Summer reading: The Fifth Season

Book cover for The Fifth SeasonThe Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin

In this first book of the Broken Earth trilogy, the world—which may be ours, or may be a different one—is in a constant state of tectonic upheaval. Cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are so regular that humanity has come to expect regular apocalypses, and plans accordingly. Stability, such as it is, is maintained by orogenes—people with the ability to manipulate the earth, who are reviled, feared, and enslaved for their powers. How everything got this way, and what it will cost to change it, is the subject of this incredible trilogy.

N.K. Jemisin shows us what is possible when the culture of speculative fiction breaks its self-defeating habit of focusing on stories written by, about, and for heterosexual white men. Suddenly, the genre is free to do what it is best at: questioning the assumptions with which we build our daily lives, and showing us what we can do to change them.

JESSE LOESBERG
Web Designer
University Library

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Read this book on Overdrive. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Book cover for Dreams from my FatherDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s first memoir is a beautifully written, absorbing account of a young man coming to terms with the absence of his father, his mixed racial heritage, and his experience growing up Black in Hawaii and Indonesia. Published when he was just 34, before he ever held or ran for public office, it may be the most candid, introspective book ever written by a U.S. President. His journey of self-discovery is both inspiring and relatable, whether the reader is an aspiring leader or simply someone trying to find their path in the world.

MICHELE RABKIN
Associate Director
Berkeley Connect

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Read this book on Overdrive. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: The Alchemist

Book cover for The AlchemistThe Alchemist
Paulo Coelho

In his book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho tells the story of Santiago, a young boy from Andalusia who goes on a magical adventure to find treasure. On his journey, he meets new people and goes on exciting adventures that help him broaden his horizons and gain wisdom about his life. In the end, he learns to have more trust in fate and in himself.

SHREYA RAMESH
Class of 2024
Bioengineering + Business

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Big Fish: a Novel of Mythic Proportions

Book cover for Big FishBig Fish: a Novel of Mythic Proportions
Daniel Wallace

Big Fish is the story of a man’s relationship with his father, Edward Bloom, an avid storyteller and adventure seeker who is about to die. Edward Bloom was always seen as an invincible hero in the elaborate stories he tells about his life and other adventures. Edward’s love for adventure and stories led him to make some questionable choices, such as barely spending time with his family, but ultimately his son learns more about his father, better understanding his life, his fears, and most of all, his passion for living life fully and growing into a better person.

SHREYA RAMESH
Class of 2024
Bioengineering + Business

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Book cover for The Color of LawThe Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Richard Rothstein

How did structural racism take form to support inequities among the U.S. population? This book explains the U.S. government’s policies that ensured some would be able to establish financial equity and have access to educational opportunities while others would not.

CHARLOTTE SMITH
Lecturer
School of Public Health

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Disgraced

Book cover for DisgracedDisgraced
Ayad Akhtar

Art, race, and politics come together in this 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner. Two couples push through the niceties over dinner, and before the evening is over, they come to grips with “truths” that are usually left unspoken. As difficult as it is to face deeply ingrained biases, this play challenges audiences to lift their gaze to see society as it really is.

JOHN LEVINE
Lecturer
College Writing Programs

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer Reading: The Flick

Book cover for The FlickThe Flick
Annie Baker

Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play examines the lives of three young people who work in one of the last independently owned movie theaters in New England. Each character struggles with finding their place in a world that is changing rapidly. By the end, each of them finds hope as they move on. The New York Times calls it “hilarious and touching.”

JOHN LEVINE
Lecturer
College Writing Programs

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: The Namesake

Book cover for The NamesakeThe Namesake
Jhumpa Lahiri

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, speaks to how one’s character, seemingly burdened by the past, can be redefined across time, space, and culture. In this story, Gogol Ganguli, a child of Indian immigrants much like Lahiri herself, struggles to adopt an identity that satisfies both the expectations of his Bengali relatives in Calcutta and his peers in the United States. As Gogol uncovers the history behind his name, we watch him tangle with family tradition, tumble through telling love affairs, and develop a fond interest in architecture — fitting as he tries to assemble his own persona. With simple yet elegant prose rendered in page-turning fashion, Lahiri illustrates how Gogol sees and re-sees the world upon gaining clarity about his past.

ALLIE COYNE
Class of 2021
Molecular and Cell Biology major

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

Book cover for TraceTrace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
Lauret Savoy

In this collection of essays, Savoy, professor of environmental studies and geology at Mt. Holyoke College, explores the complex terrains of memory and landscape, and the ways in which the fragmented stories of our national past, and her personal past, are inscribed, lost, or found in the present. Through a wide-ranging examination of the geographies and topographies of our continent over time, she explores the paths of her ancestors, which include free and enslaved Africans, European colonizers, and Indigenous peoples, and uncovers stories of place and human presence which had been displaced or silenced. As one epigraph in the book notes, “Every landscape is an accumulation…Life must be lived amidst that which was made before.”

MARISSA FRIEDMAN (she/her/hers)
Digital Project Archivist
The Bancroft Library

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!


Summer reading: Gutted

Book cover for GuttedGutted
Justin Chin

In a time when it’s difficult to grasp the passing of time, grief, and joy, I return to the legacy of a local queer poet, Justin Chin. In Gutted, his own loose variation of the Japanese zuihitsu, he assembles “diary entries, lists, quotations, observations, commentaries, fragments,” which chronicle the days after the death of his father, Chin’s own illness, and the absurdity, horror, and pleasure of everyday acts. How do we confront our past and view ourselves as raw, uncensored, honest?

KIYOKO SHIOSAKI
Undergraduate Research & Learning Librarian
UC Berkeley Library

This book is part of the 2021 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!