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Chapter 2: More ASU summer reading recommendations

ASU Student at Library

A good book can make the long, hot days of summer more bearable. Take our list from round 2 of ASU faculty and staff recommended books to your local library and dig in.
Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News

June 23, 2015

A good book can make the long, hot days of summer a bit more bearable.

A few weeks ago, we ran the first installment of our summer reading recommendations from faculty and staff around ASU. There's no shortage of hot weather left, so here's a second group of book ideas to enjoy by the pool or curled up in the air-conditioning. Find a comfy chair and dig in.

‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a poor Black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and more. Lacks’ cells, referred to as HeLa cells, have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times best-seller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. – Group recommendation from the College of Health Solutions

‘Diffusion of Innovations,’ by Everett M. Rogers

The QWERTY keyboard that’s probably in front of you as you read this is incredibly inefficient. It was actually designed to slow typists down to prevent keys from jamming in the era of typewriters. Have you ever heard of a Dvorak keyboard? It was created to allow for much faster typing based on a series of rigorous studies, a true evidence-based keyboard. So why does no one use it? Rogers provides an incredibly detailed account of why some good ideas get adopted and others seem to get ignored. Using a number of fascinating stories and case studies, he explores the characteristics of innovations that are embraced by organizations and why some new technologies quickly diffuse. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in how change happens in criminal justice agencies or elsewhere. – Cody Telep, assistant professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ by Harper Lee

During a summer when we are again confronted by the unfortunate reality of racism in American society, this classic would make a good addition to any summer reading list. (It will also be a good refresher before the July 14 release of Lee’s much-heralded second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” featuring many of the “Mockingbird” characters 20 years after the events of that book.) – Don McLaughlin, PhD alumnus

‘Mountains Beyond Mountains,’ by Tracy Kidder

The true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.
In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” – Group recommendation from the College of Health Solutions

‘Inside the O’Briens’ and ‘Still Alice,’ both by Lisa Genova

“Inside the O’Briens’ is the story of a Boston family with a dad newly diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, exploring the impact on the four grown children (one with a newly pregnant wife) and how they cope with deciding whether to learn if they test positive for the disease. Also by Genova, “Still Alice” tells the story of a famous linguistics professor coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It was turned into a film last year starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore, but the book is so much better than the movie! – Linda Vaughan, director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and professor of nutrition, College of Health Solutions

‘Walden,’ by Henry David Thoreau

This classic memoir summarizes Thoreau’s two years of living in the “woods” as he confronts the essentials of life.  Written in an older prose during the American Romantic era, Thoreau was deeply influenced by transcendentalist philosophy.  Throughout the book, he skillfully weaves philosophy, spirituality, independence, self-reliance, closeness to nature, and simple living.  His quotes such as “simply simplify” or “we can never have enough of nature” allows us to contemplate our place in the larger scheme of things.  A century and a half later, Walden continues to inspire generations.  This is a must read for anyone building a personal philosophy of life. – Megha Budruk, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development, College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘A Sand County Almanac,’ by Aldo Leopold

This is another classic that has deeply shaped the American conservation movement by treating ecology as a science and introducing the idea of ethics or a responsible relationship between humans and nature.  The book contains several essays of which “Thinking Like a Mountain” is perhaps best known for its description of Leopold’s wolf hunting experience.  Through his work, Leopold encourages us to build a value system in relation to our natural world. – Megha Budruk, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America,’ by David Kennedy

One of the most important and influential criminologists in the world didn't even go to graduate school (which probably explains why his writing is so easy to read!). Kennedy details how he became involved in criminal justice work and charts his research on a series of projects that led to impressive declines in crime in a number of U.S. cities. Kennedy avoids the lengthy descriptions of statistics and equations that often make academic writing difficult to digest. Instead, he uses his years of work in the field to present the rich backstory to an approach that has the potential to significantly impact the violent-crime problem in many urban areas. Kennedy gives a voice to communities that have often felt ignored and overlooked, and his elegant and passionate discussions about crime, race, and the police have, if anything, become even more relevant today. – Cody Telep, assistant professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,’ by Atul Gawande

