Honors Adviser Kristy Spear

Photography by Connor Hartzell

Anupa Kotipoyina

Sophomore, History major

Though the Honors Program encompasses a pretty diverse bunch, it is without a doubt home to a lot of book lovers—the length of the (Un)Common Reading list is proof enough! We’ve all felt the special thrill that comes only from reading a book that you know has made a lasting impression. Here are the ones that Honors faculty and students have enjoyed, reread, been affected by professionally or personally, and would be handing out if they could:


Dr. Law

Honors Program Director

To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski

Dr. Law, an engineer himself, appreciates this book for its message that “everyone makes mistakes” and that mistakes are opportunities to learn and make progress. The book is accessible to the non-engineer and offers easily understandable examples of civil engineering failures that we have learned from.

Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Generations narrates American history through description of the characteristics of the generations that have shaped it. The book has helped Dr. Law better understand his students and the way they see the world.

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

This book illuminates the process of turning an idea into an actual success. The author, a former Apple executive, offers valuable advice for anyone running an organization. Though he has made his career in Silicon Valley, his book shows that the heart of success is not necessarily the technology involved, but the people-side of the operations. Like To Engineer is Human, The Art of the Start contends that failure can be positive. In fact, the culture of Silicon Valley is one in which past failures are seen as a mark of experience.

Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate by Ernest L. Boyer

This book challenges the current system of academia, in which professors are rewarded for their research and not their teaching ability. Since students and education have changed so much, Dr. Law thinks it is critical that the university model evolve as well.

Regan Garner

Associate Director, Advisor

A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

 This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is the story of an overweight Dominican-American “ghetto nerd” growing up in New Jersey. However, it isn’t just another teen coming-of-age story. The novel goes into a lot of Dominican history and is, according to Garner, beautifully written.

Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

This book was actually recommended to Ms. Garner by a student! It offers a perspective of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without vilifying anyone involved. Though fictional, it is incredibly well researched and thought provoking.

 A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra  

 The novel, one that Ms. Garner says “everybody should read” is, like two of her other picks, a work of historical fiction, and is set in rural Chechnya during one of the Chechen wars. Garner describes the work as both  “breathtaking in its prose” and heartbreaking.

 The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol

This nonfiction book is the one that is “closest to [Ms. Garner’s] heart and professional interests.” The author is a Rhodes scholar who dedicated his whole life to supporting public education, offering his perspective on issues discussed in the field today. The book shares the voices of educators, students, and others involved in the challenge of addressing the shameful issues plaguing American public schools.

(Regan Garner has been a part of a book club for five years now and highly recommends everyone either start one or join one!)

Dr. Melissa Johnson

Associate Director, Advisor

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly takes on how we think about vulnerability, shame, and imperfection. This book was a huge hit when Dr. Johnson used it in one of her honors classes and she thinks its message that “we are all imperfect” is one that students, especially honors students, can really benefit from.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

Dr. Johnson likes this novel so much she rereads it every few years and describes it as a “powerful” work. In The Lords of Discipline, Conroy draws on his experience at The Citadel to bring readers into the world of the fictional Carolina Military Institute as it is in the process of desegregation, and explores hazing, racism, and secret societies in the process.

Kristy Spear


Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Mrs. Spear enjoys this fantastical, classic work of fiction as an adult as much as she did as a child. She says “visualizing [Carroll’s] words and work is a fun process”.

 Lord of the Flies by William Golding

 Mrs. Spear first read this classic book about a group of English schoolboys wrecked on a deserted island in school and really enjoyed it then. She says the themes are dark, but nonetheless interesting to explore in terms of our society and who we are.

 Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Mrs. Spear likes this bestselling book so much she is actually going to teach an (Un)Common Reading course about it! She appreciates how it “explores the themes of our life and how we connect with other people.”

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

 The author of this book is a spiritual teacher and an Alachua county native. Mrs. Spear would put this book in the “self-help” category, as she feels that it centers around “self-reflection into who we are as individuals.”

Dr. Watt

Associate Professor of Italian

Honors class this semester: (Un)Common Reading: “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place”: Boccaccio’s Decameron

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Dr. Watt first enjoyed this book as a child and found more to appreciate when she reread it as an adult. The book is set right here in Florida, where residents of a small town face complex challenges as survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Dr. Watt appreciates the struggle to “create a world out of the pieces of the past,” something she does in her own work as a literary scholar.

Dr. Kroen

Associate Professor of History

Honors class this semester: Shipwrecks and Civilization

Possession by A.S. Byatt

Dr. Kroen describes this Booker Prize winning novel as an “ambitious literary and cultural history through fiction”. The story brings readers into two worlds as a pair of present-day scholars stumble upon and investigate a romance between two Victorian poets. Don’t worry if you’re not a literature buff, as according to Dr. Kroen, this “tour de force” is accessible and a really funny read.

Dr. Russo

Associate Professor of Geology

Honors class this semester: Physical Geology

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Dr. Russo described himself as “moved very deeply” by The Master and Margarita. The book, a tale of the devil visiting Soviet Russia and wreaking havoc with his gang seamlessly juxtaposed with conversations between Jesus and Pontious Pilate, addressed topics Dr. Russo thought “very interesting in my own lifetime,” including, but not limited to, communism, religion, and people in general.

Bardia Khajenoori

Senior, International Studies major

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Bardia is a fan of applying concepts and lessons to different situations and finds this book of military strategy to be full of good advice and written in an effective way. He says the book has not only affected his life, but has had a huge influence in the business world, sports, and politics.

TehQuin Forbes

Junior, Sociology major

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

TehQuin appreciates this novel’s plot for the way it shows a strong woman of color and likes the stylistic technique of using imperfect diction to capture the voice of the characters. More than that, though, he says The Color Purple was one of the first novels written about African Americans by an African American, and it made him feel very proud. It catapulted him into reading more African American literature and he thinks that “a lot of other students could use that catapult too.”

Lindsay Abbot

Sophomore, International Studies major

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent brings to life a story that has two lines in the Bible through the voice of Jacob and Leah’s daughter. Lindsay likes that it is “all based around the women of the Bible and their lives”.

Evangeline Abrahams

Sophomore, Chemistry major

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Evangeline is huge fan of puns, which draws her to this “really clever and witty” comedic play.