Chosen by the Undergraduate Deans to be read and discussed by this year's Frosh class during their first weeks on campus, Lab Girl is the exploration of a female scientist's love for her work, as well as the personal and professional obstacles she had to overcome in order to achieve her goals.
Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship: The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life
by Thad Williamson
Thad Williamson covers “sprawl” by examining societal, environmental, and personal preference angles. The book takes a data-driven and philosophical approach from a neutral point of view. It’s useful for understanding the economic and environmental effects of sprawl as well as the motivating forces that drive geospatial planning in America.
—Dan Liebling (BS ’02)
Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice
by Alice Dreger
Science and democracy grew up together. It is no coincidence that many of America’s founders were science geeks. The American freedom to think, to know, to learn, to speak—these were freedoms that the radical Galileo had seized.
—Frank Hobbs (BS ‘74)
Disturber of the Peace: the Life of H.L. Mencken
by William Manchester
As far away as you can get from technology: It’s about American letters and its most curmudgeonly practitioner. And it’s by William Manchester, who became a friend of Mencken. As I will see any movie with Meryl Streep, I will read any book by William Manchester. This is a lively and engaging work, carrying the reader, as the best books do, into another world. You don’t read such books so much as you watch them, for the language magically turns to images in the mind.
—Frank Mullen (MS ’86)
Black Hole Blues
by Janna Levin
A terrific book about gravity waves, timely and right at home for Techers. A really fine portrayal of the people involved, the human aspect of science. Weber is a particularly striking figure. She also caught the scope of this effort—a work spanning or exceeding a human lifetime like a European cathedral. And brought out the contrast of extremes—the near infinitesimal of interferometry to the energy released in black hole merger.
—Bob Wieting (BS ’74)
The Ring and the Book
by Robert Browning
Better than any other book I know, it captures this feature of reality: of our often agreeing on all of the relevant facts, but not knowing what they all mean. Who did what to whom isn’t questioned by anybody. What’s in doubt is the ‘why.’
—James Michael (BS ’77)
Gödel, Escher, Bach
by Douglas Hofstadter
This book was written almost 40 years ago, but it poses very interesting questions about what consciousness is. Now that everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, I think this is very relevant.
— Peter Balint (BS ’67)
The Three-Body Problem Trilogy
trilogy by Cixin Liu
I know it’s dangerous to recommend sci-fi to this crowd, but I’m going to do it anyway. The philosophical questions explored by the trilogy also transcend that of scientific concepts, reaching sociological ones as well. Although I grew up reading Chinese novels, I actually prefer reading the English translations because of the physics, and they do great justice to the original series.
—Vivian U (BS ‘06)
Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
This book tells how people make decisions under different conditions. Although Michael Lewis published a popular description of this work, I felt that Kahneman’s book was a more direct source for this interesting topic.
—Leon Keer (BS ‘56, MS ‘58)
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
by Jordan Ellenberg
Fresh take on how cool and powerful logical thinking is and how it can drive clear decision making. Really entertaining anecdotes; kept my interest and hopefully yours!
— Dan Lieberman (PhD ’05)
by David Thomas and Gerhard Dieckmann
Too many people think sea ice is similar to the ice in their drink, but the salinity aspects of the seawater make sea ice much more interesting.
— CJ Beegle-Krause (BS ’82)
Building Evolutionary Architectures
by Neal Ford, Rebecca Parsons, and Patrick Kua
As I transition from a nonprofit CEO position, I’m enjoying investigating current technology. One book that I just bought is Building Evolutionary Architectures by my good friend Rebecca Parsons, the CTO of Thoughtworks, and her colleagues, Neal Ford and Patrick Kua.
I also love mysteries, and love getting to know a character. Right now, I am reading the Anna Pigeon mysteries by Nevada Barr. These books have the added advantage that they take place in National Parks—another passion of mine.