Seasonal Tablescape

Photo credit: Hildreth Willson

Wow, just wow. This list is a veritable cornucopia of recommendations reflecting the wide ranging interests of the Berkeley Law Community. There truly is something here for everyone and every age.

We wish you a relaxing break doing what you like to do with the people you love (and of course we hope that means enjoying some of these books). All the best for 2024!

Berkeley Law Library

Click on book cover to read review.

84, Charing Cross Road
America Fantastica
The Bad Beginning
Black Cake
The Book of Delights
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
Demon Copperhead
The Evening Hero
Fancy Bear Goes Phishing
Fossil Men
Freedom is a Constant Struggle
Good Night, Gorilla
Hello Beautiful
Interior Chinatown
Jesus and John Wayne
Just Action
Killers of the Flower Moon
King Leopold's Ghost
The Language of Spells
Maggie the Military Rat
The Measure
Number Go Up
Patterns of Discovery
Pearls Seeks Enlightenment
People Love Dead Jews
Philip and Alexander
The Places that Scare You
The Pout-Pout Fish
The Running Grave
Slaughterhouse Five
Something to Hide
There Will Be Fire
The Time Traveler's Almanac
Visual Thinking
Wake Up, Stupid
Words Chosen Out of Desire
The Wild Robot
World Within a Song

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Michael Lindsey, Director of Library Web Development

Maybe I'm getting into epistolary books now. "Epistolary" books, just the sound of it! They're books of letters, books of correspondence! Correspondence, on paper, through a postal system, surely with stamps. Maybe in a person's own handwriting, on personal stationery or with a fine embossed business letterhead. There are special places to put the to and from addresses. There are forms of address, salutations, closings...

So, it's 1949 and this cool woman in New York starts ordering books from a smart shop in England by post. She's a bit fresh, but the bookseller stays professional. She is a writer, she loves books. She sends the orders, he sends the books. There are currency conversions, over-payments, credits to accounts. They form a friendship of a sort over decades. She sends powdered eggs and nylons and hams to the girls in the office. She always meant to visit but didn't make it--bookseller dies, and his family shares the collected correspondence with her, which she publishes. Very sweet set, very short.

I found out about this book from the New York Times' "Read Like the Wind" newsletter. Worth a look.

America Fantastica: A Novel by Tim O’Brien

Malcolm Feeley, Claire Sanders Clements Dean's Professor of Law, Emeritus

Tim O'Brien (author of the VietNam War memoir, The Things they Carried) brings us America Fantastica: a Novel (or is it?). This is high farce and satire. Set in the current period, it provides an account of a zany romp through "mythomania"and "lying contagion" that includes a failed journalist (and an almost Pulitzer Prize winner), a bank robbery, greed, true love (almost), and much more. If you read O'Brien's Dad's Maybe Book, you might get an idea how this novel was constructed. If you look at today's news stories, much of his story will strike you as all too true. A delightful read. I stayed in bed all day to finish it.

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang

Kathryn Hashimoto, Copyright Law Fellow

Prolific author Kuang has created a mesmerizing alternative-history fantasy, the subtitle of which is “An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution.” Taking place in the 1830s, primarily in a British university setting with occasional interludes in China, Kuang reimagines the adventure story by combining a wide range of elements, including international intrigue, labor movements and student revolutions, and the magical transforming properties of language and translation. Also, by centering her story on traditionally marginalized people, Kuang brings a postcolonial critique to the entire framework on which her novel is built. The book is also darker in tone and in plot resolution than might be expected at one’s initial reading. Full of youthful energy (of both its characters and its author), this ambitious novel is a hefty read at more than 500 pages and it is dense with footnotes. It would be an engaging and satisfying read over winter break.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (Ages 8-11 and up)

A.J. Stone, 3L and Law Library RA

Originally published in 1999, The Bad Beginning has made its way back onto my shelf for a nostalgic reread again and again. Author Lemony Snicket (actually San Francisco’s own Daniel Handler) penned this opener to the thirteen-part Series of Unfortunate Events as his first children’s novel, but the series is great for kids ages nine to ninety-nine. Snicket follows the Baudelaire orphans through the devastating loss of their parents and a subsequent plot to appropriate their inheritance for the funding of an evil theater troupe led by their new guardian, Count Olaf. The adventures of the Baudelaires are intermittently interrupted by Snicket’s first-person perspective, hinting at the existence of a mystery even more sinister lying below the surface of the plot. Snicket attributes his writing’s macabre, gothic mood to inspiration from famed names like Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey, and his eccentric crew of characters reference poets, authors, and dancers of the Victorian era. The curious reader will discover easter eggs throughout Snicket’s pages and use them to solve the mysteries within.

In recent years, A Series of Unfortunate Events has gained notoriety through television and movie productions, but the remakes fall flat in comparison to reading Snicket’s original work. The Bad Beginning is just the place to start to launch yourself into the world of the three Baudelaire children. An easy read for the holidays, and a true legal thriller!

