ANS 2008 Books

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Highlights from my year in books (not the year in books):

Teaching and Learning: For the best combination of readability and depth of content, What the Best College Teachers Do (by Ken Bain) surpasses anything I’ve read on the topic of great teaching. How People Learn (published by The National Research Council) has a more expansive look at the relevant literature (vs. the narrower case studies in Bain’s book), but doesn’t necessarily require a cover-to-cover read… unless you’re obsessive about theories of learning and pedagogy. If you’re short on time, James Lang’s On Course is a breezy read but also has some nice and specific ideas to try.

Fiction: Sadly, I didn’t read much fiction in 2008. Mostly catching up on things I’ve meant to read forever. The standout was Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. If a somewhat puzzling post-apocalyptic story brimming with wordplay sounds appealing, check it out. I’m eager to read Riddley again soon, that’s how dense (and strangely lovely, in a melancholy way) it was.

Graphic Novel: Y the Last Man. I’m no comics aficionado, but this book is nearly perfect. Starting from a premise that could have been executed poorly to say the least – the ramifications of a gendercide that leaves just one man living – Brian K. Vaughn tells a compelling, sweeping story, with great empathy for all his characters. The art, by Pia Guerra, is also exquisite. I love the multi-dimensionality of the post-male politics, the care Vaughn took to write a believable world, and the plain old fun he had with it. On my second read through, I enjoyed taking Googling digressions to investigate the bits of history and hobby sprinkled throughout (reverse Balducci what now?) instead of just reading for plot.

Science-Inflected Non-Fiction: I was fascinated and moved by Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Feminity by Julia Serano. Finally, a straightforward reconciliation of feminism and transsexual rights – reading Chapter 6 was a revelation. I also dug Brain Rules, by neuroscientist John Medina, an engaging collection of principles for working with rather than against our brains’ natural rhythms. (Gosh I love schema.)

Bonus! TV: The Wire finished its 5th and final season this year. It’s the best depiction of how people of all walks of life navigate institutions, are compromised by them, and occasionally transcend them. (No wonder our current President likes it.) Web Video Game: Ninja Ropes – I love playing just on the edge of chaos in this simple, physics-based game. Recently surpassed 150 yards.

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