Friday, September 17, 2010

Required Reading That Doesn't Suck!

As college students, we get assaulted with required reading from all sides. Required reading is, most of the time, unwanted as it interferes with reading books we actually want to read & because it tends to be dry and boring. And then sometimes we get lucky and a professor selects something interesting and maybe even enjoyable to read for class and, being the bookworms that we are, we gladly accept these assignments. Here is a list of required reading that we've encountered that doesn't suck!

After you check out our picks, tell us what required reading you enjoyed in school! 


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)Jamie's pick: As a Business/Marketing major, a required class is Economics--aka the bane of my existence. Bored me to death and confused the heck out of me. But then my professor assigns us to read Freakonomics and present a chapter out of it. This was one of the most interesting non-fiction books I've ever read. It's not really so much about economics but statistics and numbers and really interesting studies--crime rates dropping mysteriously or cheating in sumo wrestling. I'm not sure how scholarly it actually is as I've seen mixed reviews but I found it to be interesting and wasn't bothered one bit by my time spent reading it.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical TalesKelly's Pick: I'm a psychology major, which unfortunately means that I mostly get assigned really boring books, usually pertaining to statistics, research methods and good old Freud. I was thrilled to be assigned The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat in my Physiological Psychology class this semester! The book is divided into short chapters about real-life patients of Dr. Oliver Sacks, some who cannot recognize faces, are eternally stuck in the 1940s, have phantom limbs and other odd psychological problems. This is even a good book for those who aren't psych students, the workings and abnormalities of the brain are fascinating."

Confucius: The AnalectsR's Pick: I'm studying History and Political Science, and I read this for a classical Chinese political philosophy class. I'm not going to lie to you - I was expecting The Analects to be full of stuff along the lines of, "Old Master say, the richness of spring illuminate the fallen leaf of the bygone autumnal breeze." Or something like that. Well, to be fair to myself and the confused view of Confucius that I held at the time, a lot of the verses do in fact start with "The Master says," and there are a fair number of puzzling parables open to fumbling, inexpert interpretations. Oddly enough, though, a lot of my enjoyment of the Analects came from the conversations between Confucius and a slightly daft disciple of his. Whenever the guy spoke up, Confucius would shower copious amounts of flowery, analogy-filled praise on him. At first I was wondering what was up with that; then it finally struck me - Confucius was being heavily sarcastic and the guy was totally oblivious. And I was very amused. Yeah. Forget about the philosophy in all this. It's the comedy that matters.

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of SecurityJulia's Pick: My senior year as a Computer Science major, I took a class on computer security. The Art of Deception, written by a hacker who at one point in time was the most wanted computer related criminal in the US, opened my eyes to some of the things that social engineers can do to get your personal information & thereby into a company. It's not as high tech as you would think. This book has true hackers stories and examples interspersed with tidbits of knowledge to keep your company, and yourself, safe from hackers.



Appetites: Why Women WantTahleen's pick: In my senior year of college, I started to get into some really unhealthy eating habits, specifically I wouldn't be eating enough—disordered eating, it's called. Not anorexia, but still not healthy at all. At the time, I was taking my senior seminar for which we read a lot of really great books. But the one that affected me the most was Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. It snapped me to reality about the way I was abusing my body, and it also brought to light some truths about the way women go about their lives and the way they are perceived that we either take for granted or just don't notice. This should be required reading for every woman who has ever been uncomfortable in her own body or has felt empty inside. In fact, it should be required reading for anyone, man or woman, who wants to take a closer look at their life, the way they treat others, and the way they treat themselves.

The Wretched of the EarthJess' pick: In college, I double majored in International Relations and Religion. The bulk of my classes revolved around the Middle East and Islam, and so I've read a lot of military history, world history, post-colonial theory, and religious texts. One of the most influential books I read—and really enjoyed—was Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon's writing is extremely evocative, and it will make you contemplate the role of imperialism and colonialism in the Third World in different ways.

