¡Ándale, Prieta!: A Love Letter to My Family. Yasmin Ramirez
A tribute to the author's fierce grandmother blossoms into a family saga brimming with heartache and love. In the first part, Ramírez introduces readers to the resilient women who loomed large in her childhood in El Paso, Texas: her maternal great-grandmother, Máma Lupe; her hardworking mother, Leticia; and, above all, her fiery maternal grandmother, Ita. Throughout the text, Ramírez interweaves anecdotes of childhood nights spent in bars with Ita (tamer than it sounds); Ita's poignant nightly rituals; details about Leticia's work for Customs at the border separating El Paso and Juárez, filling the role of "the brown gatekeeper to other brown people." The clear star of the book is Ita, an unforgettable, larger-than-life character. Meanwhile, the men in young Ramírez's life—an absent father, an overindulged uncle, a couple of boyfriends—make appearances as secondary characters, distant shadows at times. In the second part—in which the author moves into adolescence and young adulthood—Ita and Leticia fade into the background, and their absences dull the crackling vitality of the first half. However, it's in the second half of the book that Ramírez crucially explores her waning relationship with her father. Her attempts over the years to reconnect—often half-hearted but always sincere—culminate in a final effort that seals their differences. Using conversational prose full of vivid imagery, the author successfully explores the many dimensions of her identity as a Mexican American woman. A promising debut, gripping in its honesty.
The mystery writer Charles Latimer meets a Turkish police colonel, who believes that Latimer would be interested in the life of the recently deceased criminal Dimitrios. Latimer is very interested and eventually begins to dig deeper into Dimitrios's life and criminal career. But things very soon spiral out of control and Latimer is in very deep trouble. This 1939 work is a classic of the thriller genre.
Join the legions of poets, scientists, politicians, and others who have learned to think at the invitation of James Webb Young's A Technique for Producing Ideas. This brief but powerful book guides you through the process of innovation and learning in a way that makes creativity accessible to anyone willing to work for it. While the author's background is in advertising, his ideas apply in every facet of life and are increasingly relevant in the world's knowledge-based economy. Young's tiny text represents an ideal start to university education with its tactics for viewing life through a new lens and its encouragement to look inside for a more creative version of ourselves.
A Thirsty Land: The Fight for Water in Texas Seamus McGraw
As a changing climate threatens the whole country with deeper droughts and more furious floods that put ever more people and property at risk, Texas has become a bellwether state for water debates. Will there be enough water for everyone? Is there the will to take the steps necessary to defend ourselves against the sea? Is it in the nature of Americans to adapt to nature in flux?
The most comprehensive—and comprehensible—book on contemporary water issues, A Thirsty Land delves deep into the challenges faced not just by Texas but by the nation as a whole, as we struggle to find a way to balance the changing forces of nature with our own ever-expanding needs. Part history, part science, part adventure story, and part travelogue, this book puts a human face on the struggle to master that most precious and capricious of resources, water. Seamus McGraw goes to the taproots, talking to farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, and citizen activists, as well as to politicians and government employees. Their stories provide chilling evidence that Texas—and indeed the nation—is not ready for the next devastating drought, the next catastrophic flood. Ultimately, however, A Thirsty Land delivers hope. This deep dive into one of the most vexing challenges facing Texas and the nation offers glimpses of the way forward in the untapped opportunities that water also presents.
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction 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.
Beautiful Boy is used as a text in the Young People and Drugs UGS Signature Course. It elegantly weaves the narrative and experience with the best of the evidence-based science about addiction and recovery. The authors have visited our class in the past, 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.
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.
Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Daniel James Brown
During the height of the Great Depression, nine working-class college students on the University of Washington varsity crew team set off to do the impossible: defeat the German rowing team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It's one of those stories that I intentionally slowed my reading pace to savor every minute of it! (And, if you aren't knowledgeable about rowing, that's OK. But, I was surprised to find a new interest in the sport after reading this.) It is a compelling account of how these all-American underdogs beat the odds and found hope in the most desperate of times.
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.
Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words Hilary Hinzmann and John W. Pilley Jr.
The professor will be bringing his dog to this session for a demonstration of the 100 words he knows! In terms of the book: Chaser has fascinated dog lovers and scientists alike. Her story reveals the potential for extending dialogue with dogs well beyond "fetch."
