Thursday, February 05, 2009

Outstanding Books for the College Bound

Three years pass in a blink of an eye when one is having fun. It was three years ago that I accepted an appointment to serve on the Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners committee. A 15 member committee assigned the daunting task of finding engaging books for students wanting to attend college or those wanting to keep abreast of readings in a particular field of study.

Within our group the fields of study were divided into five with three members assigned to a particular area. I served on the Science and Technology. The other areas include Social Sciences, History and Cultures, Arts and Humanities, and Literature and Language Arts.

As a member of this committee, we promised to attend all meetings with the possibility of one missed session. Meetings were scheduled twice during annual and midwinter conferences of the American Library Association on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. In the early stages we canceled the Sunday meetings for lack of work.

This is the story of how we rolled. At the first meeting, we did introductions and divided into groups. At the second meeting, we read the previous mission statement for the Science and Technology sub-committee and developed our own. At the third meeting, we discussed all the past books on the S&T list and decided on those that needed to be reconsidered. At the fourth meeting, we began the process of nominating books and reading nominees. At the fifth meeting we talked about the books nominated and possible books in the same category that might be better. During our sixth and last meeting, we decided on the books for the list and wrote annotations for those books.

I heard other groups did a little less looking back at the old lists and began nominating books and reading new stuff from the point after writing the individual mission statements at the second meeting. I see how this would be essential for those whose lists of books were enormous like Literature and Language Arts and History and Cultures.

I found it amazing how we all seemed to be done at the same time that last Sunday afternoon meeting. Our group wrote the annotations over night at our separate hotels then edited them at that last meeting. We were packing up to leave when our fierce leader, Sarajo Wentling, suggested we all read our different lists to expose dupes.

As a nicety to my readers here is the Science and Technology list.

1.) God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment by Scott Adams
2.) Feed by M.T. Anderson
3.) Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres
4.) Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best
5.) A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
6.) The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey
7.) The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats by Joanne Chen
8.) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
9.) Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik
10.) Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery
11.) The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters by Rose George
12.) The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip M. Hoose
13.) Out of Orbit: The Incredible True Story of Three Astronauts Who Were Hundreds of Miles Above Earth When They Lost Their Ride Home by Chris Jones
14.) A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
15.) Mosque by David Macaulay
16.) Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body by David Macaulay
17.) American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau edited by Bill McKibben
18.) Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future by Greg Melville
19.) The Botany of Desire: a Plant’s Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
20.) The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
21.) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
22.) Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth by Gerald Schroeder
23.) The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein
24.) The Genomics Age: How DNA Technology is Transforming the Way We Live and Who We Are by Gina Smith
25.) Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--From the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi