Looking to discover some new books, music or movies? Explore these Top 5 lists from members of the Dickinson faculty!

Books | Albums | Films

Top 5 Books

List by Susan Perabo, professor of creative writing and writer-in-residence

  • Severance, by Ling Ma. I read this book in February, on a recommendation, having no idea how uncomfortably relevant it was about to become. It follows a young NYC professional woman before, during, and after a worldwide pandemic. It's unsettling, definitely, but it's also funny and smart and fast-paced. Lots of plot, but also lots of substance.  
  • The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood. My mother reads more novels than anyone I know, and this was her #1 recommendation for me this past summer. It's about a 104-year=old woman and the Boy Scout who befriends her. It's not a spoiler to tell you the boy dies, because Wood tells us that on page 2. A beautiful book about friendship and loss, and not nearly as depressing as it sounds.
  • The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez. This short novel won the National Book Award in 2018, and deservedly. It's about a writer coming to grips with the suicide of a close friend. Told in snapshots, it avoids being morose because the narrative voice is so wonderfully self-aware.
  • Atonement, by Ian McEwan. I think about this book almost every day. I could teach a whole class on the opening chapter. When McEwan came to campus to receive the Stellfox Prize, he talked at length about his great affection for the sometimes quite unlovable main character, Briony Tallis. 
  • The Best American Short Stories. I recommend and teach this collection every year. Some stories you'll love, and some you won't, but I guarantee you'll find a writer you've never heard of whose work excites you. You'll also get a clear sense of the wide variety of voices that make up contemporary fiction. Plus, honestly, I just want people to read more short stories. 

Top 5 Albums

List by Robert Pound, professor of music

  • Wynton Marsalis, Hot House Flowers
  • Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations. He made two recordings - take your pick. There's a double album with both, including an interview with Gould by Tim Page, “Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder.
  • Brahms Ein deutsches requiem - precisely because it's not sad; it's comforting and uplifting. Robert Shaw, Atlanta Symphony Ochestra & ASO Chorus.
  • Josquin Desprez, Motets and Chansons, The Hilliard Ensemble
  • REM, Life's Rich Pageant. Georgia gets some things right.

Top 5 Films

List by Alex Bates, chair of film studies and associate professor of East Asian studies

  • My overall number-one choice for an East Asian movie to watch at home: In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-wai’s nostalgic Hong Kong love story from 2000. This is the 20th anniversary of the film, and it was slated to be rereleased this year. As far as I am concerned, it is a perfect movie. It is good no matter where, but, if you can, watch on a screen that can do it justice (and decent speakers), in other words, not one to watch on your phone. It is a bit harder to get your hands on than the others listed here, but it is available on the Criterion Channel and some versions of Kanopy. For another subtle art-house favorite, I would recommend Burning, a Korean mystery/love story based on a short story by Japanese author Murakami Haruki, available on Netflix.
  • My pick for those interested in classic films: Ozu Yasujirô’s Tokyo Story. This film is on several “best of” lists for good reason. Ozu has a distinctive style, but the subtle emotion of his stories is superb. Available on Kanopy. Kanopy has many other good Japanese classics from Ozu, Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi. Close second: The Housemaid (1960 version directed by Kim Ki-young), an erotic thriller from Korea, available on Youtube.
  • My pick for an edgy, violent thriller: Oldboy, Park Chan-wook’s 2005 thriller (remade by Spike Lee) about a man imprisoned for an unknown reason. Available on Kanopy through many public libraries across the country, Vudu and some other platforms. Warning: disturbing graphic violence. Close second: Hana-bi, Takeshi Kitano’s late 90s movie about a cop on the run), also available on Kanopy.
  • Martial arts movie: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made a huge impact internationally when it came out in 2000. There are many other good ones out there, but for a different kind of martial arts film, I would recommend either Ip-Man (2008) or Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster (2013). Both are based on the true story of Ip-Man, Bruce Lee’s teacher, who fought against a Japanese karate master under Japanese occupation. All three are available on Netflix.
  • Best contemporary social issues film: A Touch of Sin (2013), by Jia Zhang-ke, available on Kanopy. This look at the lives of people living on the margins would be a good choice for people who enjoyed the social critique of Parasite. It is based on four true-crime stories across China. Warning: graphic violence. A second choice would be Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters from 2018, about a makeshift family scraping by in Japan, available to rent on Amazon and through other platforms. Both of these directors have several other wonderful films.