University of Houston Libraries Exhibits


Susan Abughosh, Associate Professor
Pharmaceutical Health Outcomes & Policy, College of Pharmacy

TED Talks: The official guide to public speaking by Chris Anderson

The book is a valuable resource for developing thought provoking presentations regardless of the background or topic. Using simple language, it guides the reader on how to convert ideas into engaging speeches, connect with the audience and deliver an effective message.


Ashutosh Agrawal, Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering

Fragile Objects: Soft Matter, Hard Science, and the Thrill of Discovery by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

I got impressed by some very unusual analogies to explain the science I was pursuing. Found out, they were borrowed from a book by a Nobel Laureate in physics. Thankfully, the book was thin, and so I read it (I am not an avid reader!) In addition to beautiful analogies, the book narrates important anecdotes from the life of scientists and science. It offers balanced views on fundamental debates in our professional world – simplicity versus complexity, theory versus experiments, fundamentals versus applications, tools versus deduction. The book is filled with wise views of a great scientist on science and education. Our goal-oriented education system often undermines some core principles of scientific discovery that brought us this far. While the book was thin, it has left a thick impression on me, and I hope I will be able to instill some of this rare philosophy in young minds.


Jason Berger, Associate Professor
English, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin

The Arcades Project represents Walter Benjamin’s unfinished twentieth-century masterpiece of historical-materialist analysis. Begun in 1927 as a newspaper collaboration and still unfinished as a book manuscript when he fled the Nazi Occupation in 1940, The Arcades Project was Benjamin’s attempt to portray, in innovative montage style, how a formal and materialist Marxist analysis might illuminate the lived ideological and socioeconomic realities of the nineteenth century. Focusing on the Parisian arcades, Benjamin reveals how the material structures, economic practices, and social behaviors engendered by these spaces are “manifest . . . phantasmagorias.” This book was formative for me as I worked through my graduate study and completed my doctoral dissertation on nineteenth-century maritime narratives. Benjamin’s historical method, particularly his notion of the “dialectical image,” a way of viewing the past via the fulcrum of the present, helped shape my critical agenda as well as the approaches I developed for considering historical contexts.


Lindita Camaj, Associate Professor
Communication, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam

When I first started graduate school, Roberts Putnam’s acclaimed book Bowling Alone was buzzing in mass communication classes and academic circles. It sparked a stimulating debate in academia and beyond about the consequences of mass media use for democracy. In his seminal study on social capital in the United States, he indicted television as the root cause of vanishing participation in civic organizations that reduces citizens’ feelings of social responsibility. Much criticized by others, Putnam’s thesis claimed that the rise of the television viewership and the decline of the newspaper readership during the second part of the 20th century coincided with the decline in citizens’ engagement in civic groups that build social and political trust and increased political participation. This debate has affected my research agenda ever since, while as a young researcher I joined the new generation of scholars in political communication in search of an answer: Do mass media enhance or hinder civic engagement and democracy?


Anny Castilla-Earls, Associate Professor
Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer

I struggled with the difference between my role as a researcher and my role as a teacher. This book helped me connect research and teaching in a meaningful way: I teach who I am. I learned that (1) my identity (including who I am as a researcher) is more important than any teaching technique, and (2) meaningful connection to students is the key to good teaching.


Margaret Shun Cheung-Wyker, Professor
Physics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel

As one of handful women professors in a male-dominated field, I was often asked what inspires me to be a physicist. My path to become a physicist is not an obvious one. I wanted to be a biologist at the age of 10, a chemist at the age of 18, and a physicist at the age of 25. At the age of 45, I become the first woman faculty promoted to the rank of Professor from the Department of Physics at the University of Houston. The life story of a scientist inspires me. I wanted to understand the motivation to fulfill a lifelong curiosity. I wanted to understand the mindset behind a critical decision that drives them to be a compassionate human being and a great scientist. Dr. Eric Kandel’s autobiography truly stands out. It deeply resonates my philosophy of science.


Peter Copeland, Professor
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

The Age of the Earth by G. Brent Dalrymple

I chose this book because it deals with a sub-discipline of geology I have spent some time worrying about: geochronology, or the assignment of years to the age of rocks and geologic events. When I was a graduate student, Dalrymple was one of the senior scientists in the field we students knew to pay attention to. But I mostly picked this book for the way it illustrates the point that the conclusions we make from observations of the natural world are either right or wrong, but the strength of these conclusions has nothing to do with our political desire. Dr. Dalrymple continued to make this point in other aspects of his career. Earth is an oblate spheroid. It orbits the sun. It has been doing so for about 4.5 billion years. All of these conclusions are based on observations but all were (or are) objected to based on desires, not observation. Desire continues to be used to challenge other evidence-based conclusions today. Read The Age of the Earth and you will be reminded that Nature doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, but if we work to understand it, we will be rewarded.


