Summer Reading

One of my goals this summer was to do more reading. I return to school is 21 days; so, I decided to capture what I’ve read so far since I probably won’t read too much more in the next few weeks.

I always fall behind on my magazines during the school year. So, every summer I skim the backlog and make notes for articles to reference later if they are relevant to a topic in class or a project to build. Over the years, I’ve reduced the number of magazines I faithfully read (or at least skim) to the three from which I learn the most: Scientific American, MAKE, and The Physics Teacher.

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

I’ll read anything Hawking writes. After all, A Brief History of Time is what sparked my interested in physics and cosmology back in high school. I found The Grand Design interesting, enjoyable, and useful in unexpected ways. While the idea of M-Theory is interesting, I found the description of models and model-dependent realism excellent. In fact, I’m going to start AP Physics B with several quotes from the book on this topic as students really struggle to reconcile reality and models (“What is an electron, really?” “Are virtual particles actually present?” “How can light be both a wave and a particle?”). I also found their description of Feynman’s “sum over histories” particularly clear, and I hope that helps me teach quantum effects better next year.

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays by Stephen Hawking

Not having my fill of Hawking, I remembered this much older book that my brother had given to me. It was enjoyable to read Hawking’s essays that were written over a period of decades and reminded me of what an amazing period of time it has been, and continues to be, for the field of cosmology.

Physics for Future Presidents by Richard A. Muller

While I had read selected chapters from Physics for Future Presidents, I hadn’t read the entire book. This book is incredible in that it makes such an authentic connection between physics and the greatest technological, society, and political challenges that we have in a manner that is digestible by high school students. We are fortunate to have a classroom set and I hope we find more ways to utilize this book next year.

Publishing with iBooks Author by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer

I downloaded this book for free from O’Reilly. I wanted a quick read to familiarize myself with iBooks Author as I was writing my AP Physics B review iBook. If you are familiar with the iWork apps, you can figure out iBooks Author, but this ebook sped me through a few of the the app’s rough edges.

Learning Java by Patrick Niemeyer and Jonathan Knudsen

I will be teaching AP Computer Science for the first time this fall. I haven’t written anything in Java in a very long time. Whenever I need to learn a technology quickly, I turn to O’Reilly. I admit that I only read the first twelve chapters. However, this book was perfect for refreshing my memory, filling in the missing pieces, and updating me on what has transpired over the past fifteen years.

Five Easy Lessons by Randall D. Knight

Dr. Knight was kind enough to send me a free copy of his book after a Global Physics Department meeting where he spoke. I started reading it shortly after receiving it, but it remained on the bedside table unopened as the semester became more hectic. There is so much wisdom and practical advice within its pages. I’ve made a note to remind myself when planning each unit next year to reference the appropriate chapter in Five Easy Lessons to see how I can improve my pedagogy. I still have a few more chapters to read before school starts.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

While all of the above books were enjoyable to read, occasionally it is good to read something not directly related to science or technology. I had received Sedaris’ latest book as a gift. It is uniquely Sedaris and a wonderful read.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

This book isn’t released until October 9th, but I’ve read some great reviews already. I hope to make time to read it during the fall semester. Sean and I grew up reading comic books together and I can’t wait to see what he has written!

What have you read worth sharing this summer? Let me know!

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