Books to binge over the summer

4 Mins read
Woman seated while reading a book, background is of desert-like biome with rocks all around

GPS professors share their recommended reading to keep your brain stimulated before the next academic year

With the long, warm days of summer and the end of the academic year upon us, many of us can take time to do things we might have less time for during the school year: enjoying San Diego’s beautiful beaches, exploring the area’s wealth of nature trails — or maybe heading to a local park, setting up a picnic blanket, and settling in with a good book.

Take a peek at the books our professors have been enjoying recently, and perhaps their recommendations will inspire you to add a few more books to your “to be read” list.

Jennifer Burney

I am really enjoying books about friendship right now, and a few that have really touched me are:

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" book cover

“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin is a book that on the surface is about game developers and coding. But it features beautiful and different types of friendships, as well as a touching and insightful view into the loneliness that can come from navigating the world with a disability.

"In the Distance" book cover

“In the Distance” by Hernan Diaz is a haunting story of a Swedish adolescent emigrant who ends up alone in the gold rush, on the Oregon Trail in the U.S. It’s an incredible piece of literature from an environmental and U.S. history perspective, but a main part of what moved me is the key friendship in the heart of the book.

"Stay True" book cover

I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, but the memoir “Stay True” by Hua Hsu is exceptional in capturing the emotions of adolescence and young adulthood — and how hard it can be to convey our love to the friends who mean the most to us.

Peter Cowhey

"The Chile Project" book cover

Sebastian Edwards’ “The Chile Project” is a readable, smart effort to untangle the record of a harsh military dictatorship, some successful economic reforms, and the challenges that remain for a country that today is democratic and an economic leader in Latin America. 

"Unscripted" book cover

James Stewart and Rachel Abrams have produced a wild, true tale of all that can go wrong in corporate governance —and moral sensibility — in “Unscripted,” the fight for control of a media empire.

Richard Feinberg

"James" book cover

I recommend “James” by Percival Everett. Imagine Mark Twain’s nineteenth masterpiece “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” as retold from the vantage point of the runaway enslaved man, Jim. The reader, once again, gets to float down the Big Muddy in makeshift rafts — but this time guided by a 21st-century sensibility.

"Late Admissions" book cover

In “Late Admissions: Confessions of a Black Conservative,” Glenn C. Loury, a high-profile economist and social critic at Brown University, chronicles his dizzying gyrations across the political spectrum. His academic obligations, it seems, left plenty of time for multiple seductions — admissions that Loury simultaneously flaunts and regrets.

Teevrat Garg

"The Battle for Birth Control" book cover

One of the books I am reading is “The Battle for Birth Control: Exploring the Lasting Consequences of the Movement’s Early Rhetoric” by Jessica Furgerson. The reversal of significant civil rights for protected groups in recent years has led to a growing examination of political, legal and rhetorical strategies of the early founders of the movement. I am looking forward to learning more about the early reproductive rights movement and how their rhetorical decisions shaped their eventual political victories and losses.

Joshua Graff Zivin

"Birnham Wood" book cover

I just finished reading “Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton. It’s a book about an environmental anarchist collective and a narcissistic billionaire. What more needs to be said?

Ellis Krauss

"Dead Fall" book cover

I am currently reading “Dead Fall” by Joan Lock. Because I’ve been sitting in London these last few weeks, I’ve started reading this pretty good (so far) mystery set in Victorian London about a murder in a theater.

"Samurai William" book cover

I’ve also recently read “Samurai William” by Giles Milton. Stimulated by the very excellent and authentic remake of the TV series “Shogun,” I went back to read about the real-life Englishman who inspired the Clavell novel, William Adams.

"In the Service of the Shogun" book cover

I’m also planning to read a new book about the same subject by the history adviser to the new TV series, “In the Service of the Shogun” by Frederik Cryns.

Krislert Samphantharak

"Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again" book cover

I recommend “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again” by Johann Hari. We are living in a world with increasing distractions, and it is harder and harder to focus. The author went to live in Provincetown for three months while writing this book so that he could completely disconnect himself from the internet. Although he did succeed in regaining control of his life from the internet, he became even more distracted after he resumed his normal life. The author asks a very important question: Can self-control win over the algorithms embedded in social media that are intentionally designed to keep us distracted?

“The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth's Resources” book cover

“The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources” by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy tells colorful, dark stories behind the world of commodity trading that ranges from crude oil to minerals needed for digital and green technologies. The authors explain how commodities have played a crucial role in the development of the global financial system and the geopolitics of the modern world while recounting several juicy, and often scandalous, episodes about the persons and the companies that have been involved in this whole development.

Mateo Vásquez-Cortés

"The Maniac" book cover

“The Maniac” by Benjamín Labatut focuses on the life of John von Neumann. Through fictional narratives, it recreates some of his discussions and academic advances, including game theory and artificial intelligence, which I believe GPS students will greatly enjoy!

Labatut is a Chilean writer that I really like. Another interesting book of his that I also recommend is “When We Cease to Understand the World.”

David Victor

"The Darkest White" book cover

Eric Blehm’s “The Darkest White” is a beautifully researched and touching story about Craig Kelly — snowboarding pioneer. Like many innovators, Kelly and the early riders faced many obstacles erected by the incumbent industry (skiers). Blehm’s book weaves that story together with another area of innovation: the forecasting of avalanches. The stories merge when Kelly dies in one of Canada’s biggest slides while trying to become the first mountain guide certified on a snowboard.

"The Anxious Generation" book cover

Kids face a lot of challenges these days. In “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Creating an Epidemic of Mental Illness,” Jonathan Haidt fingers the smartphone and ubiquitous connectivity for making the problems a lot worse.

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About author
Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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14 books to read over winter break