NYU Loyal Summer 2021

The NYU Loyal Bookshelf is a list of recommended reads chosen by NYU staff and faculty, curated especially for supporters of NYU Loyal. NYU Loyal supporters are integral in helping NYU uphold its academic mission and continued excellence. Thank you for your continued generosity and for being part of the NYU community!

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Jack H. Knott, Dean, Gale and Ira Drukier Chair, NYU Steinhardt

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is a personal narrative by a highly successful neurosurgeon who learns in his 30s that he has terminal lung cancer. It is an emotionally engaging, beautifully written memoir that explores how to cope with unexpected tragedy, the meaning of life, and how we live our lives in the face of mortality.

The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum

One of the major threats facing the world today is the growth of authoritarian governments and the threat to democracy in Eastern Europe, Russia, Brazil, China, and other countries. This book is a wonderful mixture of the author’s personal experiences of the growth of authoritarianism in Poland and her highly insightful analysis of how democracies decline.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

Most experts believed that the United States was the most prepared to cope with a major pandemic, given its wealth, medical care system, and knowledge of epidemiology and public health. As the COVID pandemic unfolded, however, these strengths were not enough to prevent over one million deaths, by far the most in the world. The author tells a compelling story of the people who developed a pandemic defence plan for the US but he explains how politics, ignorance, and other factors severely hindered our ability to respond to the worst health crisis in the last 100 years.

Jack's reading habit: I read a portion of a book every evening before I fall asleep. It is important to have a regular time for reading and a commitment to read on a daily basis. I mostly read non-fiction books, but I do read mysteries for relaxation as well. I try to read books that address some major issue facing our country and the world or a compelling personal account or experience that helps with the meaning of life and how we should live.

Priya Raghubir, Stern School of Business, Dean Abraham L. Gitlow Professor of Business and Professor of Marketing

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir was recently recommended to me by a finance professor who is always lamenting his absence of leisure time but always jumping into another project. This book talks about simplifying your life by creating slack in the resources you most need, whether they be time or money. It draws on academic research and is written by two highly respected academics in the fields of behavioral economics and cognitive psychology.

Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat is a novel about how parents' dreams forced onto their children cause low self-esteem. It is equally about corruption in the education system in a developing country: the palms you need to grease, how you do it, and how you can mint money starting an educational institute in a country where there is a dearth of spaces for higher education (such as India). It is also a love story (aww!).

Priya's thoughts: Chetan Bhagat is an interesting person. He did his MBA and worked in banking with multinational banks, and then, as a hobby, wrote a novel based on his own marriage, which became a run-away hit made into a Bollywood movie (also a big hit). He quit his banking career and is now a full-time writer.

Dean Jelena Kovačević, Tandon School of Engineering

Between Two Kingdoms by Souleika Jaouad tells the story of a young woman diagnosed with leukemia and her journey through the illness. It is recounted in a very matter-of-fact way, but is incredibly moving and interesting.

I am currently listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming on audiobook. Another incredible audiobook is Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon (I’m a big fan) by Malcom Gladwell and Bruce Headlam

Jelena's favorite reading spot: Sitting in an Adirondack chair, somewhere on vacation, with a “physical” book.

Miguel A. Modestino, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Director of the Sustainable Engineering Initiative

In a world where the impacts of climate change are imminent, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the challenges and scale of fully decarbonizing our economy. Electrifying our vehicles, buildings, and factories, capturing the emissions from our power plants, deploying more wind and solar, and planting massive amounts of trees – we need to do it all!

Bill Gates' How to Avoid a Climate Disaster provides a detailed, accessible, and science-grounded account on the scale of each of these technological challenges, which solutions are available, how to deploy them, and how governments and society can contribute to achieving a sustainable future. Perhaps more importantly, Gates also shines light into the missing technological links needed to bring carbon emissions to zero. These include things like inventing processes to decarbonize plastic, steel, and cement production, developing sustainable aviation fuels, or growing our food without contributing carbon emissions. This book has served me as a source of inspiration and a guide for the sustainable engineering advances that we will need to accomplish in the decades to come.

Elise Cappella, Vice Dean for Research, Professor of Applied Psychology, NYU Steinhardt

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

I slept little while reading Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott. The story of Dasani and her family is breathtaking. Equally powerful is the author’s analysis of intergenerational poverty and its devastating impacts.

Although I am not a regular reader of poetry, Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things is delightful, surprising, and profound. A single poem is a perfect start to a day.

Elise’s reading tips: Bring a book wherever you go. Read at random moments (in a line, on the train) and in favorite spots (in the park, at a café). Choose books that captivate you!

Sally Cummings, Communications Manager, NYU Division of Libraries

The Latinist by Mark Prins

This was suspenseful and the characters–a thesis candidate and her advisor, both classicists–are fully drawn. I enjoyed the academic setting–present-day Oxford–though I hope getting a doctorate in the real world is less fraught! 

Revolution on the Hudson by George C. Daughen

I love the Hudson River and I love reading about the history of my native New York State. This book is distinguished by the author's attention to the personalities of the major player–the way their personal decisions affected the outcome of the war. For example, one battle was won by the revolutionaries simply because of the British commander's decision to spend an extra night with his mistress in New York. It's very well written, too; a pleasure to read. 

Sally’s reading tip: If you love books and podcasts, listen to Backlisted. The two hosts are bright, funny, and ludicrously erudite, and your list of books you want to read will grow with each episode.