Books on Cupcakes, Economics and Stuff

Some early fall nonfiction.

September 22, 2014

The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax 

Published in May of 2014.

Are MOOCs more like cupcakes or quality hamburgers?  A fad or a trend?  Is the flipped classroom the next fondue or something more durable?  Will learning analytics fail to catch on like everyone is expecting, akin to the failure of Indian cuisine to become an American culinary staple?  None of these questions are answered in The Tastemakers.  You will have to draw your own conclusions about the utility of learning about food trends in understanding academic trends.  Read this delectable and frothy book and decide for yourself.  Let us know.

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik

Published in May of 2014.

The world of academe is maddeningly ephemeral.  We deal in concepts and ideas.  At levels of abstraction removed from the physical world.  The disconnect with real things is only getting worse in higher ed as we rush headlong into our digital and disembodied future.  Reading Miodownik is an excellent antidote to our evanescent malady.  We should know what makes up the hard world that we occupy. How the steel in our cars came to be, why we can see through our windows (and look at all of our screens), and why plastic is still the future.  I think that we may have a rush of applications to PhD programs in material sciences.  

Big Picture Economics: How to Navigate the New Global Economy by Joel Naroff and Ron Scherer

Published in April of 2014.  

It was with an eye towards making the connection between the U.S. economy and the higher ed economy that I read Big Picture Economics.  If I was one of those people that stayed up at night with worry I think it would be around the question of how higher ed can possibly navigate the new global economy?  Big Picture Economics is a useful piece of this very complicated puzzle.  Naroff and Scherer are attuned to picking up the weak signals that precede growth or stagnation.  They are interested in helping us make the connection between what we see going on around us at ground level today with how the economy as a whole will change tomorrow.  I would enjoy taking a campus tour with these authors, questioning them about how they interpret what they are seeing as clues to our higher ed (and national economic) future.

What are you reading?


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