Summer Reading, vol. 7: Susan Hylen

We hope you have some fun Fourth of July plans that involve sun and BBQ—and we’ve got just the books to keep you company by the pool. This week, we spoke to Dr. Susan Hylen, professor of New Testament at the Candler School of Theology. Dr. Hylen’s teaching credits include everything from Introductory New Testament to a seminar on early church women, and she is also ordained in the PC(USA)!

First on Dr. Hylen’s list is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Profile Books, 2015) by the magisterial classicist Mary Beard. The acronym SPQR stands for Senatus populusque Romanus, or “the Senate and People of Rome,” that is, the two entities at the heart of Roman history. SPQR covers nearly a thousand years of Roman history: including mythical Roman origins, the rise and fall of the triumvirates, and concluding with the Byzantine rulers. But why bother with such a history? In part, Beard writes to present a nuanced view of a history many think they already know. But more importantly, Beard suggests that “to ignore the Romans is not just to turn a blind eye to the distant past; Roma still helps to define the way we understand our world and think about ourselves” (15). This highly readable work is a fitting culmination to Beard’s years as a classicist and public intellectual.

If Roman history is not your cup of tea, Dr. Hylen also suggests Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). Coates composed the book as a letter to his son, confronting the issues of family, race, and contemporary politics in the style of James Baldwin. Coates received the National Book award for this non-fiction work and his writing can also be found in The Atlantic. Between the World and Me is emotional, poignant, and absolutely worth your time this summer.

Thanks to Dr. Hylen for these excellent suggestions; stay tuned next week for suggestions from Pitts Reference and Instruction Librarian Sarah Bogue!

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