Jacobs Summer Reading List 2019

There is really nothing quite like a good binge-reading session.

The summer is in full swing! And whether you are a freshman packing your bags to join us or a returning student, these are the books we think you should read before coming to Jacobs. We have collected suggestions from Jacobs University’s students, alumni, staff and professors and they delivered. Below you will find the 2019 Jacobs Summer Reading List.

We tried to organize them accordingly to make it easier for you to match your interests, but please be aware that most of these don’t actually fit comfortably in one single category so keep an open mind – intersectionality and transdisciplinarity matter. Happy reading!




The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (1953) by Robert L. Heilbroner


“A best-selling classic considered by many to be the finest introduction to political economy ever written. Heilbroner’s immensely readable survey presents the biographies and intellectual contributions of famous economists, such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. I read this book myself during the summer before coming to study at Jacobs.”

- Michał Adam Palacz (Poland) | Alumnus, Class of 2009 and 2011 (BA History and MA Modern Global History) | Currently Post-Doctoral Researcher in the History of Medicine and Associate Lecturer in Modern European History at Oxford Brookes University

Forbes Africa: Africa's Billionaires (2017) by Chris Bishop


“A great book that explores how entrepreneurs have succeeded in a continent that many have disregarded. It gives insight on the inspirational stories of Aliko Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa, Mohammed Dewji, Sudhir Rupareila, Wendy Appelbaum, Patrice Motsepe and many other successful African entrepreneurs who have made their mark on the continent. Life lessons can be drawn from the book as the author examines what it took for these billionaires to succeed in one-on-one interviews. I recommend this book to all the aspiring entrepreneurs and those that are keen on business in Africa.”

- Gwinyai Kuzivakwashe Mushede (Zimbabwe) | Class of 2021 (BSc Computer Science)



Politics and History

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (1971) by Eduardo Galeano


“A must-read from Latin America! The book was published in 1971 but is as relevant now as it was then. It's amazing if you're looking to explore Latin American history and politics from a different angle. In his analysis of the history of the Americas from European settlement to contemporary developments, Galeano provides an important account that is ignored or forgotten in mainstream media, historical accounts, as well as from collective memory. But he is also a genius story-teller and brings history to life!”

- Pauline Bloeth (Germany) | Alumna, Class of 2016 (BA Intercultural Relations and Behavior) | recent graduate of MSSC Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden

Orientalism (1978) by Edward Said


“This book is just as relevant now as it was when it was published and even before then. It is a remarkable and eloquent analysis of how the West has invented and represented what they call ‘the Orient’. A necessary read to understand postcolonialism, current power structures, and the patronizing and racist micro-aggressions that we might commit on a daily basis, often without realizing it.”

- Cristina Trifon-Calvopiña (Ecuador) | Alumna, Class of 2013 (BA International Politics and History) | Currently Recruitment Counselor and Admissions Officer at Jacobs University

And Then God Created the Middle East and Said 'Let There Be Breaking News' (2018) by Karl Remarks


“I would recommend this book solely for its humor. If you are interested in politics or keep up with current affairs, then this book is for you. It is a short read that will have you laughing from page to page.”

- Tensae Desta (Ethiopia) | Class of 2019 (BA International Relations: Politics and History, Minor in Psychology)

There There (2018) by Tommy Orange


“An incredibly well-written novel about the experience of urban Native Americans. Written by Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange, it touches on very many important themes of our time, such as gentrification, identity, memory, language and indigenous experience. A wonderful addition if you are familiar with Native American and indigenous literature and indigenous studies, or an amazing way to get into it if you’re not.”

- Cristina Trifon-Calvopiña (Ecuador) | Alumna, Class of 2013 (BA International Politics and History) | Currently Recruitment Counselor and Admissions Officer at Jacobs University

A Case Of Exploding Mangoes (2008) by Mohammad Hanif


“It is a satirical view of military regimes in developing countries. The author has a writing style unique to himself to an extent where he is considered a genre in himself. One of my country’s finest works.”

- Muhammad Abdullah Shah (Pakistan) | Class of 2021 (BSC Computer Science)



Gender Studies and Feminism

Monstrous Regiment (2003) by Terry Pratchett


“A satirical look on the feminine vs. social expectations. Some of Sir Terry's finest work and commentary.”

- Velislava Stoyanova (Bulgaria) | Alumna, Class of 2014 (BSc International Logistics management and Engineering | Currently working in Planning and Procurement at SES Networks in the Hague, Netherlands

A Spark of Light (2018) by Jodi Picoult


“This book addresses all the abortion laws that currently exist and also defines what it means to be a woman and a woman with autonomy over her body. Rife with strong emotions and opinions, this is an absolute must-read for everyone who wishes to understand the complexities of womanhood and pregnancies and why it is not okay for men to make laws about women's bodies.”

