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Spend Your Summer Reading the Books UT Professors Love

We have the perfect summer book list for every type of reader. Selected by some of UT’s finest professors, this list includes more than 50 books students will read together as part of a campus-wide book club that helps introduce freshmen to UT.

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Whether you want to delve into a classic, sharpen personal skills with practical nonfiction or dream up imaginary worlds in modern novels, we have the perfect summer book list for every type of reader.

Selected by some of UT’s finest professors, this list includes more than 50 books students will read together as part of a campuswide book club to be held Aug. 25 that helps introduce freshmen to the university.

During the 13th annual Freshman Reading Round-Up, members of the Class of 2019 will meet with classmates and faculty members for small-group discussions about a book they read together this summer.Entering first-year students are able to browse a list of books, pick one to read and then register to join the discussion. On the day before the fall semester starts, students and faculty meet to talk about the summer reading. 

Here’s a quick look at 10 of the books on this year’s list and the faculty members who recommended them:

Freshmen Reading Round-Up 2015 poster
  • Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg; recommended by Keri Stephens, communication studies
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig; recommended by Stuart Reichler, biological sciences
  • Change Your Life Through Travel, by Jillian Robinson; recommended by James Patton, education
  • Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business, by Jon Steel; recommended by John Murphy, advertising
  • Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture, by Erez Aiden; recommended by David Laude, chemistry
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe; recommended by Brent Iverson, chemistry
  • My Beautiful City Austin, by David Heymann; recommended by David Heymann, architecture
  • Black Like Me, by Howard Griffin; recommended by Linda Ferreira-Buckley, rhetoric and writing
  • College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be, by Andrew Delbanco; recommended by Mechele Dickerson, law
  • Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom; recommended by Patrick Davis, pharmacy

[Follow ShelfLife@Texas, a space for book lovers to discuss literary news and events at UT.]

See the full 2015 Freshman Reading Round-Up list below, along with commentary from the faculty members who selected each book and will lead the small-group discussions.

Start reading. August will be here soon. 

My Stroke of Insight

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

By Jill Bolte Taylor

Recommended by Larry Abraham, kinesiology and health education

“The author is a Harvard-trained brain scientist who experienced a massive stroke and observed her own mind deteriorate, based on her training.  Her experience emphasizes the fascinating dichotomy between our left and right brains: the right side of her brain was much less affected.  Taylor’s compelling writing captures first-hand how the brain functions and recovers from such damage, and is also a good introduction for those interested in learning more about the brain: as a researcher in this area, I consider Taylor’s book a must read.”

Everything That Rises Must Converge

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

By Flannery O’Connor

Recommended by Michael Adams, English

“Flannery O’Connor’s fiction has been called a violent, bizarre, and darkly comic world that captures the essential truth about modern human beings. In what way, then, can it be called thoroughly Christian? The answer is hidden within these disarmingly humorous tales of pride. Specific focus will be given to ‘Parker’s Back,’ ‘Greenleaf,’ Revelation, and ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.'”


The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon	 By Mario Zimmer Bradley

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

Recommended by Eric Anslyn, College of Natural Sciences

“The Mists of Avalon tells the tale of King Arthur from the point of view of Morgain (Morgana Le Fay). It gives a totally different perspective of the Arthurian legends.”




Emma By Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Recommended by Janine Barchas, English

“Published in 1816, this is a classic romantic comedy about a small English village where a local teenage matchmaker, Emma Woodhouse, keeps getting things wrong as she plays cupid to her reluctant single friends. Simultaneously charming and sharp-witted, this may be Jane Austen’s most perfect novel. After you read it, enjoy two very different interpretations for the screen: Emma (1996), starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and Clueless (1995), starring Alicia Silverstone.”

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake By Margaret Atwood

By Margaret Atwood

Recommended by Rebecca Bigler, psychology

“For fans of science fiction, social commentary, and feminism, this book is a must read. Atwood is one of the world’s most celebrated writers. Reviewers called this book ‘brilliant,’ ‘terrifying,’ ‘provocative,’ and ‘visionary.’  HBO is developing a television series based on this book and its sequels. Read the book before the series comes out!”


