Readings groups sponsored by the Berry Center provide students with rewarding opportunities for academic enrichment, allowing them to extend intellectual inquiry beyond the classroom. Reading groups are hosted by faculty or staff members. Informal gatherings promote dialogue between faculty members and students, and between the students themselves. Reading groups attract students from different academic departments, facilitating conversation across disciplinary lines.  The reading group experience is sometimes enhanced by having students meet with the author of the book, or invited guests with relevant expertise.


Reading Groups Organized by the Berry Center

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? Cover

In this book, author William Poundstone shares some of the puzzles companies are presenting to prospective employees, gives those who are seeking work tips on how to perform well in such tests, and invites readers to think about the best means of selecting bright and creative colleagues. Members of this reading group presented their favorite problems and solutions to one another. Professor Leon Tabak moderated the discussion.

Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail Cover

Students from various social science disciplines participated in the reading of Why Nations Fail by M.I.T. economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson. The reading group was hosted by Professor A'amer Farooqi (Economics and Business) and Professor David Yamanishi (Politics). The book asks why some nations achieve prosperity while others struggle to experience sustained economic growth. The key explanation is that in successful nations the development of inclusive economic and political institutions provides for shared economic prosperity and political stability.

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day

Portfolios of the Poor

This provocative book examines the financial decision-making of the more than one billion people in developing countries who live in exceptional poverty. The authors, Daryl Collins, Jonathan Murdoch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven, base their study on “financial diaries” kept by villagers and the urban poor. The financial stories of the poor describe how they use simple financial tools and informal networks, to save, manage cash flow, acquire credit, and guard against risk. The reading group was facilitated by economics and business professors Todd Knoop and Chris Conrad.

Books by visiting public lecturers Karl Rove and Dee Dee Meyers

Karl Rove

Dee Dee Meyers

The Berry Center hosted a reading group in advance of the Delta Phi Rho lecture, titled "Election 2012: Two Perspectives," which featured former presidential advisors Karl Rove (deputy chief of staff for policy under George W. Bush) and Dee Dee Meyers (White House press secretary for William Clinton). The group read selections from Rove’s book, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight and Meyer’s book, Why Women Should Rule the World. The group was moderated by Professor David Yamanishi (Politics) and Professor Leon Tabak (Computer Science.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Steven Levitt with a Cornell Student


Eighteen students joined then Cornell president Les Garner in his home for discussions of the national bestseller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. The book uses economic theory and statistical analysis to explore unconventional topics such as cheating among school teachers and sumo wrestlers, the behavior of drug dealers, and whether swimming pools are more dangerous than guns. The authors demonstrate the importance of incentives in shaping behavior. The reading group traveled to meet co-author Steven Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Students attended a lunch where Levitt was the keynote speaker, and held a 90-minute private meeting with him to talk about his book. Levitt is pictured to the left with student Chelsea Coyne.

Past Berry Center Reading Groups

  • The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid (Hosted with Dimensions)
    Facilitated by Professor Chris Conrad (Economics and Business) and Professor Barbara Christie-Pope (Biology)
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton C. Malkiel
    Facilitated by Professor A'amer Farooqi (Economics and Business), Professor Chris Conrad (Economics and Business), and Professor Todd Knoop (Economics and Business)
  • Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means by Albert-László Barabási
    Facilitated by Professor Santhi Hejeebu (Economics and Business)
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch
    Facilitated by Professor Steven Hemelt (Politics) and Professor Kate Kauper (Education) 
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder (Hosted with Dimensions)
    Facilitated by Professor Barbara Christie-Pope (Biology) and Professor Erin Davis (Sociology) 
  • The Economic Naturalist by Robert H. Frank
    Facilitated by Professor A'amer Farooqi (Economics and Business) and Professor Jerry Savitsky (Economics and Business). Reading group participants met with Professor Frank during his campus visit.
  • The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
    Facilitated by Professor Leon Tabak (Computer Science)
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
    Facilitated by former President of the College Les Garner. Students traveled to the University of Chicago to meet with co-author Richard H. Thaler.
  • One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth by Dani Rodrik
    Facilitated by Professor Todd Knoop (Economics and Business) and Professor David Yamanishi (Politics)
  • The White Man's Burden by William Easterly
    Facilitated by Professor Todd Knoop (Economics and Business)

For more information about the reading groups, please contact
Associate Director of the Berry Center.