TSS: A New Semester = New Books!

by Kim on September 13, 2009 · 24 comments

fall2009booksThe start of a new semester brings a lot of things, but the most exciting thing for me is getting to buy all my new textbooks. It’s expensive, but it’s the one time of the year when I can binge on new books and actually feel justified.

This semester I’m taking a full graduate course load of three classes — Journalism in Theory, Long Form Reporting, and Community Organization and Change. That’s a stack of my new books, which are so numerous they don’t fit on the shelf I usually designate for school reading. I had to rearrange some bookshelves to make them fit, yikes!

Journalism in Theory

This class is about, basically, the different roles of journalism and journalists — journalists as storytellers, watchdogs, historians, etc. It’s about the different ways the press thinks about what it does. We have five different books: The Elements of Journalism, The Press Effect, The Press, Social Meanings of News, and News: A Reader

Most of these are readers that include some of the most famous articles in journalism theory, which should be great since I’ve never done a good overview of that before. I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing these, but I might write about them a bit.

Long-Form Reporting

This is the third class in my required sequence and focuses on magazine writing. The theme this year is food writing, so we’ll be reading Heat by Bill Buford, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Best American Food Writing 2008 edited by Holly Hughes, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. These are all books I’ve wanted to read, so I’m thrilled to get them for a class assignments. Plus, they’ll be fun to review.

Community Organization and Change

This is a sociology class about community organizing (the thing that’s been made famous because Barack Obama did it). I’m taking this class because I’m interested in the role newspapers play in promoting change, either as organizers or simply as an organization that can help set a community agenda or provide a public sounding board. I’m not sure exactly how that’ll fit into the class themes, but we do have an option

for an independent project where I can focus on journalism. We’ve got one canonical sort of book — Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. The rest are more anthologies and histories — Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, Stir It Up, and We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk about What They Do–and Why (not pictured).

The Final Cost

So that’s what my semester is looking like, book wise. I ended up buying them all online, something I don’t usually do. But money was tight this semester and I saved a ton by buying used online. In total, my books cost me just over $170, which really isn’t that bad considering. The would have been a lot more new or from our campus bookstore, which sucks since I like to support local bookstores when I can. Oh well, someday.

If you’re a student, what class or reading are you most excited about? If you’re not a student, did you have a favorite book or class reading assignment? Any of my books look especially interesting (or uninteresting!)?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy September 13, 2009 at 9:32 am

I’m not a student but my son is and he’s really excited about his Literature and Film class. He sent me a list of the books they’ll read and the movies they’ll watch, but I can’t remember most of them.

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:53 am

I’m pretty jealous of a Literature and Film class — I think that will be fascinating!

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Alyce September 13, 2009 at 10:15 am

Very cool stack of textbooks! I used to love book-buying day in college. I’m impressed that you only spent $170. I remember having science classes with textbooks that were $70 each. Thank goodness I only took a couple of science classes!

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:54 am

I bought all of these used online from Amazon, so I ended up paying very little for them. And most didn’t have a lot of markings or highlighting which is a plus. I’m so glad I’m not in the sciences — those books are pricey!!

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Teresa September 13, 2009 at 10:30 am

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a great book–it changed my life, actually. I was less enthused about the Kingsolver, for a variety of reasons. It would be interesting to look at Pollan’s style and Kingolver’s from a journalistic perspective.

Since grad school (theological studies) is really mostly a hobby for me, I only take one class at a time and have fewer books to buy. This semester, I’m studying the reformation, and my reading consists of The European Reformations by Carter Linberg and lots of original sources from the period (Luther, Melanchthon, Ignatius, Zwingli, lots of creeds and confessions). Scintillating, huh? (Actually, to me it is, which is why I study it.)

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:56 am

I’m also interested in Kingsolver and Pollan from that perspective. I wasn’t a fan of In Defense of Food, so I’m hoping that The Omnivore’s Dilemma makes up for some of what I think the first book lacks.

The original sources you’re reading sound awesome, actually. I’m not a big historian, but I have fun looking at original articles and stories from the time they were written. The Reformation is such a crazy time too — my roommates studied history so I know a teeny bit about it and it sounds fascinating!

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Word Lily September 13, 2009 at 10:41 am

I’m not in grad school now, but maybe someday. I’m excited about your books for long-form — I’ve got several of those books on my TBR list/pile, too.

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

I took a class with this professor last year and she picked out some awesome books to read, I’ve no doubt these will be really good to discuss. I’m especially excited about Heat.

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J.S. Peyton September 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I don’t know about those other books, but you’re definitely in for a treat with “Heat” and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Those are some great books. If the rest of them are anything like those two, you should be in for a great semester.

