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Faculty members’ favorite books are on display in Mossey Library for the month of January. Col­legian | Eliz­abeth Bachmann

For a limited time only, members of the Hillsdale College com­munity have the oppor­tunity to peer into the lives and minds of their pro­fessors and faculty from the comfort of Mossey Library.

Librarian Brenna Wade spent part of her Christmas break inves­ti­gating professor’s favorite books and arranging them in a display in the entrance to the library.

From Carroll’s “Alice in Won­derland” to Cather’s “Death Comes for the Arch­bishop” to Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,”  the display fea­tures a diverse spread of 65 books sub­mitted by 60 faculty members.

“Unless things have changed since I was a student,” Wade said, “stu­dents are always intrigued by what their pro­fessors’ interests are and what their favorite books are. To see them not just as a pro­fessor but as a person. From a faculty per­spective, it is inter­esting to see what your col­leagues’ favorite books are.”

Wade men­tioned that when she began the process of col­lecting the titles, Pro­fessor of English Michael Jordan also expressed  interest in that faculty per­spective.

Jordan said that at the beginning of every semester, he asks his stu­dents to com­plete a survey about the book that has given them a “com­bi­nation of the most pleasure and edi­fi­cation.” He found that 85 to 90 percent of stu­dents’ answers were works of fiction.

Jordan’s interest in the subject was piqued by Sir Philip Sidney’s “Defense of Poesy,” an essay asserting that poetry, which can be taken to mean most fiction today, is the more apt teacher than either history or phi­losophy.

“I thought, Sidney is making a claim that poetry is superior to other genres in its power to edify, because it has the pleasing part of history, and then the uni­versal of phi­losophy,” Jordan said.

Jordan said that, as a result, he was not at all sur­prised that 65 percent of sub­mis­sions were fiction.

Of these, one of Jordan’s per­sonal favorites is the Library of America’s edition of Flannery O’Connor’s col­lected writings.

“I admire Flannery O’Connor as a fiction writer, espe­cially her short stories, and as a letter writer,” Jordan said. “She is one of the best letter writers I know of, and is an essayist and a lec­turer. And in all of these genres she is excep­tional.”

Chairman of Theater and Dance James Brandon is another fiction lover, whose favorite book is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams, which he dis­covered by chance.

“There was a time in junior high when I was always at the library, and if I was working on a project, I would wander over to the fiction section, pick up a book, and start reading it,” Brandon said. “I remember seeing the hard­cover with the big ball of green and the guy sticking his tongue out and I thought, ‘What the h*** is this?’ So, of course, I had to read it.”

Brandon said that he was imme­di­ately taken by the novel.

“It is instantly engaging and funny. It was the first time I read humorous science fiction, and I loved it,” Brandon said. “I just loved the style, that British sen­si­bility where you have these overe­d­u­cated people com­menting on things in sort of wry and detached way.”

Assistant Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy Blake McAl­lister is one of several pro­fessors who sub­mitted a non-fiction work,  C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce.”

“This book was instru­mental in the mat­u­ration of my faith. It changed how I con­ceived of the final end of man and, accord­ingly, the purpose of our present state of exis­tence,” McAl­lister said.

He added that the book helped him share what he learned with others.

“It also enabled me to help others wrestle with doubts about God. After med­i­tating on this book in college, I had five people inde­pen­dently confide in me that they were strug­gling to rec­oncile the goodness of God with the reality of hell. Rumi­nating on this book allowed me to respond effec­tively,” he said.