Red Harvest

Red Harvest By Dashiell Hammett

By Dashiell Hammett

Recommended by Brian Bremen, English

“An acknowledged literary landmark, Red Harvest is one of the great novels of hard-boiled detective fiction. As Raymond Chandler himself wrote, ‘Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish. He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. […] He was spare, frugal, hardboiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.’ Red Harvest was the basis for many films, including Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Sergio Leone’s (and Clint Eastwood’s) A Fistful of Dollars, and Walter Hill’s (and Bruce Willis’s) Last Man Standing.”

White Noise

White Noise By Don DeLillo

By Don DeLillo

Recommended by Keith Brown, finance

“Do we know what is real or only what the media tells us is real? What drives our obsessive need to access digital information? How deeply does the desire to postpone our own deaths influence the decisions we make in life? These are just some of the themes that DeLillo explores here in his characteristic philosophically challenging and darkly humorous manner. Winner of the National Book Award, this is also the novel that established the author’s reputation as a master of post-modernist literature.”

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass By Lewis Carroll

By Lewis Carroll

Recommended by Jerome Bump, English

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass. Discover why hundreds of students have found these books remarkably useful preparations for and guides to the college experience. See a few of the connections other students have made.”



All Quiet on the Western Front    

All Quiet on the Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque

By Erich Maria Remarque

Recommended by Alan Cline, computer science

“This year marks the 101st anniversary of the opening of the First World War. It is time to take lessons from that period’s effects on the youth of the time. The hero of “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a 19-year old young man initially led more by the pressures of associates and society than by his own judgement. Through the story and in addition to the horrors of war, he faces questions of identity,  loyalty, innocence, and sacrifice, just as many people of his age-including university freshmen.”

Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

 A Black Man Confronts Africa By Keith Richburg

By Keith Richburg, Keith

Recommended by Kelley Crews, geography and the environment 

“Nothing in Keith Richburg’s long and respected journalistic career at the Washington Post prepared him for what he would encounter as the paper’s correspondent in Africa. He found a continent where brutal murder had become routine, where dictators and warlords silenced dissent with machine guns and machetes, and where starvation had become depressingly common. With a great deal of personal anguish, Richburg faced a difficult question: If this is Africa, what does it mean to be an African American?In this provocative and unvarnished account of his three years on the continent of his ancestors, Richburg takes us on a extraordinary journey that sweeps from Somalia to South Africa, showing how he confronted the divide between his African racial heritage and his American cultural identity.”

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie By Mitch Albom

By Mitch Albom

Recommended by Patrick Davis, pharmacy

“If you’ve ever had a teacher that touched your life in a very positive way, this book is for you. Short, very readable, and yet, quite profound in its reflection, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie describes rediscovery of that mentor and a rekindled relationship that goes beyond the classroom and brings us to lessons on how to live.”


T-Rex & the Crater of Doom

T-Rex & the Crater of Doom By Walter Alvarez

By Walter Alvarez

Recommended by Arturo De Lozanne, molecular biosciences

“You have heard about it. A massive comet impact hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs leaving the planet available for the rise of mammals.  How did this story come about?  What was the evidence behind it?  Dr. Alvarez takes us through the history of this idea in a charming and compelling way.  It is a great example of the scientific method at work.”


Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking

 Autistic People Speaking By Julia Bascon

By Julia Bascon

Recommended by Andrew Dell’Antonio, musicology and ethnomusicology 

“Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is a collection of essays written by and for Autistic people. Spanning from the dawn of the Neurodiversity movement to the blog posts of today, Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking catalogues the experiences and ethos of the Autistic community and preserves both diverse personal experiences and the community’s foundational documents together side by side.”

College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be

 What it Was, Is, and Should Be By Andrew Delbanco

By Andrew Delbanco

Recommended by Mechele Dickerson, law

“The value of attending college is being debated on many fronts. Many argue that the sole purpose of a higher education is to provide skills training so students can obtain a pre-professional credential. The notion that a four-year college experience is a time for students to discover their passions, re-evaluate their value systems, and test their ideas collaboratively with teachers and peers is now being cast as a luxury and privilege that most Americans can no longer afford. College explores what a true college education should be and argues that it should be made available to as many people as possible if we want to remain true to America’s democratic promise.”

