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Unofficial 2003 summer reading list includes unusual picks about war and peace

– It doesn't include "Red Badge of Courage" or "All Quiet on the Western Front," but this year's unofficial Summer Reading List from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests 13 books on the timely topic of war and peace.

The books were selected by UC Berkeley faculty and staff members for freshmen who will attend UC Berkeley in the fall.

"The choices they made reflect the diversity and depth of knowledge on a subject on almost everyone's mind," said UC Berkeley lecturer and faculty development coordinator Stephen Tollefson. "I was incredibly pleased that none of the typical war and peace books were chosen."

UC Berkeley is one of the few schools that does not send a required summer reading list to its incoming freshman. Tollefson says this makes the list he compiles with Elizabeth Dupuis, head of Instructional Services at the Teaching Library at Moffitt Library, all the more intriguing to students.

Over the years, the list also has developed a larger following.

"Alums, faculty members and staff look forward to seeing what will be on the list year to year," he said.

This year, a few of the selections caught Tollefson off guard.

"I was really surprised when "Wide Sargasso Sea" appeared on the list, but then I realized it made perfect sense," he said. He also cited "The Language War" by UC Berkeley linguistics professor

Robin Tolmach Lakoff as a book that "I wouldn't have thought of, but was a really great choice."

A brochure listing the 13 books with commentary by the selectors is sent to all incoming students, as well as made available at various locations throughout campus.

The books, with excerpts of commentary from their campus sponsors are:

The Singing Tree,
Kate Seredy
New York, Puffin Books, 1990, (c)1939
"This is a children's book set in Hungary before and during World War I...If you have children, read this to them. If you've never read it, or read it as a child, read it again now."
Aija Kanbergs, Teaching Library program coordinator

Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niņo Famines and the Making of the Third World
Mike Davis
New York, Verso, 2001
"...This is a searing book. Read it and you will never again think in the same way about famine, population, trade in food, the British Empire, or Queen Victoria."
Louise Fortmann, professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien
Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1990
"...Although characterized as fiction, this book rings very, very true. And, as O'Brien himself writes, "A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe."
Maggie Sokolik, College Writing Programs lecturer and assistant director of the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching and Resource Center

Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
New York, Norton, 1999, (c)1966
"...It is a violent, lyrical novel that challenges colonialism, race, gender, and power... There are all kinds of wars going on-from slave/indigenous revolts against the colonizing British, to more oblique attacks on the nature of hierarchical systems in general-power/gender/race."
Jeff Reimer, professor and associate dean of Chemical Engineering/Graduate Division

War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam
Edited by Tad Bartimus
New York, Random House, 2002
"...These nine essays are as different as the experiences of the women who wrote them...The book reads like an adventure story on one level, and on the other it is a graphic, lucid illustration of the commitment these women had to finding and reporting the truth of the war in Vietnam."
Jane Hammons, College Writing Programs lecturer

Starship Troopers
Robert Heinlein
New York, Putnam, 1959
"Perhaps best known because of the recent film, this provocative book links citizenship to military service in a deep-space epic war against enemy aliens whose culture resembles those of colony insects such as ants..."
Charles Faulhaber, director of The Bancroft Library and professor of Spanish

The Assault
Harry Mulisch
New York, Pantheon Books, 1985
"...This is a morality play, where right and wrong are often hard to distinguish from each other. I think it reflects on our time as well, a time where we have to look at all sides of the situation and see that everything is not so black and white."
Steve Mendoza, research, reference, and collections specialist

Pat Barker
London, Viking, 1991
"This is the first of a trilogy set in World War I Britain, describing what happens when an officer, who believes the war is insane, is himself declared insane by psychiatrists and other officers to avoid having to execute him for treasonous convictions."
Joe Barker, Teaching Library program coordinator

The Language War
Robin Tolmach Lakoff
Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000
"...Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at Berkeley, provides a thoughtful examination of how and why language is mobilized as a weapon in contests for power and authority in society... During 2003-2004 phrases like "diversity," "collateral damage," "nation building," and even "The American People" may come to be understood differently by those who read Lakoff and rise to her important challenge."
Bil Banks, professor of African American Studies

The Company of Strangers
Robert Wilson
New York, Harcourt, 2001
"...War, peace, reconciliation-among nations, among ourselves -Wilson both captures the period and illuminates the motivations and consequences in an oh-so-human enterprise."
Imani Abalos, research, reference, and collections specialist

This Earth of Mankind
Pramoedya Ananta Toer
New York, Penguin Books, 1981
"Toer wrote This Earth of Mankind, the first of four novels known as the Buru Quartet, while a political prisoner on Buru Island ..Written on scraps of paper, this novel was then smuggled out of prison... His depictions of Indonesia's anti-colonialist struggles resonate profoundly with other such struggles worldwide..."
Phyllis Bischof, African and African American Studies librarian

The Face of Battle
John Keegan
New York, Viking Press, 1995, (c)1976
"The author's focus is upon the soldier's experience in this military history...If we're going to send armies off to war, we ought to know what it will be like for them and those they will encounter. This book is a beginning."
Diane Fortner, physics librarian

Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity
Primo Levi
New York, Collier Books, 1961, (c)1959
"...This autobiographical account of Auschwitz by the great Italian writer is a miracle of writing... It raises the largest possible questions as it depicts the most specific material details. And while it rigorously avoids sentimentalism and moralizing, the great beauty of its writing offers the reader an encounter with the very humanity that the concentration camp sought to exterminate."
Susan Maslan, assistant professor of French