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Book Title & Author
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

A Thousand Ships
Natalie Haynes


War stories often focus on the experiences of the soldiers involved, since such experiences resonate across time. But the stories of non-combatants, especially women, are underrepresented. This is true of the Iliad and the Odyssey, powerful Greek epics about the Trojan War and its aftermath. In this novel by Natalie Haynes, the female participants in the Trojan War are centered. Many of the women who occupy the background of Homeric epic have a chance to tell their own stories here, providing a alternative perspective on the oldest account of the fall of a city in European literature.

Instructor: Adam Rabinowitz, Classics

A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning
Ray Jackendoff


What is a word? And what kinds of things are word meanings? From these starting points, the book leads us through big questions around language and thought: What does it mean to "know" something, and what can we know? Are we consciously aware of what words and sentences mean (and what's "conscious" anyway)? How do animals think? In short and accessible chapters, the author lays out his (often provocative) answers to these questions.

Instructor: Katrin Erk, Linguistics

American Hookup
Lisa Wade


Offering invaluable insights for students, parents, and educators, Lisa Wade analyzes the mixed messages of hookup culture on today’s college campuses within the history of sexuality, the evolution of higher education, and the unfinished feminist revolution. She draws on broad, original, insightful research to explore a challenging emotional landscape, full of opportunities for self-definition but also the risks of isolation, unequal pleasure, competition for status, and sexual violence. Accessible and open-minded, compassionate and honest, American Hookup explains where we are and how we got here, asking, “Where do we go from here?”

Instructor: Shannon Cavanagh, Sociology

American Prometheus: The triumph and tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin


American Prometheus is the first full-scale biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, "father of the atomic bomb," the brilliant, charismatic physicist who led the effort to capture the awesome fire of the sun for his country in time of war. Immediately after Hiroshima, he became the most famous scientist of his generation-one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, the embodiment of modern man confronting the consequences of scientific progress. American Prometheus sets forth Oppenheimer's life and times in revealing and unprecedented detail. Exhaustively researched, it is based on thousands of records and letters gathered from archives in America and abroad, on massive FBI files and on close to a hundred interviews with Oppenheimer's friends, relatives and colleagues.

Instructor: Carlos Torres-Verdin, Petroleum Engineering

Animal, Vegetable, Junk
Mark Bittman


Walk through food systems history with author Mark Bittman, a New York Times columnist, recipe creator, and author of cookbooks and everything-food books. Bittman explores food as a driver of human development and as the basis for social phenomena throughout history. He explains the roots of our contemporary way of producing, distributing, and consuming food, and the ways in which the current system is broken (and might be fixed).

Instructor: Michele Cooper, Human Ecology

Antifragile
Nassim Nicholas Taleb


"Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb investigates opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we do not understand. Consider this: just as our bones grow stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumours or riots gain momentum when someone tries to suppress them, many things in our lives benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Nassim Nicholas Taleb has identified as ""antifragile"" is that category of things that not only thrive in chaos but also require it to survive and prosper. This concept is not just an abstract idea; it has direct relevance to our lives and the world we live in. "

Instructor: Shyamal Mitra, Computer Science

Blindness
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 Prentice, Business, Government, and Society

Breaking Bad News: 12 Essential Crisis Communication Tools
Jeff Hahn


Based on 30 years of experience in public relations and crafting crisis communication strategies, Jeff Hahn presents a survival guide for brands facing emergencies. Hahn brings his experience in navigating both the events and people involved in effectively, plus quickly, responding to unexpected disasters. Hahn provides entertaining and informative reading positing a proven set of tools for developing communication plans for providing a life boat when a brand’s reputation is at stake.

Instructor: John Murphy, Moody College of Communication

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
Tom and David Kelley


Even as a Liberal Arts major, I had been trained in objective analysis for so much of my life and educational experience that I believed I would never be creative. Reading this book early in my career as an educator not only changed how I viewed myself, my writing, and my creative passions; it changed my entire view of teaching and learning. Creative Confidence is foundational for all pursuits, whatever the field. Tom and David Kelley demonstrate how design principles of innovation, iteration, and collaboration can allow us to find creative solutions to any challenge that faces us or our communities.

