book cover for The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Summer Reading No.10: Ted Smith

This week’s Summer Reading Recommendations are from Candler’s Professor Ted Smith, who was recently appointed as the Charles Howard Professor of Divinity! A member of the Candler faculty since 2012, Dr. Smith 04G works at the intersections of practical and political theology. 

Dr. Smith starts his recommendations with Jennifer Egan’s new novel, The Candy House (New York: Scribner, 2022). He explains, It’s a kind of sequel to her 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize. The publication of The Candy House is a great reason to revisit that novel. A Visit from the Goon Squad felt formally inventive in 2010, with whole chapters written in text messages and PowerPoint slides. Those chapters are as scattered—and as connected—as the browser history of a curious surfer of the web. Underneath all the formal tricks, they tell almost old-fashioned stories featuring characters readers come to care about. And the book offers a series of brilliant meditations on phenomena like nostalgia, authenticity, and the nature of language in a digital world. Deep in the background are conversations with Proust about memory, consciousness, and time. Goon Squad bowled me over when I first encountered it. I read it almost in a single sitting. As soon as I finished I sat down to write a review.” 

Dr. Smith goes on to admit “The Candy House doesn’t feel revelatory in quite the same way. But it lets us connect with those characters again. And it extends Egan’s meditations on memory, authenticity, and more through updated engagements with a next wave of technologies, including social media, artificial intelligence, and what Shoshana Zuboff has called ‘surveillance capitalism’. Also: did I mention that the world of both books centers on punk rock and whatever “alternative” used to mean?” Find The Candy House at Emory online or in print, or at a local library near you!

Dr. Smith also recommends Reconsidering Reparations by Olúfhemi O. Táíwò (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022). Smith notes “Táíwò makes clear that he is not trying to convince people that some kind of reparations are necessary for systemic evils like slavery, genocide, and imperialism (for that kind of argument, see Ta-Nehisi Coates’s landmark essay in The Atlantic). Nor is he offering a detailed policy proposal. Instead he’s trying to reframe our thinking about reparations as what he calls a “constructivist” project. Instead of looking back, trying to redress past wrongs, he argues that reparations should work towards a more just future. Táíwò argues that this constructivist orientation both answers some of the good-faith criticisms of reparations from people who care about justice and does more to address the particular injustices that come with climate change.” 

Dr. Smith also suggests that “the book is remarkably accessible. Táíwò’s thinking is wonderfully clear, and his writing is lively. Many of our communities and institutions are now trying to think what meaningful reparations might look like. Reconsidering Reparations is an important guide for that work. Even if you don’t agree with Táíwò’s conclusions, he clarifies what is at stake in ways that let conversations reach deeper levels. And he makes me think about the ways Christian understandings of salvation—individual, social, and cosmic—must look to the past, the present, and the future.” Find this book at Emory or your local lending institution

Finally, Dr. Smith recommends the “Matters” series by Mary Margaret Funk, OSB. He explains “Funk is engaged in an important project of reclaiming practices from the desert fathers and mothers—especially John Cassian—for contemporary Christians. Drawing on Cassian (and two millenia of monastic traditions) she frames Christian life as a series of renunciations. The books seem perfectly suited to this season of intense institutional instability in the church, when—for better and for worse—we find ourselves cast as individuals. Funk’s writing is earthy and direct, plain in the best sense of that word. The books can be read quickly, but taking them to heart is the project of many years. A reader could start with any book in the series. But I might recommend Humility Matters as a first stop.” 

Next week will feature our final Summer Reading Recommendations from none other than the Library Director, Bo Adams! Find all summer reading blog posts at

Summer Reading, vol. 8: Caitlin Russell

Who better to consult for summer reading suggestions this week than the librarian whose speciality is assessing and acquiring books, academic journals, and more for the library! Caitlin Russell, Acquisitions, Serials, and Assessment Librarian at Pitts, works hard to develop Pitts’ collections in addition to setting up access to purchased resources for Emory patrons. Caitlin’s suggestions this summer revisit her interest in Ancient Greek mythology, which she studied alongside Roman studies in her undergraduate program. The books she recommends “take new twists (and more than a few historical liberties) on familiar myths to create narratives that are both thought-provoking and highly readable.”

