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Through her many shocking and harrowing trials, she remains driven and inspired by a future where humanity can still find a way to leave the Earth and build a new home in the stars despite its flaws and failures. Together with its sequel, Parable of the Talents , it is arguably the greatest story ever told about the power of spaceflight that features no spaceships. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler This short novel tells an epic story that takes place over thousands of years.

It explores questions of identity, gender, race and power, while at the same time asking questions about relationships in a very personal and sometimes disturbing way.

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Not light reading, but well worth it. Chiang does the hard work — creating genuinely surprising ways of thinking — and he explores them through his great stories. No more teasers — read it, and enjoy this majestic ride through space and time. For my summer reading, I prefer books that have nothing to do with what I study but once in a while one of them sneaks up on me. Watch out!

Talk about it. The Fifth Season by N. Jemison This is the first book in a Hugo award-winning trilogy that takes place on an earth-like planet with significant geologic activity think earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. The whole society is structured around surviving these fifth seasons. This book describes an incredibly detailed world that makes a commentary on how our own society uses and abuses people who are different. In this sci-fi novel, she explores the fascinating complexity of a planet on which most inhabitants switch back and forth between male and female.


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As a transgender woman in the liminal space between genders, I was moved by how well the author understood my experience. But I do not believe it is my gender identity that returns me to her rich narrative — it is how well she captures the human experience by telling the story from the perspective of the only human being on a very distant planet. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon Beaches are great places for contemplating the immensity and vastness of both space and time, and few books are better aids for doing so than Last and First Men.

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It remains one of the most expansive science fiction narratives ever written, as it starts in the s when the book was written and then proceeds to narrate a future history of humanity through 18 different human speciations across billions of years and the entire solar system. Arthur C. Funny, smart, active and straightforward. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen by Jane Austen A bit of a cheat here, going for the seven-book set, but how could you pick just one of her books to take with you?

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For me, no island would be complete without her wit, her irony, her delicious prose, and her magnetic and repulsive! The stories are so varied, and they fascinated my young mind with all their irony, comedy, compassion, absurdity, and allegory. The Decameron is a book that will satisfy your desire for good stories and the endless possibilities of human drama.


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The prose is spectacular, the characters are so well drawn, and it is so long and involved that you can pick it up and put it down for your entire stay on the desert island. It is my big summer read for when I am home — it is too big to travel — and I often think of the characters and their travails when I am not with them. I re-read Middlemarch every couple years, and it changes as I grow older. The Great Gatsby by F. I first read it in high school and absolutely fell in love with narrator Nick Carraway. The characters were worlds away from my life — and folks that looked like me — but the aspiration that it embodied was near and dear to my heart.

I love the descriptions of the Jazz Age America and for years, I fantasized I was transformed into that glamorous, troubled world. I love period pieces, and this is just a classic. The book shows the attraction and need for the other character in our lives. There are monsters, magic and shipwrecks.

If you want to read one classic this summer, read this.

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The shell-shaped madeleine has been forever imprinted in my mind, and anything in my surroundings that resembles it infallibly triggers recollections of an earlier time. Moving, hallucinatory storytelling, beautiful character development, and a transformative reading experience. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Tolstoy creates a world where each character feels fully alive, flawed, familiar, and human. I especially cherish Levin, and his willingness to embrace love, even if it cannot rid him of his self-doubt and paralysis.

An extraordinary book. Or is America creating environments where the enforcement of law is greater in certain communities? I reached the last page of the book knowing it was up to people like me to bring justice to the US legal system. This is a journey to the origins of everything from economics to media, science to spirituality, told in a way that helps us recognize the patterns and provokes our motivation to do better.

The front I continue to come back to is that we as a society must prepare ourselves to embrace technology innovation, as opposed to just letting it deepen a digital divide. This double biography of Norman Borlaug Nobel Prize laureate and the father of the 20th-century agricultural revolution and William Vogt the inspiration behind the modern conservationist movement is really a modern history of environmentalism and its philosophical origins.

