Thursday, October 29, 2009

Teaching Materials for SUPERFREAKONOMICS

Two of my favorite professors--J. Lon Carlson (Illinois State University) and S. Clayton Palmer (Weber State University) have created instructor's guides, test banks, and study guides for students for SuperFreakonomics.

There are materials for professors who are teaching quantitative analysis and statistics classes--as well as an instructor's guide and test bank for professors of economics. These materials are password protected to keep them out of students' hands. Please email us--and we'll provide the password.

Meanwhile, if you need a desk copy of SuperFreakonomics, please let us know.

Can your favorite author spell?

Many months ago, I realized that I could no longer spell. Why? I am a slave to my keyboard and the Spell Check gods. I don't think; I type--and my typos are magically corrected as I go along. Well, many of them. It's all in my fingers now and not in my head.

Check out this video of a fundraising spelling bee--featuring some very smart and famous authors. I found it comforting to know that I'm not the only one who has lost her spelling-bee chops.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner on Behavioral Economics and Climate Change at New York City's Symphony Space

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s discussion of their new book SuperFreakonomics at New York City’s Symphony Space. Four years after the publication of the hugely popular Freakonomics, the University of Chicago economist and New York Times reporter have released a sequel based on new and provocative research.

In terms of format, SuperFreakonomics bears much resemblance to its predecessor. Each chapter discusses everyday occurrences by examining economic incentives as a way of explaining human behavior. Some topics include prostitutes, terrorists, and climate change.

At Symphony Space, Levitt and Dubner talked about the history of their collaboration (both had thought the Freakonomics book advance should be split 60/40, agreeing on a 50/50 split when they realized each believed the other should get 60%), the title (until the last minute they didn’t have a title, settling on Freakonomics because it was the “least bad”) and taking questions from the audience, most of which related specifically to content in the sequel (the section on climate change proved by far to be the most controversial).
Stephen Dubner described Dr. Levitt’s research as, “stripping away layers of obfuscation,” to uncover a rational, economic approach to people’s decisions and the consequences of those decisions. After reading SuperFreakonomics, I found that the studied, logical way in which the authors examine the issues presented in the book was applicable in my daily life as well. Now when I read an article in the newspaper, I find it much easier to think critically about how one measures that data, what a reliable sample pool looks like, and what other factors could have influenced or not been accounted for in the reporting of that data.

The Freakonomics books are academic without being dry, interesting, and engaging. Though they certainly educate the reader on the specific topics presented in each chapter, I found the greatest benefit for students and casual readers alike to be a more rational understanding of relationships between the variables and data in daily life.

Freakonomics has been a great resource in classrooms studying everything from macroeconomics to composition. For teachers already using the book, HarperAcademic offers online instructor resources including sample test questions and a student guide. Instructor resources to SuperFreakonomics will be available online shortly.

SuperFreakonomics is already being added to class curriculums in high schools and universities across the country. If you’d like to see one for course adoption consideration, please order an exam copy. If you’ve already adopted it for you class please order a complimentary desk copy.
Click the video link below to watch Steven D. Levitt's recent appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Know Much about Halloween

Did you know that Halloween began as a pagan holiday dating back to before the advent of Christianity? Formerly known as Samhaim (pronounced Sow-win) the holiday used to be celebrated earlier in the year to mark the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

Though the original Halloween is very different than the one we’ll be celebrating this weekend, many of our current traditions are derived from the pagan holiday. To learn more about the hidden history of Halloween, including the origins of trick-or-treating, why Jack-o-lanterns are carved from pumpkins, and why mischief is such an integral part of the evening, please watch the video below featuring Kenneth C. Davis, author of the Don’t Know Much About® series and America’s Hidden History.

REVOLUTION IN MIND Wins the 2009 Gradiva Award

HarperAcademic would like to offer its congratulations to Dr. George J. Makari. This weekend the National Association for Advancement of Psychoanalysis awarded his book, Revolution in Mind, the 2009 Gradiva Award for Best Historical Work. Last year the New York Times Book Review called Dr. Makari’s book, “A lucid history…Makari’s book projects a pleasing orderliness onto a tangled tale.” The NAAP’s Gradiva Award recognizes those works that advance the study of psychoanalysis.

If you’re interested in adopting this book for a class, please order an
examination copy. If you’ve already adopted it, please order a complimentary desk copy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Going with the FLOW: The Cultural Story of Menstruation

I don't usually tout books published by other companies--but Elissa Stein, coauthor of the upcoming Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, is a former Harper employee--and she's been my friend for over ten years.

Bold as ever, Elissa takes on a taboo subject with a highly entertaining mix of science, history, and pop culture. Flow is filled with smart sidebars and full-color reproductions of "feminine product" advertisements that educate and entertain. You'll find yourself saying, "I didn't know that!"

