Friday, January 29, 2010

Reading and Rereading The Catcher in the Rye

J. D. Salinger’s legacy is unarguably important. Not even twenty-four hours after his death, tributes to the late author have been many and varied (one of my favorites is New York Times’s map of Caufield’s haunts).

I didn’t read The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager—but I was aware of its cultural significance long before I picked it up this past summer at age twenty-three. When I finally read Catcher I expected to feel the deep connection with the protagonist that so many had described whenever I’d sheepishly admit that I had never read Salinger’s famous novel.

From an aesthetic perspective, I liked the book’s simplicity, its ambiguous ending, and colloquial, disaffected tone. But in reading Catcher, I was surprised to feel not immediate identification or affection but something more removed.

The book reminded me what it was like to be a teenager: the defensive angst, the harsh criticism and superficial dismissal of those around you. For me, the act of reading this book as an adult in my early 20s was not the intimate connection or cultish worship I had anticipated. It was my first realization that I was starting to view my own adolescence in the rearview mirror. At sixteen I would have fallen in love with Holden. At twenty-three, I wanted to tell him to stop treating the world as his enemy.

Perhaps one of the most important things that can be gleaned from this – or any great book – is the way in which literature mirrors our own thoughts and experiences. It shows us who we are, who we were, and who we could be. Somewhat paradoxically, the alienated anti-hero has served as a touchstone for millions of teenagers and adults. It is a tribute to Salinger’s mastery that he created, with an economy of words, characters that feel entirely familiar.

Writers, filmmakers, students, and critics have been inspired by the late author’s work and will be undoubtedly for years to come. Harper’s own book, Salinger, originally published in 1961 and previously out of print, brings together great American authors (Mizener, Kazin, Hicks, Geismar, and Updike, among others) to discuss the life and work of one of their most reclusive contemporaries.

Those who teach The Catcher in the Rye are lucky to have the ability to experience it with another generation of students—who will bring fresh eyes to Holden Caufield—and through their own eyes as they get older and begin to reflect differently on their own adolescence.

NYC in the 1970s

Two new books have me a bit nostalgic about the New York City of the 1970s. I was a teenager in New York during 70s--and--although I acknowledge that the city is safer and cleaner now--it doesn't feel as vibrant to me.

CBGBs is shuttered: It's the place I first saw Patti Smith play. Just Kids--a tender look at her lifelong friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe--brings back memories about being broke and sometimes at a loss--but still feeling as if something great could happen at any moment and that poetry and literature could change the world.

I love the photos by Jon Naar in The Faith of Graffitti: Before high-tech, non-stick subway trains were born, Redbirds were moving art galleries. Do you remember checking to see if the paint was dry before you sat down and not being able to see out the window? You can see a few of those photos here--and read some of Norman Mailer's essay.
Why am I sentimental about a time when the city had high crime rates and dirty streets?

Is the iPad the right technology for education?

There's an interesting debate on using the iPad with students on The Thinking Stick.

Bart Ehrman on the Irreconcilable Differences in the New Testament

Bart D. Ehrman's bestselling Misquoting Jesus demonstrated how over time scribes made radical changes to the text of the New Testament. In his new book, Jesus, Interrupted, Ehrman goes back to the original text to reveal the reasons for the Bible's contradictory views about who Jesus was and the significance of his life.

Giving students access to current scholarship, Ehrman explains why these opposing perspectives are found in the New Testament:

  • The authors of the New Testament had diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works.
  • Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented radically different religions.
  • Many of the books were written in the names of the apostles by Christians living decades later.
  • Central Christian doctrines were the inventions of still later theologians.

Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. He is also the author of God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer and Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

If you've decided to adopt Jesus, Interrupted for a course, please request a desk copy.

A new book in the Wheelock's Latin series

From Richard A. LaFleur—one of the country’s leading Latinists and the editor of the Wheelock’s Latin series—this new reader is the perfect complement to any Latin program, and the first to offer original Latin source text for every level, from beginner to advanced.

Beginning with simple graffiti and moving toward longer passages, Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes provides only contemporary source material, including inscriptions, proverbs, and texts. The book also offers introductions to authors/passages, photos and illustrations, maps, discussion and comprehension questions, grammar capsules, and more. The author will also create an online Teacher’s Guide and Answer Key, comparable to the existing guide to Wheelock’s Latin.

(Offer expires on February 28, 2010.)

Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes will publish in May 2010. However, if you are an educator, you can preview the complete book for free in ebook format. Send us an email to let us know where you teach and how many students are in your class—and we'll send the url and your password to download your free preview copy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn's Last Interview

The Boston Globe reported today that "Howard Zinn, historian and political activist whose books such as A People's History of the United States prompted a generation to rethink the nation's past, died yesterday in Santa Monica, California, where he was traveling. He was 87."

Howard inspired a generation of students and teachers--and his legacy to them is embodied in The Zinn Education Project--a place where teachers will find free materials and resources.

Last week, Howard Zinn--sharp as ever--set aside an hour to answer questions from teachers--and you can listen to his last interview here.

Photo by Jeff Zinn

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Terry Castle is Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. She's also the author of several books that you might have assigned to your students: The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture and the anthology The Literature of Lesbianism--winner of the Lamda Literary Editor's Choice in 2003.

She's a longtime contributor to the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, the New Republic, and Slate--and she's widely admired for the wit, panache, intellectual breadth, and emotional honesty of her writings on literature and art. She's the kind of person you want to know more about--and in her new book, The Professor and Other Writings, she brings together some of the more personal of her recent essays in a single volume.

Several pieces in The Professor and Other Writings are already acknowledged classics: "Desperately Seeking Susan," her celebrated account of her somewhat bittersweet friendship with Susan Sontag; "My Heroin Christmas," a darkly humorous examination of addiction and the late, great jazz saxophonist Art Pepper; and the picaresque "Travels with My Mother," a rollicking travelogue that brings together Castle's complicated relationship with her mother, lesbianism, art, and the difficult yet transcendent work of the painter Agnes Martin.

At the center of the collection is the title work--published for the first time. It is a candid exploration of Castle's relationship, during her graduate schools years, with a female professor. Hilarious and rueful, it is a pitch-perfect recollection of the fiascoes of youth.

If you'd like to meet Professor Castle, she'll be making the following bookstore appearances:

Photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Books for the First-Year Student Online Catalog is Now Available

HarperCollins Publishers will be attending the upcoming 29th Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience, which will be held in Denver February 12th-16th. Throughout the conference please stop by booth #327 and speak with the academic marketing team—Diane Burrowes, Doreen Davidson, and Lauren Branchini—to get expert recommendations on books that would be the perfect fit for your freshman common read needs.

You can preview our new Books for the First-Year Student catalog here!

We will be hosting two free events at the conference:

On Saturday, February 13th at 7:45 pm we will be hosting an author dinner with our academic colleagues from Penguin in Plaza Ballroom, Salon F. Speakers will include HarperCollins Publishers authors Amanda Little (Power Trip) and Adam Shepard (Scratch Beginnings), along with Penguin authors Dave Isay (Listening Is an Act of Love), Steve Lopez (The Soloist), and Kathryn Stockett (The Help). If you would like to attend this event please RVSP with your name and number in your party to Please note that book signings will take place at publisher booths prior to the event.

On Monday, February 15th from 11:30 am-1:30 pm we will be hosting an author luncheon with our academic colleagues from Knopf, Macmillan, and Penguin in Plaza Ballroom Salons D & E. Speakers will include HarperCollins Publishers author Kevin Michael Connolly (Double Take), along with Knopf Doubleday author Thomas Cahill (A Saint on Death Row), Macmillan author Colin Beavan (No Impact Man), and Penguin author Mahbod Seraji (Rooftops of Tehran). If you would like to attend this event please RVSP with your name and number in your party to Please note that book signings will follow this event.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Price Matters: THE 1% WINDFALL

This morning I got an invitation to enroll in UC Berkeley's Pricing for Profitability course at the Haas Center for Executive Education. The course is taught by the top experts and researchers in the field of pricing. It's also $4200.

I think I'll skip it and wait for the March publication of Rafi Mohammed's The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow. The price? $27.99

Rafi Mohammed has been working on pricing issues for the last 20 years. As founder of Culture of Profit LLC, a business consulting firm, he works with companies on pricing strategy. Mohammed’s first book, The Art of Pricing, provided advice about how to set prices. This new book does more: It shows students not only how to set prices but how to use price as a competitive strategy.

Thinking about adopting The 1% Windfall for one of your courses? Request a desk copy.

What can you do with a book?

The people at Cyanide and Happiness--the #1 comic on the web--have written a book--and they've made a hilarious video about what you can do with it. It's not remotely educational--just funny.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Will Apple’s Tablet Appeal More to Students than the Sony e-Reader or Kindle?

This Wednesday, Apple will make an announcement that many anticipate will be the unveiling of its newest device, the tablet computer. There has been a great deal of anticipation over this device, which is rumored to be able to perform a variety of functions, including act as a portable reading device.

A few universities across the country, including Princeton, have tried to get students to use Kindles for their classes, with mixed results. One of the students’ most common complaints is that the Kindle does not allow for easy note-taking, a problem many suspect the Apple tablet will be able to solve.

I have used both the Sony e-reader and the Kindle--and it’s great to have access to all your reading materials in one place. If Apple can do for e-books what it did for music and cell phones – create something that’s compact, user-friendly, and, for lack of a better word, cool – it won’t be long before I’m coveting one of these devices. And if the device is able to provide things like easier notation, wireless internet, and even word processing, this could be a huge benefit to students and teachers looking to integrate technology into the classroom.
But until Wednesday, the full functionality of the tablet (or whether or not such a device is even in the works) remains unknown. That’s why Nick Bilton at the New York Times has created this “Unofficial Apple Tablet Game,” which combines the suspense of Super Bowl betting with the excitement of new technology.

Don't Know Much About Presidents Day

Did you know that George Washington slept in the buff? And although the famous story about him admitting that he had chopped down the cherry tree may be false, our first President did confess to murder. In the two videos below, the Don’t Know Much About series author Ken Davis recounts three anecdotes about George Washington and, his favorite American President, Abraham Lincoln, just in time for Presidents Day.

These are, in Ken’s words, the stories of the real people, “behind the myths and the marble statues. That’s why I love history,” he adds, “it’s about the real people.”

Teens + Reading + Writing = inkpop from HarperCollins Publishers

HarperCollins Publishers officially launched online today inkpop, which has the distinction of being the first interactive writing platform for teens backed by a major U.S. publisher. inkpop, created by HarperTeen to attract young readers and writers, combines community publishing, user-generated content, and social networking to connect rising stars in teen literature with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals.

“What sets inkpop apart from other writing communities is the Editorial Board,” says Kat Musallam, an inkpop user. “Other communities only have that writer-reader interaction, but to have a panel evaluate your work is something that we writers—especially those who aren’t so familiar with the publishing world—can only dream of.”

Carolyn Mackler, author of Tangled and the Printz-Honor book, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things says, “I would have loved to have a community like inkpop when I was a teenager. I desperately wanted to connect with people who liked reading and writing, to compare notes on a character or maybe even not feel so alone with all my words and thoughts. So as an author, it was a huge treat to be able to chat with my teen readers during an inkpop forum event. The inkpoppers came out in droves, with major enthusiasm and loads of questions.”

Please check out inkpop and have your students join this online digital community exclusively for teen readers and writers.

Books for Teens: ALA's Alex Awards

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. Harper is pleased to have two books on the 2010 list!

"The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the inspiring story of a young man in Africa who used the only resources available to him to build a windmill and elevate the lives and spirits of those in his community. William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.”
— AL GORE, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate

In the stories of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, Kevin Wilson's characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic.

"Kevin Wilson’s stories show us a world that is both real and full of illusion…. He forces us to look at our own lives in a new and slightly off-kilter way."
ANN PATCHETT, bestselling author of Bel Canto

"Writing is easy. Life is hard."—Neil LaBute

Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser—editors of the New York Times bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning are back with its much-anticipated sequel, It All Changed in an Instant.

With contributions from acclaimed authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Frank McCourt,
Wally Lamb, Isabel Allende, Junot Diaz, Amy Tan, and James Frey, and celebrities like Sarah Silverman, Suze Orman, Marlee Matlin, Neil Patrick Harris, Ann Coulter, and Chelsea Handler, It All Changed in an Instant presents a thousand more glimpses of humanity—and the chance for your students to discover the writer within themselves.

Teachers from kindergarten to graduate school have found the six-word memoir to be an inspiring writing exercise for their students. These examples will not only inspire your students to write their own six-word memoirs—but will help them find their voices and spur them to write longer pieces.

And, our
instructor's guide will give you more ways to incorporate It All Changed in an Instant into your class.

If you'd like to adopt the book for your class, please request a
desk copy!

here's a bit of inspiration!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


George Lucas's BLOCKBUSTING is now available in ebook editions with updated information! For those of you who have purchased or assigned the print edition to your students, you'll find corrections and updates here.

No matter which edition your students are reading make certain to visit this page on a regular basis for updates on the current state of the movie industry. After all, movies are released every week so there is always new data to assess. And, don't forget to visit Lucy Autrey Wilson's blog--where you'll find new statistics and insights into the world of film.

By meticulously compiling the details of how movies have been made and financed since the medium′s inception, chronicling their performances at the box office, and offering expert commentary about the most important trends of the last one hundred years, George Lucas's BLOCKBUSTING gives film students a singularly unique perspective on the film-making industry and a superlative blueprint for future successful filmmaking ventures.

Taking us decade by decade, this book focuses on the revenues, costs, production and distribution of 300 of the most critically and financially successful movies of all time from the business′s origins through 2005. Its numerous essays examine trends in war, noir, bio-drama, biblical, epic, musical, western, disaster, crime, and action adventure films, as well as the advent the summer movie, auteur filmmaking, and the revolutionary advances that have been made in film technology over time. Furthermore, its full complement of charts, graphs and diagrams presenting such things as salary histories, awards and honors, the number of principal photography days required, advertising expenditures, domestic versus overseas profits and more, also include conversions of past movie-making dollars into current dollar values for easy and relevant comparisons.

The ideal resource for film students and professionals, this book evidences that blockbusters have not only been made on relatively low budgets before, but that they have been made time and time again through varying economic climates.

George Lucas's BLOCKBUSTING will change the way you teach your students about the film industry. If you'd like a desk copy, please use this form.

David Bianculli, a television critic and associate professor at Rowan University, interviewed George Lucas on NPR. You can listen to that interview here.

And, here's George Lucas on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
George Lucas
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Did you miss Howard Zinn's radio interview with teachers?

If you didn't get a chance to tune into the live Howard Zinn interview, you can listen to it now!

Please share with your colleagues and students.

Photo: Jeff Zinn

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kaiser Family Foundation Study: Online Use

A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation was issued today--and the results are pretty shocking: With technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically.

Today's 8 to 18 year olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media per day. And, because they spend so much of that time using more than one medium at a time (for example, texting while listening to music), they actually cram 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7.5 hours.

Not surprisingly, those will extremely high usage had lower grades.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Howard Zinn Will Talk to Teachers

January 19th at 6:00 p.m. (EST)

Harper Perennial and The Zinn Education Project are pleased to present an Authors on Air conversation with Howard Zinn on the classic bestseller, A People's History of the United States. Bill Bigelow, a history teacher and writer, will present questions from teachers across the country to Professor Zinn for discussion.

During the last twenty minutes of the show, the chat room and phone lines will be open for your questions! Listen live on the web or call (347) 945-6141.

Teaching Abraham Lincoln in the Classroom

The political and personal life of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, has undergone a fascinating renaissance among historians and the general public alike. Perhaps the recent attention being focused on Lincoln is due to the fact that Barack Obama has proclaimed Lincoln his favorite President and political idol, but the sheer magnitude of Lincoln's life and times has always deserved to be treated with awe and respect: he was the first elected Republican President, led the country through the trauma of the Civil War, was a member of the House of Representatives, delivered the epic Gettysburg Address speech, and introduced the Emancipation Proclamation that ultimately abolished slavery.

To continue teaching the inspiring legacy of Abraham Lincoln with your students, here are some books recommended for classroom use:

A fascinating close-up view of the Abraham Lincoln White House through the eyes of Lincoln's three personal secretaries: John Nicolay, William Stoddard, and John Hay. Sheds a new light on Lincoln—his brilliance and vision in a time of national turmoil and Civil War—by focusing on his relationships with the men who worked closely by his side.

Fred Kaplan explores the life of Abraham Lincoln through his use of language both as a vehicle to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. This unique account of Lincoln's life and career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency, reminding students that the careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successful democracy.

The first new biography in almost 20 years of Mary Todd Lincoln, one of the most enigmatic First Ladies in American history. Abraham Lincoln is the most revered president in American history, but the woman at the center of his life—his wife, Mary—has remained a historical enigma. One of the most tragic and mysterious of 19th-century figures, Mary Lincoln and her story symbolize the pain and loss of Civil War America.

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness. Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal.
The Civil War was the first "modern war." Among the many modern marvels that gave the North an advantage was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time. By paying close attention to Lincoln's "lightning messages," students see a great leader adapt to a new medium. Watching Lincoln carefully word his messages—and follow up on those words with the right actions—offers a striking example for those who spend their days tapping out notes on computers and BlackBerrys.

If you are considering adopting any of these books for classroom use, please order an examination copy. If you have already assigned any of these books as required reading, please order a complimentary desk copy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

HarperAcademic at the 124th Annual American Historical Association Conference

Doreen and I recently attended the 124th Annual American Historical Association conference in San Diego where we got the opportunity to meet professors and graduate students interested in our books.

Historians are some of the most voracious readers and it was fun to talk to them about what they enjoyed reading both for work and pleasure. One especially enthusiastic grad student purchased 25 books from us, saying he planned on reading one a day for the next month.

Over the course of the four days we were at the conference, I also got a chance to meet some of our authors. Jill Watts, author of Hattie McDaniel, stopped by the booth a few times to say hello. I also met Edith Gelles and Catherine Clinton. Edith’s new book, Abigail and John was one of our most popular titles for sale during the conference. Catherine Clinton was sweet enough to drop off some healthy snacks (coconut water and fresh cherries) in between speaking and signing copies of her book, Mrs. Lincoln, which recently came out in paperback.

Some of our books that generated the most buzz included The Harvard Psychedelic Club (which was recently reviewed in the New York Times), The Lost History of Christianity, and Rebirth of a Nation. The runaway hit, however, was Going Dutch by British historian Lisa Jardine, the story of the relationship between England and the Netherlands, two of Europe’s most important colonial powers, at the dawn of the Modern Age.