Posts filed under ‘Literature’

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: The Top Common Reading Book of 2011 and 2012

Winner of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine’s Communication Award for Best Book
Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
Winner of the Wellcome Trust Book Prize

Named by more than 60 critics as one of the best books of 2010, including: Best Book of the Year at: O, The Oprah Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Bookmarks Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly, East Bay Express, and Kansas City Star, A Discover Magazine 2010 Must Read, National Public Radio, Best of the Bestsellers

In 1951, an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks, stricken with cervical cancer, became an involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were propagated by scientist George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These cells are now known worldwide as HeLa. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, award-winning science writer Rebecca Skloot brilliantly weaves together the Lacks’s story–past and present–with the story of the birth of bioethics, the story of HeLa cells, and the dark history of experimentation on African Americans. Important, powerful, and compassionate, this is a remarkable work of science and social journalism.  (more…)

March 12, 2013 at 1:03 am 4 comments

Oberlin College Assigns Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story

superA professor at Oberlin College assigned Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story to her first-year class on new technologies. Anne Trubek has been teaching the class for over ten years and decided to change things up by assigning Shteyngart’s book to fifteen 18-year-olds.

“I expected about half to skip it, another half to say it was too difficult. Instead I got one unanimous round of applause. They all loved it. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘It’s like us on steroids,’ said one. Fourteen other heads bobbed in agreement.”

Prof. Trubek goes on to mention in her article on buzzfeed.com how refreshing it was to find a contemporary novel like Shteyngart’s that deals with or even seems to understand technology.

Super Sad true Love Story is one of the few in recent memory to tackle this theme head on — and it’s the one I think we’ll be reading in 10 years from now, after the award winners are forgotten.”

Set in an alternative future, America is crushed by a financial crisis and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Then Lenny Abramov, son of an Russian immigrant janitor and ardent fan of “printed, bound media artifacts” (aka books), meets Eunice Park, an impossibly cute Korean American woman with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness. Could falling in love redeem a planet falling apart? (more…)

May 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Jay-Z now a Course Taught at Georgetown: “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z”

This fall, Georgetown University has announced that noted educator, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, will be teaching a course revolving around hip hop mogul Jay Z and his book Decoded. For the millions who know him as the greatest rapper alive and an unparalleled cultural and business icon, Decoded is the story of the legendary Jay-Z, told through lyrics, images, and a powerful and surprising personal narrative. This is an intimate, first-person portrait of the life and art of Jay-Z, organized around a “decoding” of his most famous and provocative lyrics.

Prof. Dyson describes the course as follows: “We look at his incredible body of work, we look at his own understanding of his work, we look at others who reflect upon him, and then we ask the students to engage in critical analysis of Jay-Z himself.”  For more information on the course, see video at: http://rapfix.mtv.com/2011/10/10/michael-eric-dyson-on-jay-z-georgetown-university-course/

“Compelling. . . . Part autobiography, part lavishly illustrated commentary on the author’s own work, Decoded gives the reader a harrowing portrait of the rough worlds Jay-Z navigated in his youth, while at the same time deconstructing his lyrics. . . . [P]rovocative, evocative. . . .” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times (more…)

October 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

A Life of Montaigne in One Question: HOW TO LIVE

978-1-59051-483-2Below is a note from Sarah Bakewell, author of  How to Live, on why she chose to write Montaigne’s new biography:

Why did I write about Montaigne? Mostly because I wanted to keep on reading him.

Ever since my early 20s, when I picked up his Essays by chance, wanting a good book for a long train journey, he never really left me. My first response to his work on that train was one of astonishment. How could someone who wrote in the 1500s sound so familiar, so conversational, so like me? It was like having a friend or a traveling companion sitting opposite me as we whizzed through the landscape. For years after that, Montaigne was never far from my side. And I discovered that practically everything else I read had the power of leading me back to him in some way—for Montaigne is the first truly modern author, the great hidden presence behind 400 years of literature, and indeed behind much of philosophy, politics, and social theory over those centuries.

This is mainly for one simple reason: No one before Montaigne had written so honestly and minutely about the inner world of a human being. He followed every twist and turn of his psyche, believing that every individual is worth writing about at such length, for “each man bears the entire form of the human condition.” But he also paid plenty of attention to the world outside. He was interested in everything; he traveled widely, held offices as magistrate and mayor, ran diplomatic missions for kings and princes, and tried his best to end the religious civil wars that tore apart the France of his day. These experiences led him to a deep fascination with human variety and difference. We share our essential humanity, he knew, but each of us has a radically different cultural, historical, and personal perspective, and that is just as fundamental. (more…)

September 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

Raritan Valley Community College’s English Dept. Assigns The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

Two boys named Wes Moore were born in the same neighborhood of the same American city only a year apart. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and a top young business leader—the other is serving a life sentence in prison. Through an unlikely friendship, the two Wes’s discovered all of the similarities in their stories, and also the dramatic points of inflection—involving incidents of sudden violence, luck, uninformed choices, and powerful mentors—where their stories fatefully diverged. Here is their dramatic twinned story, set against the larger story of the persistent challenges— and new possibilities—facing young men in America.

“Moving and inspiring, The Other Wes Moore is a story for our times.”—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here (more…)

September 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

Free Advanced Reader’s Copy Giveaway of Word Hero!

Calling all educators! We’re happy to announce that we’re offering free advanced reader’s copy of Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever by Jay Heinrichs.

The book isn’t officially on sale until October 4th, but we wanted to offer you an early release copy to check it out first! If you or anyone you know wants to learn how to use the power of words to get people laughing or talking, you’ll want this book to use as your guide.

Author Jay Heinrichs has spent more than 25 years in publishing as a magazine writer, editor, and executive. He’s quite the word-mastermind and also the author of Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. If you’d like an examination copy of Jay’s previous book, Thank You for Arguing, click here.

Leave a message for us here in the comment section if you’d like a free copy! Or email us at rhacademic@randomhouse.com with your preferred shipping information.

June 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm 1 comment

Dialogues: A Novel of Suspense Will Get Students Talking (and Writing)!

A Note to Educators from Stephen J. Spignesi, author of Dialogues: A Novel of Suspense:DIALOGUES

When Bantam first published my novel Dialogues in hardcover in 2005, it was described as a “reinvention of the psychological thriller.” Told mostly in dialogue, I wrote Dialogues as a compelling drama about a young animal shelter worker named Tory Troy who one day murders her six co-workers in the animal shelter gas chamber used to euthanize sick and unwanted animals.

Tory took a job at the animal shelter to help unwanted animals find good homes. She ended up being trained for, and working as an animal euthanasia technician. One day, after the deadly gas had done its job, she opens the chamber door and sees … a kitten who didn’t die. This begins a journey for Tory that ultimately results in a decision she alone can make: whether to live or die.

In addition to writing, I am also a Practitioner in Residence and Professor of English at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. A few years after its initial publication, I began assigning Dialogues to my English Composition and Literature students as a novel to read for the semester. I also gave them Dialogues assignments, some culled from the “Reader’s Guide to Dialogues,” written by Bantam for reading groups when the book was first published. The most important Dialogues-related assignment was a 1,000-word analytical essay in which the students had to analyze the symbolism, foreshadowing, word choice, style, tone, and all the other literary elements of the novel they had studied during the semester. (more…)

May 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

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