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

 An Epic Search for Truth By Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitrou

By Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitrou

Recommended by Sinan Dogramaci, philosophy

“This is a graphical novel (yes, it’s a comic book) about the invention of modern deductive logic. The story revolves around the life of Bertrand Russell, one of logic’s founding figures, and it mostly follows him around early 20th-century Europe, which sets the historical, cultural and political context for these developments. Logic is most commonly taught as a stand-alone course in philosophy departments, but it is also a fundamental part of mathematics, computer science, linguistics, and other fields. Many UT students can expect to run into it while they are here.”

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Pearce: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

 A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League By Jeff Hobbs

By Jeff Hobbs

Recommended by Fran Dorn, theatre and dance

“A brilliant young African American from Newark who overcame prejudice and poverty enough to enter Yale University.  Where did it all go wrong?  How could it have gone right?”



Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow	By Daniel Kahneman

By Daniel Kahneman

Recommended by Bob Duke, music and human learning

“Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book. In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.”

Black Like Me

Black Like Me	By Howard Griffin

By Howard Griffin

Recommended by Linda Ferreira-Buckley, rhetoric and writing

“A white journalist from the South, John Howard Griffin wanted to understand “race issues,” and so he darkens his skin and travels through the Deep South, documenting with riveting detail his experiences as a black man. First published in 1961, Black Like Me offered many Americans a deeper understanding of what Griffin calls “the black experience.” The book was so controversial that Griffin received death threats. Over a half century later, Black Like Me remains compelling reading. The narrative conveys ugly truths about life in the United States at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era, but its attempt to understand racial injustice makes it no less relevant today. Our discussion will primarily focus on Griffin’s account of his experiences and his insistence that readers think about race in more complex ways, but his text will provoke us to examine race relations today. To what extent can we understand experiences outside of our own? Are some forms of racism invisible to those who don’t experience them? Do claims that we live in a post-racial America allow injustices to persist? Given the growing unrest in cities across the U.S., these and other questions prompted by Black Like Me remain critical to our democracy.”

Never Let Me Go 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Recommended by President Gregory Fenves, civil, architectural and environmental engineering

“In various reviews, this novel has been classified as science fiction, psychological thriller, and morality tale. While it is all of those things, it’s also a coming-of-age novel, set in a boarding school in England for special students with controversial origins and fixed destinies. As the characters grow and mature and leave their sheltered childhoods, they explore themes of personal freedom and self-sacrifice. It’s best to approach this book without knowing much about it, and to discover the layers of truth along with the narrator.”

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter

 20 Things That Matter By Hal Urban

By Hal Urban

Recommended by David Fowler, civil, architectural and environmental engineering

“In this wise, wonderful book, award-winning teacher Hal Urban presents twenty principles that are as deeply rooted in common sense as they are in compassion. The topics, gathered from a lifetime of teaching both children and adults, span a wide range of readily understood concepts, including attitudes about money, success, and the importance of having fun. Classic in its simplicity and enduring in its appeal, Life’s Greatest Lessons will help you find the best in others and in yourself.”


We By Evgeny Zamyatin

By Evgeny Zamyatin

Recommended by Thomas Garza, Slavic and Eurasian Studies

“Before Brave New World…before 1984…there was We. A page-turning futuristic adventure, a masterpiece of wit and black humor that accurately predicted the horrors of Stalinism, We is the classic dystopian novel. It is also an enjoyable bit of 1920s-era science fiction. Fun… and strangely apt in 2015!”


My Beautiful City Austin

My Beautiful City Austin By David Heymann

By David Heymann

Recommended by David Heymann, architecture 

“Austin’s allure and explosive growth are at the center of seven tales told in My Beautiful City Austin. The narrator, a young architect starting his own practice, struggles to understand why his clients want to build the homes they do. The stories explore Austin’s construction culture, the ethics of architects, and the desires of those who hire them.”


The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

By Sylvia Plath

Recommended by Michael Hillmann, Middle Eastern studies

“Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1971), a famous novel by a famous poet, is the personal narrative of a young American woman who, while in college several years earlier, suddenly realized that she couldn’t deal with the limited career and family options that America had in store with her. This realization unhinges her, and The Bell Jar, which parallels author Plath’s life experiences closely, tells the story of what happened next.”


Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy

 Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy By David Sheff

By David Sheff

Recommended by Lori Holleran Steiker, social work

“Clean is a candid, evidence-based inquiry into substance use disorders, intervention and roads to recovery. Based on the latest research in a variety of disciplines (e.g., social work, psychology, neuroscience, and medicine), Clean provides a fresh examination of traditional treatments, and proposes critical considerations regarding Twelve Step programs and rehabs. Clean provides clear direction and calls to action for those that desire a new perspective on addressing drug problems. The book, ultimately, is a nuanced and powerful examination of what has been considered the greatest public health challenge of the 21st Century.”

Suits: A Woman on Wall Street

 A Woman on Wall Street By Nina Godiwalla

By Nina Godiwalla

Recommended by Regina Hughes, finance

“New York City, Wall Street, Investment Banking, oh my!! Follow the tale of this UT graduate as she learns the successes and failures that come with careers in Finance. From her first day lost in the Big Apple, follow Nina as she fights to establish herself in ways that will make you laugh and cry.”



Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe By Daniel Defoe

By Daniel Defoe

Recommended by Brent Iverson, chemistry

“For more than 20 years, in the early 1700s, Robinson Crusoe survived in isolation on an uncharted island. He had only a few items rescued from what was left of his ship. Besides being a captivating story of the era of pirates and sailing ships, Robinson Crusoe is generally regarded as one of the very first novels ever written. This classic tale has gone on to influence an entire genre of island survival adventures, including the movie Cast Away, in which the character played by Tom Hanks is stranded on a South Pacific Island after surviving a plane crash. He has only the items he scavenges from the Fed Ex packages that wash ashore from the plane’s cargo. Although these two characters were born 250 years apart, they end up in the same situation. One question we might discuss: who was better equipped to survive?”

Freshman Reading Round-Up 2014 infographic

This infographic shows highlights of the 2014 Freshman Reading Round-Up program. Image courtesy of School of Undergraduate Studies


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime By Mark Haddon

By Mark Haddon

Recommended by Judith Jellison, music

“Mark Haddon’s bitterly funny debut novel is a murder mystery of sorts told by a fifteen-year-old with autism. Christopher John Francis Boone is a mathematical genius and takes everything that he sees at face value. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. This quirkily illustrated, genuinely moving novel is told in Christopher’s unique and compelling voice giving us a small glimpse into the world of children with autism.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking By Susan Cain

By Susan Cain

Recommended by Ross Jennings, accounting

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society. In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”

We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out    

 On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out By Richard J

By Richard Jensen

Recommended by Robert Jensen, journalism

“In the face of multiple, cascading crises—economic and ecological, political and cultural—it is more important than ever to confront the reality of the threats we face. Based on a calm apocalypticism and a common-sense approach to intellectual life, We Are All Apocalyptic Now offers a framework for understanding our moment in history and the obligations of those who are trying to communicate that understanding to a wider world. Students who register for this book selection will receive a free copy (PDF) of the book.”

Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture

 Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture	By Erez Aiden

By Erez Aiden

Recommended by David Laude, chemistry

“This breezy read is the story of how two smart guys gained access to the Google’s many millions of digitized books and used the “BIG DATA” extracted from those books to answer some pretty interesting questions.  The book is based on an original article in Science in 2011.  Their argument is that a Google tool called Ngram Viewer provides a telescopic view of history and culture through the printed word that is analogous to a telescope looking at the stars.  The first 100 pages are a blast—like you are being introduced to an amazing new way to see the past and predict the future—who knew that being able to estimate when the next irregular verb would cease to be used was even possible.   Okay, so maybe that isn’t as interesting as it sounds, but what is really great about this book is that whether you are a computer science major or a history major, or anything in between, you are being  introduced to a very new way of thinking the next time you have to write a term paper.”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You've Been Publicly Shamed By Jon Ronson

By Jon Ronson

Recommended by Randolph Lewis, American studies

“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Riverhead Books, 2015) is a new book by English journalist Jon Ronson, who is mightily concerned about the ways in which the hive mind of the Internet can destroy lives for the slightest infraction. A single ill-advised Tweet, an old photo that you wish you hadn’t posted, a fishy quotation in something you’ve written—almost any misstep can get you ostracized by millions and even fired from your job in our hyper-mediated era. This provocative book raises interesting questions about the role of technology in our lives and how it impacts our behavior, ethics, and sense of self—questions  that are very much on my mind as I write a book about surveillance in the contemporary U.S.”

