Summer reading: Brandeis community offers picks

Summer book recs

BrandeisNOW asked university faculty, staff, alumni and students for summer reading recommendations. No matter your taste, you’ll find something worth your while in this diverse array of picks:

"Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession" by Hilary Campbell
If you were a fan of true crime before the rest of the planet jumped on the bandwagon in the age of Netflix and “Murders in the Building,” then you’re the target audience for this book. Campbell is a New Yorker cartoonist, stand-up comedian and alarmingly serious true crime buff. The fixation runs in her family, a gene passed down by her mom and shared by her sisters, all of whom bond affectionately over serial killers, homicidal pick-up artists, spouse slayers and so on. The book is at once laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely thoughtful about the American, especially the American female, affinity for true crime. And remember: it’s always the husband. -Thomas Doherty, professor of American studies

"The Peacemaker's Code" by Deepak Malhotra
This is a new science fiction page-turner by a leading negotiation scholar that advances negotiation theory while speculating on the dynamics of negotiating after first contact with what looks to be an advanced civilization that may or may not have our best interests in mind. -Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, professor and associate dean of academics, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

"The Book of Hope" by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
In this era of environmental doomism, it's really refreshing to hear from the wisdom of Jane Goodall about why she maintains hope for our planet. I particularly enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book so I could hear Jane tell her stories first hand. Not only does this book bring hope, but it inspires us to act and to have confidence that our actions matter and make a difference. -Sally Warner, Assistant Professor of Climate Science

"The Echomaker" by Richard Powers
This is a story about a brother who, after a car accident, emerges from a coma with a brain injury. As Mark emerges from his coma, he believes the woman nursing him back to health, his sister, is really an identical imposter. A famous neurologist diagnoses Mark with Capgras syndrome, or "delusion of doubles,” and Mark tries to uncover what really happened to cause his car accident. An anonymous note was found at the accident scene. It's set in rural Nebraska. -Tessa Venell, senior proposal development specialist, Office of the Vice Provost for Research

"The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee
This book is written for the public, including those without a deep knowledge on biology or cancer. It takes the reader through cancer history, from early civilizations records until 2010. It explains how science has changed treatments, and how different organizations and politics have shaped the battle against cancer. -Esther Révai, MA’16

"Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro
I always enjoy books by Kazuo Ishiguro, who gradually reveals to the reader the role of the protagonist via their intermittent thoughts. Klara and the Sun addresses concepts of what it means to be a person through the eyes of an artificially intelligent robot whose role is to be the best friend of a child in a dystopian future. Like many of his books, it is full of poignancy. I am now reading an earlier one, "Never let me go," by the same author. It has similar dystopian science fiction themes, and I highly recommend that too! -Paul Miller, associate professor of biology

Note: "Klara and the Sun" was the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences winter book club book. This summer, the club is reading "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus.

"The Lost Shtetl" by Max Gross
This book explores what would happen if  a small town in Poland avoided the devastation of World War II, becoming isolated from the rest of the world until the present day. The Lost Shtetl is surprisingly character-focused, and the story is also particularly relevant during the bout of inflation we are currently experiencing. Funny at times and devastatingly sad at others. -Jamie Trope’25

"Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War" by Roger Lowenstein
Lowenstein does an outstanding job explaining how the federal government’s financing of the unprecedented spending to fight the Civil War led to innovations in monetary policy, tax policy, banking and the bond market.  It is great financial history. -George J. Hall, Fred C. Hecht Professor of Economics

"The End of Days" by Jenny Erpenbeck
I enjoyed the unusual structure of this book and found relevance in revisiting the most troubling chapters of 20th century Central and Eastern European history. -Dmitry Troyanovsky, Barbara Sherman '54 and Malcolm L Sherman Associate Professor of Theater Arts

"The Weather Machine" by Andrew Blum
It is an interesting connection of modeling, data, politics and science. It made for a really interesting read on what goes into the weather forecasts we take for granted. Also, it is a nice example of how very complex models get continuously tweaked to line up with new and ever richer data sets. -Blake Lebaron, Abram L. and Thelma Sachar Professor of International Economics

"Build Your Board, Build Your Business: The Path to Million Dollar Success Explained" By Barbara Clarke, MA'91
This book is a must-read for anyone who is building, or managing, a board. Key takeaways from the book are: 1) invite board members who have different strengths and abilities to you; 2) establish a good communication strategy and cadence of meetings; and 3) lean on your board in times of trouble. "Build Your Board, Build Your Business," is as relevant to non-profit organizations as it is to businesses. Barbara Clarke has done a huge service to heads of organizations in sharing her insights!" -Katy Graddy, dean of Brandeis International Business School and the Fred and Rita Richman Distinguished Professor in Economics

