Reading for the summer of 2011

As the summer closes and the craziness of school starts, I am in the middle of finishing some books I started, getting started on some I was supposed to have already read, and thinking about some more I want to read. Some of these I’ve already blogged on and just now I posted on Francis Fukuyama’s book, The Origins of Political Order.
This book takes me back to my undergraduate days when we struggled with some of the authors Fukuyama cites: Steward, Sahlins, Service, White and others, anthropologists who were looking at pre-literate societies and trying to find the seeds of larger orders of organization: tribes, states, empires, etc. I wasn’t so keen on that back then, wanting to feed myself with more detail about how people around the world lived; but now that I’ve absorbed a lot of that, the theory of how we organize ourselves fascinates me and Fukuyama serves that fascination well.
An amazing author, also blogged on already, and one who forced me to read 3 of his books since April, is Ned Sublette. Sublette talks about events and phenomena as current as rap artists but in a way that relates them back into the mists of our history. One example must suffice for now: the sort of sampling of records by DJs at parties can be traced to Jamaican DJs who hooked up speakers and turn tables on the beach in what was known as “sound systems”.
Many of them emigrated to NYC where they found the street lamps had plugs to run their sound systems off of. Many of the early hip-hop artists in New York were of island origin. But which islands? The British islands. Who settled the British islands? A good many people from the Akan culture (Ashanti, Ga, Fanti, Baoule, etc.) of present-day Ghana. How many people, writing of Snoop Dog, would be capable of taking a quick dip into the early slave settlers of the islands whence came a major impetus for rap and hip-hop?
An author I would like to order, should money come available, is one I just heard from today on NPR: Anne Holt. She writes in Norwegian, my newest language obsession, and her books are readily available in English, so I can order the Norwegian copy and perhaps save a little money by checking an English copy out of the library so I can check my comprehension. She writes crime fiction.
I’ll add more. I’m sleepy now.
OK, a few days later:
There’s a book on learning I’m reading: Why Students Don’t Like School. I’m trying to find something in it that will help me to reach students, but so far it’s pretty much what I think every teacher should know. I am a bit skeptical of his call for a knowledge of facts in order to have something to think with. While the author acknowledges that facts need to be taught in context and have meaning for the students, I see how teachers all too easily fall into the presentation and testing of a “bunch o’ facts”. The author is unhappy with famous personalities like Alfred North Whitehead, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Albert Einstein who poo-pooed the emphasis on facts. But they did so for a reason; they were confirming for us our distaste for school. We found school boring because school is made boring by teachers who do not think through what it is they are teaching and cannot, therefore, provide students with a seed-bed for thought.

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