Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Bedside Baccalaureate: The Second Semester Edited by David Rubel

fpo  Every morning for the last six or seven years I have begun my day by reading a page from an nonfiction book that explains how some aspect of the world and/or human history works. The idea is to improve one's knowledge and education on a certain subject or subjects. I started with a book called The Intellectual Devotional. That book became a series with devotionals focused on American history, modern culture, health, and biographies, each of which I devoted a year too. For a change of pace one year I found a devotional for book lovers called appropriately enough, the Bibliophiles Devotional. Each page (365 in total, one for each day of the year) was devoted to a literary classic. Having finished The Intellectual Devotional series, for 2015 I looked for another similar type book and found The Bedside Baccalaureate. Skipping the first book in the series, I decided to begin my mornings in 2015 with a page from The Bedside Baccalaureate: The Second Semester.

Of these type of books I've read, The Bedside Baccalaureate might be my favorite. It is divided into four sections or syllabi. Each syllabus consisted of five courses, for a total of twenty courses. Broadly speaking the courses covered topics in art, literature, the classics, math and engineering, social science, history, economics, physical science, religion, environmental science, and philosophy. I learned a little about the anatomy of the Internet, electricity and magnetism, the roots of the Cold War, the epics of the Trojan War, the Protest Reformation, Sigmund Freud, and Italian Renaissance art. My favorite courses were on game theory, issues in feminism, the 1913 Armory Show, meteorology and climate, the history of modern China, and the origins of Judaism. Some courses or topics I still don't understand. (If there was a test of electricity and magnetism I would absolutely fail). Some topics whet my appetite for more and led me down rabbit holes to find more information. (Who knew game theory would turn out to be so interesting?)

I really enjoyed my morning reading ritual this past year. (Who am I kidding, I enjoy it every year or I wouldn't do it.) These types of books are a great way to learn something knew without it feeling like you're back in school. The small chunks of information (just one page) keep it interesting and remove any iota of intimidation I might have about tackling a new topic, especially one having to do with science or engineering, two things I generally know little about. The Bedside Baccalaureate had the added benefit of being divided into four sections, which meant I didn't spend a whole year on the topics I enjoyed less.

Eventually, maybe in 2017, I will read the first semester of The Bedside Baccalaureate.  For 2016, I'm going to switch things up and pick a nonfiction book from my way-too-big TBR pile. It won't be a devotional but something that hopefully I can divided into small chunks and read slowly. Hopefully it will be just as interesting and educational.

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