Rachel Hall, Professor of English, Director of Writing, and award-winning author, is an avid reader of fiction, especially short stories. As a young woman, she became enamored of the short story, and continues to read them for inspiration and enlightenment. The stories of Alice Munro were especially important to her, in particular, Munro’s exploration of characters and their psychology.
Many of Professor Hall’s favorite short stories are by Alice Munro: “Dimensions” and “Free Radicals” from the collection Too Much Happiness; “My Mother’s Dream” from The Love of a Good Woman; “Friend of My Youth” and “Differently” from Friend of My Youth; “Labor Day Dinner” from The Moons of Jupiter; “Miles City, Montana” from The Progress of Love; “Carried Away” from Open Secrets.
She also enjoys Andre Dubus’ stories collected in Separate Flights and Finding a Girl in America, Robin Black’s If I Loved You I Would Tell You This, Jean Thompson’s Throw Like A Girl, The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham, and Siobahn Fallon’s You’ll Know When The Men Are Gone. And when she wants something new, literary magazines keep her well supplied.
Professor Hall says, “My philosophy on books and reading is that you can never be bored if you love books. I grew up in a family of readers and that is one of the best gifts my parents gave me. I’m always reading something. I read for many different reasons–for pleasure, or inspiration, or research or for models (how was this story built?) especially when I’m rereading.”
Next on Professor Hall’s reading list is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s collection of related short stories about Vietnam, and two books by Philip Caputo, Rumor of War, which is a personal narrative of a soldier in Vietnam, and 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings.
Not surprisingly when you look at her “to do” reading list, Professor Hall’s next writing project will be a novel set in the 1960s-70s, so she is set to enjoy researching for that book. Another future project is the Rochester Jewish Book Festival. She is on the committee that sponsors the festival and she will be traveling to New York City soon to recruit speakers for that event.
When asked what her favorite books were as a child, Professor Hall reveals a fascination with The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig, spending hours imagining herself as the protagonist in frozen Siberia. Additionally, she enjoyed The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and biographies of women such as Helen Keller.
Professor Hall shares her love of reading with her daughter; the two are members of a mother-daughter book club. While this gives her the opportunity to explore some new books with her daughter, it also means she has to read some books she’d rather not (Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson comes to mind).
The author Professor Hall would love to meet and talk to? Alice Munro, of course! If such a meeting could happen, Ms. Munro would undoubtedly enjoy the conversation with Rachel Hall immensely.