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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Books - Nonfiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 69
1. Challenged in MO: It's Perfectly Normal.

It's perfectly normalFrom the Detroit Free Press:

The book, titled “Perfectly Normal,” contains cartoon drawings of naked people and others involved in sexual acts. It’s available at middle school libraries. And although it indicates it’s meant for kids 10 years and up, it’s still making some parents uncomfortable.

“Most of the time, when I showed this to parents, their jaws just hit the floor,” parent Tim Schmidt said. “They were shocked and then their next reaction was outrage.”

The article incorrectly lists the title as Perfectly Normal, and doesn't mention Robie Harris by name, but the somewhat A Current Affair--ish (i.e. fear-mongering, HIGH DRAMA, SCARY PIXELATED IMAGES) segment at KSDK shows the cover of the book.

This is a great example of how much tone and inflection can affect the way that we ingest information: the written article is basically just a transcription of the television spot, but it comes off as pretty dry and straightforward, whereas the televised version of the story comes off as totally leaning in the ZOMG THERE ARE NEKKID CARTOONS IN OUR SCHOOLS WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN direction.

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2. "I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you — but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you."

At Brain Pickings: 

How to Turn Down a Marriage Proposal Like Charlotte Brontë

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3. How to Keep Crickets in a Box: A Tutorial.

Thanks to this Amazon review—and the follow-up/squabbling in the comments—I now have partially-masticated Frosted Mini-Wheats all over my laptop.

Better than crickets all over the house, I guess.

Then again, based on my knowledge of her Grasshopper Dispatch Rate, Lemon would make short work of 1,000 crickets. Is it weird that I'm now morbidly curious about how long it would take?


That isn't the only bizarre/hilarious review in the section: see also SWEET REVENGE and More ants than crickets.

(Original link via Dangerous Minds)

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4. BACA Alert: Keith Richards.

Oh, Keith.

Why do you want to break my heart?

From the Guardian:

Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar is about Richards' grandfather, Theodore Augustus Dupree, who played in a jazz big band and introduced the young Keith to music.

"I have just become a grandfather for the fifth time, so I know what I'm talking about," Keith Richards said. "The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is a story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me."

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5. Free resource: Khan Academy now offering SAT prep.

Like pretty much everyone else out there, I love Khan Academy like whoa.

So much that I occasionally go on jags of PRACTICING MY MATH SKILLS, which is TOTALLY OUT OF CHARACTER. But for whatever reason, KA makes it fun, and I find Sal's videos to be both helpful and weirdly soothing.

Anyway, they've partnered with the College Board and created a whole new section devoted to the dreaded SAT. So that's rad.

Relatedly, mental_floss recently posted some excerpts from the very first SAT.

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6. "[Tove] Jansson put her foot down at sanitary towels and Disney."

Bwahahahahaha. I fell over laughing when I read that sentence.

Anyway, it's from an article at the New Yorker about Tove Jansson.

So click on through if you are so inclined!

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7. Free book: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

From Open Culture:

danah boyd (she doesn’t capitalize her name) is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, where she looks at how young people use social media as part of their everyday lives. She has a new book out called It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, and she’s made it available as a free PDF. On her website she writes, “I didn’t write this book to make money. I wrote this book to reach as wide of an audience as I possibly could.  This desire to get as many people as engaged as possible drove every decision I made throughout this process. One of the things that drew me to Yale [the publisher] was their willingness to let me put a freely downloadable CC-licensed copy of the book online on the day the book came out.”

Related: NPR interview with the author.

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8. See?

It's much better to have the debate before adding the book to the curriculum than after:

'In Cold Blood' too bloody for students?: Teacher wants to add seminal work to curriculum; some have reservations.

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9. I need this, and I need it now.

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots.

It sounds completely bananas (in the best possible way).

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10. The Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year goes to...

...Cooking with Poo.

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11. I love you, John Waters.

From the NYT:

On a trip that Mr. Waters said took him eight days and about 15 hitchhiked rides to get him from one end of the country to the other, he has accumulated numerous anecdotes for a book he has tentatively titled “Carsick” and which will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

If I'd been one of the lucky 15 to have picked him up, I'd totally have driven him as far as he wanted...

...then again, that probably would have made for a less interesting book.

ETA: Josh says that he'd have brought him home like a stray animal. "Honey! I found a John Waters on the side of the road!"

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12. My Friend Dahmer -- Derf Backderf

My friend dahmer

Well, this was one of the more depressing books I've read this year.

