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UT News

A Texas-Sized Reading List 2019

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Reading Roundup poster design by Mike Reddy

Everything is bigger in Texas—even our reading lists.

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

Before classes start in the fall, small groups sessions are held around campus to discuss one of the 54 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 new student to join the event, but anyone can enjoy the books.

Whether you are looking for recommendations for fiction, biographies or non-fiction, this list has something for every reader.


Psychology, Self-Help, & Business

A Technique for Producing Ideas by 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.


Atomic Habits by James Clear

Want to learn how to make positive changes in your life? Start your time at UT having learned simple ways to build positive habits and break up with those that aren’t helpful? Check out this book for simple yet powerful advice with practical tips you can implement right away.


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This book is an amazing piece of investigative journalism that details the rise to power and then fall from grace of Elizabeth Holmes, who as a college freshman (just like all of you) decided to drop out of school and start a company to change the world, specifically the world of health care. Her efforts were so successful that for a time she was on dozens of magazine covers, recognized as the next coming of Steve Jobs, and a self-made billionaire. As the book details, her time on top did not last long and she is currently under criminal indictment for wire fraud and about to have a movie made about her starring Jennifer Lawrence. 

The story told by Carreyrou is so outlandish that while you read it this summer you will think you are reading a fantastical fictional thriller. But underneath it all are sobering questions about how scientific research is conducted and the ethical responsibilities science, and its practitioners, have to society.


Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber

Is your future career all that it’s cracked up to be? Is half of all work “pointless”? One writer thinks he has the answers. According to the anthropologist and public intellectual David Graeber, too many careers are secretly devoid of meaning and purpose. In Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, he asks us to consider what is wrong with otherwise pleasant-sounding careers, and points to how we can find greater satisfaction in our working lives. I hope you’ll join the conversation. After all, what could be more useful to college students than finding out what sort of work feels meaningful (or meaningless) to those who do it, even before you declare a major?

Randolph Lewis is a Professor in the American Studies Department, where he writes about surveillance technology and other aspects of contemporary life in the US.


Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Factfulness presents data about the health, economic condition, and safety of the world today and how all those and other features have improved significantly. Most people are misinformed about the world situation, and most people believe that the world is in much worse shape than actual data about the world reveals. If you do not have time to finish the whole book, no worries, just watch some of Rosling's TED talks.


Grit: The Power of Perseverance and Passion by 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.


Our Iceberg is Melting by 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.


Perfect Pitch by 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 many years, draws insights from 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 Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Nobody’s perfect. So why are we so hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve perfection? As a new student at a large, competitive university, the lessons found inside this insightful guide, which Forbes named one of “five books that will actually change your outlook on life,” may be exactly what you need. University researcher in human behavior and best-selling author Brené Brown shows us how to cultivate the courage and compassion to embrace your imperfections, overcome self-consciousness and fear, and live authentically.


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by 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 for our ability to interpret the world around us.


The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Is Google making us stupid? When Nicholas Carr posed that question in a celebrated Atlantic essay, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the internet’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

With The Shallows, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, Carr expands his argument into a compelling exploration of the net’s intellectual and cultural consequences.


The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

Humans love a good story. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. But why? Is it all just fun and games, or does storytelling serve a biological function? Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Daniel Kahneman. It was the 2012 winner of the National Academies Communication Award for best creative work that helps the public understanding of topics in behavioral science, engineering and medicine.

The book summarizes research that Kahneman conducted over decades, often in collaboration with Amos Tversky. It covers all three phases of his career: his early days working on cognitive biases, his work on prospect theory, and his later work on happiness.

From framing choices to people's tendency to replace a difficult question with one that is easy to answer, the book highlights several decades of academic research to suggest that people place too much confidence in human judgment.


Biography, Autobiography & Memoir

All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism by Brown, Ashkenazy, 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.


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff

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. This book was #1 on New York Times best seller list, Entertainment Weekly named it the #1 Best Nonfiction Book the year it was published, Amazon named it "Best Book" in 2008, and it won the Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers Award" for nonfiction as well. 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.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

You’ll be mesmerized by the intimate and inspiring memoir of Michelle Obama–the former First Lady of the United Sates who helped create a White House that was the most welcoming and inclusive in history. Mrs. Obama established herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls around the world, encouraging the pursuit of healthier and more active lifestyles. She also raised two down-to-earth daughters, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and used her platform of public service to educate, connect, and inspire us all.

Becoming is the deeply personal story told with honesty and boldness. As you start your journey here on the forty acres, this book will inspire you to answer the question: Who are you and what do you want to become?


Marbles by 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?


Negroland by Margo Jefferson

A provocative, moving memoir of growing up among the “black elite” of Chicago in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Jefferson recounts the ongoing struggle to simultaneously defy stereotypes and accommodate expectations – of whites, of blacks – while also trying to forge independent standards and figure out one’s obligations to the self. Jefferson’s candid, perceptive reckoning with her own conflicted emotions helps us understand some of the layered psychological legacy of racism.


