Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Current events have always played a major role in the education of students, and for the current generation, the relationship between the United States and the Middle East dominates the news cycle. The United States has been involved in the Middle East for years--and though the US military withdrew from Iraq in 2011 the conflict between nations remains a significant factor in the current political climate. During the occupation of Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 until December of 2011 countless young men and women were thrust into hostile territories and faced with difficult decisions and heartbreaking losses. Controversy over the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq has become and will continue to be a necessary conversation among American citizens.

With the exploration of non-fiction titles like The Secret History of the Iraq War, Code Name: Johnny Walker, Understanding Iraq and All American, students can delve into the history and controversy of the war while gaining emotional insight from the fictional characters in titles like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Purple Heart and Carthage

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk has been adopted into many courses and was recently adopted into a required English class of 600 students at the Air Force Academy. Likewise, the demand for All American in courses has risen since its publication, including an adoption as Louisiana Tech's freshman year common read.

Sample Discussion Questions
  • What questions, challenges, and opportunities does William R. Polk predict for the future of the relationship between Iraq and America in Understanding Iraq? How do those predictions from 2005 compare to the current climate between nations?
  • How does the story of the Iraqi interpreter in Code Name: Johnny Walker compare to the story of the American soldiers in All American?
  • In what ways do the young men in All American relate to the fictional war hero Billy Lynn? What do their personal stories add to your understanding of the occupation as a whole?
  • In Carthage, Joyce Carol Oates examines the difficulties that returning war veterans face, asking the question, "Is it ever possible to come home again?" Discuss the answer to this question after reading Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Purple Heart, and All American.
  • Discuss the issues raised in The Secret History of the Iraq War regarding the intelligence community as it compares with the history presented in Understanding Iraq.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nadia Hashimi Discusses Women's Rights in Afghanistan

One of the issues at the forefront of next month's Afghani presidential election is women's rights. The Huffington Post did a piece last Thursday on the issue of Afghani women's rights both during and after this crucial election. They asked the Afghan-American author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, Nadia Hashimi to participate in the conversation and offer her unique perspective on the ongoing discussion. During the piece, Hashimi expressed the motivation behind her debut novel, which follows three generations of women in an Afghanistan family. She discussed her desire to examine the generation gap among Afghani citizens and how the gender issues over the last three generations have changed very little. 

To hear Hashimi's thoughts on the upcoming election and what it means for Afghani women, click here. And click here to read more about The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Summer Reading Lists Are Finally Here!

It's Finally May! Which means the school year is winding down to an end and schools are posting their summer reading lists! The Academic Marketing Department finds this an exciting time of year because we can learn what trends are developing and how we are stacking up against the competition on those required summer reading lists. 

The exciting trend this summer is for administrators to assign a long list of fantastic titles for their students to pick from and complete their assignments. From these lists, we can see how schools are balancing the entertainment of summer reading with their educational goals.

One of the biggest trends we've seen over the past years is the departure from older, more challenging classic titles to contemporary and popular titles. For instance, most of the big summer movies for 2014 are based on Young Adult novels, including Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Maze Runner and these popular titles have made their way onto many high school required summer reading lists. This spring and summer most of Hollywood's biggest productions are based on novels, so naturally many of the novels assigned have a film counterpart. This works in favor of those modern classics students can already recognize by name, like this year's 12 Years a Slave

Some of the most popular titles this summer include modern classics like The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Agatha Christie titles, Lord of the Flies, 1984 Animal Farm, Our Town, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Of Mice and Men, The Bell Jar, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Nickel and Dimed. However, the most popular titles were more contemporary, for instance: the New York Times bestselling How To Read Literature Like A Professor, The Alchemist, The Book Thief, Divergent, Speak, The Glass Castle, The Round House, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Enders Game, The Road, First They Killed My Father, The Kite Runner, and even a slight resurgence of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

Here are some examples of required summer reading lists and assignments across the country!

A Students Essential Guide to NYC!

Last month marked the release of Nathan W. Pyle's NYC Basic Tips & Etiquette. An Ohio transplant, Pyle has decided that after four and a half years in New York, he would share the lessons he's learned with the rest of the world. Pyle used his artistic skills as an illustrator and T-shirt designer to bring his rules and tips to life. Each quirky panel demonstrates the must-know etiquette for surviving in a city of eight million people. This fun and entertaining book has turned into a sensation and is even serving as a how-to guide for ESL students and college freshman. Just this month Hunter College in NYC has adopted NYC Basic Tips & Etiquette for its incoming freshman. 
The value of this book cannot be underestimated, when I moved to New York a year ago to participate in a post-grad summer school class, I would have loved to find all the unwritten rules of New York laid out in such a convenient and humourous way! It is perfect for international students, who will undoubtedly feel the culture shock of moving to the United States, and all the incoming students who will find that the culture of New York is one all its own.

