Talking About Books . . .

Both National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman and her poem “The Hill We Climb” were big hits at President Biden’s inauguration.  You can read her poem here.  The Great Books Foundation has developed a set of discussion questions about the poem which you can find here.  You can also see Ms. Gorman recite her poem at the same website.  If you are a teacher you can sign up for one of three upcoming internet discussions about the poem during February.  This would be a good way to become familiar with the Foundation’s “shared inquiry” method of discussing literary works.

By the way, Gorman will recite her poem as part of the Super Bowl LV pre-game activities on Sunday.  NPR has an article concerning this upcoming event and the wonderful future that this marvelous young lady has before her.

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Audible recently created a category of subscribers called Audible Premium Plus.  Members of that group have access to thousands and thousands of Audible’s books free of charge.  The titles are broken into categories such as “Biographies & Memoirs,” “Children’s Audiobooks,” “Literature & Fiction,” “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,” “Science & Engineering,” and “Teen & Young Adult.”  Each category is further broken down into a number of sub-categories.  You can download as many titles as you wish and can keep them as long as you wish.  However, when you end your Audible subscription, the titles disappear from your collection.  If you fit into the Audible Premium Plus category, be sure to check out this fantastic benefit here.

You might also want to check out Chirp, a relatively new company, started by Bookbub, that features audiobooks.  You can sign up for their daily deal which is normally priced between $1.99 and $4.99.  You should also check out their catalog of limited time deals.

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1924 Bestseller

What was the bestselling book the year you were born?  If you were born during or after 1920 you can find out here.  Many of the entries also contain additional information on other popular books as well.  As you’ll see, nobody has had a better run than John Grisham.

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Books That Made Me” is an interesting Guardian series of questions to and answers from a wide variety of writers.  In each installment you not only learn about the featured authors, but you also learn a lot about the books they’ve read.  It’s fun to read and a great way to get ideas for future reads.

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“I am not very good at speaking, in public or private. If it’s a matter of recounting facts, I manage more or less to bring them to a conclusion. But if I have to explain my reasoning, argue rigorously, I get agitated, confused – everything seems to fly out of my head. Things go badly in particular if I’m dealing with people who I think have some authority. I have everything clear in my mind to start with, and yet it’s as if, after a few words, something gives way. I lose faith in what I wanted to say, the taut thread of the argument I had in mind breaks, I keep repeating: “I’m sorry, but I can’t explain.”

The quote above is from one of the weekly columns written by the very popular Neapolitan novelist Elena Ferrante for The Guardian for a short time in 2018 and 2019.  The topics were quite diverse.  You can find all of them here.

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Jon Meacham and country music singer Tim McGraw have jointly authored a book titled Songs of America.  You can read the book or listen to the audiobook which contains the text of the book plus the music that is a very important part of the work.

Meacham, a presidential historian, has recently started It Was Said, a podcast about famous speeches.  You can access it in whatever way you listen to podcasts. He indicates that there will be ten episodes, but I also see that this is said to be season 1.  Meacham is a very effective teacher, so let’s hope that there will be additional seasons in the future.

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The sixth post I did for this blog (on October 28, 2012) was about one of the strangest authors I’ve ever heard of.  His name was Charles Webb and his wife’s name was Fred.  Webb, author of the novel The Graduate, died in England at the age of 81 on June 16, 2020.  Here is an article about him from The New York Times.  

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With today’s computers being ubiquitous, it’s difficult to see how authors rethink and rewrite portions of their books.  In the days when authors used pens and paper, they often scribbled notes in the margins, scratched through passages, and rewrote them above the originals.  How do we know?  We have some of the original first drafts to peruse, that’s how.  A BBC article,   “Surprising Secrets of Writers’ First Book Drafts” gives us examples of how much some first drafts differed from the final products.  It’s like looking into the minds of some of our most famous writers.

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Open Culture gives us 25 animations of literary works that may interest you.  You may find some of them a bit strange, but they’re quite interesting and imaginative.

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Has the pandemic got you down?  Some people have found coloring books to be therapeutic.  Open Culture provides a list of websites that are offering free coloring books for those of you who enjoy this hobby.  Here is a post that I wrote some time ago on the adult coloring book craze.

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