Professors Open Up About Their Favorite Books


Old books on a bookshelf
A happy World Book Day to bibliophiles everywhere!
As a tip of the hat to the celebration, we asked a handful of faculty members to share influential books in their lives.
Woman holding a book in front of a book shelf

Dr. Meghna Sabharwal

School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
“This is an eye-opening book on the struggles and mistreatment of women worldwide. While I broke down many-a-times reading the book, it made me realize that struggles of women worldwide are real, and we all need to rise up as humans to make our societies equitable and free of oppression.”

Man holding book in front of bookshelf

Dr. Kenneth Brewer

School of Arts and Humanities

By George Eliot
“I first read Eliot’s massive Victorian novel as an undergraduate, and I’ve read it many times since then. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself interested in different characters than the ones I found fascinating the first times I read it. Initially unsympathetic characters have become sympathetic and interesting; it’s almost like reading a different book than the one I read as a young person. Eliot’s novel takes in a panorama of Victorian society, and focuses on so many issues that are relevant to our lives today. I hope to read it many more times because I always have a new experience whenever I read it again.”

Woman holding book

Dr. Angela Lee

School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication

Predicting and Changing Behavior: The Reasoned Action Approach
By Martin Fishbein & Icek Ajzen
“This book describes the reasoned action approach, which is an integrative framework for the prediction and change of human social behavior. This book inspires me greatly and has had a significant impact on many aspects of my empirical work. I’ve always wanted to help ‘change the world for the better’ through research however I can, and I’d like to think that this book has helped point me in that direction.”

Man holding a book

Dr. McClain Watson

Naveen Jindal School of Management

Zhuangzi: Basic Writings
Translated by Burton Watson
“Day to day life can get pretty hectic. It’s easy to sometimes feel like you are on a tiny boat bobbing about without any direction on a giant sea. What better companion for those moments — for that life — than an eccentric Chinese philosopher from the 4th-century BCE? I use this text as a tool: to help me remember that nothing is permanent, that ‘the name that can be named is not the true name,’ and that, since bobbing about on an open sea is all we are going to get in life, an attitude of wandering mindlessness offers our best chance for genuine happiness.”

Woman holding book in front of bookshelf

Dr. Swati Biswas

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Gitabitan (Canopy of Songs)
By Rabindranath Tagore
“This book contains 2000-plus songs of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali language. The breadth and depth of these songs reflect the human emotions profoundly and touch the heart at any time and in all phases of life. The prayer songs transcend the boundaries of religion — in fact, the songs are sung by people from different religions — and allow us to connect to the greater unknown through the lens of eternal truth. They are an immense source of mental strength and peace in times of personal loss as these songs transport us to a level where we can perceive the grander scheme of things. At the other end of the spectrum, human joys, endless boundaries of love, wonder of nature and celebration of life are also captured by the songs with equal intensity. Therefore, Gitabitan is my constant and forever companion in life.”

Woman holding book in front of bookshelf

Dr. Candice Mills

School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Educated: A Memoir
By Tara Westover
“I first heard about this book from an interview with the author on Fresh Air, and as someone who values education, I knew I had to read more about her story. Westover spent her childhood unschooled and isolated in rural Idaho before eventually deciding to go to college (and beyond). Her experiences both in and out of the classroom changed her life. Westover’s story partially captures the idea that our understanding of the world can be heavily shaped by our interactions with others. It’s a challenging but fascinating read.”

Man standing in office with book

Dr. Gopal Gupta

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

Computational Logic and Human Thinking: How to be Artificially Intelligent
By Robert Kowalski
“This book attempts to construct a logically sound framework for human reasoning. This relates to my own research in automating common sense reasoning, a critical piece missing in realizing truly intelligent software systems. We have software systems that automate common sense reasoning and practical applications that rely on these systems.”

Woman holding book in front of bookshelf

Dr. Erin Smith

School of Interdisciplinary Studies

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
By David Grann
Killers of the Flower Moon is literary journalism at its best. It tells the story of a series of murders of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s and the team of FBI agents sent to solve the crimes. It offers all the pleasures of a whodunit—page-turning suspense, the systematic collection of clues and the dispelling of the mystery. By the conclusion, it also suggests that these crimes are driven less by a single, corrupt individual and more by systemic racism in which almost all of the community participated.”