Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ Wins the Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award

Congratulations to Dalia Sofer, whose novel, The Septembers of Shiraz, has won the Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award. This award carries a $25,000 prize and will be presented at an awards ceremony in May at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. For more information please visit the Jewish Book Council.

"[A] richly evocative, powerfully affecting depiction of a prosperous Jewish family in Tehran shortly after the revolution . . . it's impossible to predict whether Sofer's novel will become a classic, but it certainly stands a chance . . . the book's simple plot is immediately engaging. . . . Sofer writes beautifully . . . and she tells her characters' stories with deceptive simplicity . . . The Septembers of Shiraz is miraculously light in its touch, as beautiful and delicate as a book about suffering can be."--Clare Messud, New York Times Book Review

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour? Try No Power for 18 Months!

Turning off your lights for one hour in honor of Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture--and I recommend that you do it. 

However, MIT graduate Eric Brende and his wife Mary went even further. In Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, Eric recounts their eighteen months living off the grid. Mixing scientific analysis with his own story, Eric demonstrates how a world without technological excess can shrink stress, waistlines, and pollution--and expand happiness and health. 

Eric now has an e-mail account at his public library--but he and Mary continue to minimize their use of electricity and technology.

What about me? I'm a pretty big fan of technology--but I can turn off my lights and unplug for an hour. It's a start. 

What are you doing at your school? Let us know.

Friday, March 27, 2009

750 Followers on Twitter

To celebrate our 750th follower on Twitter, we made a word cloud of our followers.

If you aren't one of our 750 followers, please join us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Heralded as a landmark achievement, Ida:  A Sword Among Lions is a sweeping narrative about a country and a crusader embroiled in the struggle against lynching--a practice that imperiled not only the lives of black men and women, but also a nation based on law and riven by race.

At the center of the national drama was Ida B. Wells (1862-1931). Born to slaves in Mississippi, Wells began her activist career by refusing to leave a first-class ladies' car on a Memphis railway and rose to lead the nation's first campaign against lynching. With meticulous research and a vivid rendering of her subject, Paula J. Giddings, an Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College, brings to life the irrepressible personality of Wells and gives the visionary reformer her due.

If you are considering using Ida:  A Sword Among Lions for one of your courses, please order an examination copy.

Armchair College Travel: YouTube.com/edu

YouTube just launched this week a new channel, YouTube.com/edu. This new virtual resource encompasses videos from more than 100 educational institutions throughout the United States, with the content including campus tours, free lectures, research, and relevant college news and information. Ultimately this channel could be used as a tool by high school students who need to make crucial decisions about what universities they should apply to. 

Here's a relevant sample video about the current economic crisis from Yale University:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Psychotherapy Networker Symposium 2009

Tomorrow is the first day of this year's Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, which will go through Sunday. Several HarperCollins authors will be there as presenters including Ester Perel (Mating in Captivity), Wendy Maltz (The Porn Trap), and Barbara Graham (Eye of My Heart). Be sure to stop by The Self Esteem Shop's booth where our books and authors are graciously being hosted, and get your copy signed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Janis Hallowell, Author of SHE WAS, Comments on Campus Reading

I love having guest bloggers—and it's not because I'm slightly lazy. Like any good guest, new people bring fresh points of view and liven up the place.

This week, I invited Janis Hallowell to comment on The Washington Post article, "On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats" by Ron Charles.

Here's what Janis has to say:

So, the number one book last year was a vampire book. And college kids are reading it. So what? I’d be willing to bet that at 19 years old Ron Charles read some less-than-lofty books that he’s selectively forgetting. Here’s a reality check: the best selling novel in 1969 (the year that Alice Echols claims everybody on campuses was reading
Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice) was Portnoy’s Complaint, followed by The Godfather and Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine. Hardly subversive. On the non-fiction side were Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and two books by Rod McKuen. Eldridge Cleaver didn’t make it into the top ten, nor did The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Golden Notebook, or anything by Plath or Nin. In 1970 the number one book was Eric Segal’s Love Story. The point is, the top selling book rarely reflects what the college kids are thinking about or reading. It only reflects what’s selling.

The college freshmen I talked to today (on Facebook, by the way) said that they do like the Twilight series for escape reading. They’re also reading Toni Morrison, Conrad, Shakespeare, and Joyce. These kids have got the daunting task of becoming the workforce and the genius that’s going to get us from here to the post-carbon era. They elected Barack Obama and apparently they’re buying his books. So excuse me if they’re not reading Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver in their down time. They don’t have to.

Janis Hallowell is the author of She Was, a novel set in the Vietnam era and the Iraq era that may or may not be subversive. The paperback edition of She Was will publish in April.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why More is Sometimes Less

The Paradox of Choice is always a popular book wherever we take it as it fits nicely into several areas of study. It is a fascinating social critique about our obsession with choice, and how that can contribute to anxiety, dissatisfaction, and regret. Last week, Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, did an interview with HypeBot.com, a popular music and technology blog, and talked about how the abundance of options is affecting the music industry and the way we listen to and consume music. Check out the interview here:



I play Netflix Roulette—which means I add movies to my queue without looking at the top of my list; I never know what will ship next. This week, when the red envelope arrived, it contained Notes on a Scandal—the movie based on Zoë Heller's What Was She Thinking?.

Here's a wonderful kind of kismet: Zoë's new novel, The Believers, has just published in the United States to terrific reviews.

Zoë’s novels are so realistic and satiric that some people ask her, “Why are so many of your characters unlikeable?” I never ask. At times, everybody can be unpleasant, stubborn, and ridiculous. Zoë is a novelist—and her characters can’t hide their true selves from her—or from us. And, after all, I'm past the age when Pollyanna can hold my attention.

The more interesting questions are the ones that Zoë asks: What do we believe in? The solidity of our marriages? A political doctrine? Do some of our beliefs keep us from true happiness? What happens when these seemingly rock-solid beliefs are shaken?

Spend some time with the Litvinoffs of The Believers and find out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Congratulations to Fred Kaplan!

Kaplan’s book, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, has won the nonfiction category of the 2009 Maine Literary Awards. Kaplan, along with the other winning authors, will be honored at an awards ceremony on April 22nd at the Glickman Family Library on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine. The event is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

For more information and a complete list of the winners, please visit: http://www.mainewriters.org/home.html

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Turn Off the TV: What to Read on Monday Night

In August, I got a notice from my cable provider: Get a new cable box or risk service interruptions. August is a busy time for academic marketers (American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association, American Political Science Association) so I didn't get to it.

September was spent getting catalogs and direct mail out to educators. Plus, I have something akin to a social life. In October, I turned on my television to discover I wasn't getting a few stations--but none that I missed. In November, I was a road warrior (American Academy of Religion, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English). December is a busy time for everybody. Academics celebrate the holidays and tear off to Modern Language Association and American Philosophical Association. It wasn't until mid-January--a few days after the American Historical Association--that I realized I had only ten stations--fuzzy local stations and what seemed through the static to be a station devoted exclusively to selling juicers.

Finally, I called to get the new cable box. Now, I have too many stations--and I can't turn on my television without going into a remote-clicking semi-coma. There's so much to watch—most of it is awful—but I can't help flicking through to find something worth the effort.

So, I've made rules about my television watching. Rule One: I will not watch television on Monday nights--not even the news. Nothing!

If you'd like to follow Rule One on March 23, here are suggestions for what to read in lieu of your usual Monday night show at 8 pm.

