Published: March 2004
Since 1982, William B. Neenan, SJ, has offered the Boston College community his personal answer to the question “Have you read a good book lately?” in the form of the Dean’s List, an annual annotated roster of recommended reading. Announced each July, the list is a University institution, referred to and debated by faculty, students, and alumni.
An economist, Neenan came to Boston College in 1980 as the University’s first Gasson Professor, then served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and academic vice president, before assuming his current duties in 1998 as vice president and special assistant to the president.
His Dean’s List has encompassed 120 books, cumulatively, since its inception. Absent are the likes of Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, and Virgil (“no need to state the obvious,” Fr. Neenan told the Boston Globe in 2000), and poets (but “don’t spurn them”). Those that do make the cut range from works of history, science, and religion (Mary Queen of Scots, The Natural History of the Universe, What Makes Us Catholic), to comic strips (The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book), to the work of contemporary novelists such as David Guterson and Barbara Kingsolver.
In this video, Neenan talks with @BC executive producer Ben Birnbaum about the list’s genesis, why it always comprises 27 books, why five titles have been permanent fixtures while many others are “one-year wonders,” and why the list’s critics are invariably wrong.
“Book report” was filmed at the MTS Studios in Chestnut Hill, on February 17, 2004.