The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams

A memoir by a young mother dying of cancer? This may not sound like a great summer read, but it is. This is a story about the randomness of life, overcoming obstacles, relationships, and hard decisions. This memoir provides a great opportunity to think about what is really important and how you want to live.


Tuesdays with Morrie by 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.


History & Social Science

Eligible for Execution: The Story of the Daryl Atkins Case by Thomas G. Walker

On August 16, 1996, 18-year-old Daryl Atkins was involved, along with a co-defendant, in the murder of Eric Nesbitt, a young naval mechanic stationed in Virginia. Found guilty and then sentenced to death in 1998, Atkins’s case was taken up in 2002 by the Supreme Court of the United States. The issue before the justices: given Daryl Atkins’s reported intellectual disability, would his execution constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Their 6–3 vote said yes.

Despite the SCOTUS ruling, Daryl Atkins’s situation was far from being resolved. The determination that Atkins actually had an intellectual disability, under Virginia law, occurred a few years later–a process in which I (Jim Patton) was involved. Eligible for Execution gives readers a front row seat into the twists of the judicial process while addressing how disability, race, and other issues play into society’s evolving view of the death penalty. Personal reflections, as an insider to a part of Atkins judicial process, will be shared.


O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre

O Jerusalem! is a towering testament to the fiery birth of Israel and an unforgettable tale of faith and violence, of betrayal, and indomitable courage.


Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard Muller

No physics background needed!

We live in complicated, dangerous times. Present and future presidents need to know if North Korea's nascent nuclear capability is a genuine threat to the West, if biochemical weapons are likely to be developed by terrorists, if there are viable alternatives to fossil fuels that should be nurtured and supported by the government, if private companies should be allowed to lead the way on space exploration, and what the actual facts are about the worsening threats from climate change. This is "must-have" information for all presidents―and citizens―of the twenty-first century.


T-Rex & the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez

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


The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

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.


The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by 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.


The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

When are people happiest? It’s no surprise that psychologists tell us it is when they are with friends and loved ones. But, it turns out that where you are at also plays a big role in our emotional lives—especially if we venture out into nature. Luckily, there is nature all around us, we do not need to hike deep into the woods to reap its benefits.

Looking at scientific research about what makes humans happy Florence Williams examines why listening to birds or seeing fractal patterns in nature can have a calming effect on us. Nature can also inspire us and make us more creative. In her own words: "For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park.” Mixing neuroscience and nature writing, Florence Williams makes a case for why nature matters to us as humans.


The Sixth Extinction by 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.


The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Antonio Damasio is one of preeminent neuroscientists of our time, and also one of the great communicators about our brains and ourselves. His latest offering continues a long tradition of powerful books about what makes us human. The Strange Order of Things outlines the centrality of what we humans perceive as feelings and the drive for homeostasis in the functioning of all living organisms, including us.


The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

It is understandable that we all normally fail to adequately comprehend the crisis of climate change. Denial is widespread. Even the most concerned among us, and the angriest among us, spend most of our energy and most of our time in ways that ignore the crisis. But even though these reactions may be psychologically understandable, they are not morally or rationally defensible.

We have to directly face the crisis. We have to make avoiding it, or rather reducing the catastrophic destruction it is already set to cause, our most urgent priority. The value of this book is that it details the scientific consensus in plain and appropriately horrifying language. (Endnotes thoroughly cite the scientific research behind each page of the book.) We know what is going to happen if we do not all radically change our lives and take action now. This book describes it.


The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks your Heart by Ruth Behar

Ethnography is a defining feature of multiple disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, and social work. However, since the 1960s, ethnographic studies have come under rigorous and critical scrutiny. Ruth Behar’s book, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks your Heart represents a seminal text that has transformed our understanding of ethnography in significant ways.

In this book, Behar argues that a researcher’s vulnerability plays a crucial role in the ways we understand the lives of others. After reading this book, readers are left to grapple with the following questions: Can we be truly objective toward the topics that we study? How do our own identities shape the ways we learn about the world around us?


Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

"In these eight piercing explorations on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—embraces her venerated role as a purveyor of wit, wisdom, and Black Twitter snark about all that is right and much that is wrong with this thing we call society.

Ideas and identity fuse effortlessly in this vibrant collection that on bookshelves is just as at home alongside Rebecca Solnit and bell hooks as it is beside Jeff Chang and Janet Mock. It also fills an important void on those very shelves: a modern black American feminist voice waxing poetic on self and society, serving up a healthy portion of clever prose and southern aphorisms as she covers everything from Saturday Night Live, LinkedIn, and BBQ Becky to sexual violence, infant mortality, and Someone With Tiny Hands rallies. Thick speaks fearlessly to a range of topics and is far more genre-bending than a typical compendium of personal essays.

An intrepid intellectual force hailed by the likes of Trevor Noah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Oprah, Tressie McMillan Cottom is “among America’s most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time” (Rebecca Traister). This stunning debut collection—in all its intersectional glory—mines for meaning in places many of us miss, and reveals precisely how the political, the social, and the personal are almost always one and the same"


Literature & Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns by 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.


