Monday, February 8, 2010

Graduate Textbooks: Facts and Advice for Future Grad Students

Many incoming graduate students worry about the amount of reading and other work that will be required of them. Obviously, I can only answer for the history graduate students. Below is a modest estimate of the amount of reading you can expect to do each semester:
The first stack are just the books required for the three classes that I am taking. The second (slighter shorter) stack is just the books that I am using for my two largest papers. As my two largest papers are on the same topic (this is perfectly acceptable as one is an argumentative paper, and the other is a bibliographical paper), I am using the same books for both papers. Otherwise, this second stack would be twice as tall as it is already. Actually, these are not even all of the books that I'll be using for those papers; another ten books have yet to arrive through interlibrary loan. Also, keep in mind that these are just the secondary sources; for the argumentative paper, I have a whole stack of primary sources which I will be using.

Graduate textbooks, as you may have already figured out, represent a significant financial investment in addition to the time investment. This semester alone, my books have totaled over $1,000 - and many of them are used. In order to progress in the field of history, one must compile a sizable personal library. This means that history grad students do not have the luxury of just borrowing our textbooks - we need to get good copies that we can keep to build up our libraries for the future. Not all of the books will used in our future careers, of course, but they are good to hold onto regardless. Since the books are such a large financial investment, I have found a few ideas for other uses of textbooks, in order to make them more cost-efficient:

For those with indoor pets, graduate textbooks can be used to build an attractive doghouse for your pet's enjoyment.

Did your graduate textbooks deplete your furniture budget? Not to worry; textbooks can be used in a myriad of attractive and functional furniture designs, such as the table and chair seen above.

Ever wonder what could possibly be more fun than building a house of cards? Building a house of textbooks, of course! Think of all the money you'll save on entertainment. No more dull Saturday nights!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"