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A Texas-Sized Summer Reading List 2018

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

Two color orange horizontal divider
Armadillo book illustration for Texas Reading List

Everything is bigger in Texas—even our reading lists. 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 members and fellow Longhorns. This year’s event is the largest ever, with more than 16 percent of the incoming class participating.

More than 1,500 eager freshmen will break out into small group sessions with leading faculty members across campus to discuss one of the 58 books in the Round-Up. In addition to priceless knowledge and great conversation, students will receive a T-shirt and a breakfast taco.

Asking yourself, “Where do I sign up?” You need to be a freshman to join the event, but you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the books.

This Texas-sized reading list has 58 books that are a great read this summer (or anytime).

It is a long list, use the links below to jump to a specific category:


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful description of life on the Mississippi River. It takes place before the Civil War, though it was written just shy of twenty years after the War ended. This book is especially relevant for Reading Round-Up for many reasons, but in particular there are two. You are entering The University of Texas at Austin, and probably experiencing a new level of social awareness and responsibility as future leaders of an America that still struggles with a history of racism. You are also now more independent than ever before, and on our campus you will live as individuals in a diverse community that nevertheless faces challenges, as it works to find ways to become the most effective possible “mixing bowl” of people from many different backgrounds.

If we believe that “what starts here changes the world” you might think of your UT years as a time when you can experiment with ways of living that promote real harmony among diverse groups of people. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a catalyst for thinking about racism, and maybe how to understand its pernicious roots in American culture. As such it is a challenging read the day before your first class!

Instructor: Stephen M SonnenbergArchitecture 

Blindness by Jose Saramago

José Saramago

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.

Instructor: Robert A PrenticeBusiness, Government, and Society 


Color of Lightning

The Color of Lightning
Paulette Jiles

From Paulette Jiles, author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Enemy Women and Stormy Weather, comes a stirring work of fiction set on the untamed Texas frontier in the aftermath of the Civil War. One of only twelve books longlisted for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize—one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards—The Color of Lightning is a beautifully rendered and unforgettable re-examination of one of the darkest periods in U.S. history.

Instructor: Joy H PenticuffNursing

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

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Mark Haddon

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.

Instructor: Judith A JellisonMusic & Human Learning 

Dracula By Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

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.

Instructor: Elizabeth Richmond-GarzaEnglish

Embassytown By China Mievelle

China Mieville

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.

Instructor: Shelley M PayneMolecular Biosciences

Emma By Jane Austen

Jane Austen

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.

Instructor: Janine BarchasEnglish

Everything That Rises Must Converge

Everything That Rises Must Converge

Flannery O’Connor

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, and Revelation.


Instructor: Michael Adams, English

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Set a Watchman

Harper Lee

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.

Instructor: Paula C MurrayBusiness, Government, and Society


Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit By Daniel Quinn

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
Daniel Quinn

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?”

Instructor: Jessica R TosteSpecial Education


Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez

This magical story traces decades of the love, disquiet, and complication between two people as cholera rages in the region. This book is my favorite book, and it will pull you into the characters’ world quickly. García Márquez’s lyrical writing takes you to another century where characters struggle with the complexities of family, lovers, and time’s passage.

Note: This book session will be held in the Harry Ransom Center Denius Seminar Room where Gabriel García Márquez’s archive is held.

Instructor: Virginia GarrardHistory

Me and You

Me and You
Niccolo’ Ammaniti

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.

Instructor: Antonella D OlsonFrench and Italian


The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins

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.

Instructor: Carol H MacKayEnglish


Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex)

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.

Instructor: William C PowersLaw 


Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood

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!

Instructor: Rebecca BiglerPsychology 


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe and Cast Away
Daniel Defoe

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?

Instructor: Brent L IversonChemistry 

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Edward FitzGerald

Omar Khayyam was an eleventh and twelfth-century Persian mathematician, scientist and poet who left over one thousand quatrains exploring a variety of human themes including life and death, love, nature, beauty, and faith. In 1859, Edward FitzGerald translated seventy-five of these quatrains into English in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (5th edition). This memorable and enjoyable read was considered to be some of the most famous poetry in the English-speaking world at the end of the 19th century and influenced the work of T.S. Eliot.


Instructor: Michael Hillmann, Middle Eastern Studies

Ruined by Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage

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.

Instructor: Paul B WoodruffPhilosophy 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History
Donna Tart

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.

