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2018 Honors Book Labs

Register below for our Summer and Fall Honors Book Labs. All Book Labs consist of four meetings, beginning in the second week of classes each semester. Honors buys all books and keeps enrollment lists and waitlists for each Book Lab. Students may enroll in only one Book Lab per semester, and students who fail to complete a reflection in one semester may not register the following term. Please call (797-2715) or email ( immediately if you can no longer participate in a Book Lab for which you have signed up. Demand is high, and Honors wants to accommodate as many students as possible. Enrolled students must attend or return the book to remain in good standing with the University Honors Program and to continue to be allowed to take part in the Book Lab program. 


Please click here for detailed descriptions of past Book Labs.


Fall 2018

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Dr. Jennifer Grewe - Thursdays (9/6, 9/13, 9/20, 9/27) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in EDUC 495

Malcolm Gladwell is the bestselling author of Tipping Point and Outliers. Blink is another bestseller that explores “how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant—in the blink of an eye—that actually aren't as simple as they seem.” The book asks a series of important questions: “Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?” Discussion in this Book Lab will focus on the psychological aspects behind our decision-making behaviors, such as snap-judgment decisions and first impressions. We will discuss how examples from the book relate to our own lives and how we can work on having more positive outcomes from our decision-making.


Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography by Sara Lipton
Dr. Alexa Sand - Wednesdays (9/5, 9/12, 9/19, 9/26) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in FAV 138

Stereotypes have histories. Understanding those histories gives us a clearer picture of just how constraining and harmful stereotypes are, for both those stereotyped and those who perpetuate stereotypes. Negative imagery of Jewish people as hook-nosed, greedy, and curiously dressed emerged in the late Middle Ages, a product of political and religious anxieties of emergent Christian states. Historian Sara Lipton traces the formation of anti-Jewish imagery in this award-winning study. She demolishes the idea that stereotypical anti-Jewish imagery found its basis in the cultural expression of real medieval Jews. Through meticulous study of documentary and artistic evidence, she shows that the negative image of the Jew was built up from a variety of ideas about imagined alien forces, including pagan philosophers and magicians, thought to pose a threat to an equally imaginary stable, Christian social order. From this stew of fears came some of the most powerful and harmful stereotypical images in history—medieval anti-Judaism was the wellspring for Nazi propaganda against Jews, and remains a source for contemporary anti-Jewish campaigners. This book will give our Book Lab a wealth of opportunities to think through both historical and current forms of racial and ethnic prejudice. 

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley
Dr. Chris Fawson - Tuesdays (9/4, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in EBB 202A

I believe one of my most profound insights as a scholar is that useful knowledge is rarely captured within the domain of a single academic discipline. One of my favorite quotes comes from George Leonard in Mastery: “On the level of personal experience, all of life is seamless, despite society’s untiring efforts to break it up into compartments.” With this idea as a backdrop, we will explore The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley. Ridley is an award-winning, bestselling author of books that seek to bridge the perceived gaps in knowledge and experience at the intersection of disciplines. In The Evolution of Everything, he explores a universal context for understanding the principles of “evolution”—and in the process, he weaves a narrative that includes everything from astrophysics of the cosmos to the beginning of life on Earth, as well as religion, commerce, government, and the internet. Previous Aggie readers have found Ridley’s direct writing style and scope of academic inquiry to be both provocative and insightful. Students looking for a fun romp through the issues of evolution as they appear not only in the physical and biological sciences, but also in the everyday experience of navigating the complexity of human interaction will enjoy this Honors Book Lab experience.

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Dr. Susan Cogan and Dr. Ann Berghout-Austin - Wednesdays (9/5, 9/12, 9/19, 9/26) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in TSC 309

In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a powerful look at women’s roles and happiness in mid-twentieth century America. The book soon became a bestseller and one of the most important contemporary works on gender and feminism; it is considered the catalyst for second-wave feminism. Friedan questioned the myth of the happy housewife and acknowledged that many women, despite loving their families, felt dissatisfied and isolated by their role as homemakers. These women craved public role models and a greater sense of purpose.

Friedan herself was a major figure in modern American culture. She was a co-founder and the first president of the National Organization for Women, a charter member of the National Women’s Political Caucus, and an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. She wrote columns for women’s magazines and authored several more books after
The Feminine Mystique. One of Friedan’s friends and colleagues was Dr. Ann Berghout Austin, Executive Director of USU’s Center for Women and Gender. This Book Lab offers the opportunity to read Friedan’s book and also to hear from Dr. Austin about her personal experiences with Friedan and her memories of how The Feminine Mystique was received in Utah in the 1960s. 

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Professor John Ferguson and Dr. Shannon Peterson - Tuesdays (9/4, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in TBA

Joseph Campbell’s seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, introduced the monomyth and mythology cycles that served as inspiration for George Lucas as he crafted Star Wars.  While this book reminds the reader that there may be nothing new under the sun, the need to retell stories in new contexts is part of what the human experience is all about. Campbell’s work in comparative mythology is as relevant today as when it was first published in 1949. This widely read book has served as muse for movies such as The Matrix, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and TV shows like Community and Lost.  This Book Lab provides an opportunity for students to examine mythology cycles in their own stories and contexts—and in broader modern society.  These moments of introspection will hopefully lead to deeper discussions of truth and meaning in our own lives.


Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore
Dr. Breanna Studenka - Thursdays (9/6, 9/13, 9/20, 9/27) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in RWST 311

This book is based on a body of nutritional science that has been largely overlooked by the FDA and traditional nutritional programs. Its main tenet is that the low-fat guidelines promoted by the FDA since the 1970s are not supported by science, and are actually a huge influence on the rising levels of obesity and heart disease we’ve seen since their inception. The book will allow students interested in nutrition and biology to think about nutrition in a new way, to consider the relationship between science and government, and to examine evidence and come to thoughtful conclusions for themselves. Students will compare what they thought they knew about nutrition and what the science is now telling us, and we will discuss together why conventional wisdom about nutrition is so far from the science and what we can do as citizens to bring the two closer together.

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart by Jan Amos
Dr. Charlie Huenemann - Mondays (9/3, 9/10, 9/17, 9/24) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in LIB 421 

This novel is an allegory for the journey of life, narrated by a pilgrim who decides to survey all the walks of life before deciding upon one for his own. He meets up with Search-All, or Ubiquitous, who informs him that the world is a labyrinth, and Delusion, whose job it is to interpret the wisdom of the world. Delusion fits the pilgrim with the bridle of curiosity and the spectacles of delusion. The spectacles distort everything, but the pilgrim finds that by tilting his head up and looking under the glasses he can sneak some more accurate glances. And so off he goes, encountering the Castle of Fortune, the Avenues of Trades and of Learned Men, the Theologians, the Politicians, and so on, seeing all these people for who and what they really are. He becomes more and more dispirited—until he finally encounters the Paradise of the Heart, which teaches him to be humble, charitable, and pious, and it is there that he finds his peace. Comenius’s work does two things at once: it tells us what life was like back in 17th-century Europe, but it also forces us to think about whether the same story could be told today, or indeed in any day. It is at turns hilarious, profound, depressing, and joyous.

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou
Dr. David Brown - Tuesdays (9/4, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in LLC A 102

What is Math? Is it invented or discovered? Who cares? Who should care?

In 1931 Kurt Gödel proved a phenomenal result that, unfortunately, not many people (let alone mathematicians) know or care about. The result, now known as “Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem,” arguably settled many questions philosophers were—and still are—puzzling over, including problems as far-reaching as “Is artificial intelligence possible?” and “Do we have free will?”

is a graphic novel that takes the reader along the path to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. The path involves many luminary human beings, mostly mathematicians, who are not well-known and who struggled with the limits of what human beings can and cannot know. Logicomix reads quickly, but cuts deeply, and it exposes the reader to secrets of Mathematics that never get discussed in math classes, despite their obvious relevance to our lives. These secrets are arguably more relevant than the standard advertisements of math’s utility for making better cell phones or aiming rockets. The story of Logicomix will take us through a forest whose trees are the aforementioned luminary people, all of whom are among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the century 1900-2000.

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Dr. Julia Gossard - Wednesdays (9/5, 9/12, 9/19, 9/26) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in LLC A 102

Just before dawn on July 16, 1942, the French police began “Operation Spring Breeze.”  That morning, over 13,000 Jews were forcibly removed from their homes and dragged through the streets of Paris to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, not far from the Eiffel Tower. The Vel’ d’Hiv’, as it was commonly called, was the first indoor track in France and hosted numerous sports and cultural shows. But in 1942, the Vel’ d’Hiv’ hosted a much different spectacle: the inhumane detainment of Jews before their deportation to Auschwitz. Though a work of fiction, Sarah’s Key helps inform the reader about the lesser-known atrocities committed against French Jews under Nazi occupation and the Vichy government.  Simultaneously set in July 1942 and sixty years later in July 2002, the novel alternates narratives between the lives of Sarah Starzynski, a ten-year-old Jewish girl imprisoned with her parents in the Vel’ d’Hiv’, and Julia Jarmond, an ex-patriate American journalist writing a piece on the 60th anniversary of the roundup.  In researching her article, Julia begins to discover tragic secrets about Sarah’s life that have a devastating impact on Julia’s own life 60 years later.

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Dr. Jim Evans - Thursdays (9/6, 9/13, 9/20, 9/27) from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in GEOL 413

A statue memorializing Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from Memphis in December 2017.  Forrest was a general for the confederate army, and a founding member of the KKK.  Why did the city of Memphis need to use a range of clever legal maneuvers to take the statue down? How did we come to honor men who committed treason against this nation to maintain slavery?
I am not a scholar of literature, history, or social policy. Like many of you, I have only a vague understanding of what it means to be of African ancestry. Many students will know more than I on most of the topics in this book, and we will address hard, uncomfortable subjects—but my experience in the American South and the current social climate convinced me to propose and lead this Book Lab.
Informed citizens need to peel back the layers of misinformation, guilt, and lies we have been told regarding our founding stories and confront one of the ugliest aspects of American history: the capture and enslavement of millions of Africans and the normalization of racist thinking in American culture. 

THIS BOOK LAB IS FULL. Join the waitlist.