Booklists for Undergrads

I don’t know about your institution, but we have already gotten our first call for Spring term books.  Every fall I find myself totally surprised by how early this call comes. I’ve cut back on assigning books in the survey for a number of reasons, but I’m always on the lookout for engaging, short(ish) reads for undergrads.  I’m also, always, woefully behind on my reading lists.  I keep up with my immediate field and my class reading but the books I want to read or that I might use for class tend to slide off of my to do list.

Like a lot of schools, my institution gets Choice cards for library orders and while these are a great tool, they don’t really accomplish what I need when I’m thinking about course adoption.  I want to know about the structure of the book, length, and readability.  How much expert knowledge is needed to follow the argument? I’ve often wished that academics would make another book adoption tool for the classroom setting; a clearinghouse for opinions on books for classroom use.

So, I thought I would start.

This fall, I’ve used several books that were great for classroom use.  Ann Little’s The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright was a really excellent choice for the classroom.  The story is compelling but the barrier for entry isn’t high.  It isn’t too long and offers a lot of room for class discussion.

In the survey class, I’m using Going to the Source as my document reader.  This is my second time using this particular book and I’m still really happy with it.  The sources are interesting and varied—every chapter is a different kind of source—with really great introductions and analysis of the time period.  I particularly like that this source reader isn’t trying to cover a chronological period in any kind of comprehensive way.  Instead, each chapter highlight a pressing theme or problem.  For example, this week we are reading sources about female citizenship during the early republic.

The greatest challenge to sharing a database of course readings is that we all value different things in our course assignments.  We also have different constituencies that require different kinds of materials.  But, I wonder if we couldn’t start to build a repository for class readings anyway.

PLEASE share your recent finds with me.  What have you read and loved (for the classroom)?

One thought on “Booklists for Undergrads

  1. An oldie but a goodie: Foner’s Story of American Freedom for the US Survey. Helps students connect Jim Crow to 20thc structural oppression that persists beyond brown v board via redlining / New Deal.

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