The university’s core missions focus on promoting learning and discovery. The College of Engineering’s book dedication initiative provides a way to capture the multiple dimensions of the learning and discovery experienced by our own faculty members as they progress through their careers.
When faculty members are promoted to a new faculty rank, the College invites them to select a book that has had a profound effect on them as scholars and as human beings. The book may be, but need not be, related to their research or area of expertise. All selected titles are added to the UIC Library’s collection bearing a bookplate that recognizes the faculty member and explains his or her motivation for choosing the book.
We hope this initiative will allow members of the UIC community to benefit from works that have helped our faculty members along their professional and personal trajectory. Books dedicated to date are listed below by academic year. (Note: the most recent year of promotions may be pending approval by the UIC Board of Trustees.)
Faculty Book Selections
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
I am always amazed by how our brains work, how we decide, and why we make the choices that we make. This book was one of my first reads on that topic. Kahneman helped me to uncover how my and others’ minds work.
The Accidental Theorist and Other Dispatches from the Dismal Science by Paul Krugman
This book influenced my career twice. It served as my introduction to economic thinking and later provided an introduction to the story of the Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-op, which provided an accessible example for my dissertation.
Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
Math and stories about the mathematicians are beautiful, romantic, and entertaining. Curiosity and passion are the driving forces for great discoveries.
Poems of Nazim Hikmet
I grew up reading Nazim’s poems, listening to songs with lyrics from his poems, and watching his plays in theaters. His views influenced my entire life.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
When I read this as a young girl, I related to the protagonist Francie Nolan. This book and the memoir “Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls have deepened my perspective on life.
Renata A. Revelo
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, translated by Myra Bergman Ramos
I read this book too late in my life, as a graduate student. It changed my life perspective as an educator and as an engineer.
Learning with Kernels: Support Vector Machines, Regularization, Optimization, and Beyond by Bernhard Schölkopf and Alexander J. Smola
Two brave fresh PhD graduates overturned the then-dominating approach of machine learning into a completely new paradigm that is globally optimizable and theoretically analyzable. It demonstrated how to think out of the box and adhere to one’s belief.
The Masnavi I Ma’navi of Rumi, translated by E. H. Whinfield
Whether we call this book a Sea of Wisdom (Bahr-e Ma’navi or Darya-ye Hekmat in Persian)—a title used by scholars throughout the centuries who dedicated their lives to study and explore the meaning of life and the hidden spiritual treasures within Rumi’s teachings and poetry—or a Shop for Unity (Dokaan-e Vahdat), as Rumi himself calls it, this is undoubtedly a masterpiece that provides precise and delicate insights into the spiritual growth and self-awareness of all humans, free and unbound by constraints due to differences in their faith, race, color, or gender, but rather united in love as “truth-seeking and bright mirrors that reflect and shine back the glory of the Almighty God.”
Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
This book piqued my curiosity about the relation between science and humanity, further inspiring me to explore infinite possibilities in the universe. Each story has a philosophical premise, fully of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters.
Breakthrough Thinking, by Gerald Nadler and Shozo Hibino
I read this book when I was an undergraduate student. The seven steps of problem solving outlined in this book are very practical and context-independent. I have used them in my personal and professional life.
The BFG, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This book—like all of wonderful Roald Dahl’s books that I have thoroughly enjoyed since childhood—is full of imagination, humor, and simple, brilliant writing. Just perfect.
Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
Beyond the contents for which this book is highly regarded, it taught me interesting new avenues for introducing and teaching complex scientific topics to both an academic and non-academic audience.
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” Good habits can make life happier and success easier. This book teaches us concrete action steps to build, change, or dismantle habits.
The Black Book, by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely
I read many books, and my whole life was changed.
