Crisis Managers of Tomorrow


Dig into the knowledge and interests of CSU faculty experts with their personal book recommendations.​


In his novel "Fahrenheit 451," author Ray Bradbury imagines a world where books are systematically burned to limit knowledge and prevent critical thinking. Bradbury expanded his perspective in a later interview: "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."​

His words ring especially true in today's media-glutted environment. A 2004 study by the ​National Endowment for the Arts​ (NEA) found that "literary reading in America is not only declining among all groups, but the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young." And that decline has only continued since then, according to a 2018 American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The NEA study concludes that "[m]ore than reading is at stake. As this report demonstrates, readers play a more active and involved role in their communities. ​​The decline i​n reading, therefore, parallels a larger retreat from participation in civic and cultural life." ​

So, in an age of viral tweets and 15-second video clips, perhaps it’s time for all of us to get our noses stuck in a book. Whether you relish the smell of flipping through the pages of a hardcover or prefer a sleek e-reader, here are some book recommendations from CSU faculty experts to restart your literary journey.​

Danvy Le


​Cal State East Bay
Assistant Professor of Political Science​

If someone wanted to learn more about your field of expertise, which book would you recommend?​

Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics” by Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman and Henry E. Brady. I call this book the bible of political participation. It's the book that sets the foundation for my work: mo​bilizing minority communities. It offers a theory on why people with higher socioeconomic status are more politically active. Prior to this book, it was just an empirical observation without a theory behind why those with more resources are more participatory. I use their theory, the civic voluntarism model, to encourage students to be politically active beyond voting. The model highlights that everyone has skills that can be political, but you need to make that connection between the skills you have and a political activity. ​

What's your favorite reading you assign your students?

From Protest to Politics: The New Black Voters in American Elections” by Katherine Tate. This is another foundational book in race and ethnic politics. Tate outlines how Black individuals came into the political arena despite being disenfranchised. She discusses the concept of racial group consciousness, how individuals become politicized through their identity. I like this book for students because it offers a concept they may experience (group consciousness) but may not know there is a name for it. Additionally, it shows how even if you are excluded from the political system, you still have a voice, a collective voice exists and you can use this to demand entry into the political arena.

If you could take only one book with you to a deserted island, which would you take?

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal​” by Christopher Moore. For practical reasons, I would choose a book about surviving on a deserted island because I don't think I would last long. But for leisure, I would choose “Lamb.” It's just a fun book and turns what I learned in Catholic school on its head. When I read it the first time, as I was getting closer to the end, I slowed down because I didn't want the book to be over. It's a book that makes me laugh out loud, but also critically think about the tenets of faith I grew up with. The book also has themes of friendship, which would be great to have on a deserted island.

Tom Montgomery


Fresno State
Fresno State Winery Winemaker

If someone wanted to learn more about your field of expertise, which book would you recommend?

Principles and Practices of Winemaking” by Roger B. Boulton, Vernon L. Singleton, Linda F. Bisson and Ralph E. Kunkee. Written by our friends at University of California, Davis, it is perhaps the most comprehensive guide to winemaking in print. It’s a technical reference, but understandable for those with knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, plant science and fundamental engineering.

What's your favorite reading you assign your students?

Wine Analysis and Production” by Bruce W. Zoecklein, Kenneth C. Fugelsang, Barry H. Gump and Fred S. Nury. Written by Fresno State faculty, it’s the most useful day-to-day production guide for winemakers, and a practical technical tool for students that thoroughly covers winemaking decisions and related chemical analysis. The book is written in a style that encourages learning, application and the use of analytical chemistry to support sound production decisions.

If you could take only one book with you to a deserted island, which would you take?

The Story of Wine​” by Hugh Johnson. Written by a British wine scholar and renowned wine historian, this nonfiction work reads like your favorite novel. It’s a fascinating glimpse at wine through the ages, from the ancient Phoenicians to the new world—including a discussion on wine as a daily beverage, sacrament and luxury and its use by different cultures throughout the world. There is also enough science (i.e. geography, climate, soils, plant physiology) to keep us science geeks interested.

Jill Watts


CSU San Marcos
Professor of History, Author of “Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt​

If someone wanted to learn more about your field of expertise, which book would you recommend?

W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography 1868-1963” by David Levering Lewis. My primary field is biography and Black history between 1900 and 1945. There are numerous important studies focusing on the African American experience during this critical period, and this is one of the best. A model of storytelling, Lewis explores Du Bois in all of his complexities, exposing both his strengths and his weaknesses. As he emerged as the founding father of the modern civil rights movement, Du Bois continually redefined his philosophy. Lewis demonstrates that from his establishment of the NAACP to his exile in Ghana, Du Bois remained relentless in his battle for equality.

