This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby, the Scrivener
Herman Melville

I recommend Bartleby, the Scrivener, written by Melville in 1853. In this short story, Bartleby is a new, quiet clerk in a lawyer’s (the narrator’s) office, who soon ends up not doing any of the work, for inexplicable, impenetrable reasons. He adamantly resists answering any questions or to go along with accommodations his baffled employer tries to make for him. The lawyer and we readers can only guess at what kind of an anarchic (maybe?) inner life he lives. Another part of the joy of the story is the lawyer’s inability to do anything about Bartleby, not even to fire him, so that Bartleby’s inscrutable life has found a perfect partner in his employer’s avoidance. Bartleby is THE classic character of passive inexorability in the face of the rules. His short reply to all probing is one of the most well-known quotes in American literature: “I would prefer not to.”

Slavic and E. European Cataloging & Metadata Librarian

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Square Haunting

Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars
Francesca Wade

In 1928, when Virginia Woolf gave her lectures at Cambridge University titled A Room of One’s Own, Cambridge still did not give degrees to women, and would not until 1948. For women in Britain in the decades between the world wars, forging an independent life, let alone one of the mind, was a daunting challenge and almost impossible to achieve. Yet, a decade later, Woolf was living in London’s Mecklenburgh Square, writing a biography of the painter Roger Fry, with her husband operating a literary press in the basement.

Actually, a number of women, defying societal pressures and the odds, similarly managed to pursue their intellectual ideals in this same leafy, quiet square (which also saw some pretty festive partying). This book is a poignant and beautifully written account of the square hauntings of five of the women who lived there between 1918 and 1945: Woolf, novelist-theologian Dorothy Sayers, poet HD (Hilda Doolittle), economist Eileen Power, and classicist Jane Ellen Harrison. In its bohemian Bloomsbury setting, the residents “lived in squares, painted in circles, loved in triangles,” and this book is a fitting and fascinating tribute to their vibrant and revolutionary pursuit of autonomy, and ideas of their own.

Librarian for Sociology, Demography, & Research Methods;
Interim Librarian for Public Policy, Anthropology


Book cover for Hands of the Emperor

The Hands of the Emperor
Victoria Goddard

In the aftermath of a worlds-shattering magical cataclysm, Cliopher Mdang works tirelessly to reform a bloated and broken bureaucracy into something that serves its people. He works side by side with the god-emperor of the old empire, literally untouchable, whose humanity has been denied for a thousand years. In a story about compassion, identity, and making the world a better place, Cliopher goes against millennia of tradition and taboo to extend a hand in friendship when he invites the Sun-on-Earth to come home with him on holiday. The mere suggestion could see him executed for blasphemy. Instead, it upends the world.

Serials Processing Assistant
Bioscience, Natural Resources, & Public Health Library

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Seveneves

Neal Stephenson

What would happen if the moon exploded? All the rules that govern our solar system would change – or rather, because the rules of physics would still be followed, everything about life on Earth would change irreversibly. This novel imagines in stunning detail a multicentury history of human life after the moon shatters, and the central role that women would play in it. Stephenson creates a rigorously science-based alternate reality peopled with compelling characters on complex adventures.

Associate Director
Berkeley Connect



Book cover for The Politics and Constitution of Athens

The Politics and the Constitution of Athens

An oldie but a goodie, Aristotle’s account of the political machine of fourth-century Athens is a fundamental tool for understanding the origins of political thought and how states formed institutions to order their state. Although Aristotle is attributed with some 158 accounts of other Greek constitutions, this is the only extant version of these works, which we only have by chance, as papyri containing portions of the text surfaced within the last century and a half and were pieced together by scholars.

Postdoctoral Fellow
The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri
The Bancroft Library

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for The Mountain in the Sea

The Mountain in the Sea
Ray Nayler

This book is a gem – an entrancing page-turner taking place in the near future, where the existence of a society of highly intelligent and communicative octopuses comes into contact with humans. In narrating this encounter, the author explores deep questions on the nature of mind – the meaning of and requirements for sentience, and how mind, body, and world are intertwined. All of this in the context of a near-future world continuing to be plagued by environmental catastrophe and extreme human suffering. How might such an intimate meeting with the alien consciousness of cephalopods with a very different lens on the world inform our capacity to rewrite the rules?

Teaching Professor
Neurobiology and Psychology


Book cover for White Mughals

White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India
William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple shares the remarkable and true story of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, an English East India Company officer, and his wife, Khair-un-Nissa, an Indian Muslim noblewoman. Their love story serves as a powerful reminder of the cultural amalgamations that thrived during 18th-century India, building bridges between India and the West through the intermingling of languages, art, religion, and politics.

However, this historical perspective seems unusual and ironic in contrast to the narrative that exists in the world’s consciousness of today, given the oppressive practices of cultural separation spurred on by racism and colonialism in 19th- and early 20th-century India. These practices led to the burning of the aforementioned bridges and the collective social awakening of a country seeking freedom and justice. In the shifting shadows of these opposing ideologies, Dalrymple provides new perspectives on the mechanisms of racism, colonialism, and globalization. He encourages the reader to examine the sociocultural fabric of our current existence and reconsider how the legacies of our past weave our future.

This book is well-researched and beautifully written, and has everything one could want: memorable characters, adventure, romance, espionage, betrayal, tragedy, and curated pictures that offer a glimpse into this forgotten world!

Disability Specialist
Disabled Students Program

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun
Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a story about bending the boundaries of life, love, and the in/ability to change. Klara is an “artificial friend” – an emotional support type of robot – and the story unfolds from her perspective as she is purchased and taken to her new home. It is dark and dystopian and also light as air.

