The deadline to sign up for the Summer Reading Program has passed. The forms on this page are now closed and will no longer be accepting submissions.
Be a part of this unique opportunity¬†for incoming students to¬† read a book¬†and spend time with a faculty member in a small group¬†before classes begin!
Learn more about each¬†book¬†a Faculty Facilitator has chosen below. Then, register by clicking on the book title. Space is limited and spots will fill quickly. Visit our FAQ for more information.
Department: Educational Administration & Human Resource Development, College of Education & Human Resources
Summer Book Selection:¬†The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description:¬†‚ÄúIn this fun, erudite, and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings. In rich detail, Sunstein tells the story of the films‚Äô wildly unanticipated success and explores why some things succeed while others fail. Ultimately, Sunstein argues, Star Wars is about freedom of choice and our never-ending ability to make the right decision when the chips are down. Written with buoyant prose and considerable heart, The World According to Star Wars shines a bright new light on the most beloved story of our time.‚ÄĚ
Why did you choose this book?¬†I am not a big Star Wars fan, I could not tell you all of the characters, the names of the episodes (I haven‚Äôt even seen all of them), but I have recognized the tremendous impact this movie has had on millions of people. ¬†I was intrigued when I saw there was a book that uses Star Wars as a lens to consider the world we live in. College is about thinking critically and learning how to learn. ¬†This book challenges us to think critically about how we have come to understand Star Wars and the world we live in.
Department:¬†Animal Science, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
Summer Book Selection: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah¬†(register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: This book is an autobiographical account of the life of Trevor Noah. Today, Trevor Noah is the host of the politically satirical TV program The Daily Show on Comedy Central. A slow but steady start to his term as the host of this show, Trevor Noah has a particularly worldly view on American politics, given that he was actually born and raised in South Africa. And not only was he born in South Africa, he was born to a white father and black mother during the apartheid – a time when such a union and birth was illegal, hence the title of the book. This autobiography takes us through Trevor Noah’s life, from being a young boy with a hidden identity to a world renowned comedian and significant voice during a politically turbulent time.
Why did you choose this book? Aside from the objectively compelling story of a biracial boy born during apartheid in South Africa, I feel Trevor Noah has a unique voice that is particularly relevant to young adults. During this time of political turmoil in a divided country, Trevor Noah has a voice that I feel effectively reaches young adults in a way that is entertaining, relatively bipartisan, and has the ability to engage a younger generation of voters, tax payers, and most importantly, American citizens. Additionally, a story of this nature paints the picture of a life that not many young Americans have the opportunity to witness. The messages of tolerance and change give gravity to this comical tale of a worldly and successful young man, who was “Born a Crime”.
Purchase Born a Crime¬†here.
Department: Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Film Studies, College of Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection: 1984 by George Orwell (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: 1984 is a classic dystopian novel that is once again current and relevant. Originally intended as a warning against the state-sponsored injustice of Cold War era tyranny, the novel is considered a tour de force account of the psychological and physical torture conducted by governments and elites that pursue deception and surveillance as standard operating procedures.
Why did you choose this book? The gradual dehumanization of the protagonist, Winston, provides us with a timely reminder of the fragility of the individual under conditions of tyranny, misinformation, and uncertainty,
Purchase 1984 here.
Name:¬†Jodie C. Gary
Summer Book Selection: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: Henrietta Lacks, known by scientists as HeLa, was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951. Her cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital in developing the polio vaccine, cloning and gene mapping. Her cells have been bought and sold by billions, yet she remains virtually unknown. This is a story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter seeking to know her mother.
Why did you choose this book? The book highlights ethical issues in healthcare, especially with consent. There are interesting perspectives for providing patient-centered care as well as how the science of healthcare moves forward. This book is appealing as it makes the reader think about healthcare as a science and the individuals that receive the care…the human part of the science.
Department:¬†Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine
Brief Book Description: This book is an engrossing collection of essays by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and award-winning writer. The essays deal largely with uncertainties in medicine and the resulting dilemmas. Tales of patients’ and doctors’ experiences add suspense and enliven the discussion of issues. Among areas addressed are sources of medical error, roles of patients and doctors in medical decisions, and competing demands of medical education and patient care. Absorbing and thought-provoking reading!
Why did you choose this book? Some reasons I chose this book are the following: (1) It is well researched and crafted, combining narrative and exposition. (2) It integrates material from many fields, including areas in medicine and in liberal arts. (3) Its medical emphasis may especially appeal to students considering health-related careers. (4) Some of the issues addressed resemble ones the students are likely to face in college and beyond. (5) The book is engaging and readable. (6) It is readily available and inexpensive.
