What’s your favorite coming-of-age story?

Faculty Roundtable

What’s your favorite coming-of-age story?

Faculty Roundtable

Magnus Rittby
Senior associate dean
College of Science & Engineering

As a senior in college, I devoured Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter – a heavy piece, literally and literary, dealing with logic, art, music and their relation to the concept of self-reference.

An artful and playful Pulitzer Prize-winning book which still to this day inspires me to look for interdisciplinary approaches in our understanding and description of the world. A few years later, I quoted Hofstadter’s Law in the introduction to my dissertation: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

Jan Lacina
Associate dean of Graduate Studies
College of Education

My favorite coming-of-age book is Shine by Lauren Myracle. The main characters struggle with friendship, loss of innocence, and acceptance. The protagonist is Cat, who is attempting to avenge the crime against one of her close friends, Patrick. The police believe it is a gay-bashing crime, but Cat has other ideas on the cause. The mystery is interwoven through
the book, and in this process, Cat experiences feelings of loss and guilt—and ultimately the power of resilience, love and friendship. This is a beautifully crafted book that keeps you on the edge of your seat.


Stacie Mccormick
Assistant professor

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye tells the story of African-American girl’s coming of age in the post-Depression era. It focuses primarily on Pecola Breedlove, who desires blue eyes in order to feel valued. The story brings to light those who are largely invisible and most vulnerable in our society. It inspires the reader to contemplate more deeply notions of love, beauty and the human condition. Each time I read it, I find something new.


Kristen Queen
Assistant director of Academic Programs
School of Music

As an introspective, musically-inclined teenager, I would spend weekend afternoons with my friends listening to music of a variety of genres – Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, Bush, Edwin McCain, Eric Clapton, Goo Goo Dolls, Gustav Holst, Hector Berlioz, Jean Sibelius, Sarah McLachlan, among others.

We enjoyed listening to other pieces by composers we were performing. One of those was Jean Sibelius’ Symphony no. 2. It is known for its soaring melodies, quirky evolution, boldness, and universality, especially in comparison to his Finlandia. Something about the juxtaposition of the aforementioned qualities, particularly when listening to the second and third movements, reminded us of our teenage lives.

Harry Parker
Professor and chair

One of my favorites is a memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and director Moss Hart called Act one. It’s the story of a stagestruck young man who fights his way into the world of Broadway theatre through a series of amateur theatre jobs, which are humble at best, but the stories are all hilarious and heartwarming. When Moss Hart began a playwriting collaboration with the older, experienced, and successful writer George S. Kaufman, his career took off.


Ron Pitcock
J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Fellow
John V. Roach Honors College

My longtime favorite novel is Robert Penn Warren’s classic All the King’s Men. Though he is no longer a child, the main protagonist, Jack Burden, learns valuable lessons regarding his aristocratic and entitled past, the flawed nature of human beings, and personal responsibility. For students facing a post-9/11 world and a communication revolution that speeds up the pace of life, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close rings true in compelling fashion. Oskar Schell, a young child with Asperger Syndrome, learns to cope with both the traumatic loss of his father and the recovery of memory, love and words. Many of my students love this novel!


Abbie Shipp
Associate professor

A great coming-of-age story in business is the movie Wall Street. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young stockbroker willing to do whatever it takes to live the high life. After learning the unethical ways of Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas), Fox becomes embroiled in insider trading and actions that threaten his father’s company. He decides to confess and face prison to right his wrongs, showing that in the long run, ethical decisions always triumph.


Mark Dennis
Associate professor

The Kite Runner is a novel by Khaled Hosseini that I’ve been teaching in my World Religions course for about 10 years. Amir, the novel’s protagonist, tries to redeem himself for a terrible mistake he makes as a boy. Indeed, redemption is revealed as the novel’s thematic arc in the first few pages when he receives a cryptic call from his father’s friend who intimates, “There is a way to be good again.” My students and I highly recommend it as a moving portrait of an Afghani boy’s attempt to deal with his past. 


Jean Marie Brown

I read To Kill a Mockingbird my first year of high school. I nearly finished the book in one night. The story’s simplicity and genuineness is unrivaled. Scout, Jem and Dill came to life when I was 14, and now as my 12-year-old reads the novel, they breathe again.  I want to ask about characters as if they are old friends.


Danielle Walker

I am a book reader, always have been. My favorite coming of age novel is Little Women. Anne of Green Gables is a close second. I loved reading about sisters or close friends as they grew up, fell in love, and began to join the adult world. Although they are technically young adult books, I still enjoy snuggling in to read my tattered copies or watch the movie version.