My Friend Dahmer is an account of Jeffrey Dahmer's teen years—the years just before he began killing—written in comic book format by one of his high school classmates, Derf Backderf. As Backderf draws heavily from his own recollections of and interactions with Dahmer, it works, in part, as a memoir, but he also spoke with former classmates and did a huge amount of research—there are pages and pages of notes at the end* in which he lists all of the various places (books, news reports, interviews) he pulled details from—so it works as a work of nonfiction as well.

That was probably a more long-winded explanation than you needed, but I always find it annoying that "graphic novel" is used as a catch-all term for the format, even in the instances in which the book in question isn't a novel. Anyway.

It's an outstanding book. The story isn't sensationalized, and there's no exploitation of Dahmer or his victims. It's a sad story about a tormented person set during a weird time in an everyday place. Backderf's inclusion of scenes featuring his own family and friends serve as a striking parallel to Dahmer's experience at home and at school, and in addition to the partial biography of Dahmer, the book also serves as a very specific portrait of a small Ohio town in the 1970s.

There's a big difference between searching for the reasons behind something—trying to understand—and making excuses. This book falls firmly in the former category. Backderf stresses in his introduction that he doesn't sympathize for Dahmer-the-monster, but that he has pity for Dahmer-the-lonely-kid. And that comes through: he successfully separates the pre-killings Dahmer from the post-killings Dahmer, and he makes it really easy to feel for the pre-killings Dahmer. In My Friend Dahmer, he's a kid with no one to turn to—if adults didn't even notice his rampant alcoholism, it's hard to imagine him turning to any of them for help—struggling against violent, ugly urges that he knows are wrong.

Ultimately, he gives into them, and we all know where the story goes from there.

Blerg. I need recommendations for a happy book, please.


*Which are easily as interesting as the rest of the book.


Author page.




Book source: ILL through my library.

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13. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon -- Steve Sheinkin


I'm not the nonfiction reader in this household: Josh is. So I'll be passing Bomb over to him just as soon as I've finished writing about it, though I LOVED IT SO MUCH THAT HE'S PRETTY MUCH ALREADY READ IT, SINCE I FELT THE NEED TO READ BITS OF IT ALOUD TO HIM EVERY SINGLE TIME I TURNED A PAGE.

I'd feel guilty, but I'm still recovering from that one week eight years ago when he read Salt: A World History. Or, as I like to call it, THE BOOK THAT MADE ME SO CRAZY THAT IF I EVER MEET MARK KURLANSKY, I'M GOING TO KICK HIM IN THE SHINS FOR SUBJECTING ME TO SEVEN DAYS OF NEVER-ENDING FACTS ABOUT SALT.

Huh. I haven't even had any sugar or caffeine today. Let's move on.

Bomb, as you've probably deduced from the title, is about the Manhattan Project and the spies who well, spied on the Manhattan Project. It begins and ends with the moment that Harry Gold realizes that the jig is up—that his years of acting as a courier for the KGB are not only at an end, but that he'll be lucky to not be executed for his role in stealing secrets for the Soviets. The middle of the book is organized chronologically, and follows three major threads: the efforts of Oppenheimer and Co. to build the atomic bomb, the attempts of the Soviets to steal information about the project, and what the Allied Forces did to impede Germany's progress in building their own bomb. 

It's got loads of entertaining facts, has colorful portrayals of the personalities involved:

The thirty-seven-year-old Eifler already had a reputation for reckless bravery. Wounded by flying metal scraps earlier in the war, he'd pulled out his pocketknife and dug the steel from his thigh. His idea of fun was to shoot cigarettes out of his friends' mouths.

and is full-to-the-gills of fabulous quotes and stories:

This kind of stuff infuriated Leslie Groves. "Here at great expense," he moaned to Oppenheimer, "the government has assembled the world's largest collection of crackpots."

In Bomb, Steve Sheinkin takes already-fascinating subject matter and spins it out in such an engrossing manner than I, a devoted fiction reader, read the entire thing in one sitting. The first two-thirds of the book captures and conveys the excitement, curiosity, and tension of the physicists as they pursue their goal, while the last third will doubtless give you that awful stomach-twisting feeling as they experience the oh-what-have-we-created feeling upon completion of the project.