When retired psychology professor John Pilley first got his new Border collie puppy, Chaser, he wanted to explore the boundaries of language learning and communication between humans and man's best friend. Exhibiting intelligence previously thought impossible in dogs, Chaser soon learned the names of more than a thousand toys and sentences with multiple elements of grammar.
Chaser's accomplishments are revolutionizing the way we think about the intelligence of animals. John and Chaser's inspiring journey demonstrates the power of learning through play and opens our eyes to the boundless potential in the animals we love.
How much are your memories worth on the open market and can they save someone you care about? What form will discrimination take in our dystopian future? How should the unscrupulous owner of a rundown amusement park handle a vandalism problem? These are just some of the topics that George Saunders explores in this stunning and original short fiction collection. The recipient of many accolades in his literary career (MacArthur Genius Grant, PEN/Malamud Award, Booker Prize), Saunders is one of our most celebrated writers and he is regarded as a master of the short story form.
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.
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken
A set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change: one hundred techniques and practices, economically viable and currently being implemented in communities throughout the world. This New York Times bestseller is filled with colorful photographs.
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.
Do you refuse to laugh at offensive jokes? Have you ever been accused of ruining dinner by pointing out your companion’s sexist comment? Are you often told to stop being so “woke”? If so, you might be a feminist killjoy—and this handbook is for you. In this book, feminist theorist Sara Ahmed shows how killing joy can be a radical world-making project. Presenting sharp analysis of literature, film, and influential feminist works, and drawing on her own experiences as a queer feminist scholar-activist of color, Ahmed reveals the invaluable lessons of the feminist killjoy, from the importance of asking questions to the power of the eye roll. The Feminist Killjoy Handbook offers an outstretched hand to feminist killjoys everywhere and an essential intellectual guide to the transformative power of getting in the way.
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.
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest Suzanne Simard
A leading forest ecologist changes our perspective on trees and their connections to one another and the ecosystem in the forest as she describes her personal journey of discovery. You will learn that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are instead members of a complex, interdependent circle of life and that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.
Fun Home is a graphic memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. It follows Alison through the early years of her life as she navigates her relationship with her closeted father, discovers her own sexuality, and grapples with her father’s supposed suicide. Told in a non-linear fashion, the book touches on the themes of gender identity, sexual orientation, dysfunctional households, suicide, and literature as a way of connecting to life.
A New York Times best-seller, Fun Home has been acclaimed for its discussion about the topic of intergenerational homosexuality and its innovative approach to the genres of both comics and memoirs. It was made into a Broadway musical in 2015.
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.
Grit: The Power of Perseverance and Passion Angela Duckworth
University of Texas first year students 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.
Health Disparities in the United States: Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, and the and the Social Deter Donald A. Barr
The health care system in the United States has been called the best in the world. Yet wide disparities persist between social groups, and many Americans suffer from poorer health than people in other developed countries. In this revised edition of Health Disparities in the United States, Donald A. Barr provides extensive new data about the ways low socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity interact to create and perpetuate these health disparities. This thoroughly updated edition focuses on a new challenge the United States last experienced more than half a century ago: successive years of declining life expectancy. Exploring the growing role geography plays in health disparities, Barr asks why people living in rural areas suffer the greatest increases in these deaths. He also analyzes recent changes under the Affordable Care Act and considers the literature on how race and ethnicity affect the way health care providers evaluate and treat patients.
How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, he searches for patterns—and shows how those patterns have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators. Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power. **Professor requests that students read the first 5 Chapters for discussion (the rest is optional)**
Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos Dr. Jordan Peterson
Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. In 12 Rules for Life, Peterson seeks to transform and ennoble the mind and spirit of his readers.
"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?"
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?
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. There’s an amazing quote that is part of the 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.”
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.
Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson
Ever wondered who truly profits from the newest iPhone or the latest AI innovations? 'Power and Progress' by Acemoglu and Johnson lifts the veil, revealing how such technological strides can either bolster the power of a select few or ignite prosperity for all. The book will take you in a journey from our historical roots to our impending future, and offer insights on reshaping innovation, aiming for a collective victory, not just a triumph for the privileged few.
