UC Berkeley News


Piggy's got the conch . . . plus, he's made the list
This year's Summer Reading List, which focuses on survival, can fill in while Reality TV is on hiatus

| 06 June 2007

Students navigating their freshman year at Berkeley this fall may find the 2007 unofficial UC Berkeley Summer Reading List especially helpful. The theme is listed as "Survival!" on the brochures tucked into their orientation packets.

The exclamation mark was added for excitement, says Steve Tollefson, a College Writing Programs lecturer and director of the Office of Educational Development, who has been compiling the annual list with Elizabeth Dupuis, associate university librarian, for more than 20 years.

Summer Reading List 2007
Ecology of Fear, by Mike Davis (1998)

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, by Bernd Heinrich (2003)

My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, by Rebekah Nathan (2005)

The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler (1993)

Lincoln at Gettysburg, by Garry Wills (1992)

Island, by Aldous Huxley (1962)

The Population Bomb, by Paul R. Ehrlich (1968)

The Epic of Gilgamesh,
translated by Andrew George (2003)

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1960)

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding (1955)

Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, by Primo Levi (1961)

Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor (1988)

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard (2005)

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Trade, by Saidiya Hartman (2007)

Falling Leaves: A True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (1998)

77 Dream Songs
by John Berryman (1964)

After soliciting recommendations from various members of the campus community, Tollefson and Dupuis received results that ranged from post-apocalyptic narratives such as Lord of the Flies to Primo Levi's memoir of life in a concentration camp to harrowing tales of survival on islands and in strange ecosystems.

"Global warming, extinction of species, loss of biodiversity, the avian flu, pollution, globalization: the threats to our survival are all around us. How do we survive as a planet, as a species, as cultures, as individuals?" Tollefson and Dupuis wrote in asking for recommendations. "We're looking for books - of any genre - about survival: the threats to survival, the paths to survival, tales of survival from the past, and thoughts on what it means to survive or not - human, plant, animal, planet."

Librarian Karen Munro responded with Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower. "I read this book as a graduate student, one hot summer in Iowa," she wrote in her recommendation. "It's set in a frightening, falling-apart California of the future, a place where drought, pollution, drugs, and violence have made life almost impossible outside of gated communities."

My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student also made the list. For the book, anthropologist Cathy Small, under the nom de plume Rebekah Nathan, enrolled as an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University, where she teaches. Gonzalo Arrizon, coordinator for study strategies at Berkeley's Student Learning Center, found it eye-opening. "This ethnography is a must-read for any undergraduate wanting to thrive, and not just survive, at a research university," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Ryan, assistant professor of plant and microbial biology, found Mike Davis' Ecology of Fear surprisingly enthralling. "There's a section on long-term climate changes and weather patterns that I thought would be deadly boring, but it was riveting. Honestly, I really don't like nonfiction much, but I loved this," she wrote in her recommendation.

Also a highlight of the 2007 list is Gary Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg, which explores survival on many levels during the Civil War in 1863. The book will also be the featured text for the College of Letters and Science's On the Same Page program for fall 2007, when Wills is scheduled to deliver a campus lecture and meet with students to discuss the book. On the Same Page is a program that provides each freshman with a book that has changed the way we view the world, as well as opportunities to discuss the book with faculty members.

The list is not required reading for freshmen, but is prepared for their enlightenment and enjoyment. Visit reading.berkeley.edu for the list and written recommendations. A blog will also be attached to the Summer Reading List website, allowing readers to post their comments.

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