2016 FFOF Summer Reading List

You can browse the books one by one down below, or choose to download the entire list as a PDF file.


Elon Musk How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future Author: Ashlee Vance Category: Business, Biography Publishing Year: 2015 Length: 421 pages Difficulty:  Easy

Elon Musk
How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future

Author: Ashlee Vance
Category: Business, Biography
Publishing Year: 2015
Length: 421 pages
Difficulty:  Easy

A tour de force centering on the real-life Iron Man whose ambition is only matched by his imagination and organizational skills. As the founder of several highly successful enterprises, Elon not only has changed the way we live our daily lives, but also gives the promise how human species will survive (multi-planetarily) in the future. He is my hero. His real stories are more exciting than fiction. I hope you find as much inspirations from them as I do.
— Minhua Zhang ‘00

The Fault in our Stars Author: John Green Category: Fiction Publishing Year: 2012 Length: 324 pages Difficulty:  Easy

The Fault in our Stars

Author: John Green
Category: Fiction
Publishing Year: 2012
Length: 324 pages
Difficulty:  Easy

What is it like to be a 16-year old? We all have fond memories of those teenage years - memories of first love, memories of best friends and memories of failures and triumphs. But what is it like to be 16-year olds with terminal cancer? The Fault in our Stars explores the conflicts of young lives that are full of future and yet with the certainty of pre-mature deaths. How these terminally ill teenagers face their challenges and overcome the obstacles, how they still find humor, courage and above all, love, is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The story gives a lot of humanity and perspective to all of us who can enjoy good health with a long life to look forward to. How so fragile life is, how can we not live it to the fullest every day! Enjoy a teenage love story!
— Ling Liu ‘88

On China Author: Henry Kissinger Category: International Relations Publishing Year: 2012 Length:  624 pages Difficulty:  Hard

On China

Author: Henry Kissinger
Category: International Relations
Publishing Year: 2012
Length:  624 pages
Difficulty:  Hard

On China, a book by a renowned diplomat, Henry Kissinger, delineates the political origin of modern China. As argued in the book, Kissinger tries to understand China from a Confucius root which has been further embodied with the social class of scholar officials throughout history. Despite a semi-communist and semi-nationalist reform before the founding of the People’s Republic, China today still carries the tradition and looks back to history for governing legitimacy. With such an understanding, Kissinger plotted out the diplomatic history of the Republic from a US perspective and highlighted the changes after the Culture Revolution and the progression towards greater engagement with the global community.
— Hang Qian ‘06

The Glass Bead Game Author: Hermann Hesse Category: Literature, Classics Publishing Year: 2000 Length: 544 pages Difficulty:  Hard

The Glass Bead Game

Author: Hermann Hesse
Category: Literature, Classics
Publishing Year: 2000
Length: 544 pages
Difficulty:  Hard

In the book, a player feels unspeakable joy and serenity when completes one glass bead game. In real world, a knowledge worker has the same feeling after he discovers the enigmatic link between knowledge pieces. That is, when he finds apocalypticism under Russian communist revolution; When he finds probability theory, which was invented for gambling, is the foundation of quantum physics; and when he finds the concept of entropy in thermodynamics is also the foundation of information theory behind Internet. What a beautiful, harmonious yet mysterious world!
— Yilei Li '05

Country Driving A Chinese Road Trip Author: Peter Hessler Category: Travel Publishing Year: 2011 Length:  448 pages Difficulty: Moderate

Country Driving
A Chinese Road Trip

Author: Peter Hessler
Category: Travel
Publishing Year: 2011
Length:  448 pages
Difficulty: Moderate

This book was published in 2010. By the time China already achieved spectacular economic growth for more than three decades. Accompanied by its great economic transformation, China has observed rapid change of the society, unprecedented rural urban migration, and constant conflict between modernization and the traditional culture. How does the societal transition affect the daily life of grass roots? What do Chinese think of and how do they
cope with such a large-scale restructuring of the economy, society, community, and to some extent, polity? In this book, Peter Hessler offers a fascinating but subtle answer and raises more thought provoking questions.
— Liucun Deng ‘07

The Music of the Primes Author: Marcus du Sautoy Category: Mathematics Publishing Year: 2012 Length:  368 pages Difficulty:  moderate, Math terms involved

The Music of the Primes

Author: Marcus du Sautoy
Category: Mathematics
Publishing Year: 2012
Length:  368 pages
Difficulty:  moderate, Math terms involved

A book prize from the British math Olympiad when I was in high school myself, this easy-to-read book explains in a simple yet delightful tone some of the most intriguing problems mathematicians face in the field of number theory, pulling history, day-to-day examples and amusing anecdotes together to present a fascinating read. It is both inspiring and entertaining, and surely would change a mind or two on why it is a good idea to study mathematics in the future.
— Yingzhi Peng ‘06

Life of Pi Author: Yann Martel Category: Fiction Publishing Year: 2003 Length:  401 pages Difficulty:  Easy

Life of Pi

Author: Yann Martel
Category: Fiction
Publishing Year: 2003
Length:  401 pages
Difficulty:  Easy

Life of Pi tells a time when we are stripped down to nothing - naked, shelterless, with extreme scarcity of food, drinking water and supplies; and the story asks how we continue to remain human and live in peace with Richard Parker, literally and metaphorically our worst fear and torment, yet paradoxically also the only remaining source of hope and safeguard of sanity.
— Luyi Xu ‘09

Everything but the Coffee Learning about America from Starbucks Author: Simon Bryant Category: Sociology Publishing Year: 2011 Length:  320 pages Difficulty: Easy

Everything but the Coffee
Learning about America from Starbucks

Author: Simon Bryant
Category: Sociology
Publishing Year: 2011
Length:  320 pages
Difficulty: Easy

As a kid, I considered Starbucks coffee as a treat and the connection to the “Western world”. Yet now residing in New York City, I avoid Starbucks as much as I can and have very picky preference for a couple of independent coffee shops. I am more conscious of ethical consumerism (concerns over fair trade, environmental sustainability, global commodity chain and local business). Do I really become a more ethnical customer? Or is it just my craving for authenticity and identity become more sophisticated?
— Siqi Tu ‘08

The Stranger Author: Albert Camus Category: Fiction Publishing Year: 1993 Length: 152 pages Difficulty:  Moderate

The Stranger

Author: Albert Camus
Category: Fiction
Publishing Year: 1993
Length: 152 pages
Difficulty:  Moderate

“My mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday.” So begins “The Stranger,” a short novel by Nobel-Prize-winning author and acclaimed French philosopher Albert Camus. The book portrays how Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian, arbitrarily killed a man after attending his mother’s funeral. Camus himself explains the book more compellingly than anyone: “I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”
— Tianyuan Deng ‘08

1984 Author: George Orwell Category: Novel, Science Fiction Publishing Year: 1949 Length: 328 pages Difficulty:  Moderate

1984

Author: George Orwell
Category: Novel, Science Fiction
Publishing Year: 1949
Length: 328 pages
Difficulty:  Moderate

As I read, a totalitarian state unfolded in front of my eyes, and I experienced it from the perspective of one individual who resides in it. It has a kind of surveillance, manipulation and fanaticism far too realistic to be taken lightly. I was shaken up, and as a result, I learned to question. I became alert, and critical.
It was not until later in college that I learned about dystopian literature and different forms of political systems, but this book planted a seed early on...
— Mingyan Ma ‘09