December 2011

Northwest Passage

Kenneth Roberts

When I was in high school, I read “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts, and immediately became fascinated with Roger's Rangers and with the colonial-era Rangers in general. Rangers were specialized troops picked from the woodsmen and hunters of the colonial frontier. They fought far behind enemy lines as a matter of course, worked closely with Indian allies and made war on the Indians allied with the French. Rangers were renowned for fighting “Indian style”- in other words, via the raid and the ambush and all the other features we would now think of as guerilla warfare.


"From Hell's heart I stab at thee!"

Originality is impossible and every story has already been told a thousand times. Trying to be original is a recipe for failure, because all you'll end up doing is coming up with some arbitrary and meaningless twist on the old cliches. But every once in a very long while, somebody actually writes something completely different, something that breaks all the rules and gets away with it.

Geography for Fun

While cleaning out my daughter’s huge collection of books this month, I ran across one that I had completely forgotten about but look forward to using often in the upcoming weeks. By Pam Robson, it’s called Geography for Fun: Projects with Hands-On Experiments and Activities on Seas, Mountains, Ecosystems, and Much, Much More.

The fully illustrated and color book is filled to the brim with over 150 pages of experiments and projects, from map-making to food and farming projects. There’s an easy glossary and index to use in the back of the book to find what you want to make or understand further concepts, as well as a table of contents including chapters such as Mountains and Our Moving Earth and People and Places.


By John Myers Myers

“Silverlock” by John Myers Myers is a rare and very special kind of book. Not very many people have read it, but many successful fantasy authors count it among their most important influences. To the few who have read it, this book is a treasure, to be read over and over again.

Farhad Manjoo Says Amazon SHOULD Crush Indie Bookstores

It's a bold stance, to say the least!
Even I, an avowed Kindle-lover and techie, had to take a (mental) step back when I read Farhad Manjoo's recent article in Slate. I have been reading Manjoo's articles for years, in Wired and elsewhere. He is often contrarian, but always thought-provoking. And he turns out to be right more often than I might like, as when he publicized the death of "the double-space after a period."
But this time? Manjoo may have gone too far. I worry for his safety. I'm only half-kidding about that. There are few truly sacred icons in our culture, but "local indie bookstores" is one of them. And Manjoo didn't just skewer that cultural icon, he smashed it into dust with a hammer in the middle of the street. 

2011: My Year In Books

For me, this was a great year of reading!
I can't talk about my reading this year without talking about the mechanics. I can divide 2011 into two halves: The Borders Era and The Kindle Era. Up until June or so, I was a addict. I bought SO MANY BOOKS using their constant flow of email coupons, plus the free shipping on orders over $25.

Amazon's Latest Jerk Move: Price Check Day

Amazon rewards buyers' bad behavior
Much like the book-scanners we talked about yesterday, Amazon's innovation was to bring a ruthless focus on business tactics to the world of books. Amazon got where they are today thanks in large part to their "take no prisoners" approach to the market, which is why so many people hate them, and why so many people buy their books there.
One particularly loathsome practice which has been steadily growing is that of shoppers using their smartphones to comparison-shop while they are at the bookstore. These people treat the bookstore as a showroom of sorts. They browse the stacks, find the books they want to buy, then stand there in the aisle and look up the price on Amazon. If Amazon has a better price, they buy the book from Amazon and walk out.

The Ethics of Book Scanners

Frankly, I don't think it's as criminal as many other people do
Slate has a great article up, "Confessions of a Used Book Seller." In it, the author sheepishly confesses to being one of those book sellers who skim quickly through book sales, scanning every bar code with a specially-equipped PDA. As per the specifications he has set for his software, for each book his PDA gives him either a green "Buy" recommendation or a red "Pass" recommendation.
A lot of people despise the book scanners. (A fact of which the article's author is clearly aware.) The people who hate scanners are the people who love books far beyond their actual stated value. They are idealists who believe that books are sacred, and that even the humblest paperback genre novel should be treated with a religious awe. 

CLASS Lesson Planner

CLASS is a product of Christian Liberty Press, and stands for Christian Liberty Academy School System. This lesson planner provides homeschooling parents, like myself, with every form known to man. It has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to keeping accurate records, although keeping records is not a homeschooling requirement within my state.  

Learning Games for Kids

Skip the flashcards and go for something more fun!

As a homeschooler, I know a lot of people have different ideas about what my lifestyle is like, and that’s fine. I have similar unconscious assumptions that I make about people, too. But we don’t use flashcards. I simply don’t believe in them. If my child wants to use them, that’s fine—but I’ll never use them to “drill” things into her head, because I think learning should be meaningful and self-directed.

That said, my daughter does use her flashcards for various things. Sometimes she will spell words with her alphabet cards. Or she might just build a house with them. Either is fine with me, as long as it’s what she wants to do. Recently we found a way to make them into games that are fun to play and also help us learn, and she really enjoys that.

E-book Sales Doubled In September

E-book haters had better step up their game!
Publishers Weekly has announced that the sale of e-books DOUBLED in the month of September. That's a mind-boggling statistic for an industry which has been circling the drain for the last five (ten, twenty, a hundred) years.
E-book haters will no doubt cringe to hear it. But I'm not gloating. In fact, I'm going to tell you how to win the war: buy books. New books, not used books. Money talks, and the publishing industry is listening hard. E-book lovers are shoveling their money at the publishers as fast as they can grab it, and that is why we are currently winning.