Some of COSSPP Faculty’s Favorite Academic Books

Each year FSU’s newly tenured faculty are asked to hand-pick an item for the Libraries in a subject area of their choosing. The faculty’s picks are purchased and inscribed with the faculty member’s name, department, and the year. Faculty are asked to write a brief paragraph explaining why the book they selected is meaningful to them. Here are the picks for 2019-2020.

Miranda Waggoner (Sociology)
Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome & The Diagnosis of Moral Disorder by Elizabeth M. Armstrong

Early on in my graduate studies, a wise mentor gave me the advice to find a book I wish I had written. Then, my mentor said, you will have a very good idea of what kind of scholar you want to become. Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility was that book for me. It examines the sociocultural history of fetal alcohol syndrome, combining insights from the history and sociology of medicine to show how the production of medical knowledge about alcohol and reproduction is intricately intertwined with prevailing moral beliefs about women’s social standing. It is a brilliant and comprehensive book, in both analysis and argument. Moreover, the prose is exquisite, raising the bar for sociologists everywhere. Happily, I had the wonderful opportunity and unique pleasure of getting to work with the author of this book, Professor Betsy Armstrong, years after completing that helpful exercise prescribed by my graduate-school mentor. Dr. Armstrong’s ongoing mentorship and friendship means so much to me, as both a scholar and a person, and my enduring professional goal is to produce work at the high level of scholarship that she exemplified with this remarkable book.

Luke Boosey (Economics)
Handbook of Experimental Economic Methodology, edited by Guillaume R. Frechette and Andrew Schotter

I’ve selected this Handbook for two reasons. First, it collects in one place many key insights for the design of experiments in economics with a special focus on the relationship between experiments and economic theory. The contributions all come from highly esteemed researchers in my field – many of whom have shaped the foundations for my own research, which combines experimental work with applied economic theory. When I was an undergraduate student, I was first introduced to the idea of experimental economics through an article by Al Roth entitled “The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics”. It is fitting then, that the first chapter in this Handbook was contributed by Al Roth (now a Nobel laureate). Second, it’s my hope that current and future graduate students will find this to be an especially useful reference as they navigate the growing field of experimental economics. Perhaps someone will draw inspiration from within this comprehensive collection of works, in the same way that Roth’s article inspired me to pursue an academic career many years ago. 

Hans J.G. Hassell (Political Science)
Notes from an Amateur – A Disciple’s Life in the Academy by John S. Tanner

I read this book by former Florida State Assistant Professor of English John Tanner, just after beginning my first position at a small liberal arts college in Iowa. It is a collection of essays written to faculty when he was the academic vice president of Brigham Young University. In one of those essays, Dr. Tanner emphasizes focusing an academic career on love which is the root of the word amateur. He explains that ‘I am persuaded that our professional lives, like our personal lives, ought to be grounded in love. Love is indeed the only motive truly worthy a life. It is the authentic ground for every truly Christian life and for all aspects of our lives as disciples, including our lives in  the disciplines.’ Rather than ambition or professional obligation, Tanner advocates the focusing of one’s efforts on the love of students, on the love of the discipline and subject matter of study, and on the love of God. This focus has influenced my career and has helped me work through the struggles and disappointments that come with a life in academia. I have found that when I focus on the love I have for what I am doing or for whom I am serving I find my life and my work to be more abundantly beautiful.

Daniel Fay (Public Administration)

Public Values and Public Interest: Counterbalancing Economic Individualism by Barry Bozeman

I was lucky enough to work with Barry Bozeman in my doctoral studies.  This book was essential to my education and research trajectory.  In the text Bozeman describes the false binary between the public and private sectors while also describing the limitations of economic individualism.  I have used this text to explore public management and policy in a variety of contexts, but also to remind myself of the value of effective governance.  This book has received countless awards in my discipline because Bozeman underscores the importance of maximizing the performance of organizations and policies across the publicness continuum in order to achieve public value, not just individual self-interest.

David G. Berlan (Public Administration)
The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, 3rd edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley

Scholars of nonprofit organizations, like myself, are scattered across disciplines. This book, and its two earlier editions, creates a venue that brings this scattered research together and charts out potential paths for future research. The book is also personally meaningful. It was the first source that treated my primary area of research interest – missions – as worthy of study, my first book review addressed it, and I am now on my third copy after permanently lending the previous two out to students. I hope this book will serve as a helpful launching point for scholars and students here at FSU beginning to study nonprofits.

Matthew Pietryka (Political Science)
Everything Is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us by Duncan Watts

This book somehow offers excellent advice for both social scientists and normal humans. It has shaped the questions I pursue in my research and the methods I have used to do so. Likewise, it has helped me recognize the giant limitations of making everyday decisions based on “common sense.” For a weekend read, that’s a lot of value.

The feature image is from Flickr.

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