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Rachel Wallace, Interim Deputy Director, Policy Advocacy Clinic

From Amazon: We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?

In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.

Editor’s Note: Now streaming as a series on Hulu. The New York Times also has this recipe for black cake if you’re feeling inspired after reading the book.

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Laura Riley, Director, Clinical Program

My quick take on the book: There is something revolutionary about taking time to notice what delights you. Ross Gay does that (almost) every day for a year and writes essayettes on how he turns that noticing into magical moments that stay with him and then shares them with us. I like to read a couple at a time, almost as a type of palate cleanser, before reading a longer book or just going to bed!

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens

Dean Rowan, Interim Library Director

To tell the truth, I haven’t read the entire collection front to back. Instead, I variously decide to take on a longer poem (say, “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”), and then a handful of shorter ones. I’m also reading Helen Vendler’s brief series of lectures, Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire (1984, reviewed elsewhere in this list), which leads me to the poems she interprets. This is an endless task, because by now a huge literature about Vendler’s readings of Stevens has developed. But Stevens never ceases to attract and amaze me, despite the “difficulty” of his poetry. I think Vendler is right to highlight the concrete aspects of the poems, the personal experiences that inspired them, but at the end of the day I am more directly interested in the words Stevens commits to the page than in what they might reveal about his biography. They will always puzzle me, but repeated readings reveal new qualities I’d missed before, which is as it should be.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

Demon Copperhead is Barbara Kinsolver’s marvelous reimagining of David Copperfield, transposed to contemporary Appalachia during the opioid epidemic. Demon (real name Damon) is born in a trailer to a teenage single mother (his father already dead) and orphaned as a young boy after his mother overdoses. His life becomes one tragic moment after another - a broken foster care system, a series of abusive foster placements, substandard schools, child labor, poverty, and addiction. Yet, as told in Demon’s own unsparing voice, his resilience and bravery drive the narrative. Terrible, sad things happen but Demon moves forward at every step working to make sense of things and forging connections with others who care for him. I also would note that this book put a face to the human cost of opioid abuse in rural America that the many news reports never conveyed.

In her acknowledgements, Kingsovler wrote “I’m grateful to Charles Dickens for writing David Copperfield, his impassioned critique of institutional poverty and its damaging effects on children in his society. Those problems are still with us.” You do not, however, have to have read David Copperfield to appreciate Demon Copperhead. Kingsolver’s Pulitzer Prize winning work stands on its own.

The Evening Hero by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Kathryn Hashimoto, Copyright Law Fellow

Dr. Yungman Kwak has worked as an obstetrician for four decades in the remote northern Minnesota town of Horse’s Breath, where he lives with his wife, Young-ae; together, they emigrated to the United States from Korea during the aftermath of the Korean War. But then a rapid series of events at the hospital have life-changing repercussions for Yungman, who is abruptly left to figure out what to do next. Having more free time prompts Yungman to review his life and face his regrets, awakening memories long suppressed and encompassed in letters long unread. And with this, Yungman’s story travels through time and across continents to explore his origins and Korean history and how he carries his past with him, despite his fervent intent to forget, into his life in America. Divided into five parts, the story shifts from a scathing satire about the U.S. healthcare system and consumerism to a deeper, engrossing narrative about Yungman’s youth during the Korean War years. The tonal shifts are a little jarring and maybe not always successful, but the strands are mostly pulled together to a moving conclusion.

Fancy Bear Goes Phishing: The Dark History of the Information Age, In Five Extraordinary Hacks by Scott J. Shapiro

Joe Cera, Research Librarian for Scholarly Communication & Information Technology

I enjoyed this book both for the information presented and the tone of the discussion. It is approachable even if you are not a programmer and know little to nothing about such things. For some reason, I found the tone of the first part of the book to be too... something. I nearly put it down as is customary for books in my hand that I don't like for any reason at all. However, I kept reading and found that I was thinking about each of the different stories throughout my day.

What is maybe not so surprising is that many of the biggest hacks referenced in this book are more in the land of clever simplicity and social engineering. I found the information in the book interesting in the threads that tied together the different hacks and seeing the similarities and differences. Sometimes when the author started discussing the legal implications of various hacks and actions I was surprised by how clearly this was explained, then I realized that the author is also trained in law. The stories and outcomes of many of the hacks show that the law lacks a nuanced understanding when it attempts to repurpose existing laws for new technologies. This is clearly relevant in relation to things like AI and all of the challenges it brings when our legal structures aren't really ready to deal with this as a new technology that requires its own legal framework.

Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison (Audiobook)

Paul Clark, Lecturer

Full Disclosure: I listened to the audiobook version on a driving trip from Berkeley to Banff, Canada this summer. As with any audiobook, I do not know if it reads as well as it sounds, though I think it would.

Second Full Disclosure: I had no idea when I downloaded this book that the main protagonists are Cal Professor (now Emeritus) Tim White and the Berkeley Anthropology Department.