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?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one - Homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us? Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago, with the appearance of modern cognition. Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because, over the last few decades, humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Shared mobility is one of the three major smart transportation revolutions in the 21st century. The other two are Autonomous Vehicles (AV), and Electric Vehicles (EV). This book offers a current view on one of the most significant smart city and transportation activities in recent years, focusing on transportation network companies themselves, highlighting shared bikes and E-scooters. Shared Mobility explores the opportunities and challenges in these new systems and provides an introduction to the fields of transportation planning, transportation engineering, and urban planning.
Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Build American Prosperity is a book of forward-thinking ideas that breaks with modern wisdom to present a new vision of urban development in the United States. Presenting the foundational ideas of the Strong Towns movement he co-founded, Charles Marhon explains why cities of all sizes continue to struggle to meet their basic needs, and reveals the new paradigm that can solve this longstanding problem.
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.
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 Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China Kevin Rudd
A war between China and the US would be catastrophic, deadly, and destructive. Unfortunately, it is no longer unthinkable. The relationship between the US and China, the world’s two superpowers, is peculiarly volatile. It rests on a seismic fault—of cultural misunderstanding, historical grievance, and ideological incompatibility. No other nations are so quick to offend and be offended. Their militaries play a dangerous game of chicken, corporations steal intellectual property, intelligence satellites peer, and AI technicians plot. The capacity for either country to cross a fatal line grows daily. Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister who has studied, lived in, and worked with China for more than forty years, is one of the very few people who can offer real insight into the mindsets of the leadership whose judgment will determine if a war will be fought. The Avoidable War demystifies the actions of both sides, explaining and translating them for the benefit of the other. Geopolitical disaster is still avoidable, but only if these two giants can find a way to coexist without betraying their core interests through what Rudd calls “managed strategic competition.” Should they fail, down that path lies the possibility of a war that could rewrite the future of both countries, and the world.
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
As the authors note, this is a book about education and wisdom. Through their experiences in and around higher education, the authors define, explain, and tackle three great untruths that they have observed in recent years around fragility, emotional reasoning, and battles of us versus them. Join me in reading and discussing this book which attempts to highlight the values of preparing ourselves and others for the road ahead, instead of trying to prepare the road for ourselves.
The book tells the story of the scientists who investigated a mysterious and deadly disease called kuru, which afflicted the Fore people of New Guinea. Tracing the encounter between the Fore and scientists from both perspectives, it provides a fascinating look at how medical knowledge is produced and how it transforms the lives of all who are involved with it. **Recommendation is to buy a used copy, as they are less expensive: https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780801890406&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-all **
The Geography of Genius: Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places Eric Weiner
In this “intellectual odyssey, traveler’s diary, and comic novel all rolled into one” (Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness), acclaimed travel writer Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. A “superb travel guide: funny, knowledgeable, and self-deprecating” (The Washington Post), he explores the history of places like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. With his trademark insightful humor, this “big-hearted humanist” (The Wall Street Journal) walks the same paths as the geniuses who flourished in these settings to see if the spirit of what inspired figures like Socrates, Michelangelo, and Leonardo remains. In these places, Weiner asks, “What was in the air, and can we bottle it?”
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.
Have you ever heard the phrase "not all heroes wear capes?" In The Hero Code, Admiral McRaven gives tribute to the real-world heroes he has met over the years and around the world. From battlefields abroad, to the homefront of health in hospitals and inspiring figures at universities. Born in Texas, Admiral McRaven explores the attributes of these real-life characters and describes how courage, humility, sacrifice and integrity, all create lives worthy of honor and respect.
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.
What does it mean to belong? How do we live in community with others? Linus Baker is a quiet worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. However his tranquil and isolated life changes when he is tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children could bring the end of the world. But the task will not be easy since Arthur Parnassus, the master of the orphanage where the children live, will do anything to keep the children away from the Department. Are the children really dangerous? Or is there some deep secret behind this investigation?
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.
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times Michelle Obama
In the follow-up to the memoir, Becoming, former first lady Michelle Obama offers a fresh and frank discussion about navigating the challenges of contemporary life, while steadfastly tending to her own inner light even during the darkest of times. Her authenticity, coupled with personal stories and earnest self-reflection offers insights for young people on a path to cultivate a life of substance, purpose, and joy.
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.
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 NIGHT MY MOTHER MET BRUCE LEE: Observations On Not Fitting In Paisley Rekdal
"The book is a collection of Paisley Rekdal's enlightening and humorously insightful personal stories of growing up in a “Third Culture” as a mixed-race person in the U.S. As a Norwegian/Chinese native of Seattle, Rekdal takes us to Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and the American South. Her running commentary on the significance of being mixed-race in today's global culture reveals insightful and thought-provoking observations delivered in a light-hearted style. She suggests that especially for the mixed-race, race is a passé concept for one's identity, that race is a social construct based on the way we look.
