Greetings, Class of 2016!

We’re pleased to present you with this small welcoming gift that we extend each year to incoming students:  UC Berkeley’s Summer Reading List for Freshmen.

Each year, we ask Berkeley faculty and staff to offer what they think are the best readings centered on a particular theme.  Very often these are books, though increasingly these readings include links to articles, blogs, or (as in this list) films, among other forms.  We want the readings that have most engaged them and which they believe will engage students.  Then we pass these recommendations on to incoming freshmen to explore as they see fit.  This isn’t homework; this list is strictly for pleasure.  (If you’re like us, and we think you might be, you find pleasure in academic, intellectual, and literary pursuits.)

This year’s theme is “Revolutions.”  We asked faculty and staff to think of that word in broad terms, and so they did.  In addition to readings on subjects you might expect—such as the American and French Revolutions—we also received submissions suggesting biographies about revolutionary individuals and books having to do with revolutions in music and food and the occupation of Alcatraz Island, among others.  In short, what constitutes a revolution depends on how you look at the term. You may feel as though you’re about to embark on a revolution of sorts yourself.

All of these readings are available via one of Berkeley’s many libraries, which you can explore once you arrive here. To see past years’ lists, you can go here: We wish you a great first year here at Cal, and we wish you happy reading as well.

Jennifer Dorner
Head, Instruction and User Services
Doe/Moffitt Libraries

Michael Larkin
Lecturer, College Writing Programs


book cover

movie poster
The Charterhouse of Parma
London; New York: Penguin, 2006
(Original publication date: 1839)

Prima della Rivoluzione (Before the Revolution)
Bernardo Bertolucci

The topic of revolution got me thinking about the fact—which first became obvious when the French Revolution turned into the French Empire and then turned into the European Reaction—that revolutions fail, and that this failure is part of their history. If you’re going to think about revolution, you also need to think about the almost-routine sequel: Reaction, Stalin, Reagan, yuppies, crack, AIDS, etc.  That is why I proposed two interlocking texts: one Stendhal’s 19th century novel that begins with Waterloo, the end of the French Revolution, and portrays the Reaction that followed the Revolution in Europe, and the other Bertolucci’s 20th century film, based on that novel, that problematizes today’s leftist hopes of a revolution.  

John F. Hotchkis Professor
English Department

D.A. Miller works in the areas of nineteenth-century fiction, film, and gay and cultural studies.  He writes a regular column for Film Quarterly.

book coverCan’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation
Jeff Chang
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005

Ambitious in scale and wide ranging in scope, Cal alumnus Jeff Chang’s novelistic nonfiction account of the rise of hip hop tells more than the story of a genre of music. It also discusses how a handful of creative, impoverished people living in the destitute Bronx of the 1970s used little more than wits and ambition to foment the development of a genre that became a viable, multicultural, and eventually a global subculture. I’ve taught this book in my College Writing R4B course for several years now, as it’s the best example I know of a book about music that’s also about race, politics, and changing the world. Chang’s forthcoming book on the rise of multiculturalism, Who We Be, promises to be a fitting sequel.

College Writing Programs

Kaya Oakes is the author of three books:  a poetry collection, Telegraph, winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Prize; a work of nonfiction, Slanted and Enchanted: the Evolution of Indie Culture (a San Francisco Chronicle notable book of 2009); and the memoir, Radical Reinvention, forthcoming in summer 2012.

book coverBlood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education Of A Reluctant Chef
Gabrielle Hamilton
New York: Random House, 2011

Hamilton puts parents, foodies, and college in a burr grinder, all in a good cause. With every affectation thrown off, we see a creative career take shape in the worst of times. In Down And Out In Paris And London (1933), George Orwell showed that the social order of his day was illuminated by kitchen drudgery.  Orwell walked out of the kitchen; Hamilton stays in it with no slogans and unsparing honesty about her “education.”   

University Librarian & Professor
Graduate School of Journalism

Tom Leonard is the author of the books Above the Battle: War-Making in America from Appomattox to Versailles; The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting; and News for All. He focuses much of his research and teaching on the role of the press in society.

book coverThe Boston Tea Party
Benjamin Woods Labaree
New York: Oxford University Press, 1964

What a good read this book is! Colonial America: scheming, attempts at persuasion, changing of hearts and minds, and even a bit of buffoonery. On November 29, 1773, Bostonians awoke to see notices posted everywhere stating, “The hour of destruction or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stares you in the face!” The famous Boston Tea Party came a couple of weeks later, and England’s response galvanized the colonies. Within a couple of years, war broke out. The rest is history.

Was the Tea Party about “taxation without representation”? The monopolization of tea importing? Was it a “macho” response to the haughty English? And why tea? Read the book to learn the subtleties at play. Labaree’s writing is splendidly understated; reading his book feels as if you were listening to a smart friend telling you a story.

Outreach/Instruction Librarian
Sheldon Margen Public Health Library

Michael Sholinbeck is the Assistant Head and the Outreach/Instruction Librarian at the Sheldon Margen Public Health Library. He is responsible for the Public Health Library’s instruction to both the campus community and to State of California public health professionals.

book coverRevolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story
Eric Selbin
London; New York: Zed, 2010

Eric Selbin argues that we need to look beyond the economic, political, and social conditions to the thoughts and feelings of the people who make revolutions.  In particular, he argues, we need to understand the stories of past injustices and struggles that people relay and rework as they struggle in the present towards a better future. Ranging from the French Revolution to the Battle for Seattle, via Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua, Selbin makes the case that it is myth, memory, and mimesis that create, maintain, and extend such stories. Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance identifies four kinds of enduring revolutionary story -- Civilizing and Democratizing, The Social Revolution, Freedom and Liberation, and The Lost and Forgotten -- which do more than report on events, they catalyze changing the world.