First, Caitlin recommends The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, which tells the story of Odysseus and Penelope from the perspective of Penelope’s 12 handmaids, who Odysseus hanged upon his return to Ithaca. The book is structured around a handmaids’ chorus that reflects the style of a classical Greek play, and the content provides insight into how Penelope might have handled her household during Odysseus’ absence. Find this book at Emory, your local library, or online for purchase in a variety of formats!

While Ursula K. Le Guin is best known for science fiction, Caitlin appreciates on of her publications that diverges from that genre called Lavinia. This book follows the tale of Aeneas’ wife as described by Virgil in The Aeneid, fleshing out a character that history has left as a line drawing. Using her signature storytelling talents, Le Guin refocuses on Lavinia’s life and makes the more well-known characters play a supporting role to her story. This book is available at Emory libraries, local public libraries, and for purchase online. 

Madeline Miller’s 2018 publication, Circe, received greater acclaim, but her lesser-known (although still award-winning) 2012 book Song of Achilles is another one of Caitlin’s must reads. In Song of Achilles, Miller tells the story of Patroclus, companion to the famed Achilles. The book explores themes of fate, love, and interactions between gods and mortals within a compelling narrative leading up to the Trojan War. Emory users can find this novel at the Woodruff and Oxford College libraries, local libraries, or purchase in a different format online.

Finally, Caitlin recommends a book that asks the question, “What if Theseus’ battle with the Minotaur took place in the era of the Kardashians?” The resulting novel, Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson, is an engaging re-telling of the legend in which Ariadne is a reluctant participant in the family reality show and the annual Labyrinth Contest is the biggest event on television. Visit your public library to check out this book, or buy a copy online!

Find even more summer resource suggestions, including podcasts, films, and more, on the Pitts Librarians’ Blog!

Summer Reading, vol. 5: Caitlin Russell

This week we heard from Pitts Theology Library’s Acquisitions, Serials, and Assessment Librarian, Caitlin Russell. Take a break from the heavy academic reads with these novels grounded in religion and history!

First, Caitlin recommends Eternal Life by Dara Horn (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2018). This novel recognized by the New York Times follows the life of a Jewish woman in Second Temple Jerusalem who is blessed/cursed with eternal life.

Caitlin also suggests a novel the follows two juxtaposed tales called The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhader. This narrative tells the story of a family of Syrian refugees in tandem with the account of a twelfth century girl who became an apprentice to Muhammad al-Idrisi. This item is available in print at the Woodruff Library and as an audiobook!

Caitlin’s final recommendation is a fun adventure read called The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, 2017). She explains that “this book is loosely based in Islamic ideas of djinn and brings up some interesting conversations about race and class based in a fictionalized world. It’s high fantasy, but with a core of religion running throughout.”

Stay tuned next week for recommendations from Susan B. Reynolds, Candler’s Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies!

Summer Reading, vol. 2: Brinna Michael

This week, we spoke to an incoming staff member at Pitts whose work behind the scenes will ensure that you can find the books and resources you need in our online catalogue and beyond! Brinna Michael will join the Pitts team in July 2019 as our new Cataloging and Metadata Librarian. Brinna provided some great suggestions that will take the reader on adventures in fantasy, historical fiction, and even magical realism over the summer intercession!

Brinna’s first recommendation is the novel The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. Brinna explains that this book is a “wild ride that starts out like an even-keeled historical fiction novel and then begins to teeter slightly towards magical realism. On the surface, this is a coming-of-age adventure, but dig a little deeper, and you find a surprisingly complex look at the power of storytelling, words, and belief. With a truly colorful and eccentric cast of characters, this book surprises [readers] with it’s charming (and sometimes absurd) tone and witty dialog, as well as the way it asks [the reader] to suspend disbelief while conveying some truly down-to-earth observations on life, family, and friendship.”

For those long summer road trips or flights, Brinna recommends The Adventure Zone: Balance, a podcast by Griffin, Travis, Justin, and Clint McElroy. Brinna calls this free podcast a “profound piece of storytelling” documenting the McElroy brothers (of My Brother, My Brother, and Me fame) and their father as they play an epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This sweeping adventure features an eccentric cast of characters including an elven wizard who once had a hugely popular cooking show, a human fighter who’s also an excellent carpenter and loves dogs, and a dwarven cleric who wears sandals and spreads the good word of Pan with his eXtreme Teen Bible in addition to the players themselves. Brinna highly suggests this podcast for those who like “fantasy, elevators, and the insurmountable power found in the bonds of friendship.”

Stay tuned for more recommendations from Candler and Pitts faculty and staff this summer!