Monday, November 30, 2009

The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World's Most Consequential Trivia

I came across David McCandless’s The Visual Miscellaneum after receiving a request from a professor planning to use it in her Information Graphics class. Since then I’ve become increasingly engrossed in the variety of charts and graphs filled with random, helpful, humorous and timely information.

Using minimal text, this book offers different ways to visualize data on almost every conceivable subject. The Visual Miscellaneum presents an immense variety of graphics including bubble diagrams, treemaps, flowcharts, wordclouds, coxcombs and many, many more. These illustrations cover topics from the serious to the frivolous, among them:

- The popularity of certain world religions
- Which animal species are most endangered
- The most commonly cited reasons for breaking up with someone (featuring the surprisingly popular “I don’t clip my toenails enough”)
- The answer provided by different theories to the question “what is consciousness?”

With its highly engaging visual style and informative presentation of data, The Visual Miscellaneum can be a great addition for classes on media, information, graphics, and visual studies. (It would also make a great gift for fellow nerds and data junkies.) To see a few excerpts from the book, be sure to look at the author’s website.

If you are interested in adopting the text for a class, you may order an exam copy. If you have already ordered the book for a class, please order a complimentary desk copy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rediscover a Classic: THE SHELTERING SKY

I'm always surprised by how many people haven't read Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky. After all, it's on Time magazine's All-Time 100 Novels list--along with Beloved and A Passage to India.

When The Sheltering Sky was first published in 1949, it established Paul Bowles as one of the most singular and promising writers of the postwar generation. Its startlingly original vision has withstood the test of time and confirmed Tennessee Williams's early estimation: "The Sheltering Sky alone of the books that I have . . . read by American authors appears to bear the spiritual imprint of recent history in the western world." In this classic work of psychological terror, Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture and the ways in which their incomprehension destroys them.

You can read the first chapter here.

And, here's a clip from Bernardo Bertolucci's film to further whet your appetite.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Author Loung Ung Joins Voluntourism Organization in Cambodia

Pepy tours, an organization that organizes socially responsible “voluntourism” (volunteerism+ tourism) trips has recently announced that author Loung Ung will join an upcoming cross-Cambodia bicycle tour. Ms. Ung is the author of the First They Killed My Father, a book Dith Pran called, “an eloquent and powerful narrative [written] as a young witness to the Khmer Rouge atrocities.”

Mixing a love of her home country with a socially responsible project is a great venue for Ms. Ung. Aside from being an accomplished memoirist, she is a human rights activist and spokesperson for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, where she continually works to raise awareness about issues affecting many Cambodians.

PEPY Tours has posted information about this trip on their website. They are excited to welcome Loung to the team, as she will bring further insight and education to the group about the issues that have shaped Cambodia and the realities in the country today.

To learn more about Loung Ung’s memoir, click here. If you have adopted this book for your class, please order a complimentary desk copy. If you’d like to request an examination copy, please click here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America

People have always built barricades to keep out "others." Forts, castles with moats, the Great Wall of China come to mind. Today, we lock our doors, punch in security codes, set up video cameras--and many white Americans choose to live in predominantly white communities.

Between 2007 and 2009, Rich Benjamin, a journalist-adventurer, packed his bags and embarked on a 26,909-mile journey throughout the heart of white America, to some of the fastest-growing and whitest locales in our nation. The result was Searching for Whitopia.

By 2042, whites will no longer be the American majority. As immigrant populations--largely people of color--increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small towns and exurban areas that are predominately, even extremely, white.

Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pias"). His journey to unlock the mysteries of Whitopias took him from a three-day white separatist retreat with links to Aryan Nations in North Idaho to the inner sanctum of George W. Bush's White House--and many points in between. And to learn what makes Whitopias tick, and why and how they are growing, he lived in three of them (in Georgia, Idaho, and Utah) for several months apiece. A compelling raconteur, bon vivant, and scholar, Benjamin reveals what Whitopias are like and explores the urgent social and political implications of this startling phenomenon.

The glow of Barack Obama's historic election cannot obscure the racial and economic segregation still vexing America. Obama's presidency has actually raised the stakes in a battle royale between two versions of America: one that is broadly comfortable with diversity yet residentially segregated (ObamaNation) and one that does not mind a little ethnic food or a few mariachi dancers--as long as these trends do not overwhelm a white dominant culture (Whitopia).

