A common mis­con­ception about pro­fessors is that they only read books regarding their field of study. It makes sense because they teach it— at least it does to most. Revealing some truth into this shared mis­un­der­standing, a few chem­istry pro­fessors talked about their favorite genres and books, which might shock some stu­dents by how similar the professor’s’ taste are with their own. 

Dean of Natural Sci­ences Christopher VanOrman said he is cur­rently reading “The Lan­guage of God: A Sci­entist Presents Evi­dence for Belief”  by Francis S. Collins. The novel talks about the rela­tionship between Chris­tianity and Evolution. 

“It has to do with Bio Logos, which is derived by Francis Collins. It’s a group of people who have a very strong Christian back­ground and believe in God, but also believe in science— both at the same time,” VanOrman said.

A couple weeks ago, VanOrman met and talked with Collins and said he’ll be coming sometime this year and talk about his per­spective on cre­ation and evo­lution. But if he had to choose a favorite book, it would be “The Dis­ap­pearing Spoon” by Sam Kean. It con­tains mul­tiple short stories about the periodic table ele­ments, and he uses these stories often in his General Chem­istry class.

“When I first started teaching, I read it when it first came out in 2011,” VanOrman said. “It’s just about the ele­ments and how they came about, like the history of the periodic table. It’s a really cool book with some really cool stories.”

Though she does receive some rec­om­men­da­tions from VanOrman, Assistant Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Courtney Meyet enjoys reading what interests her, and it’s usually his­torical fiction.

“I love things that are about the history of this country. I’m def­i­nitely partial of that,” Meyet said. “Feeling con­nec­tions to my ancestry and pasts interest me.”

Since she’s from Cal­i­fornia, Meyet takes pleasure in reading John Steinbeck novels, espe­cially since her all-time favorite book is “The Grapes of Wrath”.

“As a Cal­i­fornian, they really capture the feel of Cal­i­fornia coast-line, the central valley, the central coastal area of Cal­i­fornia,” Meyet said. 

The novel’s alter­nating chapters and descriptive scene setters are what really drew her into appre­ci­ating the book. She believes Steinbeck cap­tures the true essence of Cal­i­fornia through his writing style— con­vincing the readers into feeling as if they were in Cal­i­fornia themselves.

“When you read these chapters, you feel hot, you feel yourself in the dust bowl, you can taste the dust, you almost feel gritty,” Meyet said. “He has such a way with writing, it’s almost a sensory per­ception as you’re reading through that chapter.”

Related to her his­torical fiction interest, Meyet also enjoys “In the Garden of Beasts” and “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. She briefly sum­ma­rizes that “In the Garden of Beasts” is about a family whose head of the household serves as an ambas­sador in pre-WWII Germany and wit­nesses the rise of the Nazis. Though he writes his­torical novels, Meyet men­tions how Larson’s writing style is similar to that of fiction novels, making it more digestible and plea­surable com­pared to reading a history book. 

“It’s a sobering book,” Meyet said. “Larson’s books are some of the best history books I’ve ever read.”

Christopher Hamilton, asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry, enjoys reading science-fiction novels and was influ­enced from watching tele­vision as a child. Cur­rently, he is reading more of the “Ender’s Game” series by Orson Scott Card, and he is intrigued with the diverse per­spec­tives it writes for each book.

“Some of the books go back to ‘Ender’s Game’ and follow Bean telling his story. Then there some that follow right after ‘Ender’s Game’ or have a dif­ferent timeline, which is kind of cool,” Hamilton said.

Similar to his interest in varying char­acter per­spec­tives, Hamilton used to read a lot of alter­native history books. Alter­native history is a fiction genre con­sisting of his­torical events hap­pening dif­fer­ently. He men­tions that the most pro­lific author in this genre is Harry Tur­tledove and has read one of the novels from Turtledove’s Southern Victory series, also known as the fan-given name Timeline-191. The series started with Turtledove’s first novel, “How Few Remain”, and con­tinued for more than a decade con­taining three sub-series within it, accu­mu­lating to a total of 11 novels.

“There’s a trilogy of books that describes what hap­pened after­wards, leading into WWI. And now in WWI, you have the U.S. and the Con­fed­erate states at war with each other,”  Hamilton said. “It’s crazy, but alter­native history is fun. It has you think what’s the same, what’s dif­ferent, and how real­istic can it be.”

It’s a common assumption that pro­fessors only read books related to their jobs, but they also have varying interests and this is reflected in their choices in reading. While they still read books per­taining to their careers, they also appre­ciate dif­ferent styles of writings and meanings out of pure preference.

“I don’t just read things strictly for work,” Meyet said. “Usually if I’m reading it, it’s because I’m inter­ested and I think most of us are that way.”