Spring Summer 07

The Core


Living Legacy

Doc of Ages

Tour de Force


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Ocean's Informants

Transcripts: Leaping from the 18th Century to the 21st

Secret History

Big Shoulders, Helping Hand

C'est Si Bon Bon

Oxford and Upward

Go Ask Alumni


Last winter, we asked alumni of the College what treasured book from their undergraduate days they still keep on their bookshelves. Chicago alumni, we learned, form strong attachments to their books and speak about them vividly. Here are just a few answers from among the many we received.

"Members of the College classes from '66, '67, and '68 love Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis so much that we had a Lucky Jim party this summer. Sayre Van Young, AB'66, wrote a Lucky Jim trivia quiz, which Paul Silver, AB'67, won handily. I hosted the party at my house in Berkeley, and Eric Van Young, AB'67, even came up from San Diego for the event. The book must have been assigned in Humanities I—no one could remember exactly how we discovered it—but we all recite long passages from the book to each other and those of us who remained in academics find it particularly endearing every time we reread it. We showed a videotape of the movie and had an authentic British breakfast, complete with spotted dick."
Lois Schwartz, AB'67, AM'72, AM'90

"For many years I kept—and often referred to—the two-volume set of The People Shall Judge. In the early 1950s, the Hutchins College syllabi for all courses were comprised of original source material. The People Shall Judge was the text for Social Sciences I and included the basic documents influencing the creation and maintenance of the United States. I particularly recall rereading parts of 'The Federalist Papers' when I felt that elected officials and legislators were running roughshod over our Constitution. Having moved to smaller quarters a few years ago, the two volumes are in the basement, safely packed away until needed to reinforce my belief in the ultimate wisdom of our Founders.

"Parenthetically, I disposed of my basic and cost accounting books immediately upon completing those courses at the Graduate School of Business. Lord, were they repellent examples of text material."
Stephen Appel, AB'54, MBA'59

"The text that I refer to and think of most often is, without doubt, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Weber, which I read in my first quarter of Social Sciences in my first year. I enjoyed the text at the time, but I don't think I could have guessed that I would end up going back to it and finding it so compelling later on. As an economist, I reflect perhaps more than the average person on why some countries have developed more market-oriented economies than others, and what underlies not just differences in economic growth across countries, but differences in susceptibility to growth. Of course, a true believer economist would not look to Weber for explanations. But having lived in Paris for the last five years and having spent a lot of time in different countries, I have found Weber's old text to have a lot of relevance in explaining the cultural and economic differences I see from country to country. Living outside of the U.S., I have become more conscious of American 'exceptionalism,' and I find Weber's explanation to be pretty compelling at the end of the day."
Faye Steiner, AB'95

"As one of two students in the New Collegiate Division's Tutorial Studies, I spent a year studying Kant's Critique of Pure Reason in tandem with Piaget and Inhelder's The Child's Conception of Space. I feel that I have moved well beyond these theories in my current research and teaching. But hardly a term goes by that I don't make reference to one or the other or both together, such as at the faculty seminar I was in just a week ago. They have accompanied me through all my many moves, readily accessible, if infrequently touched. They symbolize much that was good, and much that was trying, about my experience in the College.

"Having struggled mightily for months and not gotten beyond page 60 of Kant's Critique, I will never forget the total awe I felt when a classmate actually finished the whole book, climbed to the top of his dorm (Hitchcock, I think), and triumphantly stomped out in the snow on the roof for all to see: QED!"
Linda May Fitzgerald, AB'71, MA'74, PhD'90

"I still have on my shelf the 1942 University of Chicago Press paperback version of David Grene's translations of Prometheus Bound, Oedipus the King, and Hippolytus. (Grene later published final versions of these and a number of other translations in trade editions.) I was struck on first reading Prometheus by its distillation of what it means to be human: to have an intellect, to treasure knowledge even in the face of great adversity, and thus to achieve human dignity.

"Many years later, when I was director of the General Honors Program at California State University, Long Beach, I taught a capstone course for seniors modeled very largely on the Organizations, Methods, and Principles of the Sciences course that I had taken in my last undergraduate year at Chicago, with the brilliant Henry Rago as instructor. Grene's Prometheus was the first reading in the course, and I was delighted to see it evoke the same responses in my students that it had evoked in me some three decades earlier."
Lawrence S. Lerner, AB'53, SM'55, PhD'62

"There are several books from College courses that I still keep on my shelves, but the first one that came to mind when I read your question was House of Mist by Maria Luisa Bombal, read for the Latin American Literature course Paper Dolls & Spider Women. I think that this text sticks out in my mind more than the many others, in part because of the legend of the author that accompanied our reading of the text. Reading a book that utilized magical realism, written by an author who had allegedly disappeared after the book was published, made the book itself have a magical quality that held my intrigue over the many years. Although the legend of the disappearing author turned out to be false (as I discovered in casual research years later), the book still holds a special place on my bookshelves and remains the only book in my collection that I no longer lend out, for fear of this special, first edition novel not finding its way home."
Aletheia V.P. Allen, Esq., AB'01