We recently asked a few of our regular Exchanges contributors to share their summer reading choices with us, along with their thoughts on what they've read. You may pick up some great additions to your reading list, and feel free to share what you read in the comments below.
Richard Threlfall, Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry
Controversial and tremendously thought-provoking, top of my reading list this summer was Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge (ISBN 978-0143115267). Thaler and Sunstein set out their ideas on how the “health, wealth, and happiness” of the population at large could potentially be improved by what they term “liberal paternalism”, that is, giving people a slight “nudge” in the right direction when making important choices while still maintaining complete freedom of choice. It’s a compelling idea that seems a powerful tool with which to improve life for a great many people, but the interesting questions that arise are how and when should it be used, and who should be using it? How do we avoid good intentions being hijacked by other interests and how do we ensure that nudging doesn’t become something altogether more sinister? This is a great book that changed my perception of some of the issues facing a modern society and it will have you on the phone to your financial advisor faster that you can say liberal paternalism.
Elizabeth Lorbeer, Library Director, Western Michigan University School of Medicine
If you’re a parent of a young child, you find that the books that your child selects for their summer reading program become your summer read. My daughter and I clocked over 720 hours reading young adult non-fiction and fact books. My daughter is fascinated by the planets and stars. After reading together all the books on the solar system held by our local public library, I realized the amount of discovery that has happened since my youth. Each night when I look up at the night sky, I can tell you so much more about the world around us. The capstone to summer reading for my daughter and I was watching the International Space Station fly over our home. The Spot the Station website is located here.
Mark Allin, President & CEO, Wiley
I was just rereading a novel that I read when I was in Africa, Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess. It’s an 800-page romp through the twentieth century. Hugely entertaining, quite impactful, very sad. I read it again and thought, It’s 30 years later, and I still think this novel is stunning.
Robert Dingwall, Editor, Symbolic Interaction
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1533-8665I revived a long-standing passion for science fiction, partly in the context of trying to contribute to sociological thinking about the future. There is a big problem with the way governments approach major infrastructure investments by projecting recent trends – ‘upwards and to the right thinking’ – which lacks resilience in the face of technological innovation or environmental change. Advocates of ‘science fiction prototyping’ think one alternative might be to use literature to ask ‘what if’ questions about how relevant big projects will be in fifty years’ time.
Apart from revisiting some old friends, like Dune, I discovered the American writer, Connie Willis, who explores some implications of time travel. History would become an empirical study and graduate students would write dissertations by journeying into the past. Unfortunately the technology is not wholly reliable so they tend to get stranded. Willis is very good at creating a sense of jeopardy around characters who are essentially contemporary young Americans encountering the challenges of everyday life in the past. The best is Doomsday Book whose heroine accidentally lands in the middle of the Black Death in 14th century England. This is a really chilling account of a pandemic without modern medical interventions. Later books include a farce set in late Victorian England and two books set in London during the Blitz. Although the central figures are well drawn, these use more stock types in the surrounding characters. Otherwise meticulous research is also let down by a neglect of the differences between UK and US railway/railroad argot. These grated on a reader whose family has over a century of experience in that industry! Nevertheless, the four books saw me through several long-haul flights and provoked useful methodological thoughts about past, present and future, that may or may not surface in other contexts.
Jenny Neophytou, Bibliometrics Manager, Wiley
Anyone who’s met me will probably know that I’m a voracious bookworm, so I’m restricting myself to the three books from my Summer library that made the biggest impressions on me this year. Firstly, Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb. This is the latest of Hobb’s ‘Farseer’ books. While the genre may be fantasy, Hobb’s books read like history, and are structured around some fascinating philosophical debates on the nature of history, context and identity. When it comes to the fantasy genre, you can’t do better than this.
Next, Stephen King’s The Running Man, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. If you think you know The Running Man from the film, think again. This is no action-comedy. It portrays a chilling 1984-style dystopia where governmental control is enforced by misinformation, and by deadly televised games that are the reward for poverty or dissent. Finally, The Book Thief. Like all of Zusak’s books (including the equally powerful I Am the Messenger), you will not finish this unchanged. The Book Thief the story of an orphaned child in Nazi Germany, whose love of books sets her on a dangerous path between governmental compliance and rebellion. The story is narrated by Death, but the personification is powerful rather than childish, and the book itself is heart-breakingly beautiful. Watch out in particular for the moment when Hitler’s Mein Kampf is transformed into a fairy tale by a Jewish refugee.