Book Review: ‘Lessons of the Freshman Year’

By Brent Glass (@BrentAMG)

Lessons of the Freshman Year

This is going to be a fun one.  Look at the cover for a few minutes… Notice anything peculiar?  If you know Blake or I, you certainly already know the significance.  If, rather, you are simply a follower of our blog, (we love you just as much) let me explain something to you.  The author of this book is Ken Baxter, Blake’s father.  The model pictured on the cover of the book is none other than Saying Something’s Blake Baxter.  Impressed?  You should be.  This review will, no doubt, be a positive one.  This is not, however, because I am biased.  It is a good book.  Here’s why:

Lessons of a Freshman Year is a first-hand account of Cricket’s (aka Ken Baxter’s) first year at a small state school in Arkansas.  The story begins with Cricket leaving his tearful mother for the first real adventure of his life.  The son of a preacher, Cricket, did not have much contact with the outside world.  This fact, coupled with his curious nature, brought many adventures his way.  Upon moving in, Cricket realized that his roommate was an athletic, self-absorbed pot head.  Cricket skillfully managed to switch rooms as the paranoia of a drug-raid riddled his mind.

Cricket moved to a new floor and encountered more characters.  He met a charismatic adventurer named Scott whom often led a group of his floor mates on quests.  A good portion of the novel chronicles Cricket’s adventures… and misadventures, throughout his freshman year.  Christmas break came all too soon for a Cricket that had come to appreciate the freedom and social aspect of college.  Absence made his heart grow fonder and by the end of break Cricket was eager to return.  His second semester brought just as many stories.

The most significant aspect of Cricket’s second semester was pledging a fraternity.  After blacking out from drinking too much punch at a rush party, Cricket was still accepted into the Theta fraternity on campus.  Though he faced some harsh realities of racism in Southern America, Cricket joined the fraternity and became a positive change within the chapter.

Throughout the book, Ken intertwines popular song lyrics of the time.  Some of these songs were included as an artful way of accentuating the underlying theme of a chapter or section, while other songs were significant because they actually occurred at the time.  An example of the latter is when Cricket and his friends first hear Sugarhill Gang’s song, Rapper’s Delight.  This is certainly another very interesting and fun aspect of the book.

That is a quick-and-dirty summary of a book full of wisdom.  At the end of each chapter, the author offers a bit of wisdom that he learned from the experiences mentioned in the previous chapter.  The wisdom offered is wide-reaching.  Whether a recent graduate of high school or a middle-aged professional, the content is applicable to everyday life.  Furthermore, Mr. Baxter comments on society of the time.

Cricket’s freshman year was an interesting time in history.  The Iran hostage situation took place, an actor named Ronald Reagan was becoming a household name in politics, the U.S. hockey team beat Russia in the Olympics and racism was still prevalent in the south.  Admirably, Cricket and his friends took the hostage predicament in Iran very seriously.  (Especially Cricket, who got so upset during one discussion that his friends started teasing him about running for president.  As a result, “Cricket for President” was plastered across campus.)  Elmer, an African-American who was looked up to by Cricket and most of his floor mates, was denied a bid to the Theta fraternity because of his race.  This enraged Cricket but Elmer reminded him that he could be the agent of change the fraternity needed.

Lessons of the Freshman Year was a realistic, yet optimistic, look into the freshman year of a typical college student.  Mr. Baxter does not claim it was the best year of his life, like many people do, but he understands it laid the foundation for the rest of his life.  Many of the shenanigans that he and his friends got themselves into over his first year were eerily similar to some that Blake and myself had our freshman year.  This book is for everybody.  It is a coming of age novel that will resonate with anyone who has attended college and can also be reviewed critically as an assessment of the late-1970s/ early-1980s.  I strongly recommend this book.  You can find it here and here.  Look, I made it really easy for you.  Maybe you can get a cool signed copy like mine.

Signed Copy

Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is beginning a marketing project designed to expand the reach of Sagamore Institute and Eureka College, creating a social media management business, Connect You Consulting, and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either public policy, political science or business.

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Categories: Books

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