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan
  • Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

Andrew Blanchard

Associate Professor of Studio Art

Anything by Jesmyn Ward!

Salvage The Bones, Men We Reaped, The Fire Next Time, Where The Line Bleeds… a new one forthcoming later this year as well. A wonderful woman author from Mississippi, now teaching at Tulane I believe. She’s won the National Fiction award, too. I’ve been reading her work for years, and, finally ran into her late this past fall at bookstore in MS… on a 2 year teaching hiatus via another award. A mother, too… so not only academically gifted, she’s able to juggle kids while still publishing and teaching. To me, a wonderful role model for current students and alums.

Rick Mulkey

Director of Creative Writing, Director of MFA in Creative Writing and Associate Professor of English

Recent books by Converse English Department faculty, Converse MFA faculty, MFA alumni and current MFA students:

  • In the Garden of Stone (novel), Susan Tekulve, English/MFA Faculty
  • Ravenous: New & Selected Poems, Rick Mulkey, English/MFA Faculty
  • Scald, poems, by Denise Duhamel, MFA Faculty
  • Fire Is Your Water (novel), Jim Minick, MFA Faculty
  • This Angel on My Chest (short story collection), by Leslie Pietrzyk, MFA Faculty
  • Journeys into the Mind of the World (literary travel essays), Richard Tilllinghast
  • Far Bright Star (novel-film version starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Casey Affleck will be out in 2018/19), by Robert Olmstead, MFA Faculty
  • Coal Black Horse (novel-film adaptation in progress), Robert Olmstead, MFA Faculty
  • Pasture Art (short story collection) Marlin Barton, MFA Faculty
  • Beauty Mark (poetry collection), Suzanne Cleary, MFA Faculty
  • Love Literary Style (novel), Karin Gillespie, Converse MFA Creative Writing graduate
  • Girl Meets Class (novel-2016 Georgia Author of the Year winner), Karin Gillespie, Converse MFA graduate
  • When She Was Bad (poetry collection), Gabrielle Brant Freeman, Converse MFA Creative Writing graduate
  • Starter House (novel), Sonja Condit, Converse MFA Creative Writing graduate
  • Sweet Aegis: Medusa Poems, Melissa Dickson, Converse MFA Creative Writing graduate
  • Perilous Journey of the Much-Too-Spontaneous Girl (YA Novel), by Gwen Holt (writing as Leigh Statham), current Converse MFA student in the YA Fiction writing program.

All of these writers will be on campus during the Converse MFA program’s June residency session – the same weekend as Reunion.

Monica McCoy

Professor of Psychology and Chair of Psychology Department

My favorite fiction books:

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

My favorite non-fiction books:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • E=mc2 by David Bodanis

Krista Newkirk


  • Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman
  • The Iguana Tree, Michel Stone
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Nightingale, Kristen Hannah
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni
  • anything by Mary Roach – but especially Stiff and Gulp

Amanda Szarzynski

Assistant Professor, Clinical Director of Marriage and Family Therapy

  • Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brene Brown
  • Hold Me Tight by Susan Johnson
  • Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch

Dr. Melissa Walker

George Dean Johnson, Jr. Professor of History, Department of History and Politics

Never ask a book lover for a few suggestions.  🙂 This list could go on forever.

(I’ve reviewed many of these books on my book blog:

Works by some of my favorite historians:

  • A Midwife’s Tale, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • Lost Revolutions: the South in the 1950s, by Pete Daniel
  • A Big War in Small Place:  the Civil War in Spartanburg, by Philip Racine
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: four Women Undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott

First person accounts:

  • The Story of a Slave Girl Written By Herself, by Harriet Jacobs (sometimes called Linda Brent)
  • The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass
  • Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals (one of the Little Rock Nine)
  • Separate Pasts, by Melton McLaurin (a white man’s account of growing up in the Jim Crow South)

Historical novels:

  • The Maisie Dobbs series by Jaqueline Winspear (a working class servant girl gets an education and becomes a psychologist/detective in 1910s London.  The series covers World War I and its aftermath and the most recent books bring us to the eve of World War II).
  • The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson (series about a NYC midwife, born to wealth, who marries for love, becomes widowed and is forced to make her way alone in turn of the century New York City)
  • Girl Waits With Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble, by Amy Stewart (middle-aged spinster in early 20th century New Jersey gets embroiled in crime-fighting.  Based on a true story.)
  • Over the Plain Houses, by Julia Franks (an Appalachian minister’s wife copes with a crumbling marriage in 1930s North Carolina)
  • The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (novel about the Grimke Sisters of South Carolina)
  • The Iguana Tree and Border Child, both by Converse alumna Michel Stone (puts a human face to the lives of illegal immigrants)
  • Americannah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (the experiences of a Nigerian immigrant in America and Nigeria)

Several novels set in Europe during World War I and World War II:

  • The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonsen
  • The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Novels about famous women:

  • Georgia by Dawn Tripp (about Georgia O’Keefe)
  • Circling the Sun, by Paula McClain (about early female aviator Beryl Markham)
  • The Paris Wife, by Paula McClain (about Hemingway’s wife during the Paris years)
  • The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin (about Lindbergh’s wife)
  • Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan (about the woman Frank Lloyd Wright left his family for)

A few more favorites:

  • Margaret Coel’s mystery novels set on the Wind River Indian reservation in Wyoming
  • The Natchez Burning trilogy by Greg Iles (weaves together the present and the race-haunted past of Mississippi in a crime thriller series)
  • Fate Moreland’s Widow, by John Lane (a SC mill owner accidentally kills a mountain father in a boating accident in the midst of the Great Depression)