Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer Reading List

What's on your summer reading list?  My reading falls into a few categories:  teaching, weather and climate, science and skepticism, food, and novels.  I wanted to share with you a collection of books, some of which I have read, some of which I am half way through, and several that I am dying to read this summer.  Since my summer starts next week, I wanted to throw these reading goals out there and see if you have any additions for me.  I have a long list from a facebook probe awhile back, but as you'll see, most of my reading is non-fiction.

Food:  As I prepare for a summer of gardening, cooking veggies from my CSA, and traveling further down the path of perfecting my diet for my health, these two books make up my limited resources on the topic.  I'm 3/4 through Animal Vegetable Miracle and am loving it!  I might have to check out some of Kingsolver's novels, I really like her style and this book makes me crave fresh veggies.  It offers motivation for eating locally.  Stalking the Wild Asparagus is one of Dave's books from an edible plants class he took at Rutgers and it has some fun stuff in it.  I look forward to diving into it here and there this summer.  Hopefully I can use it to figure out if the plants in my garden today are the lettuce I planted or weeds!

Teaching:  I was part of a faculty learning community this year and these books are all from our awesome Faculty Development Center director.  Thus far I've read Weimer's Learner-Centered Teaching, which points out that students don't learn from lectures, they learn by doing.  I am half way through My Freshman Year, which tells the story of a 50 year old woman professor who pretends to be a freshman in her own school and lives in the dorms.  She comments on how life is as a freshman and how us professors should change the way we view our students.  Oddly enough, she did this little shinanigan of hers while I was a junior in college, so what she describes are things I already knew.  It hasn't been that helpful except to verify that being a young professor might be helping me connect to my students more than some of the elderly professors.  I also dove into Advice for new faculty members and had a hard time getting into it.  It was all about how you should think about what you're doing before you do it, like if you're going to prep a lecture, wait before you sit down to do it so you can plan it a bit in your head.  Hopefully I'll dive into the rest this summer.

Science and Skepticism:  To be a true scientist, you must be skeptical of things, question why they are the way they are, and demand proof.  I'm a huge Carl Sagan fan (most recognized by being the author of Contact, you know, the movie with Jodie Foster?).  I recently read his The Demon-Haunted World:  Science as a Candle in the Dark and it pointed out how society cares more about pseudoscience (astrology, homeopathy, ghost hunters) than it does actual fact-based science.  Well, one of his original books made into a corny TV series is Cosmos.  I've seen a few of the shows and love it (Dave does an amazing Carl Sagan impression).  So, I feel like I should have already read the book and will try to do so this summer.  The top book on this pile is the last book, I believe, that Sagan wrote before his early death and my understanding is that it focuses on science and religion and how they can or cannot coexist.  I'm hugely interested in this topic.  Did I mention my old department-head was a student of Sagan's?  Lastly, Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything will catch me up on some science history that I should know, but probably don't.  I like integrating these tidbits into my lectures in my physics and chemistry class.

Novels:  I really had a hard time understanding why everyone was so into the Dragon Tatoo series.  It has its moments, but it's not worth the trouble of reading all of the crap in between.  Therefore, I am 3/4 of the way through book three, yes three, and can't bring myself to finish it.  Should I just watch the movie?  Maybe I'll dive into these other two this summer, but I hear Hunger Games might be more worth my precious beach time. 

Weather and Climate:  Dave scored these top two books for me from the Harvard Bookstore.  I can't wait to dive into them!  I made a rule that I have to finish two of the books I'm reading now before starting a new one.  The top one is about how an ice age was discovered and the second one is about the psychoses caused by climate.  Storm Watchers is a sweet history of meteorology that has been on my shelf for ages.  Eloquent Science is a book for how to be a better atmospheric scientist.  I used it as my textbook for my senior research seminar this semester.  For the non-slackers who actually read the book, I really think they got a lot out of it.  It's perfect for first-year grad students! 

Now that you know what I'm reading and plan to read, I want to know what you're reading!  Do you have any specific topics that you always go towards at the book store? 


Anonymous said...

Good list! Since I have no time to read I have to live vicariously through other people :). Have you read any of Bill Bryson's travel books? There are great! Highly recommended. I have laughed out loud reading them. A Short History of Nearly Everything was really great too. I thought the book River of Doubt was really fascinating. I tried to get John to read it, but since it was set in the tropics, no go :). It was good seeing you in Boston!

Liz C.

YellowBunnies said...

Thanks Liz! Your comment disappeared (blogger was undergoing updates, so who knows). I originally discovered Bill Bryson via his travel writing. I highly recommend it, particularly his "A Walk in the Woods" about the Appalachian trail!