A sought after speaker, Rich Benjamin lectures on contemporary American politics and culture in the U.S. and Europe and has spoken at esteemed venues such as University of Pennsylvania Law School, Stockholm University, Sweden, the Fulbright Program/Institute for International Education, Brown University, the Exeter Academy, Seattle’s Town Hall, and California’s Commonwealth Club. To book Benjamin for a speaking engagement, contact Jamie Brickhouse via email or by phone (212 207 7136).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Fresh, New Look for Betsy-Tacy!

One of the things I love most about working in publishing is being exposed to new books I might not have otherwise read. This job has introduced me great authors from Jonathan Safran Foer to Meg Cabot, and most recently, Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy novels.

These novels about a young girl named Betsy and her friends Tacy and Tib growing up in Minnesota at the turn of the 20th century have inspired the dedication of legions of fans. There are yearly Betsy-Tacy conventions in Lovelace’s hometown of Mankato, Minnesota organized by the
Betsy-Tacy Society, a community of women dedicated to preserving the spirit of these books. Harper Perennial editor Jennifer Hart is also an avid fan.

Reading these books recently, I felt myself really wishing that I had read them when I was younger. Growing up, my absolute favorite book was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. In high school, Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! was the book that made me love writing about literature. The Betsy-Tacy books appeal to the same sensibility as MacLachlan and Cather’s works, all of which feature Midwestern settings and strong and independent female characters.

Harper Perennial Modern Classics has repackaged the final six novels into three double-book volumes. Heaven to Betsy/Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy Was a Junior/Betsy and Joe, and Betsy and the Great World/Betsy’s Wedding are all newly available. These volumes also include forewords by Meg Cabot, Anna Quindlen, and Laura Lippman – all of whom are Betsy-Tacy fans themselves.

If you’re considering adopting these books, please order an exam copy. If you’ve already adopted the books, please order a complimentary desk copy.

Amazon's Top Books of 2009

Even though it’s barely November, the year-in-review articles have already started to pop up. Just this week Amazon released a list of the top books of 2009.

We’re happy to note that two Harper titles made the editors’ top ten lists, Crazy for the Storm, the true story of an eleven year old boy, Norman Ollestad, and the harrowing plane crash he survived, is on the list at number six.

At number 10 is one of our personal favorites here at HarperAcademic: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the inspirational story of an enterprising teenager in Malawi who builds a windmill from scraps found around his village and brings electricity —and a future— to himself and his family.

To view the editors’ top 100 favorite titles, click here. For the readers’ top 100, click here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Subway Reading (and Writing)

Last week, I spotted a young woman reading How to Write a Movie in 21 Days by Viki King on the uptown A train. Not only was she reading the book--it looked as if she was writing her script then and there. She'd read with great concentration for a few minutes, stare into space for a bit, and--next--with a sudden burst of energy--she'd write in her notebook. Back and forth she went: Read. Ponder. Write. At this pace, I think she's going to write two scripts in 21 days on her daily commute.

For more books about writing everything from business memos to the Great American Novel, check out our new Writing catalog.

CRUSH IT!: Teaching Students about Social Media

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk is an exciting way to prepare students to be progressive thinkers in their careers and to give them the knowledge they need to fully harness the power of the Internet and social media.

To help you incorporate Crush It! into your class, Gary's team has developed teaching materials that you'll find
here. In order to make the book even more powerful, any teacher who assigns the book as required reading in a class of 15 or more students will also receive a 15-minute Skype video call to their class from Gary so he can expand on the principles and answer questions. To learn more about this offer, send an email to the Crush It! team.

read the first chapter--and let us know if you need a desk copy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Free Book Giveaway: SERENA by Ron Rash

Since its publication last year, Ron Rash’s Serena has garnered tremendous critical praise. The New Yorker calls it, “a tightly knit tale of industrial development, greed, and betrayal ” that “recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.” Proving that there’s still room on the bestseller list for real literature, Serena was a PEN/Faulkner finalist and a New York Times bestseller.

Aside from being the author of three other prize-winning novels, Ron Rash is the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University. Thanks in part to the author’s reputation and the book’s North Carolina setting; Serena has been very popular in colleges in the Southeast. Last week, in fact, I received the good news the Serena has been adopted for ALL reading and English classes at Caldwell Community College in North Carolina!

I have four copies on hand for educators who are interested in this book. Please send me an email if you’re interested in considering Serena for one of your classes. You can also click here to read an excerpt.