Click here to bypass page layout and jump directly to story.=

UC Berkeley >

University of California

News - Media Relations






  Press Releases

  Image Downloads



UC Berkeley's 2000 Summer Reading List introduces incoming freshmen to great writers on campus
08 Jun 2000

By Gretchen Kell, Media Relations

Berkeley -- On beaches and lunch breaks and travels this summer, students planning to enter the University of California, Berkeley, as fall freshmen already are meeting UC Berkeley faculty members - through the pages of 24 great books.

UC Berkeley's unofficial Summer Reading List is out, and all of this year's selections were authored by campus faculty members, including a Nobel Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and several recipients of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Many incoming students are unaware that these respected writers - including Maxine Hong Kingston, Robert Hass, Czeslaw Milosz, Leonard Michaels and Thom Gunn - are teaching, or once taught, at UC Berkeley, said Steve Tollefson, faculty development coordinator for the Office of Student Life/Educational Development. He co-produces the annual reading list with Ellen Meltzer, head of the Teaching Library at Moffitt Library.

"Many of the authors are still teaching here," Tollefson added, "and perhaps these students will be lucky enough to take a class from some of them."

The books' diverse topics include the role of men and women in horror films, the origin of the idea of vampires, metaphors, architecture, slavery, the search for the remains of an asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaur, surfing and AIDS.

Five books of fiction, four books of poetry and 15 books of non-fiction are suggested, "and none of the non-fiction is dry," said Tollefson.

Tollefson, a lecturer for the campus's College Writing Programs, said it was difficult putting this year's list together, since there are many published writers at UC Berkeley. "Some of their books just weren't for 18-year-olds," he explained, "and others were very good, but not summer reading for young people."

This year, the list was compiled by instructors in the College Writing Programs and by campus librarians. Two books, Kingston's "Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts" and "Jasmine" by Bharati Mukherjee, got the most recommendations.

Gail Offen-Brown, a College Writing Programs lecturer, suggested English professor Mukherjee's "Jasmine," the story of a young woman from India who comes to America illegally.

"Freshmen should read this book because it tells an important and exciting story of America today, an America of illegal immigrants, of Yuppie New York intellectuals, of the 'day mummies' who raise their children, of Midwestern farmers losing their farms, to name only a few," said Offen-Brown.

"It's brilliantly written," she added, "and a great read."

Jane Hammons, assistant director of the College Writing Programs, recommended "Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life In Brazil," a work of non-fiction by anthropology professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

"She tells us about blood and dirt and death - and birth - in vivid detail that helps us understand the people she lives among and writes about," said Hammons. "She never hides from the reader.

"Students will find no better model of ethnography, a kind of text they will most certainly be asked to read and will very well be asked to write as they pursue their educations at Berkeley."

Librarian Meltzer contributed psychology professor Christina Maslach's "Burnout: The Cost of Caring," to the summer reading list, saying it's not a "sit-on-the-beach-and-sip-a-Coke" book, but that it's accessible and enjoyable.

"Everyone's heard about burnout, and it was one of our own faculty members who originally did research in this field," said Meltzer. "This should be exciting to students when they begin to think about what it will really be like to come here and be in contact with faculty."

Meltzer said students headed to UC Berkeley "have worked really hard, and if they haven't already, they will come to points in their lives when they'll experience burnout."

A few of the professors on the list are no longer are alive, but students can meet them through their books and glimpse the campus's long literary history, said Tollefson.

Eugene Burdick, who became well known for writing "Fail Safe," was an assistant professor of political science who died in 1965. He's on the reading list for "The Ninth Wave," which mixes the early days of surfing with California politics.

Josephine Miles, who, at the end of her teaching days, was so frail she was carried to class by students, is an unsung poet worth learning about, added Tollefson. Miles, who died in 1985, was the first woman professor in UC Berkeley's English department.

The late George R. Stewart, who taught English at UC Berkeley, is on the list for "Earth Abides," a science fiction novel set in Berkeley, including on the campus. "It should be required reading for every student at Berkeley," said Tollefson. "The Bay Bridge is there, and the Main Library, among other things."

While some books are out of print, all of them are available through the campus library and other libraries, as well as through on-line booksellers.

In past years, the Summer Reading List has been full of surprises, including "The Communist Manifesto," the Old Testament and, last year, "Winnie the Pooh."

This year's list is just as entertaining and unpredictable.

"You wouldn't expect many of these books to be on the list," said Tollefson, "but what do you expect from Berkeley?"




"The Ninth Wave" by Eugene Burdick
Houghton Mifflin, 1956 (out of print)
Burdick, an assistant professor of political science who died in 1965, is most famous for his two other books, "Fail Safe" and "The Ugly American." But "The Ninth Wave" may be his most intriguing, especially for Californians. It mixes the early days of surfing with California politics.

"Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts" by Maxine Hong Kingston
Vintage Books, 1989 (c. 1976)
A senior lecturer in UC Berkeley's English department, Kingston tells the story of her life, and that of her mother, in a beautiful, gripping account full of ghosts, strange visiting relatives, misunderstandings between parents and children, folktales, and insight into life in both China and the United States.

"Going Places" by Leonard Michaels
New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1969 (out of print)
This first collection of short stories by English professor Leonard Michaels is a savage and funny look at love, sex, friendship and New York. Although Michaels went on to greater fame with his novel "The Men's Club," the freshness and intensity of the stories in "Going Places" makes this book special.

"Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart
Fawcett, 1989 (c. 1949)
The late Stewart, an English professor at UC Berkeley, wrote several well-known books including "Storm" and "Fire." "Earth Abides" is a science fiction novel about the people left to rebuild civilization after a plague has wiped out most of the world. The book is set in Berkeley, including UC Berkeley, and in Oakland.

