Charon, Joel M., and Lee Vigilant. 2008. The Meaning of Sociology: A Reader. 9th ed. Prentice Hall.
I used this as a supplement to the John J. Macionis 9th edition Introduction to Sociology text. To be completely honest I’m not sure that given similar circumstances I would use them both again. The reason being that I taught a very condensed course (17 days of class, 13 actual lectures/discussion). Because the class was so condensed I didn’t feel that I could assign the students any more reading than a chapter from the Macionis text and a reading from this reader everyday. Given a more drawn out course, say the traditional 10-week quarter, I can see where this reader would be more useful because you could assign multiple readings to each corresponding chapter in the introductory text and actually cover more than 13 of the 65 readings in the book. Because I only covered about 13 of them I don’t think I’ll use this text in this format again (too expensive for 13 readings), opting instead to create a small packet of 10 articles or something along those lines.
As for the reader itself, I would say that about half of the included readings were superb and the other half ranged between mediocre and pretty poor. For instance, most of the readings by Peter Berger (not Berger and Luckmann) were very clear, articulate, and downright humorous for a sociologist to read; I’m not sure my class found them as humorous, but they did seem to enjoy them.
I also found in discussing the articles with my class that the articles that were most well-received, despite some students not agreeing with the methods or conclusions of the articles, were the articles that applied sociological understanding to real-world problems, for example the reading ‘Fraternities and Rape on Campus’ by Martin and Hummer resulted in a very lively and heated discussion.
I can understand that Charon is trying to incorporate some more traditional readings in the reader in order to give the students a sense of what some classical sociological writing is like and also to give them an opportunity to read classical sociology. It seems like a noble goal, but I’m not sure how effective it is. Most of the excerpts he included were typically so short that they didn’t really cover enough to get a good understanding of what the author was trying to get at (the exception being ‘Human Nature’ by Cooley). For example, the excerpt by Berger and Luckmann on socialization was just a snippet from their wordy but fascinating treatise ‘The Social Construction of Reality’ and by no means gave an accurate or comprehensive understanding of what it was Berger and Luckmann were getting at. Of course, my introduction to that text was actually an entire course focused on reading just that one book, so I’m kind of surprised that Charon would think a snippet would actually be useful to undergraduate students.
Overall I think the reader is designed to appeal to a broad array of sociology instructors by offering a little bit of everything (theory, application, critical sociology, etc.) but in so doing it becomes the task of the instructor to wade through the articles to find the ones that work for him/her. I’m not sure there is another way to do it when trying to appeal to a large and varied group of instructors, so it can’t really be honed in that sense. Nevertheless, the reader does contain a number of classical works (e.g. ‘The Saints and the Roughnecks’ among others) that are both engaging and interesting to undergraduate students and work well as supplements to an introductory text.