Recommended Reading

Old books and reading glasses

Every year, Dean Susan L. Marquis surveys students, faculty, and 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 2020

This year, Dean Marquis is asking all incoming students to read two of the following five books.

Book cover: Barking to the Choir

Barking to the Choir

The Power of Radical Kinship

By Gregory Boyle

Simon & Schuster, 2017, 224 pages

In his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Gregory Boyle introduced us to Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention program in the world. Now, after the successful expansion of Homeboy Industries, Boyle returns with Barking to the Choir to reveal how compassion is transforming the lives of gang members. In a nation deeply divided and plagued by poverty and violence, Barking to the Choir offers a snapshot into the challenges and joys of life on the margins. Sergio, arrested at age nine, in a gang by age twelve, and serving time shortly thereafter, now works with the substance-abuse team at Homeboy to help others find sobriety. Jamal, abandoned by his family when he tried to attend school at age seven, gradually finds forgiveness for his schizophrenic mother. New father Cuco, who never knew his own dad, thinks of a daily adventure on which to take his four-year-old son. These former gang members uplift the soul and reveal how bright life can be when filled with unconditional love and kindness.

“A few years ago I had read Tattoos on the Heart by Father Boyle and thought it was a great book. ... His sequel, Barking to the Choir, has beautiful stories and a lot of material for good discussion [and is relevant to] a lot of the core concepts for the Community-Partnered Policy and Action stream.”

— Gaby Alvarado, Cohort '19

Book cover: How to Be an Antiracist

How to Be an Antiracist

By Ibram X. Kendi

Penguin Random House, 2019, 320 pages

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

“This book was fantastic and should be required reading for all policy students in the U.S. Part history, part memoir, part call to action, this book is both an engaging narrative read as well as a clear and concise rendering of antiracist policy. Perhaps more importantly, Kendi provides plenty of space for honest self-examination and growth over time. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”

— Michele Abbott, Cohort '14

“Unlike most other books on racism, this book takes an action-oriented approach to discussing and analyzing racism through a structural lens. Too much ink has been spilled looking at how racism manifests and not enough on how to be affirmatively anti-racist (instead of the typical “racist” or “not racist”). An important distinction and framing for all policy analysts who don’t often see their work as engaging in race, when in reality all policy work is inherently rooted in and interacting with race.”

— Nabeel Qureshi, Cohort '18

Book cover, Searching Eyes

Searching Eyes

Privacy, the State, and Disease Surveillance in America

By Amy L. Fairchild, Ronald Bayer, and James Colgrove

University of California Press, 2007, 368 pages

This is the first history of public health surveillance in the United States to span more than a century of conflict and controversy. The practice of reporting the names of those with disease to health authorities inevitably poses questions about the interplay between the imperative to control threats to the public's health and legal and ethical concerns about privacy. The authors situate the tension inherent in public health surveillance in a broad social and political context and show how the changing meaning and significance of privacy have marked the politics and practice of surveillance since the end of the nineteenth century.

“This history of American public health surveillance deftly interrogates the complex balance between maintaining individual privacy while protecting the public’s health, and provides extensive historical detail about how the trade-offs have played out in the context of tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases in the early 20th century, to AIDS and other contemporary health issues. Highly relevant for our times.”

— Ben Boudreaux, professor

Book cover,  Winners Take All

Winners Take All

The Elite Charade of Changing The World

By Anand Giridharadas

Penguin Random House, 2018, 304 pages

Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can—except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. They rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; they lavishly reward “thought leaders” who redefine “change” in ways that preserve the status quo; and they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm.

Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? His groundbreaking investigation has already forced a great, sorely needed reckoning among the world’s wealthiest and those they hover above, and it points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world—a call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.

“This book seems particularly relevant given the significant private relief efforts launched in recent years and those that will certainly be required going forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

—Molly Selvin, professor

Book cover, Wuhan Diary

Wuhan Diary

Dispatches from a Quarantined City

By Fang Fang; translated by Michael Berry

Harper Collins, 2020, 300 pages

On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing an online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang’s nightly postings gave voice to the fears, frustrations, anger, and hope of millions of her fellow citizens, reflecting on the psychological impact of forced isolation, the role of the internet as both community lifeline and source of misinformation, and most tragically, the lives of neighbors and friends taken by the deadly virus.

A fascinating eyewitness account of events as they unfold, Wuhan Diary captures the challenges of daily life and the changing moods and emotions of being quarantined without reliable information. Fang Fang finds solace in small domestic comforts and is inspired by the courage of friends, health professionals and volunteers, as well as the resilience and perseverance of Wuhan’s nine million residents. But, by claiming the writer’s duty to record she also speaks out against social injustice, abuse of power, and other problems which impeded the response to the epidemic and gets herself embroiled in online controversies because of it.