We’re going back into the school year – the first day of my husband’s last semester of university actually starts today! So the topic this Tuesday is an education-related freebie. I’m going with ten books that I’ve used, am using, or am planning to use, to further my own personal education. I was homeschooled until eighth grade in a conservative Christian setting, so my science and history backgrounds were never very strong. I’ve been trying to overcome that most of my adult life.
To start things off, I really want to read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. The description makes it sound like I’ll identify with it a lot. We weren’t rural, we lived in town, and my parents wanted us educated, but certainly not to the public school system’s standards. (Though I was lucky enough to live in a state that demanded standardized yearly testing for homeschoolers, so I wasn’t as bad off as Tara.) I have a hold on this book at my library, but so does everyone else!
Among the books I have used in the years since is Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s mostly a history of science – discoveries, inventions, famous scientists – it’s fascinating. I checked it out from a library twice before finally buying my own copy. It’s long, and it took me some time to work through, but there was so much that I didn’t know. And Bryson has a knack for explaining things in a down-to-earth way that keeps my interest.
When my husband started prepping to be deployed to Afghanistan, I picked up Power, Faith, and Fantasy: American in the Middle East 1776 to the Present. It’s nearly 1000 pages, but it’s a pretty thorough history of our involvement with the region. I did realize after reading it that its author, Michael B. Oren, is a Zionist Jew, meaning he’s biased towards Israel, so that’s something to keep in mind while reading his takes on the region. Growing up the way I did, I now try to be aware of what biases authors may have and how that can affect the books they write.
Another, more basic book that helped my self-education was a simple high school biology textbook! Biology: Principles & Explorations opened my eyes to a whole new world I hadn’t understood at all. I was able to find a workbook for it on Amazon, and worked through, a chapter at a time, discussing concepts with my much more scientifically literate husband. Similarly, I have Geosystems and its associated workbook that I started to work through. I need to get back into that one.
My education on Feminism began with Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed my Life. The author talks about all the classic Feminist texts she read, giving me a jumping off point to find other books to read. I owe a lot to this one just for showing me what I didn’t know! I have since collected several of the texts she mentions, and have branched out further to read more intersectionally.
In History, I have a history book of the U.S. just called “America.” I set myself a challenge to read it this year, reading three chapters a month – and have failed miserably at it as I haven’t touched the book. And it’s August. Whoops.
In political history, a book that enthralled me for a while was Great Speeches of Our Time, collected by Hywel Williams. I really like it because it gives context for the speeches and a little bit of background on each speaker, then the text of the speech. And these are amazing speeches from a wide variety of speakers.
A book that sits on the line between politics and history is Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated History of the U.S. Marines. This was another one I read while my husband was in the Marines; I was trying to understand the history and culture of what we’d joined. While it is a history of a specific branch of the Armed Forces, it’s also a history of the wars the US has been involved in.
I’m not sure which book to pick for my last book on this list; I have a habit of picking up textbooks for subjects I’m interested in – I have several on Counseling and psychology, a couple more on basic sciences, an intro to sociology, and a Spanish course (Plazas) with a variety of workbooks. (And a bookful of CDs! It was an excellent package I found used!)
I think actually for my tenth pick here I’ll go with Tears We Cannot Stop. Of the books I’ve read on racism so far, it’s the one that hit the hardest. And, like Reading Women, it suggested many more titles to explore the issues further.
Not all of these are school-related, exactly, but each of these that I’ve read has been educational. I never want to stop learning. That’s part of why I read!