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The Ultimate Summer Reading Guide

Summer breaks are for relaxing, but finding an escape isn’t always easy. We might have the secret to help you unwind: read a book.

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Summer breaks are meant for relaxing, but finding an escape from the hustle isn’t always easy. If you’re feeling stressed, tired or overworked, we might have the secret to help you unwind: read.

One UT Austin expert says reading in any form — from turning pages in a hardback to listening to audiobooks during your commute — can reduce stress and increase empathy.

“Whether it’s a bad grade or a bad date, worries about the future — that cycle of of repetitive thought — can be hard to break,” says Art Markman, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts who studies what motivates people and how we think and reason. “Engaging with a book or an audiobook is a way to let your thoughts be guided somewhere else and break that cycle.”

The Freshman Reading Round-Up List at UT Austin is the ultimate summer reading guide, with 57 books handpicked by some of our top professors. Before the fall semester starts, professors and incoming students will meet across campus to talk about books from the list.

See the full 2016 Freshman Reading Round-Up list of 57 books at the bottom of this page

This campus-wide summer book club lets new students meet outstanding faculty members and get acquainted with a small group of fellow Longhorns. The Reading Round-Up is a celebration of knowledge for knowledge’s sake — a reminder that expanding your mind doesn’t have to be all about deadlines and demanding schedules.

To help you de-stress and enjoy the summer, we asked five of the professors who are participating in the Reading Round-Up to share with us their favorite summer-reading spot.

So bring your favorite book — or choose one from the Freshman Reading Roundup list — and start relaxing.

1. Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Photo by Fickr user Iris

Professor Leslie Moore, chair of the Counselor Education master’s program, said she loves to read by the water so she can cool off between reading sessions. There aren’t many swimming spots that beat Barton Springs. Covered with shade and sunny slopes, this natural pool is an Austin favorite. Just be sure to bring a towel to lay on.

Reading Round-Up Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

2. Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk

Photo by Fickr user Iris

It’s not surprising that Professor Mary Steinhardt, a health behavior and education expert, likes to read on the go. She loves to listen to books while she walks the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake. The 10 miles of hike and bike trail represents the best Austin has to offer: outdoor recreation; a scenic, natural environment; and a diverse, vibrant mix of people.

Reading Round-Up Book: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

3. On the Bus

Reading on Capital Metro Bus

Photo by Matthew Colecchi

Professor Jay Banner, geological scientist, said his favorite reading spot is “a cushy, air-conditioned seat on the Cap Metro bus on the way in to campus — It’s much more fun than driving on Mopac.”

Reading Round-Up Book: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

4. Skyspace


Photos by Paul Bardagjy and Florian Holzherr

The Color Inside is part of the Landmarks public art collection located on the third floor of the Student Activity Center on the UT Austin campus. James Turrell’s Skyspace offers a quiet, contemplative space during the day. English Professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza said she enjoys the relaxing atmosphere and great views of campus.

Reading Round-Up Book: Dracula by Bram Stoker

5. The Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art

Photo courtesy of The Blanton Museum of Art

Math professor Michael Starbird said the Blanton is a wonderful setting for listening to a book. One of the leading university art museums in the country, the Blanton’s permanent collection contains over 17,000 works. If you’re looking to get lost in the tranquil halls of a world-class museum, the Blanton Museum of Art is the place to go in Austin.

Reading Round-Up Book: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell


57 Books to Read This Summer (or anytime)

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass By Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

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 By Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front    

By Erich Maria Remarque
Recommended by Alan Cline, computer science

This year marks the 102nd 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.


Bacchae by Euripides


by Euripides
Recommended by Paul Woodruff, philosophy 

What’s a guy to do when his mom falls into the clutch of a religious cult? She’s under the spell of a young priest who’s pretty as a girl and tricks all the women into dancing into the mountains. They are into all kinds of orgies up there where the men can’t see them. You’ve just been made king, even though you’re only nineteen, and it’s up to you to protect your people from this hideous cult. So what do you do? You send in the troops, but that doesn’t help. So you decide to check things out yourself. The women in the cult do not welcome men, so you’d better go in disguise-in drag, in fact. This will not end well. Read the play in the Woodruff translation with Elvis on the cover.


Between the World and Me  by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Recommended by Professor Fran Dorn, theater and dance 

An honest and contemporary look at the history of US race relations, written by a young Black man to his son. The writer has the heart of a poet and the soul of someone who has witnessed it all. A must-read for anyone who wants some insight into why there is still much anger in the world.



Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

by Daniel James Brown
Recommended by Professor James Vick, mathematics

During the height of the Great Depression, nine working-class college students set off to do the impossible: defeat the German rowing team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”The Boys in the Boat” is a compelling account of how these all-American underdogs beat the odds and found hope in the most desperate of times. 



Change Your Life Through Travel by Jillian Robinson

Change Your Life Through Travel 

by Jillian Robinson
Recommended by Professor 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.




The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto 

by Atul Gawande
Recommended by Professor Mary Steinhardt, kinesilogy & health education 

The vast quantity of knowledge accessible in the modern world has far exceeded any individual’s ability to manage it. As a result, avoidable mistakes happen every day in high-stakes fields like healthcare and government. The solution? Behold, the humble checklist. Learn how this simple idea can have an extraordinary impact on your life.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 

by Mark Haddon
Recommended by Professor Judith Jellison, music and human learning 

Mark Haddon’s bitterly funny debut novel is a murder mystery of sorts told by a fifteen-year-old who appears to have ASD (autism spectrum disorder), although Haddon avoids all labels for this teen. 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 who think differently.

Dracula By Bram Stoker


by Bram Stoker
Recommended by Professor 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.


Embassy Town


by China Mievelle

Recommended by Professor 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 brings 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.



Emma By Jane Austen


by Jane Austen
Recommended by Professor Janine Barchas, English

Published in 1816, this is a classic romantic comedy about a small English village where a local 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.


Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O

Everything That Rises Must Converge 

by Flannery O’Connor

Recommended by Professor 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.”


 Now It

Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions 

by Edwin A. Abbott

Recommended by Professor Juan Colomina-Alminana, Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

This book really impacted me when I was young. The novel describes life in a bi-dimensional world populated by geometrical figures, and comments and explains their daily relations and norms. By reading this book, you have access to a classical way of telling stories that is familiar: sci-fi. You’ll learn to read between lines, and dig into what is implied by the author’s words. This book will introduce you to very important ideas/ideals and notions, such as Transcendentalism, dimensions, society, normativity, hierarchy, and power.


Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot

Four Quartets

by T.S. Eliot
Recommended by Professor Michael Hillmann, Middle Eastern Studies

One of the most famous and important 20th-century poems, Four Quartets (1943) by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) is an autobiographical journey to four locales, where the speaker searches for meaning and religion in his mid-20th century world. Four Quartets is available in various paperback editions and online, where there are also recordings of Eliot reading the poem. This Reading Round-Up session will involve group discussion of a handful of specific passages in Eliot’s 875-line poem after a look at its overall formal and thematic pattern.


The Giant

The Giant’s House 

by Elizabeth McCracken
Recommended by Professor Coleman Hutchison, English

A recent transplant to Texas, Elizabeth McCracken writes some of the best sentences in contemporary fiction. Her first novel, The Giant’s House, tells the achingly poignant story of two misfits-a lonely librarian and a terrifically tall teenager-who find in one another an uncommon companionship. The Giant’s House is one of the most captivating novels you will ever read; its narrator, Peggy Cort, is both hugely charismatic and oh-so-acerbic. Her opening line? “I do not love mankind.” Maybe not, but you will love this book.


Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd

Girls Like Us 

by Rachel Lloyd
Recommended by Professor Noel Busch-Armendariz, Social Work

In this provocative and well-written survivor story, Rachel Lloyd tells the true tale of her hard-won escape from the commercial sex industry and her bold founding of GEMS, New York City’s Girls Education and Mentoring Service, to help countless other young girls escape “the life.” Lloyd’s unflinchingly honest memoir is a powerful and unforgettable story of inhuman abuse, enduring hope, and the promise of redemption.


Are you an incoming student interested in participating? The Reading Round-Up is Aug. 23.
Sign-up, read a book and enjoy the conversation (and breakfast tacos).

Freshman Reading Round-Up 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee
Recommended by Professor Paula Murray, Business, Government, and Society

In this controversial sequel, set two decades after the events in Pulitzer-prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, 26-year-old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns home to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights era that was transforming the South, Scout’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family and the small town that shaped her.


H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk

by Helen MacDonald
Recommended by Professor Erika Bsumek, History

To cope with the unexpected loss of her father, Helen Macdonald dropped out of society and immersed herself in her lifelong passion for falconry. Helen decided to raise a Northern Goshawk, one of the most vicious and difficult hawks to tame. It is through the arcane rituals of hunting with a bird of prey that the author regains her appreciation for life’s fierce beauty. MacDonald does more than grieve, she contemplates the relationship humans have with non-humans and unravels some of mysteries regarding how we think about natural world along the way. One of the New York Times Book Reviews “Ten Best Books of 2015.”

The Handmaid

The Handmaid’s Tale 

by Margaret Atwood
Recommended by Professor Keith Brown, Finance

What happens in a society when the most zealous and oppressive people rise to power? Could caste and gender subjugation really become commonplace? When religion is used as a political tool, do individuals inevitably lose their identities? These are a few of the themes explored in this brilliant work of speculative fiction. Hailed as a modern classic while simultaneously being one of the most widely banned books from school curriculums, this is the novel that established the Booker Prize-winning author’s reputation as a master of dystopian and feminist literature.


Hiroshima by John Hersey


by John Hersey
Recommended by Professor Sinan Dogramaci, Philosophy

Seventy-one years ago this August, the people living in Hiroshima suffered humankind’s first use of an atomic weapon. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later remains, thus far, our last use. How can we comprehend what happened? In Hiroshima 80,000 people were instantly killed, while another 80,000 would soon die in the radioactive aftermath. John Hersey’s short book helps us go beyond the cold statistic. He tells the story of the event from the perspectives of six witnesses. Hersey’s book helps us face some difficult questions. How can we understand what happened given our perspective as Americans born long after the war? To help answer that, we’ll ask another question: What was it like from the perspective of the people who were there on the ground?


The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit 

by J.R.R. Tolkien
Recommended by Professor Robert Koons, Philosophy

Rarely has one book affected the course of literature as profoundly as J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” has. Tolkien’s book created the genre of fantasy and laid the groundwork for his own masterwork, “The Lord of the Rings.” Although written originally for Tolkien’s children, this book is more than an adventure story (although it can certainly be enjoyed on that level): it is a reflection on the very nature of adventure itself. Tolkien’s story and characters presents us with two competing models of heroism, one ancient and one modern, giving each model its due. Tolkien’s world, although different from our own, has the rich texture and consistent logic of reality.


Inventing the Future by Nick SRNICEK

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work 

by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
Recommended by Professor J. Craig Wheeler, Astronomy

“Inventing the Future” addresses life after capitalism when robots do all the work. In the context of our high-tech world, this book calls for a post-capitalist economy capable of advancing standards, liberating humanity from work and developing technologies that expand our freedoms.



 An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit	 By Daniel Quinn

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit 

by Daniel Quinn
Recommended by Professor 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?”


Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In 

by Sheryl Sandberg
Recommended by Professor Keri Stephens, Communication Studies

What does it mean to be a leader today? In our Reading Round-Up 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!



The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat 

by Oliver Sacks
Recommended by Professor Juan Dominguez, Psychology

This book tells the tales of patients afflicted with different neurological disorders. The stories are deeply human and highlight in bizarre and at times very comical ways the importance of the brain for our ability to interpret the world around us.



Marbles by Ellen Forney


by Ellen Forney
Recommended by Professor 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?

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

The Meaning of Human Existence 

by Edward O. Wilson
Recommended by Professor William Winslade, Plan II

How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? In this book that tackles life’s biggest questions, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward O. Wilson bridges science and philosophy to explore the epic journey of human evolution.


The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon 

by Marion Zimmer-Bradley
Recommended by Professor Eric Anslyn, Chemistry

“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.




The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone 

by Wilkie Collins
Recommended by Professor 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.


The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

The Museum of Innocence 

by Orhan Pamuk
Recommended by Professor Louis Waldman, Art and Art History/Museum Studies

“The Museum of Innocence” by Orhan Pamuk is the story of an obsessive, star-crossed love and its residue in an obsessive collection of objects. The main protagonist of the novel, Kemal, ultimately loses his beloved but crystallizes his feelings and memories through collecting everyday mementoes of their time together-her cigarette butts, a salt shaker, a quince grater from her kitchen. The author, Orhan Pahmuk, created a real-life museum in Istanbul to mirror and bring to life the museum of his fictional protagonist. His novel, like his museum, impels us to ask questions about why we hang on to memories, and objects, and how collections like museums serve a deep emotional need by enabling us to invent a sense of meaning and permanence as an antidote to the random capriciousness of life.