The book chronicles the Cal team’s discovery of the skeletal remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, or Ardi, a 4.4 million year old human ancestor that is a million years older than “Lucy”, and its 15 years of analyzing the fossil remains before publishing their results. The refusal to allow other scholars to examine the fossils during this time was itself a major controversy, leading to widespread criticism when the findings were published in peer review journals.

White is a person who does not tolerate fools gladly, and he readily finds many of his colleagues and competitors to be fools. In particular, White has contempt for those scholars who do not do field work, a trend he detests. So it wasn’t hard for other anthropologists to work up criticisms of his team’s work.

The book is interesting from a number of perspectives, not the least of which are the accounts of the various rivalries and resulting professional jealousies among anthropologists, including such big names as the Leakeys. The Cal team's ability to secure nearly exclusive rights to fossil-rich territory in Ethiopia was certainly an issue for their rivals. One fascinating aspect is the decades-old practice of the Cal Anthropology Department to admit Ethiopian students to the graduate program. As a result, the work of the Cal team was not viewed as the intrusion of an American team into Ethiopia, at least entirely. In addition, many fossil discoveries were kept in Ethiopia.

Ardi has challenged many assumptions about human evolution and our relationship to apes and chimpanzees. Fascinating reading (or listening).

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

Deep Kaur Jodhka, Associate Director, Public Interest/Public Sector Programs Career Development Office

From publisher City Lights: Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “Freedom is a constant struggle.”

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (Ages 1-3)

Andrew Charles Baker, Assistant Professor of Law

In the quiet embrace of nighttime's veil, Peggy Rathmann beckons readers into the enchanting world of Goodnight Gorilla, a whimsical escapade through the gates of slumber. Rathmann's ingenious narrative, adorned with delightful illustrations, leads readers through a nocturnal journey within the walls of the zoo, where a mischievous gorilla takes center stage. Through Rathmann's masterful storytelling, the tale unfolds in a wordless dance, inviting readers on an immersive expedition through vivid, expressive visuals that convey a timeless tale of playful antics and nighttime adventures. With each turn of the page, Rathmann orchestrates a symphony of emotions, culminating in a gentle yet impactful exploration of friendship, mischief, and the soothing embrace of bedtime rituals. Rathmann's vibrant illustrations breathe life into this enchanting world, inviting readers to embrace the magic of dreams and the tranquility of a starlit slumber.

Editor’s Note: This was my son’s all time favorite book as a toddler and I have purchased countless copies as baby gifts.

Grant by Ron Chernow

Mel Eisenberg, Jesse H. Choper Professor of Law (Emeritus)

From Amazon: Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Kristie Chamorro, Instructional and Legal Technology Services Librarian

Hello Beautiful, a beautifully crafted novel by Ann Napolitano (she is best known for her third book, Dear Edward), ranks as one of my top reads this year. The story centers on the intersecting lives of William Waters, a Northwestern student grappling with a painful past who finds refuge in basketball, and the Padavano sisters, whose bonds and personalities echo the March sisters from Little Women. The rich narrative includes the Padavano parents: Charlie, a loving father and creative dreamer who struggles with responsibility, and Rose, a fiercely loving but often critical mother who cherishes tradition and her Catholic faith. Not surprisingly, my favorite character is Sylvie, the bookish Patavano sister who finds meaning and refuge in her work as a librarian in her hometown library.

Napolitano tackles quite a few big themes in this moving novel, from tragedy and family loyalty to what it means to lead an authentic life. What stayed with me was her deeply moving portrayal of William’s struggle with depression and how those who loved him rallied, and sometimes struggled, to support and understand him.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Ingrid McKenney, Executive Director of Development

I recommend Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu B.A. (MCB) '97. Set in present-day LA's Chinatown, an unusual and interesting mix of screenplay and novel depicts a young Asian American protagonist grappling with myriad aspects of his identity as he tries to make it in Hollywood. Through themes of visibility and invisibility, stereotypes and characterization, and assimilation and marginalization- all experienced acutely by the main character- it's both a humorous and a sobering read.

“It is very specific to a kind of Asian American experience, but I also feel like it’s somewhat universal,” said Yu, who lives in the Los Angeles area and has worked as a writer in the television industry. “In terms of anyone who’s felt marginalized or unseen, for whatever reason: The tension between wanting to be seen, but also what happens when you are seen,” he said.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Paul Clark, Lecturer

This book is essential reading to understand not only the Trump phenomenon, but the origin of many of the views promoted by the far right wing of the Republican party, including those of the new House Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson is a creature of the white evangelical church and Du Mez helps us understand its goals and world view.

Du Mez is herself a product of the evangelical church and is a Professor of History at Calvin University, an evangelical college. But she is clear-eyed about the church and how for decades church leaders have embraced a “militant masculinity” that actively supported our foreign wars and forms the backbone of the anti-abortion and anti-LBGTQ movements. John Wayne, or the character played by Wayne in film, is the archetypical Christian the church admires.

Approximately 81% of white evangelicals supported Trump in the 2016 election and only slightly less supported him in 2020. By the time Trump arrived on the political scene, Du Mez asserts, “white evangelicals had already traded a faith that privileges humility and elevates ‘the least of these’ for one that derides gentleness as the province of wusses.”

