Why are we curious and what does this curiosity do for us? You might think of curiosity as something that you exercise in your free time, or even worse as something that killed the cat. However, curiosity can benefit you in ways that you might never imagine, both personally and professionally. In the Williams Honors College we encourage students to be curious, and in the coming year we will focus on our own curiosity and how we can encourage this vital skill.
As a beginning, we are highly recommending that every student read
Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It
Everyone is born curious. But only some retain the habits of exploring, learning, and discovering as they grow older. Those who do so tend to be smarter, more creative, and more successful. But at the very moment when the rewards of curiosity have never been higher, it is misunderstood and undervalued, and increasingly monopolized by the cognitive elite. A "curiosity divide" is opening up. In Curious, Ian Leslie makes a passionate case for the cultivation of our "desire to know." Drawing on fascinating research from psychology, economics, education, and business, Leslie looks at what feeds curiosity and what starves it, and finds surprising answers. Curiosity is a mental muscle that atrophies without regular exercise and a habit that parents, schools, and workplaces need to nurture. Filled with inspiring stories, case studies, and practical advice, Curious will change the way you think about your own mental life, and that of those around you.
Throughout the year we will hold lectures, workshops, and activities on curiosity, and this book will be great start to the 2022-23 academic year!
Finally, we asked around, and have collected the list of books below as suggestions for your summer reading. These books have been recommended by students and faculty from the UA community.
Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is “undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.”
Recommended by Grace Kolar, Bill Lyons
In this deeply inspiring book, Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi recount their experiences talking to people from all walks of life about race and identity on a cross-country tour of America. Spurred by the realization that they had nearly completed high school without hearing any substantive discussion about racism in school, the two young women deferred college admission for a year to collect first-person accounts of how racism plays out in this country every day--and often in unexpected ways. In Tell Me Who You Are, Guo and Vulchi reveal the lines that separate us based on race or other perceived differences and how telling our stories--and listening deeply to the stories of others--are the first and most crucial steps we can take towards negating racial inequity in our culture. Featuring interviews with over 150 Americans accompanied by their photographs, this intimate toolkit also offers a deep examination of the seeds of racism and strategies for effecting change.
Recommended by Issac Edmondson
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcasting of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Recommended by Mark Auburn, Carolyn Behrman
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine: The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Recommended by Richard Londraville
Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic (Pharmaceutical Industry)
A remarkable four-year investigation into the dangerous world of synthetic drugs―from black market drug factories in China to users and dealers on the streets of the U.S. to harm reduction activists in Europe―which reveals for the first time the next wave of the opioid epidemic.
Recommended by Grace Kolar
The term "degrowth" has emerged within ecological and other heterodox schools of economics as a critique of the idea (and ideology) of economic growth. Instead, degrowth advocates a contraction of economies by reducing production and consumption, arguing that it is possible to do so without reducing prosperity or wellbeing. One might see in the degrowth community a resurgence of a radical theoretical and political variant of environmentalism, or "ecologism," based on the key premise that there are, and that there must be, "limits to growth." While this is an old idea, the recent degrowth literature has given it new shape by bringing different disciplines and schools of thought together in formulating its core critiques and propositions. Degrowth is the interdisciplinary theory, or science, of ecologism and the aim of this book is to summarize its core elements in a brief, succinct, and simple form. It grounds degrowth squarely within the field of ecological economics and, in addition to outlining its key ideas, explores what it would take for an economy to transition to a position that enabled it to prosper without growth.
Author: Giorgos Kallis
Recommended by John Huss
Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We think too much like preachers defending our sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval--and too little like scientists searching for truth. Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become. Think Again reveals that we don't have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It's an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don't know is wisdom.
Recommended by Issac Edmondson, Mark Auburn
Wired for Love: A Neuroscientist's Journey Through Romance, Loss, and the Essence of Human Connection (Cognitive Psychology)
At thirty-seven, Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo was content to be single. She was fulfilled by her work on the neuroscience of romantic love―how finding and growing with a partner literally reshapes our brains. That was, until she met the foremost neuroscientist of loneliness. A whirlwind romance led to marriage and to sharing an office at the University of Chicago. After seven years of being inseparable at work and at home, Stephanie lost her beloved husband, John, following his intense battle with cancer. In Wired for Love, Stephanie tells not just a science story but also a love story. She shares revelatory insights into how and why we fall in love, what makes love last, and how we process love lost―all grounded in cutting-edge findings in brain chemistry and behavioral science. Woven through it all is her moving personal story, from astonishment to unbreakable bond to grief and healing. Her experience and her work enrich each other, creating a singular blend of science and lyricism that’s essential reading for anyone looking for connection.
