Books for (re)starting school I: Your recommendations?

It may feel like summer to academics in the northern hemisphere, but the start of the school year is right around the corner. For some people, this will mean the beginning of an exciting new career in college or graduate school — for a lucky few it will mean the start of a career in college or graduate school as a professor. For many more, it is a time to find new ways to do familiar things better.

Doing the life of the mind is a strange thing — we are expected to learn it through osmosis. We are rarely taught explicitly what learning and teaching is. Some people are lucky enough to go to a place where a strong culture of learning and teaching is in the air. Others are lucky enough to find a mentor who they can learn from. For others, the internetz and books provide a mediated but important source of information. And then, of course, we’ve all met professors and students who seem to have never learned how to teach or learn at all.

There are a million books about how to study, how to mentor, how to survive, how to apply, etc. etc. etc. but the signal to noise ratio is pretty poor. I have some of my own personal favorites I’ve blogged about in the past . But before I share some of those favorites I thought I’d ask whether SM readers have any that they’d recommend?

Let me know — we can collate the answers and share them in a post.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

3 thoughts on “Books for (re)starting school I: Your recommendations?

  1. The Good Life of Teaching by Chris Higgins (education scholar out of University of Illinois) is an excellent piece that develops a sort of virtue ethics of teaching and professional practice. He incorporates in a very interesting way, work by Hannah Arendt, Dewey, Hans Gadamer, Bernard Williams, among others. Definitely worth taking a look at before the Fall semester!

  2. Howard Becker (1998) Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Your Research While Doing It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Something to keep by your side (all sorts of fun things to talk about) and to hand to smart students who are ready to think for themselves. If they ask, “Isn’t this by a sociologist?” You can grin and say, “Yes. . . .”

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