Tag Archives: reading

Celebrate the freedom to read – Banned Books Week – Sep 30 – Oct 6

source: Banned Books Week

 

Everyday in America someone tries to ban a book. The American Library Association reports 326 challenges in 2011. A challenge is more than a person being annoyed with a book, it is a person telling the library they don’t want anyone else to read the book. That is censorship in its most basic form.

And these books are not always the most controversial ones – sometimes they are classics that have been on the shelf for years. Here are the most challenged books of 2011:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (series)
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Celebrating Banned Books Week is about the freedom to read and that takes us beyond the printed paper. For the internet it means supporting free and open access to information – a fundamental right and need in countries all around the world.

So take a chance this week, read a banned book and support someone else’s right to do so.

A final word from David Brin on freedom of speech:

Freedom of speech is not a gift from on high. It was not declared by God. It is not holy, or even natural. No other human society ever practiced it. Even we, who are loony enough to consider it sacred, don’t practice it very well. Yet, although it runs against every tyrannical impulse of human nature… impulses to suppress whatever that loudmouth fool over there is saying… the fact is that we try to live by it. Not because free speech is holy, or natural, but because it works. Because it is pragmatic. Because it allows the rapid generation of a multitude of ideas, most of which are chaff, and then allows those notions to be criticized by other egotistical people, so that a fair percentage of the best ideas rise, and most garbage eventually sinks.

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Tumblr blog – celebrities reading poetry

It’s that subject no one wants to study in English class. It’s that aisle in the bookstore that’s always empty. It’s that stuff that star-crossed lovers spout at each other through open windows.

Explains the author of this Tumblr, called SpeakCelebrity. Offering that poetry isn’t scary, “it’s exciting, and comforting, and new, and old, and it can be clear-cut or all jumbled up, but most of all, it’s human.”

I couldn’t agree more and it’s a delight to browse through the celebrities:

  • Al Pacino reading – “Sonnet 150″ by William Shakespeare
  • Meryl Streep – “In Vain” by Emily Dickinson
  • Morgan Freeman – “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
  • Ralph Fiennes – “Ode to the Sea” by Pablo Neruda
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
  • Johnny Depp – “The Girl of the Ghetto” by Jim Morrison

My favorite so far is Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series – and Johnny Depp. Both invite you into the poem and let you forget the world around you.

Dig-in and enjoy - SpeakCelebrity.

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Amazon restarts the serial novel genre – with Charles Dickens and a Yoga murder mystery

I love that Amazon is rekindling the newspaper subscription through the e-reader. It invokes an image of reading the newspaper in the morning, with my coffee and family at the table. But replace the newspaper with a Kindle and does it still work?

If you’re a digital geek of course. And the beauty of online subscriptions is you have the world at your fingertips. I’ve subscribed to newspapers from Spain, Argentina, Houston, San Francisco, and more using the free 14-day trial.

Amazon sees a profit in this as they continue to push the subscription model, this time with Kindle Serials. From c|net:

A new service for Kindle owners, called Kindle Serials, lets customers subscribe to a serial novel. Buyers purchase the content up front, then have it delivered to their device automatically as new installments are published. Along the way, readers can provide feedback about the series, something Amazon hopes will bring a modern approach to the genre.

The first releases are a few Charles Dickens novels in their original serialized form. A true delight for literature nuts, especially because they are free:

Eight more serial novels will be released, each with a tantalizing plot to draw you in. These will cost $1.99 for all the installments.

 

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Learn how to speak a new language in a few months – from Lifehacker

A condensed version of the article, if this interests you read the full article.

Lifehacker reader Gabriel Wyner was tasked with learning four languages in the past few years for his career as an opera singer, and in the process landed on “a pretty damn good method for language learning that you can do in limited amounts of spare time.” Here’s the four-step method that you can use.

 

Stage 1: Learn the correct pronunciation of the language.
Time: 1-2 weeks

Starting with pronunciation first does a few things—because I’m first and foremost learning how to hear that language’s sounds, my listening comprehension gets an immediate boost before I even start traditional language learning.

 

Stage 2: Vocabulary and grammar acquisition, no English allowed.
Time: About 3 months.

