Thursday, May 26, 2016

Required Summer Reading for High Schools: 2016

There's always a lot of debate about required summer reading for high school students. Should summer reading be required? The high school teachers who I know believe it's important to keep students reading during the summer—but many also tell me that a good percentage of students don't complete the assignment—even students who have enrolled in an Advanced Placement course! Some schools have resorted to asking parents and students to sign a contract stating that summer reading and assignments will be completed.

What to read? These lists can cause an uproar. This year, Waltham High School’s choice of All American Boys has been controversial. In the past, Pensacola High School’s One School/One book summer reading program was cancelled when their choice Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother became too contentious. There are many more examples. Google “summer reading high school controversy” to get page after page of hits.

In addition to classic literature such as Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, The Scarlet Letter, Rebecca, Brave New World, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and To Kill a Mockingbird, high schools assign an array of contemporary titles. Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, Ender’s Game, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho appear on many required reading lists. This year, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr are making their first appearances on these lists.

In nonfiction, William Kamkwamba's The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricty and Hope, Outliers by Malcomb Gladwell, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Thank You for Arguing, and Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well are favorites.

Here's a sampling of required summer reading lists from public and private high school around the country:
If you’ve clicked and browsed through any of these lists, you've noticed that Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor is a summer reading favorite along with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Here, they meet in our First Page video series: Thomas C. Foster, a professor at the University of Michigan, leads students through the first page of To Kill a Mockingbird. Professor Foster shows students how the first page of a novel holds the key to style, point of view, narrative identity—and other important clues to what is to come. We hope you'll share this video with your students before they start their summer reading assignment.

For teachers who have assigned Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, make sure to share this video of Zora’s niece reading from the first pages of her aunt’s novel. Lucy Anne Hurston—a professor and chair of the sociology department at Manchester Community College—gives a reading that helps your students appreciate the beauty of the passages written in dialect.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sigmund Freud!

Sigmund Freud was born today in 1856.
To learn more about the founder of psychoanalysis and its impact, check out George Makari’s masterful history, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis—the first book ever to fully account for the making and spread of psychoanalysis.
Praise for Revolution in Mind:
“George Makari has written nothing less than a history of the modern mind.”—Paul Auster
“The best informed history of psychoanalysis. Freud’s context is more fully elaborated by Makari than ever before.”—Harold Bloom
To read a sample, please click here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

LOVE WINS: New Book on the Fight for Marriage Equality

In June 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law in all fifty states in a decision as groundbreaking as Roe v Wade and Brown v Board of Education. Through insider accounts and access to key players, Love Wins—out this June—reveals the dramatic and previously unreported events behind Obergefell v Hodges and the lives at its center. This is a story of law and love—and a promise made to a dying man who wanted to know how he would be remembered.
“A tender story, inspiring, and ultimately a huge celebration. . . . You will never forget Jim Obergefell and his lawyer Al Gerhardstein, two men who fought with every ounce of will they could muster. This book will become a classic.”—Erin Brockovich
To learn more about Love Wins, please check out the video below of Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author Debbie Cenziper interviewing Jim Obergefell.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lester C. Thurow Dead at 77

Lester C. Thurow, bestselling author and MIT economist, has died at age 77.  Thurow was a leading global economist and longtime advocate for closing the wage gap between rich and poor Americans.  He embraced his role as an educator on economy, using metaphor and other devices to make his topics easy to understand.  He is survived by his wife, Anna.

The full New York Times obituary can be read here.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Yesterday, March 20, 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of Ota Benga's suicide.  Ota, a young Congolese "pygmy," was captured by slavers in Africa, but American explorer Samuel Phillips Verner bought Ota's freedom and convinced Ota to return with him to America.

In the United States, Ota was featured in an anthropology exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair.  Two years later, the New York Zoological Gardens displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, 4-foot 11-inch man with an orangutan.  Years later, the dehumanization and subsequent depression Ota suffered drove him to ultimately take his own life.

You can read Ota Benga's full story in Pamela Newkirk's Spectacle.  Read a sample here.

More African American studies titles are available in our online catalog.

Friday, March 18, 2016

GIRLS & SEX In the 21st Century

A fascinating video from author of the beloved Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, delves into the nature of sex and intimacy for girls today.  Orenstein draws from the research she did for her new book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, to go in depth on what sexual satisfaction means for girls, and how often their satisfaction derives from their male partners' satisfaction rather than their own.  She also discusses how today's hookup culture has changed the nature of sex.  "Sex," she says, "rather than being an expression of intimacy, is now the precursor of intimacy."

Girls & Sex goes on sale 3/29.  For information on other Women's Studies titles, visit our Gender and Women's Studies online catalog.

You can watch Peggy's video below.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Lesson Plans Available for EPIC MEASURES

Journalist Jeremy N. Smith's Epic Measures is the true story of a 20-year, 500-scientist, $100-million moonshot attempt to track and quantify every illness, injury, and death for everyone on Earth: the biggest of Big Data ever. The book offers an intimate look at doctor and economist Christopher Murray, who began the Global Burden of Disease studies, and whose unwavering determination to improve global health standards has already changed the way the world addresses issues of health and wellness, sets policy, and distributes funding.
“An inspiring story of how a simple idea, conceived logically and pursued with grit, can greatly improve the human condition.”—Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
Professors at universities—including Harvard, Oxford, Dartmouth, University of Michigan—have already adopted Epic Measures and taken advantage of the free data provided by the IHME to teach their students the vital connection between health statistics and effective public health policy.
To view lesson plans for Epic Measures, please click here.
To access IHME’s data, please click here.