Add These Books to Your 2021 Reading List

Covers of books by Columbia authors
Graphic by Len Small


By Michael Heller and James Salzman 

Who owns the space behind an airplane seat, the passenger reclining in it or the person using the tray table behind it? Why is it OK for beachgoers to save a spot on the sand by spreading out their gear early in the morning, even if they don’t come back for hours? Columbia Law School professor Michael Heller tackles these questions in a thought-provoking, entertaining book that explores property rights and the changing rules that govern ownership in our everyday lives. Together with James Salzman, a law professor at UCLA, Heller delves into how things become “mine” via engaging stories about organ donation, fashion knockoffs, drones, surrogacy, and more.


Early Morning Riser

By Katherine Heiny ’92SOA

When second-grade teacher Jane locks herself out of her new house one night, she falls hard for Duncan, the charming locksmith who comes to her rescue. So begins Katherine Heiny’s bright, funny new novel about love and life set in small-town Michigan. Jane is soon contending with Duncan’s flock of former girlfriends, his needy ex-wife Aggie, and his well-meaning coworker Jimmy. With a cast of eccentric, likable characters and spot-on dialogue, Heiny creates a narrative that is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, but always filled with hope.


Dirty Gold 

By Jay Weaver, Nicholas Nehamas ’14JRN, Jim Wyss ’09JRN, and Kyra Gurney ’16JRN

This gripping book tells the true story of a South American gold-smuggling ring that made three Miami metals traders rich — until the traders were arrested by FBI agents in 2019. The investigation that followed uncovered the corrupt, dangerous international business of selling “dirty gold” mined in the rainforests of Peru. Coauthored by four Miami Herald journalists, the book is based on a series that was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. 


The Secret History of Home Economics

By Danielle Dreilinger ’99CC

“Everything you know about home economics is wrong,” proclaims the author in this absorbing history of a field perceived as lightweight, retro, and sexist. Danielle Dreilinger, a former reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, aims to restore the reputation of the once-revolutionary discipline by delving into its past. Her book shines a light on the unheralded nineteenth- and twentieth-century feminist pioneers who used home economics to build science careers, advocate for school gardens and affordable daycare, and create the consumer-protection movement.


Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue

By Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59LAW, ’94HON and Amanda L. Tyler 

In the fall of 2019, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took part in a candid public conversation with Amanda L. Tyler — a professor of law at UC Berkeley and former clerk of Ginsburg’s — about her time as a student at Columbia Law School, her marriage and family, her work pursuing gender equality, her favorite opinions that she wrote as a Supreme Court justice, and her struggles with cancer. The conversation was so successful that Tyler and Ginsburg decided to collaborate on a book, which includes a transcript of that talk, as well as argument transcripts, interviews, and speeches carefully chosen by Ginsburg to reflect the legacy she hoped to leave. Ginsburg and Tyler delivered the manuscript for this personal and important collection just three months before the justice’s death in September 2020. 


Regardless of Frontiers

Edited by Lee C. Bollinger and Agnès Callamard  

How can we fight the global attacks on free expression in today’s rapidly changing, Internet-connected world? To answer this pressing question, President Lee C. Bollinger and Agnès Callamard, the director of Columbia’s Global Freedom of Expression initiative, bring together nineteen essays from a variety of leading thinkers who confront cross-border challenges to free speech, from the rise of authoritarianism to restrictions across social-media platforms to threats to journalists’ sources. 

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