reading list introduces freshmen to great campus
reading list introduces freshmen to great campus
By Gretchen Kell,
On beaches and lunch breaks and travels this summer, students planning to attend campus as fall freshmen already are meeting faculty members --through the pages of 24 great books.
Many incoming students are unaware that these respected writers -- including Maxine Hong Kingston, Robert Hass, Czeslaw Milosz, Leonard Michaels and Thom Gunn -- are teaching, or once taught, at Berkeley, said Steve Tollefson, faculty development coordinator for the Office of Student Life/Educational Development. He co-produces the annual reading list with Ellen Meltzer, head of the teaching library at Moffitt Library.
"Many of the authors are still teaching here," Tollefson added, "and perhaps these students will be lucky enough to take a class from some of them."
The books' diverse topics include the role of men and women in horror films, the origin of the idea of vampires, metaphors, architecture, slavery, surfing, AIDS and the search for the remains of an asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaur.
Five books of fiction, four books of poetry and 15 books of non-fiction are suggested, "and none of the non-fiction is dry," said Tollefson.
Tollefson, a lecturer for the campus's College Writing Programs, said it was difficult putting this year's list together, since there are many published writers at Berkeley. "Some of their books just weren't for 18-year-olds," he explained, "and others were very good, but not summer reading for young people."
This year, the list was compiled by instructors in the College Writing Programs and by campus librarians. Two books, Kingston's "Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts" and "Jasmine" by Bharati Mukherjee, got the most recommendations.
Gail Offen-Brown, a College Writing Programs lecturer, suggested English professor Mukherjee's "Jasmine," the story of a young woman from India who comes to America illegally.
"Freshmen should read this book because it tells an important and exciting story of America today, an America of illegal immigrants, of Yuppie New York intellectuals, of the 'day mummies' who raise their children, of Midwestern farmers losing their farms, to name only a few," said Offen-Brown.
"It's brilliantly written," she added, "and a great read."
Jane Hammons, assistant director of the College Writing Programs, recommended "Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life In Brazil," a work of non-fiction by anthropology Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
"She tells us about blood and dirt and death -- and birth -- in vivid detail that helps us understand the people she lives among and writes about," said Hammons. "She never hides from the reader.
"Students will find no better model of ethnography, a kind of text they will most certainly be asked to read and will very well be asked to write as they pursue their educations at Berkeley."
Librarian Meltzer contributed psychology professor Christina Maslach's "Burnout: The Cost of Caring," to the summer reading list, saying it's not a "sit-on-the-beach-and-sip-a-Coke" book, but that it's accessible and enjoyable.
"Everyone's heard about burnout, and it was one of our own faculty members who originally did research in this field," said Meltzer. "This should be exciting to students when they begin to think about what it will really be like to come here and be in contact with faculty."
Meltzer said students headed to Berkeley "have worked really hard, and if they haven't already, they will come to points in their lives when they'll experience burnout."
A few of the professors on the list are no longer are alive, but students can meet them through their books and glimpse the campus's long literary history, said Tollefson.
Eugene Burdick, who became well known for writing "Fail Safe," was an assistant professor of political science who died in 1965. He's on the reading list for "The Ninth Wave," which mixes the early days of surfing with California politics.
Josephine Miles, who, at the end of her teaching days, was so frail she was carried to class by students, is an unsung poet worth learning about, added Tollefson. Miles, who died in 1985, was the first woman professor in the English department.
The late George Stewart, who taught English, is on the list for "Earth Abides," a science fiction novel set in Berkeley, including the campus. "It should be required reading for every student at Berkeley," said Tollefson. "The Bay Bridge is there, and the main library, among other things."
While some books are out of print, all of them are available through the campus library and other libraries, as well as through on-line booksellers.
In past years, the summer reading list has been full of surprises, including "The Communist Manifesto," the Old Testament and, last year, "Winnie the Pooh."
This year's list is just as entertaining and unpredictable.
"You wouldn't expect many of these books to be on the list," said Tollefson, "but what do you expect from Berkeley?"