And, here's a short video about something you really should know. Want more?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Write Stuff: New WRITING GUIDES Online Catalog is Now Available

The new HarperCollins Publishers Writing Guides catalog is now available online here and also under the "Academic Catalogs" header to the right of this blog post. Featuring classics for your students such as William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Babette Deutsch’s The Poetry Handbook to current favorites like Francis Flaherty’s The Elements of Story and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, the catalog also includes links to related resource content on the web to provide a fluid interactive experience that goes beyond the traditional printed catalog. Please feel free to let us know what you think about this exciting informational tool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Highest Duty by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger: “As dramatic as it is inspirational.”*

On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed one of the most remarkable emergency landings in aviation history when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger skillfully glided US Airways Flight 1549 onto the surface of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. His cool actions not only averted tragedy but made him a hero and an inspiration worldwide. To Sullenberger, a calm, steady pilot with forty years of flying experience, the landing was not a miracle but rather the result of years of practice and training—wisdom he gained in the cockpit of U.S. Air Force jets and in his Texas boyhood.

Until now, few have known the story of this remarkable, yet reluctant, public figure. In Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, the author shares his thoughts on leadership, responsibility, and commitment to hard work – the traditional American values that have made him who he is. Though his account of his life and the events of January 15th are truly remarkable, Captain Sullenberger’s tone throughout the book is humble and relatable.

Many of the themes that make Captain Sullenberger’s story so riveting are those that make for good freshman reading as well: his historical water landing is a sensational story that everyone can connect with, while at the same time being a classic example of hard work and dedication. Highest Duty, co-authored with Jeffery Zaslow, is a mix of biography and heartfelt advice in the same vein as The Last Lecture, which Zaslow also helped pen.

If you would like to consider this book for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you have already assigned the book as required reading, please order a complimentary desk copy.

*Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Take a look, it’s in a Vook: Will the Reading Rainbow look the same in a hybrid book?

A front-page article in the October 1 edition of the New York Times cast a spotlight on the latest development in book-technology hybrids: vooks. Four of these new composites, books that intersperse video content throughout ebooks, are being released this month by Simon & Schuster.

This new development adds to the ongoing discussion of the increasingly intertwined roles of books and technology in the classroom. On the one hand, hybrid content offers many exciting academic applications, particularly for non-fiction titles. Adding sound or video to ebooks can greatly benefit educational texts that might otherwise be dry or difficult to understand. Sound samples in a book on music theory, for example, could help students in the same way that color printing improves the quality of books on art history. By making books more multi-platform, teachers can better get through to students with different learning styles (kinesthetic, aural as opposed to simply visual), thereby enabling them to engage a greater number of students.

Yet according to the article, “Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement – and in some cases advance – the story line.”

The Times article mentions a commenter on who says: “’It really makes a story more real if you know what the characters look like,’…The videos, he wrote, ‘add to the experience in a big way.’” The reviewer here implies that there is a correct way to understand a story, a view which seems unnecessarily limiting to me. An article on points out that books are a fun form of entertainment in part because they don’t force one correct understanding of a story on the reader.

The article also addresses the problem of using video in books to enhance its entertainment value by pointing out that publishing, which is not in the business of creating video, simply can’t compete with Hollywood. “I can buy a paperback romance novel and in my mind's eye cast Clive Owen as the lead, while a vook is only able to deliver a struggling unknown from the dinner-theater circuit.”

In an academic context, I actually think that videos in books can be detrimental to students’ learning. The act of imagining a new world is what makes books unique for young readers, especially compared to other, more passive forms of entertainment like television or video games. Reading, as opposed to watching, inculcates in young minds the critical and analytical skills that are important both in and outside of the classroom.

Many teachers I’ve spoken to recently are trying to integrate electronic content as a way of engaging students and teaching them to master technology they’ll need to understand in an increasingly digital world. What, in your opinion, are the benefits of multimedia books? What are the drawbacks? Would you consider using vooks in your classroom? Why or why not?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Your Monday Galley Giveaway: PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton

“Crichton’s books are compulsive reading,” said the Los Angeles Times Book Review in a review for the author’s book, Prey. The author of Jurassic Park, State of Fear, and last year’s hugely popular sci-fi thriller Next, Michael Crichton was a known as a master storyteller.

This December, a little more than a year after his untimely death, Harper is publishing Pirate Latitudes, the first of two posthumous novels. Set in Jamaica in 1665, Pirate Latitudes is an adventure of swashbuckling pirates in the New World, a classic story of treasure and betrayal.

I have three galleys on hand for the first three people who email me with the correct answer to the following question: Michael Crichton was the creator of what long running TV show?

