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Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume III, Issue 5
May 2007   

Page turners: Falvey's picks for summer reading

From Michael Foight
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip Zimbardo (Random House, 2007)

The important book that I greatly recommend to all readers is The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip Zimbardo, the creator of the landmark Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo, here for the first time, explains and provides analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in August 1971, where college students were divided into guards and prisoners and then held in captivity. The resulting torture and abuse of these "prisoners" eerily mirrors the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison.

Zimbardo demonstrates how evil is permitted in authoritarian organizations where conformity and obedience are paramount. The book ends with a set of strategies that individuals can use to help resist unwanted influences and the slide into evil. In a counterpoint to Hannah Arendt's concept of the "banality of evil," Zimbardo posits a "banality of good," which illuminates the possible heroic stand of the ordinary human. This is a compelling read and is supported by the full scholarly apparatus of footnotes and index.

From Anne Ford
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls (Scribner, 2005)

As a book that was highly recommended to me, I would suggest The Glass Castle. It is a fast read that grabs your attention from the first sentence. It deals with many issues that we are all familiar with, but in a way that will touch you so much that you laugh out loud or grab a tissue for your tears.

From Linda Hauck
The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas (Harvest, 2006)

I'm reading The End of Mr. Y. I'm not anywhere near finishing it but it certainly grabs you from the start. A graduate student is forced off campus due to a building collapse and accidentally finds a rare copy of a book written by the author about whom she intends to write her dissertation. Rumor has it that whoever reads the book dies. And this is the beginning of a journey through alternate realities. 

Joe Lucia
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic, 2001)

As a novel for summer reading, let me recommend Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. It's a lyrical coming of age story with an engaging 11-year-old narrator. Peace Like a River is a hauntingly poetic novel full of biblical allusions and an unassuming mysticism. I recommend it as one of those quiet tales that sneaks up on you and sticks in your memory -- a narrative you experience as much as read.       

From Bill Greene
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger: An Invitation Worth Considering, by David Gregory (Waterbrook, 2005)

In this book an ordinary man is invited and accepts an invitation to have dinner with Jesus in a restaurant. What ensues is an often humorous, engaging, touching and eye-opening plot.  This book can and (probably should be) read in one sitting for its full impact. Highly recommended!

From Luisa Cywinski
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman (Knopf)

The books I'd like to recommend are a trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) with an intended audience of young adults but which have actually fallen into that middle place of books that appeal to readers of all ages, similar to the Harry Potter books. Pullman seems to draw his inspiration from John Milton's "Paradise Lost." His books are definitely in the fantasy genre but deal with big issues that are considered timeless (pre-dating The Da Vinci Code ).

From Laura Hutelmyer
The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel, by Paul Auster (Henry Holt, 2006)

The title of this book is also the title of a book being written by Auster's main character, Nathan Glass. Glass is collecting stories, from memory, of personal mishaps, but it is really the many stories that are created through his interactions with family members, neighbors and hard core criminals that make this book so fascinating.

From Henry Coxe
America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 2: From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom, 1914-1989, by William J. Bennett (Thomas Nelson, 2007)

This book is just out for those interested in history. It is full of anecdotes, interesting personal traits and the idiosyncrasies of many.