Saturday, July 25, 2015

Recent, trendy, and intellectually unchallenging books

From BEACH BOOKS: 2013-2014 What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class? from National Association of Scholars. Take with a pinch of salt. I recollect that the NAS is a relatively traditionalist group.

Based on 341 Colleges and Universities and the 231 (collectively) books they assigned.

The Findings
1. Common reading programs are becoming more popular.

2. The list of readings continues to be dominated by recent, trendy, and intellectually
unchallenging books.

3. The assigned books frequently emphasize progressive political themes, and the top subject
category is multiculturalism.

4. Colleges increasingly see their common reading as exercises in community-building more
than student preparation for academic life.

5. A common reading “industry” is emerging, with publishers, authors, and colleges seeking to
advance a particular kind of book.

The Facts
1. Author speaking: Of the 341 colleges in our study, 231 (68 percent) brought the author
to speak on campus. Having the author speak is seen as a priority for common reading

2. Rationales: 77 percent of colleges said that the purpose of their common reading programs
was to foster “community,” or create “common” or “shared” experiences among those on
and near the campus.

3. Recent: More than half of common reading assignments (51 percent) were published
between 2000 and 2013, and only five books were from before 1900.
4. Non-fiction: 72 percent of assignments were memoirs, biographies, essays, and other

5. Turnover: 82 percent of this year’s titles are different from last year’s. Some books that
were popular a few years ago are now waning or have disappeared. Many new books –
some published as recently as the year in which they were assigned – are being introduced
A nice idea but it sounds like it is without clear purpose, poorly executed and therefore a missed opportunity to help students lay a foundation as productive members of society.

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