I always consider it an honor to be asked to offer my suggestions for “leisure” reading for the Trinity community in an issue of this magazine. Since I am a retired English professor, one would think my standards would be higher—more worthy of your consideration—but most of you realize I read for fun, not so much for enlightenment. And, as some will realize, I have limited patience—too quickly bored. Not that you can imagine this, but as I have aged, I’m quicker than ever to toss aside any book that motivates me to doze off.
I certainly realize that many Trinity supporters, faculty, staff, students, alumni—and others—form their own reading lists and glance at mine in this publication only to feel superior and far more enlightened. But don’t forget: I have served this institution from the time I was 24 until they had to drag me out at retirement. (And still, I keep on creeping back in, as I’m doing here.) So, of course, I take liberties and presume to recommend what I consider worthwhile, stimulating reading. I think I’m comfortable doing this because I recall readings I assigned decades ago that blew the minds of some undergraduates. I didn’t fret too much about my audacity then, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t now!
With such a range of material to view on television, in magazines, newspapers, book-of-the-month clubs, you hardly need my suggestions. But I forge ahead, hoping a few of you will be uplifted, inspired, challenged, informed, outraged by some recent fiction I urge you to consider. I think my favorite reading these past few months came from contemporary writers whose works I try never to miss—Strout, Erdrich, Toews, Irving—as well as from a few previously overlooked or slighted ones—Brooks, Kingsolver, Enright. (Sedaris has long been a favorite, mostly just for fun, but his satirical skills continue to improve, as in 2022’s Happy-Go-Lucky.)
Some works of fiction I’ve enjoyed enough to recommend this year include titles from three longtime favorite authors and one new.
I’m pretty sure that ever since she began publishing her novels, I’ve not missed any from Elizabeth Strout. I find each of her novels (particularly her recent Oh William!) insightfully drawing memorable—even recognizable—characters, and, not surprisingly, as Strout (and I) grow older, her characters and their illusions are usually, painfully, just too close to home.
Since Louise Erdrich began writing, she and her late husband, Michael Dorris, were acknowledged and praised as “America’s cultural couple,” and I believe I’ve not missed any of her novels. Her early capturing of a culture with which I (and many readers) had no experience—Native Americans—both informed and engaged me. And I hurriedly shared and continue to share all her works with others. So don’t miss the title The Sentence, even though some reviewers’ enthusiastic use of “dazzling” and “wickedly funny” may go too far for some of us Erdrich devotees.
Only recently have I become a fan of Miriam Toews, so I’m reading as much of her beautifully phrased and engaging work as I can. Fight Night, Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, and A Complicated Kindness may tell you more about Mennonite life and perspectives than you really want to know. Toews’ work just happens to make her my favorite Canadian writer after the incomparable Margaret Atwood.
Still Life by Sarah Winman (not the one by Louise Penny) also entranced me—and not just with its animal character, Claude. It’s an informative, yet disturbing story of Tuscany during World War II and creates a fascinating and unusual depiction of both wartime and devotion to art.
I have absolutely no doubt that folks from Trinity read widely and avoid my late afternoon commitment to Jeopardy, so next time I see you, expect a pop quiz on the novels recommended here.
With every good wish—
Coleen Grissom, Ph.D.
Coleen Grissom Scholarship Fund 2022-23
Regardless of her role on campus, Coleen will continue to inspire and ignite a love of learning in future students through the Coleen Grissom Endowed Scholarship.
This past year alone, 174 gifts were made totaling $27,531 from alumni, parents, and friends to provide scholarship support for students.
Dear Trinity Community,
When I stepped on campus in 1958, I never dreamed that upon my retirement from the administration, a group of alumni would create a scholarship in my name.
The great thing about having a scholarship named after you while you are still living is that you get to add to the scholarship yourself, which I have done over the past few years. But more important is that I get to see, hear from, and meet students who are receiving support from this scholarship. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that bright, engaged young adults are being helped and supported in their educational journey at Trinity.
I look forward to seeing your name on the list of all the generous donors who are helping to make a difference for Trinity students.
Please donate what you can to the Trinity scholarship in my name, know of my gratitude to you, and be assured that your contribution will be well invested in yet another promising young adult who enrolls here.
Let’s face it: You’re too old to procrastinate, so donate what you can and celebrate all you gained from your Trinity experience!
All best to you and to all you love,
Coleen Grissom, Ph.D.