Friday, August 30, 2013

3 Great Books by 3 Great Females

Usually, when I am writing a book, I am so focused that I don't read other books during that period.

This year, our Networks Against Time book was published and I heard the other day from a Springer editor, who is also a UMass Amherst grad, that it will be on display at the INFORMS conference in Minneapolis, which is exciting!

Once our book was out and, since I was on sabbatical this year, it was time for some reflection,  and that involved reading several books that I was quite interested in because of their authors.

I write nonfiction -- books on network themes from transportation to supply chains to supernetworks and I am also drawn to nonfiction books, from those of a technical and professional nature to  memoirs and, lately, to memoirs by women. One can get valuable advice from the latter volumes and compare your professional and life situation to those of others.

The 3 books that I recently read  (my summer reading, in part) are displayed in the photo above, which also features some lovely craft pieces received as gifts from a former doctoral student of mine, which are from the village in his home country.

Yes, I had to read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, given all the media attention and commentaries on it,  and was very interested to see whether or not it would "speak" to me as an academic, who also has had several years in industry in high tech consulting for the defense sector. Many pages of Lean In I marked with colorful Post-it notes. Sheryl, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook,  spoke very honestly, in my opinion, of the challenges that she faced even with such mentors as Dr. Larry Summer, the former President of Harvard, whom I met as a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. 

I would love to hear back from female academics who have read this book to see what their opinions of it are!

Fay Ajzenberg-Selove's book, A Matter of Choices: Memoirs of a Female Physicist, I became aware of through an obit written by Gloria Lubkin, which appeared in Physics Today. I had met Lubkin at Brown University through a physics professor there, the great Bob Beyer, who introduced me and my husband, a physics doctoral student at that time, to her. In the obit, she recommended this book, and I was intrigued and loved it! Fay was a trailblazer, who never gave up. One of my favorite paragraphs from her book:

If you work on interesting science, it is essential to schmooze with other scientists in your research field, and find out what they are doing at the time they are doing it. Your own work will not be current if you wait until your colleagues' results are published, since this occurs at least several months after the work is completed. Attending meetings is essential. The meetings take place at venues throughout the world. They are organized in such a way that no group has a recurring burden, nor a disproportionate influence, in running them. It is part of the fun of physics, and of science generally, that its practitioners become world travelers, well acquainted with international airports and with watering holes.

Although Fay could never have children, she had a long, loving marriage and her scientific community was her extended family and did she socialize!

Anna Quindlen, the Pulitzer Prize winning author (for commentary) and former columnist,  has authored many books, including novels. As a mother of 3 out of college children, she, typically, wrote and still does from 9AM until 3PM and her book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, I very much enjoyed.

Anna Quindlen spoke at a ceremony in NYC at which I received a Young Achiever's Award  from the National Council of Women of the United States, Inc., a few years after my receipt of a PhD from Brown University. In her book, she speaks on the importance of friendships, lending a hand to others, and how far women have come, among several other themes that any female can relate to. I especially enjoyed the afterword in which Quindlen engages in a conversation with her friend, Meryl Streep.