All hail sloth!

Posted: October 13, 2009 in Uncategorized









The World’s Best Thin Books: What to Read When Your Book Report is Due Tomorrow by Joni Richards Bodart

Reviews say this book’s great because it touts good, riveting short books, implying once a student finishes one of these little gems s/he may then go on to read more books – I presume of varying lengths. It’s all in the service of lighting a fire under reluctant readers, theoretically, convincing those who’ve resisted to become converts.

In that case, yes. I like that idea.

But there’s another side. This sort of thing all but encourages students to  put off work as long as possible, knowing they’ll have time to polish off a very short – but hopefully impressive – book, then cram in the report during the wee hours of the day it’s due. I’m not sure about others, but I doubt I do my best writing while exhausted, having been up all night reading, regardless of how good the book is.

Some proficient writers could produce a decent report written in a rush, a looming deadline forcing them into serious critic mode double-quick.  But most can’t, since this requires a degree of expertise beyond the sort of person who crams reports into the last few hours. So, yes, you may get the reluctant reader to read (as s/he has no real choice, anyway), but the resulting quality of the report is iffy at best. Plus, you’ve just encouraged a student to take a literature course less seriously, relegating it to the status of an unimportant class you can skim through, squeaking out a passing grade.

That’s the English literature major in me talking, of course. The librarian part retorts, “But s/he is reading a BOOK!” Yes, maybe. S/he is likely skimming a book, then scribbling off something good enough to pass the assignment.

I know I did this sometimes, in pursuit of my undergraduate degree. I wouldn’t study quite enough for a test because I had a paper due at the same time. That sort of thing. And, being a literature major, I resisted skimping on that.  That may be six of one, half dozen of another, though, depending on your major discipline. I may be a little prejudiced.

Just a  little.

As far as academic sins go, it may not be such a terrible thing to read a thin book – giving yourself more time to work on the actual report – rather than painting yourself into a corner after having dedicated yourself to War and Peace when The Stranger may have sufficed. I guess the big question is, what books has this author chosen as gripping short works guaranteed to appeal to a student? If these are truly worthy books, like Wharton’s Ethan Frome, that’s one thing. But if they’re short and of no literary quality that’s another thing.

According to our library, we have this book at the reference desk. I’ll have a look, then see what I think. I shouldn’t judge it by its title, no  matter how tempting that is.  But some things about the concept irk me.

So, I promise not to drone on and on until I’ve had a chance to see the actual list of recommended books. But I reserve the right to drone on and on then. Consider that early warning.


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