More Summer Reading Ideas

The final message of the semester for first-year parents (or any interested parents, really) was about the Summer Reading List and how to be intellectually engaged over the summer.  You can read the initial message here.

Lynn Sutton, Dean of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, sent some additional suggestions for that reading list.  So for any Deac parents who aren’t watching the Royal Wedding this morning and prefer to think more literary thoughts, here’s some additional ideas for summer reading.  Many thanks to Dean Sutton and her staff for their suggestions.

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolf is an elaborate and moving coming-of-age story about Eugene Gant, a restless and energetic character whose passion to experience life takes him from his small, rural hometown in North Carolina to Harvard University and the city of Boston. The novel’s pattern is artfully simple — a small town, a large family, high school and college — yet the characters are monumental in their graphic individuality and personality. Through his rich, ornate prose, Wolfe evokes the extraordinarily vivid family of the Gants, and with equal detail, the remarkable peculiarities of small-town life and the pain and upheaval of a boy who must leave both. A classic work of American literature, Look Homeward, Angel is a passionate, stirring, and unforgettable novel.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She’s the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Her books include Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai. Memories of a childhood spent in the lush highlands of her beloved Kenya, combined with a biologist’s understanding of the natural world, inspired Wangari Maathai to establish the Green Belt Movement. This grassroots movement which mobilized rural women to plant trees not only helped to restore a landscape ravaged by a cash crop economy but empowered the women who led the reforestation. For her efforts, Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai’s poignant memoir portrays a nation — indeed a continent — struggling to overcome poverty, corruption, and the legacy of colonialism.

Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930 by Gregory Clancey.Berkeley.  How does our scientific understanding of the world itself enlarge? How do new scientific disciplines emerge? In Earthquake Nation, Gregory Clancey, whose specialty is the history of tech­nologies, demonstrates the way society shapes even its most technical fields through political choices and cultural expectations, describing how an international group of scientists established the scientific study of seismicity in the late 19th century and early 20th. His tale is set at the birth of modern Japan, in a moment when the nation drew innovative architects and engineers to its shores to rapidly expand its infrastructure. Clancey also elegantly weaves into the very readable text critical arguments about how cultures define architecture — and the life-and-death implications of such choices. The oldest and largest wooden structures in the world are in Japan, but as Clancey explains, for architects from Europe such structures were not worthy of study, as they had not been built of brick and stone. But brick was not a wise choice in the new nation, as a devastating earthquake ultimately demonstrated. In this UC Press book, Clancey offers a nuanced reading that deftly brings together science and the humanities and helps us understand how the study of seis­micity shapes the world we live in today.

The Best of Enemies by Osha Gray Davidson. This non-fiction book examines the evolution of race relations in Durham, when black rights activist Ann Atwater and former Ku Klux Klansman C.P. Ellis became friends after working together at city meetings on school desegregation.

Complications : a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. Gently dismantling the myth of medical infallibility, this book is essential reading for anyone involved in medicine–on either end of the stethoscope. Medical professionals make mistakes, learn on the job, and improvise much of their technique and self-confidence. Gawande’s tales are humane and passionate reminders that doctors are people, too. Some of his ideas will make health care providers nervous or even angry, but his disarming style, confessional tone, and thoughtful arguments should win over most readers.

Better : a surgeon’s notes on performance by Atul Gawande. A surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Atul Gawande succeeds in putting a human face on controversial topics like malpractice and global disparities in medical care, while taking an unflinching look at his own failings as a doctor. Critics appreciated his candor, his sly sense of humor, and his skill in examining difficult issues from many perspectives.

The Checklist Manifesto : How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.  It would be natural to expect that Atul Gawande is bent on revolutionizing that most loved-hated activity of workers the world over: the to-do list. But it’s not the list itself he wants to change; there are no programmatic steps or tables here to help you reshuffle daily tasks. What you’ll find instead is a remarkably liberating and persuasive inquiry into what it takes to work successfully and with a personal sense of satisfaction. The first thing you’ll realize is that it takes more than just one person to do a job well. He shows that a team is only as strong as its checklist–by his definition, a way of organizing that empowers people at all levels to put their best knowledge to use, communicate at crucial points, and get things done. Like no other book before it, The Checklist Manifesto is at once a restorative call to action and a welcome voice of reason.

The Best American Science Writing 2000. Editors James Gleick and Jesse Cohen took it upon themselves to select 19 eclectic pieces for The Best American Science Writing 2000, resulting in a delicious, engrossing volume with something for nearly every reader. Whether relying on well-known authors like Stephen Jay Gould and Oliver Sacks or surprising us with a selection from humor publication The Onion (“Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five Forms of Pseudoscience”), they choose works that combine the best of exposition and aesthetic delight.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  a surprising but characteristically brilliant memoir-investigation, boasting an exhaustively-argued account of one man-child’s decade-long struggle with vegetarianism. On the eve of becoming a father, Foer takes all the arguments for and against vegetarianism a neurotic step beyond and, to decide how to feed his coming baby, investigates everything from the intelligence level of our most popular meat providers-cattle, pigs, and poultry-to the specious self-justifications (his own included) for eating some meat products and not others.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy.  Conroy has given us many hours of reading pleasure with such popular novels as The Great Santini (1976) and The Prince of Tides (1986), and now it’s time for him to tell us what books have given him particular reading pleasure over the years of his reading life. And what a delightful little book this turns out to be, with a punch far sturdier than its compact size might suggest.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  A Civil War soldier and a lonely woman embark on parallel journeys of danger and discovery. Environment, events, and the empathy of others transform the protagonists spiritually as well as physically.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier.  A bountiful literary panorama again set primarily in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. The story takes place mostly before the Civil War this time, and it is epic in scope. With pristine prose that’s often wry, Frazier brings a rough-and-tumble pioneer past magnificently to life, indicts America with painful bluntness for the betrayal of its native people and recounts a romance rife with sadness. In a departure from Cold Mountain‘s Inman, Will Cooper narrates his own story in retrospect, beginning with his days as an orphaned, literate “bound boy” who is dispatched to run a musty trading post at the edge of the Cherokee Nation. Nearly nine mesmerizing decades later, Will is an eccentric elder of great accomplishments and gargantuan failures, perched cantankerously on his front porch taking potshots at passenger trains rumbling across his property (he owns “quite a few” shares of the railroad).

Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling. Weaving a colorful tapestry of Pearl Buck’s life (1892–1973) with strands of Chinese history and literature, Spurling, winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize for Matisse the Master—vividly correlates Buck’s experiences of China’s turbulent times to her novels. Growing up in a missionary family in China, Buck lived through the upheavals of the Boxer Rebellion and China’s civil war, two marriages, and a daughter with a degenerative disease; her closeup view of the horrors of China’s extreme rural poverty made her an American literary celebrity as well as a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize winner when she enshrined her observations of China in the Good Earth trilogy.

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