BCLB Summer Reading 2021

illustration of 5 students reading


The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan


A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History by Diana Henriques. We were fortunate to host Diana last fall as our journalist-in-residence, which inspired me to pick up this book. It’s a fascinating page-turner that also explores UC Berkeley’s unique connection to Black Monday. 
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright (who spoke at our Fraud Fest conference in 2019). An intriguing investigation into the 1MDB scandal and the man behind what may be one of the greatest financial heists of all time. I’m only a few pages in, but so far it’s like Bad Blood meets Ocean’s 11.

MARK BRILLIANTMARK BRILLIANT, Associate Professor of History

Members Only by Sameer Pandya. A contemporary twist on Philip Roth’s Human Stain. The New York Times described it, just prior to its release, as among a handful of debut novels that deserve attention. Plus, Sameer is an old grad school friend of mine and a University of California colleague of ours.
Ghosts of Gold Mountain by Gordon Chang. A remarkable piece of historical forensics to reconstruct a history we all know happened but for which there is not a single source available from the Chinese workers themselves. Part business history and part California / US history, it’s a moving read by a Stanford historian. The undergrads in my “California, the West, and the World” course loved it.

RICHARD BUXBAUMRICHARD BUXBAUM, Professor of International Law (Emeritus)

Academic comedies/comedies about academia have made good summer reading since Mary McCarthy’s Groves of Academe and Martin Amis’ Lucky Jim. Three good ones that may not have had a wide readership are Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, Richard Russo’s Straight Man, and Jane Smiley’s Moo.  

ERWIN CHEMERINSKYERWIN CHEMERINSKY, Professor of Constitutional  Law and Dean of Berkeley Law 

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. A fun imagination of what might have been if Hillary left Bill all those years ago.
The Cactus League by Emily Nemens. In a spring without baseball, a fun story of spring training.
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. A great story about Winston Churchill and leadership in a time of crisis. 


The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. A lively description of Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister in the beginning of WWII, it sets the standard for leadership in the face of extreme adversity, from vision down to the little details. 
The Inheritance of Rome by Cristopher Wickham. The Roman Empire may have collapsed, but it left a legacy of institutions. From law and bureaucracy to an organized religion and universal citizenship, the Romans built modern statehood. Subsequent would-be autocrats defy these institutions at their peril.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari. The book is at its best recording the earliest history of humankind(s), where it integrates fascinating new archaeological research. It’s slightly less compelling for more familiar, recent periods, but warms up again as it arrives at the present. Harari is the rare historian who is unafraid to play futurologist. Maybe that’s why he gets invited to Davos. 
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A father and son make their way alone through a post-Apocalyptic western landscape. McCarthy combines the best of the old western, science fiction, and modern, psychological novel. Not exactly a pick me up, but I like sad movies best.

AMELIA MIAZADAMELIA MIAZAD, Founder, Business in Society Institute 

I am looking forward to reading Corporations and American Democracy (Edited by Naomi R. Lamoreaux & William J. Novak) again this summer –it is one of the few books that grounds the current debate about the role of business in society in a historical context. Available soon, I’m excited to dig into Gillian Tett’s latest book, Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life, which provides an anthropological perspective on the inner workings of today’s business world. Finally, Dorothy A. Brown’s recent book, The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans – and How We Can Fix It sheds light on the racism in US tax policy and offers a policy proposal for making tax policy more equitable. 

ADAIR MORSEADAIR MORSE, BerkeleyHaas Professor

This year, coincidentally, I started reading disaster response books. Three of them were Five Days at Memorial (Hurricane Katrina) by Sheri Fink, The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough, and The White Cascade (avalanche) by Gary Krist. Madame President (President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia & ebola) by Helene Cooper and Chernobyl 01:23:40 by Andrew Leatherbarrow are also in this genre. I can’t say that this genre of books are mesmerizing reads, but I have become fascinated by the mistakes in times of crisis, and perhaps that leads to useful reflections. I think about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans quite a bit. It seems to be hard to lead in crises. I wonder why.


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Here is “a world where one could go anywhere but still find nothing.” Perfect for a time when one can’t go anywhere – open this door and escape. Mohsin Hamid went to a lesser law school, but he writes with the precision and compassion of a Berkeley grad. This one is worth reading until the end just to see what happens to Marin.


STEVEN DAVIDOFF, Faculty Co-Director

The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli. A nice substantive beach read about a small group of dreamers on a South Pacific atoll struggling with direction and purpose in life.
Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis. A searching and insightful look at the effect of Amazon on working-class America and the transformation of work in the age of technology. 


First, two books that are coming out later this summer: Don’t Let It Get You Down – Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body from my colleague, and executive director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, Savala Nolan, and The Cult of We: Wework, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (who are providing a keynote at our Fraud Fest conference this summer).
Second, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, was one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read in recent years (and I devoured it in just a couple of evenings).