A very timely read as we debate how to fight for our climate, clean air, and a cleaner planet. Rosenthal lays it all out for you in simple and colorful prose, with many examples and explanations. If you saw my talk and wanted to learn more, there is no better place to start. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshanna Zuboff Zuboff has always been ahead of her time, thinks very carefully about work and technology, and works very hard to keep her thinking grounded to the facts on the ground.

What I like most about how the author writes is how they combine their knowledge about gender, language and identity with a warm and caring tone.

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I feel like Airton is both my smartest and best friend on this subject matter. And for anyone who finds themselves confused by the new acronyms and categories of sexual identity, the glossary alone is worth the price of this book. How could I not? Also, brown brings us into intimate conversation with all the pleasure activists who have supported and uplifted her while bringing their own healing- and pleasure-focused magic into the world. It argues that we might be better off by not striving to be perfect when it comes to the hot-button topics today but by being good-ish.

Drawdown highlights surprising solutions, from regenerative agriculture and reducing food waste to bioplastics and the education of women and girls. This book will leave you surprised, encouraged, and most important of all, hopeful that together we can achieve a better future for all.


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As a pioneer in artificial intelligence in both the U. Pfaff points to current indicators of what has led to the high frequency of minorities accounting for a majority of the prison population. In a page-turning sequence, I was provided with a descriptive outline of what measures are needed in order to reduce the number of people detained or incarcerated in the US today. Practical Ethics by Peter Singer TED Talk: The why and how of effective altruism This is a great book for someone who wants to consider how they could live a more ethical life or better understand some issues in applied ethics.

In terms of books that changed my life, this one is right up there. The author, herself a transgender woman, went on a road trip through red states to profile LGBT communities and capture their stories. This is a story about white middle-class Christianity and its power to perpetuate privilege and racial hostility. These are both books that I have bought after having seen them on display at my neighborhood independent bookstore. They both tell stories that need to be heard — about the way black people are disadvantaged by the structures of American society, as well as by systems and by individuals.

These memoirs are bracing to those of us privileged to have been protected by our ethnicity or our relative affluence. In the end, however, they are deeply inspiring stories from two individuals who were almost destroyed by the disadvantages piled onto them by society but who managed to rise up and then work to help others rise too. How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays by Mandy Len Catron TED Talk: A better way to talk about love This beautiful, engaging memoir convinced me that the stories we hear and tell ourselves about love can constrain our experiences and expectations in ways that we often overlook.

It could easily become a great movie. I think people who read it may become better members of our society, freeing their many neighbors who live in fear. Crushed ripped me wide open. Prepare to be wrecked and reborn. I love reading it. It is a well-written, genuine account of a time and places in Africa that are not often discussed. Rise: A Photo Documentary of Hip-Hop in Australia by Michelle Grace Hunder This is a beautiful collection of photos documenting the underground Australian hip-hop scene at a time when it was still raw and flourishing.

It shows such a broad spectrum of talents and people from every corner of the country. It is filled with memories for me, and I think if there was a photo album full of my friends in my possession whilst I was stranded, it would probably provide a pretty good photographic reference point when I sculpted my new friends out of coconut husks. Her story, which was made into a movie with the same name as the book, is riveting. Wherever you stand on this issue, you can learn something from her story.

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo TED Talk: The healing power of reading Reading is a welcome departure from the usual savior narrative which so often permeates books about teachers working in underserved communities. Kuo is brutally and refreshingly honest about herself in this memoir about her time teaching in Helena, Arkansas. The many layers of this book make it perfect for multiple readings on a desert island.

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Becoming by Michelle Obama This book tells the story that we oftentimes do not hear — we see successful people but never hear how they got there. The feeling of being alienated from the women at home, who were fixed in civilian ignorance and conventional heroic responses, is frequently expressed in the literature of the Great War. The soldiers felt themselves thrown back on the deeper and more authentic cameraderie of their fellows-in-arms. This antipathy to women on Sassoon's part is clearly revealed in his poem, Glory of Women Counter-Attack : ' You make us shells.

You listen with delight, By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled. In Glory of Women the poet projects the endless knitting of the womenfolk not only as a distraction from personal anxiety but as a substitute for imagination: 'O German mother dreaming by the fire, While you are knitting socks to send your son His face is trodden deeper in the mud! This aspect is illustrated in the poem They The Old Huntsman.