Do you assign your own book in class? I typically don’t, but I’m thinking about doing it for next semester
Arguments for the practice
2. The chance to talk to the author of the book a class is reading is rare, and opens up kinds of discussion that you typically don’t have, about things that are usually opaque to the reader–about process, about editorial decisions, about what was hard and what was easy. That can be useful, especially in a grad seminar.
1. It’s venal. You’re lining your pocket at the expense of students, who have no choice. This may be true in a large lecture class, 1 but in a class of, say, 15 grad students the money you personally make from book sales is in the very low two figures, and can easily be turned into a large pizza for the class, or you can refund students the small amount of money you actually make from each sale. That would be instructive in and of itself.
2. It’s awkward for the class. Students quite reasonably may feel uncomfortable discussing the professor’s book.
3. It’s narcissistic. No professor, your book isn’t all that, and forcing a captive audience to talk about you and your tiresome thesis all class is just annoying and self indulgent.
It seems to me the arguments against it are better than the arguments for it, but I actually do think my book on money is unique and makes a unique contribution blah blah etc etc.
Any suggestions or thoughts? Students, is this an obnoxious practice? colleagues, what do you do?
I’m considering assigning the book but not having a discussion on it, in order to avoid objections 2 and 3. But that seems really dumb, and eliminates advantage 2.
- I twice ta’d for a professor who assigned his own textbook to an annual survey lecture that had 7–800 students in it. He claimed that he donated all the royalties he made to charity ↩