Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dr. Bill Dauber's Top Five Books

Journalism instructor Bill Dauber shares his top five books that students might enjoy.
Journalism Professor Dr. Bill Dauber (UC Berkeley alumnus) shares his top five books that students might enjoy.

Many of my students say they don't have time to read and that books just don't hold their attention. It's with their words in mind that I compiled my list, not of my top five books, but a list of books that start fast and end faster.

1. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Give O'Brien one paragraph, the first 271 words, and you'll be hooked. This novel details the lives of Vietnam soldiers and the things they carried into battle, both physical and mental, and the things they carried home. The writing is just plain great, and I think the subject is important today.

2. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
My favorites of McCarthy include the border trilogy: "All the Pretty Horses," "The Crossing," and "Cities of the Plain." "No Country" is a good place to start because this book is less work than his others, and it features a fantastic beginning. It's a dark novel about a drug deal that went bad and an old-fashioned sheriff who realizes that he's dealing with a different type of criminal, one that he doesn't want to become like in order to catch.

3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I was living alone when I first picked up this book and made the mistake of reading it at night. The book details the murder of a Kansas farm family in 1959, and the author takes you so close to the residents of Holcomb and the killers that it's scary. This book introduced me to literature as non-fiction. Read it during the day.

4. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My hope is that once you start reading Didion you won't stop. With all her books, you get a sense that Didion spends a lot of time searching for the perfect paragraph, sentence and word. "Magical Thinking" is a gift to Didion's readers as she writes about her husband who died suddenly and a daughter who is battling a life-threatening illness. Didion consults experts about the medical and psychological experiences of grief, but it's her feelings of grief and the ability to express them perfectly that makes this book great.

5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
I remember calling friends on the telephone just to read them passages from Ondaatje's book. This novel, which has been translated into 300 languages, chronicles the lives of four damaged people living in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Read this book for the language and share it with a friend.