Language Program Coordinator
Lecturer, Finnish Studies




Book cover for The Just City

The Just City
Jo Walton

The Just City by Jo Walton is sci-fi/fantasy about a social experiment involving an attempt to “(re)write the rules” to implement a version of Plato’s Republic, but grappling with issues of sexual consent, the rights of slaves or robots in this proposed new society, etc., all done with a focus on Socratic debate. Highly readable. It’s the first of three volumes in Walton’s “Thessaly” series.

Agricultural & Resource Economics

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Fight Like Hell

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor
Kim Kelly

Kelly came to national attention for rewriting rules when she shattered common expectations for Teen Vogue with her hard-hitting labor reporting. In Fight Like Hell, she offers a celebratory yet critical history of American labor movements and activists who rewrote the rules of work in America. It is an accessible survey of labor history that honors the positive efforts of the past while outlining how bias and prejudice have hampered American labor activism from its earliest origins to the movements of today. Fight Like Hell provides a great foundation for understanding Berkeley’s and the Bay Area’s history of activism.

Head, Arts & Humanities Division
Doe Memorial Library


Book cover for The Terraformers

The Terraformers
Annalee Newitz

It’s thousands of years in the future in this novel by Annalee Newitz, and humanity has completely rewritten the rules of what it means to be sentient. We find ourselves on a planet that is owned by a corporation and yet being terraformed with humility and understanding of the intelligence of all life. This novel explores bio- and geoengineering, gender, evolution, capitalism, and more, with an uplifting tone and creative approach that makes us question pretty much everything about what it means to live a meaningful life.

Continuing Lecturer
Haas School of Business

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Fall

Fall: The Mysterious Life and Death of Robert Maxwell, Britain’s Most Notorious Media Baron
John Preston

Ian Robert Maxwell (born Ján Ludvík Hyman Binyamin Hoch) was a Czechoslovak-born British media proprietor, member of Parliament (MP), suspected spy, and fraudster. He is a larger-than-life character whose triumphs, crimes, and human flaws are now notoriously documented.

Part of me appreciates this multifaceted and detailed analysis of Maxwell, but part of me is irritated at what sounds like tacitly absolving him of his worst crimes. All and all, this book by John Preston is breathtaking – you will gasp and choke on your emotions throughout it.

Metadata Creation Professional, Metadata Creation Unit
Collection Services Division — Metadata Services


Book cover for Lady Justice

Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America
Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick profiles several women who used their legal expertise in various ways to challenge the excesses of the Trump administration. One thread that runs through the chapters (which cover topics like immigrant rights, reproductive rights, #MeToo in the federal judiciary, and protecting the vote) is the different perspectives on transformation from those who see themselves working inside versus outside the system.

Ancient Greek and Roman Studies

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Fuzz

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
Mary Roach

Fuzz is a fun, pop-science book, like much of Roach’s work. The premise is: What happens when animals transgress on human society in different ways and how do different places handle that. Human rules meet the natural world with sometimes funny, sad, or concerning results.

Assistant Dean
Academic Programs, Equity & Inclusion
School of Information



Book cover for The Magical Language of Others

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir
E. J. Koh

As a young girl growing up in California, author E. J. Koh’s life is upended when her parents decide to return to their home country of South Korea, leaving her and her older brother behind to benefit from a life in America. Moving freely through time and space, Koh revisits this period of her life and beyond, building her memoir around the process of translating the (always unanswered) letters her mother would write to her. Through this literal process of “rewriting” her mother’s words, and the rules that hold a family together across generations, the book invites readers to embrace the imperfect but necessary role that language plays in enabling us to truly understand one another

College Writing Programs

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Weapons of Math Destruction

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
Cathy O’Neil

An examination of different algorithmic systems and how they structure our education, finances, career opportunities, and more, often amplifying biases or creating unintended consequences. O’Neil gives us insight into the semi-opaque rules that define our lives in an era where statistical principles are (mis)used to shape our world, and what we can/should do to understand, revise, or fight those rules. This book will keep you reading because you’ll get madder and madder, but you’ll appreciate the insight into things we don’t always know about.

Assistant Dean
Academic Programs, Equity & Inclusion
School of Information


Book cover for Free

Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History
Lea Ypi

This memoir by an Albanian political scientist who now lives and works in Britain is a very interesting personal window into a little-studied country that had a very closed, Soviet-style socialist government until much later than its neighbors. Ypi discovers the rules that structured her life as she was growing up and has the opportunity to contrast them with different kinds of rules and social structures later in life. Ypi’s book is compelling and HIGHLY readable; I could not put it down. It’s also a book that doesn’t shy away from difficult things, but it’s not so heavy that it’s hard to get through.

Assistant Dean
Academic Programs, Equity & Inclusion
School of Information

This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Solito

Javier Zamora

In this book, Javier Zamora tells his story as an undocumented child emigrating from El Salvador to the U.S. He captures his view of the world as a 9-year-old and takes you with him as he leaves his grandparents, is led by coyotes, and meets fellow migrants on the journey. I was so immersed in the book and his experiences that by the time he reaches the U.S. border, I was shocked by the starkness and strangeness of this new country and its people. An agua fresca and chilaquiles will never taste the same.

Director, UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic & Center for Assessment
Associate Clinical Professor
Department of Psychology


Book cover for Chip War

Chip War
Chris Miller

What do old graphing calculators, a small island nation, and the fight for global dominance have in common? Semiconductor chips. In Chip War, Chris Miller, history faculty member at Tufts, tells the gripping account of the rise of this technology over the past few decades and the new global arms race. Elegantly weaving the stories of early Silicon Valley personalities with Texas technology (rather than oil) tycoons and ultimately landing in Taiwan, this book will make you understand current geopolitics (like the war in Ukraine) in a new light – I now cannot unsee the importance of these chips.

Director, UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic & Center for Assessment
Associate Clinical Professor
Department of Psychology