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking
This book made me realize how vast the universe is, and how bizarre the reality can be. Our existence seems trivial, yet our minds reach beyond the universe.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
I chose this book because it has provided inspiration in my life and career. It is an uplifting story filled with wisdom about searching for one’s personal calling while overcoming the obstacles that inevitably occur along the way. It taught me to listen closely to my inner self as I have journeyed through life, and to remember, as Coelho says, that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons, by Napoleon Hill
This book taught me the importance of clearly defining goals for all important undertakings and always pursuing excellence, which has helped me in my research work. Further, it taught me to try to create opportunities if none are apparent. This has helped me keep an optimistic frame of mind.
Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, by Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz
Learning from failure provides the way to success. When getting older, we tend to be too cautious to fail and to learn new things. This book helps to conquer the fear of failing.
The Complete Book of Ghazals of Hafez, edited by Sajjad Khojasteh
From Hafez’s poems, I learned many life lessons, including my first engineering lesson—optimization! I realized how a short verse of his poems so elegantly optimizes word arrangements to convey deep messages.
The Gulistan (Rose Garden) of Sa’di, edited by Shaykh Mushrifuddin Sa’di of Shiraz, translated by Wheeler M. Thackston
“Be either gracious like the date tree or free like the cedar.” The exhilarating stories of this book combine the nectar of elegance with the bitter medicine of advice.
Connections, by James Burke
I read James Burke’s book while in middle school. It showed an interconnected version of history and innovation very different from what I was taught, and I’m sure it led to the interdisciplinary focus in my research.
Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
This book helped me understand the historical and human contexts of removal/deletion of information and capabilities that are central to my research. It also motivated my broader socio-technical focus within computer science research.
Alfred & Agnes, by Frieda Stiehl
Frieda Stiehl tells the story of the life of her German immigrant parents, Alfred and Agnes, set against the backdrop of dramatic political and social events. The book illustrates that many developments in life are not only determined by personal decisions but also by historical events that are out of one’s own control. Alfred and Agnes are fortunate that Frieda has preserved the memory of their extraordinary lives in a compelling narration, while the memory of most persons is lost after the passing of the people who immediately knew them. While reading the book it occurred to me that I am pleased that my scientific contributions are documented in publications. But it also made me ask whether there is something else or more important that I want to be remembered for.
Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
Recently my 7-year-old son has been asking about death and expressing his fear of death. My answer to him was basically a paraphrase of what Professor Morrie Schwartz says in this book: “As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed as ignorant as you were at twenty-two, you’d always be twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
Tales of Pirx the Pilot, by Stanislaw Lem
Through the world of science fiction, this book opened my imagination to the endless possibilities that technology can create and how it can shape our future. The wonders I experienced reading this with my grandfather in what then was still communist Poland shaped my desire to become and engineer and then scientist working toward shaping that future. Lem is a masterful story teller, sending the reader on an unparalleled journey through the cosmos.
The Complete Divan of Hafez, translated by Paul Smith
This book was like a torch showing me the path to success when lost in darkness. The spiritual poems in this book will help you to speak to your heart openly and see your overarching life objectives.
New and Selected Poems of Thomas Lux: 1975-1995, by Thomas Lux
I belong to an extended family of poets (and a few scientists) who were transformed by the mentorship and generosity of Gurudev Thomas Lux. He taught me the importance of mastering your craft as a writer, the significance of meticulous rewrites and revisions, as well as how to read the published work both to educate and inspire oneself. I know I have become a better poet, a better writer, and a better scientist by paying attention to his advice and his way of reading, writing, being. Most importantly, I learned how to be a good teacher. I seek to help students like he did, and emulate the candid delight, that joyful grin, the open-armed, honest pleasure he took in the progress of his students.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
This book taught me some essential values for life, in particular, hope and perseverance; trust and friendship.
Using the Borsuk-Ulam Theorem: Lectures on Topological Methods in Combinatorics and Geometry, by Jiri Matousek
This book presents a surprising link between disparate areas of mathematics. It serves as a reminder that scientific discoveries can transcend classification.