Tag Archives: academia

The World According to Garp

How come I never read this before?!  John Irving is absolutely brilliant.  The book was depressing and hopeful, amusing and disastrous.  It starts out with Jenny Fields, a nurse who intentionally impregnates herself by raping a terminal patient.  She names the boy Garp, and Jenny raises him on her own.

As Garp grows up, he encounters death and sexuality and everything that all adolescents suffer through, except his life is full of drama and insanity and chaos.  I swear, there was not a moment where I felt like “Yawn, I could see that coming.” I definitely enjoyed reading it and was genuinely surprised and anxious as the events unfolded.  Wonderfully written.

The Secret History

It’s funny how vividly this book comes back to me even though I read it over a month ago.  I’ve read that the book is generally blasted by critics, but readers seem to love it.  I do too.

The Secret History is about a young man who attends a very small, super elite college in Vermont, where he enters this strange, closed academic world of Ancient Greece.  This group of six students are so engrossed in their studies that they really only interact with each other, which only highlights all their faults – and being geniuses, their faults are magnified to a grotesque level.  It’s hard to explain what really happens in the novel.  A lot of it is really just the students escaping to a mansion in the country to drink and smoke all weekend.  But there’s also this mastery to Tartt’s writing that echoes the ancient Greek tragedies.  Some of the same elements are there – notably, the tragic hero and a quest for beauty.

It’s also pretty genius that Tartt starts the book with the knowledge that the students have murdered their friend, and we don’t find out why or how until well into the novel.  It’s still exciting and still pretty dreadful even though you know it’s coming!

A really, really great book.  Not to mention it makes me want to study Greek.

Textbook rentals for you college types

Rent a textbook?  Isn’t spending a thousand dollars a year on textbooks part of the college rite of passage?!  I always felt bad for the science and law majors that I saw carrying stacks of books in the school bookstore paying upwards of $700 in one go!  Lucky for me, there aren’t too many “International Relations” textbooks per se, but I did grudgingly pay $110 for my International Law casebook, and nearly cried when my French textbook + workbook was $170.  I’ve been reading that e-textbooks are cropping up nowadays but I checked a few sites (textbooks.com, for one) and I didn’t find any of the textbooks that I had to buy in the last four years.

I think textbook rentals might just turn out to be a valid market.  Isn’t that what we basically do anyway?  We buy a textbook – even used it might still be $80 – with no intention of keeping it, and we post it on half.com or find a thrifty underclassman to sell to for $70 at semester’s end.  Sure, there are a few books you might want to keep – again, science and law majors come to mind – but as a recent college graduate, I still have plenty of textbooks sitting around, none of which I want, and I haven’t been able to sell them yet.  (Ahem, my books are for sale here….)

Anyway, it’s nice to see that it’s actually a big publisher that’s trying this out: the Follett Higher Education Group manages my alma mater’s bookstore.  According to the NY Times (linked at the beginning of the post), “The stores will offer about 20 percent of their titles for rent, charging 42.5 percent of the purchase price.”  Now 42.5% isn’t a huge discount for something you’re not going to own… you could buy a DVD for $25 or rent it for $5 or less – that’s an 80% discount.  But for me what’s really appealing is the guarantee that you can send the book away when you’re done with the class!  I’ve mentioned this before: I share a bedroom (and city people might agree with me on this): space is absolutely precious!  I think this might also be important for people who live far away from college too – you don’t want to bother with carting your textbooks back via plane, and we all know how valuable every pound is.  It’s vastly more convenient to be able to sell them off to an underclassmen, even if you won’t make as much as you might selling online.

Whatever you do, don’t sell back to the bookstore!  If your bookstore is anything like mine was, you’re lucky to get $10 for a book you paid $75 for.  My first semester, I stupidly sold all my textbooks back to the bookstore.  What I had paid probably $300 for yielded me about $50 in return.  Stupid freshman.

Personally, I can’t afford (nor do I want to deal with) having unwanted textbooks lying around, so for some people renting textbooks might actually be a viable option.

