It’s almost holiday time, the ideal moment to get some reading done. Resource called WUR staff who have been in the news this academic year and asked what books they would be devouring after all those journal articles and course manuals. Do they have any golden tips or guilty pleasures?
text Roelof Kleis, Tessa Louwerens and Linda van der Nat illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
Professor of Biochemistry, unravelled the mystery of the plant hormone auxin
‘I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure but I do always use my holidays to get through a stack of thrillers. During the academic year, I read tons of articles and proposals, always for a specific purpose. It’s wonderful to read “aimlessly” on holiday. The latest book by Daniel Silva, one of my favourite thriller writers, is due to be published on 17 July. I’m already looking forward to that. Incidentally, I notice that I do get something useful from reading novels with short chapters and cliffhangers. I try to think about the attention span and narrative in my articles and research proposals too. I try to include thriller elements in my own texts in the hope that a reader or reviewer will find it difficult to put the text down and want to read on expectantly to the next section.’
Professor of Organic Chemistry, recently became fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in Britain
‘When I celebrated 25 years in the job, the chair group gave me China. A History by John Keay. I’d love to know more about the country because of my professional and personal links with the place (Zuilhof works at Tianjin University as well and has an adoptive son from China, ed.). I am also taking two thick books by Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide, about the Second World War in Asia. I don’t know much about this but I find history fascinating. That history is still very relevant for understanding the culture there. I will also be rereading How old is the universe by D. Weintraub. As regards literature, The Book of Sapphire by Gilbert Sinoué is on the list. Very calm narrative prose. Whether my wife will let me read all that is the big question, of course...‘
Assistant professor at the Laboratory of Entomology, received a Vidi grant for research on sex differences in wasps
‘I used to read an awful lot but I’ve had little time for that recently. Both the literature for my work and more relaxing reads have gone by the wayside. It’s also a question of setting priorities but this does rank lower down the list. I won’t be going away on holiday this summer, just day trips. If I do get the time, I’d like to read The Invention of Nature about the life and expeditions of the explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt. I was recently given it as a present.’
Henry van den Brand
Teacher of the Year 2018
‘I always visit the second-hand shop Dorcas in Barneveld just before I go on holiday. It has a huge range and low prices. Then I take a stack of good books with me. These can be novels, but not necessarily. Various writers appeal but I particularly like Geert Mak. He writes well, and you get that in combination with history. The last book I read was also by Mak: The Lives of Jan Six. Not his best book, incidentally. I read a lot when on holiday — laptop off and settle down with a good book. I can pass the time quite happily reading. So I can’t yet say what books I’ll be reading this time. It certainly won’t be work. Something everyone should read? QB VII by Leon Uris.’
PhD student in Bioprocess Engineering, winner of the 2017 Thesis Award
‘I very rarely read books or articles that aren’t to do with science. I prefer doing other things in my free time, like travelling. Before going on any trips, I always look up travelogues about the place I am going to visit to help me understand the history and significance, which lets me enjoy the place more. I am planning to visit northern parts of India when I return home and I am trying to find some travelogues about that area. The last novel I read was Randamoozham by M.T Vasudevan Nair. It belongs to the genre of mythology and historical fiction and is written in my native language, Malayalam. The novel tells the story of the Indian epic Mahabharata from the point of view of one of the protagonists, Bhima. It would be an adventurous and exciting read for people who are interested in Indian mythological histories.’
Assistant professor in Animal Sciences and researcher at Wageningen Marine Research, recently started the WUR-wide book club ‘On the Same Page’.
‘I always try to take two weeks off entirely in the summer, be completely offline on Menorca. All I do then is read, write a bit, cook and enjoy meals until late in the evening with friends. I will be taking five books with me this time, including Barracoon: the Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston, the story of one of the last slaves to be taken to America from Africa. This was a sad year for literature as both Tom Wolf and Philip Roth died. Roth was my literary hero; I’ve read everything he ever wrote. I think I’ll take one of his books with me as a nostalgic read, perhaps Human Stain or American Pastoral. Wolfe is also a hero — as a teenager, I thought Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was amazing.