Tuesday, January 13, 2015


A collection of my favorite books - only one of them is on my new reading list.

If you are a returning student,  the State of California mandates that you be assessed in Math and English.  I knew I was above average in one – below in the other.

The (predictable) bad news is that my math scores reflected major negligence on my part of math disciplines and practices.  The good news is that my assessment test didn’t score me as the village idiot.  Because of this, I was placed in “Introduction to Algebra” – a class that makes me tremble with fear and apprehension.

I qualified for the Honors Track in English and the Humanities (such is the dichotomy of my brain, reasoning and life).  The counselor encouraged me to take honors English, but the class was closed.  Instead, I was slotted into “Honors American History” and “Honors Political Science”.  I rolled my eyes.  Politics in college… here it comes.

The bookstore was swarming with  a ton of folks who, like me, were starting the spring term in a few days and needed a reading list.  The only one who was my age was the cop behind the counter, who  told me I couldn’t take my coffee mug (that I brought from home) and my copy of Marcel Proust’s complete short stories (also from home) past the metal detectors. 

“You can put it in one of those lockers,” he said, pointing to the row of metal lockers on the wall.  They had keys with blue plastic handles, like the cheap ones at the gym.  I wondered if I could use the padlock I carried with me (for the gym) to lock my contraband away. 

I knew I didn’t have a quarter. 

I dug around in my purse and came up with four shiny nickels (Jefferson looks amazing on the new nickel) and five pennies.  Mercifully, the man exchanged it for a quarter and I locked my stuff in #52.  Just in case I forgot which locker it was I wouldn’t forget how old I was… hopefully.

I made my way around the store – I have NEVER felt lost in a bookstore…until this one.  It was disorganized enough that every student needed an intern to help them.  Mine was a young man that reminded me of David, my son.  He had a full beard, glasses and a quick wit that made me smile, despite the sticker prices on the books.

“Is this dollars?” I asked, stuttering.  “Forty dollars for a USED book?”

“You don’t need that one,” he said, moving on to the American Literature section.  I saw very little of what I would call American Literature there – until I saw the empty shelf of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. 

“I have it,” I said as the intern tapped the empty shelf. 

“Good!” he said, then moved to a stack of a new novel – one called “The Infinite Tides” by Christian Kiefer.  The book looked interesting and I could tell by flipping through it I would enjoy it (it reminded me of my second novel’s subject matter – kind of).  It wasn’t until I read the author synopsis that I saw the writer was a professor at ARC.  I couldn’t help remarking. 

“Look, the author is a Professor here,” I laughed.  “Hell of a way to sell your book – put it in your class’ required reading.”  I wondered if I would enjoy the lower division forced reading. 

That was just the beginning.  The math book (at 160 dollars – one hundred and sixty dollars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) came with a lab included, like I was supposed to say “Oh, I see, the lab is included, then that’s a good price.  I’ll take that after all!” 

Ronal Dahl’s classic How Democratic is the Constitution? is the only book (besides Hawthorne) that I recognized.  The others were:

Freshman Orientation: House Style and Home Style, The story of Rep. Joe Schwartz's first term in the US House of Representatives.

The Kitchen Debate and Cold War Consumer Politics: A Brief History with Documents

Harlem Renaissance

The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People Volume 2 (to rent it for a semester is 20 dollars and change.  To buy it is an unthinkable 90 dollars).

The Triangle Fire: A Brief History with Documents

Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism: A Brief Biography with Documents

The good news is that I had a beautiful case of buyers remorse when I got home and I decided to return the Algebra book.  I’m not a mathematician, but the sticker price is not worth becoming one.  I’ll figure out how to do this math class by next semester. 

For now my schedule is gentle and will ease me into courses as follows:  

US History and Political Science T/THU 12-3
American Lit Wed. night 6-9

I swear, I'll take math at some point!

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