Mabel Cuesta, Associate Professor
Hispanic Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Yemayá y Ochún by Lydia Cabrera

Yemayá y Ochún are, within the Afrocuban religion and practices, Goddesses that watch over the oceans and rivers. Salty and sweet waters. They are the mothers of the Universe. As an immigrant, who is also the great granddaughter, granddaughter and daughter of slaves and immigrants, I have always felt that the waters have been taking my blood back and forth, across the oceans and rivers, for centuries now. I also feel these Goddesses have been protecting us, and sometimes abandoning us. The salty and sweet waters cover our experiences as human beings as well as professionals. Tears and sweet laughters are the essence of my research, my teaching, my being. This book explains the hows and whys. Explains me.


Gregory Cuny, Associate Professor
Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry by Camille Georges Wermuth et. al.

The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry has inspired me throughout my career. The first edition of the textbook was printed in 1996, when I was working as a medicinal chemist in the pharmaceutical industry. This textbook provides an overview of the subject that is particularly useful to medicinal chemistry practitioners. After transitioning into an academic career, it continues to guide me and my students conduct medicinal chemistry research. In addition, this textbook inspired me to create a graduate course on drug design and discovery that several of my colleagues and I now teach at UH. Finally, it has also helped me craft lectures to convey the principles of medicinal chemistry to students in the UH professional pharmacy program.


Jason Draper, Associate Professor
Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management

Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges by Byron Pitts

Over the course of my education I faced many challenges, including numerous people who doubted me at every step. Many times it caused me to doubt myself, but used my desire to prove people wrong as perseverance. Byron Pitts’ book was inspirational at a time during the tenure process when I questioned if all of the hard work had been worthwhile. It provided me with motivation to continue to persevere through the challenges I faced and continue to prove doubters wrong.


Amr Elnashai, Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer
Division of Research

The Creation of the Future by Frank H. T. Rhodes

Professor Rhodes was the president of Cornell University from 1977 to 1995, and is credited with turning Cornell into the leading international flagship institution that it is today. I had the immense pleasure of meeting him in 2010, and thereafter communicating with him on various issues of higher education and interplay between education and research. Reading Rhodes’ book, before meeting him, enlightened me and emphasized the sanctity of our education mission, and the central role that the undergraduate program plays in higher education. For a lifelong research-accented professor, it shifted my thinking, emphasis, and strategic view for good. It also happens that I share with Professor Rhodes being UK-educated and having the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the first US landing spot. The book and its author take credit, or blame, for whatever I have accomplished at Illinois and Penn State since I read it in 2007, and again in 2008.


Paige Evans, Clinical Professor
Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Experience and Education by John Dewey

Inquiry is fundamental to both my teaching and research philosophy, which finds its roots in John Dewey who advocated an experimental approach to science teaching. John Dewey believed that one must rely on past experiences and knowledge to solve problems and that life experience is in fact education. Through this lens, I aspire to help my students view the world through the eyes of a scientist, and I encourage them to find beauty in the way science concepts impact the many facets of our daily lives.


Xin Fu, Associate Professor
Electrical & Computer Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre has always encouraged me to bravely overcome any challenge in my life, making me stronger and stronger.


Lu Gao, Associate Professor
Construction Management, College of Technology

The Middlegame by Max Euwe

I was about 12 when I first read the Chinese translation of this book. It opened up my mind to many ideas. It teaches me to focus on what lies beneath the appearance of the surface and see the depth and riches that are hidden there.


Mark Goldberg, Associate Professor
History, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush by Susan Lee Johnson

When I decided to devote my professional career to the study of the North American West, I consulted with Professor Johnson hoping that she would take me on as a student, and she handed me a copy of her award-winning book. Roaring Camp is a special book. Reading it, I realized that deep historical inquiry about the social and cultural history of the multiracial West could read like a beautifully written novel, and what makes the study of the past so compelling is that, at its core, history is an endless set of stories about people.


