Recommended Reading

Old books and reading glasses

Every year, Dean Susan L. Marquis surveys students, faculty, and RAND staff for their reading recommendations. She then 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 2019

This year, Dean Marquis is asking all incoming students to read Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal, as well as one of the other four books she and the faculty recommended.

Book cover,  Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

Punishment Without Crime

How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

By Alexandra Natapoff

Basic Books, 2018, 352 pages

For too long, misdemeanors have been ignored. But Natapoff, a UC Irvine law professor, argues they are crucial to understanding our punitive criminal system and our widening economic and racial divides.

Her book offers an urgent new interpretation of inequality and injustice in America by examining the paradigmatic American offense: the lowly misdemeanor. Based on extensive original research, Natapoff reveals the inner workings of a massive petty offense system that produces over 13 million cases each year. People arrested for minor crimes are swept through courts where defendants often lack lawyers, judges process cases in mere minutes, and nearly everyone pleads guilty. This misdemeanor machine starts punishing people long before they are convicted; it punishes the innocent; and it punishes conduct that never should have been a crime. As a result, vast numbers of Americans — most of them poor and people of color — are stigmatized as criminals, impoverished through fines and fees, and stripped of drivers’ licenses, jobs, and housing.

“Punishment Without Crime is particularly insightful about research design, field work and understanding diverse populations.”

—Susan Marquis, Dean

Book cover: Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land

Anger and Mourning on the American Right

By Arlie Hochschild

The New Press, 2018, 416 pages

One of the most influential sociologists of her generation, Hochschild, a UC Berkeley professor, spent five years immersed in the community around Lake Charles, Louisiana, a Tea Party stronghold. As Jedediah Purdy put it in the New Republic, “Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives. . . . [Her] attentive, detailed portraits . . . reveal a gulf between Hochschild’s ‘strangers in their own land’ and a new elite.” Lauded as “humble and important” by David Brooks, Hochschild’s book has also been praised by Noam Chomsky, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and many others.

“Hochschild finished this book as the 2016 election campaign was underway but the book provides important insights into what happened. Moreover, there are important insights here about how to design research, conduct field work with diverse populations, and more.”

— Molly Selvin, Professor

Book cover, The Municipalists: A Novel

The Municipalists

A Novel

By Seth Fried

Penguin Random House, 2019, 272 pages

In Metropolis, the gleaming city of tomorrow, the dream of the great American city has been achieved. But all that is about to change, unless a neurotic, rule-following bureaucrat and an irreverent, freewheeling artificial intelligence can save the city from a mysterious terrorist plot that threatens its very existence.

“A light action/thriller that explores two opposing approaches for using policy to guide urban planning and development. (Yes, you read that correctly: a thriller whose narrative is driven by a policy idea.) As an added bonus, there are a few creative ideas on the future role of artificial intelligence. This book is not high literature by any means, but what it sets it apart is the smart way that it exposes the reader to a policy discussion usually confined to the classroom or the op-ed page.”

— Dave Baiocchi, Professor

Book cover: A Peace to End All Peace

A Peace to End All Peace

The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

By David Fromkin

Holt-Macmillan, 2009, 688 pages

In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin reveals how and why the Allies drew lines on an empty map that remade the geography and politics of the Middle East. Focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when all seemed possible, he delivers in this sweeping and magisterial book the definitive account of this defining time, showing how the choices narrowed and the Middle East began along a road that led to the conflicts and confusion that continue to this day.

“Fromkin's book is about how today’s Middle East state structure was established after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but written in a very engaging and thoughtful way. So it is about history, but I think it puts a lot of conflicts and instability in the Middle East today into perspective. It is also interesting timing to read that book since we are just about at the centennial of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, so it could be an interesting consideration of how things have progressed in the past century in the Middle East. Bottom line is that if you’re going to break apart an empire and create multiple new countries, don’t do it like that!”

— Shelly Culbertson, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND

Book cover, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive


Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

By Stephanie Land

Hachette Books, 2019, 288 pages

At 28, Stephanie Land found herself pregnant, broke and homeless in the Pacific Northwest. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet. With a tenacious grip on her dream to care for her daughter and to become a writer, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.

Maid is about overworked and underpaid Americans, about living on food stamps to eat, about the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses, and about the government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn't feel lucky at all.

Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America, the reality of what it's like to be in service to them, and the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor. "I'd become a nameless ghost," Stephanie wrote about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the "servant" worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is a testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

“Stephanie Land takes us inside the grueling life of a single mother who is one rickety step from homelessness. Her story is personal yet, unfortunately, all too common and has important insights about how we care for the most economically vulnerable among us.”

—Angela O’Mahony, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs