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Category: General News

Title: Dystopian thrillers and ecological mysteries: The top 7 books of 2023 according to your professors

An Immense World book coverAn Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

In An Immense World, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ed Yong reveals the sensory bubbles that all animals, including humans, live within. Yong illuminates nature’s great mysteries, including what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes and what dogs smell on the street.

“It’s a fun read about how other species experience the world and how limited human senses can be,” said Assistant Professor Ning Leng.

Awe book coverAwe

Awe by Dacher Keltner “is about how feelings of awe — or those wow moments — that you get in nature, from seeing art or experiencing acts of kindness can change how we see things and feel about life,” said Associate Professor Jennifer Tobin.  

Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and consultant to Pixar’s Inside Out, “does a great job of explaining why we feel the way we do in those moments and how little moments can have a big and positive impact on our lives,” said Tobin. “Perhaps most importantly, he explains how we can get more of those moments.”

Hurting Kind book coverThe Hurting Kind

The Hurting Kind, a collection of poems by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, was recognized as “one of the best books of the year” in 2022 by NPR. “This short book is a very accessible collection of poetry,” said Assistant Teaching Professor Wouter Van Acker. “The oems focus on nature, grief and togetherness, and showed me things that prose never could.”

Red Rising book coverRed Rising

In Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, readers follow Darrow, a “Red” in the color-caste future society, as he struggles to fight injustice and topple the ruling elite class on Mars. USA Today called Red Rising a “top-notch debut novel…[that] ascends above a crowded dystopian field.”

“It delivers action, entertainment and thrill, but more importantly, it also builds up a world full of political drama, alliances and betrayals,” said Assistant Professor Tiago Ventura. “I was introduced to the book as ‘a mix of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games,’ and that was the perfect description!”

Time is a Mother book coverTime is a Mother

In his second collection of poems, Time is a Mother, Ocean Vuong explores the aftershocks of his mother’s death, revisiting themes from his breakout novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

“This book of poetry explores themes of family, immigration, the Asian-American experience, grief and belonging through poignant, exquisitely intimate detail,” said Assistant Professor Karen Huang. “Vuong is masterful at bridging universal themes with personal encounters.”

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow coverTomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin draws readers into the imaginary world of video game design in her second novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Dubbed “delightful and absorbing” by Tom Bissell of The New York Times, the book follows two childhood friends over 30 years, between digital worlds and reality. 

“I found all the characters felt like full humans, who meant well even when they harmed one another,” said Visiting Associate Professor Dan Honig. “It’s often observed that no one thinks they’re the ‘bad person’ in the story, but still, bad things happen in life. This poignant account helped me understand part of why that is.”

Wool book coverWool

In Wool, the first novel in Hugh Howey’s bestselling trilogy of dystopian novels, readers are immersed in a secretive subterranean city called The Silo, where citizens are subject to strict rules and talk of the outside world is forbidden. The Washington Post calls it, “claustrophobic and, at times, genuinely terrifying.” In May 2023, Apple TV+ released a 10-episode drama series based on the novel. 

Like millions of readers, Professor of the Practice Michael Strain was captivated by Wool. “The book reminds us that the more we learn about the world, the more complicated our understanding of it becomes. But also that a deeper understanding allows us to make it a better place,” he said.