Brief Book Description: Review from Booklist: ¬†“Here‚Äôs a fascinating counterpoint to the notion that making a mistake somehow diminishes you as a person. We shouldn‚Äôt fear error, the author says; rather, we should embrace it because it‚Äôs our capacity for making mistakes that makes us who we are. (‚ÄúTo err is human‚ÄĚ isn‚Äôt just an empty clich√©.) Schulz explores the nature of error: are big mistakes fundamentally different from small mistakes, or are they all essentially the same?”
Why did you choose this book? Your experience in college will be full of new experiences, some of which will be mistakes. ¬†But being wrong is hard. ¬†Learning how to deal with failure is an important part of your college experience, your academic development, and your growth as a human being. ¬† Join this reading group to explore how making mistakes can be a good thing. ¬†Talk about your fears with other Aggies and get started at A&M with a healthy outlook this fall.
Summer Book Selection: The Prince by Machiavelli ¬†(register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: Written in the 1500’s, this work is one of the first works of modern political philosophy. ¬†It provides examples and insights to decision-making that weighs the value of different levels of ethics in striving for a goal, and compares the short-term to the long-term in areas of success and the loyalty of others.
Why did you choose this book? There are many paths to success in life. ¬†The same holds true in college. ¬†However, all paths come with a cost. ¬†We will examine some of the paths to leadership and relationship as described by the book, listing strengths and weaknesses of each. ¬†Then we will identify comparisons to different paths in college life, and discuss some of the skills and strategies that might be best suited to successfully navigate those paths, while being mindful of the risks and pitfalls that may also be present.
Purchase The Prince¬†here.
Department:¬†Sociology, College of Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection:¬†Dune by Frank Herbert (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the “spice” melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted ‚ÄĒ and dangerous ‚ÄĒ undertaking.
Why did you choose this book? Originally published in 1965, Dune is an epic science fiction novel which has left an indelible mark on the world of literature. I chose this book not only because it’s a true joy to read, but also because Frank Herbert has a masterful way of exploring the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire in his novel confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its “spice”.
Brief Book Description: Success through failure? To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design describes the importance of understanding failure to improve future designs. The book accomplishes that task through a number of high-profile engineering disasters and lessons learned, as well as a little philosophizing on the engineering design process. The author, Henry Petroski, is both a civil engineering professor and historian. If you like a little history with your technology, Petroski delivers. If you plan to study engineering you‚Äôll probably run across Petroski‚Äôs writings and books at some point. While written in 1985 and a little dated, it is still required reading in some engineering courses. See what the folks on Amazon have to say about it.
Why did you choose this book? The idea of success through failure resonates with me. As a former chemist, I saw it on a regular basis in the lab while developing new products and continue to do so in my current social science research. More broadly, we all learn and grow more through our mistakes than our successes. On a different note, I enjoy reading about the history of technology and science. Petroski‚Äôs work touches on those topics in an interesting way. While Petroski has published a number of interesting books, this book – To Engineer is Human – is the one that really launched his writing career.
The facilitator, David E. Hubbard, is a Science & Engineering Librarian and Associate Professor. While not an engineer, he did work as a chemist in several capacities and currently works with engineering faculty on campus as a Science & Engineering Librarian. If you are not careful, you‚Äôll probably learn something about the University Libraries too. The book is widely owned by public/academic libraries and online bookstores have used paperback copies for less than $5.00.
Brief Book Description: Part travelogue, part biography, part scientific treatise on bio-diversity, Where Our Food Comes From takes a fascinating look into the ‚Äúintricate relationships among culture, politics, the land, and the future of the world‚Äôs food.‚ÄĚ* Travelling in the footsteps of Russian botanist & explorer Nikoly Vavilov. Nabhan ‚Äúshows how climate change, free trade policies, genetic engineering, & loss of traditional knowledge are threatening our food supply.”*
(* from the publisher)
Why did you choose this book? I chose this book because it gives a timely engaging look at ¬†the complexity of pressing environmental issues and the lessons that history can teach us about the dangers of autocratic leaders, unchecked development, and the creation, control and preservation of information.
Department:¬†Sociology, College of Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by¬†Mitch Albom (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: A story about an unassuming man‚Äôs postmortem encounter with the five people whose lives were most intimately intertwined with his own, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel that begs you to reexamine your life and relations with others. Guaranteed to make you think and pull at your heart strings, Mitch Albom‚Äôs work is a timeless investigation of the most basic question that we avoid asking ourselves, that is, will anyone notice when I am gone?
Why did you choose this book? Aside from its excellent plot structure and readability, The Five People You Meet in Heaven begs existential questions that all people eventually have to grapple with including, Does life have a purpose? Do I matter? What impact do my individual decisions have on the world around me? ¬†The questions lurking in the shadows of our minds finally come to the forefront and receive their time in the spotlight.
Purchase¬†The Five People You Meet in Heaven here.
Department:¬†Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection: The Handmaid‚Äôs Tale by Margaret Atwood (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: Set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, formally the United States, The Handmaid‚Äôs Tale is told in the first person by Offred, one of the handmaids. The Republic was formed via a violent revolution whereby a fundamentalist Christian movement takes over after killing the president and most of congress. ¬†The movement‚Äôs stated aim is to ‚Äúrestore order‚ÄĚ especially in light of the declining birth rates, which apparently left many women in the Republic barren. ¬†Thought to be fertile by the Republic, the handmaids are a group of women designated to bear children for the elite couples.
Why did you choose this book? I chose this book because it is a book I have taught many times in my Introduction to Women‚Äôs and Gender Studies courses. The feedback from those classes indicate that the students wished they had read the book earlier in their college experience. My high school age daughter is reading it now with great interest. ¬†It is a book that raises many pressing questions with regard to how we think about: relationships, religion, sexuality, women, freedom, security, and law‚ÄĒso many themes that concern college age women and that they often wish to discuss with peers but do have a space provided to do so. ¬†(It was currently made into a television series now airing on HULU‚ÄĒso it is also timely).
Purchase¬†The Handmaid‚Äôs Tale here.
Summer Book Selection: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: The Things They Carried is a classic collection of short stories about the Vietnam War. It was written by Tim O’Brien, himself a Vietnam veteran. In this collection, O’Brien explores issues such as camaraderie, memory, duty, honor, and truth as they relate to Vietnam, combat, and reintegration into civilian life.
Why did you choose this book? Although The Things They Carried is one of the most important works of literature about Vietnam, this book also carries significant personal meaning for me as an Iraq war veteran. This book is one of the things that I chose to carry with me when I deployed. And, although this book is focused on the military, its exploration of the complicated nature of memory, duty, and truth makes it relevant to civilians and service members alike.
Purchase¬†The Things They Carried¬†here.
Department: International Studies, College of Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection: The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: The Baron in the Trees is a coming of age story set in 1700’s Liguria region of Italy. Penned by Italo Calvino, one of the best and best-known-abroad Italian writers of the 20th century, it tells the story of a young boy who one day refuses to eat the family ¬†lunch ¬†(snails). Pressed to comply, ¬†he climbs up a tree and decides never to come down again. Many adventures will ensue, some of them realistic and some less so, but all of them compelling to read.
Why did you choose this book? In a deceptively plain prose, Calvino’s novel encapsulates what it means to grow into adulthood. It deal with the youthful search for identity; the role of utopia vs pragmatism; the role of family relations; the relation between sexes, nature, and nurture/culture, and those between the sciences and the humanities (the 1700s coincides with Western so-called Age of Enlightenment). A perfect read for a freshman students.
Purchase¬†The Baron in the Trees¬†here.
Department:¬†Biology, College of Science
Summer Book Selection:¬†The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: The Demon in the Freezer is a nonfiction book about the eradication of the smallpox virus and its potential use as a bioterrorism weapon. The book is an entertaining read written for the public about the people involved in eradicating smallpox worldwide and their success and failures along the way. You will also read about the workings of the CDC and the U.S. anthrax scare of 2001. ¬†The “Demon in the Freezer” is the frozen stocks of smallpox that are found only at the CDC and in Russia- should these stocks be destroyed or maintained for the sake of science-read and see what you think!
Why did you choose this book? I assign this book to my medical microbiology class and the students come to class talking about what they’ve read before any assignments have been assigned. It covers the historical events of a disease that has been eradicated and the importance of vaccines in the process. Destruction of the frozen stocks of smallpox in the freezer is a complex situation. ¬†You will find yourself weighing each new piece of evidence and wavering on your final verdict!
Purchase¬†The Demon in the Freezer here.