Friday, October 9, 2009

How do you teach your students about the campaign process?

Longer ago than I care to admit, I was assigned Theodore H. White's The Making of the President 1960 as required reading in a political science class. I wasn't a political science major--and I took the class to fulfill what felt to me like an unfair social science requirement. I approached White's book with great caution and the class in general with dread and the faint hope that I would be able to eke out the B I needed to keep my scholarship.

Both The Making of the President 1960 and the class were a complete and happy surprise to me. White's book was filled with gritty details, and I flew through it--completely fascinated by the campaign process. I still stop dead in my tracks when I happen upon footage of the Kennedy/Nixon debates. The book is available again to convince the next generation of indifferent students that elections are furious battles--the stuff of high drama. This time around it comes with a new foreword by Robert Dallek.

Those who can't get enough of the Kennedys can turn to Ted Sorensen's Counselor: A Life on the Edge of History and his classic and surprisingly candid biography of Kennedy. And, Adam Clymer's Edward M. Kennedy places the youngest Kennedy brother's career in a historical perspective.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Anne Frank: An Examination of a Young Author and Her Legacy

A 1996 survey of classrooms across the country found that Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was at one point required reading for fifty percent of students.

As Francine Prose explains, teachers often find that this ubiquitous text does not “teach itself.” In her new book, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, Ms. Prose approaches Anne’s diary as more than simply the inner thoughts of a girl, but rather the literary work of a young artist. A teacher herself and author of a number of critically-acclaimed literary works as well as the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer, Prose delivers a thoughtful and in-depth analysis of this book and its legacy. Part literary critique, part historical analysis, part author biography, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife is an illuminating study of the legacy of one of the most enduring books of the 20th century.

“A lively and illuminating impressively far-reaching critical work, an elegant study both edifying and entertaining. In a book full of keen observations and fascinating disputes...Ms. Prose looks in all directions to find noteworthy material...This is a Grade A example of what a smart, precise and impassioned teacher can do.” –New York Times

“Prose is commanding and illuminating...definitive, deeply moving inquiry into the life of the young, imperiled artist.... Extraordinary testimony to the power of literature and compassion.” —Booklist (starred review)

If you would like to consider this book for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you have already assigned the book as required reading, please order a desk copy.

Nancy Peacock on Writing, Cleaning, and Life

Nancy Peacock has a varied résumé: house cleaner, bartender, carpenter, locksmith, costumer, baker, waitress, assistant drum maker, and newspaper deliverer, etc. But throughout it all, she has always been a writer—the author of two highly regarded novels:

In 1996 my first book, Life Without Water, was published and chosen as a New York Times Notable Book. It was followed a few years later by Home Across the Road. In spite of this success I still had to keep my day job. I worked for years as a self-employed house cleaner.
In the honest and witty essays of A Broom of One's Own, Nancy explores the writing life—offering useful lessons on subjects such as inspiration, craft, and criticism as well as encouragement to all writers—regardless of what their current job titles might be.

Class discussions about this book will lead students to explore the working life of a writer, the publishing industry’s trend toward the "blockbuster novel," how to maintain a writing schedule, and how to keep your spirits up in the face of both failure and success. To facilitate these discussions, Nancy has provided a Teacher Study Guide.

Nancy continues to write—and she runs writing workshops in her studio in Chatham County, North Carolina.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Free Galley Monday: SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver

So Much for That is the newest novel from the critically acclaimed author Lionel Shriver (The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin). In the same way authors like Jodi Picoult tackle social issues through fiction, Ms. Shriver gives readers a deeply honest look at the human cost of the American health care and insurance systems.

The story follows Shep Knacker and Glynis, his wife of twenty-six years. Shep has long saved for “The Afterlife:” an idyllic retirement on a tropical island in the Third World where a nest egg can last. His plans are disrupted, however, when Glynis announces that she’s sick and desperately needs his health insurance. Lionel Shriver enriches the story with three other medical subplots that explore the human side of the healthcare system. Despite its dark subject matter, So Much for That is a page-turner that asks important questions about the value of human life with a surprisingly upbeat ending.

Although this book won’t be published until March 2010, I have four advanced reading copies for anyone who would like to read it. To get yours send me an email with the subject: "Free Galley Monday."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Homeschooling Resources: College Prep & Test Review

I confess that I often take our backlist titles for granted until an event in the news or a conversation will bring a wonderful book or series to the front of my mind.

Yesterday, Larry Kaseman, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Parents Association, called me to ask about our Collins Outline series--which is perfect for homeschoolers who are preparing for college. As I put together the list for Larry, I remembered how terrific these books are. Written by educators in the field, these outlines summarize the material in the major textbooks on the subject in a way that makes it easy to understand and to remember.

Here's the complete list: