Summer Reading List

Continuing the tradition (see fall and spring semester lists).

  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Lawrence Wright): I can’t speak to the level of bias in this book, but it was an interesting look at a religion/sect of which I know very little, despite the presence of one of its churches just a couple blocks away from where I live.
  • Why People Die By Suicide (Thomas Joiner): Another book by the same author of Myths About Suicide, which I read earlier this year.
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t (Nate Silver): Made a lot of good points about how we interpret statistics and data, but nothing groundbreaking.  To be honest, the only reason I read it was because its bright yellow cover caught my attention in the move-out donation bins.
  • The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (Deborah Blum): This book was great!  It reminded me a little bit of The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which I read a few years ago: solid science and solid story-telling.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Brené Brown): Not a huge fan.  Not that it was terrible–just not my favorite.  I liked her TED talk a lot more.
  • Is God a Moral Monster? (Paul Copan): This book was actually a little terrible.  While I appreciate that he tried to address some of the big moral conundrums found in the Old Testament (e.g., slavery, the killing of the Canaanites, the role of women), I found his style condescending.  He also spent too much time criticizing atheist thinkers of creating straw men and ad hominems–while himself committing same fallacies.
  • Crazy Love (Francis Chan): The college minister of one of the Christian groups on campus gave a book to each member of the leadership team to read over the summer.
  • T. Rex and the Crater of Doom (Walter Alvarez): For someone not particularly interested in geology or earth history, Alvarez made me pay attention.  After the first chapter, I was a little disappointed, since the book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I became more and more intrigued by his/the world’s journey to discover the Yucatán crater.
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (Oliver Sacks): A short little book of interesting neurological case studies written in the late 90s.
  • War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival (Sheri Fink): Fink’s book on the hospitals after Katrina was one of my favorite books I’ve read recently, so I decided to read more of her work.  As expected, excellent research and excellent writing.
  • The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us (Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons): It was basically an intro psych textbook in regular book form.
  • Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America (Lee Dugatkin): It was a little more philosophical than I was anticipating, but it is a book on the (thoroughly debunked) theory of degeneracy, so I suppose my expectations were a bit off.
  • The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy): This is the first fiction I’ve read since fall (LOTR doesn’t count because I’ve read it before).  I suppose my expectations were pretty low since I didn’t like Gilead (one of the two works of fiction I read last fall), but I surprised myself and really enjoyed (despite my ignorance of literature, which probably caused me to miss half the literary elements and symbolism.)
  • Love and Math: The Hidden Heart of Reality (Edward Frenkel): Frenkel somehow, magically weaves stories from his life with concepts from pure mathematics.  The tone of the book was conversational and easily understood–without being condescending or arrogant.  I’ll admit that I didn’t understand all the math (remember, I do applied math, not the really hard stuff), but it was worth the read anyhow.
  • No Exit and Three Other Plays (The Flies, Dirty Hands, and The Respectful Prostitute) (Jean-Paul Sartre): I read it because someone recommended “No Exit” as the Hell-is-other-people play.  I must admit I haven’t read a play since high school (“Death of a Salesman”?  Ugh.)  I think I actually liked “The Flies” most.

PS: I realize that Amazon isn’t necessarily fair to/good for authors and real bookstores (and publishers, for that matter–I worked in the warehouse of a small-ish publishing house last summer, and believe me, the Amazon orders were a pain-in-the-you-know-what).  I provide Amazon links simply because they’re convenient, not because I agree with all their business practices.  If you want to buy Amazon, it’s a free country.  If you want to buy from a local brick-and-mortar store, it’s still a free country.  If you prefer to use the library, it’s a free country and free books!

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