This novel retells the story of Homer's Iliad in the voice of Briseis, the captive woman whose seizure by Agamemnon sparks Achilles' rage and sets the plot in motion, but who is allowed to speak only a few lines in the Iliad itself. From Briseis' perspective, and from the perspective of the other captive women in the Achaean camp, the familiar story takes on a new dimension, giving us a sense of the way war affects all those who are pulled into its orbit, not just the male combatants.
The Talent Code explores the nature of talent and expertise. Is talent something inherent - with each person having some aspect of talent only waiting to be discovered? Or, is talent something that is developed through intentional and guided practice? Coyle offers examples from different hotbeds of excellence across numerous skills and discusses finding from neuroscience to address this question in an easy to read and enjoyable book. I have my own ideas about talent and practice and expect you will too. I look forward to discussing these.
The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the 19th Century’s On-Line Pioneer Tom Standage
People often say that the internet offers unprecedented ways to engage in politics and cultivate personal connections. But over a century ago, many of these same comments were made about the telegraph. The Victorian Internet looks at the history of the telegraph and the ways that people could be extremely online even in the late 1800s. The book gives us a chance to think critically about the contemporary uses of the internet and whether claims about the internet’s effects on the world may be exaggerated.
Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We think too much like preachers defending our sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval--and too little like scientists searching for truth. Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become. Think Again reveals that we don't have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It's an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don't know is wisdom.
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.
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.
If you've ever had a teacher that touched your life in a very positive way, this book is for you. Short, very readable, and yet, quite profound in its reflection, Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie describes rediscovery of that mentor and a rekindled relationship that goes beyond the classroom and brings us to lessons on how to live.
We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice Mariame Kaba
Here at UT, the saying is “What starts here changes the world.” But there’s so much wrong with the world. How do we really change things? Mariame Kaba outlines her methods and philosophy related to “transformative justice,” which focuses on reducing harm rather than punishing people. In addition, a powerful component of transformative justice is that it starts with us. How do we solve conflicts in our own lives? How do we maintain friendships and keep people in community? That is the first step to making a more just and safe world. Each chapter is a short, independent article, so it makes for quick reading. And Mariame Kaba is a community organizer, so her writing is very focused on action, which includes dreaming a better world.
Where am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes Kelsey Timmerman
Have you ever given much thought to where your clothes are made? Or who the people are that are making your clothes? Globalization makes it difficult to know where the things you buy come from. American journalist and travel writer Kelsey Timmerman wanted to know where his clothes came from and who made them, so he traveled from Honduras to Bangladesh to Cambodia to China and back. Along the way, he met the people who made his favorite clothes and learned as much about them as he did about globalization itself. The book is both enlightening and controversial all at once, it puts a human face on globalization and will make you think more about the simple act of getting dressed each day and the power in our seemingly mundane choices.
White Noise is Don DeLillo’s National Book Award-winning novel from 1984 that was turned into a Netflix movie in 2023 starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle. The main question we will tackle in our reading group will be: why now? This is a deeply ironic story about a family trying to navigate the relatively petty challenges and distractions of consumeristic modern life in a small middle-American college town. All-of-a-sudden, they and their community are faced with an environmental disaster caused by an industrial accident. We will discuss how DeLillo’s juxtaposition of mundane-normalcy with tragedy and trauma in the early ‘80s might have special relevance for us in today’s post-COVID, climate-change addled, internet-saturated world. We will also discuss what DeLillo might be critiquing about academia that might be interesting to consider as you begin your journey at UT-Austin. BONUS FEATURE: Dr. Lang will draw on Don DeLillo’s archive—which resides at UT’s Harry Ransom Center—to bring direct evidence from the author’s creative process into our discussion!
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.
World’s Fair is a vividly-rendered depiction of life in New York in 1939. The novel is semi-autobiographical, recounting the author’s own experiences of childhood during the Great Depression, including not only hardship but a sense of wonderment and excitement for things to come. Novelist E.L. Doctorow, winner of the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award, is a master of historical fiction. His books have been widely translated and adapted for stage and screen.