Thursday, April 29, 2010

The 50th Anniversary of Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

July 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—and we're getting pretty excited about it.

On May 20, a website dedicated to To Kill a Mockingbird will launch—and there will be a special section for teachers—filled with teaching resources. And, you'll get the chance to share your thoughts with Harper Lee and with other teachers. So, make sure to check out

Here's what teachers at last year's National Council of Teachers of English had to say to Harper Lee on the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Find more videos like this on NCTE Ning

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Humanistic Message of Dr. Rick Hodes: "This is a Soul"

This is a Soul by Marylin Berger Dr. Rick Hodes, an American-born doctor, has spent most of his life treating serious spinal diseases in Ethopia, a country with fewer than three physicians for every 45,000 inhabitants. As journalist Marylin Berger explains in This is a Soul, her book about the life and work of Dr. Hodes, the vast majority of his patients are children.

Henry A. Kissinger calls This is a Soul, “a fascinating, richly moving and emotionally powerful book.” Focusing on the extraordinary career of a doctor who spent the past 28 years of his life treating severe diseases in impoverished populations, This is a Soul is a deeply humanistic look at global healthcare.

Dr. Hodes says of his insistence on sending pictures of his subjects to the labs, “Doctors always ask why I send photos, why I don’t just send the x-rays and blood studies . . . I want them to know this is a human being. . . . This isn’t just a back. This is a soul.”

This is a Soul epitomizes the ideal freshman read book. Like Three Cups of Tea and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, This is a Soul crosses disciplines (science, medicine, ethics, public policy) to provide a window into the greater problems and debates that frame our global society. Dr. Hodes’s story can help to inform a new generation of activists, doctors and policy makers about the challenges and, ultimately, triumphs of the global medical community.

If you have adopted this book for a class, you can order a complimentary desk copy. To order a book for possible course adoption, please order an examination copy.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780061759543
Price: $25.99

William Weatherford and Andrew Jackson

A NATION RISING by Kenneth C. DavisKenneth C. Davis of Don't Know Much About History fame always tells me something I didn't know—and he's done it again in A Nation Rising: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America’s Hidden History.

Since I didn't know this slice of history, I'll let
Ken tell you the story of William Weatherford (aka Red Eagle), the Creek Wars, and why some people refuse to even touch at $20 bill.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WHO IS MARK TWAIN? by Mark Twain!

WHO IS MARK TWAIN? by Mark TwainDespite the fact that Mark Twain died one hundred years ago, we're still discovering new things about him. Last year, we published Who Is Mark Twain?—a collection of twenty-six wickedly funny, thought-provoking essays by Samuel Langhorne Clemens—a.k.a. Mark Twain—none of which had ever been published before, and all of which are completely contemporary, amazingly relevant, and gut-bustingly hilarious. Now, Who Is Mark Twain? is available in paperback (ISBN 9780061735011; $12.99).

Make certain to read a few pages of the book—and let us know if you need a desk copy.

Take the UK Guardian's quiz to see how much you know about the man who gave the world Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
And, let Bob Hirst, general editor of UC Berkeley's Mark Twain Papers & Project, tell you the story behind the title Who Is Mark Twain?.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Zora Neale Hurston's Footsteps

Zora Neale Hurston, author of THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GODMy trips to Central Florida have been limited to Disneyland and Orlando--and I can't say I've seen much besides the Magic Kingdom, the convention center, and various strip malls.

However, a recent article in the New York Times with a wonderful slide presentation that takes readers on a journey through the Florida of Zora Neale Hurston--the unscrubbed Florida of Eatonville, Fort Pierce, and Sanford--makes me want to venture out the next time I have a conference in Orlando.

Friday, April 16, 2010


What was the happiest news you got this week? Well, mine was the starred review in Library Journal for Michael J. Sullivan's Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness.

Michael J. Sullivan is a talented and determined guy—and the husband of a friend and co-worker. Since he's married to a publishing maven—Michael knew how difficult it was going to be to get his novel published—but he kept going. Necessary Heartbreak began as a very successful self-published novel: Happily, it landed on Barnes&'s Top 50 List. There—it caught the eye of a savvy editor at Gallery Books—and Necessary Heartbreak is now available in bookstores.

Necessary Heartbreak tells the story of Michael Stewart, a single father raising his teenaged daughter and doing the best he can at work and at home. But he's turned his back on his faith—that is, until he and his daughter Elizabeth slip through a mysterious door. . . . and find themselves in first-century Jerusalem during the tumultous last week of Jesus Christ's life. Michael realizes that before they can escape from the past—he must experience history's most necessary heartbreak in order to live, love, and reclaim the blessings he has in the present.

Make certain to read the first chapter of Necessary Heartbreak.

Oh, and that starred review from Library Journal!: "Single father Michael Stewart is a survivor of a difficult childhood, but he has lost his faith. He and his daughter are volunteering at a food pantry when they slip through a magic door that transports them to first-century Jerusalem, where they come into contact with Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ himself. VERDICT This wonderful time-slip novel. . .will appeal to fans of Anne Rice's recent religious fiction (e.g., Christ the Lord)."