  • CBS: The Big Bang Theory. It's a repeat so isn't it a better idea to spend 30 minutes with Simon Singh 's The Big Bang? You'll learn about the origins of the universe.
  • TNT: The Closer. Meet another female detective: Laura Lippman's heroine Tess Monaghan. Try Charm City--which won the Edgar and Shamus Awards.
  • NBC: Chuck. People aren't always what they seem to be--even your closest relatives. It wasn't until the last years of her father's life that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lucinda Franks discovered that the remote man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy. Read My Father's Secret War tonight.
  • FOX: House. This show always feels like a repeat even when it's an episode I haven't seen. House is grumpy. House saves patient. Why not read a real medical drama? His Brother's Keeper: One Family's Journey to the Edge of Medicine by Jonathan Weiner. This New York Times Notable follows the Heywoods as they search for a way to save 28-year-old Steven from ASL--Lou Gehrig's Disease.
  • NIK: SpongeBob SquarePants. Bawdy humor reigns in all of Chris Moore's books. His latest is Fool.
  • ABC: Dancing with the Stars. The Los Angeles Book Review said Kiss and Tango: Diary of a Dancehall Seductress by Marina Palmer is "armchair tango.... Now that's an escape." If you really need a Dancing with the Stars fix, there's always the tie-in book.
  • TBS: Family Guy. Discover how comics work with Scott McCloud's brilliant Understanding Comics. If you can't go a day without Family Guy, read one of the tie-in books.
  • WOR: Masters of Illusion. Teach your kids some tricks with Magic Secrets by Rose Wyler.
  • WPIX: Gossip Girls. The Luxe by Anna Godgersen features pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn--in the Manhattan of 1899.
  • LIFE: Will & Grace. I'm a fan of Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch. 20-something woman meets gay man in NYC--circa 1980. The New York Times called it, "Sharp, affectionate, and hilarious." It is.
  • NET: Antiques Roadshow. Get off the couch and go up to your attic with a copy of Price It Yourself! --a guide to appraising antiques and collectibles in your home, at auctions, estate sales, shops, and yard sales.
  • BRAVO: Unforgiven. For a gritty Western turn to The Assassination of Jesse James by Ron Hansen.
  • WLIW: Lidia's Italy. Admit it: You spend more time watching other people cook than you spend in your own kitchen. Make something from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home--winner of a James Beard Book Award.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


True or false? Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost?

As a former English major, I should know, but I don't. As usual, Kenneth C. Davis, author of the Don't Know Much About series, tells me something I should know: "True. Each day, Milton dictated lines of verse to his daughters, who wrote them down."

Ken's book Don't Know Much About Literature won't be available until August 2009, but I have a small box of galleys to giveaway now.

Let me know if you'd like a preview copy. Hurry! My supply is limited.

Community College Enrollments Are Up: On Campus and Online

The League for Innovation in the Community College has released a report that proves the old educational formula is still true: When the economy slows, community college enrollments go up.

Why? There are two main reasons:

  • The unemployed turn to their local community colleges to learn new skills.
  • Many students who would normally go away to a four-year institution save money by living at home and taking core classes at a junior college. And, the savings can be large. Check out the Community College of Baltimore County's online chart that shows what a value they are in comparison to other public and private institutions.

Enrollment is up across all areas of the curriculum--from core courses and student success programs to remedial and career enhancement.

However, the real news is that online course enrollments are dramatically up, and more community colleges are adding courses and complete programs due to student demand.

Take a look at Nassau Community College's online offerings for spring.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Woman Behind the Bard of Avon: "Shakespeare's Wife" by Germaine Greer

Little is known about Ann Hathaway, the wife of England's greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. A great deal has been assumed however, none of it complimentary. Writer, academic, critic, and legendary feminist Germaine Greer boldly breaks new ground in Shakespeare's Wife, reclaiming this much maligned figure from generations of scholarly neglect and misogyny. With deep insight and intelligence, Greer offers daring and thoughtful new theories about the farmer's daughter who married Britain's immortal Bard, painting a vivid portrait of a truly remarkable woman.

"Partly scholarly, partly speculative, consistently lively. . . . It's invigorating to read [Greer's] fierce rebuttals of the most august Shakespearean scholars."--Washington Post Book World

If you would like to consider Shakespeare's Wife for one of your courses, please use our paperback examination form. If you have decided to adopt this title, please use our desk copy form.

