Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Are you happy? Are you given to wondering if others are happy? Do you know the distinctions, empirical or theoretical, between moss and lichen? Do you cut slack for the crime of passion as opposed to its premeditated cousin?
Why do I find myself trying to answer all of Padgett's questions? Why are there no easy answers?
Can you use The Interrogative Mood to inspire your students? Is it filled to the brim with writing prompts? Do you want to read the first chapter?
Would you like to watch this video of Padgett Powell reading from The Interrogative Mood?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part II: The Perfect Study Guide for Students of Modern Global History
With content that is accurate and clearly presented, The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part II makes for a great study guide, especially for those students who are visual learners.
“Like any good historian, Larry Gonick seasons his facts with a good dose of perspective, and like any good cartoonist, he mixes his drama with a good dose of humor.”—Jeffrey Brown, author of Clumsy and Funny Misshapen Body
Monday, September 28, 2009
Who Turned Out the Lights?: An Irreverent, Informative, and Essential Guide to the Environmental Crisis
From nuclear power to alternative forms of transportation to special interests in Washington, Who Turned Out the Lights? presents a clear, nonbiased look all the issues. In the end, the authors take one position: the country must move away from fossil fuels and there’s no more time to waste. Beyond that, they’ll leave how to get from here to there as an open question—one Americans need to understand and decide for themselves.
Just because the topic is serious, doesn’t mean discussing it has to be. With references to pop culture from South Park episodes to Rolling Stones songs, the authors break down the information into easily understandable facts and arguments without sacrificing the complexity of the issues. For a generation of students more accustomed to getting their news from “The Daily Show” than the The Wall Street Journal, this book can be incredibly helpful.
Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson are the executive editor and co-founder, respectively, of the nonprofit, nonpartisan website PublicAgenda.org. If you would like to consider Who Turned Out the Lights? for one of your classes, please order an examiniation copy
Friday, September 25, 2009
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: An Inspiring True Story of the Boy Who Brought Wind Energy to his African Village
In the tradition of Three Cups of Tea and Mountains Beyond Mountains, William’s story is remarkable by its own merit, his sheer determination astounding when considered in a global context.
Written from William’s perspective in a clear, fluid tone, students will find The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind engaging and accessible. As a contemporary of the author (I am only a year older than William) I found it remarkable how much his experience growing up differed from my own. Yet while the author’s account of growing up in Malawi offers a first-hand look at some of the unique challenges facing Africa, William’s message of hope and humanity is universally resonant.
“William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.”—Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate
“What William did took nothing more than initiative and a little learning, yet he changed his village and his life. . . . I love how much we can learn from those who often have no other choice.”— Chris Anderson, bestselling author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
For a limited time we’re offering a free e-book version of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind to educators. Please email me before October 10 if you are interested in obtaining a copy.
If you would like to consider The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you have already decided to assign the book as required reading, please request a desk copy.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
After reading Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, I thought I knew Aldous Huxley--but the truth is that I'd read only a sliver of his work. As Harper Perennial continues to reissue many of Huxley's hidden gems--books that have been called "a masterpiece" and "unparalleled," and "extraordinary"--I've had the chance to more fully appreciate "one of the 20th century's greatest writers." (Washington Post)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Lace Reader, a novel set in contemporary Salem about a family of women who can read the future in lace patterns, benefits from the dark, atmospheric quality of the historical town in which it is set. Though it is not about the Witch Trials, taking place more than three centuries after they happened, the story “draws metaphorically on the 17th-century witch hunts,” (USA Today) and can have applications in classes studying both historical and contemporary American literature.
The book is rich with thematic elements. Along with a re-imagination of the archetypical hero narrative, Barry’s choice of Salem as the background for her novel invites comparisons between the fearful atmosphere of 17th-century witch trials and the uneasy political climate in which we live today.
“Brunonia Barry tells a suspenseful, fast-paced story. Her many sympathetic characters are nicely drawn and inhabit a world thick with local charm and historical detail. ”— Boston Globe
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Last weekend I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival, an annual celebration of authors and books on the steps of Borough Hall in Brooklyn Heights. The festival features an outdoor Literary Marketplace as well as author readings and signings and discussion panels lead by various local literati.
