Summer reading: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Book cover for CasteCaste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson artfully weaves individual experiences and historical events, as well as data and scholarship, to re-see the artificial social construct of race as the visible manifestation of an invisible caste structure. As she notes, “Caste is the bones, race the skin.” Wilkerson lifts our gaze by offering possible solutions for the undoing of this centuries-old system of dehumanization, which continues to do harm through both passive and active enforcement by those who benefit from the structure. I also highly recommend the audiobook recording, as read by Robin Miles.

GISÈLE TANASSE
Film & Media Services Librarian
Media Resources Center

That’s it for this year’s Summer Reading List! View this book on Overdrive. Tune in again next year for more recommendations!


Summer reading: Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems

Book cover for Neon VernacujlarNeon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
Yusef Komunyakaa

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Yusef Komunyakaa interweaves history and memory. With inventive language and raw emotion, Komunyakaa tackles varying subjects from the Vietnam War, to the Jonestown massacre, to jazz greats, to his childhood in Bogalusa, Louisiana. As readers, we embed with soldiers in Vietnam (“we held our breath,/ready to spring the L-shaped/ambush, as a world revolved/under each man’s eyelid”); we mourn the passing of Thelonious Monk (“Tonight’s a lazy rhapsody of shadows/swaying to blue vertigo/& metaphysical funk”); and we witness, from a son’s point of view, his complicated relationship with his father: a man who uses “wire/& sunlight to train/The strongest limbs,” who “hated my books,” but who “steered us through the flowering/Dogwood like a thread of blood.” Komunyakaa challenges us to gaze with unflinching clarity and deep introspection at the past—of singular people and of the nation–and to fashion guides for moving forward from what we observe and learn. “Hard love, it’s hard love,” he writes in Copacetic Mingus, and reminds us, as he closes Corrigenda, “If you must quote me, remember/I said that love heals from inside.”

LUISA GIULIANETTI
Curriculum Coordinator
Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence (CE3)

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


Library tours, August 25 – 27

Studying together is better together

Get your library bearings with a 3-in-one tour of the historic Doe Library, the ever popular Moffitt Library, and the underground Main Stacks. We’ll visit these central libraries and get acquainted with the support provided. Tour starts on the north steps of Doe Memorial Library.

Tour dates and times:

Wednesday 8/25: 11am-12pm & 2-3pm
Thursday 8/26: 11am-12pm & 2-3pm
Friday 8/27: 11am-12pm & 2-3pm

20 students per tour with 2-3 tours offered per time.


Summer reading: The Women in the Castle

Book cover for The Women in the CastleThe Women in the Castle
Jessica Shattuck

One reason I love reading historical fiction is that the challenges of the setting and time period come alive when they are the experiences of characters I relate to, and this book is a great example! In it, Marianne von Lingenfels gathers up the fellow widows of German resistance members, and sets up a family of sorts in a ruined Bavarian castle. She imagines they are of like minds and will move forward united, but the opposite proves to be true—these three strong German women, each of whom has had different connections with the events of World War II, have to come to terms with their own pasts, the aftermath of the war, and the unexpected new world and lives that await them. I highly recommend this beautifully imagined and evocative novel (which will soon become a movie starring Daisy Ridley).

ANN GLUSKER
Sociology, Demography, & Quantitative Research Librarian
Doe Library

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


Summer reading: What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

Book cover for What the Eyes Don't SeeWhat the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City
Mona Hanna-Attisha

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan who saw that the children of Flint were being poisoned by lead in the city’s water. Hanna-Attisha’s book explores the many factors that led to this crisis—including racism, city mismanagement, corruption, and greed. She also explores the factors in her own background as an Iraqi American whose family history of activism in the face of extreme government repression taught her the importance of resistance. What the Eyes Don’t See is an engaging story which highlights the importance of data-informed activism, social justice, and public health

SUSAN EDWARDS
Head, Social Sciences Division
Social Welfare Librarian & Interim African Studies Librarian

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


Summer reading: Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind

Book cover for Fossil MenFossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind
Kermit Pattison

Fossil Men is largely a book about U.C. Berkeley, beginning in the “Neo-Babylonian complex of the Valley Life Science Building.” Once Covid restrictions lift, you can see the display there of “Lucy” and “Ardi”–the fossils that have waited three or four million years for your visit. In addition to being science writing of a high order on these discoveries in Africa, Pattison’s book has the R-rated episodes that sometimes accompany academic arguments. If you think science proceeds with the decorum of Scrabble, you will see that discoveries can more closely resemble a thirty-year war. The controversies seem to have benefited Berkeley undergraduates who took some engaging courses. Rough as paleoanthropology can be, Berkeley led the field in escaping a colonial mindset. Professor Tim D. White recruited internationally and leveraged Berkeley funds to bring Ethiopians here and to see that they controlled their discoveries.

TOM LEONARD
Emeritus professor, Graduate School of Journalism
Former University Librarian

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


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!