What's to Read?

Students Decide Themselves and Come Up With an Eclectic Mix From the Bible to Marx

by Gretchen Kell

Is the Bible your idea of summer reading? How about taking "The Communist Manifesto" to the beach? Or cozying up in a hammock with "The Origin of Species?"


The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin, 1859

"The impact of this work on the world of the foundation of modern biological thought...." Randy Clayton, freshman, molecular/cell biology.

The Postman
David Brin, 1986

"...a great science fiction novel that should not be confused with the movie 'Il Postino.' The story focuses on a wanderer who stumbles upon the vestiges of a lost civilization in the form of a dead postman." Ray Ming Chang, freshman, political science.

White Noise
Don DeLillo, 1985

"A satirical portrayal of a modern family and its complete breakdown. With the increase of technology, the anxiety and fear of death become inescapable and govern the lives of adults while children are raised by the mass media and cradled in misinformation...." Jacqueline Cooke, sophomore, ethnic studies.

Red Sky at Morning
Richard Bradford, 1968
"A short novel about a teenage boy growing up in a small town in New Mexico while his father is away at war. He writes about his experiences with humor and a wry tenderness...." Alisa Seo, sophomore, ethnic studies.

A Brief History of Time
Stephen Hawking,1988

"A must for all science majors and humanities majors. It demystifies science and it is especially useful to those taking Astronomy 10 to fulfill the physical science breadth requirement...." Eric Girma, freshman, molecular/cell biology.

In Mad Love and War
Joy Harjo, 1990

"...Although cryptic at first, Harjo's poetry reveals aspects of traditional Native American culture and raises issues facing Native Americans in the United States." Allison Tokunaga, freshman, resource management.

Bastard Out of Carolina
Dorothy Allison, 1992

The child narrator...offers an insightful and tormented view of life in Greenville County, S. C.; a life in which she must cope with adolescence, poverty, and abuse...." Emalie P. Huriaux, sophomore, English.

While not everyone's idea of vacation books, these works are on this year's Berkeley summer reading list for incoming freshmen. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this season, the unofficial list-produced by Moffitt Library and the Office of Student Life/Educational Development-is tucked into information packets that new students receive at campus orientations.

This summer, for the first time since 1987, the books were chosen not by faculty or academic staff members but by freshmen and sophomores.

Steve Tollefson, faculty development coordinator for the Office of Student Life/Educational Development, co-produces the list with campus librarian Ellen Meltzer. He said he initially was worried about asking students, fearing they would choose books that were more slick than substantial.

"But clearly, these books aren't that at all," said Tollefson, who also is a lecturer for Berkeley's College Writing Program. "I'm glad to see students like 'real' books."

Meltzer said she was surprised "how canonical the books are. Many of them are the traditional books often studied in college as well as high school. It's wonderful, in a way, since these works will permeate a lot of their courses and are important works."

"I think these students are saying, 'If you haven't read these books, they will make an impact on you and your education,'" she said.

Tollefson said the idea for the reading list came from a close look at the paperwork Berkeley was giving incoming students.

"Mostly, students at orientation get lots of forms to fill out telling them to do this and do that, but they get very little that addresses the academic life they're going to pursue," he said. "This is something to remind them that there is going to be depth to their freshman year, not just paperwork to complete."

To prepare the summer reading lists, Tollefson and Meltzer each year have asked a different group of faculty or staff members to recom



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