Welcome to the booklist as suggested by the students and staff in BIOE 202/MCB 493JLM course for spring 2007!
The first rule for this year’s list was that no one could list Harry Potter books as most of us will be reading the carnage of mass death in Harry Potter 7 this summer. My gruesome prediction is that JK Rowling will probably single handedly devastate an entire generation of children, so they all need lots of therapy in the future, just so none of her characters can be resurrected in spinoff books! (I’ll have the box of tissues ready when I read it!) The second rule was no books by Dan Brown, or Ender’s Game as they were so popular last year. I wanted to see some fresh ideas....and you all came through!
First, Joanne’s list: I’ve read quite a few books since last May, but here are my top six memorable books for this time frame. My descriptions are long, but I had more time to think about this than you all did.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Our family listened to this on cassette from Cracker Barrel on our way home from NC last year. The narrator was superb! The story was great, a fantastic reminder that reality is not always the best way to go in retelling events. Winner of the Mann Booker Prize in Literature. High five to Ellora who also suggests this book!
^ by Erik Larson. A top pick by students last year. It was also enthusiastically recommended by the guy who ran the register at the bookstore. I really enjoyed the story of the World’s Fair in Chicago superimposed upon a serial killer’s life, which I had sort of hoped would be a bit more creepy than it was, but it was sufficiently creepy to keep me interested.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. My FAVORITE book this year!!
The true story of a woman raised in Somalia and Kenya. Escaped an arranged Islamic marriage and defected to the Netherlands, studied hard, worked for Islamic women’s rights in the political realm and eventually made a movie called Submission with Theo van Gogh. Unfortunately for Mr. van Gogh, he had his throat slit in public and a note pinned to his chest with a knife by some crazed Islamic fundamentalist for his work on this film criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. Ali had her Dutch citizenship revoked and now she resides in the US, working for a conservative think tank in DC. Needless to say, she goes everywhere with body guards. I have watched her speak and find her to be inspiring and amazing. If you like this book, also read While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer, a book heartily recommended by a friend and I found quite compelling about the social issues in Europe surrounding Islamic immigration.
^ by Walter Isaacson. Hey, it’s about Einstein. What more needs to be said? The newest and penultimate biography of a fascinating human being who unfortunately became too conservative and stuck in his ways at a time when he could be formulating more theories (age 40), but at least decided to also focus on humanitarian issues. Walter Isaacson obviously loved writing this book and had access to some of Einstein’s letters not previously available.
No god but God: The origins, evolution and future of Islam by Reza Aslan, A good antidote to the majority of the anti-Islam books on the market currently. I found this book to be a marvelous account of the history and practice of Islam and even provides a discussion of what the current turmoil represents to the religion and the world. I picked up the book to review what I liked and found myself reading this quite accessible book again. I appreciate Aslan’s articulate and scholarly approach. He appears regularly on TV shows needing a personable Middle East “expert”. The book wouldn’t convince me to become Muslim, but could bring a whole new understanding between religions if more people read it.
god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens: A very recent book about atheism. Hitchens makes no new real arguments against religion (or for secularity), and is even a bit remedial in his research and assumptions but says what he wants VERY WELL. If you’ve never listened to an atheist’s viewpoint (and care to), start with this book. He’s an equal opportunity religion basher, despite the title’s play on the Islamic chant so often heard. Hitchens has been around a while and I enjoy his style even when I don’t agree with him. Why is this book good? I couldn’t help but read parts of it out loud to TA assistants, my kids, my husband, and my friends because his writing style is as excellent as ever. I would add here some portions of his book just to show examples of his writing style, but would probably violate copyright laws. Check it out, enjoy his humor! And read the word “solopsism” more than you’ve ever have in your life!
From Mike, TA:
Remainder by Tom McCarthy: About a guy who wins a lawsuit as compensation for an injury he can’t remember. About reality and reconstruction.
^ by Michel Houellebecq: About two very different brothers and something of a critique of society. About love and emotion.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: My favorite author. His books are like David Lynch movies.
