As 2021 draws to a close, many are looking forward to a well-deserved winter break. It’s a great time to cozy up next to the fire with a book, so we asked University of Chicago scholars and staff what they would recommend reading.
The list includes books that weave together many different threads of human experience—family, history, science, government, nature and more—and one book that explores an intelligent robot’s experience of the human world. From the possibility of transformative justice to the prospect of nature rebounding after a crisis, there is something to match every sensibility.
Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Recommended by: Alex Ji, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics
“This science fiction novel tells the story of how an artificial intelligence navigates a human world. Klara is an Artificial Friend, a solar-powered robot built to provide companionship to children. I was quickly transfixed by the style of Klara’s first-person narration of the daily patterns of human and robot life, which provides an interesting perspective on both the potential and limitations of artificial intelligence. As the novel progresses, Klara's unique lens is trained on deeper questions regarding childhood illness, genetic engineering, social class, and what it means to love.”
The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World, by Patrik Svensson
Recommended by: M. Todd Henderson, Michael J. Marks Professor of Law
“Eels are delicious. That’s about all I knew. This book opened my eyes to one of the world’s most fascinating creatures. I just couldn’t wait to tell my wife facts after every reading. (She wasn’t as keen on hearing them, especially the third or fourth time.) But you won’t be able to help yourself either. Aristotle makes an appearance, as does Freud and countless others who have tried to understand eels. No one has. No one has ever seen one breed and no one really understands them. The author alternates between chapters about eels and memoirs of he and his father fishing for eels in Sweden. The factual chapters are hugely interesting; the personal ones are deeply moving, especially for fathers with sons. You’ll like both types of chapters, even if you don’t like eels or don’t have sons.”
(Read the full list of UChicago Law School professor recommendations here.)
We Do This ‘Til We Free Us, by Mariame Kaba
Recommended by: Jen Kennedy, Director of Student Centers
“We Do This ‘Til We Free Us is a collection of interviews, articles, and a variety of previously released works by Mariame Kaba that leads the reader through an argument for the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. Kaba, an activist and educator with roots in New York City and Chicago, dives deep into the details of transformative justice and the shift in thought this would require as a society. The works are thoughtful, broad ranging, and never shy away from discussion of the gaps in current organizing. It’s a slim read but a great primer for those looking to learn more. As Mariame says, ‘Hope is a discipline.’”