- Ushashi Basu (India) | Class of 2020 (BSc Biochemistry and Cell Biology)

The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood


“This dystopian novel is still as relevant today with its themes of patriarchy, totalitarianism, and fundamentalism as it was when it was first published nearly 35 years ago. This book is a classic that deserves reading and re-reading!”

- Dr. Mandi Larsen (USA) | Lecturer for Methods of Empirical Social Research at Jacobs University

Shanghai Tango (2007) by Jin Xing


“This memoir follows the incredible life of Jin Xing, a former ballerina who underwent one of China’s first sex-change operations. From an early age she was uncomfortable with her gender and being unable to understand why she immersed herself in ballet dancing, ‘her first love’. Shanghai Tango is a deeply personal, emotional and inspirational account of living in a body that feels foreign; gambling away something as valuable as one’s life to be able to live one’s truth. It shakes you the core and leaves you content seeing as to how she – after all she’s been through- had found her happy ending.”

- Tensae Desta (Ethiopia) | Class of 2019 (BA International Relations: Politics and History, Minor in Psychology)

Future Home of the Living God (2017) by Louise Erdrich


“Written by Chippewa (or Ojibwe) author Louise Erdrich, this a future fiction masterpiece set in a time when evolution is reversing to extremes – also affecting birth and therefore also the forceful regulation of female bodies and pregnancy. A provocative page-turner that will make you think about agency, biology, intersectional feminism, evolution and the history of the species.”

- Cristina Trifon-Calvopiña (Ecuador) | Alumna, Class of 2013 (BA International Politics and History) | Currently Recruitment Counselor and Admissions Officer at Jacobs University



Climate Change and the Environment

This Changes Everything (2014) by Naomi Klein


“While we are all aware that climate change is happening, most of us remain frighteningly unaware of the consequences, driving factors, possibilities of counteraction or of the time frame(s) with which we are dealing. As the issue facing humanity currently, we are at least bound to inform ourselves, to be aware of the consequences of the actions we choose. This book, backed by very thorough research, delivers all the above - and more.”

- Melvin Wolf (Germany) | Class of 2020 (Bsc Computer Science)

Drawdown (2017) edited by Paul Hawken


“For those concerned about climate change, which at this point should be every inhabitant of this planet, this is akin to the sacred texts. This is the culmination of meticulous research across a wide range of fields. It provides 100 solutions to global warming, all of which are necessary to achieve drawdown. It is a window into what awaits us in a wonderfully possible future, and is intended to provoke action and defeat, fear and apathy. I believe that these are essential texts for any citizen of the world, and especially for those here at Jacobs.”

- Prajwal Bhattarai (Nepal) | Class of 2020 (Bsc Computer Science)



Natural and Health Sciences

Musicophilia (2007) by Dr. Oliver Sacks


“Oliver Sacks has been called the “poet laureate of modern medicine” by the New York Times, and Musicophilia lives up to this reputation. At once humanizing and scientific, this book provides a fascinating journey into the neurobiology of music through true case studies of remarkable individuals that Dr. Sacks himself knew as patients.  Although Sacks is one of my all-time favorite authors, this book may be my favorite of his. Perhaps it is because it was the first of his that I read, or perhaps it is because of the sheer wonder that our brain can turn simple sound waves into such a universally profound experience.”

- Adrienne Patricia Hollister (USA) | Projected Graduation 2022 (Phd in oceanography - geoscience)

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (2010) by Sam Kean


“As a student of some form of chemistry throughout my university and graduate degrees, I have had a fondness for the Periodic Table for years, but this book gave me an even deeper appreciation for it. Chemistry, often called the ‘Central Science’ is literally everywhere – and it has profoundly shaped our history. Both entertaining and scientifically-sound, I recommend this book to anyone interested in the intersection between the elements of the periodic table and the humans that interact with them.”

- Adrienne Patricia Hollister (USA) | Projected Graduation 2022 (Phd in oceanography - geoscience)



Math and Physics

A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein (2004) by Palle Yourgrau


“This is one of the best history of science books I have read. One learns about the works of Gödel and Einstein, and how their philosophical views brought such different characters together. The book also tells us a lot about science, and what we have lost in science in the last century.”

- Prof. Dr. Sören Petrat (Germany) | Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Jacobs University

How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (2014) by Jordan Ellenberg


“This book was an excellent guide to the many ways in which our intuitions and poorly understood statistical training can lead us astray.”

- Zain Dar (Pakistan) | Class of 2019 (BSc Mathematics)



Technology and IT

Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming (2015) by Eric Matthes


“Having been oblivious to much statistics and programming during my studies, if I could do it all again, I would learn Python early on. Programming (particularly in Python) is not just joyous (for nerds) but gives you an unimaginable edge when entering the higher echelons of the job market.”

- Gero Elerd (Germany) | Alumnus, Class of 2005 (Ba International Politics and History) | Currently working at Norges Bank investment management in OSlo, Norway

The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life (2006) by John Maeda

“This timeless book aims to share the value of simplicity in design, technology, business and life with the help of 10 key principles that underpin the concept of simplicity. At a superficial level, it may seem that the book can be used to improve ordinary daily tasks. At a much deeper level, it provides the tools to enable an effortless implementation of ideas, both in tech design and life.”


