Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happiness is a Good Annotated Bibliography

Have you ever come across a dollar bill lying on the ground? At the risk of sounding hopelessly nerdy, that's how I feel when I encounter a good annotated bibliography. I don't go looking for them, but when I find one, I feel the sort of joy that can only come from the combination of saving time, discovering new leads, and seeing a complicated body of knowledge break down into manageable pieces.

My most recent "find" was when reading the seventh edition of a constitutional history classic, The American Constitution: Its Origins and Development (Alfred Kelly and Winfred Harbison, revised by Herman Belz). The bibliography is over 80 pages and proceeds chronologically, with useful topical subheadings (e.g., "Judicial Power and Constitutional Law in the Marshall Era," "Civil Liberties and Modern Constitutionalism"). Readers, have you come across any other good ones lately?

As a side note, I think that an annotated bibliography is a great assignment for graduate students. When tasked with creating one my first semester of graduate school, I was completely befuddled (and I'm sure my final product showed it), but I learned a lot in the process.

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