"E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation" by David Bodanis
A refreshing point of view about the development of a scientific achievement that shows how many people tried and failed, almost got there without reaching the end-point, before the famous accomplishment was recognized by the world and attributed to that one person. -Galit Eizman, lecturer in economics

"Cloud Cuckoo Land" by Anthony Doerr
A brilliant, magical, timely book – even though it goes back and forth in time –  a wonderful novel. -Sarah Shoemaker, associate university librarian for archives and special collections

"Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language" by Gretchen McCulloch
This book will explain why the older folks in your life end sentences like this… -Emily Hartman, library resource sharing coordinator

"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan
A fun vacation read. Lightly satirical; won’t be starting any revolutions. -Maric Kramer, social sciences librarian

The following three books were recommended by Hillary Kativa, manager of digital distinctive collections, Brandeis Library:

"Harlem Shuffle" by Colson Whitehead
“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked." This is a book to savor. Whitehead vividly conjures 1960's Harlem with such electric prose, it's impossible not to be swept away.

"French Braid" by Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler never fails to delight. I especially enjoyed the multi-generational scope and the shifting perspectives among the different family members.

"The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson
It's impossible not to be captivated by this truly epic history. The depth of Isabel Wilkerson's research is astounding and the three migrants whose stories she focuses her narrative on are as richly drawn as any novel.

The following three books were recommended by Ilse Allen, library public services coordinator:
"Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood" by William J. Mann
A history of how the Hollywood film industry grew during its early years, this book is full of juicy stories of sex, drugs, and murder in the period of transition from silent film to the dawn of the talkie during the decadence of the Roaring 20s. A great read for anyone interested in true crime and the Hollywood history.

"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
A classic! It will make your heart run the range of emotions and pulls you into the characters with Walker's choice to use the dialect of her ancestors to tell their stories-stories of pain and abuse, of love and friendship, and in the joy of finding one's self through the trials and tribulations in life, hope, and redemption.

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman
A tragically wonderful story about an orphaned toddler adopted by ghosts and how he learns to live with one foot in the spirit, and one in the human, worlds.

The following three books were recommended by Maria Madison, interim dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management:

"The Sum of Us" by Heather McGhee
McGhee zeros in on the zero sum mentality fueling aspects of racism, particularly those aspects that grow the inequity divide. "This is the story of how public goods in this country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare."  McGhee promotes a 'solidarity dividend' solution. Whether a reader agrees or not, it's a compelling read and necessary walk through history and America.

"Who is Black and Why: A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race" by Henry Louis Gates
Henry Louis Gates and Andrew Curran bring together historical voices demonstrating how ignorance and discriminatory science manipulate popular beliefs to justify the dehumanization and commodification of Blacks. Author Jill Lepore said of the book: “The eighteenth-century essays published for the first time in Who’s Black and Why? contain a world of ideas―theories, inventions, and fantasies―about what blackness is, and what it means. To read them is to witness European intellectuals, in the age of the Atlantic slave trade, struggling, one after another, to justify atrocity.”

"The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure" by Yascha Mounk
Some democracies are highly homogeneous. Others have long maintained a brutal racial or religious hierarchy, with some groups dominating and exploiting others. Never in history has a democracy succeeded in being both diverse and equal, treating members of many different ethnic or religious groups fairly. And yet achieving that goal is now central to the democratic project in countries around the world. It is, Yascha Mounk argues, the greatest experiment of our time."

The following three books were recommended by David Weil, professor and former Heller School dean:

"Trust" by Hernan Diaz  
A compelling novel that examines the effects of a turn of the century businessman's empire on the lives of others around him and over time.

"Scientist: E.O Wilson: A Life in Nature" by Richard Rhodes  
A biography that captures the development of one of the great figures in evolutionary biology and advocate for biodiversity.

"The Future We Need" by Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta
Two innovative leaders in workplace advocacy discuss the links between economic justice and political democracy.

The following three books were recommended by Ahmad Namini, professor of the practice of business analytics:

"The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography" by Simon Singh
An account of the use of secret codes throughout history to modern implementations.

"The Age of AI: And Our Human Future" by Henry Kissenger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher.
Three of the world’s most accomplished and deep thinkers come together to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the way it is transforming human society—and what this technology means for us all.

"Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions" by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
An exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind. 

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