Friday, May 22, 2009

Bailey's Book Club

(Note, for students wanting to earn honors contracts...if you complete Options B or C I will gladly contract with you)

Students frequently take independent study hours (AGEC 4990) under me for one, two, or sometimes three credits. For students taking the course for one or two hours, I allow them to read books for credit. In the past, the books that were allowable, the credit hours associated with books, and the student deliverables were stated verbally and informally. In this post, I explicitly describe the terms of reading books for independent study credit.

Option A for 2 Credit Hours) Role of Government and Capitalism in Society as Expressed in Popular Fiction.
Required Readings: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
Credit Hours: 2

Both works of fiction are well-written and are interesting. They are two of the world's most important works of fiction, for the power of the story, the boldness of the story, and their place in modern society. The works express two extreme views on the role of government and capitalism in society. The Jungle was written to expose the misery supposedly resulting from capitalism, and was a call for the U.S. to take up socialism. Atlas Shrugged is the opposite, articulating the supposedly detrimental effects of government attempting to redistribute wealth and assume both ownership and control of daily economic life. Most people today, regardless of their views, are between these two extremes; yet studying these extremes can help you discover where on this spectrum your view's reside. More importantly, the narrative in the books help us understand what people were thinking in the first half of the twentieth century.

Deliverable: Write an succinct but powerful editorial (one-page, single spaced, 11 space, palatino linotype font) describing the essence of the two articles, including their strengths and weaknesses. Articulate your belief as to which work of fiction speaks the greater truth, and why. For help with the writing style, select an editorial from a major newspaper and model your narrative after this selection. Turn in an electronic copy of your editorial and the editorial you modeled your narrative after to be at Editorials are meant to be succinct but superbly written, relaying a wealth of information in a few words. An editorial (even those written by the best) must go through numerous drafts, usually being completely rewritten at least once.

Option B for 1 Credit Hour) Fiction & Non-Fiction (Science & Biography)
Students must read two books for one credit hour and write a review of both books. I wish for you to read a book that I have read, so that we can discuss it afterwards.

Below are suggested readings from four categories. I have other books in my office that you may peruse. For one credit hour, you must select two books from different categories and write two book reviews. For help in writing a book review, find a book review written in a major media outlet (the Wall Street Journal prints a book reviews every day). Each review should be one-page, single spaced, 11 space, and palatino linotype font. Book reviews are meant to be succint, but well-written. You should rewrite your book review at least twice (or perform many edits) before it is presentable, unless you are a particularly talented writer.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Demons by Dostoevsky
Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Babbit by Sinclair Lewis

Note: I do not allow any readings of Hemingway, Ken Keesay, or Jack Kerouc

Non-Fiction (Science)*
SuperCrunchers by Ian Ayres
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephan J. Dubner
Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan
The Mind of the Market by Michael Schermer
The Science of Good and Evil by Michael Schermer

Note: I do not allow anything written by Thomas Friedman (and not because of politics)

Non-Fiction (Biography)*
A Beautiful Mind (about John Nash, led to movie) by Sylvia Nascar
Kinsey (about Alfred Kinsey, led to movie) by James Jones
Khruschev (about the Russian leader during the Cold War) by Walter Taubman
Lennon (about John Lennon) by Ray Coleman
Harvard and the Unabomber by Alston Chase

Non-Fiction (History)*
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Human Story by James Davis
Food in History by Reay Tannahill
The Forgotten Man by Amity Shales
The Great Medieval Heretics by Michael Frassetto

*most highly recommended books listed first

Option C for 1 Credit Hour) EconTalk Podcasts or Similar
Some people absolutely hate to read. Fortunately, technology has provided alternative means for learning, and I will allow students to use podcasts or videos as an alternative to books.

Option C.A) Go to and listen to eight episodes of EconTalk podcasts. Summarize each podcast briefly (one large paragraph, witten) and be prepared to chat with me about the podcasts. I have listened to them all carefully, and will be able to tell if you did not listen to them.

Option C.B) Go to and peruse the videos. Watch up to eight hours of videos on whatever you like. Summarize each video briefly (one large paragraph, witten) and be prepared to chat with me about the videos. I have listened to most all carefully, and will be able to tell if you did not listen to them.