Big Book has always had its own set of challenges.
For years, the magazine’s editors, including its president, have been trying to get readers to recognize the real value of scholars in their communities.
And in the last few years, it has seen its readership increase by about 300,000.
So it’s no wonder the publisher’s top ranking on the list of best books in American higher education has been bumped from #1 to #6, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
But it is an achievement worth celebrating, given the challenges facing American higher ed in the age of Big Book.
For one thing, a majority of Americans still don’t know the names of the best books about their field of study.
Another problem is that Big Book is still a small part of the conversation about education.
For example, the study found that fewer than 2 percent of American college students know that the American Enterprise Institute is the only “conservative think tank” with the distinction of being a “non-profit organization.”
But the authors of the study believe that the gap is getting smaller, particularly among young people.
And while they admit that there are some issues about how to best target the content of Big Books, they argue that the authors’ recommendations would be more helpful for those students whose studies have a higher chance of reaching the broader public.
“Our work in the Big Book area is really an attempt to address the problem of people not knowing who the experts are in their field,” says Michael Grunwald, who heads the publisher and founder of the Pew research center.
“And to the extent that you can actually identify the best scholars in the field, that would make a big difference.”
As a result, Big Book plans to introduce a series of recommendations for “best books for young people in the American higher-education landscape,” including a series on how to write “The Great American Dream” about the American Dream.
But Grunstein also believes that Big Books can also help schools “focus on what really matters.”
“We’re not here to make students read, we’re here to help them,” Grunson says.
“So that means we have to give them a broad perspective of what it means to be an American.”
In the next few years Big Book hopes to launch an online initiative to help teachers and students identify the top 10 books in the fields of education, politics, history, business, and technology, with a goal of having a list of more than 150 books by the end of 2020.
The authors hope that the efforts will spur interest in Big Books among their own students.
“The more that you have access to Big Books as an accessible resource, the more people will know who they are and who their heroes are,” says Grunkson.
“If you can help educate your students about these subjects, then they will go out and be the most engaged and knowledgeable voters.”