Recommended Reading: 2018

Old books and reading glasses

Every year, in consultation with Pardee RAND faculty, Dean Susan L. Marquis assigns summer reading to the incoming cohort of students. If you're looking for something thoughtful to broaden your horizons, look no further!

Dean's Reading List for 2018

This year, Dean Marquis is asking all incoming students to read The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect, as well as one of the other four books she and the faculty recommended.

Book cover: The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

The Book of Why

The New Science of Cause and Effect

By Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie

Basic Books, 2018, 432 pages

The causal revolution, instigated by Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and established causality—the study of cause and effect—on a firm scientific basis. His work explains how we can know easy things, like whether it was rain or a sprinkler that made a sidewalk wet; and how to answer hard questions, like whether a drug cured an illness. Pearl’s work enables us to know not just whether one thing causes another: it lets us explore the world that is and the worlds that could have been. It shows us the essence of human thought and key to artificial intelligence.

“The book should be required reading for those trained in statistics, quantitative social science, and artificial intelligence. Pearl has been a major proponent of the view that 'we are smarter than our data' and the view that we can’t even ask crucial questions with a near-exclusive data-centric approach. The prevailing attitudes within artificial intelligence/machine learning have been fatally flawed (they are changing). Pearl is one of the profound thinkers of the last century. If they had a suitable category, the Nobel committee would surely be considering him. On top of all this, the book is very interesting, although it is by no means a beach-side quick-read.”

—Paul Davis, Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Book cover: Violent Borders

Violent Borders

Refugees and the Right to Move

By Reece Jones

Verso, 2017, 224 pages

In Violent Borders, Jones crosses the migrant trails of the world, documenting the billions of dollars spent on border security projects and the dire consequences for countless millions. While the poor are restricted by the lottery of birth to slum dwellings in the ailing decolonized world, the wealthy travel without constraint, exploiting cheap labor and lax environmental regulations. With the growth of borders and resource enclosures, the deaths of migrants in search of a better life are intimately connected to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growth of global wealth inequality.

Book cover: Us vs Them

Us vs. Them

The Failure of Globalism

By Ian Bremmer

Penguin Random House, 2018, 208 pages

Globalism creates plenty of both winners and losers, and those who’ve missed out want to set things right. They’ve seen their futures made obsolete. They hear new voices and see new faces all about them. They feel their cultures shift. They don’t trust what they read. They’ve begun to understand the world as a battle for the future that pits “us” vs. “them.”

When human beings feel threatened, we identify the danger and look for allies. We use the enemy, real or imagined, to rally friends to our side. This book is about the ways in which people will define these threats as fights for survival. It’s about the walls governments will build to protect insiders from outsiders and the state from its people.

Book cover: The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

By Michelle Alexander

The New Press, 2012, 336 pages

Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the presidency of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Book cover: I Am Not a Tractor!

I Am Not a Tractor!

How Florida Farmworkers Took on the Fast Food Giants and Won

By Susan Marquis

Cornell University Press, 2017, 296 pages

I Am Not a Tractor! celebrates the courage, vision, and creativity of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — farmworkers and community leaders who have transformed one of the worst agricultural situations in the United States into one of the best. Susan L. Marquis highlights past abuses workers suffered in Florida’s tomato fields: toxic pesticide exposure, beatings, sexual assault, rampant wage theft, and even, astonishingly, modern-day slavery. Marquis unveils how, even without new legislation, regulation, or government participation, these farmworkers have dramatically improved their work conditions and provided a new model of social change. It is applicable in agriculture, factories, and even the gig economy.