The Fall Reading Guide that will transform your first semester

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The Fall Reading Guide that will transform your first semester

Eva Pace, Life Editor

Hopefully, most Vanderbilt students have now escaped the initial scramble of first semester that leads us to brave the textbook pick-up line at Barnes and Nobles and enslaves us to emails from Vanderbilt Mail Services. With dorms decorated and backpacks filled, the path in front of us has cleared. We can now level our focus to first semester, and with this comes the opportunity to learn from years past and improve ourselves both academically and otherwise. But what is the best way to make this learning something tangible? Books!

Independent Nashville bookstore Parnassus Books consistently makes an effort to revive the book scene; hosting several author-led events in their location just by the Mall at Green Hills and delivering interesting reads for all ages. Recently, the editor of their book blog Musing suggested a collection of ‘Back to School’ books with lessons to impart; we’ve collected some of our favorites below.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

By Emily Nagoski & Amelia Nagoski

As Vanderbilt students, we’ve all experienced (or will soon experience) it: burnout. This best-selling author-professor duo seamlessly identifies that feeling and ties it specifically to the mounting stresses of womanhood. Besides simply understanding this phenomenon, the pair illustrates exactly what you can do to fix it.

Simultaneously witty and profound, Burnout is the book that provides advice backed on science while keeping it real with refreshing pop-culture references. Through a series of exercises, worksheets and facts, readers can expect to emerge from this read prepared to acknowledge the cycle of exhaustion and stress in which they live and begin to pave their path to wellness. In our little bubble of Nashville that we call Vanderbilt, it goes without saying that this advice is something that both women and men alike could benefit from.

 

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

By Jennifer L. Eberhardt

In recent years, our campus has made an active effort towards having greater inclusivity and diversity in both admitted students and on-campus activities. However, I think it is clear that we still have quite a ways to go until we can confidently say we’ve scaled that bridge. This is not something that can be fixed or even improved without educated people getting involved, and prejudice and race are things that can be incredibly misconstrued if discussed ignorantly. 

For this reason, there is not a better person from which to learn than author Jennifer L. Eberhardt. One of Foreign Policy‘s 100 Leading Global Thinkers, Dr. Eberhardt is a psychology professor at Stanford University where she consistently brings researchers and faculty together to address significant social issues. In her book, Biased, she uses investigation, science and personal experience to address the uncomfortable truths of racial bias in all levels of society and offers practical suggestions for reform. Not only is this information directly applicable to Vanderbilt’s campus, but it is a must-read to change the way all students think about reform. 

 

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

By Jenny Odell

There is a mounting pressure that cannot be ignored when it comes to being the “perfect Vanderbilt student.” We are all experts at being hyperactive machines; cranking out work for challenging classes and extracurriculars 24/7 all while trying to maintain our active Instagram presence. Doing nothing seems to be the hardest thing of all. 

How to Do Nothing by Stanford professor Jenny Odell seeks to educate its audience about our most precious resource: attention. Odell highlights that until we can steer our thinking away from capitalist efficiency and data-productivity, we will never be able to arrive at more meaningful understandings of progress and humankind’s role in our environment. On campus, that means logging out of Brightspace and logging into better prioritization. 

 

The Gifted School

By Bruce Holsinger

While it doesn’t necessarily match the self-help trend of the books listed above, The Gifted School serves as a refreshingly fictional exploration into the college admissions scandal and the fears of ambitious parents in modern America. This page-turner is set in a fictional small town in Colorado, where the perspectives of four families reveal the consequences of simmering resentments and the lengths that adults will go to get ahead. 

As students at a prestigious school like Vanderbilt, it is only natural that a fair share of us has a pair of helicopter parents on our backs. So whether you choose to pick up Holsinger’s novel as a relatable, exciting read, or if you are looking for a deeper exploration into the examination of motivation and family dynamics, it promises to be a difficult novel to put down. 

 

The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

By Amanda Little

If the news has been on your radar at all for the last couple of years you inevitably have heard about the perils of climate change around our planet. While very relevant, the topic is something that can feel abstract due to its lack of tangible effects as of yet. 

Award-winning environmental journalist and Vanderbilt professor Amanda Little seeks to bridge that gap by providing fascinating glimpses into the lives of people working actively in the modern-day food revolution. Traveling everywhere from Kenya to Wisconsin, Little’s research focuses on both solving the immediate issues of industrial agriculture and investigating its sustainability in the future. In her book, she shares a deeper understanding of just how dangerous the pressures of climate change have become as well as the human ingenuity that has arisen to confront it. Whether you’re an environmental aficionado or are just worried that your burgers will taste worse in thirty years, Little’s novel is worth the read. 

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