The College of Liberal Arts consists of voracious readers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more. While there are always too many worthy books to note, these were ones CLA faculty found particularly interesting and impactful. Here are just some of the books they couldn’t put down in 2023!


Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recommended by Tyler Anderson, Instructor, School of Public Policy

“Reading Crouch's Dark Matter sent me on a spiral of his other works, including Upgrade and the Pines trilogy. Of all of them, Recursion was my favorite. Recursion is somehow incredibly grounded and personal while also having earth-shattering stakes.”

Recursion by Blake Crouch


Overstory by Richard Powers

Recommended by Geoff Barstow, Associate Professor, School of History, Philosophy, and Religion

“Focusing on the timbers wars of the late-nineties PNW, but framed around the lives and lifespans of a series of trees, this is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It hit so hard I could only read short snippets at a time.”

Overstory by Richard Powers


A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

Recommended by Catherine Bolzendahl, Director, School of Public Policy

“This book was part of my 4th-grade son's reading list for the Oregon Battle of Books and we read it together. The author did a masterful job of taking weighty social justice issues and packaging them in a compelling and empathetic story geared to readers of all ages. As a political sociologist, I particularly liked the emphasis on collective action, democracy, and equality. As a parent, I loved the lessons on kindness and forgiveness.”

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat


Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

Recommended by Laurie Bridges, Professor, School of Language, Culture, and Society

“What is the meaning of life? This sweet book has some ideas. A thoughtful elderly woman, a middle-aged man who makes Japanese pastry over a hot stove all day, and a young girl who is having difficulty at home come together in an unusual companionship to explore friendship, life, and meaning.”

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa


Redwall (series) by Brian Jacques

Recommend by Erin Cook, Instructor, School of Communication

“This is actually a series of 22 books, fiction, that I read consistently throughout the year when I have time. Woodland creatures and the battle of good vs. evil. I met the author in 4th grade and have loved all of the books since. They can be read in the order they were written or chronologically in terms of plot.”

Redwall (series) by Brian Jacques


The Passage (series) by Justin Cronin

Recommended by Angela Cordova, Instructor, School of Communication

“This series is amazing! The themes that run through each of the books, the complex characters and their relationships, the imagery, the story behind the story...all of it was just amazing! It is the only book/series I have ever read more than once (3x, actually!) and will read it again. Every time you read it, you grab something new!”

The Passage (series) by Justin Cronin


Babel by R.F. Kuang

Recommended by Liz Delf, Senior Instructor, School of Writing, Literature, and Film

“It's set in Oxford in the 1830s (yes) but with a magical twist (yes) that makes multilingual scholars incredibly valuable (yes). The speculative element shifts the perspective on British colonialism and global wealth disparity and made me see that history with fresh eyes. There's also bosom friends, picnics on the green, linguistics lectures, and revolution. What more could you ask for?”

Babel by R.F. Kuang


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Recommended by Nicole von Germeten, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts

“This was such a haunting book. I do not want to give anything away, but if you like his other books or Emily St. John Mandel or other quiet end-of-world type books, this will really stay in your mind.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro


Trust by Hernan Diaz

Recommended by Nicole von Germeten, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts

“This book has such a creative structure and a (for me) real surprise ending. Probably could be read multiple times to really absorb all the various styles and overlapping stories. This book is about the 1920s stock market crash but in a very unexpected way. It is a fascinating perspective on capitalism.”

Trust by Hernan Diaz


The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Recommended by Brenna Gomez, Director of Career Integration, School of Writing, Literature, and Film 

“As I work on my own novel, this one was a lovely inspiration. A propulsive family story full of magic, secrets, and the fight to stay alive with characters who are never afraid to be difficult, complex people–I couldn't put this one down!”

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova


Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging Everyday by Tom Radcliffe

Recommended by Daniel Faltesek, Associate Professor, School of Communication

“As a maximalist, it is great to see my aesthetics advanced. Less isn't more, more is more.”

Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging Everyday by Tom Radcliffe


Feasting WIld: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva

Recommended by Tim Jensen, Director, School of Writing, Literature, and Film

“There are few relationships as intimate as those we share with our food. Feasting Wild not only reminds us that we are what we eat, but also expands that notion in profound and unexpected ways, tracing ecological connections and cultural histories across the globe. La Cerva’s prose is spirited, approaching sensuous, but always steady. I loved this book for its stylistic syntax, its genre-bending nature, and for the richly researched ecological education it offers.”