Jorge Gonzalez, Professor
Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences, College of Education

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children by Todd R. Risley and Betty Hart

Literacy in America is currency – those who have it can make choices, those who don’t will have choices made for them. This book changed my career trajectory from being a passive observer of economic disparities to understanding the roots of social class differences, especially in families, and most importantly taking action through my research to make a difference in the lives of poor families in America regardless of race. Poverty is equal opportunity and does not discriminate based on race. The effects on families translate to striking disparities in the children’s intellectual development, disparities that translate into an individual’s ability to succeed in school and in the workplace. We cannot ignore the plight of the poor; after all, they will inherit our legacy.


Stacey Gorniak, Associate Professor
Health and Human Performance, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Neurophysiological basis of movement by Mark L. Latash

This was the very first book I purchased for graduate school. My mentor (the author) taught Human Neurophysiology and Motor Control using this book. Given that I changed fields completely for graduate school, this book was an invaluable resource for me. I would recommend it to anyone in the fields of Biomechanics and Motor Control.


Lars Grabow, Associate Professor
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering

Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation by Donald E. Stokes

I received this book as graduation present from my Ph.D. advisor. It taught me the importance of directing my independent research career towards the interface of basic and applied research. In his book, Donald E. Stokes classified such fundamental but use-oriented research as falling into Pasteur’s Quadrant, named after the French biologist and chemist Louis Pasteur. In my efforts to follow in Pasteur’s footsteps, this book has inspired me to work on impactful research questions related to environmentally benign energy production, conversion and storage, using first-principle methods based on quantum mechanics. While I have not always been successful in bridging this large gap, this book serves me as a constant reminder to keep trying!


Richard Guajardo, Librarian
University Libraries

This Fight is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren’s This Fight is Our Fight describes this country's search for the “American Dream.” As I read stories of family struggles to achieve financial security, I kept thinking that history repeats itself, not in an identical way, but in a dynamic and evolving way.

These stories demonstrate how deregulation, trickle-down economics, educational opportunity, and investments in infrastructure have influenced the future of this country.

I also reflect on the fortuity that education has provided me. I think about how today’s students manage their personal lives and balance their time between family, work, class, and financial responsibilities. I’m reminded of my parents’ struggle to create a “middle class” home for their three children.

The University of Houston has been a second home for me, and I am delighted that Senator Elizabeth Warren is a UH alum and a former professor at the UH Law Center.


James Hawkins, Professor
UH Law Center

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonistby John Piper

I first read Piper’s book when I was in college, and it had a profound effect on my thinking about the purpose of my life, about God, and about the world. Piper’s thesis is that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” He argues that God has offered us immeasurable joy in treasuring Jesus above everything else we could possess or achieve. The book helped me to integrate my faith into my work life and continues to inspire me. I hope some undergraduate will stumble on it and enjoy it as much as I did!


Catherine Horn, Professor
Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, College of Education

The Fractured Marketplace for Standardized Testing by W. Haney, G. Madaus and R. Lyons

The Fractured Marketplace was the first book my Ph.D. advisor, George Madaus, handed me when I started graduate school. He told me every Texan should read it. George died this last year – the same year I got promoted to full. I still read the book.


Michelle Ivey, Instructional Associate Professor
Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The Emergence of Symbols: Cognition and Communication in Infancy by Elizabeth Bates et. al.

The information in this research summary is foundational to understanding human communication development. Understanding communication development is essential to understanding, and subsequently mitigating, communication disorders, especially in children. I used this book frequently in my doctoral program and became aware that Elizabeth Bates’ work should be consulted liberally in any writing about child language.
As a final, and personally satisfying note, the “et al.” author list of this 1979 publication includes seven other collaborators, all women. The dedication page says it all: This book is women’s work. We dedicate it to our mothers, the women who got us interested in language in the first place. Nice job, ladies.


Donna Kacmar, Professor
Architecture and Design, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture

Thermal Delight in Architecture by Lisa Heschong

My thesis advisor gave me a copy of this book when I received my Master’s degree. I have never thought about thermal conditions (and the architecture that helps create them) in the same way ever since reading this book.


Justin Kirkland, Associate Professor
Political Science, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

On Liberty by J.S. Mill

As an undergraduate not yet used to thinking hard about political problems, Mill was one of the first writers to really challenge how I thought about principles of harm, limits to authority in concrete terms, and how government interacts with liberty and utility. Much of this system of thinking continues to inform how I develop my scholarship and how I think about the practice of politics. Mill was really the first theorist to “make sense” to me in a way that led me to believe I could contribute to making sense of some things too.


