Introducing “The Honors Project”

Next semester, I will be submitting an application for a master’s program at my school as well as applying to the honors program in economics. (Why else would I be taking econometrics next semester?) I am hopeful that my applications into both of these programs will be accepted and although I do not want to count my chickens before the hatch, I have been pulling together the list of books I want to read and should read.

I toyed with the idea of setting these titles as a goal for 2012 and then creating a reading challenge for books about food since that’s the central topic of my thesis. But as I constructed that list, I realized a challenge or even a goal wouldn’t be sufficient for what I hoped to accomplish. Instead, I’ve decided that a project would be the best way to incorporate these titles into Ardent Reader. Introducing: The Honors Project.


As I mentioned above, this subject is probably going to be the main focus of my thesis and, although I have read another books about this topic, I have not even made a dent in the titles suggested to me by potential thesis adviser.

I’m primarily interested in books tracing the history and development of America’s food system. Although there is still room for memoirs about life on a farm or eating locally, I would like to maintain a focus largely on non-memoir, nonfiction books. A sampling of those books that work for this requirement:

  • Agrarian Dreams (Julie Guthman)
  • America’s Food (Harvey Blatt)
  • American Agriculture in the Twentieth Century (Bruce L. Gardner)
  • American Wasteland (Jonathan Bloom)
  • Animal Liberation (Peter Singer)
  • The Jungle (Upton Sinclair)
  • Kitchen Literacy (Ann Vileisis)
  • The Untold Story of Milk (Ron Schmid)


Typically, my economics professor assigns the first few chapters or random chapters of a book, discuss it in class, and then move on. Typically, I add the title to my TBR list and then move on. I would like to smooth over the gaps in my education of popular economics. I can tell you all sorts of things about the Solow model, but please do not ask me about the present economic troubles. A sampling of those books that work for this topic:

  • The Age of Turbulence (Alan Greenspan)
  • Big Box Swindle (Stacy Mitchell)
  • Dead Aid (Dambisa Moyo)
  • The End of Poverty (Jeffrey D. Sachs)
  • Poor Economics (Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo) [Part 1 | Part 2]
  • Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely)
  • Too Big to Fail (Andrew Ross Sorkin)
  • The White Man’s Burden (William Easterly)
  • The World That Trade Created (Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik)


Geography is my second major and while it is not the primary focus of my honors thesis, it is what I will be perusing my master’s degree in. These titles might take a bit of a backburner to those above, but I do hope to incorporate a few of these titles into my readings for this project.

I used the term “geography” vary broadly here to select books for this particular goal. But many of them have come at the recommendation of my geography professors so I feel it quite alright including them here. Possible titles for this part of the project include:

  • The Big Sort (Bill Bishop)
  • The Coming Population Crash (Fred Pearce)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond)
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded (Thomas L. Friedman)
  • Planet of Slums (Mark Davis)
  • Pulping the South (Ricardo Carriere and Larry Lohmann)
  • Triumph of the City (Edward Glaeser)
  • Tropic of Chaos (Christian Parenti)
  • Unnatural Selection (Mara Hvistendahl)


I’m not expecting to read a book a week for this project. I would like to read two or three books from my spreadsheet of titles a month but I won’t be setting myself specific deadlines. I have enough of those because of college, thank you very much.

I am also not expecting to become a scholar overnight. I do expect to learn as much as I can about these topics so I can formulate better questions and, in turn, produce a better honors thesis.


  1. Food is such a great topics and can be connected to so much: education, economics, health, marketing. I’m looking forward to seeing you work your way through those books 🙂


    • I try to vary my nonfiction as well because focusing on a single issue can become overwhelming, especially when trying to mesh vary opinions on certain controversial subjects. But I needed a little more focus on those nonfiction books I do pick up in order to write what I hope will be a great honors thesis.


  2. Christina, I’m reading this post and just thinking about how awesome you are! 🙂 I haven’t read Guns, Germs, and Steel yet but I did read Diamond’s Collapse. That and Hot, Flat, and Crowded are on my tbr list. I see you’ve added Dead Aid. Good luck on your studies.


    • Thanks, Vasilly. I saw the documentary version of Guns, Germs, and Steel and while it was quite interesting, I cannot shake my professor’s voice calling Diamond “wrong” because he’s not an economist. I have HFC on audiobook; I’m just not sure how listening to nonfiction on audio will go.


  3. Pingback: Big-Box Swindle by Stacy Mitchell | Ardent Reader

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