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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Non-required reading

Believe it or not, in about a week’s time you’ll be free of classes, tests and term papers. To help you pass your winter days, The California Aggie has compiled a list of non-required reading based on recommendations from UC Davis professors.

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

When I take a break from reading British and American literature, I like to read something light and clever. My favorite authors in this category are P.G. Wodehouse and Jasper Fforde for their exquisite style and wacky humor. The Fourth Bear by Fforde is laugh-out-loud funny, with Jack Spratt and Mary Mary (Quite Contrary) as detectives in the Nursery Crime Division of Fforde’s fantasy world where humans and book characters live side by sidewith sometimes-fatal results. What’s not to love about an alien who speaks binary and a Gingerbread Man who is a psychotic serial killer? Great holiday entertainment!

– Brynne Gray, English lecturer


Sure, students have read it before, but they were too young for it then. Now it has it all for them: brevity, brooding, heroism, violence, wisdom, justice, loyalty and betrayal, death and perpetual fame. Monstersarms torn off, dragons cut in half. Gold. And it survived a thousand years of teachers, a movie and several comic books, so it has staying power.

Kevin Roddy, Medieval and early modern studies professor

Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know by Matt Mason

Mason is a talented poet, a UCD alum and an old friend. The title comes from a phrase spoken by Donald Rumsfeld in an attempt to confuse reporters regarding his mishandling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Mason] won the 2007 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry.

Andy Jones, English professor

Audition by Michael Shurtleff

Although it was written nearly 30 years ago, it’s still packed with pithy, witty, insightful avenues into acting, illuminating both the pitfalls and the pleasures, the dos and the don’ts, how to get that leading role or how to frustrate the casting director. This book reads with the easy voice of a jaunty New Yorker and is packed full of the wisdom of someone who genuinely loves actors. Shurtleff [a Broadway casting director] also includes 12 guideposts for getting inside a character quickly, as you often have to for television and film castings. I’ve found this book invaluable for my own acting, as well as passing on tips to my undergrads and grads. A jolly good stocking filler!

Bella Merlin, theatre and dance professor

Euclid’s Elements

It is a mathematics book, over 2,000 years old, in which there are no numbers, just diagrams. For anyone who has always hated math, it is a real eye opener. And it’s a must read for anyone with genuine intellectual curiosity. It’s fascinating that all the information in Euclid is on the first two pages; the rest of the book just unpacks it. I don’t think the history of philosophy can be understood without looking at Euclid, since so many philosophers wanted to do what he did with other topics. This is maybe the greatest book ever written.

Bernard Molyneux, philosophy assistant professor

A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harveys

Economists are inclined to talk about crises like they’re cars: You need to tune such-and-such, give it more of this and less of that, and then if everyone claps their hands and believes in Christmas, it’ll start vrooming down the road again! What is obscure about this is the way the economic crisis is the outcome of a much larger story at least 35 years old: an entire change in global organization, which will see the passing of the American era There’s a famous curse,May you live in interesting times.In that threatening, ambiguous sense, we finally do. This book is probably the best introduction to the big picture of our interesting times.

Joshua Clover, English professor

ANNA OPALKA compiled this list and can be reached at arts@theaggie.org


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