UC Berkeley News


You can lead a president to the library
But can you make him read what Berkeley scholars think he should?

| 31 May 2006

Listed under the opportune heading "Books for Future Presidents," the books on this year's Summer Reading List for incoming freshmen are aimed at tomorrow's leaders as well as Oval Office-seekers in need of etiquette tips, historic grounding, and gravitas.

The list isn't targeted solely at presidential wannabes. "As soon as freshmen come to Berkeley, they can be considered tomorrow's leaders. In this case, 'presidents' really is a placeholder for leaders," says Steve Tollefson, a College Writing Programs lecturer and director of the Office of Educational Development, who puts together the annual list with Elizabeth Dupuis, head of Instructional Services at Moffitt Library.

The list, which has been compiled for more than 20 years, is included in freshmen-orientation packets. It is dubbed "unofficial" because it's not required reading, only for enjoyment.

This year, Tollefson and Dupuis had originally aimed for a counterpoint to the list of the "Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" compiled in 2005 by the conservative publication Human Events, which included The Feminine Mystique, Silent Spring, and The Origin of Species. But the theme became too complicated: Should it be "Best Books," "Beneficial Books" or "Importantly Good Books"? They couldn't decide. And so they drew their inspiration from Berkeley astrophysicist Richard Muller's course Physics for Future Presidents, which covers physical concepts that Muller considers necessary prerequisites for living in today's complex world.

As hoped, the "Books for Future Presidents" theme drew a wide range of responses from faculty who subscribe to Teach-net, a Berkeley campus e-mail list whose members discuss teaching issues. It also drew recommendations from faculty who are longtime fans of the list, as well as from several library groups.

Detailed descriptions of this year's picks are online at reading.berkeley.edu). The list itself follows:

. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman (2005)
. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (2005)
. Rose, by Li-Young Lee (1986)
. The Moral Sense, by James Wilson (1993)
. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson (2003)
. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky (1988)
. Antigone, by Sophocles (written in 442 B.C.)
. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)
. How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff (1954)
. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, by Laurie Garrett (1994)
. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer (2003)
. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, by Edmund Sears Morgan (1975)
. Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries, by Terri Morrison, Wayne Conaway, and George Borden (1994)