Instructor: Lydia A CdeBaca, English

Curiosity
Ian Leslie


An exploration into the desire to know and why your future depends on it. Curiosity is misunderstood and undervalued, but a necessary component for success. Join us for a robust discussion of a few rich examples with a focus on our own experience.

Instructor: Deanna Buckley, UTeach Natural Sciences

Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm
Emmeline Clein


Eating disorder memoirs abound and this book is very explicitly not another one. Rather, Emmeline Clein deploys the personal essay format to explore the epidemic of disordered eating that plagues people of all ages and genders and races. By tracing the medical and cultural histories of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder; and elucidating the recent rise of orthorexia, the essays illuminate the economic conditions underpinning diet culture and grapple with the ways today’s feminism can be complicit in propping up the fetish of self-shrinking. Dead Weight makes the case that we are faced with a culture of suppression, self-denial, and self-harm, an insidious, pervasive, and dangerous American cult of femininity rooted in racism and misogyny. Its messages are as urgent and important for men as for women."

Instructor: Jennifer Ebbeler, Classics

Demon Copperhead
Barbara Kingsolver


Demon Copperhead is a modern-day retelling of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, set in Southern Appalachia in the center of the opioid crisis of rural America. The novel shows how little has changed on the issues of child poverty, child labor, and foster care since Dickens. Book discussion will concentrate on social mobility and child poverty themes of the novel.

Instructor: Helen Schneider, Economics

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
Alice Wong


Disability Visibility is a compelling anthology of diverse personal stories written by persons with a disability. The stories cover a range of topics and perspectives on the disability experience and challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions often associated with disability. Having worked in the field of disability for many years with persons with disability at UT, in the community, and in the criminal justice system, I will relate my experiences with the personal narratives provided in Wong’s book.

Instructor: James Patton, Special Education

Dracula
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-Garza, English

El Aleph
Jorge Luis Borges


"Students will read a few short portions of this novel plus any story of their choosing: 1) ""The House of Asterion"" (about 3 pages long) 2) ""The Man on the Threshold"" (about 10 pages) 3) Any other story from the same collection (each student's choice)"

Instructor: Michael Harney, Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies

Emma
Jane Austen


Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen's most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

Instructor: Janine Barchas, English

Escaping the Housing Trap
Charles L. Marohn Jr., Daniel Herriges


Housing is an investment. Investment prices must go up. Housing is shelter. When the price of shelter goes up, people experience distress. This book offers a serious, yet accessible, history of housing policy in the United States and explains how it led us to this point in time: where we face a market that is rigged against people who, only a few decades ago, could have been homeowners or stable, long-term rentals.

Instructor: Miriam Schoenfield, Philosophy

Factfulness
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.

Instructor: Michael Starbird, Mathematics

Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America
John Della Volpe


An interesting examination of Gen Z voters' brains that analyzes what issues have become important to Zoomers in light of the 2020 election and social media which so thoroughly affects how they think and feel.

Instructor: Roderick Hart, Communication Studies; Government

For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez


For generations, Brown girls have had to push against powerful forces of sexism, racism, and classism, often feeling alone in the struggle. By founding Latina Rebels, Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez has created a community to help women fight together. In For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts , she offers wisdom and a liberating path forward for all women of color. She crafts powerful ways to address the challenges Brown girls face, from imposter syndrome to colorism. She empowers women to decolonize their worldview, and defy “universal” white narratives, by telling their own stories. Her book guides women of color toward a sense of pride and sisterhood and offers essential tools to energize a movement.

Instructor: Patricia Abril-Gonzalez, Education

Gaudy Night
Dorothy Sayers


Gaudy Night is a mystery novel by a murder-mystery writer, but there's no murder in this book (and the "mystery" part is largely unimportant to the story).  It's a romance novel by an author who didn't really write romances at all.  It's an examination of whether women can have full, complete lives that includes an active intellectual life, significant contributions to society, AND romantic love, marriage, and family.  It was published in 1935, and some of its specific examples may seem dated, but the overarching themes and questions are still important to wrestle with and challenging to think about.   Gaudy Night, because of the time of its writing and its intended audience, has some attitudes that may strike modern readers as off-putting or even offensive. Perhaps this reflects blind spots of the author, who in other ways was thoughtfully progressive in her time. This gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own blind spots and the ways that even thoughtful, well-intentioned people may be misled by their environment and culture.