For more information on Nathan W. Pyle, click here. To see more about NYC Basic Tips & Etiquette, check out its Facebook Page

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Can Your Students THINK LIKE A FREAK?

Think Like a Freak By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. DubnerNew York Times-bestselling authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner single-handedly showed the world that applying economic theory and big data to everyday problems can bear surprising results. Think Like a Freak will take students further inside their special thought process, revealing a new way of approaching the decisions we make, the plans we create, and the morals we choose. It answers the questions on the lips of everyone who’s read the previous books: How can I apply these ideas to my life? How do I make smarter, better decisions? How can I truly think like a freak?

In a video they made especially for college professors, Dubner describes their surprise when they realized that Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics were being taught in schools across the country. In the academic department, we get multiple requests every day for the password to our teaching materials (which can be found here). Their new book—which teaches students to think more creatively and more rationally—might be the most suited to the needs of young college students, especially those in their first year who are being challenged to think in a very different way than high school required.

To read more about the book, you can browse inside it here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Limited Engagement of LeRoi Jones' Acclaimed DUTCHMAN

Dutchman and the Slave By Leroi JonesThe National Black Theater and the Classical Theater of Harlem have teamed up to stage a 50th anniversary revival of LeRoi Jones’ Obie-winning play Dutchman.  The limited engagement—directed by Carl Cofield—will last until May 23rd.

In their review, the New York Times calls the revival “dynamic,” and suggests the reason for Dutchman’s enduring popularity: “. . . it resists simple allegory. . . .  [It] suggests that certain social problems are insoluble. They are destined to recur, while others look on with seeming indifference.” 

The Harper Perennial collection of Jones' Dutchman and The Slave is frequently adopted into theater, race, and American studies courses. To browse inside, please click here

Tickets for the play can be purchased here.

New Common Core Cluster - EGYPT

The culture of Ancient Egypt has long served as a fascinating topic for students. With HarperAcademic's new Common Core Cluster for Ancient Egypt, its history and lasting influence comes to life with both detailed non-fiction titles and imaginative fiction additions. 

The historical fiction of Tutankhamun, The White Nile, Nefertiti, Death on the Nile and The Visitors capture the atmosphere and culture of Egypt from Ancient times through the 1930s. These titles paired with non-fiction titles like Cleopatra the Great, Red Land, Black Land, Ancient Egypt, Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs, and Beneath the Sands of Egypt from renowned Egyptologists create an atmosphere for discussion as fertile as the banks of the Nile themselves. 

Sample Discussion Questions

How do the imagined personalities of Nefertiti and Tutankhamun in Nick Drake's series compare to the historical figures described in Ancient Egypt?

How does the Egypt today compare to the Egypt described in The White Nile, Death on the Nile, and Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs?

What historical details does the author of Nefertiti use to support his imagined story about the disappearance of Nefertiti? How does this theory compare to the theory now held to be true by Egyptologists?

In what ways does the search for King Tut's tomb in The Visitors relate to the fabled life of the boy Pharaoh in Tutankhamun?

Discuss the roles of Egypt's two important female leaders, Nefertiti and Cleopatra, as they are described in Cleopatra the Great, Nefertiti and Ancient Egypt.

How do the men searching for King Tut's tomb in The Visitors relate to Donald P. Ryan's real life archaeological adventures in Beneath the Sands of Egypt?


Just in time for graduation season, David McCullough's You Are Not Special is gaining lots of attention nationwide as recommended reading for teens and parents. Based on his commencement speech of the same name and his own observations as a father and teacher, McCullough poses many important questions regarding the current teenage landscape, and the theory, function and outcome of education today.

To hear more about David and You Are Not Special check out this piece in the Atlantic. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

THE VOLUNTOURIST Reaches a New Generation

As part of a program with One More Page, an independent bookstore in Northern Virginia, Ken Budd recently spoke at an Arlington high school about The Voluntourist, his memoir about finding your destiny and giving back to the world. After the death of his father, Budd traveled all over the world to help worthy causes, and along the way discovered the importance of becoming a good global citizen. Now with the help of One More Page, Ken is able to share his knowledge with a younger generation. 

For more information on The Voluntourist click here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

YA-Crossover Forthcoming Favorite: THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING

The Queen of the Tearling By Erika JohansenAllow me to introduce you to the book all your students will soon be reading: Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling.