Blindness by 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.


Circe by Madeline Miller

We all know the story of Odysseus–his trials, his wanderings, his quest to return home to his wife Penelope. And we recognize some of the strange and fantastical beings he meets along the way: the savage cyclops who eats his men, the witch Circe who turns them into pigs. But what about the stories of those characters? Surely they don't only exist in the moments Odysseus spends with them.

In Circe, Madeline Miller, whose book The Song of Achilles brought to life Achilles' companion Patroclus, turns to Circe to create a vivid and personal picture of the most powerful female character in The Odyssey, and of her relationships with both Odysseus and other familiar figures of Greek myth.


Cosmic Whispers by Niyi Afolabi

Cosmic Whispers weaves together the memories of two intimate characters whose divine paths magically crossed on the Brazilian side of the Atlantic. Not only did these two characters cross paths, but two countries also collided: Brazil and Nigeria. Journeys to other lands and encounters with the magic of transcendent beauty despite the sting of death open new vistas of life. Reality and fantasy often collide through mystical fragments and protracted extensions of multivalent twilights. Dislocations and reencounters ultimately surrender to vibrant whispers. For we are whisperers. Yes, we are all whisperers seeking essences of our own mysterious inner harvests. Copies of Cosmic Whispers can be purchased at Africa World Press Books.


Embassytown by China Mievelle

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.


Everything That Rises Must Converge by 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.


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

  • Instructor: 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.


Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by 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?"


Robinson Crusoe and Cast Away by 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?


Ruined by Lynn Nottage

Where can you find safety, or love, in a nation torn by civil war? You might look into life in a brothel, where women are protected from gang rape and violence, 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. The playwright started out to imitate Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage, and then found her own distinctive voice. You may want to have a look at that play also, but that’s not required.

Paul Woodruff is a philosopher, playwright, and former dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies. He has published translations of Greek plays, as well as a book on theater, The Necessity of Theater. His hobbies include furniture design, rowing, and chamber music.


Slade House by David Mitchell

Are you ready for a literary ghost story? Written like a set of Chinese nesting boxes in which each new chapter repeats and builds on the last, this novella tells the tale of a mysterious house in a small English village that reappears every nine years to generally wreak havoc on its victims.

Always creepy and occasionally terrifying, this creative fiction also offers some surprising moments of wit and compassion. Award-winning author David Mitchell is one of the very best and most inventive novelists writing today and this story confirms that reputation.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by 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!


The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot is a semi-autobiographical novel about the author’s freshman year at Harvard. It's funny but also poignant and a compelling portrait of what it's like to be a freshman in college, albeit from the perspective of a brilliant and quirky young woman attending the most elite college in the world. The book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; as the publisher's blurb notes, “with superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself.

The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting.


The Moonstone by 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.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American children’s classic novel first published in 1900. It was quickly adapted to a Broadway Musical in 1902, and silent films in the 1910s and 1920s. It is most well-known to this day because of the MGM musical adaptation in 1939 starting Judy Garland. The book has been claimed by the Library of Congress as “America’s Greatest Homegrown Fairytale”, the MGM movie is known as the most influential movie of all time, and the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as the greatest song of the 20th century.

This Reading Round-Up session will focus on the differences between the book and the movie, and on the life of Judy Garland.


My Beautiful City Austin by 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.


We by 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 2019!


Philosophy & Politics

Communist Manifesto by 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.”


Fire and Fury: Inside the Someone With Tiny Hands White House by Michael Wolff

This is a behind-the-scenes account of the Someone With Tiny Hands presidency that examines how the chief executive’s personality meshed with the demands of the job he unexpectedly won. As the 2020 election approaches, this book will be an interesting guide to Someone With Tiny Hands’s strengths and weaknesses and what it will take for him to continue in office, to counteract the Democrats, and, perhaps, to expand on his highly unique legacy.


Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, bestselling author and world-class provocateur Christopher Hitchens inspires the radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, and angry young (wo)men of tomorrow in this short, 160-page page-turner. Exploring the entire range of "contrary positions"–from noble dissident to gratuitous nag–Hitchens introduces the next generation to the minds and the misfits who influenced him, invoking such mentors as Emile Zola, Rosa Parks, and George Orwell.

As is his trademark, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast to stagnant attitudes across the ideological spectrum. No other writer has matched Hitchens's understanding of the importance of disagreement–to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress, to democracy itself.


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

From the preamble by the author: "I write this little book to present a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution of an issue so laden with emotion and the burden of history that a clear path usually becomes overgrown by a tangle of contention and confusion. I speak of the supposed conflict between science and religion, a debate that exists only in people’s minds and social practices, not in logic or proper utility of these entirely different, and equally vital, subjects.”

Stephen Jay Gould passed away shortly after publication of this book. He was a professor of zoology and of geology at Harvard, a pioneering researcher in the field of evolution, and curator for invertebrate paleontology at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation.


The Meaning of Human Existence by 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.