Du Mez makes clear that the white evangelical church should not be confused with black Christians, “who on nearly every social and political issue…apply their faith in ways that run counter to white evangelicalism.” As a result, black Christians generally reject the evangelical label.

This is social history at its best. Du Mez traces the history of the white evangelical church in the 20th century through books, films and music, including the rise of the televangelists. She is quick to shine a light on hypocrisy when she finds it, and she finds it in plenty of places.

A must read in the run up to the 2024 elections.

Just Action: How to Challenge Segregation Enacted Under the Color of Law by Leah Rothstein and Richard Rothstein

Written by our own Richard Rothstein with housing policy expert Leah Rothstein this book follows his impressive work The Color of Law.

From publisher Liveright: In his best-selling book The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein demolished the de facto segregation myth that black and white Americans live separately by choice, providing “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to the reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). This landmark work—through its nearly one million copies sold—has helped to define the fractious age in which we live.

The Color of Law’s unrefuted account has become conventional wisdom. But how can we begin to undo segregation’s damage? “It’s rare for a writer to feel obligated to be so clear on solutions to the problems outlined in a previous book,” writes E. J. Dionne, yet Richard Rothstein—aware that twenty-first-century segregation continues to promote entrenched inequality—has done just that, teaming with housing policy expert Leah Rothstein to write Just Action, a blueprint for concerned citizens and community leaders.

As recent headlines informed us, twenty million Americans participated in racial justice demonstrations in 2020. Although many displayed “Black Lives Matter” window and lawn signs, few considered what could be done to redress inequality in their own communities. Page by page, Just Action offers programs that activists and their supporters can undertake in their own communities to address historical inequities, providing bona fide answers, based on decades of study and experience, in a nation awash with memes and internet theories.

Often forced to respond to social and political outrage, banks, real estate agencies, and developers, among other institutions, have apologized for past actions. But their pledges—some of them real, others thoroughly hollow—to improve cannot compensate for existing damage. Just Action shows how community groups can press firms that imposed segregation to finally take responsibility for reversing the harm, creating victories that might finally challenge residential segregation and help remedy America’s profoundly unconstitutional past.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Gram

Malcolm Feeley, Claire Sanders Clements Dean's Professor of Law, Emeritus

Killers of the Flower Moon examines the Osage Murders in Oklahoma in the 1920s and the rise of the FBI. This is an account of the murders of members of the Osage Tribe by local (white) notables and white husbands of Indian women, and the conspiracy of silence that allowed the murders to continue over an extended period. The purpose of the murders was to reap the income from the oil rights on the no-good land to which the Osage had been exiled.. When J. Edgar Hoover, the newly appointed founding director of the FBI, sent in an intrepid agent to solve the crimes, Hoover pursued matters only so far, enough to garner headlines, but not to solve all the murders. One hundred years later, Gram, the author, easily (well painstakingly), connects the dots and solves a number of other related murders that at the time the FBI chose to ignore. This book has now been turned into a major motion picture. I have not seen it, but from what I have read the movie focuses on a few villains and heroes and does not delve into the community-wide conspiracy and the scope of the murders. A frightening read in a frightening world. If it were fiction, it would be dismissed as lacking verisimilitude. I read it in one setting.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

Charlotte Daughterty, Legal Research Librarian - Foreign & Comparative Law

King Leopold's Ghost describes the bloody and violent origins of King Leopold's Belgian colony known in the late 1800s as the Congo. The book describes the reign of terror that characterized King Leopold's colony and launched an international human rights protest. Activists George Washington Williams, Edward Morel, Roger Casement, and others expressed their moral outrage at the treatment of the Congo's inhabitants through newspaper exposes and letters to government officials that described the atrocities they witnessed. Despite their efforts, over time the public has mostly forgotten Congo's history, with one exception. Hochschild writes that Joseph Conrad, briefly an apprentice steamboat captain on the Congo River, was an observer whose impressions of the Congo have survived the years and entered the popular conscience through his most famous work, Heart of Darkness. Adam Hochschild revives and expands upon Conrad's impressions with his thoroughly researched, factually detailed book, King Leopold's Ghost.

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr; Illustrations by Katie Harnett (Ages 10-14)

Joe Cera, Research Librarian for Scholarly Communication & Information Technology

Do you like stories that are very creative, approach common themes from new perspectives, and involve bureaucracy run by cats? If yes, this book is for you. In this story, dragons exist and are creatures of magic. As human technologies grow, there is less need for magic and many people go through their days without ever seeing or appreciating that there are dragons and other magical creatures around (at least people living in Vienna). It is an excellent buddy story where a girl and a dragon find each other and solve a very big mystery.

