In answer to the question of why he wrote Storm, his bestselling novel of 1941, Berkeley author and professor George R. Stewart (1895–1980) wrote: “I had lived for fifteen years on the slope of the Berkeley Hills, looking westward to San Francisco Bay and through the Golden Gate to the horizon-line of the Pacific. From that vantage-ground I had watched the winter storm-fronts sweep in from the West with all their majesty. No observing person can live in such a spot without becoming storm-conscious.” Anyone who weathered the train of atmospheric rivers that hosed down California this winter will be, at the very least, storm-curious. If you want to be storm-conscious, Stewart’s novel, about a Sierra blizzard called Maria (the National Weather Service took the practice of naming storms from Stewart), is a good start, even if it was written in the days before weather satellites, when meteorologists still relied on reports from ships at sea and airplane pilots to build their forecasts. Stewart’s novel was reissued in 2021 by NYRB Classics, with a new introduction by Nathaniel Rich. Other works by Stewart that remain uncannily relevant: Fire (1948) and Earth Abides (1949), about a viral pandemic that decimates humanity.
And if you’re looking for more recommendations for what to read, watch, and listen to this summer – read on.
- Want to see the weather the way Stewart did from his home in the Berkeley Hills? The webcam of the Lawrence Hall of Science is the place to turn. Even better than the cam are the archived time-lapse recordings. See: The View.
- If you’re looking for more book recommendations, why not check out what incoming Cal students have been reading as part of the On the Same Page program. The works (not limited to books) are selected annually by deans of UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science to provide a unifying cultural experience to freshman and transfer students. Past selections include alumnus Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, and Tommy Orange’s There There. If you still want more, have a look at the UC Berkeley Summer Reading selections for 2023. Here, Berkeley faculty and staff recommend overlooked classics like Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and notable new works, including new novels by Cal alumni, including Javier Zamora (Solito) and Annalee Newitz (The Terraformers).
- Are you a cinephile? Curious about Ukraine? The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is presenting a series of films from Odessan director Kira Muratova (1934–2018), whose works were banned by Soviet censors and largely unseen until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The series runs through May 14.
- If you’re at BAMPFA, don’t miss the trio of short animated films by multitalented South African William Kentridge who is in residence at Cal Performances for the academic year. Kentridge’s Dada-esque opera SIBYL had its American debut at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall in March. Speaking of which, be sure to check out Cal Performances’ schedule, which mixes perennial favorites such as Alvin Ailey, Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, and others, with new and lesser-known talents from around the globe.
- Finally, podcast listeners with an interest in improved mental health and positive psychology are directed to the Happiness Break, featuring celebrated Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner (whose new book, Awe, is available in hardcover) and guests discussing “research-based practices to develop more compassion, resilience to stress, and moments of joy and inspiration.” Each episode is short—under 10 minutes. For a slightly longer format in the same vein, turn to Greater Good’s other podcast, The Science of Happiness, also hosted by Keltner.
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