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Faculty Summer Reading List

From a Pulitzer prize-winning classic to a collection of thought-provoking sci-fi short stories, our faculty have some great suggestions to get you through the summer!

Faculty Summer Reading List


Cover Image

Book Description

Mark Witte

Mark Witte

How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue

For fans of development economics, asymmetric information, and the Environmental Kuznets Curve, Imbolo Mbue's How Beautiful We Were is about the collision between a small African village and a big American oil company.  Sometimes a crazy person can change us from a bad equilibrium to a better one.  

Chris Udry

Chris Udry



The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

I can't believe I hadn't read this until now! This is a compelling novel of Wang Lung's escape from poverty, and how this affects his idea of himself, his relationships with his family, and their place in the community. Thank you, Nancy Qian, for suggesting it to me.

Kintu, Jennifer Nansubugu Makumbi

Brilliant overlapping stories from members of a single Ugandan family, all dealing with ramifications of a curse unleashed by an 18th century ancestor who made a single very bad decision. Engrossing and surprising. 


Sidonia McKenzie





Competition in the Promised Land, Leah Platt Boustan

This book uses novel historical census data and rigorous econometric methods to provide a fresh perspective on the cause and long-term effects of the Great Migration of southern African Americans. It isn’t simply a collection of empirical papers, but an expertly crafted and comprehensive exposition that gives a vivid and rich treatise on the Great Migration. Leah Platt Boustan is a master storyteller and exceptional writer! You will enjoy reading this book! 

Women Evolve, Sarah Jakes Roberts

This book brings original arguments and new insights on the story of Eve and shows how similar we are to her. It provides practical life-lessons to help you transform your perspective of yourself and others to become all that you were intended. Sarah Jakes Roberts uses a friendly tone and her personal experiences to engage you and walk you through various steps to revolutionize your life, regardless of your past.  


 Annie Liang

Exhalation, Ted Chiang

A collection of science fiction short stories that are not only imaginative and thoughtful (as any good science fiction short story must be!) but also surprisingly well-written (unusual for the genre). The stories are a bit uneven in quality but be sure to read "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling," which is about language and memory, and how the two shape one another.

bob-gordon-168-x-210.pngBob Gordon

Discrimination and Disparities, Thomas Sowell

Sowell usefully distinguishes three types of discrimination.  (1a) is discrimination based on observable individual characteristics, (1b) is statistical discrimination based on group averages when individual data cannot be observed, and (2) is pure “animus” discrimination.  Policy remedies and their outcome differ by type of discrimination.  While many will disagree with Sowell’s skepticism about types of policy remedies, the reader will gain insight and perspective by thinking through the difficult issues treated in this book.

Joel HorowitzJoel Horowitz


The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson

This is a biography of Jennifer Doudna who, with Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for research leading to the development of the CRISPR gene editing method. Isaacson describes the lucky accidents (one when Doudna was in sixth grade); chance encounters with the right people (Charpentier was one); and contributions of graduate students, post-docs, and even two employees of a yogurt company that led to Doudna’s success. You will also learn a lot about biochemistry and genetics from this book.

martin eichenbaum

Martin Eichenbaum

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, Chris Arnade

This book is a poignant reminder of the divides in American society. Using a blend of prose and photographs, it depicts the lives of people operating at the fringes of society. The result is a vivid portrait of real people doing real things in a world far removed from Northwestern. This book is not a sentimental one, designed for the faint of heart. It offers no solutions, just a picture of how people cope in a harsh world. Like one reviewer, I found grace in Arnade’s meditations on faith. Like the author, I was drawn to the spiritual strength and resiliency of people who suffer and own nothing. Not so different from the people I grew up with who arrived to the New World after the Holocaust. You will find your own reference point.

elisa-jacome-168-x-210.pngElisa Jacome

We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book is a collection of essays written by Coates between 2008 and 2016, over the course of the Obama administration. All the essays were published in The Atlantic, but the book also includes the author's thoughts about each essay and the context in which each was written. The essays discuss different topics related to race in America, including the way we talk about the Civil War, the legacy of Malcolm X, and Coates' famous article making a case for reparations.