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UT’s Ultimate Summer Reading Guide 2017

Curious what you should add to your reading list? UT faculty members handpicked 58 books you can read this summer (or anytime).

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2017 Freshman Reading Round Up

What should you add to your reading list this summer? For both the avid bookworm and the casual reader today, the amount of choices can be overwhelming. Luckily, we have the perfect summer reading guide for every reader.

Every year UT faculty members handpick books for the Freshman Reading Round-Up – a campus-wide summer book club that connects new students with outstanding faculty and fellow Longhorns.

2017 Freshman Reading Round-up

The 2017 Freshman Reading Round-Up is a celebration of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. You need to be a freshman to join the event, but you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the books.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone to keep its edge,” proclaims Tyrion Lannister in the bestselling book series turned hit TV series “Game of Thrones.”

Knowledge is power — in medieval libraries, books were so valuable they were chained to shelves to prevent theft. Fortunately, books are much more easily available these days. You just have to decide what you want to learn.

Whether you’re looking to sharpen your mind or just escape into a story for a while, the titles below are a good bet.

58 Books to Read This Summer (or anytime)


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.

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.

Air Guitar by Dave Hickey

Air Guitar

by Dave Hickey
Recommended by Professor and Dean of the College of Fine Arts Douglas J Dempster, Theatre and Dance

Why is contemporary art so puzzling? Can a work of art change the way we see the world? Why don’t artists just tell us what they mean? Can a work of art reveal truths about perception and about “the real world”? How is art like and unlike science? Are you game for finding out before breakfast? And don’t we all want to know what doughnuts and observatories have in common?

Join Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, while we tackle these life-altering questions inside a work of art, James Turrell’s The Color Inside, an open-air observatory that sits on top of the Student Activity Center in the middle of campus. Students will be asked to watch this video about Turrell’s magnum opus in the northern Arizona desert, The Roden Crater, and you’ll read any chapter you might like from Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar, a collection of essays about art and the art world.

This intrepid group will boldly go where few college students dare to tread: we’re going to spend an hour—at sunrise! 6:00 a.m.—sitting, observing, and talking inside The Color Inside. Coffee, juice and doughnuts provided. Set your alarm clocks!

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass By Lewis Carroll


Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

By Lewis Carroll
Recommended by Professor 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.

 

 

Beautiful boy by David Sheff

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

by David Sheff
Recommended by Professor Lori K Holleran, Social Work

This best-selling memoir depicts a family’s experience with addiction and covers a substantial portion of the author’s son Nic’s life and the struggles to live with, help, and understand the person with a substance use disorder. The reason this book is used as a text in the “Young People and Drugs” UGS Signature Course is that it elegantly weaves the narrative and experience with the best of the evidence-based science about addiction and recovery. Also, David and Nic came and spoke in our class so we can share insights beyond the written word. This book is an excellent vehicle to understanding addiction, recovery, and more about yourself in the midst.


Are you an incoming student interested in participating? The Reading Round-Up is Aug. 29.
Sign-up, read a book and enjoy the conversation (and breakfast tacos).

2017 Freshman Reading Round Up
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me

by John Howard Griffin
Recommended by Professor 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 life 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 the author received death threats.

Over a half century later, the book remains compelling reading. The narrative conveys some ugly truths about life in the United States at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era, but its attempt to understand the persistent issue of racial injustice makes it no less relevant today.

Black Like Me invites us to think about race in complex ways. How can we know experiences outside of our own? What are the limits of understanding? Are some forms of racism invisible to us? How do claims that we now 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.

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness

by José Saramago

Recommended by Professor Robert A 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.

Call an Audible

Call an Audible

by Daron K. Roberts

Recommended by Professor Daron K Roberts, Center for Sports & Leadership

In the summer of 2006, author Daron K. Roberts was just one year away from earning a law degree from his dream school: Harvard. But that summer, in the throes of a clerkship at a Texas law firm, Roberts had a revelation—he wanted something different. Very different. Daron Roberts wanted to be an NFL football coach.

