What do you know about utopian and dystopian literature?  Not much?  Well, take a few minutes to watch a TED-ED Original that will make it all clear, and give you a whole new reading list.

Go to Reading Between the Lines for other TED-Ed Originals that might also interest you.

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Just in case you ever need it, BuzzFeed has compiled a list of 31 books that will restore your faith in humanity.

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I recently watched a delightful segment on Book TV featuring four authors who discussed their favorite books and their reading habits.  I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

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I have often marveled at the depth of knowledge displayed by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series.  Some of the characters’ names (such as Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy, Voldemort, and Albus Dumbledore) as well as the names of many of the strange beasts that inhabit Harry’s world indicate that Rowling did a great deal of reading in many areas and had a wide range of familiarity with ancient myths and obscure people and creatures.  We don’t know how or from where she got all of her unique ideas, but a BBC article explains the origins of a few of Rowling’s best known beasts and people.

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Ron Charles, the book editor at The Washington Post, is a sober reviewer, but he has a funny, satirical side as well that you might enjoy.  Check out some of Charles’ videos on YouTube.  You’ll either love or hate them.  There’s nothing in between.

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“In late 1973 or early 1974, Danny gave a talk, which he would deliver more than once, and which he called ‘Cognitive Limitations and Public Decision Making.’ It was troubling to consider, he began, ‘an organism equipped with an affective and hormonal system not much different from that of the jungle rat being given the ability to destroy every living thing by pushing a few buttons.’ Given the work on human judgment that he and Amos had just finished, he found it further troubling to think that ‘crucial decisions are made, today as thousands of years ago, in terms of the intuitive guesses and preferences of a few men in positions of authority.’ The failure of decision-makers to grapple with the inner workings of their own minds, and their desire to indulge their gut feelings, made it ‘quite likely that the fate of entire societies may be sealed by a series of avoidable mistakes committed by their leaders.’”

The above quote is from an article that Flash Boys author Michael Lewis wrote for Vanity FairThe article concerns Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two Israeli psychologists with little in common, who, nevertheless, teamed up to explore the human decision making process.  What they found has irrevocably changed our views about this very important subject – and makes me a bit afraid.

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From the mid-1800s through the 1920s orphans and abandoned children from New York City were put on trains and transported west.  The trains stopped in various rural towns where the locals were encouraged to “adopt” one or more of the children.  The process reminded me of a slave market, and it was, in fact, not very different.  The strong boys were chosen to help out short-handed farmers and the girls were chosen to help out the farmers’ wives.  Children who were not chosen (for whatever reason) were returned to an orphanage back in New York.

Author Christina Baker Kline researched the subject of orphan trains, then wrote a novel about an Irish girl –  “Dorothy” was the name she was given by the first couple who took her in – who went through the ordeal.  At times the book is difficult to read due to the treatment that Dorothy receives, but the book brings to light an important chapter in American history.  And, you’ll be glad to know, Dorothy’s life gets better as time passes.  Kline answers 10 questions about her book in a YouTube video.

There is also a YouTube video of a 1979 TV movie about the orphan trains.

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I seldom recommend products in this blog because I don’t want to be accused of doing so for monetary gain.  However, when I run across an exceptional item that I have bought, I can’t resist the urge to pass information along to you about it.  The DKnight Magicbox II portable Bluetooth speaker is one of those products.  I recently purchased one through Amazon and found its sound remarkable especially for such a small,  portable device.  It has an internal rechargeable battery that can play music for approximately 10 hours without requiring a recharge, and, at the time I am writing this, it sells for only $30.99.  Also, at the time I am writing this they are out of stock.  There may be other sources for this remarkable speaker, so keep it in mind as a Christmas present.  You can learn more about it here.

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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, December 4, 2016 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The entire program will be dedicated to a discussion about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The featured guests will be authors Steve Twomey (Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack), Eri Hotta (Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy) and Craig Nelson (Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness).

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