Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Treaty of Paris

On this day in history in 1783, The Treaty of Paris was signed.  Among other concessions, the treaty included Britain's formal recognition of the United States of America as an independent nation.  This marked the end of the Revolutionary War, although hostilities had ceased over a year earlier.

For further reading, Michael Stephenson's Patriot Battles offers an extensive look at the Revolutionary War.  Stephenson delves into how wars were fought in the eighteenth century as well as the details of the major battles that ultimately led to the American victory at Yorktown in 1782.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Read Bestsellers Like a Professor

Congratulations to Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor, which has been climbing the New York Times Education Bestseller list!  With over a million copies sold, it's currently sitting in the #2 spot.  Foster's book tells you how to do exactly what the title suggests: read literature like a professor.  Studying classic themes and drawing on renowned authors as examples, Foster creates a guide on getting the most out of a reading experience, leaving no detail overlooked.  How to Read Literature Like a Professor has been an invaluable resource to both teachers and students, helping them to look at literature with a more critical and discerning eye.  It gives readers the tools to unearth a richer reading, whether that reading is for academia or pleasure.

For the movie buffs out there, Foster is hard at work on his next book, this time on how to read the silver screen!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Michael Kimmel and the Growth of Masculinites Studies Programs

The New York Times recently published an article “A Master’s Degree in . . . Masculinity?”, which examined the growth of university masculinities studies programs, and profiled the professor at its vanguard, Michael Kimmel. Kimmel is the author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, and the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.”
Not to be confused with “male studies” (whose proponents largely think Kimmel is too “anti-men” for their taste), masculinities studies looks at the ways in which our culture has created a crisis of masculinity—with devastating effects including mental illness, suicide, terrorism, rape, mass shootings, and police brutality. Dr. Kimmel’s ultimate goal, as he puts it, is “engaging men and boys for gender equality.”
To read the rest of the New York Times article, please click here.
And to check out Guyland, which has been used in courses and common read programs across the country, please click here. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Tragic Anniversary

Today marks a tragic day in world history: 70 years ago, an atomic bomb (code named "Little Boy") was dropped from an American plane on Hiroshima, Japan.  Three days later, on August 9th, a similar bomb (this one bearing the code name "Fat Man") was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  The exact death toll is still unknown, but well over 200,000 people died as a result of these bombings.  Many of those deaths were immediate, while others would die over time due to the effects of radiation.


For further reading about this ominous chapter in world history, Stephen Walker's Shockwave provides a gripping account of the events leading up to Hiroshima, while Stephen M. Younger's The Bomb gives a chilling history of the nuclear age.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pope Francis and Your Students

For those teaching at Catholic schools, Pope Francis’s first ever US visit is certain to be a major event for you and your students.  Over the course of less than a week, he’ll speak to politicians, hold meetings, and preside over masses (talk about a whirlwind trip!).  Here's the pope's official travel schedule:

September 22-24: Washington, DC
September 24-25: New York, NY
September 26-27: Philadelphia, PA


A great starting point for class discussion is to read the interview Pope Francis provided six months into his papacy to America magazine.  Translated with the utmost care, the resulting interview covers everything from his ideas for church reform to his taste in movies.  The full interview is now available in book form, entitled A Big Heart Open to God.  The book also contains an introduction by the editor-in-chief of America magazine, Matt Malone, as well as a spiritual reflection on the interview by popular Jesuit priest and author James Martin.


Father Martin, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit. In his book, Jesus, Father Martin brings 21st-century Catholics closer to Jesus by helping them re-experience the stories of the Gospels in a completely new and vivid way.   Jesus is a delightfully Jesuit take on a biblical figure often viewed as distant and shrouded in mystery.  It makes a wonderful companion to any discussion about Pope Francis, for it does what the pope is trying to do, both in his work and in his US visitbringing Catholicism to the people in an accessible and modern format.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Map That Changed the World


200 years ago today, geologist William Smith published the first geological map of Britain.  Using color, he was able to accurately depict the various rock formations, both horizontally and vertically.  For years, he traveled Britain, surveying the land and taking extensive notes.  This culminated in "the map that changed the world," which was published in 1815.  Despite his profound contribution to the field of geology, Smith spent much of his life unrecognized for his work.  He was plagiarized, cheated, and even spent time in debtors' prison.  It would be fifteen years before he would be awarded the honors he deserved, as well as a lifetime pension.

For more information on Smith's story and the effects it had on modern geology, be sure to check out The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Happy Birthday Herman Melville!



Saturday marked the 196th birthday of celebrated author Herman Melville! Although he is widely regarded as a great classic writer today, Melville was not so appreciated in his lifetime.  His first novel, Typee, was a large success.  However, the work he is perhaps best known for today, Moby Dick, was not nearly as well received.  In fact, it was considered a commercial failure at the time.  He went on to write several short stories, including the well-known Bartleby, the Scrivener, but the spark of fame he received early in his career was never rekindled in his lifetime.

Around his 100th birthday, interest in Melville reignited, and a new generation grew to appreciate his work, elevating him to the honored position he holds in the literary world today.  Nearly 100 years later, Herman Melville holds his own with other enduring literary giants such as Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott, and his "commercial failure" Moby Dick is universally considered a classic novel.  Whether it's Moby Dick or one of his lesser known works, commemorate Herman Melville's birthday with a good book!