My Beautiful City Austin By David Heymann

My Beautiful City Austin 

by David Heymann
Recommended by Professor 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. A great introduction to life in Austin.


My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke of Insight 

by Jill Bolte Taylor
Recommended by Professor Larry Abraham, Kinesiology and Health Education

The author is a Harvard-trained brain scientist who experienced a massive stroke and, based on her training, described how her own mind deteriorated. Her experience emphasizes the fascinating dichotomy between our “left” and “right” brain since 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.


NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity 

by Steve Silberman
Recommended by Professor Andrew Dell’Antonio, Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Prize-winning New York Times bestseller _Neurotribes_ has been described as “a groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.” As the reality of neurodiversity (the notion that all brains are different) becomes increasingly accepted, and as more and more people identified with neurologies once understood as “pathological” are advocating for equal respect and rights, student organizations at UT are emerging to examine and embrace the variety of human neurological experience. A discussion of this book will prepare you to understand the complexities of the social phenomenon of autism, from the invention of the diagnosis in the 1940s to the present-day advocacy for the value of Autistic identity.



Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) 

by Sophocles
Recommended by Professor William Powers, Law


Oedipus was written in 5th Century b.c.e. Athens. Fulfilling a prophecy of the Oracle at Delphi, Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, and then becomes King of Thebes. Later, he investigates the cause of a plague in Thebes, only to find that it is he and his sin. The play raises issues of free will, humanism, and the role of the gods.



The Omnivore

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals 

by Michael Pollan
Recommended by Professor Jay Banner, Geological Sciences

The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since humans discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, as we consider environmental sustainability and our future, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is changing the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating. You’ll never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.


On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

On Bullshit 

by Harry G. Frankfurt
Recommended by Professor Bob Duke, Music and Human Learning


“On Bullshit” is Princeton philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt’s pithy disquisition on a topic of particular relevance in a political season. Described as “beautifully, written, lucid, ironic, and profound,” The New York Times #1 bestseller offers an unusually thoughtful take on a usually thoughtless aspect of human interaction. It’s delightful, short, and it’ll make you think.


 The Story of Success by Baker and Taylor

Outliers: The Story of Success 

by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended by Professor Michael Starbird, Mathematics

This book presents the case that a large part of the success of wildly successful people can be ascribed to features other than their own efforts.




 The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business by Jon Steel

Perfect Pitch 

by Jon Steel
Recommended by Professor 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.


 The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions 

by Dan Ariely
Recommended by Professor Keryn Pasch, Kinesiology & 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.


 How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation by Erik Brynjolfsson

Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation

by Erik Brynojolfsson and Andrew McAfee
Recommended by Professor Douglas Dempster, Theatre and Dance

Computers now outpace humans in almost every facet of life. They fly our planes, they translate our documents, and they even beat us at chess. As we continually develop applications for new technology, the average worker is left behind in the dust, leaving a profound impact on our economy and our job prospects. What can be done?



Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest 

by Dashiell Hammett
Recommended by Professor Brian Bremen, English

This literary landmark 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 dueling 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.


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe and Cast Away 

by Daniel Defoe
Recommended by Professor 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?


 Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould

Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life 

by Stephen Jay Gould
Recommended by Professor Kenneth Diller, Biomedical Engineering

Writing with bracing intelligence and clarity, internationally renowned evolutionist and bestselling author Stephen Jay Gould sheds new light on a dilemma that has plagued thinking people since the Renaissance: the rift between science and religion. Instead of choosing them, Gould asks, why not opt for a golden mean that accords dignity and distinction to each realm? In his distinctively elegant style, Gould offers a lucid, contemporary principle that allows science and religion to coexist peacefully in a position of respectful noninterference. Science defines the natural world; religion our moral world in recognition of their separate spheres of influence.


