Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The World's Worst Summer Reading List

I went to Barnes and Noble the other day; not my usual source for books, but I needed something obvious and wanted it quickly if possible. (I wish I could say I was desperate for my copy of Madame Bovary or A Brief History of Time, but, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I gave my copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to a student and never got it back.) Anyway, I direct your attention to the photo at left for a glimpse at the horror I encountered while in the store.

The title of this display is "For the Teacher." All right, fine. The first book I wish to point out is the companion volume for Waiting for Superman in the upper right. As if that wasn't bad enough, you can probably see easily for yourself the two(!) shelves of the Michelle Rhee biography The Bee Eater. Then, just to destroy the spirit of your local public school teacher even more, you have a shelf of DIY U, a book about how students can just bypass all that silly school and college stuff and teach themselves instead. All of that is so bad that I probably don't even need to mention the "Star Student Reward Coupon Book," the little orange thing, which is not even geared towards teachers at all, but rather towards parents of school-age children. (Unless the book is suggesting that teachers regularly have their students at their homes for movies and pizza...? Squick.)

Well, Barnes and Noble, I'll assume that no one in your corporation has a nefarious agenda, and that some sales lackey put this display together by tossing out a few copies of some bestsellers that seemed "teacher-ish." But you should really think before putting out material that is pretty dispiriting to real live teachers under the title "For the Teacher." I'm not being dramatic when I say that I saw this display, thought about it for a minute or two, went back, took this photo, and left without buying anything, not so much as a coffee or a magazine. It really put me off. I'm not joking. Rarely have I felt so misunderstood by a business I usually found to be, if not actively excellent, at least not actively offensive.

This was a temporary downer in my summer vacation, which has so far been wonderful. I'm not enjoying the weather, but I am going away soon, which makes me happy. I've actually been out of town quite a bit this month. And staying at home in the air conditioning and reading books is actually, in my opinion, quite a fine way to spend one's vacation.

As long as those books didn't come from Barnes and Noble, at least.
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