Of particular interest was a panel called “Literature in the Digital Age.” The program’s description says it all: “How do new forms of media affect our literary cultures, and how do writers and publishers adapt to them?” The panelists, all published authors, wore other literary hats as well: literary magazine editor, book reviewer, and blogger.
This question of the relationship between technology and literature reminded me of an article that I had read recently in the Boston Globe. A New England prep school named Cushing Academy recently decided to get rid of all their library books and create an entirely digital learning center. Cushing’s new plan will allow easy access to millions of titles. The full text of the article can be read here.
Panelists at the BKBF agreed that the Internet is a medium that encourages having a short attention span. The almost constant clicking between windows promotes a style of absorbing information that is in many ways antithetical to how you would read, say, War and Peace.
Yet the issue is not so straightforward that we can say that the Internet and books are incompatible. Many working in book publishing want to see the industry keep up with the increasing digitization of other forms of media like newspapers and magazines. True, Tolstoy and Twitter fall on pretty much opposite ends of the intellectual commitment spectrum, but many of us are hopeful that publishing can accommodate a changing marketplace. Technology gives us the ability to promote our titles to captive audiences through social media sites and offer books that can be purchased and downloaded with the click of a mouse for those too busy to trek to a bricks-and-mortar store.
Personally, I am for anything that gets students – or anyone – to read more. Whether it’s a browsing a real-live library or reading a funny tweet that encourages you to pick up a good book, the important thing is that you come to that book in the first place. I sympathize with the concern that books shouldn’t have to compete for anyone’s attention span over the streaming updates of their RSS feeds, but I find it overly pessimistic to say that the splintering of the American attention span will lead to the demise of literature. People crave good stories: there will always be a place for good books.
There is much to be said on this topic, but I’m curious to know what you think. Educational institutions can often be the first to adopt new information and technology practices. Please feel free to post your comments below.
Now, in Free, he makes the compelling case that in many instances businesses can profit from giving things away. Demonstrating that Free is far more than a promotional gimmick, Anderson makes it clear that Free is a business strategy that may well be essential to a company’s survival with examples from companies such as Google and Yahoo.
"Now that a cornucopia of Internet material has been made available without fee, and in some cases without scruples, the smart business must find ways to adapt to that new reality. 'The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity,' he writes. And Free is full of specific examples of how to do just that."--New York Times
"Anderson . . . provides useful insights into both the market forces he describes and what to do about them."--The Washington Post
Monday, September 21, 2009
Enter Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. This primer to design thinking—the collaborative process by which the designer’s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy—explains that design is not a link in a corporate chain but the hub of a wheel—at the center of everything. Tim Brown shows your students how to pull "design" out of the studio and unleash its disruptive, game-changing potential across an organization.
The up-to-the-minute case studies in Change by Design demonstrate design thinking in action across a broad range of companies—from Kaiser Permanente and Kraft to the Four Season Hotels—and it shows students how design thinking can be infused into every level of an organization, product, or service to produce new and exciting business plans.
Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. Ranked independently among the ten most innovative companies in the world, IDEO is the innovation and design firm that contributed to such standard-setting innovations as the first mouse for Apple and the Palm V. Today, IDEO applies its human-centered approach to drive innovation and growth for the world’s leading companies as well as government, education, healthcare, and social sectors. Tim advises senior executives and boards of Fortune 100 companies and has led strategic client relationships with such companies as Microsoft, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and Steelcase.
Best American Science Writing 2009: Itchy Scalps, Memory Algorithms and Treating Violence as an Epidemic
Though I’ve only had as much science as proscribed by my university’s general education requirements, I was unable to put down many of the essays in this collection thanks to the engaging writing style and how applicable so many of them are to the real world.
One of my personal favorite essays, that I’m sure students will enjoy as well, is enticingly titled, “Want to Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn?” by Gary Wolf. The subject of Wolf’s essay, Piotr Wozniak, created an algorithm-based computer program called SuperMemo capable of calculating the moment a person will forget something he has learned. The idea is that if you can relearn something at that moment, you can train yourself to remember anything. Though much of the article describes how this method of memory training is incompatible with the way humans live – perfect application of the algorithm leaves no time for spontaneous activity or multitasking – the applications of this theory will be useful and interesting to students and teachers alike.