What's your favorite reading you assign your students?

March: Books 1-3” by John Lewis. The best book I have ever used in the classroom, this is a graphic nonfiction account of the civil rights movement told through Lewis’s life story. In a dramatic and engaging manner, using moving visuals and stirring text, the book covers his early years as a sharecropper’s son in Troy, Alabama, his immersion in the struggle for equality as one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lieutenants and his later life serving the nation as a congressman. Students read and remember this work—it has a profound impact on them.

If you could take only one book with you to a deserted island, which would you take?

Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. A product of the Harlem Renaissance, it is one of the best novels ever written. Hurston tells the life story of the fictional Janie Crawford and her experiences as a Black woman navigating the South in the late 1920s. Janie’s quest for independence and self-definition has a universal quality for American women. But, at the same time, Hurston brilliantly explores the specific strengths and struggles of Black womanhood. Hurston’s writing is vivid, and the story is multilayered. Each time I read it, I see and experience something new.

Corey Garza


CSU Monterey Bay
Professor of Marine Science, Director of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Program

If someone wanted to learn more about your field of expertise, which book would you recommend?

Between Pacific Tides” by Ed Ricketts. The book is a basic natural history review of the organisms that live along rocky shorelines on the West Coast. Ricketts was also a friend of John Steinbeck and was the inspiration for the character of Doc in the book “Cannery Row.” Steinbeck would tag along on some of Ricketts's research trips. In an early version of “Between Pacific Tides,” Steinbeck wrote the foreword. Overall, the book provides a nice entry point for the public into marine science and an example of the ways science can influence art and society.

What's your favorite reading you assign your students?

Population Ecology of Some Warblers of Northeastern Coniferous Forest” by Robert MacArthur. MacArthur is considered one of the founders of modern-day ecology, and his 1958 paper was one of the first to take basic natural history observations and try to develop hypotheses and theories around why nature was structured in the way it is. For a student, it's a great example of how a scientist goes from observing some pattern in nature to developing a hypothesis around what causes that pattern and thinking about how to develop experiments to test those predictions.

If you could take only one book with you to a deserted island, which would you take?

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” by Erik Larson. The book is historical nonfiction combined with crime thriller and is centered around the 1893 World's Exposition in Chicago. It does an excellent job of getting into the minds of actual historical figures and explaining how these complex characters come together to create what is considered one of the most influential World Expositions to have taken place. For example, the Ferris Wheel was introduced at this exposition. That was a cool bit of history I didn't know until I read the book. Underlying all of this was the emergence of one of the more notorious criminal figures in the U.S., who used the cover of the World Exposition to carry out his crimes. It's a compelling read.

Martin Pousson


Professor of English, Author of “Black Sheep Boy,” 2017 PEN Center USA Fiction Award Winner​

If someone wanted to learn more about your field of expertise, which book would you recommend?

Another Country” by James Baldwin. For anyone dreaming of a new United States, in “Another Country,” James Baldwin virtually invented intersectionality with a novel featuring interracial romance between men whose points of intersection multiply beyond race to include social class, sexual orientation and political ideology. Along the way, characters embrace each other against all odds. Baldwin calls on “conscious whites” and “conscious blacks” to “like lovers…end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country,” declaring “love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” “Another Country” offers a battle plan and a troubled valentine for those who wish to counter our current reality.

What's your favorite reading you assign your students?

Another Country” by James Baldwin. Since I teach creative writing with an emphasis on fiction, selecting a single book is Solomon-esque. I suddenly feel like the abducted child in the story, torn between two mothers. However, the mother of this moment in fiction is, hands down, James Baldwin, so, again, I’d choose “Another Country.” For Baldwin, past is prologue, and prologue is provocation. With his second novel, he knows no rules, countering not only a master narrative of white patriarchy but also a subordinated narrative of cisgender black masculinity. He writes not to comfort and console, but to provoke and perturb, knowing that change requires fire and that fire requires striking a match or throwing a thunder bolt. For all the beautifully diverse and boldly dissenting students in my class, I’d say: begin with Baldwin, then go beyond.

If you could take only one book with you to a deserted island, which would you take?

Another Country” by James Baldwin. How could I not do as I advise my creative writing students to do? For a trip to a deserted island, James Baldwin’s “Another Country” is already in the bag. But I'd smuggle one more: Baldwin's nonfiction follow up, “The Fire Next Time,” the match he struck 40 years ago that still burns today.

​​​​Still looking for more titles? Check out these six must-reads from CSU English professors​ from 2018.​

Links are provided for information only. The CSU does no​t endorse nor does it profit from the purchase of book sales.