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!


Feel free to insult each other, forget your manners, create straw men, ignore empirical data, and commit as many other fallacies as you can, all from the cozy, anonymous protection of your keyboard.

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