Other contributors include Sallie Tisdale, Annie Murphy Paul, Oliver Sacks, David Wolman, Jina Moore, Jennifer Kahn, John Horgan, Marina Cords, Martin Enserink, J. Madeline Nash, David Quammen, Jennifer Margulis, Margaret Talbot, John Seabrook, Catherine Price, Gregg Easterbook, Denniis Overbye, Karen Olsson, and Theresa Brown. Their articles have appeared in prestigious publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Discover, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Wired, Smithsonian and many more, even The Onion.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Capitalist’s Bible offers a solution. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Gretchen Morgenson, with an introduction by Newsweek and Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson, this book is the essential primer and basic reference for students of economics and finance. Even students in related social sciences disciplines—history, political science, and international studies—will benefit from the clear and concise explanation of the fundamental concepts of the economic system that underwrites the American (and, increasingly, world) economy. The Capitalist’s Bible offers a compendium of capitalism’s many aspects—from the mechanisms and institutions that uphold it to the terms and laws that define it.
“A timely and informative primer . . . Morgenson’s book is essential for all who want to improve their capitalism literacy.”—Library Journal
“The Capitalist’s Bible is . . . perfect for students or devotees of economics.”—Better Investing
If you’d like to consider The Capitalist’s Bible for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you’ve already assigned the book as a required text, please order a desk copy.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A History of the Cow--BEEF: THE UNTOLD STORY OF HOW MILK, MEAT, AND MUSCLE SHAPED THE WORLD by Andrew Rimas & Evan D. G. Fraser
The cow is the world’s most industrious animal. A beast central to the existence of mankind since the beginning of time, not only as a source of sustenance, but also as an economic measure, a labor resource, and even a religious icon. So how did it come to occupy the sorry state it does today--more factory product than animal?
In Beef, Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser answer that question, telling the story of cattle in its entirety. Beginning with the powerful auroch, a now extinct beast once revered as a mystical totem, to the frozen patties and growth hormones of today, they deliver an engaging, panoramic view of the cow’s long and colorful history.
From breeding to eating, from worshipping to manipulating, from ancient Mediterranean bullfighting rings to the rugged grazing grounds of 18th-century England, Rimas and Fraser leave no stone unturned in their exploration of the cow’s legacy. Peppered with lively anecdotes and recipes from across the globe, the narrative serves not only as a compelling story but also as a call to arms, offering practical solutions for changing the dismal state of the wasteful beef and dairy industries. Your students are guaranteed to never look at a steak the same way again.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Goldengrove is a poignant, deeply affecting novel that illuminates the depths of the human heart, stunned by unexpected tragedy and redeemed by a hard-won wisdom and enduring love.
If you'd like to consider Goldengrove for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you've already decided to require the book, please request a desk copy.
It was September 13, 1814, American was at war with England for the second time since 1776. Francis Scott Key was an attorney attempting to negotiate the return of a civilian prisoner held by the British who had just burned Washington DC and had set their sights on Baltimore. As the British attacked the city, Key watched the naval bombardment from a ship in Baltimore’s harbor. In the morning, he could see that the Stars and Stripes still flew over Fort McHenry.
But here’s what they didn’t tell you. . .
"I slept with close to forty boys and men before I figured out doing so was not serving me well. . . . Sometime in my late twenties I tried to name them all, starting with my first, but I found out quickly I had forgotten a host of names. Tom? Tim? Oh wait, then there was that guy with the dog. For a man this might be a pleasant trip down memory lane, counting up his conquests. But for a girl, it's a whole other story."
The unforgettable story of one young woman who desperately wanted to matter, Loose Girl will speak to countless others with its compassion, understanding, and love.
"Kerry Cohen's clear-eyed, evocative, and engaging voice draws you into this harrowing story, into the heart of her addiction. Her honesty is brave, her clarity is remarkable, her candor is disarming. No matter who you are, you will find yourself, at key moments, identifying with Cohen. And in the end, you will cheer for her hard-won happiness."---Alison Smith, author of Name All the Animals
If you would like to consider Loose Girl for one of your courses, please order a paperback examination copy. If you have decided to assign the book as a required text, please request a desk copy.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Based on a decade of research, historical case studies, and intensive work with established enterprises and start-ups, Donald Sull’s The Upside of Turbulence draws lessons from companies that have consistently spotted and exploited opportunities that rivals have missed, lays out the fundamental logic of opportunity, and provides a series of practical steps to translate insight into action.