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

 A Hidden Inheritance	By Edmund de Waal

By Edmund de Waal

Recommended by Christopher Long, architecture

“Tracing the journeys of 264 small Japanese wood and ivory carvings–netsuke–owned by his relatives, Edmund de Waal relates the extraordinary saga of his family over nearly two centuries, one that extends from Odessa to Paris, Vienna, and Tokyo. It is an extraordinary memoir and a rich tale of human experience.”


A Technique for Producing Ideas

A Technique for Producing Ideas By James Webb Young

By James Webb Young

Recommended by Brad Love, advertisting 

“Join the legions of poets, scientists, politicians, and others who have learned to think at the invitation of James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas. This brief but powerful book guides you through the process of innovation and learning in a way that makes creativity accessible to anyone willing to work for it. While the author’s background is in advertising, his ideas apply in every facet of life and are increasingly relevant in the world’s knowledge-based economy. Young’s tiny text represents an ideal start to university education with its tactics for viewing life through a new lens and its encouragement to look inside for a more creative version of ourselves.”

The Moonstone

The Moonstone By Wilkie Collins

By Wilkie Collins

Recommended by Carol MacKay, English

“T.S. Eliot called The Moonstone “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.” Its multi-narrator format allows us to assess the evidence piecemeal, almost like a jury hears testimony, in order to solve the mystery—and along the way to recognize the elements that Collins introduced that have come to define the detective story we know today.”


A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khalid Hosseini

By Khalid Hosseini

Recommended by Leslie Moore, educational psychology 

“An engrossing story of the fate and friendship of two women in modern Afghanistan. I chose this book because in our global society, it gives a personal face to a country that is now part of U.S. history. While reading about the hardships in the lives of men and women in Afghanistan, I learned about how important creating meaning in life is to people everywhere. This book starts as a slow read, but hang in there: it quickly becomes a page turner.”

Perfect Pitch: The art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business

 The art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business By Jon Steel

By Jon Steel

Recommended by John Murphy, advertising

“Steel shares his experience and wisdom in crafting winning ad agency presentations. Steel, an irreverent Brit who has worked in the U.S. for 20 years, draws insights for a diverse range of persuasive experts including Johnnie Cochran vs. prosecutor Marsha Clark in the O.J. Simpson trial, Bill Clinton and a London hooker. The applications of Steel’s insights extend to any situation where an audience or individual is the focus of a persuasive pitch. This is a lively, fun, and most revealing read.”

Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window

 The Little Girl at the Window By Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

By Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Recommended by Angela Nonaka, social work

“In Japanese, the expression ‘madogiwa (zoku),’ translated, ‘over by the window,’ refers to marginalized individuals deemed to be failures. Madogiwa no Totto-chan, or Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window as it is entitled in English, is a personal childhood memoir by the late Kuroyanagi Tesuko. Although she grew up to be a famous television personality and a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, as a small child, the author was labeled a madogiwa girl, until she enrolled in a special Montessori school, a rare educational opportunity in wartime Japan. Translated into at least 25 different languages, Kuroyanagi’s book recounts and reflects upon the unconventional education that she (Totto-chan) and her fellow ‘misfit’ classmates experienced at Tomoe Gakuen school. Resonating across time and between cultures, her story is a powerful and timeless reminder of the true joys of learning and the empowering potential of a good education.”

The Silent Duchess

The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini

Recommended by Antonella Olson, French and ItalianBy Dacia Maraini

“In 18th-century Sicily, Marianna is born to a life of extravagant luxury, daughter of charming, affectionate Duke Signoretto Ucria. She is lovely and intelligent, descendant of an ancient aristocratic family but she has what was then a fixed, untreatable handicap: she is a deaf-mute. Reading and writing are her only means of communication.”



Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational By Dan Ariely

By Dan Ariely

Recommended by Keryn Pasch, kinesiology and health education

“Why do we splurge on dinner but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup? Why do we go back for seconds at the buffet when we’re already full? While we want to believe that we make smart choices, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely shows us that not only do we make misguided decisions, we’re quite predictable about it, too. Through experiments and everyday anecdotes, Ariely demonstrates that invisible forces like emotions and social norms can skew our decision-making abilities on everything from choosing a partner to buying a car. Learn how to break the cycle of bad decisions and make better choices with this engaging read.”

Change Your Life Through Travel

Change Your Life Through Travel By Jillian Robinson

By Jillian Robinson

Recommended by James Patton, special education

“Travel can and will have an impact on your life in a variety of ways. This nonfiction book sets the backdrop for making travel more meaningful; our discussion of this book will spark your journeys.”




Embassytown By China Mievelle

By China Mievelle

Recommended by Shelley Payne, molecular biosciences

“Embassytown is set in the far future on a planet that humans share with the resident Ariekei. The Ariekei hosts tolerate the humans, but they speak a language that only a few genetically engineered human Ambassadors can understand. The arrival of a new Ambassador bring chaos to the carefully balanced society. This is a great science fiction story that, at its heart, is an exploration of the nature and power of language.”


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

By Rebecca Skloot

Recommended by Joy Penticuff, nursing

“What if some part of you could live forever and help save the world?  But, what if you never understood the ramifications of your consent and members your family were kept ignorant of all subsequent actions, never consented or volunteered and garnered no direct benefit from your contribution?  A true tale of race and class with moral, ethical, and financial consequences of epic proportions.”


The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog By Muriel Barbery

By Muriel Barbery

Recommended by Elizabeth Pomeroy, social work

“This book will most appeal to students interested in Psychology, Social Work, Education, Sociology and the Humanities.”





Blindness	 By José Saramago

By José Saramago

Recommended by Robert Prentice, business, government and society

“How would people react if everyone went blind almost simultaneously? What would these reactions tell us about the human spirit? About our strengths and weaknesses of character? A Nobel prize winning author, Portugal’s José Saramago explores these issues in Blindness.”



The Lost Books of the Odyssey

The Lost Books of the Odyssey By Zachary Mason

By Zachary Mason

Recommended by Adam Rabinowitz, classics

“Have you ever read or heard about the Odyssey, the ten-year-long homeward journey of the wily Greek hero Odysseus from the Trojan War? If so, have you ever wondered how things might have turned out differently, or what other adventures Odysseus had, or how other characters felt about the story? There have been many versions of Odysseus through the ages, and author Zachary Mason expands on this variability in his recent novel. He tells us 44 stories of Odysseus from 44 different perspectives. As we follow the hero’s transformations, we are forced to think about what happens when a familiar story is told anew.” 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance By Robert Pirsig

By Robert Pirsig

Recommended by Stuart Reichler, biological sciences

“Traveling can be both exhilarating and frightening.  It combines elements of the known and unknown.  What do we learn when we take a trip, and what do we want to learn?  Do we need to leave the comforts of home to discover things about the world and ourselves?  How does our conveyance affect what we experience?  Are we traveling, or are we part of the scenery?  This book is both about travel by motorcycle while also being about not leaving the confines of our own minds.  As Mr. Pirsig states in the introduction to the book, ‘it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.'”


Dracula By Bram Stoker

By Bram Stoker

Recommended by Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, English

“In 1897, sitting in a library in London, Bram Stoker created Count Dracula, a villain, who continues to frighten and intrigue us. Drawing on Transylvanian legends, Stoker invented a dangerous, bloody and exciting vampire who combined the intensity of a gothic novel with the terrible reality of the Jack the Ripper murders. From films to novels to computer games, few novels have inspired so many imitators, and few themes have resonated so strongly across generations of readers.”

Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do

 The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Conn

By Wallace J Nichols

Recommended by Chris Shank, marine science

“Blue Mind links the functioning of the human brain with all aspects of Earth’s water resources. The book links neuroscience and psychology, nature and conservation, art and science, all within the context of the many ways that water influences the human condition. The book is billed as the spark for a new field called ‘Neuroconservation.'”


Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me

 Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me By Ellen Forney

By Ellen Forney

Recommended by Stephen Sonnenberg, architecture

“Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, cartoonist Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her to lose creativity and her livelihood, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passion and creativity. Searching to make sense of the popular concept of the crazy artist, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. Darkly funny, intensely personal, and visually dynamic, Forney’s graphic memoir provides a visceral glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on the artist’s work. Her story seeks the answer to this question: if there’s a correlation between creativity and mood disorders, is an artist’s bipolar disorder a curse, or a gift?”

Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to do the Right Thing

 The Right Way to do the Right Thing By Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe

By Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe

Recommended by David Springer, social work

“In their thought-provoking new book, Professors Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe explore the core idea of practical wisdom, highlighting the essential insights that we all need to lead satisfying and happy lives.   Aristotle identified it millennia ago, and Schwartz and Sharpe combine compelling stories with new scientific research to demonstrate the importance of integrating empathy and intellect in our decision making. The ultimate aim is to lead lives that our happy, healthy and wise.”

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business

 Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business By Charles Duhigg

By Charles Duhigg

Recommended by Mary Steinhardt, kinesiology and health education

“In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg explains why habits exist and how they can be changed. Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. Habits aren’t destiny and they can be changed. The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.  Come learn how to harness the power of habits to ensure your success at The University of Texas and prepare you to help transform lives for the benefit of society.”

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

 Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg

By Sheryl Sandberg

Recommended by Keri Stephens, communication studies

“What does it mean to be a leader today? In our Reading Roundup session, we will read about how Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has managed to get a seat at the Executive Table while being a wife and mother. She raises some controversial issues that are relevant for young women and men today. As you begin your college experience, attending this session will invite you to think about how you want to develop yourself as a leader at UT Austin. We will embrace the phrase, What starts here, changes the world!”

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

 An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit	 By Daniel Quinn

By Daniel Quinn

Recommended by Jessica Toste, education

“Ishmael is a unique and captivating spiritual adventure that redefines what it is to be human. We are introduced to Ishmael, a creature of immense wisdom. He has a story to tell, one that no human being has ever heard before. It is the story of man’s place in the grand scheme, and it begins at the birth of time. This history of the world has never appeared in any schoolbook. ‘Does the earth belong to man?’ Ishmael asks. ‘Or does man belong to the earth?'”

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

 Travels in Europe Bill Bryson

By Bill Bryson

Recommended by James Vick, mathematics

“From the author of the bestseller A Walk in the Woods comes the entertaining story of his travels through the major cities of Europe.  Retracing the path he traveled as a young backpacker years ago, Bryson brings his keen powers of observation combined with his engaging sense of humor. If you have been there before, you will enjoy seeing these special places again through his eyes. For those who have never ventured to these cultural oases, you will be introduced to the adventures that await you.”

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story By Jim Holt

By Jim Holt

Recommended by J. Craig Wheeler, astronomy

“Why is there something rather than nothing?” asked Leibnitz. Why are we astonished that being is? Is nothing more natural than something? In this book, Holt explores the boundary between philosophy and physics in the context of our known Universe that winked into existence 13.8 billion years ago and is accelerating out into a void of no return.”


Man’s Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning By Victor Frankl

By Victor Frankl 

Recommended by William Winslade, philosophy

“Man’s Search for Meaning by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl is a profound and passionate interpretation of survival and death in Nazi concentration and extermination camps during World War II.  Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it.  Frankl believes that the quest for meaning is an essential feature of the human condition.  He offers insights and ideas about how to achieve and preserve meaning in our lives in spite of suffering and loss.”

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? By Edward Albee

By Edward Albee

Recommended by Paul Woodruff, philosophy 

“A play by our greatest living playwright about a middle-aged architect who has fallen in love and cannot explain this to his wife, son, or best friend. After all, who can explain a personal epiphany? And who IS Sylvia?” 



[Looking for more books to read? Check out the 2014 and 2012 Freshman Reading Round-Up lists by reading “58 Books to Love This Summer (or Anytime)” and “The Summer 2012 Reading List.”]