The Learning Center Staff Book Club

Want reading suggestions?  We have a few!

The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success
by Megan McArdle

Why do some failures inspire breakthroughs and others lead to breakdowns? How might a failing grade be the best thing that ever happened to you in school? McArdle argues that failure presents important learning opportunities. Failure doesn’t feel good, though, and too often it’s engineered out of our lives. In addition to sharing examples from her own life, she explores failure in diverse arenas, including finance, business, medicine, entertainment, career development, relationships, and education. Even video games are drawn into the mix. As she points out, they offer a safe space to fail and keep trying, with each level more challenging.


What Motivates Me?  Putting Your Passions to Work
by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

In the spirit of books like “Strengths Finder” the authors of this book, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, used their own unfulfilling career experiences to embark on a scientific journey. They worked with researchers to define a set of core motivators that cluster into one’s top Identities. They then created an assessment tool that can be used for guidance in selecting a career or in “sculpting ” a job to become a better and more meaningful experience.


How Students Learn, and How We Can Help Them.
by John F. Kihlstrom, UC  Berkeley

A paper based on a presentation at UC Berkeley’s Teaching and Resource Center.  Here’s what stands out from a few Learning Center work-study students who read this article:

  • Sleep deprivation impairs the encoding and retrieval of memory, so if a student doesn’t get a good amount of sleep before a test, the information they have studied will be harder to remember.
  • Testing yourself can help when studying for a test. When we test ourselves we learn from the answers we get wrong, and are less likely to get them wrong the second time.
  • Music or checking your phone can consume some of the capacity you could be using for learning, and less can be stored in the memory


Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, & the Endless Pursuit of Balance
by Julia Scatliff O’Grady

Chapel Hill native Julia Scatliff O’Grady shares stories and time-management advice from ten individuals with diverse demands on their time and attention. O’Grady herself leads a busy life—juggling doctoral study at UNC with motherhood—and weaves personal insight into each chapter. Busy readers will appreciate the organization and brevity of her work and the underlying theme of being able to honor commitments and what you care about most.

“Being aware of our past choices and deciding if they still work for us is an important step to crafting our own definition of good busy.”  (page 88)


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
by Nicholas Carr

“With The Shallows, Carr attempts to snap us out of the hypnotic pull of our iPhones, laptops and desktops. He reveals why we’re suddenly having a hard time focusing at length on any given thing, and why we compulsively check our e-mail accounts and Twitter feeds and never seem to be able to get our work done. (It’s because we’ve been abusing our brains.) He wants us to value wisdom over knowledge, and to use new technology intelligently. “We shouldn’t allow the glories of technology to blind our inner watchdog to the possibility that we’ve numbed an essential part of our self,” Carr pleads. It remains to be seen if he’s shouted down or listened to.”

From NPR Books (  by Oscar Villalon


Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
by Joshua Foer

Want to improve your memory?  Curious about how memory works?  In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer recounts his experiences training for the US Memory Championship.  Read this book and you’ll not only you get a glimpse into the unusual world of competitive memorizers, but you’ll  also learn the same memorization techniques  used in ancient times that still work today.  Foer helps us understand that the very nature of how we remember – and how we think – is changing as we rely more and more on external memory aids.

 “…there is something to be said for the value of not merely passing through the world, but also making some effort to capture it—if only because in trying to capture it, one gets in the habit of noticing, and appreciating…” Joshua Foer


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Self-Regulation and Executive Functioning by Russell A. Barkley in the K. Vohs and R. Baumeister book, Handbook of Self-Regulation. New York:  Guilford Press, 2011.   

The Learning Center Book Club read the chapter by Dr. Russell A. Barkley, expert on ADHD, in preparation for his keynote presentation at the Burnett Seminar hosted by the Learning Center in November of 2012.   Dr. Barkley’s research suggests that ADHD is not solely a disorder of attention, but a disorder of higher level thinking skills – executive functions – necessary for self- control.   In order to inhibit behavior (i.e. stopping to think about consequences before acting) one must rely on executive functions or “the unobservable cognitive events that humans use to modify their own behavior so as to change a future outcome.”  Dr. Barkley’s theory suggests that those with ADHD struggle with self-control because of inability to hold information in their minds while monitoring thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Their possible deficit in executive functions also creates a struggle to generate and execute plans to meet goals.  Barkley’s work provides professionals insight into the importance of developing executive functioning skills in their work with individuals diagnosed with ADHD.  (To learn more about Dr. Barkley and to view Dr. Barkley’s keynote presentation click here).


Look Me in the Eye
By John Elder Robison

Early in life John Robison struggled to connect with people.  It was inconceivable that there was more than one way to perform activities like playing in the dirt, with blocks or eating. Lacking strong feelings of empathy to guide his interactions with others he was soon labeled a misfit and told he would likely end up in jail. A chaotic family life only intensified his alienation. Through elaborate practical jokes, Robison capitalizes on his differences as the class clown and as a trickster. Eventually he drops out of high school and pursues an independent path of learning by doing. He learns to survive outdoors from a wandering Vietnam veteran, tinkers with mechanical objects and eventually works brilliantly with rock bands as a sound and electronics expert. On the road with the rock band Kiss he continues to connect with his younger brother and a woman he eventually marries. By age forty he has found success as owner of a company that specializes in the restoration and repair of fine European cars. One day a client who is also a therapist hands him a book on Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) and encourages him to look at it. John Robison writes… “The realization was staggering. There are other people like me. So many, in fact, that they have a name for us.”  This powerful, engaging and darkly funny memoir of an “Aspergian” provides a perspective on this widely misunderstood condition.

by Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D.
Can looking on the bright side really change your life?   UNC author and Psychology department faculty, Barbara Fredrickson, argues it can!   She’s researched the affect of mindfully cultivating a positive outlook and documented the positive results.   The book offers an overview of her research as well as a toolkit, self-tests, and recommendations for bringing more positivity into readers’ lives.   While her view on the topic is wide, considering her ideas might inspire new approaches to academic opportunities and tasks.
“Open your eyes to kindness and goodness.   Savor goodness when you see it.   Visualize your best possible future.   Be more social.   Go outside.   There are small changes you can make to elevate your positivity any time you want.”