OSWEGO — For Tim Delaney of SUNY Oswego’s sociology department, the name of his latest textbook — “Connecting Sociology to Our Lives” — describes his goal in writing it.
“In this book, I’m trying to show the relationship between sociology and the everyday lives of everyone, especially students,” Delaney said. “By using many pop culture and contemporary cultural references, I want it to be a fun learning experience.”
“Connecting Sociology to Our Lives,” Delaney’s 13th book, came about because he saw a great need for an interesting and engaging introductory sociology textbook.
While introduction to sociology is one of the most popular courses on college campuses, Delaney said he found too many texts dry and clinical. His goal was to develop a text that not only fulfilled an introductory function, but also would make students more likely to pursue majors and careers in sociology.
The pop-culture approach begins on the very first page, which features a photo of popular performer Lady Gaga, “who has proclaimed she is a member of the sociology of fame,” Delaney said. “She recognizes the social significance of her fame,” and just recently “Lady Gaga talked at Harvard about bullying and cyberbullying, two topics discussed in this book.”
The author of books using “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons” to teach sociology uses those influential shows as well as other TV and movie references for context in the new book. Delaney also employs contemporary news stories such as the success of satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, breaches of trust by public officials and the lengths to which ordinary people will go to chase fame.
But the book covers plenty of serious sociological concepts, from fundamental theories to groundbreaking thinkers to research methods. Delaney also explores recurrent topics and debates including gay marriage, violence in popular culture and racial profiling.
‘Labor of love’
Delaney is especially proud of this book because it was “indeed a labor of love, five years in the making,” he said. “As anyone who has written an introductory textbook would attest, it’s a long process of revisions by people in the field. Most of the pop culture references had to be replaced by the time the book came out to keep it current.”
To help make the book more useful to professors and more engaging in classes, Delaney includes a number of “What Do You Think?” exercises throughout the chapters. “These are intended to make students stop and think about the topics, especially controversial ones, many of which impact their daily lives — relationships, education, employment, love and marriage,” Delaney said. “These exercises also provide a handy prompt for professors to encourage discussion in their classes.”
Numerous breakout boxes explore topics in depth and help provide a far-ranging, fast readability that can appeal to many audiences, he added.
“It is an academic book, but it should read well for non-academic audiences because the topic areas are so broad and wide-ranging,” Delaney noted. “There should be something for everybody.”