Posted in Uncategorized by The Books Production Team on August 29, 2008

typewriter2         Last fall, as I walked into Xavier Hall on the campus of Saint Louis University to teach a class on the History and Literature of Chicago, I happened to be eating an organic Gala apple.  Now, as a young college teacher working on a class-by-class basis, I don’t make a ton of money – and up until roughly three weeks before the fall semester started, it had never occurred to me to splurge the extra dollar a pound at the grocery store for organic produce.  But at a seminal point in late July, I happened to read an article detailing the amount of chemicals with which the average piece of non-organic fruit is sprayed…and it terrified me.  From that point forward, I vowed to devote the extra change in my piggy bank to buying fruit that wouldn’t instantly give me cancer.

        As fate would have it, because of this decision, and because that report on apple toxicology was still fresh in my mind, rather than launching immediately into a lecture on the early confluence of the railroad system in the Windy City, I began my class on Chicago History instead with an impromptu ten-minute lecture on the virtues of organic fruit.  Amazingly, out of the small apple seed of that performance has sprung the orchard of advice that is this book.  You see, as I left class that day and headed to my office, it occurred to me that a lesson entitled “Buy Organic Apples” wasn’t the type of advice that was often delivered to college students – and it wasn’t the type of information available in most college guide books.  Nevertheless, it seemed like it was useful material for college students to know.  Spurred by this realization, I sat down in my office, typed out my thoughts on organic produce, and started the book that would become Dr. Wizard’s Advice for College Students. 

        Building from my first-day-of-class momentum, I decided at that moment to devote the first ten minutes of each class for the rest of the year to delivering a random piece of advice to my students.  During the second class period, I talked about why it was important to start learning Chinese immediately.  On the class’s first Friday, we spent ten minutes discussing the reasons it was beneficial to be the person who talks the third most often in any course.  Now, 75 lessons into the academic year, I’ve decided to turn over the same advice that I have given my students at Saint Louis University to you, the college students of America.  With each lesson, I’ve tried to concretely hammer down one important idea that you can take with you – while at the same time couching the lesson in whatever piece of popular culture I happened to be thinking about at the time.  Thus, Lesson #16 blends reflections on T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland with the new Raconteurs album, Consolers of the Lonely; and Lesson #34 discusses the importance of going to the gym regularly against the backdrop of the computer game Oregon Trail and the Sly Stallone movie Over the Top.  Ultimately, what I’m going to give you is the advice that I wish I had gotten when I was in your position – not some stupid set of maxims that your 56-year-old spinster aunt thinks will help you.  My recommendations will come from the perspective of a real professor who remembers real college life.  Some of them will be trivial, some of them will be health related, and some of them will be stuff you should remember as you transition out of college and into the real world. 

        Lastly, if you aren’t in college, and you find yourself reading these short pieces of advice and being both enlightened and entertained, don’t worry.  Some of these lessons are just things that need to be learned by everybody, and that might mean later rather than sooner.  To you, the latecomers, I say, “Pull up a chair.”  There’s room in Dr. Wizard’s Office for everyone.




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