My past few books have been marked by endings that I wish had gone another way and this book is no exception. There were two things that bothered me about this book. The first is the characterization of using magic. It is stated that a person must give up one of three things: time, money, or something they love. None of this was explained in a satisfactory way and like Harry Potter screaming 'Expelliarmus!' all throughout wizarding school and seemingly learning very little else, it would seem that all but the worst of people give up something they love in order to make magic. Arguably studying and working hard at anything is giving up time and it would be easy to give up money if you have good friends (read the story of Paul Erdős). Giving up something you love is probably the worst of all of the options so I don't understand why that's the one every character seems to choose. The second thing that bothered me was the very end of the book. While I won't spoil it, I will say that the editor or someone else should have noted the many ways that the end could have been happier, especially since most of those ways were already mentioned or used in previous situations in the book.

Maggie the Military Rat by Monica Voicu Denniston, illustrated by Elia Velasquez Murray (Preschool - Grade 5)

Monica Voicu Denniston, LL.M. Legal Research and Writing Lecturer

I am biased, but I'd be remiss to not share my own recently-released children's picture book: Maggie the Military Rat. As an active duty Air Force spouse and mom to three "military brats," I was inspired by my children to write this book. Here is the synopsis:

Maggie P. Worthington is a military rat―at least, she wants to be. She tries to enlist, but falls short. She tries to serve the soldiers, but gets kicked out of the mess hall. Even her attempt to send letters to the troops misfires! Will Maggie find her own way to serve?

Maggie the Military Rat answers that question in a fun, heartwarming way, while teaching lessons of bravery, patriotism, and friendship. It reminds readers that even the smallest among us can serve...simply by being a friend.

The book is available on Amazon.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

Rachel Wallace, Interim Deputy Director, Policy Advocacy Clinic

From Amazon: Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice.

It seems like any other day. You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and head out.

But today, when you open your front door, waiting for you is a small wooden box. This box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live.

From suburban doorsteps to desert tents, every person on every continent receives the same box. In an instant, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy. Where did these boxes come from? What do they mean? Is there truth to what they promise?

As society comes together and pulls apart, everyone faces the same shocking choice: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge?

The Measure charts the dawn of this new world through an unforgettable cast of characters whose decisions and fates interweave with one another: best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, a doctor who cannot save himself, and a politician whose box becomes the powder keg that ultimately changes everything.

Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall by Zeke Faux

Paul Clark, Lecturer

Faux, an investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek, has written a counterpoint to Michael Lewis’ much less critical book on crypto and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, now a convicted felon.

The first two sentences in the Prologue set the tone:

“I’m not going to lie to you”, Sam Bankman-Fried told me.
This was a lie.

And we’re off to the races as Faux describes the “greatest financial mania the world has ever seen.”

To be clear, this is not a book solely about SBF. It is about the entire crypto ecosystem. Faux travels to a bitcoin convention in Miami where the attendees chant “Number go up” in unison, a plea for the price of bitcoin to increase. He purchased a non-fungible token (NFT) of a cartoon ape for $20,000 (this was a low-end price; Paris Hilton paid $300,000 for hers) so he could attend an invitation-only party for NFT ape owners with Snoop Dogg and other celebrities. And he traveled the world trying unsuccessfully to track down the assets backing the Tether coin, a so-called stable coin that maintains a value of $1 U.S. and is a pillar of crypto trading.

This is a page turner, in the same class with The Cult of We, Bad Blood and other tales of financial fraud. I recommend all three books to my FinTech class.

Joseph Kennedy, father of President John Kennedy, supposedly said “When the shoeshine boy is giving you stock tips, it's time to get out of the market.” We should now add: When groups of wannabes attend conventions for a financial product and chant in unison, it's time to head for the door.

Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry Into the Conceptual Foundations of Science by Norwood Russell Hanson

Dean Rowan, Interim Library Director

It might have been a professor in college who recommended this book c.1980, but I never got around to reading it. I never forgot it, either. Finally, I have turned all of its pages. It was worth the wait. In his most well-known work, Hanson, a philosopher of science operating in the wake of advances in quantum physics, theory, and mechanics of the first half of the 20th century, argues against a common assumption that science operates by making controlled observations, inductively synthesizing rules based on those data, and then testing how reliably we can predict new outcomes. Rather, according to Hanson scientists work within conceptual frameworks derived in part from empirical investigation, but also from theory and even conjecture not wholly supported by data, a methodology dubbed retroduction or abduction. Hanson produces examples to illustrate that this method is not merely a response to contemporary developments in microphysics, but has been an enduring mechanism since the earliest days of modern scientific study, such as Galileo’s and Kepler’s work on the motions of the planets. I am eager to learn how Hanson’s ideas have been adopted or discarded since the book’s publication, which means I will not only have to reread it, but also research its legacy as a philosophy of science.