Instructor: Vernita Gordon, Physics

Go 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 Murray, Business, Government and Society

Heaven is a Playground
Rick Telander


Rick Telander spent the summer of 1974 in Brooklyn observing the local basketball scene, which included future NBA player Albert King and future ABA player Fly Williams. This book is the result, providing a snapshot of a contentious time in the United States, and looking at issues like the role of sports in American life that remain relevant today. The book has been widely praised, being named one of Sports Illustrated's 100 best sports books of all time, and being called "The best basketball book I've ever read" by former President Barack Obama.

Instructor: Marc Pierce, Germanic Studies

Hidden Potential
Adam Grant


We live in a world that’s obsessed with talent. We celebrate gifted students in school, natural athletes in sports, and child prodigies in music. But admiring people who start out with innate advantages leads us to overlook the distance we ourselves can travel. We underestimate the range of skills that we can learn and how good we can become. We can all improve at improving. And when opportunity doesn’t knock, there are ways to build a door. Hidden Potential offers a new framework for raising aspirations and exceeding expectations. Adam Grant weaves together groundbreaking evidence, surprising insights, and vivid storytelling that takes us from the classroom to the boardroom, the playground to the Olympics, and underground to outer space. He shows that progress depends less on how hard you work than how well you learn. Growth is not about the genius you possess—it’s about the character you develop. Grant explores how to build the character skills and motivational structures to realize our own potential, and how to design systems that create opportunities for those who have been underrated and overlooked. Many writers have chronicled the habits of superstars who accomplish great things. This book reveals how anyone can rise to achieve greater things. The true measure of your potential is not the height of the peak you’ve reached, but how far you’ve climbed to get there.

Instructor: Kristie Loescher, Management; Medical Education

In His Majesty’s Service
Naomi Novik


Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. If you love science fiction and/or fantasy, this book should be an enjoyable summer read!

Instructor: Shelly Rodriguez, UTeach Natural Sciences

In the Lake of the Woods
Tim O'Brien


This riveting novel of love and mystery from the author of The Things They Carried examines the lasting impact of the twentieth century’s legacy of violence and warfare, both at home and abroad. When long-hidden secrets about the atrocities he committed in Vietnam come to light, a candidate for the U.S. Senate retreats with his wife to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota. Within days of their arrival, his wife mysteriously vanishes into the watery wilderness.

Instructor: Bartholomew Sparrow, Government

Ishmael
Daniel Quinn


"The narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man in search for truth. He answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned office with an unusual creature. This premise established, the novel asks us to consider: Is it humans’ destiny to rule the world? Or is a higher destiny possible for humans -- one more wonderful than they have ever imagined? "

Instructor: Jay Banner, Jackson School of Geosciences

Jayne Eyre
Charlotte Brontë


While controversial from its publication in 1847, Brontë’s novel has always had devoted followers who admire Jane’s strong will, self-worth, and determination to make her own way. Many readers have admired the brooding Rochester as Jane’s ideal match, a romantic anti-hero who has weathered trials and finally found his soulmate. Today more than ever, other readers have found Rochester—and Jane’s attraction to him—problematic and are disturbed by Brontë’s depiction of Bertha Mason, the so-called mad woman in the attic. Why? What is at stake in our reading of this classic novel?

Instructor: Linda Ferreira-Buckley, Rhetoric and Writing

Klara and the Sun
Kazuo Ishiguro


"From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?"

Instructor: Jacqueline Woolley, Psychology

Laura
Vera Caspary


Laura Hunt was the ideal modern woman: beautiful, elegant, highly ambitious, and utterly mysterious. No man could resist her charms—not even the hardboiled NYPD detective sent to find out who turned her into a faceless corpse. As this tough cop probes the mystery of Laura's death, he becomes obsessed with her strange power. Soon he realizes he's been seduced by a dead woman—or has he?

Instructor: Jim Cox, English

Lessons in Chemistry
Bonnie Garmus


"Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo. "

Instructor: Shagufta Shabbir, Chemistry

Look again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There
Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein


"Want to learn about a universal psychological process that few people consider? If so, this book is for you! Have you ever noticed that what is thrilling on Monday tends to become boring on Friday? Even exciting relationships, stimulating jobs, and breathtaking works of art lose their sparkle after a while. People stop noticing what is most wonderful in their own lives. They also stop noticing what is terrible. They get used to dirty air. They stay in abusive relationships. People grow to accept authoritarianism and take foolish risks. They become unconcerned by their own misconduct, blind to inequality, and are more liable to believe misinformation than ever before. But what if we could find a way to see everything anew?"

Instructor: Michael Domjan, Psychology

Material World. The Six Raw Materials that Shape Modern Civilization
Ed Conway


"Sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium. These fundamental materials have created empires, razed civilizations, and fed our ingenuity and our greed for thousands of years. Without them, our modern world would not exist, and the battle to control them will determine our future."

Instructor: Christopher Bell, Jackson School of Geosciences

Memory Wall
Anthony Doerr


"Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but he had already established a reputation as a master of the short story. The stories in Memory Wall are set in South Africa, the United States, Lithuania, Germany and China, in the past, present and future. Each story concerns memory—some characters are haunted by painful memories while others try desperately to retain the memory of a life slipping away. Some of these stories could be called science fiction and some have elements of the supernatural, but they transcend the formulaic conventions of genre fiction. Doerr’s writing emphasizes the ephemeral nature of experience, and the beauty of every present moment. "

Instructor: Matthew Valentine, Plan II Honors

On Bullshit
Harry 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 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: Bob Duke, Butler School of Music

On Juneteenth
Annette Gordon-Reed


There’s an amazing quote that is part of this book that I have returned to many times: “Love does not require taking an uncritical stance toward the object of one’s affections. In truth, it often requires the opposite. We can’t be of real service to the hopes we have for places—and people, ourselves included—without a clear-eyed assessment of their (and our) strengths and weaknesses. That often demands a willingness to be critical, sometimes deeply so. How that is done matters, of course. Striking the right balance can be exceedingly hard.” Dr. Gordon-Reed was the keynote speaker for UT’s first Juneteenth Summit hosted by the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy in 2021. She is a native daughter of Texas, raised in Conroe, and eloquently situates herself in the complex history of our home state.

Instructor: Richard Reddick, Education; African & African Diaspora Studies

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 Golden, Marketing

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson


The Enneagram (pronounced ENNY-uh-gram) is a simple but versatile tool for understanding human nature. Beginning with nine basic personality types, the Enneagram provides insight into why people behave the way they do. It won’t take long before you start to recognize yourself among the more than 300 distinct personalities that unfold from the initial nine, and you will  also gain a deeper understanding of friends and family members that you have known for years. For writers of fiction, the Enneagram can help you create greater complexity in a flawed hero or reveal authentic virtues in the darkest villain.

Instructor: Brian Anderson, Chemistry

Piranesi
Susanna Clarke


"I chose this book because it's beautifully constructed, it's brief, and it just might change the way you think about your place in the world. Honestly, the less I say the better, but I'll add a blurb from author Erin Morgenstern: ""Piranesi is a gorgeous, spellbinding mystery that gently unravels page by page. Precisely the sort of book that I love wordlessly handing to someone so they can have the pleasure of uncovering its secrets for themselves. This book is a treasure, washed up upon a forgotten shore, waiting to be discovered.”"

Instructor: Joel Nibert, Mathematics

Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence
Paco Calvo


Whether or not plants are intelligent organisms is a controversial idea among plant scientists. This book documents decades of research on this topic and highlights the impressive abilities plants possess in an easy way to understand and open our minds to a different view of plants. Paco Calvo tells the story from decades of research on how plants communicate with each other and animals, manipulate other species, and move in sophisticated ways. Additionally, he describes exciting new results providing evidence that although plants may not have brains, their internal workings are not unlike our neuronal networks - plants can learn and remember, and may possess a different kind of intelligence that allows them to behave and respond to their world in flexible, forward-looking, and goal-directed ways.