- Raju Gurung (Nepal) | ALumnus, Class of 2014 (BSC Biology/Neuroscience) | Currently CEO & Co-founder at Planetlocal & Ikigaai, and Commercial Development Consultant at Chr. Hansen A/S



Life, Writing and Study Tips

The Sense of Style (2014) by Stephen Pinker


“I read it three years ago and it dramatically improved my writing (and people tell me so!). I'd read a few writing-advice guides before, but they mostly focused on grammar and usage and never on coherence - that magical quality that lets readers just eat up a text and forget where the minutes went. I highly recommend the book for all Jacobs students. Even you, dear math majors.”

- Lucas Herrenbrueck (Germany) | Alumnus, Class of 2007 (BSc Mathematics) | Currently Assistant Professor of Economics at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, Canada

Ego is the Enemy (2016) by Ryan Holiday


“A modern exploration of the ancient school of Stoic philosophy in an easy-to-read style that helps you to expand your perspective and get over a lot of 'problems' which are not problems at all but rather a lack of awareness of how to master yourself.”

- René Wells (USA/Germany) | Head of Campus Life

Thinking Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving (2013) by Geoff Thwaites and John Butterworth


“I don’t know if this even classifies as a summer reading book given it is a course book, but I think for anyone coming to a university full of people with different ideas and opinions, this book is great to understand how to formulate an argument, and also identify a well-made argument in a discussion. And the critical thinking and problem-solving skills from the book would be very useful for a variety of courses. I used the book to self study for which it is sufficient, with loads of well explained, interesting examples.”

- Muhammad Faisal (Pakistan/Germany) | Alumnus, Class of 2010 and 2012 (BSc Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MSc Smart Systems) | Currently Advanced Consultant in Automotive and Connected Mobility Industry at Altran Deutschland in Munich



Difficult to place!

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011) by Yuval Noah Harrari


“Over the recent years this book found a lot of fame and acknowledgment, so I don't need to emphasize its significance in understanding the progress of humankind, starting from the cognitive revolution and ending with the scientific revolution.”

- Alkim Akgun (Turkey) | Class of 2019 (BSc Computer Science)

Swing Time (2016) by Zadie Smith


“It’s a fantastically written novel with sharp and nuanced observations on issues of social mobility, race, gender, identity and culture clash. I appreciated the food for thought provided throughout the protagonist‘s story, the neutral, non-judgmental narrative style, and the author‘s ability to clearly describe complex societal structures and individual characters without ever oversimplifying.”

- Henrieke Max (Germany) | Alumna, Class of 2016 (BA Integrated Social Sciences) | Currently working as a public sector consultant in Berlin

Smith and Wesson (2014) by Alessandro Baricco


“Two strangers, Smith and Wesson, meet at the bottom of the Niagra falls in 1902. Little unites them except the vague yet unshakable need to accomplish something great- in this case throwing oneself down the falls in a beer barrel and living to tell the tale. A whimsical Italian theatre piece that teaches you little, but leaves you with the priceless feeling of belonging and a vague yet unshakable need to accomplish something great- both of which I managed to find here at Jacobs.”

- Pranathi Prasad (India) | Class of 2021 (BSc Biochemistry and Cell Biology)

Norwegian Wood (1987) by Haruki Murakami


“I feel like it is a masterpiece of coming-of-age fiction. I read the book my first semester at Jacobs, and it imbued many complex emotions (lots of melancholy) within me. Murakami's prose flows like very few writers' does. He can write beautifully about the simplest, most mundane things relating to life and he can write about nothing, all the while leaving you glued to the book.”

- Mohit Shrestha (Nepal) | Class of 2019 (BSc Computer Science)

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert Heinlein


“It is the Jungle Book, but Mowgli is a boy raised by Martians who returns to Earth as an adult. This book is an exploration of how customs, culture, institutions, and behaviors can be challenged by applying a new perspective. It claims that laughter is how we fight the hurt we endure by existing and the purpose of being human is to understand one another.”

- Myles Trifon-Calvopiña (USA) | Alumnus, Class of 2018 (BSc Biochemistry and Cell Biology) | Currently working as a luthier, based in Bremen

The Expedition: Solving the Mystery of a Polar Tragedy (2013) by Bea Uusma


“Usually when it gets hot in summer I have two options of books to read, either ones that take place in a hot climate setting, or the total opposite. For this book suggestion I am aiming for this total opposite. This is a book written about a weird idea to actually reach the North Pole by balloon, but the people behind it fail miserably. It is a part fictional, part documentary book written by someone who is fascinated by said expedition. This is also what makes the book so engaging - the feeling of ‘wanting to know’ which brought the author to inquire about the circumstances around the expedition also transfers to the reader.”

- Sebastian Münz (Germany) | Quality Management Coordinator at Jacobs University