God-awful Textbooks: When to Just Skim
In high school, I considered textbooks to be the bane of my existence. They were unnecessarily large and required you to jump through all sort of hoops to keep them in “good condition”, like expertly crafting sleeves out of paper bags or scouring countless Rite Aids to find those stretchy book-sock things. Then they added a wildly disproportionate weight to your backpack despite their size. Blandly worded scoliosis.
The only upsides to these hand-me-down fountains of boredom was exploring the annotations left by those before you (I once wrote “This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince” in a chemistry book because I figured it’d be the closest I ever got to Potions class), and the fact that they were free.
In college, they’re not even free. What is this blasphemy? You have a few bleak options:
- Go for convenience and buy them from your campus bookstore, but pay ridiculous sums of money for them.
- Order them online after classes have started and suffer through a 3-to-five-business-day purgatory when readings are being assigned but you do not yet have the material. (This will likely be the only time all semester when you feel compelled to do reading assignments.)
I always choose door number two. I peruse websites of questionable integrity to find used books at the lowest possible rates and then wait up to two weeks for them to arrive, often more than gently used. This year I held a personal record, however. My last book to arrive was a gem entitled, Functional Anatomy of Speech, Language, and Hearing. It showed up two weeks late, didn’t have a real binding, and proudly displayed this image on the front:
When the package I knew to be this book arrived in the mail room, I waited another 3 weeks to actually retrieve it. My liberal arts-inclined brain was simply not itching to read a poorly constructed book of such science-y nature. When I did finally open it, I was struck by the preface. (I read the preface to put off reading the real book.) It provided some advice, and the advice was to “skim” rather than read the chapters, because if I tried to actually read this book, I would most definitely become overwhelmed.
I’m sure the authors were only trying to help the anatomy-challenged population, but seriously? How can you write something and then preface it with, “yeah, you probably shouldn’t read this.” I’ve taken their advice to heart, and used this textbook not for reading but for staring blankly at aerial views of the human larynx. Worth every penny.