Looking for a good read to begin 2014 right? We have some recommendations for you! Here’s a list of eNotes’ staff members favorite picks from a year of reading. We hope it inspires you when creating your list for 2014.
Clearly the editors, interns, marketing staff and others behind eNotes are a mixed bunch, with high-brow, chick lit, and even photography manuals between us. Check out our reads and let us know what’s on your list in a comment below.
This huge bestseller was probably on many readers’ lists for 2013, with its spellbinding plot and really, pretty horrifying characters. It had me compulsively turning its pages, making Gillian Flynn’s dark thriller easily a one-weekend-read. Warning: don’t pick it up without a bit of time on your hands; you won’t want to put it down without solving the mystery of Amy Dunne’s disappearance.
One of eNotes’ co-founders selected a throwback for his 2013 pick: David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest. The book is set in a futuristic society of North America and has inspired some polarizing opinions from readers for its complex plot, but it has to be admired for its influence over the past two decades of fiction. If you’re looking for a challenging, important read, look no further.
Ahh… idyllic picture of college life, mais non? Well, recently on American campuses, two not-so-wonderful events transpired.
Fail Numero Uno: Let’s begin with that bastion of the Ivy League, Cornell University. It seems that the school’s stalwart repositories of knowledge, its libraries, have been used for some non-academic purposes, namely the filming of pornographic videos. Perhaps… the videos were an ironic take on the cinematic genre, perhaps, an homage if you will, to youth and freedom and self-expression. Perhaps it was just your standard porn featuring a young lady engaged in some solo activity and co-starring Carpenter Hall, the Engineering School’s library.
One student, who (in the pursuit of education, I am sure) watched the video before the (I assume “frantic”) campus administrators removed the link, offers this analysis: ”She’s facing a window (the one by the bike racks) and it’s broad daylight. And at one point you can see people behind her studying.”
Fail Numero Dos: Ever accidentally hit “reply all” on an email and immediately realize you’ve spammed dozens of people? Well, imagine that to the tune of forty thousand people. That’s just what happened to NYU student Max Wiseltier, who innocently was trying to simply reply to the bursar’s office. He realized his error almost instantly and tried to do the right thing by apologizing to those who received the email meant only for the bursar. It should have ended there. But, as the campus’ newspaper reported, Max’s email ”triggered a rare, University-wide revelation.” That revelation? ”We simultaneously realized that any message, complaint, whim, link, video, or GIF could be sent to nearly 40,000 people in an instant.”
It didn’t take long for thousands of students to act on this delightful way to terrorize their campus. The system, unsurprisingly, soon crashed. Not long after, it was discovered that incorrect listserv software was attached to the original message, sparking what is now going down in campus legend as the “Reply-apocalypse.” Whoops.
If you were to go back to the old copies of the novels and plays I still rely upon—To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Hamlet—to do my daily teaching, you would see all sorts of scribbled notes in different colored pens. You would see highlighters in every color imaginable. You would see small pieces of printed material taped to pages. You would see dog-ears and great big rips among the stressed-out bindings of my paperback copies. You would see the small word “Ha!” scrawled next to anything remotely funny.
Well, according to a new Princeton study, if I relied upon a Kindle DX to view these same literary masterpieces, I’d be in quite the pickle, indeed.
I remember a teacher I had long ago preaching to the class about how margin notes reeked of lower intelligence. I can only laugh at her now as I use some of those very notes, some from wise souls as far back as high school, to teach my own classes. Although not for everyone, notes on the side of a page are like gold to me. They always reveal the teacher’s wisdom on the subject: wisdom that I often lacked at the time, . . . and that wisdom is scrawled right next to the exact quote from the work in question.
Thus stands the problem for both students and teachers for the Kindle DX.
According to a recent article from USA Today and follow-up in educationnews.org, the college students at Princeton (although well equipped to embrace the new technology) grew frustrated with a few simple functions that were lacking. Stated simply, the Kindle DX has no ability to highlight, no ability to use different colors to differentiate underlined text, no way to scrawl simple notes in a margin (only typed on a keypad), no easy way to maneuver through the work to underlined text, no way to skim or flip randomly through a work, no way to mark text via “page” number, no way to keep multiple texts open at the same time, and no real system for organizing typed annotation.
In short, although this product is perfect for simple reading, the students at Princeton weren’t convinced it was a good scholarly aid.
This device needs to make things easier, not more frustrating, for students trying to annotate and, further, for students following along in class when the professor simply asks them to “turn to page 154.” Michael Koenig, director of operations at Virginia’s Darden School of Business who also ran a Kindle DX study, said, “It’s just not as flexible or nimble as having your paper notes or your laptop right there, . . . not quite ready for prime time.”
Still, others called it a “first-generation product” with lots of potential. At least 15% of students loved the device, citing perfection for students on-the-go as well as the “green” aspect of using zero paper products.
For me, unless the descendants of the new Kindle come with a stylus and different color options, I think I’ll pass on this technology for everything except the simple reading of a text. However, that isn’t to say that these improvements aren’t already hanging in the balance . . . .