Mimi Lee, Professor
Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education

The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz

With my training as a qualitative researcher and instructional technologist, I am always drawn to processes and “behind-the-scenes” narratives. When reading a book, I imagine authors at their desks, plowing through all the anonymous, solitary midnights and dawns. To me, this process is the most fascinating part of the product. This book is a beautiful illustration of these moments with intimate black and white photos described through the authors’ own captions. Glimpses of Amy Tan and Toni Morrison at work charge me with a renewed sense of responsibility and energy to go back to my own desk and write.


Liming Li, Associate Professor
Physics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Unmasking Europa: The search for lift on Jupiter’s ocean moon by Richard Greenberg

The mission to Europa will be one of the flagship missions of NASA in the next few years, and I expect exciting discoveries from the subsurface oceans and ice plumes on the amazing satellite of Jupiter.



Chin-Yo Lin, Associate Professor
Biology and Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif

Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif introduced me to key figures in biological and biomedical research, such as van Leeuwenhoek, Koch, Pasteur, Reed, and Ehrlich and their discoveries, and showed me that scientific research can be exciting and accomplish much good. After reading this book as an undergraduate student, my thinking evolved from “I like reading about this” to “I think I can do this.” Over two decades since my first reading of this book and now as a scientist, my passion for science and the good that can come from its discoveries continue to burn brightly. Looking back, this book was the spark that started it all for me.


Kalyana Nakshatrala, Associate Professor
Civil & Environmental Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering

The Non-Linear Field Theories of Mechanics by C. Truesdell, W. Noll, and S. Antman

This scholarly work has been produced with such care, precision, and rigor that it is has left an everlasting impression on me. I always strive to achieve these attributes in producing my own scholarly work, and this book is my benchmark.


Daniel Onofrei, Associate Professor
Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman

This book describes the art of positive thinking, and it inspired me up to this point in my career providing me with the set of tools I need to be able to focus my positive energy towards my work, my students, my family and the academic community.


Gopal Pandurangan, Professor
Computer Science, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Distributed Computing (A Locality-Sensitive Approach) by David Peleg

After I finished my Ph.D., there was a period of time when I was still looking for a specific area of algorithms to focus on. I had worked on a diverse set of problems, but quickly realized that I need to focus on one research area to make an impact. Distributed computing, more specifically distributed network algorithms, is an area that I had some experience with, and I was looking for a survey or a book that will not only discuss recent developments, but also put me on the path to future advances. David Peleg’s book is the one that came to my rescue. I read this book virtually cover to cover. I have been doing research in distributed algorithms (which is now a very vibrant research area with numerous applications) since then, and my most important and significant work has been in this area. Later, David Peleg became one of my most important collaborators (we also recently got a joint research grant!)


Claudia Ratti, Associate Professor
Physics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is a timeless story that stays with you long after you have turned the final page. I see many similarities between the main character’s lifelong search for the truth, as well as his attachment to books and knowledge, and my own passion for fundamental research.


Byron Ross, Instructional Associate Professor
Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Rules by Cynthia Lord

The story of a young girl trying to help her little brother, who has autism, make sense of the world. She discovers that if she makes rules about everything, he can grasp concepts better. It’s inspiring that a young girl loves her brother so much that she sees a need that is not being met, and decides to address it herself. She never had to be told to help him, she just took it upon herself to do it. I have tried to make that a part of my life’s mission: when you see a need that is not being met, you don’t have to wait on anyone else, just do it!


Samina Salim, Associate Professor
Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

India Wins Freedom by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

I often feel that I was born at the wrong time, and regret not being part of the Indian freedom struggle. I know I would have been in the middle of those protest marches, and if not marching on the roads, I certainly would have joined the protest through writing. Several years ago, I read Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s autobiography India Wins Freedom and was able to live the moments of the freedom struggle. Azad’s nationalism was often questioned and his patriotism challenged, yet, his personality and character shined through. His struggles made him who he was. A great role model. “I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am an essential element, which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.” - Maulana Azad


Christiane Spitzmueller, Professor
Psychology, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah is evidence of how education across national boundaries can transform professional lives, minds and ideas. Adichie’s book articulates, like no other, how studying abroad and outside one’s comfort zone can reshape our identities, the way we learn and the way we approach our work and relationships. The book’s description of how foreigners absorb and process uniquely American ideas, policies and processes makes this book great education and great entertainment.


