"The English Patient is a haunting and powerful novel about four people
who have taken refuge in an Italian villa in the last days of World
War II-a nurse; her dying patient, a survivor of a plane crash, whose
identity is unknown; a thief; and an Indian soldier in the British army, whose job is to disarm bombs.
The novel offers a profound meditation on war, memory, and cultural
difference, particularly interesting as we think about the 50th anniversary
of the end of the war in Europe."
Carol Christ, The Vice Chancellor and Provost
Translated by Francis Price
Anchor Books, 1970
"Ousmane Sembene is a Senegalese writer and film maker born in 1923.
God's Bits of Wood portrays a strike in Senegal during the French
colonial period, exploring gender, religion, colonialism and resistance
in the process. If I were stuck on a desert island with only
five books, with would be one of them. It is the most wonderful
novel I have ever read. If your French is fluent, read it in the
Louise Fortmann, Environmental Science, Policy and Management
"In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Jane Smiley revises the King Lear
story from the point of view of one of Lear's daughters. The
kingdom in this version is a thousand-acre farm in Iowa. Smiley's
prose in this book is as plain and simple as the midwestern landscape,
but each word is infused with meaning in the same way as the groundwater
swells each grain of corn in the field."
Alix Schwatz, Women's Studies
MacGibbon & Kee, 1967
"Imagine a book that begins: "Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mather,
smashing his jaw in with my spade," and goes on to encounter people changing
into bicycles, policemen in an antiquated station-house apparently capable
of various impossible feats of dexterity and clairvoyance, and a quest
by the protagonist to remember his own name, all narrated in a genially
loony if ominously dry Irish tone, and heavily footnoted with references
to the work of a savant named de Selby, whom you will be sure you
know from somewhere but you can't quite put your finger on him.
If you like this kind of stuff, check in with me when you get to
Cal. There's more."
Kevin Padian, Integrative Biology
of Independence: Cross-examining American Ideology
Harper Collins, 1990
"This book, clearly written, encourages students to closely examine what
has passed for political discourse in the nation's history. Some consequences
of myopic and shallow reasoning about important questions are with us
Bil Banks, African American Studies
The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements
Basic Books, 1993
"This is the story of the faintly disreputable way that Americans, especially young
people, have entertained themselves in the 20th century. Nasaw is
the historian of the first movies to catch the attention of ordinary
people, the first dances to scandalize the older generation, and
the first cultural wars over whether cheap thrills were taking the
country to hell."
Tom Leonard, Graduate School of Journalism
Bantam Books, 1988
"This might be considered almost a magical realist novel in the style
of Borges or Marquez, but it is much more. Set in the 1970's
when a military junta ruled Argentina, it is the story of a playwright
who discovers he has the power to see what has happened to the "disappeareds,"
those people who have been kidnapped by the government for their
opposition to it. It's one of those rare novels that makes
you think: about how and why we name things, about the role of imagination
in our lives, about the strength of the human spirit, and about evil.
It was Thorton's first novel; he didn't have to ever write another one
to know that he did something wonderful.
Steve Tollefson, College Writing Programs
A Pioneer Korean Woman in American
Mary Paik Lee
edited by Sucheng Chan
University of Washington Press, 1990
"This is the autobiography of a Korean immigrant who had a remarkable
life as part of the first wave of immigrants from Korea to the US shortly
after the turn of the century. Through her life, you can understand some
of the adjustment issues faced by immigrant women at that time--survival,
work, raising a family--and the strategies they used to make a home for
themselves. Through her life you can also understand the changes that
have taken place over time in the Korean community, such as dealing with
institutionalized racism, and at the same time building solid, stable
communities in the context of American society. It's an insightful and
textured book that gives you an intimate understanding of one women's
life. It also has wonderful supplemental material by Professor Chan to
explain, verify, and clarify the historical context of Mary Paik Lee's
Jere Takahashi, Asian American Studies
Translated by William M. Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny
"Written by the first Arabic-language Nobel laureate, this is a novel
that will resonate long after you have finished it. The Cairo
Trilogy, of which this is the first volume, traces three generations
of a Cairo family through the first five
decades of the 20th century. The conflicts of the characters in
the novel mirror Egypt's struggles in gaining political independence.
The book is a wonderful portrayal of daily life in a middle class
Egyptian family, rarely glimpsed by
Western readers. Equally, it is a novel of place: Mahfuz's Cairo,
it has been suggested, is as vivid as Dicken's London, Dostoevesky's
St. Petersburg, or Zola's Paris."
Ellen Meltzer, Teaching Library
A Survivor's Tale
Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: and Here My Troubles Began
Pantheon Books 1986, 1991
"This is the Holocaust, done as a comic strip, with Spiegelman, his girl
friend and dad as active parts of the story of Hilter's genocide.
Possibly the worst idea for a book in modern times. Put all
your preconceptions aside. This is a deeply informed, moving
document that breaks the rules of "good taste" to drive home a complicated
truth that may be untellable in other ways. Maus deserved the special
Pulitzer Prize created to honor it."
Tom Leonard, Graduate School of Journalism
to UC Berkeley Summer Reading Lists