Instructor:Elizabeth C PomeroySocial Work


A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini

An engrossing story of the fate and friendship of two women in modern Afghanistan. In our global society, Hosseini offers a personal view into a country that is now linked to the U.S. While reading about the hardships in the lives of men and women in Afghanistan, I learned about how important creating meaning in life is for people everywhere, especially under extreme circumstances. This book starts as a slow read, but hang in there: it quickly becomes a page-turner.

Instructor: Leslie A MooreEducational Psychology 

Typescript of the Second Origin

Typescript of the Second Origin
Manuel de Pedrolo

Manuel de Pedrolo’s widely acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel tells the story of two children who survive the brutal destruction of Earth by alien explorers. The protagonists, Alba and Dídac, retreat to the forest, then journey to the rubble of Barcelona to rescue and preserve the remnants of human civilization in the city’s bombed libraries and cultural institutions. In the absence of the rule of law and social norms, the children create a utopian world of two that honors knowledge and interracial love, to become a new Adam and Eve and try to bring about the world’s second origin.

A bestseller and required reading for high-schoolers in Catalonia, Typescript of the Second Origin is indispensable to understand how a region of Spain whose language, culture, and institutions were targeted and punished by Francisco Franco’s fascist dictatorship. At the same time, Pedrolo’s tale of survival reaches beyond national and cultural borders to offer contemporary international readers a timely warning about the threat of global ecological destruction. This book was originally written and published in Catalan and is available for free in Spanish translation. There is also a film based on the book Segundo Origen, available with English subtitles.

Instructor: Juan J Colomina-AlmiñanaMexican American & Latina/o Studies


Evgeny Zamyatin

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 2018!

Instructor: Thomas J Garza, Slavic and Eurasian Studies 

Biography, Autobiography & Memoir

All the Weight of Our Dreams- On Living Racialized Autism

All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism

Lydia Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu

Delve into poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, paintings, and drawings in the first-ever anthology entirely by autistic people of color, featuring 61 writers and artists from seven countries. The work here represents the lives, politics, and artistic expressions of Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, Mixed-Race, and other racialized and people of color from many autistic communities, often speaking out sharply on issues of marginality, intersectionality, and liberation.

Instructor: Andrew Dell’Antonio, Musicology & Ethnomusicology


Black Like Me

Black Like Me
John Howard Griffin

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 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.

Instructor: Linda Ferreira-BuckleyEnglish; Rhetoric and Writing 

Change Your Life Through Travel

Change Your Life Through Travel
Jillian Robinson

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.

Instructor: James R PattonSpecial Education



Fun Home

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel

If you are interested in LGBTQ literature, gender politics, and/or the popular success of graphic narrative and memoir, this might be the session for you. Alison Bechdel, who got her start with the weekly serial comic Dykes to Watch Out For, has had amazing crossover success with her 2006 graphic narrative Fun Home, the unlikely story of her childhood in a funeral home, her gay dad’s suicide, and her own coming out process. Bechdel’s very particular story has touched readers of all kinds, perhaps because they recognize that we are all a little “queer.” Moreover, Bechdel’s invocation of a gay literary culture that places James Joyce and Marcel Proust alongside lesbian feminist culture to tell a story in both images and text exemplifies 21st-century literature’s turn to the visual. We will also take a look at the Tony-award winning musical adaption of Fun Home as we discuss the value of LGBTQ perspectives on gender, sexuality, and mourning.

Instructor: Ann CvetkovichEnglish; LGBTQ Studies 

Giant Making of A Legendary American Film

Giant: The Making of a Legendary American Film
Don Graham

A larger-than-life narrative of the making of the classic film Giant, marking the rise of America as a superpower, the ascent of Hollywood celebrity, and the flowering of Texas culture as mythology. In this compelling and impeccably researched narrative history of the making of the film, Graham’s Giant is a comprehensive depiction of the film’s production showing readers how reality became fiction and fiction became cinema.

Instructor: Don B Graham, English


Goodbye to a River

Goodbye to a River
John Graves

Goodbye to a River recounts a Brazos River canoe trip by John Graves between Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Whitney. Like many travel books, this is a tale about someone moving through physical space while trying to make sense of their place in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. We often travel familiar paths both mentally and physically, but what does it take to see past our expectations and have a genuine experience? Do we need to change the scenery to see past the gray fog of every day? Why go somewhere if it will simply meet our expectations, yet if we encounter novelness, how do we understand it without allowing our preconceived notions to overwhelm the new information?

