Six senior leaders share their summer reading lists

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 book covers 1000pxPhoto by ANDREA MABRY / University Relations

Inspired by the book club that Provost Pam Benoit began several years back with members of the UAB Deans Council, the Reporter asked Benoit and a number of other senior leaders what they are currently reading for work — or fun.

Each of these books is available from UAB Libraries; check out the links below each title to find them on the shelves at Sterne Library (or in many cases to read an e-book version immediately online).

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Pam Benoit, Ph.D.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

“Think Again,” by Adam Grant

Check out the print book from UAB Libraries or read the e-book online immediately here.


“We considered several possibilities for this year’s Dean’s Read, and this is the one they picked,” Benoit said. In “Think Again,” bestselling author Grant “examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life,” according to his publisher.

“Grant challenges readers to acknowledge what they don’t know, to remain open to the possibility that their learned behaviors may be wrong,” Benoit said. “Rethinking what we think we already know opens up so many more possibilities.”

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Anupam Agarwal, M.D.

Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean, Heersink School of Medicine

“Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life,” by Dacher Keltner

Check it out from UAB Libraries here or put in a request to be notified when the book is back if someone else has already checked it out.


Earlier this summer, Dan Berkowitz, M.D., chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, gave Agarwal a copy of this bestseller by a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Keltner is an expert on emotions who was a consultant on Pixar’s movie “Inside Out.” “It is an amazing book,” Agarwal said. In what the publisher describes as “a radical investigation and deeply personal inquiry into this elusive emotion,” Keltner “shows us how cultivating awe in our everyday life leads us to appreciate what is most humane in our human nature.”

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Jeffrey Holmes, M.D., Ph.D.

Dean, School of Engineering

“Lightning Flowers,” by Katherine Standefer

Check it out from UAB Libraries here or put in a request to be notified when the book is back if someone else has already checked it out.


“I read this book with a group of students in my Dean’s Book Club and it generated fascinating and wide-ranging discussions,” Holmes said. “It tells the story of a struggling writer with no health insurance who learns that she needs an implantable defibrillator due to a congenital heart condition. While recounting personal aspects of her own experience, the author explores the economics of the American health care system, learns about the engineering and the people behind her lifesaving device, considers the impact of the mines that produced raw materials for her device on surrounding communities, and more. A great read for anyone interested in the human impacts of modern technology and engineering.”

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Kecia Thomas, Ph.D.

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

“Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in Your Outside Clothes,” by Phoebe Robinson

“The Surprising Science of Meetings,” by Steven Rogelberg

Check out “Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in Your Outside Clothes” and “The Surprising Science of Meetings” (available in print and as an e-book) from UAB Libraries or put in a request to be notified when “Please Don’t Sit on my Bed” is back if someone else has already checked it out.


“I’m currently reading two books,” Thomas said. “The first is Phoebe Robinson’s ‘Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in Your Outside Clothes.’ My daughter knows I love to laugh and she gifted me a signed copy of the comedian’s most recent memoir for my birthday. It provides a great escape!”

The other book, Thomas says, is “also enjoyable but a bit more work-related.” “The Surprising Science of Meetings” was written by Thomas’ industrial-organizational psychology colleague Steven Rogelberg, Ph.D., who is on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The book “provides research-based recommendations on if, when and how to facilitate group meetings,” Thomas said. “I’m reading it in preparation for his forthcoming book, ‘Glad We Met: The Art and Science of 1:1 Meetings.’ My goal for both types of meetings is that they are productive and developmental.”

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Kasia Gonnerman

Dean, UAB Libraries

“The Appointment,” by Herta Müller

Check it out from UAB Libraries here or put in a request to be notified when the book is back if someone else has already checked it out.


Gonnerman says she would recommend every book by the Romanian-German Müller. But, forced to choose, she selected “The Appointment,” a novel that “typical of Müller’s prose, ‘depicts the landscape of the dispossessed,’ a motif of little surprise considering Müller’s upbringing” in totalitarian Romania, where her early work was censored and ultimately banned, Gonnerman said. In 1987, Müller settled in Germany.

In “The Appointment,” published in German in 1997 and later in English, “an unnamed woman who works in a clothing factory is denounced for inserting notes in back pockets of linen suits destined for export to Italy,” Gonnerman said. “The woman, determined to ‘marry a Westerner’ to escape her miserable existence, writes ‘Marry me, ti aspetto,’ signed with her name and address. ‘The first Italian who replied would be accepted.’ Her crime was deemed ‘prostitution in the workplace,’ and she’s ordered to see Major Albu, an interrogator at the Secret Police, the dreaded Securitate.”

“We learn about the woman’s life during her 90-minute ride on a tram to see Major Albu as she dips into her memories about her first husband; her best friend, Lilly, who died while trying to escape to Hungary; her complicated life with her second husband, Paul — kindhearted but prone to excessive drinking; her adulterous father; and her dead grandparents,” Gonnerman said. “Her thoughts intermingle and meander in a chaotic fashion, the past memories interspersed with the present as she takes in her fellow passengers and scenes of the city unfolding through the tram windows.

“‘The Appointment’ isn’t an easy read, even though the language is simple. It takes a master like Müller to tell a rich and beautiful story weaved by passing thoughts and memories.”

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Janet May

Chief Human Resources Officer

“Miss Benson’s Beetle,” by Rachel Joyce

Check it out from UAB Libraries here or put in a request to be notified when the book is back if someone else has already checked it out.


“One of my favorite things to do is to visit independent bookstores,” May said. Earlier this summer, in Indianapolis, she found this novel. “Set in 1950, it follows two women from London who are total opposites on their quest to find the elusive golden beetle in New Caledonia,” May said. “The fictional story explores stepping outside your comfort zone, accomplishing the impossible and forging new paths. It is a great reminder of what we can do when we take a risk to find our dream and look at the world through a new lens with help from someone who is a polar opposite.”