Instructor: Gregory Clark, Molecular Biosciences

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. 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: Mikyung Han, Computer Science

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 Iverson, Chemistry

Symposium
Plato


Plato's Symposium offers one of the earliest discussions of love in the Western philosophical tradition. In this short dialogue, a group of friends in ancient Athens have a party where they compete to see who can give the best speech in praise of Eros, the god of Love. What is love, anyway? What are the myths and stories we tell ourselves about love? And how might the love of learning turn out to be similar to romantic love? Ideally students would buy the cheap paperback Hackett edition, translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff.

Instructor: Robbie Kubala, Philosophy

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Burger and Starbird


The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren’t a special breed—they just use their minds differently. By using the straightforward and thought-provoking techniques in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself—revealing previously hidden opportunities.

Instructor: Jennifer Fritz, Integrative Biology

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 Sonnenberg, Social Work; Dell Medical School

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Nassim Nicholas Taleb


"A ""black swan"" is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives. This book changed how I view and approach the world. Fundamentally, humans think about the world and future events linearly. This is an adaption to survival on the savannah of Africa not at all suited for the complex universe and human affairs. The author is provocative and polarizing - this book will echo in your head for a long time to come."

Instructor: Kenneth Wisian, Jackson School of Geosciences

The Buried Giant
Kazuo Ishiguro


At one level, this novel is about a hazy world in which an old knight and his wife take a journey. At another, level, it explores memory and grief. This book got more powerful for me, the further I got into it and stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

Instructor: Art Markman, Psychology

The Civic Bargain
Brook Manville and Josiah Ober


In The Civic Bargain, Brook Manville and Josiah Ober take on the hopelessness surrounding the current state of democracy. They argue for a renewal of democracy, where all of us citizens recommit to a “civic bargain” with one another in order to protect each other’s freedom, equality, and dignity. How do we do this and fulfill our duties as citizens? To answer this question, they use historical case studies from ancient Greece to the modern US to see what made past governments successful and what made them fail.

Instructor: Naomi Campa, Classics

The Crying Book
Heather Christle


Award-winning poet Heather Christle has just lost a dear friend to suicide and must reckon with her own struggles with depression and the birth of her first child. How she faces her joy, grief, anxiety, impending motherhood, and conflicted truce with the world results in a moving meditation on the nature, rapture, and perils of crying―from the history of tear-catching gadgets (including the woman who designed a gun that shoots tears) to the science behind animal tears (including moths who drink them) to the fraught role of white women's tears in racist violence.

Instructor: Elizabeth Porter, Human Ecology

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: W. Renee Acosta, Pharmacy

The Language of God
Francis S. Collins


From the Preamble by the author: “Here is the central question of this book: In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific worldviews? I answer with a resounding yes!...Science’s domain is to explore nature God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul—and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms.”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. has served as Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, overseeing the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA. Thus, Dr. Collins must be considered as one of the top medical scientists in the world, and at the same time he is a leading thinker and expositor of the Christian faith. This book is an honest and insightful look at the controversial interface between science and faith.

Instructor: Kenneth Diller, Biomedical Engineering

The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout
Cal Newport


Our current definition of “productivity” is broken. It pushes us to treat busyness as a proxy for useful effort, leading to impossibly lengthy task lists and ceaseless meetings. We’re overwhelmed by all we have to do and on the edge of burnout, left to decide between giving into soul-sapping hustle culture or rejecting ambition altogether. But are these really our only choices?

Instructor: Kirk Lynn, Theatre and Dance

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 for our ability to interpret the world around us.

Instructor: Juan Dominguez, Psychology

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 MacKay, English

The Singing Witch
Yvon Delville


Trinity Matiri is a young woman from New York City, preparing to attend college in Texas with a piano scholarship. During her summer vacation in England, she uncovers unsettling family secrets. She is becoming a witch like her grandmother, and she must journey to the past to protect the timeline from time-traveling extremists. On her first jump, she finds herself alone in London at the end of the Blitz in 1941 and becomes an intelligence officer with the British Army. Her first assignment is in Cairo, a city infested with enemy spies.

