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!

This year, Dean Marquis is asking all incoming students to read The Warmth of Other Suns, plus (at least) one of the other books.

Dean's Reading List for 2021

Book cover: The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Vintage, 2011, 640 pages

In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

“The Warmth of Other Suns is relevant to population migration due to either climate change or the economy; even the recent Census data that showed population migration back to Southern states.”

—Khadesia Howell

This is simply the best, most gripping, heartbreaking and important book that I've read in some years. Wilkerson tells the story of The Great Migration through the eyes of three people, each of whom migrated from the South during a different decade and to a different part of the U.S. They left, of course, because of Jim Crow. I thought I knew a lot about Jim Crow and the The Great Migration but I learned so much. Wilkerson followed the lives of these three individuals and their families to Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, charting their joys, disappointments and, importantly, the economic, social and racial environments in which they found themselves. The book is long but it reads like a novel and will stay with me, in all its vivid, sorrowful and exhultant detail, for years.

—Molly Selvin

Book cover: The Uninhabitable Earth

The Uninhabitable Earth

Life After Warming

By David Wallace-Wells

Tim Duggan Books, 2020, 384 pages

If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible—food shortages, refugee emergencies, climate wars and economic devastation. An “epoch-defining book” (The Guardian) and “this generation’s Silent Spring” (The Washington Post), The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it—the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress.

“David Wallace-Wells writes about the realities of climate change, often highlighting how much worse things are than we often assume. The book also is something of a call to action on climate.”

—Chelsea Kolb

Book cover,  Ghosting the News

Ghosting the News

Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy

By Margaret Sullivan

Columbia Global Reports, 2020, 104 pages

Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: How democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the U.S. One in five news organizations in Canada have closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians live in news deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted politicians were elected, school superintendents were mismanaging districts, and police chiefs were getting mysterious payouts. This is not the much discussed fake-news problem—it’s the separate problem of a critical shortage of real news.

America’s premier media critic, Margaret Sullivan, charts the contours of the damage, and surveys a range of new efforts to keep local news alive—from non-profit digital sites to an effort modeled on the Peace Corps. No nostalgic paean to the roar of rumbling presses, Ghosting the News instead sounds a loud alarm, alerting citizens to a growing crisis in local news that has already done serious damage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic posed special challenges to news gathering and publication, further clouding the future of local news outlets and posing an urgent challenge to our democracy.”

—Angel O'Mahony