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that, in the end, extend suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. – Alison Essary, director of Student Affairs and clinical associate professor, College of Health Solutions

‘Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play,’ by James C. Scott

The eminent scholar of modern governance and development, James C. Scott, offers us a thought-provoking, surprisingly personal series of reflections on anarchism, modern life and the human desire for freedom. Scott contends, "What I aim to show is that if you put on anarchist glasses and look at the history of popular movements, revolutions, ordinary politics, and the state from that angle certain insights will appear that are obscured from almost any other angle." In particular, we will see in politics a deep yearning for mutuality, play and cooperation; and a "tolerance for confusion and improvisation that accompanies social learning." Both of these are frequently at odds with and stifled by modern formal institutions, like government, schools and workplaces. But, as the title suggests, Scott gives two – not three – cheers for anarchism. His reasons for offering this qualified enthusiasm will stir productive thinking about government, markets and political resistance today regardless of where you sit along the political left-right continuum or in one of our society's many hierarchies. – Thomas Catlaw, associate professor of public affairs, Frank & June Sackton Professor of Public Administration, School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Four quick recommendations from Professor Angadi

• ‘Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America,’ by Barbara Ehrenreich: A thorough debunking of the false promises of positive thinking, “conventional” wisdom and faux science.
‘The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal,’ by Desmond Morris: An absolute classic. Morris puts on his zoologist hat and examines human behavior and human physiology from the perspective of just another recently discovered species.
‘On Human Nature,’ by Edward O. Wilson: This book pretty much laid the foundations for evolutionary biology. Very well-written, accessible prose.
‘The Emperor of All Maladies,’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee: A biography of cancer and cancer research. This book won the Pulitzer a couple of years ago.
– Siddhartha Angadi, assistant professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions

‘Justinian’s Flea,’ by William Rosen

This explores how the bubonic plague in the sixth century helped bring about the demise of the Roman Empire and how it led to creation of Europe as we know it today. It’s more history than health/human physiology, but it does go into great depth about the Y.pestis bacteria, how it evolved, how it is transmitted, the role of human and environmental conditions that allowed it to spread. The book blends history and science nicely. – Tannah Broman, principal lecturer of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Kinesiology, College of Health Solutions

‘Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present,’ edited by David Kader and Michael Stanford

Forgive me this recommendation, but I am encouraged by others to suggest this. It is the first serious anthology of law-related poetry published in the U.S., uniting two disparately perceived subjects. These 100 poems from the 1300s to the present range from the witty to the wry, sad to celebratory, and funny to infuriating poetic treatment of the law, in settings from the courtroom to prisons, from jurors to police.  – David Kader, professor emeritus, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

A few final recommendations from an alum

• ‘Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt,by Aida D. Donald: Some (including me) would argue that Teddy Roosevelt was one of our better Presidents. Take a look at this man's life and get to know him a little – then decide for yourself.
‘Good Leaders Ask Great Questions,’ by John C. Maxwell: Maxwell outdoes himself in this work of art on leadership principles. Either you lead, or you follow. This can help you get a better feel from both angles.
‘Gen Y Now: Millennials and the Evolution of Leadership,’ by Buddy Hogart and Herb Sendek: This is like the ultimate reboot. Solid, sound concepts, applied to those in today's market. But the messages hold relevance for the oldest in business to those newly beginning their careers.
‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,’ by Charles Duhigg: Duhigg has brought to light essential data regarding what makes people tick. Clearly, we become conditioned to certain behaviors over time. Whether you agree or not, there is plenty in here to pique your interest.
‘The Retirement Miracle,’ by Patrick Kelly:  I consider this the new bible on saving for retirement. He's a professional and an expert from way back. If you can get your hands on a copy, do it. (It's not even that lengthy.)
– John Long, member of the ASU Alumni Association; BAE – secondary education, history, 2006

What did we miss?

Are you a member of the ASU community with a great book recommendation? E-mail the title and a short paragraph on why you're recommending it to and we'll run another installment of our summer reading list in the coming weeks.

Heather Beshears and Laura Kaufman contributed to this story.