Instructor: Yvon Delville, Psychology

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
Sydney Padua


Do you wish books combined words with more pictures? Do you wish they combined true facts with fantastik imagination? The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is a comic book with lots of deeply researched footnotes. It describes and illustrates early computing machines designed by Charles Babbage and the corresponding computer theory of Ada Lovelace. While these machines were never built, the book imagines an alternate reality in which they are built and they discover economic models, explore the edges of mathematics and fight crime. You don't need to read the book from beginning to end, or read the whole thing. Find the pictures that interest you and read from there, then go back or forward as you wish. When we meet, share what made you curious, which parts you read more than once, and your favorite illustrations.

Instructor: Carol Ramsey, Computer Science

The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power our Lives
Ernest Scheyder


A new economic war for critical minerals has begun. To build electric vehicles, solar panels, cell phones, the world must dig more mines to extract lithium, copper, and other vital mineral. However, mines are deeply unpopular, despite their role in fighting climate change and powering crucial technologies. The War Below reveals the explosive brawl among industry titans, conservationists, community groups, and policymakers over whether some places are too special to mine because they are home to rare plants, sensitive ecosystems, or Indigenous holy sites.

Instructor: Rhonda Evans, Government

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
Isabel Wilkerson


"From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. With stunning historical detail, she tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties."

Instructor: Paul Toprac, Computer Science

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician's Journey Through Narcissistic Number
Matt Parker


"Math is boring, says the mathematician and comedian Matt Parker. Part of the problem may be the way the subject is taught, but it's also true that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, find math difficult and counterintuitive. This counterintuitiveness is actually part of the point, argues Parker: the extraordinary thing about math is that it allows us to access logic and ideas beyond what our brains can instinctively do―through its logical tools we are able to reach beyond our innate abilities and grasp more and more abstract concepts. In the absorbing and exhilarating Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Parker sets out to convince his readers to revisit the very math that put them off the subject as fourteen-year-olds. Starting with the foundations of math familiar from school (numbers, geometry, and algebra), he takes us on a grand tour, from four dimensional shapes, knot theory, the mysteries of prime numbers, optimization algorithms, and the math behind barcodes and iPhone screens to the different kinds of infinity―and slightly beyond. Both playful and sophisticated, Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension is filled with captivating games and puzzles, a buffet of optional hands-on activities that entice us to take pleasure in mathematics at all levels. Parker invites us to relearn much of what baffled us in school and, this time, to be utterly enthralled by it."

Instructor: Milica Cudina, Mathematics

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
David Foster Wallace


This very short book is actually a transcript of a commencement speech given in 2005 by the late David Foster Wallace, an author celebrated as one of the best in recent American history. Is it a bit weird to read a commencement speech the summer before you even take your first college class? Maybe. But maybe this is a chance to “begin with the end in mind,” to think about what we all hope to gain (beyond a degree) from our time on the 40 Acres. A little bit philosophical, a little bit funny, This is Water gives us a lot to think about, especially for a book that can be read during a short break from packing up our childhood bedrooms.

Instructor: Tolga Ozyurtcu, Kinesiology and Health Education

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Gabrielle Zevin


At a small bookstore in Laguna Beach, CA I was chatting the owner up about wanting to pick out a summer book to share with incoming students at UT. My criteria: a fun novel that’s hard to put down, but with the depth to spur an interesting discussion. With no hesitation, she immediately pulled this book off the shelf and essentially forced me to buy it. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a novel about two childhood friends, one from Harvard and one from MIT, who become reacquainted in college and join forces as video game designers. They create a wildly popular game that brings them fame and fortune. But this book is not about gaming or computer science (two things I know nearly nothing about). From the book jacket, “it is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and, above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.” You now know as much as I do, and I am looking forward to digging in as I fly back to Austin tomorrow.

Instructor: Chris Brownson, College of Education

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: Mehdi Haghshenas, Sociology

Wonderhell: Why Success Doesn't Feel Like It Should . . . and What to Do About It
Laura Gassner Otting


Wonderhell offers a roadmap to creating the mindset that lets you move forward in life, even when your success tells you to stop right there. Highlighting stories of people who have pushed forward to achieve a new definition of success with insights from the author’s own experiences along the way, readers will slay their impostor syndrome, banish their doubts, manage their burnout, and make way for their limitless potential.

Instructor: Steven Pedigo, LBJ School of Public Affairs