Summer reading for the bookworm

4 Mins read
Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

We asked GPS professors to recommend their favorite books, from the rich world of fiction to timeless academic novels

By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

At the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), reading doesn’t end when the textbooks shut. As interdisciplinary as our research, our faculty’s taste in literature spans the boundaries of politics, culture, identity, history and fantasy…to name a few.

Dive in to one of these faculty recommended books this summer and let us know what you think!

The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You

Professor John Ahlquist

Recommendation: “The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You” by Scott Page

“The book offers some excellent and useful summaries of a varieties of ways of thinking analytically about the world,” said Ahlquist. “Some of the content may find its way on to the Policy Making Process (PMP) syllabus.”

Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy

Professor Renee Bowen

Recommendation: “Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy” by Doug Irwin

“The book reminds us that clashes over trade policy are nothing new and highlights the role of the GATT in presiding over an era of quiet unprecedented trade peace,” said Bowen.

All the Light We Cannot See and Half of a Yellow Sun

Professor Jennifer Burney

Recommendation: “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“When it comes to summer reading, I tend to want two things. Either big and sweeping indulgent books about love, war or families across generations that suck you in and wring you out or short stories and essays that you can pick up and put down easily,” said Burney. “Both are the kind of books that you simultaneously can’t wait to finish but also feel gutted when you have.”

Why Bother?: Rethinking Participation in Elections and Protests

Professor Jesse Driscoll

Recommendation: “Why Bother?: Rethinking Participation in Elections and Protests” by  S. Erdem Aytaç and Susan C. Stokes

“I’ve always been a fan of Susan Stokes.  When people do and don’t decide to take part in risky collective action – like regime-threatening protests – is one of those fundamental questions for political behavior,” said Driscoll.  “Information and emotion are both part of the story.”

Napoleon: A Life and Enlightenment Now

Professor Richard Feinberg

Recommendation: “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts and “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker

“Napoleon defined the nineteenth century, his Grande Armee spreading enlightenment ideas and institutions throughout Western Europe,” said Feinberg. “Pinker details how over the intervening two centuries enlightenment values have brought tremendous progress to the entire planet.”

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

Professor Teevrat Garg

Recommendation: “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America” by Daniel Boorstin

“While the novel was first published in 1962, it is remarkably relevant even today. A great read!” said Garg.

The Undoing Project

Professor Alexander Gelber

Recommendation: “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis

“In the overlap between academic and pleasure, this novel is a great account of the people behind making economics better reflect human psychology,” said Gelber.

Stoner and The Easter Parade

Professor Ruixue Jia

Recommendation: “Stoner” by John Williams and “The Easter Parade” by Richard Yates

“When it comes to guilty pleasures, I confess that I like depressing novels…. both have a character who grew up dreaming of becoming an intellectual and so did I,” said Jia. “They tried yet failed. You may fear becoming such a character, but you will certainly empathize with him and her.”

Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories

Professor Uma Karmarkar

Recommendation: “Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories” by Naomi Kritzer

“Kritzer centers her stories on the space where humans and sci-tech interact, starting from the point of view of either as a protagonist,” said Karmarkar. “I have been enjoying this book because it makes me think about how we do (or don’t) successfully integrate science and tech into the messy parts of everyday life.”

Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence and Pride and Prejudice

Professor Elizabeth Lyons

Recommendations: “Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence” by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarband and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“For non-fiction, ‘Prediction Machines’ makes understanding AI seem much more accessible than any other AI read I’ve encountered,” said Lyons. “But no matter how many times I read it, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ maintains it’s suspense and continues to offer new bits of wisdom.”

The Neapolitan Novels

Professor Lauren Prather

Recommendation: “The Neapolitan Novels” by Elena Ferrante

“I decided I wanted to read some good fiction. This book series was recommended to me by several friends because it is so well written and has such compelling characters. I have to say that I agree so far,” said Prather.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness

Professor Nico Ravanilla

Recommendation: “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

“A key insight from psychology and behavioral economics is that the way choices are presented to us inevitably biases our decisions in one direction or another,” said Ravanilla. “‘Nudge’ uses this insight to make an interesting though controversial argument that instead of leaving citizens be, governments can do a better job of guiding or nudging the choices made by their citizens to improve overall welfare.”

Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China and AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

Professor Victor Shih


“Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China” by Leta Hong Fincher and “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order” by Kai-Fu Lee

“The first book is a captivating account of the feminist movement in China, as well as the government’s repression of it,” said Shih. “The second is an insider account of the emerging tech race between the U.S. and China. I highly recommend both!”

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics

Professor Susan Shirk

Recommendation: “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics” by Stephen Greenblatt 

“Greenblatt discusses Shakespeare’s history plays and draws out timeless lessons about autocratic political leaders, rivals, cronies, loyalty and disloyalty that have resonances for China, Russia and America. I enjoyed it tremendously,” said Shirk.

The Sixth Extinction and Long Walk to Freedom

Professor David Victor

Recommendation: “The Sixth Extinction” by Betsy Kolbert and “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

“The first book is a sober reckoning of the consequences of extreme climate change, especially for nature,” said Victor. “The second book is a reminder that in an era where politics is nasty, brutish and often unproductive that individuals can matter in profound ways.”

How Democracies Die and Becoming

Professor Barbara Walter

Recommendations: “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt and “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

“The first recommendation is my model of how to write a really good academic book for a mass audience,” said Walter. “While I have many recommendations, ‘Becoming’ made me love Michelle even more and wish we were best friends.”

Related posts

Solving the climate crisis

2 Mins read
In his latest book, GPS alumnus Palmer Owyoung ’98 explores the legislative, economic and societal changes needed to mitigate climate change

Impact Like None Other

5 Mins read
As Joan and Irwin Jacobs hit personal milestones at 90, the campus reflects on their indelible impact at UC San Diego

New UC San Diego entrepreneurship lab launches program to get startups off the ground

3 Mins read
The program will aid new entrepreneurs in turning their their business ideas into business ventures with accounting and legal resources, as well as mentorship opportunities with industry leaders

Winter reading for the bibliophile