The University of Texas at Austin
  • 58 Books to Love This Summer (or Anytime)

    By Tracy Mueller
    Published: June 3

    Freshman Reading Roundup

    [Photograph: Kate Ter Haar/Flickr]

    For the book lovers among us, summer means making a little extra time to fall in love with a new title or revisit an old favorite.

    Incoming University of Texas at Austin freshmen are no exception, and the 12th annual Reading Round-up invites them to join a campus-wide book club that promises an introduction to the university they won’t soon forget. Not to mention it offers plenty of new entries for their must-read lists.

    Reading Round-up shares professors’ picks for books they think new college students should read, from the classics to modern novels to practical nonfiction. Students in the Class of 2018 pick a book from the list, sign up online and read it before the fall semester begins. On Aug. 26, the day before classes start, faculty will lead small group discussions with the students who read their pick. (See the entire list here.)

    Educational psychology professor Leslie Moore led a discussion on the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” last year and will do so again this summer.

    “Having the opportunity to share this experience with curious, knowledgeable and prepared students is one of the privileges of academia,” says Moore. “I had students with a variety of majors and backgrounds — from engineering to education — which added to the breadth of the discussion. If these students are representative of our future, UT is in great shape!”

    Whether you’re about to begin college or your campus days are long in the past, peruse the list and get to know a good book or two.

    A Mountain of Crumbs

    A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir 

    by Elena Gorokhova

    Professor Christopher Long, Architecture

    Elena Gorokhova’s “A Mountain of Crumbs” is a lyrical and moving memoir of a young girl growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. It is an extraordinary document, by turns revealing of the Soviet reality of the time, ardent, and funny. Gorokhova’s English is smart, limpid, and beguiling: she is a splendid writer. Her book is a very good read and a remarkable portrait of a place and time now all but faded from view.

     

     

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    by Khaled Hosseini

    Professor Leslie Moore, Educational Psychology

    An engrossing story of the fate and friendship of two women in modern Afghanistan. I chose this book because in our global society, it gives a personal face to a country that is now part of U.S. history. While reading about the hardships in the lives of men and women in Afghanistan, I learned about how important creating meaning in life is to people everywhere. This book starts as a slow read, but hang in there: it quickly becomes a page turner.

     

     

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    All Quiet on the Western Front 

    by Erich Maria Remarque

    Professor Alan K Cline, Computer Sciences

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the First World War. It is time to take lessons from that period’s effects on the youth of the time. The hero of “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a 19-year old young man initially led more by the pressures of associates and society than by his own judgement. Through the story and in addition to the horrors of war, he faces questions of identity, loyalty, innocence and sacrifice, just as many people of his age — including university freshmen.

     

     

     

    A Beautiful Boy

    Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction 

    by David Sheff

    Professor Lori Holleran Steiker, Social Work

    This #1 New York Times bestseller depicts a family’s experience with addiction, covering a substantial portion of the author’s son’s life and the struggles to live with, help and understand a person with a substance use disorder. Elegantly weaving an emotional narrative with evidence-based science, this acclaimed memoir is an excellent vehicle to understanding addiction and recovery, and learning more about yourself in the process.

     

     

    Cutting for Stone

    Cutting for Stone 

    by Abraham Verghese

    Professor Pauline Strong, Anthropology

    Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers, orphaned at birth by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance. They grow up on the grounds of a small hospital in Ethiopia, under the care of a surrogate family operating within the constantly shifting turmoil of a country on the very brink of revolution. The novel deftly weaves detailed surgical descriptions with themes of love, betrayal, faith, humor and coming of age. Like the author, who is a leading figure in the medical humanities and a practicing doctor, the novel’s well-developed characters share his fascination with medicine.

     

     

    How to Create a Mind

    How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed 

    by Ray Kurzweil

    Professor David Laude, Chemistry

    Kurzweil is the preeminent popular futurist of our time, with books like “The Singularity is Near” and “Age of Spiritual Machines.” In this new book he talks about reverse engineering the brain to figure out how it works and what the nature of intelligence is. Whether you come from the biological side or the artificial intelligence side, this book provides a provocative foray into how mankind will ultimately unlock and harness the extraordinary potential of the brain as we turn it lose on creating artificial consciousness.

     

     

    Life's Greatest Lessons

    Life’s Greatest Lessons: Things That Matter 

    by Hal Urban

    Professor David Fowler, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering

    In this wise, wonderful book award-winning teacher Hal Urban presents 20 principles that are as deeply rooted in common sense as they are in compassion. The topics, gathered from a lifetime of teaching both children and adults, span a wide range of readily understood concepts, including attitudes about money, success and the importance of having fun. Classic in its simplicity and enduring in its appeal, “Life’s Greatest Lessons” will help you find the best in others and in yourself.

