January 2012

The Permanence of E-Books

The truth is, physical books "die" all the time.
Jonathan Franzen recently talked about the impermanence of e-books compared to physical books. He told the Telegraph, "Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I'm handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing - that's reassuring," 
A lot of people feel this way about e-books versus physical books. But here is the thing: it's wrong. I know it's tempting to hold a physical book in your hands and think, "Here is a permanent thing, an object for the ages! Not like those e-books, which can be deleted in a few keystrokes!"
But physical books die all the time. If anything, physical books are LESS permanent than e-books, because you can't create a backup copy.

E-Books: Jonathon Franzen is Against e-books.

It should no longer be a competition between e-books versus print books.

Jonathon Franzen doesn’t seem to like anything other than his own writing; the esteemed author was most famously noted for getting pissy that his novel “The Corrections” was included in the Oprah book club. Now that the author has another book in the spotlight, Jonathon Franzen is again trying to make controversy, this time by  trying to stir up controversy about whether e-books are worthwhile or not.

His opinion? Jonathon Franzen says that e-books are not valuable.

The Magus of Java

Teachings of a Mo-ist Immortal!

I happen to be personally interested in Taoist spirituality, and I pick up every serious book I can find on the subject. It's very different from what most people believe, and much less focused on the Tao Te Ching. (Defining Taoism by the Tao Te Ching is a lot like defining Christianity by the Book of Proverbs.) My most recent “Taoist” read is “The Magus of Java” by Kosta Dervenis, and it's an odd little book in several ways. For one thing, the Magus of Java is really a Mo-ist, not a Taoist, but nobody knows what Mo-ism is anymore so you couldn't really put that on the book cover.

The Law of Attraction

"The Secret" and others

There are many books, DVDs, and online resources about "the Law of Attraction."  While the concept is far from new, its popularity rose after the release of http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Rhonda-Byrne/dp/1582701709 in 2006.  As it is very rare for me to shell out $16.99 to buy a book at a bookstore, I waited a few years until I could get a copy on discount through Amazon.  Nothing about The Secret impressed me, so I decided to find out what other people thought of it.

Martin Eden

By Jack London

One of my all-time favorite books is “Martin Eden” by Jack London, which is a very different work from some of his other books like White Fang. Martin Eden is a blue-collar tough guy, a sailor, a street-fighter and a sometime gang member. When he meets and falls in love with an upper-middle-class girl named Ruth, he falls for her completely, but he doesn't realize it's not really her he loves. He loves her apparent refinement and veneer of education, because Martin is actually extremely intelligent and inside himself he recognizes that he wants to have what he thinks she has.

E-Books Will Kill The Library Book Sale

And that's a good thing!
Literary news blog The Millions has a great essay by Rebecca Rego Barry titled "A Rare Book Collector's Guide to the College Library Book Sale." Rather than a literal guide to book sales, Rego Barry's essay is a paean to books themselves, to the history they contain, the fads they speak of, and the promise they hold for the future. It is wonderfully evocative of the experience of browsing a college library's book sale, and it made me nostalgic for a book sale I attended decades ago on a perfect autumn day. 
After reading this eminently satisfying essay I sat back in my desk chair - for I read her essay on the computer, not to point out the obvious - and thought, "That's one more thing that e-books will kill." 

Spectrum Test Prep Grade 7

Some children do extremely well with their everyday school work, but then freeze-up on tests. Parents who home school can get help in this area by utilizing the Test Prep book that Spectrum sells. The book itself is more than affordable. I purchased mine for less than $10. I’ll review the one I have for my daughter, which is Grade 7.

The book has 135 pages of reproducible worksheets (important if you are homschooling more than one child). Within those 135 pages are four categories of school work that will help your child prepare for a test. They include language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.

Oso polar, oso polar que es ese ruido?

Teaching Spanish is easier with familiar books

If you live in the Austin area and want to brush up on your Spanish skills, or teach a child to learn Spanish, there’s a really fun way to do it without buying expensive programs or even taking a class. You can do it by immersing yourself (or your child) into literature and films that you are already familiar with, but that are in Spanish. The best of these, of course, are of the children’s variety, since they have simpler words that are more often used in conversation—and that are easier for us to learn and understand.

Three Is Not A Crowd

"This book stirred up quite the debate, given that the two penguins featured, are male penguins."

And Tango Makes Three is a children’s book written a few years ago; not necessarily a book that everyone may know about, but a book worth reading, none the less. Written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, this book features a story about the life of two penguins – living in the Central Park Zoo in New York. The interesting component to this book, is that it is based upon a true story – the life of these two penguins and their journey once given an egg to raise.

This book stirred up quite the debate, given that the two penguins featured, are male penguins. The debate stemmed from the on-going controversy regarding homosexuality, gay marriage, same sex couples and adoption.