Let me know if any of you try it out!  (Because, well, I’m perfectly happy to not have to think about buying/renting/reading a textbook for a very long time indeed!)

Online Kindle Notes & Highlights

I woke up to a sweet little email about Kindle’s new online feature. Now you can access all your notes & highlights by simply logging in on your Amazon account at http://kindle.amazon.com. All your purchased content (so nothing from Feedbooks or anything you made yourself, just your Kindle store purchases) are listed. You just click on each book and all of your notes & highlights are there, with locations and everything.

While it’s not terribly useful to me, I think that on the rare occasion that I quote something from a book it’ll be so much more convenient than having to hook up the device to my computer, open up the txt file “My Clippings” and scroll down until I find the quotation I wanted. (Actually it would have been useful while I was writing my thesis and using Kindle books for sources… but I’m done and won’t really be writing papers for a while now.) Or perhaps since it’s so much easier I might start posting quotes more often!

Like this lovely one from Atonement!

Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen. She repeated them, with exactly the same slight emphasis on the second word, as though she had been the one to say them first. He had no religious belief, but it was impossible not to think of an invisible presence or witness in the room, and that these words spoken aloud were like signatures on an unseen contract.
(Location 1892)

Yes, I think I like it! New goal: post more quotations!

Class readings on the Kindle

So the thing is, I have a LOT of reading to do for my courses. Many of them are PDFs or Word documents that my professors post on the online Blackboard we use at my university. I try to read as much as possible; often I’m one of the few prepared to actually discuss, but if I think back over all four years of printing PDFs… my heart hurts a little bit. I recycle all my paper but I feel like I shouldn’t have printed them in the first place. I try to read on the computer when I can but it really does make my eyes hurt terribly, so when I print I usually do “Multiple pages per sheet” AND double-sided, using recycled paper. But now I can put all my PDFs on the Kindle, avoiding printing altogether! Lately all I’ve printed are papers that I write and submit, when my professor explicitly states that he/she wants a paper copy.

Rather than use the free conversion service that Amazon does (and certainly NOT paying ten cents for it either!) I’ve taken to converting my PDFs using the Mobipocket eBook Creator. You just download this program and you can upload PDFs, Word documents, HTML pages, text documents, and probably more, which you can then convert to .prc files (whatever that is, but it’s compatible with the Kindle) and it saves directly to your computer and you can just drag it into the E: drive when you plug your Kindle in. The part that I actually find most appealing over the Amazon free conversion service is that you can go to “Metadata” and specify the Title and Author, for sorting purposes on the Kindle. My biggest gripe when I used Amazon to convert was that the title was fine, but the author was my e-mail address! So annoying. Just wanted to let people know that it doesn’t have to be that way!

Advertising 2.0: Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 World

That’s right, I’m reading a book for school. Imagine that! It’s weird, I rarely read entire books for coursework because most of my classes are Diplomacy and we read more articles and parts of textbooks than we do whole books. Same goes for my Spanish and French classes, except for the semester I took Twentieth Century French Literature. Anyway, I’m reading a few books for my thesis and luckily I’m able to save a few bucks by buying these books for the Kindle 2. They’re mainly books about Internet technologies and the like so they’d better be available for the Kindle or else I’m calling foul!

First is Advertising 2.0: Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 World by Tracy L. Tuten. The main thesis as far as I understand from what I’ve read so far is that advertising is a whole new game because of the Internet, especially because of the new Web 2.0 technologies. Clearly this is the sort of stuff that interests me, since I chose to write my thesis on it, but I think it’s something that people should know about if they want to succeed, even if it’s for personal success or for advocacy purposes. I’m writing about how Web 2.0 technologies can help non-governmental organizations in their efforts, focusing on human rights NGOs. I think it’s a super efficient, totally legitimate way of spreading information and encouraging grassroots action, comparing NGO work to the political and business models of “campaigning” and “marketing”. So far I think this book is probably a great resource for my thesis!

P.S. That’s why I was asking about Kindle citations earlier! And it seems a lot of people are looking for answers too because a lot of people reached my blog by searching for “kindle citations”!