You are embarking on your own journey of self-discovery and novel experiences. What are you bringing to help you make sense of your journey, and what baggage do you have that will keep you from appreciating your journey?

Instructor: Stuart A ReichlerFreshman Research Initiative

The Lost City of the Monkey God

The Lost City of the Monkey God
Douglas Preston

For five hundred years, legends have told of an ancient, lost city hidden in the Honduran rainforest – a place so sacred that those who dare to disturb it would fall ill and die.

In 2002, Douglas Preston joined a team of scientists on their quest to find the White City, climbing aboard a rickety plane whose historic flight would change everything. Using a space-age technology that could map terrain under the dense jungle canopy, that flight revealed tantalizing evidence of not just a city but an entire lost civilization. But when the expedition finally reached the ruins, battling torrential rains and venomous snakes in the world’s densest jungle, tragedy struck. Preston and others contracted a mysterious – and incurable – disease.

The Lost City of the Monkey God is the true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century-a story of ancient curses, modern technology, a vanished culture, and a stunning medical mystery.

Instructor: James W VickMathematics

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me By Ellen Forney

Ellen Forney

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?

Instructor: Samantha Symons, Psychiatry

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke of Insight
Jill Bolte Taylor

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.

Instructor: Lawrence D AbrahamKinesiology and Health Education

The Other Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore
Wes Moore

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question.

This is a book about how circumstances, as well as choices we make on a daily basis, can profoundly affect the outcomes of our lives.

Instructor: Jennifer V EbbelerClassics 

Suits: A Woman on Wall Street

Suits: A Woman on Wall Street
Nina Godiwalla

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.

Instructor: Regina W HughesTexas Business Foundations 


Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom

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.

Instructor: Patrick J DavisPharmacy 


When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Patrisse Khan-Cullors

There’s a persistent longing that threads through this book—not so much for the consumerist dream represented by the wealthy white L.A. neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, but for the secure relationships she saw her wealthy, white classmates taking for granted. Their parents had the time to drive them to school and the easy optimism to ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up…her own mother would leave home by 6 a.m. to work her three jobs and return after 10 at night.

Instructor: Yolanda C PadillaSocial Work

Social, Physical, and Political Science

The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism

The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism
Karen Armstrong

Armstrong provides a historical analysis of the emergence of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with overviews of major developments and movements from the 1400s through the end of the 1700s. The second part of the book addresses fundamentalist thought and actions throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The book may spark interesting discussions as we address the ‘culture war’ between science and religion in the United States. Our conversations may include difficult dialogues between students with different backgrounds and beliefs who may think differently than you do. Consider this an excellent introduction to the university!

Instructor: Christopher J BellGeological Sciences 

Communist Manifesto By Karl Marx

Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

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.”

Instructor: Snehal A ShingaviEnglish 

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly
Brene Brown

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!

Instructor: Mary A SteinhardtKinesiology & Health Education

Enlightenment Now

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Steven Pinker

Pinker uses statistics to argue that significant progress has been and continues to be made worldwide in health, prosperity, safety, peace, and happiness. He attributes this positive progress to enlightenment values such as reason, science, and humanism. Note: This book is long, so read only as much as you have time for.

Instructor: Michael P StarbirdMathematics


Grit: The Power of Perseverance and Passion
Angela Duckworth

University of Texas freshmen come from many backgrounds, but what we all have in common is a desire to succeed. This book reminds us that a fair bit of our success is in our willingness to give things our all. In my years teaching college students, I’ve learned just how important this concept is both inside the classroom and in life. The stories shared in this book will resonate with you, and they are an ideal way for you to think about your own success from the first day you become a Longhorn for life! If you would like, take the Grit Scale as you read this book.

Instructor: Keri K StephensCommunication Studies 

Hiroshima by John Hersey

John Hersey

This book is not fun. Why should you read it? Getting along with each other, loving each other, and understanding each other requires hard work from each of us. It requires each of us to challenge ourselves to see the world, and to see ourselves, from other people’s perspectives. It may be impossible to fully succeed, but we try.

This particular book is about the perspectives of victims of military bombing.

Instructor: Sinan DogramaciPhilosophy 

Hot Zone

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus
Richard Preston

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus.

Instructor: Renee AcostaPharmacy


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Oliver Sacks

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 in our ability to interpret the world around us.

Instructor: Juan M DominguezPsychology 


The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

The Meaning of Human Existence
Edward O. Wilson

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.

