Marianne Baernholdt, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Sadie Health Cabaniss Professor and Dean


My dad instilled my love of reading. He would go to used bookstores and buy mystery boxes and bags for me. I would read almost everything he came home with. And I still like to buy used books and books from independent stores: my favorite is Renaissance Book Shop, in the Milwaukee Airport. It’s a joy discovering new books.

As a child, I loved Astrid Lindgren—Pippi Longstocking, but also The Brothers Lionheart (Brødrene Løvehjerte, in Danish) and the series Emil fra Lønneberg, which was about a group of kids who were friends, solved problems, and always came out on top. My husband and I read those to our own children in Danish.

I also read comic books, and I still do. But they have to be well made, have a good story, and have good frames. Tintin, of course, and Asterix were some of my favorites.

"It’s about listening, and giving people the power to change things."

Dean Marianne Baernholdt

I try, no matter where I go, to buy a book by an author from the country or area I’m visiting. When we lived in the Southwest, I read Barbara Kingsolver, who was living in Tucson at the same time. High Tide in Tuscon, a book of essays, is one of my favorites. Daughters of the Earth: The Lives and Legends of American Indian Women, by Carolyn Niethammer, also made a big impression on me.


I have many, so I’ll pick a few: [Former dean] Dorrie [Fontaine] introduced me to Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World, by Chris Lowney, a Jesuit. It is about how, as a leader, it can’t be about you; it has to be about us. Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet, a retired Navy captain, spoke to me because it’s about listening and giving people the power to change things. He treated his crew members as leaders, not followers, giving control, not taking it.


One of the best books I read last year was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. I learned a lot about history, about the Indian caste system, about being Black in the U.S., and the eugenics movement that was used by Americans and Nazis to suppress and oppress out-groups. The way she put that together: Just wow. It was masterful.


Baernholdt with dog ZeroI continue to read both Danish and English books. Margaret Atwood’s books are some of my favorites: I’ve read most of them, from The Handmaid’s Tale to Cat’s Eye to The Robber Bride, and Alias Grace. I also like books that include history, and have rediscovered much of Danish and world history that way, Last year, I read Jan Guillou’s ten Great Century books, which follow a Norwegian family from 1901 to 2001 to tell the story of, as the author writes, “humanity's greatest, bloodiest, and most cruel century.”


In our new house in Charlottesville, we have, for the first time, a library, so we will have many good places to read. It’s really the best spot in the house. We only need to add good lighting, candles, blankets, and a dog or two.

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