     

     

    Oedipus

    Oedipus the King 

    by Sophocles

    Professor William Powers, Law

    Oedipus was written in 5th Century b.c.e. Athens. Fulfilling a prophecy of 
the Oracle at Delphi, Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother and 
then becomes King of Thebes. Later, he investigates the cause of a plague in
 Thebes, only to find that it is he and his sin. The play raises issues of
 free will, humanism and the role of the gods.

     

     

     

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog 

    by Muriel Barbery

    Professor Elizabeth Pomeroy, Social Work

    Paloma is a 12-year-old girl who sees no reason to live. Renee, the story’s narrator, is a 54-year-old single woman who manages the apartment complex where Paloma’s dysfunctional family resides. Renee lives vicariously through the characters in the novels she cherishes. As they lead their parallel lives, Paloma and Renee develop a relationship that is full of humor and sadness; joy and hope; as well as grief and loss. There are cats and goldfish and a rich Japanese tenant. This novel is a richly rewarding experience about the meaning of life and death and hope. Once you start, you won’t be able to put his novel down.

     

    12 Years a Slave

    12 Years A Slave 

    by Solomon Northup

    Professor John Gonzalez, English

    Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, “12 Years a Slave” is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C. in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next 12 years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation. After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.

    See the complete list of faculty-recommended books.


    Surfing, Merle Haggard and Killer Summer Road Trips

    Recommended titles for summer published by the University of Texas Press

    Surf Texas Kenny Braun

    Surf Texas

    by Kenny Braun

    If you can’t go to the beach, bring the beach to you. Texas is one of the top surfing states in America, and Braun has devoted years to photographing the scene from Galveston to South Padre. Large format, pristine black and white photographs make this a perfectly calm book for a lazy summer day.

    Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark

    edited by Chad Hammett

    The closest thing we’ll ever get to an autobiography of Shepard, this collection of letters spans 40 years of friendship, turmoil, failure, fame and family. With equal parts hollywood gossip, tortured artist and genuine remorse, the book is an intimate glimpse of America’s leading dramatist.

    Aransas: A Novel 

    Jacob’s Well: A Novel

    by Stephen Harrigan

    “Jacob’s Well” and “Aransas,” Stephen Harrigan’s first two novels, have been unavailable for far too long. From the beaches of south Texas to the aquifers of central Texas, these two novels are a perfect way to escape to the waters of the Lone Star state, while never leaving your living room. Harrigan is a Texas icon, and these two novels are must-reads for anyone who calls this state home.

    Merle Haggard: The Running Kind

    by David Cantwell

    Haggard continues to tour, even making three stops in Texas this summer, and this book is the most focused study of the artist’s most prolific years available. An American music legend, Haggard’s complex and contradictory career are presented by longtime music critic Cantwell in his famously straightforward and readable style.

    Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate

    by Ginger Strand

    New York Times best-selling author Ginger Strand writes the books that you never knew you wanted to read, but can’t imagine how you lived your life before you read them. In “Killer on the Road,” Strand tells the remarkable story of the American highway system, the planet’s largest public work and the killers who use the system to perform their dark deeds. A perfect companion on those long summer road trips.

    Share this story on Twitter:

