The summer before your first year college is spent relaxing and enjoying post-high school life some days and obsessing over what color scheme your dorm room should have on other days. And for many rising college freshmen, preparing for your first college classes means doing the assigned summer reading.
At the University of California-Berkeley, students, faculty and staff create a reading list for incoming freshmen every year. The theme of the class of 2021’s list is “What Can We Change in a Single Generation.”
UC Berkeley wants their new students to know the readings don’t qualify as actual homework.
“’Oh no!’ you may be thinking, ‘Not homework already!’ Not at all,’” the website states. “As in every year, the books on the list are simply offered for you to peruse and read at your leisure — this summer, next year, whenever.”
Homework or no, here are some of the books the Berkeley Class of 2021 — and those who just want to read what they’re reading — will be reading in preparation for their adventure in college as they think about how they will impact the world.
Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording
“We begin the Reading List with some reading for your ears — this year’s On the Same Page selection: the cast recording for the Broadway musical Hamilton,” Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the College of Letters and Science, Bob Jacobsen writes.
Students can listen to the popular tale of Alexander Hamilton and how his contributions in his generation impacted the way government now runs today.
“More than just history, the musical brings forward questions of vital interest even today: The role of individuals and their relations to government, equality and opportunity in a land shaped by immigrants, the importance of family versus accomplishment,” Jacobsen writes, “ and basic questions about American democracy.”
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
John Lewis, today a U.S. Congressman, was once one of the youngest and most influential civil rights leaders who consistently put his life on the line to help educate disenfranchised African-Americans about their right to vote and how to get registered. He marched alongside leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ella Baker and nonviolently protested racial discrimination. Lewis teamed up with congressional aide Andrew Aydin and graphic novelist Nate Powell to write his memoir.
“March, a compelling trilogy of graphic memoirs about Lewis’s experiences participating in nonviolent civil rights protests (the third book of the trilogy recently won a National Book Award), speaks directly to the theme “What Can We Change in a Single Generation?”,” Alfred Day, director of case management division of student affairs, wrote. “And to the current era of social justice activism many Berkeley students are engaged in.”
Borderwall as Architectureby Ronald Rael
Ronald Rael, a UC Berkeley professor of architecture, discusses a timely subject in his new book: the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Through a series of essays by Rael and other contributors that are sometimes practical, sometimes polemical, and sometimes satirical, the wall is examined for its multiple meanings not only from a design perspective,” the website states, “but also from an environmental, economic, and social one, reflecting on the way the wall not only stands as a symbol of security that divides people, but also as an object that has the potential to bring people together.”
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
Chang-Rae Lee’s first novel follows the life of Henry Park, who was born on an airplane leaving Korea on its way to the U.S.
“Set in New York City, this unconventional spy novel chronicles Henry’s astute, methodical observations of the people in his life and the languages they speak,” College Writing Programs lecturer Michelle Baptiste writes. “Henry’s assignment to spy on a Korean-American candidate for mayor pushes Henry to ask difficult questions about his own identity and immigrant politics.”
While the book was published in 1995, it still reveals evergreen complexities about being a first-generation American.
Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream by Sara Goldrick-Rab
Young people face many financial obstacles when trying to achieve a college education: rising tuition and fees, rent, food, books, insufficient financial aid, inability to find flexible work, etc. Many of the incoming freshmen reading this book this summer will relate to the obstacles Sara Goldrick-Rab outlines through her study of thousands of young people.
“Politicians will tell you that they worked their way through college and so should you. But, only a generation ago, theirs was a very different world in which hard work and determination got you a degree,” social sciences division librarian Margaret Phillips wrote. “Implementing policies that will make college affordable for all can happen. But first, we as a society must agree that a college education is a right for all and not just a privilege for those who can afford it.”
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Novelist Barbara Kingsolver follows the story of a young mother, Dellarobia Turnbow, who is trapped in a cycle of rural poverty until a mysterious event happens in the woods outside of her Appalachian home.
“As reporters, environmentalists, and scientists descend on her small town, what begins as the story of a bored and restless wife contemplating an affair morphs into an expansive tale that considers not only the possibility of personal change,” Berkeley Connect associate director Michele Rabkin writes, “but the impact of climate change.”
Incoming Berkeley students will read about how Turnbow decides what kind of life she will make for herself and how she will impact the world her children will grow up in.
Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economyby Kevin Bales
“If you knew nothing about modern day slavery, you might think that a writer investigating the subject would need to go to extraordinary lengths to find any human beings still living as chattel slaves in the Twenty-First Century,” UC Berkeley library systems staffer Kurt True writes. “What I learned, though, is that modern day slave economies operate openly, all over the world, and that as many as 25 million people in the world — right now, today — live in slavery.”
Bales writes about modern day slaves that might be farmers, textile workers, or miners and how the products of their labor can be found all over the world and even in our own homes. In suggesting this book, True hopes students will act on what they learn.
“Bales, though, doesn’t just set out to horrify the reader with the scope and reach of modern day slavery,” True writes. “He also provides, in the book’s last two chapters, suggestions for actions that concerned citizens — and consumers — can take to help eradicate slavery from our world.”
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Siddhartha Mukherjee writes about the biography of cancer from its origins to the battle of conquering and controlling it.
Haas School of Business lecturer Janet Brady added the book to the list with the hope that, “Maybe our future students will find a cure.”
Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne
Simone Browne focuses on modern surveillance practices, like closed circuit TV surveillance systems and airport security facial recognition programs, and how they such systems can be used as racially motivated surveillance in the policing of black life, as they are “rooted in historical methods of surveillance and connect to modern manifestations,” UC Berkeley junior Camryn Bell said.
Bell suggested adding the book to the list after reading it for a data course. “As data collection and surveillance practices have become intensely enmeshed into our daily lives, this is an important text to consider,” Bell said. “Dark Matters is really compelling in how it situates technology in the scope of current, and historical, social and racial issues in modern America.”
This list has been highly anticipated by Berkeley students and lovers of books alike. Some readers, and authors, are using the hashtag #CalSummerReading to discuss the list.
And more …
Other colleges have recently released their summer 2017 reading lists too. Here are a few of them:
- Duke University: Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco
- Stanford University: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
- Smith College: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
- Bucknell University and Williams College: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Filed under: CAMPUS BEAT Tagged: Bucknell University, college reading, common reading, Duke University, freshman reading, KYLER SUMTER, smith college, Stanford University, summer reading, UC Berkeley, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Williams College