Like I said, I loved it. Sheinkin takes a massive piece of history—one that spans years and countries and careers—and condenses it down into just under 250 pages... but without sacrificing intellectual, political, or emotional complexity. And, for those who want to read further, in addition to a couple of indexes, the book ends with a 5-page bibliography.

Lastly, if you didn't already have a crush on Richard Feynman due to his cameo in The Green Glass Sea, you will after reading this book. BECAUSE HE WAS AWESOME.


Author page.




Book source: ILLed through my library. This book is a 2012 National Book Award finalist.

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14. During my commute this morning...

Big data...I was listening to an interview with one of the authors of Big Data, and it made me realize that I'm turning into my father.

Author: If Big Data correlations identify me as a 44-year-old male who's a journalist and who has grand eyes for things I can't afford, it may think that I'm going to be susceptible to embezzlement, and maybe I will get a knock on the door by the police, who say, 'We have reason to believe that you're about to commit a crime.' This is sort of like pre-crime in Minority Report.

Interviewer: Oh, that Tom Cruise movie from a few years back.


And now I'm all het up.

When I tell him, Dad will be so proud.

Well, either that or he'll tell me that I shouldn't get so worked up about these things.


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15. And the newest author to be accused of plagiarism is...

...(brace yourself, because this is depressing)... Jane Goodall:

Jane Goodall, the primatologist celebrated for her meticulous studies of chimps in the wild, is releasing a book next month on the plant world that contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites.

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16. Who's afraid of Persepolis?*

PersepolisMarjane Satrapi, on the Persepolis brohaha in Chicago:

TO THE administrators I would say: Find your brain again. Stop lying, stop being hypocritical, and trust the young people. Read the book first and don't just be shocked by one picture. Read it first, and then, if you really are shocked, don't teach it. But I'm sure these people didn't even read it.

I would say to the children that I trust them--and I really trust that they will make a better world. I think they are very intelligent, and I really believe in young people.

To the teachers, I would say that I respect them more than anyone in the world because this is really not an easy job to do. Thanks to people like them--they saved my life.

*Post title pulled from the interview, obvs.

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17. The University Press of Kentucky knows what's what.

From their Tumblr:

Do you own a print copy of a University Press of Kentucky title and wish you had the ebook too? Send us a digital photo of you holding the book to receive the electronic edition for free!

Free advertising, loyalty promotion, making with the happy... NICE JOB, UPK! I'll be curious to see if other publishers follow your lead.

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From the CBC:

More than 25 years later, Cary Elwes still has the fondest memories of starring in The Princess Bride.

The actor has a deal with Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for a memoir about the beloved fairy tale. The book is called As You Wish: Tales from the Princess Bride.

Touchstone announced Friday that it has scheduled publication for the fall of 2014.

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19. Added to my mental wishlist: The Settlers of Catan Cookbook.

From NPR:

To accommodate picky eaters, Oseland uses made for scientists so no two ingredients have to touch. Arranged as a "board" they also mimic the game's tiles. She fills them with side dishes made from ingredients that evoke terrains — red hills, green forests, yellow fields, dark mountains and white deserts.

The recipes range from things like "Settlers of the Nacho Bar" (a deconstructed nacho platter) to the much heartier "Thanksgiving Dinner Board" (mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans).


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20. Another one for the TBR list.

What the bee knowsWhat the Bee Knows, by P.L. Travers.

From SDSU Children's Literature:

Travers’ other writings are equally impressive, especially her novel Friend Monkey. A good introduction to her and her mythological way of thinking is What the Bee Knows, a collection of her essays that does Joseph Campbell one better and treats the path of women’s lives as seen in fairy tales, the deep meanings of “Humpty Dumpty,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures, and new ways of understanding the story of the Prodigal Son.

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21. Anne Frank & the Moomins...

...as interpreted by makeup artist Tal Peleg:

Moomins eye makeup

Anne-frank eye makeup

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22. Timewaster of the day:

Ancient Lives.

And it isn't really a timewaster (Educational! Historical! Anthropological!), so it's OKAY if you lose an hour or two while you're messing with it!

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23. Alternate endings...

...for one of the most depressing stories in history: Nick Abadzis played What If? with Laika the dog.

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24. Looking for a challenge?

Try to write an entertaining—yet respectful—trivia quiz about Anne Frank.

Believe me, it's not easy.

Try your hand at today's Kirkus QRank quiz and let me know how you think I did! (And, of course, how you do!)

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25. Today at Kirkus...

...I've got a Qrank quiz up about Education Reform, of all things.

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