After making the transition from Harvard Law student to NFL newbie, Roberts worked as a coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, West Virginia Mountaineers, and the Cleveland Browns. But he’s not forgotten how hard it was to take that first step in a new direction. In Call an Audible, Roberts shares his inspiring journey and reveals his playbook to help guide your next transition.

Called to Rise: A Life in Faithful Service to the Community That Made Me By David Brown

Called to Rise: A Life in Faithful Service to the Community That Made Me

by David O. Brown and Michelle Burford

Recommended by Professor Courtney T Byrd , Commuications Science and Disorders

UT Austin alum and former Dallas police chief who inspired a nation with his response to the killing of five of his officers shares his personal story and his faith in America’s potential to unite communities through a dedication to transparency and trust.

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.

 

 

Communist Manifesto By Karl Marx

Communist Manifesto

by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
Recommended by Professor Snehal A Shingavi, special education

Since it was first written in 1848, the Communist Manifesto has been translated into more languages than any other modern text. It has been banned, censored, burned, and declared “dead.” But year after year, the text only grows more influential, remaining required reading in courses on philosophy, politics, economics, and history. “Apart from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species,” notes the Los Angeles Times, the Manifesto “is arguably the most important work of nonfiction written in the 19th century.” The Washington Post calls Marx “an astute critic of capitalism.” Writing in The New York Times, Columbia University Professor Steven Marcus describes the Communist Manifesto as a “masterpiece” with “enduring insights into social existence.”

Criptiques By Caitlin Wood

Criptiques

by Caitlin Wood
Recommended by Professor Andrew F Dell’Antonio, Musicology and Ethnomusicology ;

Criptiques is a groundbreaking collection of essays by disabled authors examining the often overlooked, provocative sides of disability. Exploring themes of gender, sexuality, disability/crip culture, identity, ableism and much more, this important anthology provides much needed space for thought-provoking discourse from a highly diverse group of writers. Criptiques takes a cue from the disability rights slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us,” illuminating disability experiences from those with firsthand knowledge. Criptiques is for people invested in crip culture, the ones just discovering it, and those completely unfamiliar with the term.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly

by Brene Brown
Recommended by Professor Mary A Steinhardt, Kinesiology & Health Education

Start your journey at UT with a conversation on being courageous and connected, engaged and resilient. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brené Brown, UT grad from the School of Social Work, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is our most accurate measure of courage. According to Dr. Brown, what we know matters – but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen. It requires us to Dare Greatly! The book is a timely read for first-year students coming to Texas whose lives are about to be transformed in ways you can’t imagine! Read Dr. Brown’s book and watch her TED talks… welcome to the Longhorn family – let’s Dare Greatly together!

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace

by J. M. Coetzee
Recommended by Professor Lorraine J Haricombe, UT Libraries

David Lurie is a university professor in post-apartheid South Africa whose ruinous affairs and moral arrogance lead to the loss of his job, reputation, and relationships. UT alum Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for literature for this bleak examination of one man’s reconciliation with himself after a series of brutal incidents involving his daughter and the violent takeover of her farm in the Eastern Cape. Coetzee’s archive resides at UT’s Harry Ransom Center, so you can learn more about this book through his notes and annotations.

Dracula By Bram Stoker

Dracula

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.

Euphoria by Lily King

Euphoria

by Lily King
Recommended by Professor Julia L Mickenberg, American Studies

English anthropologist Andrew Bankson (modeled on Gregory Bateson) has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone (modeled on Margaret Mead) and her wry and mercurial Australian husband Fen (modeled on Mead’s second husband), pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control.

Named one of the ten best books of 2014 by the New York Times, and winner of several awards, the Euphoria of the title speaks to the euphoria of intellectual discovery, and as such, the book makes an apt introduction to living a life of the mind.

