What President Diacon is Reading These Days

The Years of Youth: A History of Kent State University (Phillip R. Shriver)
This book popped up on a list of Amazon-suggested books for me, and being an historian, and Kent State's President, I thought it wise to read it. I also vaguely recognized the author's name. Shriver wrote the book while a professor of history at Kent State. He went on to a successful 16-year run as the President of Miami University (1965-1981). The book is a nice mixture of leadership/administrative histories, enrollment and infrastructure growth, and briefer histories of students, traditions, and state educational politics. Among the many interesting nuggets: Kent State's colors were originally blue and orange, as nearly all its early leaders came from Illinois (blue and orange being the colors of the University of Illinois).

Ballots and Bullets: Black Power Politics and Urban Guerilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland (James Robenalt)
I read this book to learn more about Cleveland’s history, as Kent State has a long tradition of enrolling students from the city. Also, this was a moment in time when Cleveland gained national attention for electing Carl Stokes the first African-American mayor of a major US city, even while poverty, police violence and institutional racism generated violent movements that tore through the city. As an historian, I am always curious about Cleveland neighborhoods, and this book succeeds in describing the troubled history of the Hough and Glenville communities, with the author ending a book with a passionate appeal for addressing persistent urban challenges in Cleveland.

Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State (Joe Eszterhaus and Michael D. Roberts)
Because I had already read the excellent This We Know (Barbato, Davis, Seeman), I read the second book assigned to incoming freshmen this year: Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State. Written shortly after the shootings and revised a few years ago, authors Eszterhaus and Roberts deftly narrate the troubling events and decisions made and not made that produced the tragedy, and the concluding chapters on each of the four students killed on May 4, 1970 are heartbreaking.

Moments of Truth: A Photographer's Experience at Kent State 1970 (Howard Ruffner)
When I received an advance copy of Howard Ruffner’s Moments of Truth: A Photographer’s Experience at Kent State 1970, I was drawn to the scores of photographs, many of which appear for the first time in this book. Soon, however, the text drew me in, as Ruffner, whose photograph from May 4, 1970 appeared on the cover of Life, gives a gripping narration of events as he experienced them. In addition, Moments of Truth is also the story of Ruffner’s youth spent in Lakewood, Ohio, his service in the Air Force, and of his love for photography. In this sense, Moments of Truth is both a memoir, and the history of a generation.

Been So Long (Jorma Kaukonen)
Been So Long is a memoir by a founding member and guitarist of the seminal rock and roll group Jefferson Airplane. The grandson of Finnish immigrants, and the son of an American diplomat, Kaukonen engagingly describes growing up in the Philippines, Sweden, Washington D.C., and elsewhere. He recounts the music scene of the 1960s and 70s, and describes mistakes made and lessons learned over the decades. Reading this book makes you want to meet him, which you might be able to do, as he has played the Kent Stage, and now lives on the Fur Peace Ranch outside of Athens, Ohio.

Flights (Olga Tokarczuk)
Flights is listed as a novel, though it seems to weave fictional tales into and around stories of what appear to be the author’s travels throughout the world. If you travel by plane frequently, you will be attracted to the author’s descriptions of a life lived in airplanes, airports and hotels. But there is much more to this book, including fascinating histories of museums and other curiosities.