Watch, Listen, and Read Like a Professor

In this summer of social distancing—distinguished by, among other things, a lack of live entertainment, such as theater, live music, and movies—that perennial pastime, summer reading, has a newly energized appeal. Podcasts, virtual exhibits, music, and streaming films and theater productions are equally in demand. Here, URI professors share their tips for what to read, listen to, and watch.

— Marybeth Reilly-McGreen

Holly Dunsworth, Associate Professor of Anthropology


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Last summer we moved, leaving my garden’s colony of hundreds of snails behind. I miss “my snails” dearly—especially now, as I’d have days upon days to stare at them. I discovered so much about them by painting a dot on each snail’s shell, specific to the year—some snails had four different colored dots! The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a perfect lockdown science read. It’s the biography of a woman with a mysterious disease that keeps her bedridden; she becomes enthralled with a snail that her caregiver adds to a pot of wildflowers at her bedside.

Travis D. Williams, Associate Professor of English


The Alchemist by Ben Jonson
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

For wit, scathing insults, physical comedy, and brilliant plot construction, Ben Jonson’s play, The Alchemist, is unsurpassed. Amid the humor, it tells a story about social class and how privilege dictates safety in a public health crisis. And The Decameron is a collection of stories about 10 wealthy young Florentines who “self-isolate” in the countryside during a plague outbreak. They entertain themselves by telling 100 short stories—from farce to tragedy and from sexual to sublime. Each story is short, so consider enjoying a few each day—as delicious morsels before bed.

David Howard, Professor of Costume Design


Dressed: The History of Fashion (podcast)
American Duchess (podcast)


A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Dressed: The History of Fashion explores (mostly) under-discussed elements in the field, including a fascinating episode about the Battle of Versailles and one about Fashion Week. And don’t miss American Duchess—my favorite episode is “Enslaved People’s Dress in the 18th and 19th Century, with Cheyney McKnight.” And A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is a must-read adventure/mystery sequel to Green’s last book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, about the mysterious appearance all over the world of statues that do not “come in peace.”

Rachel Walshe, Assistant Professor of Acting and Playwriting


A painted portrait of William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays from the Globe
Broadway shows on PBS
Greta Gerwig’s Little Women

The Globe Theatre in London is offering many plays free online. My favorites are As You Like It and Measure for Measure. PBS just made several Broadway shows available free online, too, including In the Heights and Buried Child. And Greta Gerwig’s Little Women inspired me to reread Alcott’s book, which I enjoyed even more as an adult—and you can see URI theater instructor Tony Estrella ’93 as the March family’s doctor!

“My all-time favorites are As You Like It and Measure for Measure.”
Rachel Walshe

J. Jennifer Jones, Associate Professor of English



Philip Glass composed the music for this American experimental film in 1982, the same year he composed the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Akhnaten, and you can feel the connection. You’ll be mesmerized by the dance between Glass’s musical composition and the images that evoke the relationship among humans, the Earth, and technology.

Sarah Eron, Associate Professor of English


The word mark from the Harry Potter book series with a lightening bolt 'P'.

“Harry Potter: A History of Magic”


Books Books Books Books

Harry Potter: A History of Magic” from the British Library will delight Harry Potter fanatics. There are even some modern lessons in “muggle magic.” But even though it’s strangely easy these days to listen to the symphony or “visit” a museum online from home, we’re all getting a bit too much screen time. So, consider reading paper books this summer—outside.

Emmett Goods, Lecturer, Department of Music


LL Cool J performing
LL Cool J is one of the artists Emmett Goods is listening to this summer. Of LL Cool J’s generation of rap artists, Goods says, “We often forget how political their music was before their stardom.” Photo: Larry Philpot

“The Otherside of America”
Meek Mill


“They Don’t”
Nasty C featuring T.I.

“I Can’t Breathe”

“The Bigger Picture”
Lil Baby

“Walking in the Snow”
Run the Jewels

Freestyle on Black Lives Matter
(on YouTube)
LL Cool

I’ve been listening to response music to the racial tension in America. LL Cool J was my wife’s favorite rapper (and crush), so I include him here in her memory. But also because, in the late 1980s, LL wrote a song about being racially profiled and pulled over by the police. Many artists of his generation made the shift from “rap artist” to “pop star” and we often forget how political their music was before their stardom. All of these tracks and artists provide unique perspectives on social and political issues, including race and policing. South African rapper Nasty C shows that America isn’t the only country dealing with racial inequality.

Martha Elena Rojas, Associate Professor of English


White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
There There by Tommy Orange
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

White Fragility gave me better conceptual language for how to talk about structural racism and our own complicity with upholding white supremacy. Follow up with Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. Then keep reading.

Justin Wyatt, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Film/Media


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series
Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema

The complete Mary Hartman series on DVD offers 135 hours of soap opera satire from the mid-1970s and a skewed world view that is memorable, disturbing, and amusing. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema, from the Criterion Collection, includes all 39 of the great Swedish director’s films. Start with black-and-white classics like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, and Persona—questioning identity, existence, and the meaning of life, then move to the serious version of Mary Hartman, Scenes from a Marriage.

Ingmar Bergman (left) and Victor Sjöström standing outdoors on an upstairs porch
Ingmar Bergman (left) and Victor Sjöström in 1957, during production of Wild Strawberries in the studios in Solna, Sweden.

Brian Caccioppoli, Marine Research Specialist, Graduate School of Oceanograpy


Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan


StarTalk (podcast)

Barbarian Days is the ultimate coming-of-age surf adventure/wanderlust story. It’s a great read while we are confined to our homes. And StarTalk, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, blends science and pop culture, examining everyday scientific principles in a light, comedic way.

Bryan Dewsbury, Assistant Professor of Biology


Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation edited by John Freeman
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol

Tales of Two Americas is a collection of nonfiction and poetry from some of America’s best writers reflecting on their experiences of inequality in major U.S. cities. A welcome addition to understanding inequity through personal narrative. Savage Inequalities is a bit dated, but the lesson on how social contexts yield inequitable social outcomes is still powerful. •

Photos: Larry Philpot,; Creative Commons.

One comment

  1. Book recommendations from URI professors is fantastic. Now is the time I am reading more than ever and catching up on books that have been piling up, column style, in my den waiting to be read. I love recommendations, so I really appreciate this article.

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