Books for the News, Commentary, Reference and Writing

So, um, what are you going to do with that?

Here’s the thing about viral videos: take a snooze for a few days, righteously celebrate a pagan holiday, or watch an older and more conservative electorate radically alter the shape of the American political landscape, and you’re already a day late and a dollar short. This week, that video is Xtranormal’s “So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?” Picked up across the web by sites as diverse as Open Culture, a peer-to-peer educational forum, and 3 Quarks Daily, an intelligent commentary webzine, as well as by blogger Scott McLemme and nearly every graduate English student’s Facebook feed, this satiric animated exchange between a tenured professor and an ambitious would-be Humanities PhD has pithily summarized long-brewing debates about the overcrowded academic job market, low-paying adjunct salaries, and grim prospects for those who, you know, continue to study the human in all of its endeavors.
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We might not have a ready solution to all that ails, here at Chicago, but we do have plenty of resources for students similarly driven. Andrew Roberts’s The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education is a great prequel to that one-on-one conversation with professors near and dear around letter of recommendation time. Roberts offers a personalized blueprint for everything from choosing between large research universities and smaller liberal arts institutions to interacting with faculty and applying to graduate school. When the time comes to take the plunge, have a look at John A. Goldsmith, John Komlos, and Penny Schine’s The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career: A Portable Mentor for Scholars from Graduate School through Tenure. The authors have more than 75 years of combined scholarly experience between them and the book is packed with inside information about finding a mentor, negotiating job listings, navigating departmental politics, and even financing graduate education.
When all is said and done? Well, you’re either ready for William Germano’s savvy From Dissertation to Book, which artfully reveals the process of careful and thoughtful revision behind turning a dissertation into a manuscript scholarly publishers will covet—
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or you might want to crank up the stereo, put away the maudlin DVDs and Häagen-Dazs Five, and sit down with Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius’s “So What Are you Going to Do with That?”: Finding Careers Outside of Academia, a witty and accessible guide filled with stories from real people (!) who have negotiated this difficult transition and lived to tell about it (check out the website devoted to the book). Viral video coming soon.