Five Minutes of Fame: English professor offers insight on literature, predicts growing popularity for book series
Mary Baak: What’s the title of the book that you’ve read most recently?
Dr. Nathan Shepley: “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.
Baak: Is there a book or work of literature that changed your life?
Dr. Shepley: “On the Genealogy of Morality” by Friedrich Nietzsche — not because I agreed with every word, but because it got me analyzing ideas that until then I hadn’t scrutinized.
This book is a theoretical look at moral structures within cultures that pushed me to start critiquing ideas all around me. From that point on, I stopped playing it safe with my reading and my exposure to ideas.
Baak: What’s your favorite genre for pleasure reading?
Dr. Shepley: Lately I’ve gotten into memoirs. I’ve read some amazing ones, usually from people who have found a way to step outside of their home culture to share a new angle on everyday life.
Baak: As far as popular culture goes, is there a novel or a series that you’re particularly fond of?
Dr. Shepley: If I’m in the mood for melodrama, anything by V.C. Andrews can be fun. Is that old school now?
Baak: Alternatively, is there a series of books that you would like to see gain more public recognition?
Dr. Shepley: Recently, I was exposed to the “Tales of the City” series by Armistead Maupin, and it impressed me.
(The series is) light in feel — it’s a comic portrayal of various San Franciscans in the 1970s, and it absolutely revels in humanity.
Plus I’m impressed by the devotion of the books’ core fans and, simultaneously, puzzled by the lack of attention the books have gotten from other readers. I suspect the books are due for a renaissance among younger generations.