American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin: A really great biography of Robert Oppenheimer. About science and politics.
^ by Thomas Pynchon: Kind of a bizarre epic with too many characters.
From Ryan, TA assistant
1) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - A fantastic satire about the hells of war and the inextricable clause that kept our soldier apart of the battle (this is where the phrase a 'catch-22' came from).
2) ^ by Brian Greene — great book that looks at string theory, which explains how quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity can coexist. Gives easy to understand examples.
3) Moneyball - great book about how Billy Beane of the Oakland A's took a new approach at evaluating talent and getting the best players for little to no money. Interesting approah and fun to read because a number of the no name players in the book are now in the major leagues.
4) ^ - you probably had to read this for high school stuff but it's sill a classic.
5) The Godfather by Mario Puzo - Personally, I thought it was much better than the movie. Same plot lines, but it captures your imagination so much more.
From Miri, TA assistant
A commotion in the blood: Life, Death, and the Immune System
by Stephen S. Hall
^ by Ayn Rand-- which is an incredible read. Long but worth the time
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Egalia's Daughters: a satire of the sexes by Gerd Brantenberg
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Life of Pi by Yann Martel—written very well and completely different than most fictional stories. Makes you think while you also enjoy it.
^ by Patrick Suskind—I actually never read the book , but I saw the movie and it was great and I hear the book is better.
Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky—it really makes you think and understand man’s most basic and instinctual ideas and feelings.
^ by Brian Froud---the illustrations are so beautiful. Brian Froud is amazing and faeries are cool. Also, Dragonology: the handbook could be inserted here, too.
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base (Australian author and illustrator)—I think it’s an awesome children’s book and the drawings are wonderful, but it’s really fun to try to find out the mystery of who ate the birthday feast. Mwahahahahah!
^ by William Faulkner—great literature
So many more! Agh!
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley—This book is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur. Bradley is a great storyteller.
^ —I forgot the author but this is a classic.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman—these are just interesting fantasy/adventure
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffey—favorites of mine from when I was a kid but this whole series never gets old. Good fake science fiction.
^ by Etel Adnan. Horribly depressing story of a woman tortured and killed during the Lebanese civil war, but moving and relevant if you want to understand part of the conflict in the Middle East.
There are so many more....
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides—weirdest freaking book ever! Explores the life of a Greek-American family and their hemaphrodite son/daughter. Good reflection on important events in America in the 20th century.
^ by Michael Crichton—mystery/adventure with lots of worst case scenario examples of the biotech world going all wrong
The Rainmaker by John Grisham—an older one from the mid-nineties. Solidified my hatred of insurance companies.
The Life of Elizabeth I by Allison Weir—interesting reflection on an extraordinary character in history.
^ by Bill Clinton—self explanatory
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller—a classic!!!
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein--great contrast to Catch 22
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling—if you’re into steampunk
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov—nothing like the movie though I greatly enjoyed them both
Entanglement by Amir Aczel—because there’s nothing quite like the history of physics as recreational reading ;-) (and Brian, I couldn’t agree more, given my sometimes pathetic nerdiness—joanne). Also, the stories of the guys that came up with quantum mechanics can be pretty inspiring.
Bandolino by Umberto Eco
^ by Tolkein
The Ocean World by Jacques Cousteau (the diver)
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Gray Fox by Burke Davis
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis—any book in the series, they all have several biblical themes. A great fantasy series.
^ by Tolkein—A more mature and intricate fantasy world, again with biblical themse. Very well written and emotional
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton—One of several novels by this author guaranteed to please those interested in science, especially genetics and tissue engineering.
^ by Douglas Adams–Well written and hilarious series that makes several jokes relating to religion, science and society in general.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pere --Just a really, really great novel
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman—It is excellent science-fiction/fantasy, and I hear word they’re making a movie soon. (books are always better than movies!)