Evicted: poverty and profit in the American city by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

by Matthew Desmond
Recommended by Professor Simone A Browne, African and African Diaspora Studies

In this winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, sociologist Matthew Desmond follows the lives of eight low-income Milwaukee families as they contend with evictions and being made homeless. Although it reads like a novel, Evicted is a serious exploration of the substandard rental housing market, racism, and the emotional and financial struggles that come with poverty in the United States.

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.

Hillbilly Elegy By J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

by J.D. Vance
Recommended by Professor James W Vick, Mathematics

This New York Times bestselling memoir is a touching lament chronicling life in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky and the rustbelt of Middletown, Ohio. The difficult childhood in a dysfunctional family, the struggles with schools, poverty, and a culture truly in crisis, paint a dramatic picture of the challenges the author faced. If you’ve been fortunate to have a more comfortable, supportive upbringing, you’ll find it enlightening to see life in a poor working-class home, and watch Vance’s journey from childhood through the Marine Corps, college, and law school.

Homosexuality in Islam by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle

Homosexuality in Islam

by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle
Recommended by Professor Pablo Postigo Olsson, Spanish and Portuguese

Homosexuality in Islam… there seems to be something odd or maybe even wrong about that phrase, right? It would seem like the two terms can’t go with each other, just as for very long this seemed to be true for Christianity and homosexuality. But what if there actually is a legitimate way to be at the same time a Muslim and identify as LGBTQ?

In the present troubled times of rampant Islamophobia and struggle for the advancement in LGBTQ rights on both a national and global scale, this question is important both for societies as a whole and for the individuals who are immediately touched by it. This book tries to find an answer to that question. Join for a discussion that aims to be open to all, Muslim or not, LGBTQ or anything else. You can look forward to an enriching dialogue.

 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?”

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter by Hal Urban

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter

by Hal Urban
Recommended by Professor David W 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.

Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown

Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning

by Peter C. Brown
Recommended by Professor Don Winget, Astronomy

This is a well-written little book on learning. It reports real research, not guesses, conjectures, and opinions–as most books of this sort have done in the past. It is the most useful book I have ever seen for students, teachers and lifelong learners. This book will change your life. I can’t wait to find out how it will impact your career as a student and beyond!

 

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

Marbles

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?

Me and You by Niccolo’ Ammaniti

Me and You

by Niccolo’ Ammaniti
Recommended by Professor Antonella D Olson, French and Italian

From internationally best-selling author Niccolò Ammaniti, comes a funny, tragic, gut-punch of a novel, charting how an unlikely alliance between two outsiders blows open one family’s secrets and how they are forced to confront the very demons they are each struggling to escape. In this novel, Ammaniti focuses on the themes of transformation and the passage from adolescence to adulthood. Published in 2010 in Italian, translated in English in 2012.

Mecanoscrito del segundo origen by Manuel de Pedrolo

Mecanoscrito Del Segundo Origen

by Manuel de Pedrolo
Recommended by Professor Juan J Colomina-Almiñana, Mexican American & Latina/o Studies

This gripping science fiction story, narrated in third person, is about a post-apocalyptic world and its few survivors and their day-by-day life.

Download a free PDF e-book.

The film Segundo Origen is based on the book and can be viewed with English subtitles.

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 Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang

by Edward Abbey
Recommended by Professor Stuart A Reichler, Freshman Research Initiative

How far should you go to do what is right? In The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey posits that there are few limits to what should be done to protect the environment. Is he correct? What good can come from this attitude? What are the negative consequences of extremism? What are you willing to fight for in your life? Why are these things (or ideas) so important to you?

These questions are especially relevant given our seemingly polarized world. Some healthy skepticism about our beliefs is good, yet without convictions, who are we? I have enjoyed both the swashbuckling adventure in The Monkey Wrench Gang as well as the important ethical questions it raises. I hope that you will also enjoy the book, and that we can have an interesting discussion about both adventures and ethics.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone

by Wilkie Collins
Recommended by ProfessorCarol 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.

 

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.

Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness by Rita Charon

Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness

by Rita Charon
Recommended by Professor Yolanda C Padilla, Social Work

A beautiful book about the power of narrative and what literature and art can teach us about how to engage in humane practice as health providers. Relevant to medicine, social work, nursing, physical therapy and other care-giving fields. Written by renown professor of medicine, Rita Charon, founder of the program in Narrative Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex)

by Sophocles
Recommended by Professor William C 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.

 

Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter

Our Iceberg is Melting

by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber
Recommended by Professor Linda L Golden, Marketing

Our Iceberg is Melting focuses on adapting to change and leading to accomplish group survival (society). Through penguin characters the authors represent stakeholders’ roles and processes for leading in the face of change and uncertainty. In our dynamic and turbulent world this interesting book, with many levels of thought, is a must read.

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

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

by Susan Cain
Recommended by Professor Ross G 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.

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

by Sherry Turkle
Recommended by Professor Keri K Stephens, Communication Studies

Entering college is a time to start fresh, think about what’s worked in the past, and make changes to accomplish future goals. Meeting new people and learning new ideas are integral parts of joining communities like universities. And, while mobile phones can be an important lifeline, they also can create problems for us as we learn to manage our time and build new relationships.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle at MIT, explores the benefits and challenges created by mobile communication. I invite you to read this book and join our conversation as you embark on your journey, because, What Starts Here Changes the World. Hook’em!

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?

Ruined by Lynn Nottage

Ruined

by Lynn Nottage
Recommended by Professor Paul B Woodruff, Philosophy

Where can you find safety, or love, in a nation torn by civil war? You might look into life in a brothel, as Lynn Nottage does in this brilliant Pulitzer-Prize winning play, produced in 2007. The play is based on interviews the author and director conducted in Africa. The New York Times review said of this play: “Ms. Nottage has endowed [her characters] with a strength that transforms this tale of ruin into a clear-eyed celebration of endurance.” The play is raw and beautiful, a tribute to the human spirit.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari
Recommended by Professor Laura I Gonzalez, Biology Instructional Office/Department of Integrative Biology

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.” One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Science Fiction by Scientists by Michael Brotherton

Science Fiction by Scientists

by Michael Brotherton
Recommended by Professor J. Craig Wheeler, Astronomy

Science Fiction by Scientists is a new venture into fiction for science publisher Springer-Verlag. Springer-Verlag recruited Mike Brotherton to be editor of this compilation. Mike is a PhD graduate of the UT Department of Astronomy, now professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming, and an accomplished writer of science fiction in his own right. He in turn solicited contributions from an interesting range of colleagues, professional scientists who write science fiction.

My own very modest contribution to this book was drawn from my current research with UT undergraduates on the famous red giant in the shoulder of Orion, Betelgeuse, and notions that have arisen in the context of my upper division, writing-flag course, AST 321, Future of Humanity.

Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild

Strangers in their Own Land

by Arlie Hochschild
Recommended by Professor Kirsten L Belgum, Germanic Studies

This book is a timely investigation of the current highly polarized American political landscape. But more broadly it is about the difficult work of crossing cultural boundaries. The author’s analysis of her extended encounters with people whose experiences, feelings, and thus political views differ significantly from hers is both rigorous and thoughtful. In the process, she not only gives us profound insights into American society, she also challenges us to grasp the vital importance of mutual respect and understanding in all contexts.

Supernormal Stimuli by Deirdre Barrett

Supernormal Stimuli

by Deirdre Barrett
Recommended by Professor Michael P Domjan, Psychology

This book describes how a stimulus that evolved to elicit a particular functional response in animals (and people) can be artificially exaggerated or enhanced to create an especially powerful cue for eliciting behavior. The concept of a supernormal stimulus originated in research by the Nobel Prize-winning ethologists Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz, studying sea gulls and other such creatures. Artificially enhanced biologically based stimuli are now used extensively in various consumer products, ranging from foods to cars and iPhones.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird
Recommended by Professor Michael P Starbird, Mathematics

A wondrously romantic belief is that brilliant thinkers magically produce brilliant ideas: Einstein jostles his hair and relativity falls out. We can enjoy these fanciful visions of leaps of genius, but we should not be fooled into believing that they’re reality. Brilliant innovators are brilliant because they practice habits of thinking that inevitably carry them step by step to works of genius. No magic and no leaps are involved. Habits of effective thinking and creativity can be taught and learned. Anyone who practices them will inevitably create new insights, new ideas, and new solutions. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking describes those strategies.