"Jasmine" by Bharati Mukherjee
Grove Press, 1999 (c. 1989)
In this award-winning novel, Jasmine journeys from India to Iowa and learns much about identity and modern life along the way. Mukherjee, an English professor, captures the essence of how our world looks today.


"The Man With Night Sweats" by Thom Gunn
Noonday Press, 1993 (c. 1992)
Gunn, a UC Berkeley English professor, stabs readers in the heart with this book of personal, painful, but often redemptive poems on the AIDS pandemic.

"Sun Under Wood: New Poems" by Robert Hass
Ecco Press, 1998 (c. 1996)
The former U.S. Poet Laureate, Hass gives music and voice to the big issues of midlife - connection, communication, family, mortality. Many of these poems shine with California perspective. The UC Berkeley English professor meditates on the body, Berkeley, food, aging and marriage.

"Collected Poems, 1930-83" by Josephine Miles
University of Illinois Press, 1999 (c.1983)
Miles, a former English professor at UC Berkeley, was one of the most well-known and respected writers on the Berkeley campus until her death in 1985. Her "Collected Poems" won the Leonore Marshall/Nation Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

"Collected Poems: 1931-1987" by Czeslaw Milosz
Ecco Press, 1990 ( c.1988)
The poems of this Nobel Laureate and UC Berkeley professor emeritus of English are crucial to the citizens of the world who care about history's effects on humanity. Milosz, who is Slavic, writes in his native Polish language and has worked closely with translator Robert Hass, a UC Berkeley professor, for many years. This book is one of the most stunning results.


"T-Rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez
Vintage Press, 1998 (c. 1997)
Alvarez, a professor of geology, is one of a group of UC Berkeley scientists who first proposed that dinosaurs were wiped out by the effects of a huge asteroid hitting the earth. This is a true-life, wonderfully readable detective story of their search for the crater.

"Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film" by Carol Clover
Princeton University Press, 1993 (c. 1992)
This book may be the only one by a UC Berkeley faculty member to be a finalist in the Bram Stoker Award, given by the Horror Writers Association. Clover, a professor of both Scandinavian Studies and rhetoric, discusses the role of men and women in these movies.

"The Pooh Perplex, A Freshman Casebook" by Frederick Crews
Dutton, 1963 (out of print)
In this book, a great satire on literary interpretation, each character speaks for a particular school of literary analysis and presents a hilarious interpretation of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. Crews is professor emeritus of English.

"The Vampire: A Casebook" by Alan Dundes
University of Wisconsin Press, 1998
Dundes, a professor of anthropology and folklore, explains all about vampires - from the origins of the idea of vampires to the various cultures that believe in them - in this collection of essays.

"Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976" by Barbara Christian
Greenwood Press, 1980 (out of print)
Christian, a professor of African American Studies, opened up a new genre - the study of literature by black women writers - that led to an understanding and appreciation of writers such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Paule Marshall.

"Coming of Age in the Milky Way" by Timothy Ferris
Anchor Books, 1989 (c. 1998)
This book is a whirlwind trip - from prehistoric times right up until today - through space, time and what people have believed about them. Ferris is a professor emeritus of journalism.

"The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work" by Arlie Hochschild
Owl Books, 1998 (c. 1997)

Sociology professor Hochschild looks at what happens when the converging pressures of post-feminist reality meet two-career family issues. This thoughtful, political book looks at some surprising issues, such as family members taking "refuge" in work, away from the pressures and heightened expectations of family life.

"A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals" by Spiro Kostoff
Oxford University Press, 1995 (c. 1985)
The late Kostoff, a former professor of architecture, produced a very readable history of worldwide architecture and urbanism that places the built environment in the context of the social and political forces that shaped it.

"Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff
University of Chicago Press, 1983 (c. 1980)
The thesis of this book is simple: metaphors are not simply figures of speech, but ways we look at the world. A professor of linguistics, Lakoff shows us that such common phrases as "spending time" and "wasting time" reveal more about us that we might think.

"Talking Power: The Politics of Language" by Robin Tolmach Lakoff
Basic Books, 1990 (out of print)
In this book, Lakoff, a linguistics professor, covers many aspects of our use of language, from the courtroom to the classroom. Although the topics may seem deep, Lakoff's style is open to all readers.

"Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery" by Leon Litwack
Random House, 1980 (c. 1979)
A professor of history, Litwak won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for this study. It is not the kind of history text most of us are used to, but an engaging work that draws on, among its many sources, diaries of slave owners and interviews with ex-slaves.

"Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil" by Nancy Scheper-Hughes
University of California Press, 1993 (c. 1992)
This is a wrenching, ethnographic account of the brevity of life in the favela, a typical town market town, that reads like a novel, making a case for ethnography as an art form. Scheper-Hughes is a professor of anthropology.

"A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America" by Ronald Takaki
Little Brown and Co., 1994 (c. 1993)
Everyone has contributed to America, and in this book, Takaki, a professor of Ethnic Studies, covers many of those contributions, as well as the conflicts between the various groups that make up this country.

"Burnout: The Cost of Caring" by Christina Maslach
Prentice Hall, 1982
Based on 10 years of research, this book is one of the earliest, most accessible and still most useful books on the topic of burnout. It is peppered with personal accounts from Maslach, a professor of psychology, yet based on solid research. It's a great starting-out point for an increasingly important topic in the digital age.

"Soldier: A Poet's Childhood" by June Jordan
Basic Civitas Books, 2000
Jordan, an African American Studies professor, tells us about her childhood in New York and the roots of her life as a poet, essayist and novelist.


UC Berkeley | News | Archives | Extras | Media Relations

Comments? E-mail

Copyright 2000 UC Regents. All rights reserved.