Room by Emma Donoghue


by Emma Donoghue
Recommended by Professor Elizabeth Cullingford, English

Five-year-old Jack has spent his entire childhood confined to a tiny 11×11 foot room he shares with his mother and an unwelcome nighttime visitor Jack calls Old Nick. The room may be the only home Jack has ever known, but to his mother it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are extraordinary. This tale of survival is completely riveting and is now an Academy Award-winning movie.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History 

by Donna Tart
Recommended by Professor Elizabeth Pomeroy, Social Work

Under the power of an eccentric professor, a group of very bright but misguided students follow a path that leads to guilt, shame, grief and loss. The powerful story is a psychologically thrilling tale of how these students’ judgment and sense of morality become seriously flawed and lead to critical consequences. This book is particularly appropriate for students interested in the humanities, psychology, social work and other helping professions.



The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction 

by Elizabeth Korbert
Recommended by Professor Stanley Roux, Molecular Biosciences

During the history of the biosphere on earth there have been five major mass extinctions of life so far. This book provides a fascinating review how these prior extinctions and their causes were discovered, and it provides strong evidence that a sixth mass extinction, caused by human activities, has now begun. Clearly and compellingly written, this book, I think, will capture the interest of both scientists and the science-averse reader.



A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

A Technique for Producing Ideas 

by James Webb Young
Recommended by Professor Brad Love, Advertising

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.


Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking Fast and Slow 

by Daniel Hahneman
Recommended by Professor David Laude, Chemistry

Have you ever wondered why you can’t walk and think deeply at the same time? Are you forever amazed at your natural inclination to find paths of least effort in your daily routines (including studying)? When you read the headlines in the newspaper, does it occur to you that most of what makes the news is the consequence of impulsive and irrational actions? This brilliant book wrestles with these questions, and in so doing, will allow you to far better understand your own behaviors and those of others. As you start at UT Austin, it will also provide a wake-up call for understanding why your adjustment to college life will not go as smoothly as your best laid plans would have predicted. This book is especially recommended for those of you fascinated by neuroscience as well as human and social behavior.



This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate 

by Naomi Klein
Recommended by Professor Pauline Strong, Anthropology

This is a timely book about the most important issue of our time: climate change. Klein, a prominent investigative journalist who visited UT last year, focuses in particular on the impact of climate change on indigenous and other vulnerable populations. The book presents climate change as a global problem that can only be solved by concerted social action. It is enlightening, ultimately hopeful, and well worth discussing.


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns 

by Khaled Hosseini
Recommended by Professor 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.


The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

The True Believer 

by Eric Hoffer
Recommended by Professor Roderick Hart, Communication Studies

Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman and a philosopher who wound up writing ten books and who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “The True Believer” was his first book and was published in 1951. The book was widely praised when it was published and has become a classic. But does it have anything to do with the 2016 presidential election? What do you think?


Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie 

by Mitch Albom
Recommended by Professor 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.



Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


by Laura Hillenbrand
Recommended by Professor Courtney Byrd, Commuications Science and Disorders

This non-fiction book details the life of Louis Zamperini whose journey defines resilience and the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. I hope it will serve as a motivating, inspirational example to our incoming freshmen that they can succeed at anything as long as they have the will to keep trying.


 The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion 

by Dr. George J. Thompason
Recommended by Professor Don Winget, Astronomy

At a time when we will have people bringing concealed weapons onto our campus and into our classrooms, this book discusses a much gentler method of resolving conflicts. The author was an English professor, martial arts expert, and a cop. He brings his unusual combination of experience to bear on the problems of conversation and interactions, with an emphasis on difficult situations. He presents his ideas through interesting storieso?=many from his experience as a police officer. It is engaging and entertaining. It contains important advice that is both simple and practical. The book should be required reading for most of us at The University of Texas: students, staff and faculty. I think you will enjoy thinking about and discussing this useful book; it will help you as a student and throughout your life.


We by Evgeny Zamyatin


by Evgeny Zamyatin
Recommended by Professor 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 2016!



We Are All Apocalyptic Now by Robert Jensen

We Are All Apocalyptic Now 

by Robert Jensen
Recommended by Professor 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.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance By Robert Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 

by Robert Pirsig
Recommended by Professor Stuart Reichler, Biological Sciences

On one hand this book is about a trip, but the trip in this book occurs both externally and internally. Traveling can be both exhilarating and frightening because it combines elements of the known and unknown. Reasons to travel are as numerous as the possible destinations. We might wonder whether we are traveling towards something or away from other things? 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? 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.”