Pearls Seeks Enlightenment by Stephan Pastis

Ramona C. Collins, Circulation

I am a HUGE fan of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. Fun Fact: the character Pig in the strip came from doodles drawn while Pastis was in law school at UCLA. This latest collection of strips appeared in newspapers from 2020-2021 including the beginning of the pandemic and the January 6, 2021 insurrection. It was an “interesting” time. Pastis’ commentary is hilarious and fascinating. Without ruining anything, there was a storyline that Pastis’ editors decided to delay since it came a little too close to real life. To hear from the author how that whole situation played out was the fascinating part. Another of my favorite characters is the “wise ass on the hill.” Pearls characters make pilgrimages up the hill to ask the wise ass questions. Pastis avoids the wrath of the Comic Strip Censor (another character) by using the word ass to mean donkey.

Our recent day off to celebrate Indigenous People's Day gave me the opportunity to attend Pastis’ book signing event in Danville – a delightful coincidence. In the audience were Pastis’ former legal assistant and some especially young fans. The fact that his former legal assistant is a fan tells me a lot about what kind of person Pastis is. The young fans were there because Pastis also writes childrens’ books. In fact, he visited several local elementary schools on the day of his book signing.

This book will bring a smile to your face in difficult times. I highly recommend it.

People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn

Steven Davidoff Solomon, Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law

A searching expose of antisemitism and the failure of American society (and universities) to not only confront this issue but their complicity in perpetuating antisemitism.

Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors by Adrian Goldsworthy

Mel Eisenberg, Jesse H. Choper Professor of Law (Emeritus)

From Amazon: Alexander the Great's conquests staggered the world. He led his army across thousands of miles, overthrowing the greatest empires of his time and building a new one in their place. He claimed to be the son of a god, but he was actually the son of Philip II of Macedon.

Philip inherited a minor kingdom that was on the verge of dismemberment, but despite his youth and inexperience, he made Macedonia dominant throughout Greece. It was Philip who created the armies that Alexander led into war against Persia. In Philip and Alexander, classical historian Adrian Goldsworthy shows that without the work and influence of his father, Alexander could not have achieved so much. This is the groundbreaking biography of two men who together conquered the world.

The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

Susan Schechter, Lecturer in Residence; Director, Field Placement Program; Faculty Co-Director, Pro Bono Program

I recently read The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön. This book was recommended by Judi Cohen, a Berkeley Law lecturer, and director of Warrior One, a mindfulness and law resource and training program (and so much more

Given the state of the world and my own state of mind, I figured this was a good time to jump in. The book, while brief, contains lots of good lessons, stories and suggestions for facing your/our fears and not backing down - the idea of stopping, acknowledging them, even embracing them, as a way to move through and find ways to live with the uncertainty, the groundlessness, and the scariness of it all, and perhaps to find some calm, peace and ease as we move forward. While Pema's Start Where You Are and When Things Fall Apart have gotten more press, this book provided a more indepth exploration into the idea of being a warrior for peace, compassion and kindness. If anyone reads it and wants to discuss it, let me know!

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, pictures by Dan Hanna (Ages 1-3)

Andrew Charles Baker, Assistant Professor of Law

In the enchanting depths of aquatic whimsy, Deborah Diesen casts her spell with The Pout-Pout Fish, a tale that lingers like the ebb and flow of ocean tides. With the stroke of her pen, Diesen invites readers on an underwater odyssey, chronicling the journey of a perpetually pouting fish through a vibrant sea world. Through rhythmic prose and vivid imagery, this narrative masterpiece gently navigates the murky waters of emotions, weaving a tale that resonates with the tender hearts of both young and old. It's a symphony of colors and emotions, teaching profound lessons about self-discovery, the redemptive power of kindness, and the transformative nature of friendship.

The Running Grave: A Cormoran Strike Novel by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (Audiobook)

Marlene Harmon, Reference Librarian

This is one of two of what I call “Big British Mysteries” that I reviewed - see also Something to Hide.

At 960 pages in print, and over 34 hours long in audio, this is the seventh, and longest entry in Galbraith’s series about the one-legged private detective, Cormoran Strike and his business partner Robin Ellacott. It starts with a seemingly straightforward request from a father hoping to find his son, who has joined the Universal Humanitarian Church (UHC) - a religious organization whose benign name is a veneer for a criminal, even murderous cult. Ellacott infiltrates the UHC and soon learns that uncovering and exposing the true nature of the UHC comes at a high cost. 960 pages or 34 hours could be a long slog, but this book moved quickly for me, the chapters dealing with Ellacott’s time undercover in the UHC particularly tense. Robert Glenister narrates this, as he has all the audiobooks in the series.

As with Something to Hide, red herrings abound in both of these complex mysteries. Readers will likely derive as much pleasure from spending time with the authors’ well-drawn series characters as they do from learning the mysteries' solutions.

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut

Catherine Albiston, Jackson H. Ralston Professor of Law,Professor of Sociology, Faculty Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society

In the category of banned books, my book club recently read Slaughterhouse-Five. Unfortunately, Vonnegut's novel, about World War II, and implicitly Vietnam, remains all too relevant. The book uses comedy and farce to sneak under your defenses leaving you at the end profoundly sad about a world that has lost its mind. Until this rereading, I had forgotten the time travel and free will themes in the book, which I suspect are there to suggest that this moment in time is all moments in time. So it goes.