This stage takes advantage of a few valuable tricks: First, I’m using Anki, a wonderful, free flashcard program that runs on smartphones and every computer platform. Second, I use a modified version of Middlebury College’s famous language pledge—No English allowed! By skipping the English, I’m practicing thinking in the language directly, and not translating every time I try to think of a word. Third, I’m using frequency lists to guide my vocabulary acquisition. These lists show the most common words in a given language, and learning those words first will be the best use of your time—after 1000 words, you’ll know 70% of the words in any average text, and 2,000 words provides you with 80% text coverage.

 

Stage 3: Listening, writing and reading work.
Time: This stage overlaps quite a bit with stage 2 and 4. Once you’re comfortable reading or writing anything, usually a month or two into stage 2, you can start stage 3

Once I have a decent vocabulary and familiarity with grammar, I start writing essays, watching TV shows and reading books, and talking (at least to myself!) about the stuff I see and do.

 

Stage 4: Speech

At the point where I can more or less talk (haltingly, but without too many grammar or vocab holes) and write about most familiar things, I find some place to immerse in the language and speak all the time (literally).

 

// Photo – Spree2010

Blog Design – the ultra-minimalist brigade

When I first started blogging, Jason Kottke, of kottke.org, was a sort-of hero for what I wanted to do. His style of blogging is very similar to mine and so are his design aesthetics.

As time has progressed, I’ve switched from the hero archetype to more of a hopeful-peer. My delusions of equality were boosted when I noticed Jason’s latest redesign of his blog. Where several of the features match the design I created for this blog.

When you read a blog there are so many items for you to click. It’s like you’re in Times Square and everyone wants your attention. That isn’t very Jobsian (Steve Jobs-esque) especially when I only want you to do three things on my blog: read it, share it, and (hopefully) enjoy the ads.

So, I have taken the opposite, ultra-minimalist approach, the only-what-you-need-to-survive style. Everything is gone, links are minimal, and reading is clutter-free.

Jason has taken this approach for years, probably long before I even dreamed of being a blogger, but now he is going for gold. Joining the ultra-minimalist brigade, and several of his updates match mine. While others completely blow me out of the water (mirror on Tumblr?).

It’s a great confidence boost for me, but also leaves me with some things to copy or rather “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Here is the update in Jason’s own words.

In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.

Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons. Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links, other ways to follow the site, and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills.

Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta.

The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised.

Sharing. I’ve always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don’t just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that’s true of kottke.org as well…and I haven’t been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.

So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button.

via kottke.org

The rise of e-reading in America

28% of Americans age 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading – either a tablet or an e-book reader.

The holiday season saw a huge boost in ownership for both e-readers and tablets. Both jumped 9%, meaning that nearly one in ten Americans received a device over the holidays.

The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.

78% of those ages 16 and older say they read a book in the past 12 months.

Overall, those who reported reading the most books in the past year include: women compared with men; whites compared with minorities; well-educated Americans compared with less-educated Americans; and those age 65 and older compared with younger age groups.

30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now. 

The longer people have owned an e-book reader or tablet, the more likely they are to say they are reading more.

The prevalence of e-book reading is markedly growing, but printed books still dominate the world of book readers. 

In our December 2011 survey, we found that 72% of American adults had read a printed book and 11% listened to an audiobook in the previous year, compared with the 17% of adults who had read an e-book.

There are four times more people reading e-books on a typical day now than was the case less than two years ago.

10x more stats at – The rise of e-reading, Pew Internet

 

And, a fun ending:

Why people like to read. 

Scholastic joins the e-book revolution – new app for children’s books

The kids’ e-book market is still nascent, with e-books making up just about three percent of children’s book sales. That could change now that Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s book publishers, is digitizing much of its list and releasing an e-reading app, “Storia,” that includes a large e-bookstore and lets kids read e-books based on their reading level.

The app itself is free and comes with five free e-books. A store contains over 1,000 other children’s e-books—many available in digital format for the first time—that can be sorted by grade level, reading level, age and character/series.