The #1 Indie Next Pick for July, and the first book in an epic trilogy that is already being adapted into a movie starring Emma Watson, The Queen of the Tearling is a post-apocalyptic fantasy set in a future era reminiscent of the Dark Ages. In this new world, books are rare, modern technology is seemingly non-existent, and the citizens of the Tearling suffer terribly to appease the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. The Tearling’s only hope is a young princess—raised in exile—who must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler, and defeat the Red Queen.

What makes the book such an exciting YA crossover is its protagonist—Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn—whose coming-of-age story drives the novels. But bookish Kelsea is not your typical YA heroine: she is strong, smart, and incorruptible, but she is also clumsy, hot-tempered, and doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter standard of beauty most YA girl protagonists do. In short, she is a highly complex character who students will root for and relate to.

Erika Johansen was recently interviewed by Library Journal's Pre-pub Alert editor, Barbara Hoffert, in our offices. You can check out the whole interview here, in which Johansen discusses her writing, Kelsea, and the authors who impacted her. 

Win a FREE book or two!

It's moving week at HarperAcademic which means great news for you bookworms! I will be giving away books as prizes for trivia in a range of topics from Literature, Film, Music and History. Follow us @HarperAcademic for your chance to win a free book or two!

Note-We can only ship to the US and I must have your address by 2:30pm!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


From the roots of democracy, philosophy, mythology and mathematics, it is fascinating to learn about the origins of Western Civilization through the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans. HarperCollins offers a wonderful list of fiction and non-fiction titles to help students delve back in time and discuss the influential historical events, cultural and scientific advances and timeless literature.

Sophocles' The Oedipus Cycle, The Odyssey of Homer, The Ides of March and The Song of Achilles each explore aspects of Greek and Roman life in narrative form, allowing for students to more closely experience the history from the characters' perspectives. Matching these titles with the non-fiction titles like Ancient Greece, It's All Greek to Me, Wars of the Ancient Greeks, The Wisdom of the Myths and Roman Warfare will help to give students a well-rounded look into Ancient Greece and Rome.

Sample Discussion Questions

How does the Rome portrayed in Thornton Wilder's The Ides of March compare to the history of the Romans described in Roman Warfare?

What mythological insights examined in The Wisdom of the Myths can be found throughout The Odyssey of Homer?

Discuss how Greek mythology informed the history chronicled in Ancient Greece and It's All Greek to Me and the stories in The Odyssey of Homer and Sophocles' The Oedipus Cycle.

How do the modern novels The Ides of March and The Song of Achilles compare to the classic stories of The Odyssey of Homer and Sophocles' The Oedipus Cycle? In what ways do the ancient stories inform the modern tales?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Course Suggestion for HEAVEN'S MY DESTINATION by Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder's fourth novel Heaven's My Destination is the story of a pious young man, whose faith is tested on a cross-country journey. George Marvin Brush is a traveling textbook salesman, determined to lead a righteous life during the Great Depression. George's effort to lead a good life leave a path of comic consternation in its wake, making him one of Wilder's most memorial characters.

Most of the debate centered around Wilder's Heaven's My Destination is whether the novel can be categorized as a coming-of-age story, in which the character evolves from beginning to end, or a picaresque novel, in which the character does not evolve but instead serves as a device for satire. Does George Brush learn from his experiences, or is he a mere tool used for Wilder to comment on American society during the Depression and the corrupted Christian ideals of his time?

To consider this question, students should read and discuss examples of both novel forms. The characters and themes in the coming-of-age stories of Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye offer unique comparisons to Wilder's main character George. Likewise, the picaros of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, Miguel de Cervante's Don Quixote, and even Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne offer interesting parallels to Wilder's Heaven's My Destination.

Sample Discussion Questions
  • In what ways do you believe Wilder's story is a coming-of-age tale? As George's journey through the Midwest progresses, does anything in his interactions with others or his outlook change?
  • How does George relate to Holden in The Catcher in the Rye?
  • How do the stages of spiritual life of George Brush and Don from Blue Like Jazz relate to one another?
  • Ask students to respond to George's question, "Isn't the principle of a thing more important than the people living under that principle?"
  • In what ways do you believe Heaven's My Destination is a picaresque novel?
  • What similarities do George and Nick from Youth in Revolt have in terms of a classic picaro?
  • How does Wilder use his worldview to create satire in Heaven's My Destination? You may want to ask students to read this Thornton Wilder interview in The Paris Review, in which he says, "The comic spirit is given to us in order that we may analyze, weigh, and clarify things in us that nettle us, or that we are outgrowing, or trying to reshape. That is a very autobiographical book."
  • How does George Brush compare to Don Quixote? How does each character's perception of reality impact their lives and the people they encounter? Are they idealistc heroes or fools?
 Additional Resources

Book Review: Thornton Wilder’s “Gandhian” novel, Heaven’s My Destination by William J. Jackson