Talking About Books . . .

Words on the Move

The Millions has a preview of the most anticipated nonfiction books to be published in the second half of this year.  This is a companion piece to an earlier article about the most anticipated fiction books to be published during the same period.

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I am very interested in ways to get young people to read books.  The Guardian has an article that touches, though incompletely, on one of my concerns: having high school kids read the “classics” like the ones I was forced to read when I was in high school.  The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville,  and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne are three novels I vaguely remember reading.  What I remember most about them is that there was little action, but lots of words about what the various characters were thinking.  Are teen-ager’s minds wired for novels like that?  Does being forced to read books that they are incapable of understanding (because their brains aren’t fully developed) do more to discourage rather than encourage future reading?  What do you think?

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You may have heard that there are a limited number of plot lines in all the stories that have ever been written, and that those plots have been used over, and over, and over.   But exactly how many are there?  Well, that depends on whose list you believe.  Here are three possible answers: three, six, and 36.  Alison Flood explains in a Guardian article.

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Night

One day when Sonari Glinton was in the fifth or sixth grade he had to write a book report.  He chose Night by the recently deceased Eli Wiesel because it was the shortest book he could find in the biography section.  Much to his surprise, he was very moved by what he read.  Years later when he was a student at Boston University he decided to take a course taught by Wiesel who was then a professor there.  Glinton learned a lot more than he expected to learn when he was finally accepted for Wiesel’s course.  First, he learned that Wiesel personally hand-picked the few students who would be allowed to take his class.  Second, Glinton learned that Wiesel was not at all the morose man he thought he would meet after reading Night.  NPR has the full story here.

I was particularly struck by this tribute to Wiesel: “I mourn the man who taught me that in many ways laughter is the greatest victory.”

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“Bookshops have separate sections for fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, travel writing, journalism, economics and politics.  But all of these different forms of writing were more or less created by one author. . .”  Who was that author? Daniel Defoe.  A BBC broadcast explores the life of this writer whose most famous work, Robinson Crusoe, is still popular almost 300 years after its publication.  Be sure to explore the other programs at the BBC site that are also Defoe-centered, but  be aware that they are only available for a limited time.

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The Round House

For ten years the National Endowment for the Arts has been supporting NEA Big Read projects across the U.S.  Thirteen books have been added to their list for 2017-2018 making a grand total of 28 available titles to choose from.  If you would like to take part in this project, find out how to apply for a grant at the NEA’s Big Read website.

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Short Edition

Got a few minutes and nothing to read?  If you’re in Grenoble, France you can read some short stories free of charge.  And the idea is spreading.  CBS Sunday Morning recently did a piece on this neat idea.

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