Instructor: William J WinsladePlan II


My Beautiful City Austin By David Heymann

My Beautiful City Austin
David Heymann

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. This book was featured on The Guardian and KUT’s “Best Literature about Austin” lists.

Instructor: David D HeymannArchitecture 



Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Every day we make choices—about what to buy or eat, about financial investments or our children’s health and education, even about the causes we champion or the planet itself. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. Nudge is about how we make these choices and how we can make better ones. Using dozens of eye-opening examples and drawing on decades of behavioral science research, Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.

Instructor: Keryn E PaschKinesiology and Health Education

On Bullshit

On Bullshit
Harry G. Frankfurt

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 best seller offers an unusually thoughtful take on a usually thoughtless aspect of human interaction. It’s delightful, short, and it’ll make you think.

Instructor: Robert A DukeMusic & Human Learning; Dell Medical School 


Original Blessing

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality
Matthew Fox

In Original Blessing, Matthew Fox has found an answer to some of the major challenges of our time: social justice, discrimination, poverty, the environment, and peace. His answer seems as simple as it is lucid, brilliant and compelling: look at the beauty of the world around you–call it creation– and embrace yourself as a part of it. You are not the bearer of an original sin, but an original blessing that is inherent to your very nature.

If you seek transcendence yet want to see yourself connected to today’s world, you will probably find this book soothing, inspirational, and empowering. As a Christian, it will help you shape your own answers and establish your place in the world, even if it is from a place of disagreement. If you have a different religion or you adhere to none, you may find unexpected gateways for fruitful dialogue.

Join for a conversation, even if you can’t make it through the whole book or feel you don’t need to. Every chapter in itself is a marvelous journey.

Instructor: Pablo Postigo OlssonSpanish and Portuguese 

Our Iceberg is Melting

Our Iceberg is Melting
John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Our Iceberg is Melting uses a fable-like story about penguins to explain the complexities of creating organizational change in the face of uncertainty. Written in a style everyone can understand, the book acts as a crash course in change management based on the author’s award-winning research. In our dynamic and turbulent world this interesting book, with its many levels, is a must-read.

Instructor: Linda L GoldenMarketing 


Outliers: The Story of Success by Baker and Taylor

Malcom Gladwell

What factors contribute to achieving a high level of success in any given field? Are talent and hard work enough to produce a successful outcome or do you need to have been born in the right place and at the right time? How many hours of concerted effort are necessary to become a world-class expert? These are just a few of the thoroughly engaging questions addressed in this best-selling work. Drawing from the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, and history, award-winning author Malcolm Gladwell weaves a surprising and compelling argument for understanding just what it takes to come out on top.

Instructor: Keith C BrownFinance 

Perfect Pitch

Perfect Pitch
Jon Steel

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.

Instructor: John H MurphyAdvertising 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

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

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.

Instructor: Ross G JenningsAccounting

A Room of One

A Room of One’s Own
Virginia Woolf

Ever heard of Shakespeare’s sister? Nobody has. But you might well have, and countless others like her, if only they’d had the benefit, as her brother Billy and so many others always do, of having “a room of their own.” How much difference that can make, and why it matters, are the surprisingly profound questions the novelist Virginia Woolf explores in these talks she gave to some college students exactly 90 years ago. Does her call for women to write–and for words, not arms–prefigure the spirit of #MeToo in any significant ways?

Instructor: Stephen A WhiteClassics


The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction
Elizabeth Korbert

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.

Instructor: Stanley J Roux JrMolecular Biosciences


A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

A Technique for Producing Ideas
James Webb Young

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.

Instructor: Brad Love, Advertising

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Hahneman

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.

Instructor: David A LaudeChemistry 

Us vs. Them

Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism
Ian Bremmer

Us vs. Them explores creative destruction from within our political systems, the failure of the concepts that have underpinned the liberal democratic model for the last 75 years. The backlash to globalism challenges free markets, open borders, and an idealized hope for the global community. Four aspects of a worldview articulated by globalists worked extremely well for “us” but increasingly not for larger numbers of “them”: economics and free trade; culture and open borders; security at home and abroad; and technology with automation and the information revolution. The challenges to globalism have a momentum that will not be easy to reverse.

Instructor: J. Craig WheelerAstronomy 

What Works Gender Equality By Design

What Works: Gender Equality By Design
Iris Bonet

Interested in thinking about one of today’s most important economic, business, and social issues? Iris Bonet’s What Works: Gender Equality by Design offers research-based insights that may help create a more equal world and a more robust economy.

Instructor: Sanford J LeedsFinance