Some of the titles — 151 in the store now—are “enriched e-books,” which “which use word games, story interactions, and animation to deeply draw your young reader in, further developing confidence and critical thinking skills.” Parents can also track their kids’ process through the books, and the app can store multiple virtual bookshelves for children in one family.

more details – paidContent

 

// Photo from Hastac

Anglophiles rejoice, another British epic – Anthony Powell's novels, A Dance to the Music of Time

Seven Reasons to Read A Dance to the Music of Time

In the fall of 2009, I left the United States to spend a school year teaching English in China. There were many things to do before leaving, but one of the more pleasurable was choosing which books would see me through the year. When my friend Ellen suggested taking Anthony Powell’s series A Dance to the Music of Time, I felt a click, the sort you feel when someone suggests a thing and you realize that is exactly what you intended to do all along. I packed the whole series and spent the next nine months living in China but letting a great deal of my imaginative life take place in mid-20th-century England.

For those who haven’t heard about the series or seen its tantalizing spines lined up on some bookstore shelf, Dance is a sequence of 12 novels, generally published as four volumes of three novels each. The series takes its name from a 17th-century painting by the French artist Nicholas Poussin, which depicts the four seasons as nymphs dancing in a circle while a winged Father Time plays for them on the harp. (The American editions of the books, published by the University of Chicago Press, use Poussin’s artwork and put one of the nymphs on the spine of each volume, so that when lined up the four volumes create an eye-catching work of art on one’s shelf.) The books take place in England over the course of nearly 60 years, starting between the World Wars and ending in the 1970s.

Various people have claimed that Dance is the definitive work of the British 20th century. The whole series is one entry on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels of the century.

These books deserve a continuing readership. They are masterful, they are deeply artful — and they are also rather fun. They contain a wealth of comedy, closely observed as the best serious work but with an additional twist that makes for a startled laugh when you suddenly realize what’s going on. They deserve to be popular. They deserve to be widely read and loved. These are the first books I can recall reading as an adult that made me want to go join the official society of fans of the author. Those who love these books love them for a lifetime; they are so rich and so pleasurable that they bear revisiting over the years as the reader grows alongside the characters and finds new ways to understand the story. And yet, in point of fact, nobody I know has read them, though I know a couple people who have been meaning to get around to it. And so I am taking to the Internet to make my own case for Powell to anyone out there who is in search of a new reading project as I was, or who simply needs something to read on these winter days.

By Marjorie Hakala

 

Another Endorsement

Anglophiles rejoice, another British epic – Anthony Powell’s novels, A Dance to the Music of Time

Seven Reasons to Read A Dance to the Music of Time

In the fall of 2009, I left the United States to spend a school year teaching English in China. There were many things to do before leaving, but one of the more pleasurable was choosing which books would see me through the year. When my friend Ellen suggested taking Anthony Powell’s series A Dance to the Music of Time, I felt a click, the sort you feel when someone suggests a thing and you realize that is exactly what you intended to do all along. I packed the whole series and spent the next nine months living in China but letting a great deal of my imaginative life take place in mid-20th-century England.

For those who haven’t heard about the series or seen its tantalizing spines lined up on some bookstore shelf, Dance is a sequence of 12 novels, generally published as four volumes of three novels each. The series takes its name from a 17th-century painting by the French artist Nicholas Poussin, which depicts the four seasons as nymphs dancing in a circle while a winged Father Time plays for them on the harp. (The American editions of the books, published by the University of Chicago Press, use Poussin’s artwork and put one of the nymphs on the spine of each volume, so that when lined up the four volumes create an eye-catching work of art on one’s shelf.) The books take place in England over the course of nearly 60 years, starting between the World Wars and ending in the 1970s.

Various people have claimed that Dance is the definitive work of the British 20th century. The whole series is one entry on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels of the century.

These books deserve a continuing readership. They are masterful, they are deeply artful — and they are also rather fun. They contain a wealth of comedy, closely observed as the best serious work but with an additional twist that makes for a startled laugh when you suddenly realize what’s going on. They deserve to be popular. They deserve to be widely read and loved. These are the first books I can recall reading as an adult that made me want to go join the official society of fans of the author. Those who love these books love them for a lifetime; they are so rich and so pleasurable that they bear revisiting over the years as the reader grows alongside the characters and finds new ways to understand the story. And yet, in point of fact, nobody I know has read them, though I know a couple people who have been meaning to get around to it. And so I am taking to the Internet to make my own case for Powell to anyone out there who is in search of a new reading project as I was, or who simply needs something to read on these winter days.

By Marjorie Hakala

 

Another Endorsement