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Summer reading suggestions from UCOP staff and campus lists

Looking for some good books to read while vacationing or relaxing this summer? Maybe we can help.

Every year, UC Berkeley publishes a reading list for new students. This year’s list is culled from faculty, staff and student suggestions on the theme of “The first time I….” The choices range from fantasy classics like “The Little Prince” and “The Left Hand of Darkness” to more recent works such as Elena Ferrante’s “The Brilliant Friend.” The folks at Cal have also posted all of their summer reading lists going back to 1985.

After getting into the game for the first time last year, the Division of Social Sciences at UC Santa Cruz is back at it with another list. Suggestions include the recent Pulitzer Prize winning memoir “Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan, which features UCSC, surfing and California color.

We also gathered some recommendations from avid readers here at OP — see the list below. We hope you’ll add your own suggestions in the comments.

Happy reading!


UCOP staff picks:

“Boy, Snow, Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi – A dark and compelling Snow White-esque fairy tale with interesting characters, compelling questions about parental and other kinds of love, and writing unlike any I’ve read before. Oyeyemi is an up-and-coming novelist to watch.

“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez – I love to travel but have not been able to take long trips like I used to. This book makes me feel like I am traveling into another world and to a different time. It is one of the few books that I have kept so that I can read it again.

“The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson – Beautifully written and a fascinating view of life in North Korea.

“Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier  – A captivating novel speculating on the origin of a very famous painting by Vermeer.

“Day After Night” by Anita Diamond – Lovely cast of characters; the book covers a place/time that few are familiar with.

“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova – Fascinating and heartbreaking look into early onset Alzheimer’s and how families negotiate it.

“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – Couldn’t put it down. Loved the flower theme throughout the book. Bonus that it takes place in the Bay Area.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn – If the plot hasn’t been ruined for you by the (not nearly as good) movie, enjoy this whiplash mystery told in alternating chapters by a husband and wife providing two very different versions of the same marriage.

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – And if you loved “Gone Girl,” this similar-feeling mystery will help you through your withdrawal.

“High Fidelity” by Nick Hornby – A very funny book about music and your first experience of real love.

“The Dispossessed” by Ursula LeGuin – A tale of two worlds: one for the rich and materialistic, the other for the poor and idealistic. An award-winning classic that’s even more relevant today than when it was written 40 years ago.

“The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson – If you’re a baby boomer, this hilarious memoir about growing up in mid-century America is a must-read.

“Did You Ever Have A Family” by Bill Clegg — A moving story about family, loss, loneliness and redemption.

“The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro — Ishiguro’s latest book is a departure from his other works — it features ogres, dragons and warriors this time — but is still absorbing and thought provoking. Ishiguro asks us to consider who we would be if we were robbed of our memories.

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara — Very well-written with characters that stay with you well after reaching the last page. Because large swaths of this book are intense and emotionally raw, this is definitely on the heavy side of summer reading.


Thanks to staff who made recommendations: Kate Moser, Shelly Meron, Tracy FitzGerald, Katherine Tam

Please add your own suggestions in the comments below!


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  1. Han Mi Yoon-Wu July 12, 2016 Reply

    I LOVED “A Little Life” but it definitely does not leave you feeling happy. I am also recommending “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. These have been my favorite books of the year.

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