The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier

The Enigma of Reason

by Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber
Recommended by Professor Sinan Dogramaci, Philosophy

One great thing about arriving at university is the promise that you will not only have fun, you will gain wisdom. You’re promised that you will gain wisdom not only by learning facts, but by learning how to use your brain best, that is, by learning how to reason well. But what is it to reason? Is reasoning really so useful? Does the ability to reason make us special? Why didn’t other animals evolve the ability to reason in the way humans can reason? Why does everybody seem to stink at reasoning half the time? What is the real point of reasoning?

This lively book is filled with fun and clear examples and puzzles about reasoning and its peculiarities. The authors advance their own novel and controversial theory that the point of reasoning is not that it makes us individually smarter, but rather than it enables social groups to arrive at the truth jointly through more effective communication. The best thing about the book is that it will get us to reason together about reasoning itself.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot
Recommended by Professor Arturo De Lozanne, Molecular Biosciences

Imagine that you could help thousands of people by donating a small tissue sample from your own body. Would you do it? Would you be happy if someone took those cells from your body without your knowledge and made millions in profit? This is the story of Henrietta Lacks, a patient whose cells have swept the world of research and traveled even to outer space. A story so riveting that it has been recently adapted to film.

 

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.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair

by C.S. Lewis
Recommended by Professor Robert C Koons, Philosophy

In the sixth book of C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, a group of friends set off on a journey to the land north of Narnia to rescue King Caspian’s stolen son, Rilian. But their mission to Underland brings them face-to-face with an evil more beautiful and far deadlier than they ever expected.

 

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.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway
Recommended by Professor Keith C Brown, Finance

What do you do when everything that brings you any sense of contentment in life has suddenly gone missing? Can you outrun the physical and emotional pain you feel with a constant cycle of debauchery? Is it even possible to experience true love under those circumstances?

These are a few of the themes explored in this classic work depicting the “Lost Generation.” Widely hailed as one of the best and most influential novels written in the 20th century, this is the book that helped establish the Nobel Prize-winning author’s reputation as a master of modernist literature.

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?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead
Recommended by Professor Maurie McInnis, American Studies

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Underground Railroad is already being called an American masterpiece. It’s a page-turning adventure tale, it’s a graphic and disturbing document of our cruel history, and it’s a completely unique work of historical fiction. Through Cora, a third-generation slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, we gain insight into plantation culture, political divisions in the U.S., and one woman’s defiant ability to survive and continue to hope despite the brutality of her circumstances.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

The Undoing Project

by Michael Lewis
Recommended by Professor Daron R Shaw, Government

The Undoing Project is about a compelling collaboration between two unlikely colleagues, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who formed one of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, working together so closely that they couldn’t remember whose brain originated which ideas. They became heroes in academia and on the battlefield–both had important careers in the Israeli military–and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences.

Their breathtakingly original studies showed the ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations. Their work led to the field of behavioral economics, revolutionized Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, and led to a new approach to government regulation. They may have changed, for good, mankind’s view of its own mind.

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.

Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

Thunderstruck

by Elizabeth McCracken
Recommended by Professor Elizabeth Cullingford, English

Elizabeth McCracken’s Thunderstruck, recent winner of the Story Prize, contains a series of short stories about strange people: funny, quirky, desperate, or sad. It is haunted by ghosts, and yet finds happiness in unlikely places. It is beautifully written, with sentences that you’ll want to remember always.

 

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.

We by Evgeny Zamyatin

We

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.