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Summer Reading: Silent Spring

Silent Spring

Silent Spring
Rachel Carson
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002

Originally published in 1962, Silent Spring is credited with advancing the concepts of environmentalism that led to the founding of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and existing laws that protect the air and water. Currently the agency, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act are threatened. Gaining knowledge of the basis for the creation of the Agency and these environmental regulations allows one to articulate a position for maintaining and strengthening them.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Where Song Began

Where Song Began

Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World
Tim Low
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016

Low’s book challenges expectations that all species originated from similar areas of the globe, instead arguing that most birds around the world today originated in Australia–and that they have influenced the world, including humans, to sing. He provides interesting insights into the size and aggressiveness of Australian birds, as well as odd and rare species, such as those with poisonous feathers.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Making Sense of Science

Making Sense of Science

Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin
Cornelia Dean
Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017

Cornelia Dean was a New York Times science writer for over thirty years and is currently a writer-in-residence at Brown University. Given her excellent previous work, I have every confidence that her new book, Making Sense of Science, will be well written and informative. The book is targeted for non-scientists who seek the background needed to evaluate scientific claims. Books like Dean’s are especially timely because of the anti-science climate that now reigns in Washington.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Paying the Price

Paying the Price

Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream
Sara Goldrick-Rab
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016

Goldrick-Rab conducted this study of thousands of young people to understand the obstacles they face in completing a degree whether at a two-year or four-year college. She discovered what you probably already know. Young people from middle class and low income families alike confront many challenges just to get an education: rising tuition and fees; the high cost of living (rent, food, gas, books, etc); a complicated and insufficient Federal aid program; difficulties finding flexible work that allows students to pay for and stay in school full time. 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. 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.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Our Kids

Our Kids

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
Robert D. Putnam
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015

Can we reduce inequality and improve the lives of America’s youth in a generation? This book, an exploration of inequality in the lives of American children, may be a cautionary tale in its sobering portrait of what happened in the author’s own lifetime. Robert Putnam grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and most of the kids in his hometown took advantage of all that the American dream had to offer and went on to live better than their parents. As he and his researchers studied working families all across the country, what they observed was increased separation between those with a college education and those without. Educated families have more stable jobs, parent differently, and live in vastly different neighborhoods, all of which adds up to greater advantages and more opportunities for their children. Of course, health problems, divorce, and other life traumas do not discriminate by class but upper middle class families have more resources and more social capital to draw on and a bigger cushion to protect them when they hit a rough patch.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Disposable People

Disposable People

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy
Kevin Bales
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004

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. Maybe put on a disguise and infiltrate a remote compound, far from the reach of any civil authority. That’s what I thought before I read Kevin Bales’ book, Disposable People. 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.

Modern day slaves might be farmers, miners, brick makers, or textile workers. They might live in India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mauritania, or Brazil. They are part of the global economy, and the products of their labor can be found all over the world, maybe even in your own home.

Bales, though, doesn’t just set out to horrify the reader with the scope and reach of modern day slavery. 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.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Tomatoland

Tomatoland

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
Barry Estabrook
Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011

Estabrook’s book brings to light the costs of growing tomatoes in Florida, in terms of both environmental and labor practices. As an example of the new “politics of food” movement, it is an especially accessible account of the deep and troubling backstory behind the mainstream American diet.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Native Speaker

Native Speaker

Native Speaker
Chang-rae Lee
New York: Riverhead Books, 1995

Chang-rae Lee’s beautifully written first novel, Native Speaker, follows the life of Henry Park—born on an airplane ride en route from Korea to the United States. 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. 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. Lee explores race and relationships, alienation and assimilation, morality and personal gain, the personal and public—revealing the complexities of what it means to be first-generation American.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Hag-Seed

Hag-Seed

Hag-Seed
Margaret Atwood
New York: Hogarth, 2016

A modern update to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, told from the perspective of a theater director who has been ousted from his post, and is plotting his revenge on his enemies while/through teaching Shakespeare-in-performance to prisoners, written by one of the best authors of our time. (And a good opportunity to revisit The Handmaid’s Tale.)

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Summer Reading: Nonsense

Nonsense

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
Jamie Holmes
New York: Crown Publishers, 2015

The very real perils and consequences of jumping to conclusions, of feeling total certainty and confidence, and the power of being able to handle ambiguity. (John Keats called this “Negative capability,” and he saw it most vividly in Shakespeare’s writing.) Told through a series of case studies ranging from the workplace to personal life. If our modern condition is one of unpredictability and increasing complexity, Holmes’ lessons for “how to deal with what we don’t understand” are particularly urgent.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

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