Also by Pullman: ^ , The Amber Spyglass
The Talisman by Stephen King—if you want less horror, more fantasy than the usual Stephen King
The Stand by Stephen King—if you want something you could read all summer.
(I gave up King’s book “cold turkey” after ^ y—not even his best book, but after I could no longer walk past a window at night from being so creeped out, I figured King’s books weren’t doing my soul any good!—joanne)
Reaper man and other books by Terry Pratchett—it is prettttyyyyy funny, the satire in the books literally kill me.
^ by Robert Heinlen—very good about Martian raised child. Another social commentary.
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke—I think it explores human society and such pretty well. Also have feeling of the unknown (?)... I like epic books that have auras of mystery to them
^ and God-Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert—I liked these better than Dune itself, even though it is a great book, because I always like to see what happens after the original story, how heroes fall, etc. Also, God-emperor is very epic in scale, which is something I like in books. Seen through the eyes of the God-Emperor of 10,000 years.
The Miracle Strain by Michael Connely—Awesome convergence between multiple stories
Ann Rice’s ^ —always awesome, always a classic
The Geography Club by Brent Hartinger—a fast, simple read
Revolutionary Voices by Amy Sonnie—all about our generation and being a minority within a minority
Butch is a noun by S. Bear Bergman—bought it for my roommate and she loved it
Complications by Atul Gawande
Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks—no, this is not a joke, it’s a funny yet scary book
Any of the books in the Talented series by Anne McCaffrey—I love her characters and the universe she creates here.
^ by Orson Scott Card—really, really interesting alternative history novel and time travel stuff is awesome. (also, everything else he wrote, like the Ender series, because they’re fantastic...except not the Alvin Maker books, those were bad)
^ by Connie Willis—again, time travel, plus Kirrin is an awesome name and an awesome girl
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman—It’s marketed as a kids adventure story but there’s philosophy in it, too.
Timeline by Michael Crichton—because I apparently like time travel and because it is one of my favorites of his books.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—good book with historical perspective
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger—a nice read, very entertaining
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway--entertaining
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair—more because of its overall effects (and it also has the longest sentence in American literature—joanne)
^ by Tolstoy
Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini—either for a good fantasy story or for laughs, some people really hate his story, but I think it is geared towards a younger audience.
1984 and Paradise Lost—because I love distopia stories, also see the movies Brazil, V for Vendetta
The Lord of the Rings (and the Hobbit) because I’m a nerd and love fantasy. Also, the books are vastly superior to the movies and will appeal to more people that aren’t really into the huge battle scenes. Also, I love dwarves and dragons.
Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy—can easily captivate the minds of readers with this book about a US SWAT team. It is lengthy but well worth it.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—It’s an easy, entertaining science fiction series with humor involved. The books are way better than the movie.
^ by Emily Bronte—being a Bronte sisters fan, I recommend this book to any avid reader of British literature, especially along the lines of a secluded and sometimes demented atmosphere.
Bless me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya—As a fan of mysticism as an overall theme in a book, this Mexican (?) novel is an easy read for something of interest in World Literature.
^ by Brian Greene—I know it’s a non-fiction book, but any string theory, physics fan will appreciate this informative read on the subject matter.
Timeline by Michael Crichton—interesting time travelind story through quantum tunneling.
Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner—lots of economic (biased) views.
^ by Ayn Rand—long, but interesting concepts of individualism, capitalism
All of the Lord of the Rings—classics
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—read a long time ago, but I remember them being enjoyable.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown --Interesting revelations that build up excitement
^ by Philip Pullman—fantasy unlike most other books
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky—very suspenseful. Thriller.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—book on class/ status with very interesting characters.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac Mccarthy—adventure story. A boy goes through many trials and tribulations. Story of Perseverence
^ —A very well thought out Chinese war tale
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden—while a good story to begin with, it’s fascinating to consider how a male wrote a geisha’s memoirs—nonfictional or fictional!