Individual chapters can be taught in conjunction with case studies on firms including Mittal Steel, Carnival Cruise Lines, Firestone Tire & Rubber, the Honda case series, and Brahma Brewing. Professor Sull is happy to share his teaching notes for using these cases in conjunction with the book so please let us know if you've assigned The Upside of Turbulence as required reading.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The author’s relationship with the city is complex, much like his telling of what happened in September 2005. Like some of the characters in his story, he was displaced during the evacuation, having spent time in refugee camps in Mississippi and elsewhere. Thanks to Piazza’s relationship with the city he writes a complex and authentic voice on one of the most important events in recent American history.
To hear the author talk about the city he knows and loves, be sure to check out this NPR interview.
- The Age of Faith: the first three centuries of Christianity, when the early church was more concerned with following Jesus's teachings than enforcing what to believe about Jesus
- The Age of Belief: marking a significant shift between the fourth and twentieth centuries when the church focused on orthodoxy and "correct doctrine"
- The Age of the Spirit: a trend that began fifty years ago and is increasingly directing the church of tomorrow whereby Christians are ignoring dogma and breaking down barriers between different religions—spirituality is replacing formal religion
You and your students can meet Harvey Cox in this video.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I love standing in our exhibit booth at the National Council of Teachers of English--talking to teachers and eavesdropping on their conversations. That's how I met Michelle Knotts of Sinagua High School in Flagstaff, Arizona. I overheard Michelle rave about Tom Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Michelle's enthusiasm made it clear that her AP class should have a live Q&A with the author.
With more and more teachers contributing to nings, I've found even more testimonials. This teacher-to-teacher recommendation for Not Quite What I Was Planning comes from Keith Schoch on the English Companion. There's a wonderful teacher's guide for this book as well.
What was the last book you recommended to a fellow teacher?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
This latest addition to the highly acclaimed series—guest edited by Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker staff writer, CNN senior legal analyst—brings together this year's best reportage on the mysteries and missteps of an unforgettable set of criminals.
This year's contributors are Calvin Trillin, L. Jon Wertheim, Dan P. Lee, Mark Boal, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, David Grann, Michael J. Mooney, Mark Arax, Charles Bowden, R. Scott Moxley, Stephen Rodrick, Alec Wilkinson, Hanna Rosin, John Colapinto, and Matt McAllester.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The single greatest lesson Alex, an African Grey parrot, taught psychologist and researcher Irene M. Pepperberg is that animal minds are a great deal more like human minds than the vast majority of behavioral scientists believed--or, more importantly, were even prepared to concede might be remotely possible. In her 30-year investigation, Dr. Pepperberg discovered that Alex had an astonishing ability to communicate and to understand complex ideas.
In Alex & Me, Dr. Pepperberg gives students an inside look into the research that lead to this incredible scientific breakthrough--and she gives us an affectionate remembrance of her irascible, unforgettable, and always surprising best friend.
Irene M. Pepperberg is an associate research professor at Brandeis University and teaches animal cognition at Harvard University. She is head of the Alex Foundation.
If you would like to consider Alex & Me for one of your courses, please order a paperback examination copy. If you've already decided to assign the book as a required text, please request a desk copy.
Meanwhile, you and your students can meet Dr. Pepperberg and Alex in this video.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
If the market isn't efficient and investors aren't rational--what do your students need to know now?
In The Myth of the Rational Market, Justin Fox, economics and business columnist for Time magazine, gives students a careful but also entertaining history of the 20th century’s most influential financial concept—and he introduces them to the new theories that will drive the market in the century ahead.
“Every MBA should be required to read this informative, lucid, entertaining history of modern finance.” --Wayne L. Winston, professor, Indiana University Kelley School of Business
If you'd like to consider The Myth of the Rational Market for one of your courses, please order an examination copy. If you've already decided to require the book, please request a desk copy.
Meanwhile, you and your students can meet Justin Fox in this video.