Smartless (Podcast - available on many platforms including Apple, Amazon and Wondery)

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

I know I am late to this party but for those of you who don’t already follow this podcast, Smartless was created by actors Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes a few months into the pandemic as a way of staying in touch with each other and their friends in showbiz. Each episode begins with one of the three revealing a famous mystery guest unknown to the other two who the three then interview. Currently at close to 200 hundred episodes, they have hosted famous actors, sports greats, politicians, directors, writers, comedians, even President Biden. These guys seem to have an inexhaustible rolodex of great gets across all walks of life (Anderson Cooper, David Remnick, Wayne Gretzsky, Marshawn Lynch, Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg, Billy Eilish, Kara Swisher, Brad Paisley, Will Ferrell, Ewan McGregor, Paul McCartney, Conan O’Brien, Emily Blunt, Jenny Slate, the list goes on and on). I recommend sampling from the back catalog.

Arnett, Bateman and especially Hayes bring a goofy charm and curiosity to each podcast. The interviews end up being less the standard promo spiel and more funny stories of how folks got their start and the passion for what they do interspersed with the hosts’ banter. Their endless banter is the one drawback to the podcast - often the three just need to shut up and focus on the guest. Nonetheless, they’re never mean, and they have a way of getting their guests to relax and share in a way you don’t find in other interview settings (Rachel Maddow giggling?). If you need a mindless break from it all, this is it, and it will make you laugh out loud.

Something to Hide: A Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George (Audiobook)

Marlene Harmon, Reference Librarian

This is one of two of what I call “Big British Mysteries” that I reviewed - see also The Running Grave.

Elizabeth George’s latest – the 21st – in her series about Scotland Yard Acting Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley, Something to Hide weighs in at a mere 704 pages or just over 21 hours as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Vance. All the main characters readers of this series know and love are here, Lynley, Detective Inspectors Barbara Havers and Winston Nakita, Lynley's friends Deborah and Simon St. James. But it’s the story itself, the ramifications of the initially undetected murder of an undercover Nigerian-born Met officer and what and who she was investigating in the Nigerian and African communities, where some still practice female genital mutilation, that propels this story through a steaming hot summer in London.

As with The Running Grave, red herrings abound in both of these complex mysteries. Readers will likely derive as much pleasure from spending time with the authors’ well-drawn series characters as they do from learning the mysteries' solutions.

There Will Be Fire: Margaret Thatcher, the IRA, and Two Minutes That Changed History by Rory Carroll

Michael Levy, Law Librarian Emeritus

In October 1984, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) came within a hair's breadth of assassinating then British Prime Minister in a bombing at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. This particular event has particular resonance for me as Brighton is my hometown and the nineteenth century Grand Hotel is still a distinctive landmark on Brighton's seafront. Carroll, who is the Guardian's Ireland correspondent, has written a non-fiction thriller of intricate detail, all against the backdrop of the so-called "Troubles." It is an absolute page-turner. An intriguing question that runs through the entire book is what if the IRA had actually killed Thatcher? How would the course of history have been changed? Would there have been the Good Friday agreement of 1998?

The Time Traveler’s Almanac: A Time Travel Anthology edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

Catherine Albiston, Jackson H. Ralston Professor of Law,Professor of Sociology, Faculty Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society

I'm currently working through The Time Traveler's Almanac, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. This book features "72 journeys into time" in the form of short stories from the likes of Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, William Gibson, and of course H.G. Wells. One thing I like about this book is how the editors group the stories into categories or types: Experiments, Reactionaries and Revolutionaries, Mazes and Traps, and Communiques. Now that I read them, these are obvious genres or themes in time travel literature, and it is fun to explore how different authors spin them out.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Janice Kelly, former Law Library Reference Volunteer

This novel has stayed with me in the months since I read it. It’s heartbreaking, but somehow hopeful and you feel you know the main character to the bone.

Cushla Lavery is a young teacher at a Catholic school in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, working in the evenings at her family’s pub. Her father died a few years earlier and the family is still grieving, her mother drinking too much, her brother tending the bar, and Cushla left with an emptiness.

She’s a devoted and inventive teacher, particularly attached to 7-year old Davy. His family troubles draw Cushla in at the same time she begins an affair with a married English barrister.

The novel is an examination of love: the sometimes frayed love within a family; romantic love; and the powerful love of a teacher for her students.

It’s also an examination of class: the wealthy Protestant friends of Michael, the barrister; Davy’s family, the only Catholic family in a Protestant neighborhood, with a father unable to work after a beating; Cushla’s relatively comfortable family.

One of the most striking aspects of the novel is how it shows that people in a sectarian society cannot live outside politics. Normal acts of kindness take on political overtones and are harshly punished. People surveil others and fear surveillance in turn.

Kennedy shows that still people hope and people love and though your heart may break, it mends.

Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions by Temple Grandin

A.J. Stone, 3L and Law Library RA

Temple Grandin is an autistic writer, engineer, and animal behaviorist writing on neurodiversity, neurodivergence, and the internal perspectives of individuals with verbal communication deficits. As one of the first autistic advocates who rose to notoriety speaking from personal experience, Grandin’s writing is a great place to start for anyone interested in understanding the autistic or neurodivergent experience.