Clinical Professor of Law
University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)

Professor Fletcher is the director of the law school's International Human Rights Law Clinic. The Clinic marshals the resources of the faculty and students of UC Berkeley to advance the struggle for human rights on behalf of individuals and marginalized communities. It clarifies complex issues, develops innovative policy solutions, and engages in vigorous advocacy. Fletcher's work focuses on transitional justice and accountability for mass atrocity crimes.

book coverLife
Keith Richards
New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010

Music has the power to start revolutions: social, cultural, and political. Keith Richards’ roller coaster story attests to this. With a memoir spanning from post-war London to the present, Richards finally tells all. The early days of The Rolling Stones, the band’s sudden fame and friendly rivalry with The Beatles, the tragedy at Altamont, and Richards’ legendary drug abuse all come to life in vivid detail. His rocky relationship with Mick Jagger and his “lost weekend” with John Lennon are noteworthy bonuses. If ever there was a revolutionary rock outlaw, Richards can proudly claim that title. A highly recommended page-turner with vital lessons for our tumultuous times. 

Library Assistant III
Technical Services/Moffitt Library 

Alvaro Lopez-Piedra is Library Assistant III at the Monographic Receiving Unit in Moffitt Library. He handles Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and all Latin-American collections.

book coverThe American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Red Power and Self-Determination
Troy R. Johnson
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008

Johnson’s book compellingly recounts this seminal event of the American Indian revolution of the 1960s. It was not an action organized by the American Indian Movement. Instead it was led by students from San Francisco State and UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Indian community. A worthy read.

Ethnic Studies Library

John Berry is of Choctaw/Cherokee/Scots-Irish/German heritage, an Oklahoma native, and a traditional stomp dancer. He is listed on the Native American Authors pages of the Internet Public Library, and has published poems both in print and on the web.

book cover The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Orczy
New York: Modern Library, 2002
(Original Publication Date: 1905)

One of my favorite books about the French Revolution is The Scarlet Pimpernel. The story is a thrilling mix of romance, history, and reckless daring deeds, spanning scenes from the glittering London of the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney and his beautiful but troubled wife, Marguerite, to the dark Reign of Terror in France. Infamous men and frenzied mobs hold deathly sway over Paris, and the Scarlet Pimpernel snatches aristocratic victims from under the very blade of Mme. Guillotine. A piece of doggerel for the ages has come from this wonderful book: "We seek him here! we seek him there! / Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! / Is he in heaven? -- Is he in hell? / That demmed, elusive Pimpernel."  

Jean Dickinson
Slavic Cataloging Librarian

Jean Dickinson is responsible for cataloging Slavic, East European, and Central Asian language materials in all subject areas for Berkeley students, faculty, and researchers, and for the international community of Slavic scholars.

book cover Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment 
David Kirby 
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010

I teach a course on Deviance and Social Control and am considering assigning this book for the next time I teach instead of a far more expensive textbook. The book uses the experiences of three rural farmers to describe the impact of hog and dairy factory farms on their lives. In their effort to fight the pollution, deleterious health effects, and degraded quality of life, they find they have to organize locally, form liaisons with activists, and fight government’s cozy relationship with agribusiness.  It’s appropriate for a “Revolutions” theme because (a) the introduction of factory farms was itself a revolution in food production; and (b) the process of trying to stop them is also a revolution.

Sociology Department

Leora Lawton is a lecturer in Sociology, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Population Center, and the owner of a research company, TechSociety Research.  She is a family demographer and her research covers a broad range of topics.

book cover Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution
Gao Yuan
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987

This is a fascinating, moving memoir of coming of age in China in the late 1960s during the Cultural Revolution. It is a first-person account of being a teenage participant in a movement that invested incredible power in the nation’s youth. Centuries of tradition of respect for elders, intellectualism, and cultural history were turned upside down, with incredible personal cost as people’s lives, careers, and spirits were destroyed and broken. This book captures both the euphoria and excitement of the start of the revolution and the slow realization of the ultimate toll in human suffering as the movement spiraled out of control.

Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering

Sara McMains’ research interests include geometric algorithms for design and manufacturing, layered manufacturing, computer graphics and visualization, virtual prototyping, and virtual reality. And also reading good books.

book cover Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011

No one would be surprised to learn that Steve Jobs was at the forefront of a revolution, not just in personal computing, but in movies (Pixar), music (the iPod, and iTunes), telecommunications (the iPhone), and retail (Apple Stores).  Walter Isaacson explores what drove the man who drove Apple: an unquenchable pursuit of perfection that pervaded his personal as well as his professional life—from overseeing the design of the many incarnations of the Mac to living in an unfurnished house because of an inability to find the ideal couch.  Far from hagiography, the book exposes its subject, warts and all, including Jobs’s on-the-job temper tantrums and his propensity for being brutally honest.  Through much of the book, Jobs speaks in his own words, culled from more than forty interviews. 

College Writing Programs

John Levine teaches composition, public speaking, and creative writing courses for CWP.  His plays have been workshopped and produced from coast to coast.  His most recent play, “You and Me and She and I,” appeared in New York in the spring.

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