SAGE Musings: 2019 Summer Reading Recommendations

Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College
Author Profile
published Jun 21, 2019 3:55pm

I take a break in publishing the SAGE Musings blog over the summer. I also like to make more time for reading over the summer. I asked the SAGE 2YC project leaders and participants for summer reading recommendations, and here they are.... Enjoy!

Me: I've recently read two books by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and I am absolutely in love with her writing. Robin is a botanist and a member of the Potawatomi Nation, and she weaves together scientific perspectives and Indigenous knowledge seamlessly. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses is, I kid you not, a riveting description of the biology of mosses and their place in the ecosystem. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants is even better. From the book cover: "Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices."

Callan Bentley: Here are seven titles that I recommend to everyone.

The Planet Remade, by Oliver Morton
A fascinating look at all conceivable aspects of geoengineering the Earth in light of climate destabilization. Required reading! Morton has thought through the strategies and logistics and consequences of solar radiation management (sulfide aerosols in the stratosphere) and carbon capture and sequestration, and the geopolitical implications of nations cooperating or not cooperating as geoengineering decisions get made. There is a great chapter on the nitrogen cycle which should be information in the heads of every American citizen as they contemplate the human perturbations upending the carbon cycle. Read a full review.

Trace, by Lauret Savoy
A meditation on people and place, where geological history meets human history, full of meditations on pathos and tragedy, perspective and insight. How do geology and slavery relate? Read this thoughtful work by a Mount Holyoke professor to find out. Read a full review.

The Ends of the World, by Peter Brannen
A survey of the Earth's many mass extinctions, past, present, and future. Hilarious and well sourced. Mass extinctions in the Precambrian? Earth's final mass extinction in the distant future? All here, as well as thoughtful, imperative treatment of "The Big Five." Read a full review.

Kristie Bradford: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein. From the publisher's website: "David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't see."

Caitlin Chazen: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. From the publisher's website: "In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge.... Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today."

Eriks Puris: two articles:

The Tooth of Time: The North American Cordillera from Tanya Atwater to Karin Sigloch, by Paul F. Hoffman. It recounts the initial unraveling of the Cordillera's plate tectonic setting featuring the work of Tanya Atwater and then goes on to discuss the historical development of the recent westward subduction model for the Cordillera.

Many Water Cycle Diagrams Promote Misconceptions. The title says it all; read all about it.

Pam Eddy: recommends Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status, and Student Opportunity, by Barrett J. Taylor and Brendan Cantwell, and The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias, by Dolly Chugh.

About "Unequal Higher Education," from the publisher's website: "American higher education is often understood as a vehicle for social advancement. However, the institutions at which students enroll differ widely from one another.... Unequal Higher Education identifies and explains the sources of stratification that differentiate colleges and universities in the United States. Barrett J. Taylor and Brendan Cantwell use quantitative analysis to map the contours of this system. They then explain the mechanisms that sustain it and illustrate the ways in which rising institutional inequality has limited individual opportunity, especially for students of color and low-income individuals."

About "The Person You Mean to Be," from the publisher's website: "[Chugh] reveals the surprising causes of inequality, grounded in the "psychology of good people". Using her research findings in unconscious bias as well as work across psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and other disciplines, she offers practical tools to respectfully and effectively talk politics with family, to be a better colleague to people who don't look like you, and to avoid being a well-intentioned barrier to equality."

Heather Macdonald: I recommend Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West, by Patricia Limerick. Here's part of a review from Amazon: "In Something in the Soil, Patricia Nelson Limerick travels far outside the usual academic circles to bring Western past and Western present into a spirited union. Limerick operates on the principle that history is an active presence in the West, layers of collective memory that are, quite literally, "something in the soil." Enlightening and always witty, this wide-ranging collection of essays and arguments from the New West's landmark historian offers an artful journey into its dramatic past and contentious present."

Norlene Emerson: I recommend Educated by Tara Westover. It is an amazing memoir told by the author which describes her difficult childhood raised by survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. Due to Tara's father's opposition to public education, Tara lacked any formal education but was able to teach herself enough to be admitted to Brigham Young University, from which she earned a BA and was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship where she earned a MPhil from Trinity College. In 2014 she earned a PhD from Harvard.

Dana Vukajlovich: Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, by Marcia Bjornerud
I have started this book but haven't finished. I enjoy her narrative style and the examples she chooses. She reminds me how compelling some of the classic geology stories can be. From the blurb: "The overlapping rates of change in the Earth system―some fast, some slow―demand a poly-temporal worldview, one that Bjornerud calls "timefulness." She explains why timefulness is vital in the Anthropocene, this human epoch of accelerating planetary change, and proposes sensible solutions for building a more time-literate society."

Tania Anders: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. It's not a new book but I recently started reading it and I think it's great. From the publisher's website: "Homo sapiens rules the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in its own imagination, such as gods, states, money and human rights. Starting from this provocative idea, Sapiens goes on to retell the history of our species from a completely fresh perspective."

What are you reading or planning to read this summer?

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