Public Policy Faculty Recommend Summer Reads

Public policy faculty recommended books to read over the summer.

Posted June 16, 2022

Are you looking for ways to spend your extra leisure time this summer? School of Public Policy faculty members suggest reading for fun, and some have provided recommendations.

Richard Barke, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies

For nonfiction books, Barke recommended:

  • The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
    “We’re probably all more (self-)righteous than we think,” Barke said. “It gets in the way more than we realize.”
  • The Great Bridge and The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
    “Two gripping histories that combine politics, policy, engineering, personal stories, etc., and can be read almost as novels.”
  • The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson
    “This book tells the story of the competition in 18th-century Europe to find the secret to making Chinese porcelain, which was once more valuable than gold,” Barke said. “It anticipates the transition from alchemy to analytical chemistry; it’s a great story!”

For fiction books, Barke suggested:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    “I finally read it. Nothing like the movies. Wow.”
  • Any of the Jack Aubrey series by Patrick O’Brian, starting with Master and Commander
    “Novels about the British Navy during the Napoleonic and American wars in the early 19th century. The movie with Russell Crowe was only a shadow of O’Brian’s brilliance.”
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
    “A beautifully written but unsettling book about researchers in the deep Amazon,” Barke added. “Not about Jeff Bezos.”
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
    “A young Englishwoman is sent to live with rural relatives; one of the funniest books ever written. It also has a good movie version with Kate Beckinsale.”

Dean’s Distinguished Professor Mary Frank Fox

  • Intuition by Allegra Goodman
    “A remarkable novel — an absorbing account of culture, identities, conduct, and misconduct in a research laboratory — and the consequences of social bonds forged and broken,” Fox said. “Revealing for all!”
  • Elements of Style by W. Strunk and E.B. White
    “Timeless statement for clarity, brevity, and boldness in writing! This is a classic: seven rules of usage, eleven principles of composition, a few matters of form, and a list of commonly misused phrases. The 78 pages are a statement of — as well as for — the clear, the brief, and the bold.”

Professor Diana Hicks

  • The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker.
    “Knowing how to write well is so important, not least in task force,” said Hicks, who instructs the undergraduate Policy Task Force courses. “This is a superb book, though the chapter on grammar is heavy going.”

Chad Slieper, director of the Law, Science, and Technology program

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
    “It’s an epic read about a group of male friends in New York City,” Slieper said. “Parts of it can be very hard to read, but it’s a beautiful story that will stick with you forever.”
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    “This book is an absolute masterpiece of two characters in World War II Europe on a collision course with one another. When I finished it, I just laid in bed for about half an hour marveling at what I’d just read.”
  • The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
    “I became fascinated with Oak Ridge, Tennessee, upon my first visit earlier this year. It’s a true government town with an intriguing history. This book is a great story of both Oak Ridge and these amazing women.”
  • L’Appart by David Lebovitz
    “The author is an American chef who moved to Paris many years ago. He’s written a few of my favorite cookbooks, and this is his hilarious memoir of buying an apartment in the City of Lights.”

Mark Zachary Taylor, professor and associate chair

For nonfiction books, Taylor recommended:

  • The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
    “A fascinating history of racism, race ‘science,’ their politics... and how and why they’ve changed over the decades.”
  • They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer
    “Gets into the heads of average Germans in the 1930s and 1940s and why they supported Hitler.”
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harai
    “A big-picture navel-gazing survey of the history of mankind.”
  • The Politics of Truth in Polarized America by David C. Barker and Elizabeth Suhay
    “Given our current environment, this one just out from Oxford Press is very insightful,” Taylor added.
  • Being You by Anil Seth
    “Given Georgia Tech’s recent push into neuroscience, this very approachable summary of recent research findings about our brains and consciousness is fascinating.”

For fiction books, Taylor recommended The Power by Naomi Alderman. He described it as a sci-fi novel that asks, “What if women evolved the power to manipulate electricity with their minds?”

Taylor also encouraged listening to the following podcasts: The Hidden Brain from NPR, Fall of Civilizations, unSILOed, The Ezra Klein Show, and Archive Atlanta.

Anderson Interface Professor of Natural Systems Valerie Thomas

  • H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald.
    Thomas said that this recommendation needs no explanation, as all of the reviews that she has read “don’t quite get at the depth of the book.”

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School of Public Policy | Sam Nunn School of International Affairs