YA Summer Reading: LEAN ON PETE by Willy Vlautin

LEAN ON PETE by Willy VlautinWe make a section of "boy books" in our booth at the National Council of Teachers of English because teachers always ask us, "Which books will appeal to teenaged boys?"

Well, here's another book for our "boy" section: Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin. Still, I don't want you to think that girls won't like this one: 15-year-old Charley Thompson is a character that everybody will root for.

At the end of its starred review for Lean on Pete, Booklist added, "YA: Vlauntin's novel could well be The Red Pony for the twenty-first century." Here's a bit more from that review: "A tough-and-tender account of a boy, a big-hearted horse, and a mostly unforgiving world. What Daniel Woodrell does for the hardscrabble Ozarks, Vlautin does for the underside of the New West. Unforgettable." Did I mention that this is a starred review?

Willy Vlautin is also the author of Motel Life and Northline—and he's the singer and songwriter of the band Richmond Fontaine.

You can learn more about Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin in this video.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thornton Wilder Fans Rejoice: SELECTED LETTERS now in paperback; Updated catalog available online

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF THORNTON WILDER edited by Robin G. WilderI’m the kind of person who likes to watch the behind-the-scenes special features on the DVDs of my favorite movies. I like listening to interviews that show the personality of actors and writers because to me, it enhances the movie to get a glimpse of the people who create it.

There is a similar satisfaction in reading the journals and letters of favorite authors. These primary texts can be especially helpful for students looking to analyze an author’s literary works in greater depth. Harper Perennial has just released the paperback edition of The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder. The author of Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey wrote some 7,000 letters over the course of his lifetime. Selected Letters, edited by Robin G. Wilder, is the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of these letters to date.

For more about our Thornton Wilder titles, be sure to look through our recently revised catalog. If you’ve adopted any of these titles for a class, you can order a complimentary desk copy. To order a book for possible course adoption, please order an examination copy.

James Shapiro: The Expert on Shakespeare

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE by James ShapiroJames Shapiro, a longtime Columbia University professor and winner of the the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, knows his Shakespeare. In his new book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, James Shapiro takes on the Baconists and the others who deny that Shakespeare was the author of the works attributed to him.

In many ways, Contested Will is a continuation of Shapiro's previous book—A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599—an intimate history of Shakespeare which follows the Bard through a single year that changed not only his fortunes but the course of literature. With James Shapiro as their guide to this extraordinary year, students are able to know what Shakespeare read and wrote, what he saw, and with whom he worked as he invested in the new Globe Theatre and created four of his most famous plays—"Henry the Fifth," "Julius Caesar," "As You Like It," and, most remarkably, "Hamlet."

If you've decided to adopt A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 for you class, please request a desk copy.

Meanwhile, you and your students can meet James Shapiro in this video.

Monday, April 12, 2010

REBIRTH OF A NATION by Jackson Lears in Paperback on June 8

The best history books are the ones that can tell us both about the period on which the author chose to write, but also the time in which we currently live. Rebirth of a Nation is exactly that kind of book. Coming soon in paperback, Rebirth is an engrossing look at the period between the Civil War and World War I. Award-winning historian Jackson Lears’s book garnered immense critical praise from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Richard White of The Nation says:

“Good historians do not want to be agreed with; they want to change the terms of the argument. Jackson Lears has written a wonderful history that has done just that. Lears has grasped with Rebirth of a Nation an opportunity for reinterpreting a period that seems almost a doppelganger of our own. . . . Lears is a cultural historian, one of the founders of the modern field and in many ways its most illustrious American practitioner. . . . He has written a book to be reckoned with. Wherever the history of the period goes from here, it will have to go through Jackson Lears.”

If you have adopted the book for a class, please order a complimentary desk copy. If you would like to consider it for course adoption, you may order a discounted exam copy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Author Tom Piazza Writes for "Treme," The New HBO Show From "The Wire" Creator David Simon

Author Tom Piazza Writes for Treme, the New HBO Show From The Wire Creator David Simon My all time favorite television show is, without a doubt, “The Wire.” HBO’s drama about the Baltimore drug trade explored many facets of institutional dysfunction: law enforcement, education, journalism, and politics. It’s easily the grittiest, most realistic, intellectually and emotionally complex show I’ve ever watched. (It’s even the subject of sociology- and anthropology-based courses at Harvard, Duke, UC Berekley and Middlebury.)

Naturally, I am beyond thrilled that the show’s creator, David Simon, is returning to HBO this spring with a new series. His new show, which debuts on Sunday, is called “Treme,” named after the New Orleans neighborhood in which it’s set. Treme, which is adjacent to the French Quarter, has a rich and complex history; it’s the musical heart of New Orleans and thought by many to be the oldest African-American neighborhood in the country.

Rich and complex stories are Simon’s forte as a March 21 feature in the New York Times magazine points out. In many ways “The Wire” was more akin to serialized novels than it is to a traditional television drama. Partly this is due to the fact that the show itself is written by professional authors and journalists. Just as “The Wire” was written by novelists including Richard Price (Lush Life) and Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island) the writing credits for “Treme” include Harper author Tom Piazza.

Why New Orleans Matters by Tom PiazzaTom has written two books on New Orleans: Why New Orleans Matters, a book-length essay on the cultural, musical and historical value of the city he wrote immediately after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He also wrote City of Refuge, a novel about two families dealing with the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane. A long time resident and passionate advocate for the city, Tom will surely add a new dimension to the authenticity of “Treme.” And I, for one, can’t wait to watch.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New in History from Harper Perennial

Rebirth of a Nation by Jackson LearWhen it was published in hardcover last year, Jackson Lear's Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 received so many great reviews that it was difficult to choose only one to include in a print ad. Now that the paperback is on the horizon in June, I'm faced with the same dilemma. In the end, this is the one:

“Dazzling cultural history: smart, provocative, and gripping. It is also a book for our times, historically grounded, hopeful, and filled with humane, just, and peaceful possibilities. Lears, with keen insight, refashions even our best known stories. . . . Lears’s history also sheds light on our recent financial meltdown. He provides a fine account of the post-Civil War cult of money. . . . Rebirth of a Nation is packed with historical truth-telling about America’s destructive myths, delusions and fantasies. But it is also a history of dissent, of the men and women who pushed back against the prevailing culture. . . . Lears is at his inspired best when he discusses the anti-imperialist intellectuals such as Mark Twain, Jane Addams, and William James.”—Charles Postel, The Washington Post

Happily--in this electronic age--I can tell you to look here for more reviews.

Also, make certain to take a look at these new paperbacks:

What Science Can Tell Us About Literature, What Literature Can Tell Us About Science

In college, my favorite classes were always interdisciplinary in nature. To me that’s what a liberal arts education is about: being able understand the connections between seemingly divergent topics.

The article “Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know,” from Thursday’s New York Times illustrates this multidisciplinary approach as it pertains to the study of literature. The article discusses a new approach to studying fiction that incorporates elements of evolutionary theory, psychology and neurology. For example, did you know that three is the ideal number of characters for a reader to keep track of? Or that evidence of humans’ seemingly counter-evolutionary tendency toward altruism (explained, among other places, in the third chapter of SuperFreakonomics) can be found in literary works as early as The Odyssey?

Some worry about the “death of humanities” in an economic climate where many students are choosing traditionally practical majors (engineering, computer science) over less concrete ones (art history, creative writing). It’s clear however, that using science and psychology to answer questions about why people enjoy fiction can enhance the studies of both literature and science.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

20 free classroom sets of Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnThe Zinn Education Project is giving away classroom sets (25 books per set) of Howard Zinn’s A People's History of the United States to 20 teachers who submit stories about how they teach a people’s history in the classroom. A total of 500 books to be given away! Books have been donated by HarperCollins.

The Zinn Education Project provides some questions to help elicit the reason, use, and impact of your teaching a people’s history story.

Deadline is Monday, April 26.

Find out more

Students Interview Authors: Lucy Anne Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonLast week, as part of our ongoing series on Authors on Air, students in Jennifer Hubbell's English class at Marymount High School in Los Angeles interviewed Lucy Anne Hurston--author, sociologist, college professor, and niece of Zora Neale Hurston--about her aunt's life and her 20th-century masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Smart students. Smart questions. My favorite? "We were so upset when Tea Cake died! Eventually, we realized that Tea Cake had to die so that Janie could to experience personal growth. But we were still mad. In your opinion, why did Teacake have to die in the end? Why was Hurston unable to depict an equitable, happy, and long-lasting relationship between a man and a woman?"

You can hear Lucy's answer here!

Teaching the Great Religions: Stephen Prothero

GOD IS NOT ONE by Stephen ProtheroIn the New York Times bestselling Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't, Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University, demonstrated how little Americans know about their own religious traditions and why the world's religions should be taught in public schools.

Now, in God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter, Prothero provides students with much-needed content about each of the eight great religions. For those assigning books by Huston Smith and Karen Armstrong--here is a significantly different argument to share with your students: The world's religious traditions are not different paths to the same God. We blur the sharp distinctions between religions at our own peril, and it is time to replace naïve hopes of interreligious unity with deeper knowledge of religious differences. We must stop pretending that all religions are the same--and we must understand and respect what motivates and influences others.

To claim that all religions are the same is to misunderstand that each attempts to solve a different human problem. For example:

  • Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
  • Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
  • Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
  • Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
  • Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God

Religion is not just a private matter; it affects the world from social, economic, political, and military perspectives. Prothero reveals each of these traditions on its own terms to create an indispensable guide for students studying in diverse fields who need to better understand the big questions human beings have asked for millennia—and the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today.

A bold response to a generation of scholarship, God Is Not One creates a new context for understanding religion in the twenty-first century and disproves the assumptions many students make about the way the world's religions work.

If you've decided to assign God Is Not One to your students, please request a desk copy.

Meanwhile, you and your students can meet Stephen Prothero in this video.