    • Quote 2
      Steven said on July 1 at 4:35 p.m.
      Thanks for the potential "reads" lol. Will have to pick a couple of these up over the summer, hopefully all available for Kindle.
    • Quote 2
      Nicolae Ivanciu said on June 29 at 9:52 a.m.
      Enjoying the posts, Inspirational!
    • Quote 2
      Mercedes Meza said on June 25 at 9:30 a.m.
      I absolutely love this list. I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns this summer and loved it. Khaled Hosseini is a great writer; I have read most of his other books. Oedipus the king is also as great, maybe even more.
    • Quote 2
      Greensboro Life Coach said on June 17 at 10:26 a.m.
      Great list - I'll pick some of these for my summer reading!
    • Quote 2
      robert cohen said on June 14 at 11:21 a.m.
      I've pitifully read/heard exactly none of the listed, and I want to know which ones are currently available in audio. A very gifted reader, perhaps a professional actor though not necessarily, can do wonders. But the student wouldn't see important new words by just listening, I suppose. Listening may be relaxing and entertaining, and seemingly not as tiring. That said: There are "tons" of important books, unfortunately for our civilization overall, mostly little read. While I of course would rather be wrong in the generalization/assumption/conjecture. Frankly: The books I do enjoy are neither academic nor boring (to me). A unique voice--perhaps the author's--say John Irving, works well for me, as I just now recall his descriptive random meeting of Thomas Mann's daughter, an airplane seatmate. I actually sort of felt I was overhearing their dialogue.
    • Quote 2
      Baxtiyar said on June 10 at 8:48 a.m.
      "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is the best.
    • Quote 2
      Frederick L Hendrix said on June 8 at 11:35 p.m.
      This is an outstanding program and I commend the participants for their efforts. Quite a few of the books have been in my personal reading list for a while. I only wish participation was open to alumni. That would be a fairly impressive book club.
    • Quote 2
      Bailey said on June 8 at 2:36 p.m.
      As regards the observation that Hispanic, Native American, etc. writers are not included in the list, it becomes tiresome when opinions regarding excellence take a back seat to the need for political correctness.
    • Quote 2
      Craig Brams B.A '79 said on June 8 at 2:13 p.m.
      Quite frankly, I have little concern for the grammatical soundness of the comments of Professor Powers. However, I am deeply troubled by the attempt by some to compile a list of books, worthy of our attention, based not upon literary merit, standing alone, but premised substantially upon demographic or other factors unrelated to the scholarly or historical substance of the work, or other appropriate measure of fair evaluation. Apparently, a list of classical works, and a compilation of works of great American authors (including Twain, Hemingway and Steinbeck, to name a few) would be subject to criticism for lack of diversity of the author pool. I have little doubt that someone out there will find some technical grammatical fault with my submission, and I apologize for any shortcomings in that regard. However, I trust that the UT community will agree with the substance of my concern.
    • Quote 2
      Libea said on June 7 at 9:17 p.m.
      please continue to produce more reading lists like this!! I would think as this list becomes more popular, more faculty will want to contribute thereby generating a more diverse list.....
    • Quote 2
      Dylan said on June 6 at 8:58 p.m.
      The synopsis of All Quiet on the Western Front includes a glaring, though understandable, error. Judgment is written in this passage as "judgement." Additionally, would it be possible to include links for purchase of these books?
    • Quote 2
      Lynne said on June 6 at 7:51 p.m.
      Can a sophomore student participate in Reading Roundup? I think it should be open to any student.
    • Quote 2
      Bill Phipps '74 said on June 6 at 2:45 p.m.
      Actually Prof. Power's sentence is grammatically correct: "Later, he investigates the cause of a plague in
 Thebes, only to find that it is he and his sin." "He" not "him" is the correct pronoun because "is" is grammatically a copulative verb and takes the nominative rather than the objective case. In other words, "He is the cause" not "Him is the cause." I might have written it: "...only to find that it is himself and his sin..." but it's correct as stands.
    • Quote 2
      Susan Morehead said on June 6 at 1:53 p.m.
      Whitty, "it is he..." is correct. The verb "to be" takes the nominative case.
    • Quote 2
      Whitty said on June 6 at 11:54 a.m.
      Oh my! Please screen the writers who submit the short descriptions of the books. I understand that you want the words of those who recommended the books, but at a minimum, the paragraphs should grammatically correct. For example, "he investigates the cause of a plague in
 Thebes, only to find that it is he and his sin" should be written "HIM and his sin..." The errors posted are too numerous to recount here. Who does this article appeal to? People who read and know grammar would be (or should be) appalled that this comes from an institution of higher education.
    • Quote 2
      Roger Nance said on June 5 at 7:26 p.m.
      Heavy stuff (not much fun). Why not a book by Alan Furst? I'm reading "The Polish Officer".
    • Quote 2
      Sharon Marmon-Kaczorowski said on June 5 at 4:03 p.m.
      I am deeply concerned by the absence of Hispanic, African, Native American and Indian writers. This is hardly a diverse list. I am surprised that the faculty and student body would take this without more comment.
    • Quote 2
      Francisco R. Pérez, Ph.D. '77 said on June 5 at 3:27 p.m.
      This is an interesting list. However, as a graduate of the Dept. of Span. and Port., I am baffled about the lack of input by those professors. Surely, there are books by writers of Spanish and Portuguese (even in translation) that merit inclusion in this list. I trust that next year's list will be more diverse.
    • Quote 2
      Joy said on June 4 at 5:16 p.m.
      How can someone download one of these novels online? I would love to read them
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