In Visual Thinking, Grandin returns to a lifelong project of translating her cognitive process from mental picture to written word, inviting the reader into the mind of someone who thinks hard about thinking differently. The investigations of Visual Thinking, while often focused on autistic cognitive profiles, include broad insights into various thinking, learning, and communication styles. Grandin uses the language of contemporary science paired with personal experiences and observations to exemplify the value of neurodiversity. She argues that as the world focuses more and more on verbal and lexical communication, the skills of those who excel in spatial recognition and visual, systemic thinking go to waste. Following her journey through science and narrative, the reader comes to a new appreciation for neurodiversity in school, the workplace, and community. This is a great read for anyone interested in how we think, and how our thinking affects our ability to connect with one another.

Wake Up, Stupid by Mark Harris

Mel Eisenberg, Jesse H. Choper Professor of Law (Emeritus)

From Amazon: Originally written in 1959, this is the hilariously explosive account of Youngdahl, a novelist, playwright, ex-Mormon, and father of seven. He is a frenzied man who is beginning a letter-writing campaign to escape his curiously ironic situation, and, of course, his profession. Along with Abner Klang, his not-so-literary agent who seems to have misplaced the F key on his typewriter, Youngdahl joins forces with a Mormon bishop, a TV adapter, and a prizefighter, among others, to spearhead a comic revolution.

Wild Robot by Peter Brown (Ages 8-12)

Joe Cera, Research Librarian for Scholarly Communication & Information Technology

I am sure many of you have already read this (or your kids have read it). It is an excellent book that could stand to be 20ish pages shorter. I thought this would be a tough book to get into because I struggle to have feelings about robots who act like living things. Luckily, the author has a gift for making endearing characters and just like early black and white films and Spiderman, I was able to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the story.

If you don't know what the book is about, it is basically this: A bunch of AI robots are being shipped across the ocean, there is a storm, one robot survives. The environment is an island with only animals and the robot must use its processing power in order to exist in this environment. Clearly, it is a robot so there is no obvious sense that it was intended to serve humans (though I assume this would have been one of the biases of the underlying code).

Spoiler alert? Here's the thing though, this would have been an incredible book and a really sweet story if it had ended with the robot being a caretaker of the forest animals and having a happy result after the migrating animals come home. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. The idea that some tech company would send an army of robots to attempt to recover a single robot is simply too much and feels like a heavy handed way to make room for a sequel. I don't know if the end was supposed to be a commentary on tech aggressively coming for its own or refusing to allow anything to benefit without paying the cost of that tech but it made it so I am not even bothering with the remainder of the series, no matter how good.

Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire by Helen Vendler

Dean Rowan, Interim Library Director

As I dipped into the collection of Wallace Stevens poems reviewed elsewhere in this book list, I sought guidance from one of Stevens’ (and Keats’) most astute readers. This small book consists of an introduction and four lectures Vendler delivered at University of Tennessee, as in the state where in one of his most well-known poems Stevens placed a round jar upon a hill. Her goal is to correct the common perception that Stevens wrote needlessly abstract and evasive, hence “difficult,” poetry. Rather, she finds in a selection of his shorter works clear signs of his personal concerns about desire, unsatisfied desire, and the evasiveness and loss of objects of desire, particularly as he grew older and acutely aware of his own imminent mortality. These are universal themes of poetry. Vendler gently unpeels the surfaces from the poetry’s often oracular diction to show the broodings of a poet-person who turned to language to generate new thrills and to reflect upon their ephemerality. As a side note, I once saw an AI-generated citation to a non-existent Helen Vendler edition of Stevens’ complete works.

World Within a Song: Music that Changed My Life and Life that Changed My Music by Jeff Tweedy (Audiobook)

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

I can’t say that I’m a huge Wilco fan, but I do find Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy interesting and thoughtful. In his new book, World Within a Song, Tweedy shares 50 songs that changed his life describing where he was in his life when he discovered the song and how it has affected his music and life. The song choices are wide ranging, eclectic, cover a multitude of genres, and are not the least bit snobby. My Sharona shares equal space with Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. His choices were quite evocative for me of a place and time. Yet one of my daughters was listening to the book with me and because of how kids today sample music she recognized and had feelings about many of the song choices as well. Unfortunately, the soundtracks are not included (and you’ll constantly want to play the referenced song), although Spotify for one has created a playlist to go with the book.

One of the most affecting chapters is on ABBA’s Dancing Queen, a band and a song Tweedy dismissed as a young man immersed in the early punk scene. Tweedy writes, “It’s important in life to admit when you’re wrong about something ... .I'm sad for every single moment I missed loving this song ... .I truly recommend spending some time looking for a song you might have unfairly maligned. It feels good to stop hating something. Music is a good place to start if you’re interested in forgiveness.”

I also recommend Tweedy’s memoir Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.