St. Patrick's Day Resolution

Dubliners has been on my 'to read' list for quite some time, but I always manage to put it off. With this gorgeous, unabridged, multi-voice recording audio version, I really no longer have an excuse. My St. Patrick's Day Resolution is to finish this by next St. Patrick's Day. Someone please hold me to it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reading John Cheever

During this morning's commute, I read Geoffrey Wolff's review of Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey in the New York Times Book Review.

The review made me want to revisit Cheever's work. I'll start with The Wapshot Chronicle--based in part on Cheever's adolescence in New England--and I'll follow up with its sequel The Wapshot Scandal.

To whet your appetite for John Cheever, listen to Meryl Streep read the short story "The Enormous Radio" from our Essential Cheever audio.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What to Read Today: Thornton Wilder's THE IDES OF MARCH

When I hear the phrase, "Beware the Ides of March," I think of Julius Caesar on the Senate steps meeting his fate--and Thornton Wilder 's dramatic novel.

In The Ides of March, Thornton Wilder uses vividly imagined letters and documents to bring to life one of history's most magnetic, elusive personalities. In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar--Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages--the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins.

Accessible and hugely entertaining, The Ides of March with a Foreword by Kurt Vonnegut is a terrific way to introduce students to Julius Caesar's Rome.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What to read on Friday the 13th: SUPERSENSE

I like to think of myself as a rational person--but am I? Yesterday, I knocked on wood. Today is Friday the 13th--and I feel a bit cautious. It seems that I am no different from the majority of Americans who still believe in supernatural phenomenon in this modern, scientific age.

In SuperSense, award-winning cognitive scientist
Bruce M. Hood reveals the science behind our belief in the supernatural. It turns out that belief in things beyond what is rational or natural appears very early in childhood. In fact, this "super sense" is innate: our minds are designed from the very start to think there are unseen patterns and forces in the world. We're built to believe in the unbelievable--and these common beliefs are essential to binding us together as a society.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Barbie turns 50!

In 1959, Barbie made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City, and has since become quite possibly the biggest success in all of doll history. Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator and co-founder of Mattel, modeled Barbie after a European sex doll and named her after her own daughter. Now 50 years later, Barbie has been treasured by 90% of American girls and their counterparts in 140 countries, and has been an Olympic athlete, Air Force pilot, boutique owner, Presidential candidate, and certainly a cultural icon.

In her new book, Barbie and Ruth, Robin Giber takes a closer look at the woman behind Barbie, and how Ruth came to be Ruth, how Barbie came to be Ruth’s brainchild, and how together they changed both American business and culture.


Barbie: 50 fabulous years of fashion and fun

www.Barbie.com: catch old Barbie commercials and listen to stories from celebs and designers.

www.barbiestyle.barbie.com/event.html: watch the Barbie Fashion Week Runway Show, see how the doll is made and peek at the original Dream House.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Book for Rihanna: BUT I LOVE HIM by Jill Murray

I don't read People magazine or watch Entertainment Tonight, but even I have seen the photograph and know many of the details of the battering of singer Rihanna by her boyfriend Chris Brown. Sadly, it's not an unusual story.

If I had Rihanna's address, I'd send her Jill Murray's But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships. Jill Murray, a psychotherapist, shows parents and young women the warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship and how to intervene. Plus, she helps young women see what a respectful relationship looks like.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Best Science Books of 2008

Library Journal posted its Best Sci-Tech Books of 2008.

Happily, four of our books are on the list!
Congratulations to our authors.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, March 10th, is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Marvelyn Brown, author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive, has been telling her story to high school and college students across the country in an effort to change these frightening statistics*:
  • In 2005, women represented 26 percent of new AIDS diagnoses, compared to only 11 percent of new AIDS cases reported in 1990.
  • Most women are infected with HIV through heterosexual contact and injection drug use.
  • Women of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • AIDS is now the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 34.

Marvelyn, not promiscuous and not a drug user, contracted HIV after unprotected sex with her Prince Charming. Rather than give up, however, Marvelyn found a reason to fight and a reason to live: working with numerous HIV/AIDS outreach groups to tell young women how to protect themselves.

Please let us know if you are interested in having Marvelyn speak to your students.

Marvelyn's public-service announcement for Think MTV won an Emmy Award.

*Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Monday, March 9, 2009

What Is It Like to See the World Through a Mathematician's Eyes?

In Symmetry, Marcus du Sautoy takes a unique look into the mathematical mind as he explores deep conjectures about symmetry and brings students face-to-face with the mathematicians, both past and present, who have battled to understand symmetry's elusive qualities.

Marcus du Sautoy, Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, is also the author of The Music of the Primes.

If you'd like to consider Symmetry or The Music of the Primes for one of your courses, please use our paperback examination form. If you've decided to adopt one of these books, please use our desk copy form.

Confessions of an Apple Addict: Amazon.com Kindle for iPhone

The one surprising thing that I have learned about myself in recent years is that I am a techie (actually, more like a groupie) for Apple. Countless words have been written about the genius of Steve Jobs, his visionary leadership, and the practically seductive beauty and sheer intelligence of his products, and I couldn't agree more. This past December I surrendered to my wanton Apple lust and bought an iPhone, which I am now ridiculously in love with. I know, it sounds absurd, but once you have fallen sway to the highly-superior technological charms and good looks of the iPhone--you're hooked. Hello geek love! 

The latest fabulous application that I have downloaded to my iPhone is the Amazon.com Kindle, which allows Apple iPhone and iPod touch owners to read Kindle books using a simple, easy-to-use interface. I downloaded over the weekend a free sample chapter of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell in a nanosecond, read the chapter on the Long Island Rail Road while going to visit my best friend in Great Neck, liked what I read, and will now download the complete Kindle edition for $9.99. Perfect instant literary gratification!

Are your students using modern technology to read books and absorb information? What do you think of e-books? Are they positive force for learning or are they the downfall of the printed book?

New Programs at Five Colleges

Despite the tough economic times--colleges continue to create new programs.

Here are a few:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Andre Jordan Knows...

People deal with sadness in different ways. Some go to the gym or take a walk in the sunshine. Others call everybody they know for solace. Many turn to mixed drinks.

Most people don't understand the odd joy of scheduling a full afternoon on the living room couch to feel sorry for yourself. My instincts tell me that Andre Jordan understands. This video for Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now is for those of you who do, too.

Learn from Failure: Engineering Case Studies

"What went wrong?" should be the first question we ask after any catastrophe so we can make certain that it doesn't happen again.

James R. Chiles's Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology has been embraced by professors because it teaches students to analyze failure with case studies on such disasters as the chain reaction crash of the Air France Concorde, the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, and the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Inviting Disaster is being recommended for a wide variety of engineering courses. Here are just a few:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two weeks without groceries

I'm in my second week of eating only the foods in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. This undertaking even earned a New York Times blog mention, which has led to dozens of other blog mentions. This sort of viral marketing success is what all bloggers hope for, and the only way to make it happen is to make a thousand attempts and hope one works out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An "Odious Stunt"* or a "Masterpiece"**?

Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones--a novel written in the voice of a former Nazi SS officer who has reinvented himself as a middle-class family man in France--has been damned and highly praised. You'll have to decide for yourself.

*Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
**Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

Monday, March 2, 2009

Teaching Guide for LAST DAYS OF SUMMER

I don't take note of Groundhog Day. I don't watch for the first robin. I am my father's daughter--and the first sign of spring is the day that the New York Mets head down to Florida for spring training. Today, it is 14 degrees in New York City--but baseball's opening day is only 41 days away.

I imagine that twelve-year-old Joey Margolis of Steve Kluger's Last Days of Summer spent the winter of 1940 dreaming of the Polo Grounds and his beloved New York Giants.

In Last Days of Summer, Steve Kluger uses letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, war bulletins, and report cards to tell Joey's story--a story with many themes: heroism, trust, faith, bigotry, cultural differences, freedom, love, and justice. To help you incorporate Last Days of Summer into your curriculum, we've created a teaching guide. Let us know if it is helpful.