Reality is, this is a story that simply explores these animals ability to hatch an egg and raise it. Yes, there are two male penguins, but the book isn’t necessarily a podium for gay rights. Research of the behaviors of these animals in the zoo, showed that they did not engage in sexual behaviors – and did demonstrate heterosexual behaviors, yet the two seemed to have bonded and actually attempted to hatch a rock – that they believed was their egg. It is a heartwarming story showing the nurturing impact of animals.  

American Insurgents, American Patriots

The Revolution Of The Common People

I picked up “American Insurgents, American Patriots” for two main reasons. One is that two of my direct ancestors fought in the American Revolution as citizen soldiers in the New York Militia, and I wanted to better understand their motivations and their experiences. The second reason is that I'm an Occupier, and reading about an earlier generation of American revolutionaries and patriots is inspiring to me.

Being “Stuck” at Home with the Kids

Why did you have them in the first place?

I tend to think that most parents have their children’s best interest at heart. Despite the horror stories we hear about parents who murdered their own children, or the millions of youth on the streets due to abuse, I think that most parents really do want what is best for their kids and act out of love for the most part.

But then again, I could be wrong. It sure wouldn’t be the first time.


When most children begin learning about animals, they often are taught about cats, dogs, lions, bears, birds, and elephants. There are books and toys that show pictures of all of these animals. They help children learn what each looks like…the sounds they make…where they live. We all know the world is filled with animals, the popular, unpopular, ugly, cute, aggressive and nurturing. Yet, not all of those animals make the cut – so many interesting animals remain in the shadows, waiting for someone to bring them to life…to tell their story.

McDonald's UK: Happy Meal Books Instead Of Toys

I remember how excited I was, as a kid in the late 1970s, to get a Moby Books Illustrated Classic with my fast food meal.
The Huffington Post is reporting that McDonalds stores in the UK will soon be offering books instead of toys as prizes in their Happy Meals. This is - if you ask me - pretty much the best thing ever.
First of all, kids do not need any more toys. I know that sounds curmudgeonly of me, but it's true. Especially the cheap plastic toys that come with Happy Meals. These are just merchandising tie-ins to the latest fad movie, and all they do is encourage kids to consume more advertising. (Sure, the book is a promotional tie-in with the movie War Horse. But the promo item is a real book, "Mudpuddle Farm" by the author of the book "War Horse.")

The Land of Non-Readers

So much less taxing, so much simpler to just watch television or play video games or mess about endlessly on the internet.
Essayist Jonathan Gourlay recently wrote a sort of confession about the months he spent as a non-reader. It is surprisingly easy to slip away from reading. After a lifetime as a bookworm, I quit reading for almost a decade. Only recently, in the last three or four years, have I started to make reading a priority again. 
As Gourlay notes, my experience is that "not reading" was a surprisingly seductive pleasure. It is the height of laziness to not read a book. So much less taxing, so much simpler to just watch television or play video games or mess about endlessly on the internet. (It MUST be easy to not read - otherwise, why would so many Americans be doing it? [i.e. not reading.])
I did some of my worst writing during those ten years. That's no coincidence.

Lord of The Rings

A Literary Masterpiece

J.R.R. Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” is one of the most significant literary works of the Twentieth Century, with tremendous influence at all levels of popular culture. The fact that the literary establishment still doesn't recognize this is an indictment of the validity of that establishment as a whole.

The Missing Link: Found

The Missing Link: Found is a literature book that comes with an accompanying study guide. It was written by a mother and daughter team, Christina and Felice Gerwitz, who are the founders of Media Angels Inc. Christina was only 12 years old at the time the book was written.

The story revolves around two children who are homeschooled, which was perfect because I homeschool my daughter. She was able to relate to the characters in the book because of this. What we also enjoyed was that the book was written with so much action and adventure that we just couldn’t wait to read what would happen next.

Spectrum Spelling Gets an A+

I first started using Spectrum Spelling when I began home schooling my daughter. I didn’t have a lot of money back then, and these books were an unbelievable $9.95 at Staples. Spectrum gears itself to be used as supplemental materials, but I have found them to be far superior to several of the full curriculums on the market. Even my friend who was a teacher for nine years used these with her daughter.

Spectrum has spelling books for kids in 1st grade all the way up through 6th grade. Each book is broken down into lessons. Each lesson is then broken down even farther into five sections. I would require my daughter to complete one section each day from Monday through Friday. In addition to Monday’s lesson, I would also have her write each spelling word on a note card. The note cards were to be reviewed once per day, with a quiz on the words after the Friday lesson.

The BEST Best Books of 2011

A meta-survey of 2011 "Best Books" lists
I am continually boggled by all the good books in the world. How can you ever possibly hope to read anything more than the tiniest sliver of the best literature every year? This overwhelming bounty is brought home by skimming a bunch of "best books of 2011" lists. It's astounding how little these lists overlap. 
Therefore - I figured - the books that appear on multiple lists must be REALLY good. And after conducting a semi-exhaustive and not-at-all-scientific survey, here they are:
Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding: A Novel
This book is listed in the top 3 of just about every list that I found, including the New York Times and Amazon. Wow, I bet it's good!