My Most Recent Reads - April 2016

Despite it being a busy month, I managed a successful month of reading with fifteen books--many of which were really good.  It's probably been the most enjoyable month of reading in a while and I even read three physical books.  One was for class and the other two were for work, but they were all good reads.  


The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin


This is the second book in a trilogy and I absolutely loved the first book and this second one is equally as compelling.  It took me some time to get into it (I listened to the audiobook) because keeping track of the names was a bit tricky (it's translated from Chinese and names are not as familiar to me).  The premise of the novel is that Earth has been made aware of an alien species that is set to come to Earth and destroy human life so that the alien life can prosper.  It sounds pretty simple but Cixin crafts so many different layers about what this means, how this could happen, and why interplanetary dialogue is likely to be a very very tricky and problematic venture.  The novel reads like an amazing and fascinating chess match among the main characters and the alien entities that I find myself for the first time in a long while impatient to read the final book in the trilogy.  While I really enjoyed the first book in the series, this book proved even better.

Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System by James Bess and Jay Dee

Ok, this is definitely not a sexy book by any means judging by the title, right?  It was assigned by my instructor in my PhD program (and also, the author, Dee).  However, it is actually a really solid breakdown of understanding higher education organizations (or disorganizations, no?).  As textbooks go, it is accessible with its language, provides useful tools and resources for further consideration, and provides clear connections as it moves through each topic.  One is never lost or feeling like the discussion is off the mark.  It provides great examples and guiding questions that help readers better apply what they are learning.  I highly recommend it to anyone trying to wrap their head around higher education and how it works (or doesn't).  

Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson

This is the second book that I've reviewed by Linda Nilson and it is just as fabulous!  Nilson lays out a different approach to grading than what I have been doing most of my teaching career.  She explains to readers the benefits and methods of developing specifications grading.  Instead of grading along a continuum that doesn't necessarily capture or clarify what the student is able to do at the end of the course, she shows different ways in which you can create assessments that are clearly specified and graded on a complete/did not complete basis.  It is--as most things--more difficult than it sounds and it will take time to create the specifications upon which to grade as they need to be clear and easy to follow, but I know what I will be doing for my next course.  I generally provide strong guidelines for my assignments, but Nilson highlights the ways I can articulate through given assignments or assignment bundles, the means of accomplishing what it is that I'm looking for.  Even if one doesn't switch to specs grading, Nilson gives a lot of food for thought about how you do assignments in general.

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)

BOOKS

  • Essential Elements: Prepare, Design, And Teach Your Online Course by Bonnie Elbaum
  • Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System by James Bess and Jay Dee
  • Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson

AUDIOBOOKS

  • Capture: A Theory of the Mind by David Kessler
  • Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen
  • Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein
  • Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
  • The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Black Magick, Volume 1: Awakening, Part One by Greg Rucka
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol 6: The Sun Beyond the Stars by Jonathan Hickman
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 25: No Turning Back by Robert Kirkman
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Star Wars: Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan
  • Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone
  • Divinity by Matt Kindt


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?

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