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Viggorito—you would love this book! It is about “the end of the world” as we know it, and is centered around a professor in the biotech field who finds that an infectious agent has been released that is taking away society’s ability to communicate. Full of symbolism, extremely philosophic, and a highly well-written adventure that forces us to wonder “why aren’t all apples called reds?” READ IT!
^ by Tom Robinson—Essentially, a love story between a seattle-based, Nixon-obsessed Princess and a charismatic pyromaniac. Wacky plot but very intelligently written in a satirical style that is hard to pass up.
The Curious Incident of the Murder of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon—A story told through the point of view of an autistic 15 year old boy. Offers great insight and it will make you think in a way you haven’t before.
^ by Charlaine Harris—Southern Vampire series. The only vampire named “Bill” you will ever meet. Features Sookie Stackhouse, the main character who is involved in many mysteries. Did I mention she was telepathic? Fun series.
Lamb by Christopher Moore—A satire. A narrative told from the point of view of Jesus’ childhood pal, Biff.
Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—Hilarious, my favorite book (series) of all time.
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne –C’mon, it’s a classic.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley—of it’s kind, best predictive ability (for being written 100 years ago!)
The ^ series by Frank Herbert ---The Star Wars of books
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency—another great book by Douglas Adams
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius—I enjoyed it because it has a very personal style to a philosophy or outlook on life I admire.
^ and Tides of War by Steven Pressfield—Good historical fiction books about ancient Greece
The Aenied by Virgil—I enjoy ancient Greek/Roman mythology stories and I like Virgil’s style more than Homer’s.
Thus Spoke Zarathrustra by Nietzche—An interesting but deep book that presents a viewpoint very different from societal norms.
Electric Koolaid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Go Ask Alice by anonymous
Demons and Devils
Cheating Culture by David Callahan
White Oleaner by Janet Fitch
Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin
The Giver by Lois Lowry
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Ordinary People by Judith Guest—into the mind of a depressed person, not often understood
Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom—an optimistic view on death
The Art of War by Sun Tzu—though used as rules for warfare, these guidelines can be used for everyday life.
^ by Ira Levin—a twisted story, but fast and interesting nevertheless
The Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes—a chick novel, but good nevertheless
Orcs and Crane by Margaret Atwood—great story, very relevant to bioengineers—discusses genetically modified world of the future
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller—manages to switch back and forth constantly from hilarious to terrifying/heartbreaking. I normally hate war stories but this was amazing.
^ (or anything by JD Salinger)—he always has an interesting view of the world/makes you think.
Holes by Louis Sachar—this is a kid’s book but is really worth reading. It draws you into the story completely (much better than the movie).
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede—my very favorite book from childhood. This is a whole new take on your traditional damsel in distress.
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich—MIT math team breaks blackjack at Vegas. Intriguing math perspective.
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder—history of Paul Farmer revolutionizing international health care in Haiti
^ by Douglas Adams—great science fiction of how earth actually fits in the universe.
America by John Stewart, et al.—an interesting explanation of “how things work” in American Politics
Everthing is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer—a touching story of connecting with your roots and providing closure.
Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell—The first few chapters are an excellent introduction on how to think like an economist. Beats the pants off Freakonomics in terms of economics. Very clear and well written.
Rich Dad/Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki—Goodway to think about finances.
^ —even if not a body builder, basically the only fitness book you’ll ever need.
Eat the Rich by PJ O’Rourke—hilarious book on the government.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell—how subconscious factors have a huge effect on performance.
All Things Great and Small by James Herriot—perfect for animal lovers
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson—interesting history of Chicago and real life thriller
Rompole at the Bailey—hilarious!
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich—mystery series and romance, a guilty pleasure
Seven Percent Solution by Arthur Conan Doyle—really any Sherlock Holmes mystery
Longshot by Dick Francis—mystery and interesting look at people and what motivates them.
Along Came a Spider by Patterson—so real it was actually scary—could not read it at night!
Star by Pamela Anderson—so bad it’s good.