Faculty Bookshelf: An Interview with Meg Stolee

Professor Meg Stolee and Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

The line between pleasure reading and research interests is blurred when it comes to Professor Meg Stolee from the History Department: prison camp memoirs top her list of favorite genre for pleasure reading!  An avid reader of memoirs by women, mysteries, and biography, Professor Stolee typically reads between 5 and 7 books a week, a fact her students find astonishing.

While current research interests surround the book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, and The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn, currently on her nightstand is The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan (not the book Cloud Atlas that was recently made into a film!). She’s also reading Kiev, 1941 by David Stahel, which offers a new assessment of Hitler’s Barbarossa campaign in the USSR.

Professor Stolee’s favorite books about women include the elegant and poignant book Hope Against Hope by Nadezhda Mandel’shtam, whose husband was a prisoner under Stalin. She also favors Where She Came From by Helen Epstein, and Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly.

When asked what book changed her life, Professor Stolee mentions a Dorothy L. Sayers mystery called Gaudy Night, read while she was a student at Bryn Mawr College. The book explores women and higher education, women’s full acceptance in male-dominated academic life, and the tensions that arise when women try to balance love and marriage with careers in academia. It gave the undergraduate a lot to think about while attending lectures and writing papers. Students who think they don’t have time for “light” reading while in college take heed: Like Meg Stolee, your life might be influenced the most by a book not listed on a syllabus!