Author: Stephanie Cacioppo
Recommended by Dane Quinn
In this lively, unexpected look at the hearts of animals—from fish to bats to humans—American Museum of Natural History zoologist Bill Schutt tells an incredible story of evolution and scientific progress. We join Schutt on a tour from the origins of circulation, still evident in microorganisms today, to the tiny hardworking pumps of worms, to the golf-cart-size hearts of blue whales. We visit beaches where horseshoe crabs are being harvested for their blood, which has properties that can protect humans from deadly illnesses. We learn that when temperatures plummet, some frog hearts can freeze solid for weeks, resuming their beat only after a spring thaw. And we journey with Schutt through human history, too, as philosophers and scientists hypothesize, often wrongly, about what makes our ticker tick. Schutt traces humanity’s cardiac fascination from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who believed that the heart contains the soul, all the way up to modern-day laboratories, where scientists use animal hearts and even plants as the basis for many of today’s cutting-edge therapies. Written with verve and authority, weaving evolutionary perspectives with cultural history, Pump shows us this mysterious organ in a completely new light.
Author: Bill Schutt
Recommended by Lana Tso
Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola: In Tom Standage’s deft, innovative account of world history, these six beverages turn out to be much more than just ways to quench thirst. They also represent six eras that span the course of civilization―from the adoption of agriculture, to the birth of cities, to the advent of globalization. A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century through each epoch’s signature refreshment. As Standage persuasively argues, each drink is in fact a kind of technology, advancing culture and catalyzing the intricate interplay of different societies. After reading this enlightening book, you may never look at your favorite drink in quite the same way again.
Recommended by Grace Kolar
The dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time, a tale of greed, corruption, and obstruction but also of optimism, heroism, and determination. This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation’s history, during the Age of Optimism—a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all things were possible. In the years around 1870, when the project was first undertaken, the concept of building an unprecedented bridge to span the East River between the great cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went into the building of the great cathedrals. Throughout the fourteen years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project. But this is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the surpassing enterprise.
Recommended by Olivia Lane
This newly reissued debut book in the Rutgers University Press Classics imprint is the story of the search for a rocket propellant which could be trusted to take man into space. This search was a hazardous enterprise carried out by rival labs who worked against the known laws of nature, with no guarantee of success or safety. Acclaimed scientist and sci-fi author John Drury Clark writes with irreverent and eyewitness immediacy about the development of the explosive fuels strong enough to negate the relentless restraints of gravity. The resulting volume is as much a memoir as a work of history, sharing a behind-the-scenes view of an enterprise which eventually took men to the moon, missiles to the planets, and satellites to outer space. A classic work in the history of science, and described as “a good book on rocket stuff…that’s a really fun one” by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, readers will want to get their hands on this influential classic, available for the first time in decades.
Author: John Drury Clark
Recommended by Reilly Blackwell
Henry Cloud, the bestselling author of Integrity and The One-Life Solution, offers this mindset-altering method for proactively correcting the bad and the broken in our businesses and our lives. Cloud challenges readers to achieve the personal and professional growth they both desire and deserve—and gives crucial insight on how to make those tough decisions that are standing in the way of a more successful business and, ultimately, a better life.
Recommended by John Weincek
Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal. He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete, practical plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions—suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise. As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.
Recommended by Dane Quinn
"When it comes to climate change, the media, politicians, and other prominent voices have declared that "the science is settled."" In reality, the long game of telephone from research to reports to the popular media is corrupted by misunderstanding and misinformation. Core questions—about the way the climate is responding to our influence, and what the impacts will be—remain largely unanswered. The climate is changing, but the why and how aren't as clear as you've probably been led to believe. Now, one of America's most distinguished scientists is clearing away the fog to explain what science really says (and doesn't say) about our changing climate. In Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters, Steven Koonin draws upon his decades of experience—including as a top science advisor to the Obama administration—to provide up-to-date insights and expert perspective free from political agendas."
Recommended by Matt Wyszynski
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.
Recommended by Renee Clippinger
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Recommended by Renee Clippinger
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Recommended by Mark Auburn
A Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour. As these characters’ stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America. Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind?
Author: Jason Mott
Recommended by Jon Miller
Widely held to be the most influential Polish poet of a generation that includes Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, Tadeusz Rózewicz gives voice in the sharpest, most disturbing way to the crisis of values that has plagued our civilization. This translation displays Rózewicz's supernatural simplicity, his stark diction and sudden turns.
Author: Tadeusz Rozewicz
Recommended by John Huss
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.
1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...
Author: Kate Quinn
Recommended by Aimee DeChambeau
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.
Recommended by Janet Bean
In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son—but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper—a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.
Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC—until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.
Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.
Author: Kate Quinn
Recommended by Aimee DeChambeau
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.
So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer isa propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Recommended by Heather Pollock
Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver's riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver's must thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.
Recommended by Heather Pollock
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
Recommended by Carolyn Behrman
The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of the year, this extraordinary novel from visionary science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson will change the way you think about the climate crisis.
Recommended by Jon Miller
From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and whimsical illustrations. The inspiring and timeless message encourages readers to find the success that lies within, no matter what challenges they face. A perennial favorite and a perfect gift for anyone starting a new phase in their life!
Recommended by Amazon