Oomman Varghese, Associate Professor
Physics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Light, Water, Hydrogen: The Solar Generation of Hydrogen by Water Photoelectrolysis by C. A. Grimes et. al.

The book Light, Water, Hydrogen: The Solar Generation of Hydrogen by Water Photoelectrolysis published by Springer Press (2007) is special to me because this was the first book I co-authored and I invested considerable effort in preparing it. Moreover, the book is on the important topic of producing hydrogen from water using sunlight, a sustainable route that could help the world have a fuel without carbon footprint. Two thousand or more journal articles were collected and referred for verifying the accuracy of the information provided in the book. The book, when published, was one of the very few books on the topic. That was also a time when prominent scientists around the world were concerned about the incorrect approaches used by researchers in estimating the efficiency of hydrogen generation via solar water splitting and reporting them even in journals like Science and Nature. Educating researchers about the scientific ways to find efficiency accurately was a challenge that I took and successfully carried out through this book. As soon as it was published, several universities started using it as a textbook for their courses. It also became clear that the book helped (and is still helping) a wide range of new researchers in science as well as engineering disciplines.  I thank God for enabling me to contribute to this project. I also thank my wife, Maggie, for the strong support at both scientific and personal levels, although she was carrying my daughter while I was too busy with my research and this book project.


Dietrich Vollrath, Professor
Economics, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The Rice Economies by Francesca Bray

After leaving graduate school I had stumbled towards the idea that underlying agricultural conditions – soil types, crop varieties, and the like – were possibly instrumental in economic development. I came to that idea through playing with economic theory, but did not have any tangible evidence of its importance. As I began to search for that evidence, I found Bray’s The Rice Economies, which sat in this intersection of economics and agronomy. It at once validated my vague intuition with hard facts, introduced me to a literature on this topic, and set a bar for scholarly achievement that I still measure myself against. Without Professor Bray’s book, I would not have trusted myself to move forward with this line of research, so I will always be grateful to her.


Bret Wells, Professor
UH Law Center

The Foreign Tax Credit by Elisabeth A. Owens

Professor Patricia Owens’ original 1961 book entitled The Foreign Tax Credit was an important work that synthesized the law related to the US foreign tax credit regime from its original creation until 1961. Her work was original, and it guided the evolution of the law after its publication. However, since 1979, the US foreign tax credit regime has been impacted by policy goals that were not present in 1961, and as a result the law related to the US foreign tax credit regime has evolved in ways that were not addressed in Professor Owens’ original work. In 2016, I published a law review article entitled “The Foreign Tax Credit War.” In my article, I attempted to synthesize the factors that have impacted the development of the US foreign tax credit regime since 1979. Although my article identifies different policy goals from what Professor Owens had identified in her original work, her original 1961 book inspired my further research in this area of US international tax law.


Karen Wong Fang, Professor
English, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

City of Quartz by Mike Davis

From the first time I encountered City of Quartz in an urban studies course during graduate school, I was transformed by its engrossing combination of cultural studies, urban history, and media analysis. Mike Davis’s energizing, accessibly written, but always critically informed prose is a model for how I try to write, and while completing my own recent book, Arresting Cinema: Surveillance in Hong Kong Film, I always aspired to emulate Davis’s ability to embed incisive critique within a love letter to the complexities of one of the world’s great cities.


Annie Wu, Librarian
University Libraries

The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lessons in personal change by Stephen R. Covey

This book provides insightful guidance to me in my professional journey and personal management. The principles of proactive personal vision, personal and interpersonal leadership, empathic communication, creative cooperation and self-renewal shed light in my way of improving effectiveness and increasing productivity. I always reflect on these principles and paradigms shared in this book when I lead, communicate and solve problems at work and outside of work. It inspires me to be in charge of my own human spirit, carry the win/win mindset, sharpen the saw spiritually, physically, socially and emotionally, and control and achieve life.


Yan Yao, Associate Professor
Electrical & Computer Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu is a military general and adviser to the king of the southern Chinese state of Wu 2600 years ago. His wisdom on leadership and strategy is still applicable today.


Yuping Zhao, Associate Professor
Accountancy & Taxation, C. T. Bauer College of Business

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by James C. Collins

I am truly touched by the Level 5 business leaders described in this book. They exhibit compelling modesty, adhere to rigorous discipline, attribute the credit of success to other people, and demonstrate unwavering resolve to do what must be done to achieve the goal. Their pursuit for greatness truly inspires me to always produce the best in my career.