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:58 am

I agree, both sound awesome. I tried to read The Poisonwood Bible a long, long time ago and wasn’t in to it, but I feel like I’ll appreciate this book more since it’s nonfiction that is more my style.

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Memory September 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Sounds like you’ve got some great reading ahead of you this semester! I read ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE a couple of years ago and found it really interesting. I’ll look forward to your thoughts on it!

I’m not a student anymore, and I’ve got to admit that I usually shied away from my assigned readings. (I compensated by paying close attention in class, which worked with the sort of courses I took). I did have a great textbook for a course on women in Greece and Rome, though. I found the information absolutely fascinating, and I still have the textbook. I also enjoyed the casebook we used in Athenian Law & Society. It was full of ancient court documents.

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

It really depends on the professor, how much you can skim assigned readings. I read fast, luckily, so I don’t usually have to skip them because of time. The second book you mentioned with ancient court documents sounds really interesting — I didn’t know they had that sort of stuff to look at!

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Violet September 14, 2009 at 3:54 am

Your school books are sooo interesting. I had to study Computer Programming books :(

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

Yikes! Those don’t sound nearly as interesting, although potentially more useful :)

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Rebecca Reid September 14, 2009 at 5:39 am

Thank you for reminding me that I don’t want to get a graduate degree anytime soon!

The journalism in theory books look most interesting, but I think the community organization class sounds most interesting.

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 9:02 am

Funny! This semester is much more reading intensive than my other semesters. And I’m taking three classes — most grad students I know only take two and teach at the same time (I don’t teach).

So far I think I feel the opposite of you. The journalism readings, so far, are pretty dry, but make me think a lot. The sociology readings are a little more exciting, but harder to discuss in class so far. They’re very different though, which I like since it keeps the semester interesting!

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Fyrefly September 14, 2009 at 9:45 am

I don’t know about a lot of the others, (although I’ve got Animal Vegetable Miracle on my TBR pile and love Kingsolver’s writing), but the Best Food Writing book sounds really interesting… I’m only just getting into food writing, but I’m really enjoying it.

None of my grad school classes had much in the way of book reading… it was either textbooks or more often journal articles. I did have a high school english class called “Belief in Question in Modern Literature” that had a fantastic reading list, and one of my college writing seminars was something like “Race and Miscegenation in Science Fiction”, was technically in the anthropology department, and let me read Ursula K. LeGuin and write papers about Star Trek. :)

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Kim September 14, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I think the food writing book will be great. I have an earlier edition of the series, 2006 perhaps, and the first essay is one that blew my mind. So fingers crossed this one is as great.

A lot of the books, especially for the theory class, are just compilations of journal articles which are ok to read but not especially flashy :)

I took a science fiction class two years ago that was so great — we read some LeGuin and Butler and all sorts of good stuff. My final essay was on humanoid robots in Asimov and Philip K. Dick. Very fun!

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Undine September 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I’m taking 4 classes this semester, and only have four (rather boring, but extremely expensive!) books. The one English class I’m taking this semester is of course my only class that doesn’t have any books assigned. It’s a literary editing and publishing class, so we’re reading a ton, but it’s all submissions to the prof’s literary magazine – and later, submissions to our own, which we have to start as our final project! So excited!

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Kim September 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm

I had expensive but boring books — it feels like such a waste! Literary editing and publishing sounds awesome, I am officially jealous!

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Hazra September 21, 2009 at 7:20 am

My classes are quite interesting this semester. I’ve got quite a few electronics courses, and I’m looking for a good project topic.

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Kim September 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Sounds interesting too, I hope you find a good topic.

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Jennifer September 26, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I too absolutely love the beginning of the new semester. Even though textbooks can cause a fortune, my parent’s usually foot the bill so I get a lot of really interesting books basically for free on my end. Pretty awesome. I’m really excited about my minority politics class. We don’t really have a textbook per se but instead an enormous reader filled with important political and sociological essays about race in America. Pretty awesome, right?

I’m really looking forward to your reviews on the books for your Long-Form Reporting class. Food is a subject that has become increasingly interesting and important to me recently and I look forward to hear your opinions of these books. I really love Kingsolver too!

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Kim September 29, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Readers are such a fun thing to have; you get a lot of great stuff to read all packaged together so you don’t have to find it. I’m a big fan.

Food is a huge issue right now, so it makes sense we’re writing about it. The books are really great too, so reviews should be interesting to write. I’m listening to the Kingsolver book right now and I can already tell I’m going to have a lot of things to say about it.

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