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“The Anthologist”

Anthony Cascardi, dean, Arts & Humanities | January 1, 2010

For anyone with an interest in poets and poetry–including in the strangeness of the genre–I recommend Nicholson Baker’s new book The Anthologist.  Take a tour of the quirky and erratic thoughts of a minor poet as he decides what to include in an anthology of poetry and what to omit.  Follow his girlfriend’s frustrations at … Continue reading »

From death row: a plea to care for our “invisible children”

Barbara Abrams, professor of public health | December 29, 2009

I often recommend to my students a book entitled “Finding Freedom” by Jarvis Jay Masters, an inmate on San Quentin’s death row.  This series of essays describes how Jarvis turned his back on violence by embracing Tibetan Buddhism with its practice of meditation, self-reflection and forgiveness.  His stories of how he implements his vow to … Continue reading »

A different view of 20th century history

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | December 22, 2009

Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel The Lacuna manages to do something that we could hope all historical fiction might accomplish: it moved me to go back to actual histories of the events and characters described to get a sense of how much of the historical storyline was reliable. For anyone who has read previous books by … Continue reading »

Charles Darwin’s Voyage in his 200th year

Jere Lipps, professor emeritus of integrative biology | December 20, 2009

During this year, the 200th since Charles Darwin’s birthday on Feb 12, 1809, I thought I’d read his Voyage of the Beagle from start to finish.  His voyage, of course, is what solidified much of his view of geology and biology, and he used his observations and insights in the Origin of Species (we also … Continue reading »

A longer dawn

Thomas C. Leonard, emeritus journalism professor and University Librarian emeritus | December 13, 2009

This has not been a kind year for the living, but the vanished human race has been appreciated as never before.  The early hominid Ardi  (Ardipithecus ramidus), discovered and explained by Berkeley researchers, was front page news.  “Becoming Human” (PBS), the three-part Nova series last month, put Ardi (4.4 million years old) in the continuum … Continue reading »

For the common good

David Hollinger, professor emeritus of history | December 11, 2009

When academia is under such enormous pressure from a variety of political forces, it is bracing to read For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (Yale University Press, 2009), by Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post. This cogent, accessible defense of the political autonomy of universities is the most ambitious and convincing … Continue reading »

Joseph Schumpeter bio and the ‘inspiring’ WSJ

Richard Abrams, professor emeritus of history |

The most memorable book I read this past year was Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, Tom McCraw’s biography of the great economist, Joseph Schumpeter, who is probably most known for his classic, “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.”  Not only was Schumpeter one of the “greats” among economists historically, he also was an extraordinary … Continue reading »

The Wild Trees

Jack Glaser, associate professor of public policy | December 10, 2009

To help me sleep at night, I usually turn to fiction, ideally a compelling novel.  But some nonfiction can take me away from my day-to-day thoughts just as effectively.  Richard Preston’s The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring is such a book.  It intertwines the personal stories of some young adventurers who find … Continue reading »

Avoiding work

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics |

I try very hard to avoid work-related topics whenever I can, but since my work involves language and the ways people use and abuse it, somehow work keeps sneaking into non-work. Two books I’m currently reading, one fiction and one nonfiction, are examples. I think even people not trying to get away from language would … Continue reading »

Some memorable exhibitions in 2009

Lawrence Rinder, director, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive |

Dan Flavin at David Zwirner Gallery, New York. Stunningly beautiful neon environments. Flavin has never looked better. Charles Burchfield at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Curated by Robert Gober, this show was a real eye-opener. Amazing to see how Burchfield progressed from being a talented Regionalist to a profoud visionary. Abraham Cruzvillegas at the RedCat … Continue reading »

Out Stealing Horses, Oil!, and John Muir

Stephen Tollefson, former lecturer, College Writing Programs |

I love to force books down people’s throats, but rarely accept others’ recommendations.  I prefer to get my books by wandering around Moe’s or seeing a reference somewhere that sounds interesting.  However, the first book I want to recommend was given to me, and I read it because I felt I had to. I’m glad … Continue reading »

Five books I’d recommend

Susan Schweik, professor of English, associate dean, arts & humanities | December 9, 2009

Here are five that got me thinking this year. 1. Steven Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors (Syracuse University Press, 2009) A historical account of Second World War conscientious objectors who, having already taken a very brave and difficult stand, were assigned to civilian public service work in state … Continue reading »

11 books (or other media) items I enjoyed this year

Doug Tygar, professor, computer science and School of Information | December 8, 2009

It seems to be the season to be making lists of 10 — perhaps you are looking for a last minute Hanukah gift (it starts on Friday).  Here at Berkeley, we are all going to have to give up our work in our labs and offices because the campus is on mandatory furlough and curtailment … Continue reading »

Memorable books I read this year

Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy |

Three books were very interesting to me this year: First, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the ‘care and feeding’ of exceptional individuals.  This is both heartening (in an extreme over-simplification; to some extent, super-creative individuals and groups can be nurtured).  This is exciting to think about as the US begins the conversation on how to re-invest … Continue reading »