Feasting WIld: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva


A Different Trek: Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine by David K. Seitz

Recommended by Joseph Orosco, Professor, School of History, Philosophy, and Religion

“Seitz demonstrates why anyone serious about pop culture and social theory needs to pay attention to Star Trek, particularly the series Deep Space Nine. You don't need to be a Trekkie to read this, but you end with a much greater appreciation about how this groundbreaking science fiction TV series tackles issues of racial justice, decolonization, settler colonialism, and the politics of occupation, as well as being a pioneer in the representation of diverse gender and sexual identities.”

A Different Trek: Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine by David K. Seitz


Sink by Joseph Earl Thomas

Recommended by Elena Passarello, Associate Professor, School of Writing, Literature, and Film

“This is a visceral and imaginative work of nonfiction--the story of the author's difficult upbringing, but also the experiences that shaped his wild and adventurous aesthetic. It really shows you what contemporary memoir can do!”

Sink by Joseph Earl Thomas


Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity by Claudia Goldin

Recommended by Todd Pugatch, Professor, School of Public Policy

“Why do men and women have persistently unequal career paths? What will promote gender equity in the workplace? Claudia Goldin, winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics, offers some surprising answers. Strengthening anti discrimination laws will do little, she argues. Instead, workplaces must allow sufficient flexibility for both career and family.”

Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity by Claudia Goldin


All Systems Red (series) by Martha Wells

Recommended by Ina Roy-Faderman, Instructor, School of History, Philosophy, and Religion

“I picked this series up as a light, relaxing read, which it was, but it was also an interesting take on the fusion of organic and inorganic matter in a sentient being. The series essentially asks, how much of a human organism can be replaced with machinery before we become "other?" As a "cyborg" myself, with a small mechanism that keeps me alive, these questions are personally compelling, but they're also something we need to think about as we leap into an era of significant technological enhancement of biological beings.”

All Systems Red (series) by Martha Wells


L.A. Interchanges: A Brown & Queer Archival Memoir by Lydia R. Otero

Recommended by Adam Schwartz, Associate Professor, School of Language, Culture, and Society

“I love writing that complicates the ways I think about and remember my hometown. Otero's latest does not disappoint. I couldn't put it down. Whether you are an aficionado of memoir, queer history, Los Angeles history, ethnic studies, Chicanx studies, there is something here for everyone. Above all, though, Otero is a master narrator–they couple incredibly nuanced historical detail with a voice that is friendly, funny, engaging, and critically reflective.”

L.A. Interchanges: A Brown & Queer Archival Memoir by Lydia R. Otero


The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu

Recommended by Rebekah Sinclair, Instructor, School of History, Philosophy, and Religion 

“This is a fun, thoughtful, irreverent, and tender re-imagining of an Aladdin-like tale, if Aladdin got deliciously tangled up with Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries, Adrian Tchaikovsky's penchant for nonhuman characterization, and Douglas Adams' humor. The story features many queer, politically subversive, and more-than-human characters who will steal your heart as they explore the muddied boundaries between programming and agency, between needs, wishes, and consequences. This is not fancy, high fiction; it is, however, a fantastically good time from an original author who writes Indian-centered fiction that is fun and endearing, even as it wrestles with conjuring (or wishing for) politics beyond the violences of liberalism, humanism, and colonialism.”

The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu


Continuing by Tyshawn Sorey Trio

Recommended by Peter Swendsen, Director, School of Visual, Performing, and Design Arts

“Sorey's music draws on free improv, traditional jazz, and American experimentalism, and it gathers listeners at unique intersections of the three. He is an incredible performer, as are the others in this trio: Matt Brewer on bass, and Aaron Diehl on piano, who will be one of the first performers in PRAx next spring. A finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer, Sorey is one of the most productive and vibrant musicians of our time.”

Continuing by Tyshawn Sorey Trio


The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk

Recommended by Luhui Whitebear, Assistant Professor, School of Language, Culture, and Society

“This is one of the most inclusive tellings of the history of the United States that does not follow the manifest destiny approach and center settlers. It centers Indigenous people and discusses us as more than sad casualties of colonization by highlighting our survival and contributions to U.S. history. Plus, it is written by an Indigenous author, so it’s framed from his specific perspective.”