Friday, April 18, 2014


David McCulloughauthor of the now-famous "Your Are Not Special" speechhas just published a new book, which elaborates on his commencement speech as a call-to-arms for parents and students alike. Based on his own observations as a father and English teacher, McCullough poses many important questions regarding the current teenage landscape, and the theory, function and outcome of education today. 

To hear more about David and Your Are Not Special check out his interviews with USA Today and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.


Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez passed away yesterday at the age of 87. One of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Márquez is best known for his seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. The Colombian novelist is credited with popularizing magic realism, and One Hundred Years of Solitude has become a classroom classic.

For those of you who haven't read One Hundred Years of Solitude, here's a wonderful introduction to the novel by Thomas C. Foster, professor of English at the University of Michigan-Flint and author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor. 

To read more on Gabriel García Márquez and his influential work click here

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Students React to THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE

The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine by New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned geneticist Francis S. Collins blends personal stories with eye-opening science to bring readers a comprehensive look into the ever-changing arena of the DNA revolution. Adopted in biology courses all over the country, The Language of Life is making a more lasting impression on students than the traditional textbook. 

One biology teacher was kind enough to share her students' reactions with us. Many of the students found the personal stories relate-able and made a larger connection with the science being presented:

"Dr. Collins makes everything personal and easy to understand which makes you want to keep reading"
"The chapter that had the most significant effect on me was 'Getting Personal with the Big C.' I have lost loved ones to breast cancer and know how hard it is to cope with the loss of them."
"I have a younger sister that is now thirteen years old, as I read those first paragraphs I thought to myself 'what if that was my sister?'"

Others were excited by the hopeful look Dr. Collins presents for the future:
"Every discovery made through research is one step closer to a healthier life for the current and future generations."
"I hope that Dr. Collins continues his groundbreaking research and I thank him for the opportunity that he gave my class in being able to read his amazing book."

Some students were even struck by the implication this science has on society as a whole:
"The most influential and eye opening part of The Language of Life is that biologically there is no such thing as race. All throughout history individuals have been discriminated against due to their race, when in reality all humans belong to one family, DNA."
It is always inspiring to see students connecting with a subject matter. 

Click here for more information on The Language of Life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ASTORIA is Perfect for Pacific Northwest History Classes

Dr. James B. Hunt, a retired professor of history from Whitworth University in Spokane Washington submitted a glowing review of Peter Stark's new book Astoria:John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire, a Story of Wealth, Ambition and Survival. 

Peter Stark, author and correspondent for Outside magazine, has uncovered a pivotal moment in American history when the Eastern establishment -- John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson -- turned their sights on the West Coast and turned America into a global power. Astoria is a story of adventure, hardship and the beginning of a harrowing era in American exploration. Students will be riveted by the spellbinding tale as they learn about the forgotten first attempt in settling the West from the explorers' journals. 

Dr. Hunt says he recommends this book "for anyone interested in Pacific Northwest History," especially "for college level history classes in the Northwest. It is sure to spark wonderful class discussion." 

For more on Astoria, visit our website!

Monday, April 14, 2014


New Yorker columnist George Packer published a captivating article on genocide this month where he poses many thought provoking questions on the difficult topic, focusing on the mass slaughter of millions of Cambodians under the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 70s. In the article, he highlights Thierry Curvellier's new book The Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer, which details the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, the director of the Khmer Rouge's central interrogation center and death camp. 

The Master of Confessions delves deep into the mind of a killer who shocked the world by pleading guilty to war crimes and against humanity. Curvellier's in-depth look at Duch -- who provided perhaps "the most complete testimony by a mass murderer in history"-- offers a unique perspective on genocide and the devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Packer affirms the importance of books like The Master of Confessions in continuing the conversation, to both remember and discuss what actions should be taken when these horrors are happening so far from home. 

The full article can be read here.

Frances Goldin Discusses Socialism in the US

The full transcript of Frances Goldin's interview with Democracry Now! -- regarding her new book Imagine: Living in a Socialits USA is available on their website. 

Imagine is a collection of original essays that examines the misconceptions and fears related to socialism and what socialism would look like in the US. Contributors to the anthology include Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, incarcerated journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, Hugo Award-winning author Terry Bisson, NY Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez and Julian Assange's attorney Michael Ratner. 

Read the full transcript here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Common Core Update - Civil War Cluster

One of the most tumultuous periods in American history, the Civil War remains an important topic of discussion for students. Whether they are exploring the political storm that led to the secession, or the tragedy of the lengthy war, there are so many learning opportunities that balance well with the Common Core standards. Our new Common Core book cluster for the Civil War blends thought provoking fiction with powerful non-fiction titles designed to give students the tools necessary for in-depth critical discussions. 

The Secrets of Mary Bowser is based on the harrowing true story of a former slave who risks her freedom to spy on the Southern President, Jefferson Davis. After reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser and Lincoln, students can compare the personal stories of both Mary Bowser and Abraham Lincoln. How did each individual deal with the immense responsibility placed upon them? In what ways did both Mary and Lincoln sacrifice personally to achieve their goals? What themes are present in The Secrets of Mary Bowser that echoes the overall turmoil of the war?

Paradise Alley focuses on the Draft Riots in New York, a pivotal event that stirred up issues of class, race and immigration. Use Throes of Democracy to compare the living conditions and events in Paradise Alley with the important events taking place elsewhere in the nation in 1863. In what ways did the Draft Riots in New York affect the country at large? What choices did the author make in Paradise Alley to represent the tumult of the Civil War as a whole?

Using The Impending Crisis, Throes of Democracy, Reconstruction, Sherman or Lincoln, students can compare the real life events with the fictionalized characters and tales from The Secrets of Mary Bowser or Paradise Alley. Through their examination of these titles, students will get a comprehensive view of the Civil War as a whole, and the imagined individual experience of the most difficult point in American history.