Department:¬†Hispanic Studies, College of Liberal Arts
Brief Book Description: It is estimated that there are over 6,000 living languages today. However, about half of those languages are endangered, that is, they are spoken by fewer and fewer people. In fact, many are expected to disappear by the end of the 21st century. In this book linguist David Harrison tells us about his life mission to discovery such languages (yes, some are so hidden that even experts don’t know they exist!), and their documentation and preservation.
Why did you choose this book? From my beginnings as I bilingual child, I have been proud to go back and forth between languages. Thus started a lifelong passion for all languages, their crazy sounds, their funny orthographies, their different ways of expressing the same thing, and their perfect meshing with their culture. This book proves that all languages are equally valuable, that the loss of any language is a tragedy, and that measures can be taken to protect linguistic diversity. It’s well-written, readable and accurate.
Department:¬†Chemistry, College of Science
Summer Book Selection: Watchmen by Alan Moore (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description:¬†The graphic novel is set in the 1980’s and follows a number of superheros whose presence has led to an alternative reality. The superheroes have grown unpopular with the public and have been outlawed. The murder of a veteran superhero known as The Comedian leads another, Rorschach, to reconnect with his ¬†former associates and uncover a far-reaching conspiracy involving their shared past with catastrophic consequences for the world’s future.
Why did you choose this book? A wonderfully written story which explores many current themes. It is also an excellent introduction to the graphic novel medium which has produced numerous outstanding works of literature over the past few years.
Department:¬†Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences by Howard Zinn, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
Summer Book Selection: A People’s History of the United States¬†(register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: This book is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of-and in the words of- America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. AS historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles-the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality-were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance.
Why did you choose this book? The book provides a more balanced view of history and incorporates the perspectives of varying citizens. Critical thinking is important in college and this book will allow us to not only discuss critically how American history has been taught in K-12 classrooms across the nation but also to examines how the author presents the views of these marginalized groups and his level of scholarship. The answer to our history- both positive and negative, lays somewhere in between.
Department:¬†Computer Science & Engineering, College of Engineering
Summer Book Selection: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: The war with the aliens has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If the world survives, that is. Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Why did you choose this book? I chose this book because Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books and I think the time between high school and college is a perfect time to read (or re-read) it. ¬†I’m really looking forward to reading the book again and talking about it with young people who have just read it for the first time (or who are reading it again). ¬†It’s an easy read, but there is considerable philosophical meat, and plenty of new and challenging ideas worth discussing.
Department:¬†Political Science, College of¬†Liberal Arts
Summer Book Selection: 30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living Through Critical Thinking: A Guide for Improving Every Aspect of Your Life by Linda Elder and Richard Paul (register by clicking here)
Brief Book Description: Written by two of the leading critical-thinking educators today, this book breaks down the vast literature on how people learn to think well into 30 bite-size chapters. ¬†Intended to be read one “chapter-ette” at a time, Elder and Paul offer easy-to-understand, thought-provoking insights into why some of our good thinking habits are so important. ¬†They also gently, yet directly, point to some of the traps into which our thinking leads us, as well as the dangers that lurk there.
Why did you choose this book? Our university years are a gift with many dimensions. However, many students never unwrap one of the most exciting of those possibilities: ¬†the opportunity to intently think about thinking. Reading this simple book is an investment in making your time here transformational in how you view your own beliefs and judgements, along with those of others. Thinking carefully and well is one of the top attributes of successful students and graduates alike. ¬†All great things begin with 1 step–join me!
Department:¬†Marketing, Mays Business School
Brief Book Description: In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Partanen compares and contrasts life in the United States with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships‚ÄĒparents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens. A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, Partanen asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.
Why did you choose this book? What is the American Dream? How do we provide the opportunity to live a healthy, safe, economically secure, upwardly mobile life for everyone? Offering insights, advice, and solutions, The Nordic Theory of Everything makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild our society, rekindle our optimism, and restore true freedom to our relationships and lives.
Department:¬†Computer Science & Engineering, College of Engineering
Brief Book Description: What if we made contact with life that exists in a space drastically different from our own 3D world? This book is about creatures that live in two dimensions. Just this idea in itself is puzzling. Could this even be? What are the ramifications of their planarity? And what does communication with these creatures entail? Reading this book is a little mind-bending, but in a good way.
Why did you choose this book? The book involves a careful examination of what we take for granted, forcing reflection on that which we “know” a priori, and the joy and challenges that entails. Though set in a computing context and, hence, disguised as a problem of our time, the book really is a freshened up and extended version of Abbott’s Flatland (from 1884); it retains part of the parable form, but is no longer about Victorian mores, but rather anthropocentric issues more generally.