15 comments :

  1. Tahleen-- I've struggled with the same thing in college. I never knew it had a name. I've never been anorexic or bulimic but I always explained it as "anorexic tendencies." It happened the most frequently when my mom was sick/after she died. This sounds like a book I'd benefit from reading! I think alot of girls go through this in college..good recommendation!

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  2. a lot of my favorites were books that got me into certain authors...so, i had the class where i had to read "emma," which finally got me into appreciating jane austen. (and now i've read all her books a couple times...pride & prejudice maybe more, thanks to mr. darcy.) or gayl jones, who i read one book by and couldn't get over. but i think the top on my list is nabokov; when i was trying to decide what school to go to i sat in on a seminar on nabokov's "pale fire" at one of them and had no idea what was going on. but then i started reading him for a class, took a seminar on him, and on and on... i gotta be honest, i miss being introduced to books by my class reading lists.

    great post, i liked the variety of books you wrote about. Appetites especially sounds interesting to me.

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  3. Ellen-- I agree! Some of my lit classes were the catalysts that got me into certain authors or genres!

    Some of the required reading from lit classes that I enjoyed: Frankenstein, The Things They Carried, John Donne's poetry, Sherman Alexie, Hunter S. Thompson. I'm sure there are more but I just can't recall at the moment.

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  4. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (and really, just about any book with tales from Oliver Sachs) is awesome. I majored in psych in university, of course, so I was particularly interested in it, but you're right - even the non-psych-major could totally get into this book. It's just so full of bizarre things that can happen to the brain!

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  5. I absolutely loved the reading assigned in my British Lit course over the summer: Frankenstein, Percy Shelley, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Keats, and Wordsworth.

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  6. Jamie, you definitely should read it—I honestly think everyone should. I need to give it a reread soon, I'm having trouble remembering certain parts.

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  7. These books were required reading in school? I've not even heard of some of them! When I was in school (oh god, I'm showing my age) we read Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, Ordinary People, The Old Man and the Sea, Flowers For Algernon.

    Interesting to see the what they are teachin' these days :)

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  8. Lori--I read many of those for high school (Mice of Men, Lord of the Flies, Flowers for Algernon). I think all of the selections we have are for college courses. I've read some pretty interesting books for college! Some in lit classes and some for business classes or philosophy classes!

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  9. I'm an English major so I get to read a fairly large portion of books that excite me for homework. Some books I've really enjoyed are: The Moon, Come to Earth for my travel writing class, Middlemarch and Lady Audley's Secret for my Victorian Women's Literature class, and Moments of Being for my Virginia Woolf class.

    Ah, I love being an English major.

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  10. A travel writing class sounds amazing!

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  11. Great topic! It's fun to see how different majors influence book picks. I've had Freakonomics on my shelf for a while but haven't gotten to it. As for me, I've had to read mostly fiction for school. The novel I loved most was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston. It's always a pleasure to be assigned a book you end up enjoying!

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  12. I wish I could take fun English classes in college! I only took Comp 1 & 2 (which was about 4 years ago anyways) and all we read was Shakespeare. Sigh.

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  13. Erin--I've had Their Eyes Were Watching God on my shelf for a LONG time!

    Kelly-- I'm jealous of all these English major people who get to read all these amazing books for homework!

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  14. I read that same Sacks book for my intro to psych class! It was a nice change from our usual stuff, since the prof was a bio psychologist, and so we pretty much only talked about that aspect. One of my majors was international relations too, and I enjoyed Wretched of the Earth as well. I have that same copy. :D

    Now I want to read Appetites and Art of Deception!

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  15. I haven't read any of those books but they do seem interesting.

    I'm studying criminal justice, psychology, and victim services so I definitely get some pretty interesting required reading. A few of my favorites; Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein, The Book of David by Richard Gelles, When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase, and for a history class I took The Last Duel by Eric Jager.

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