Here are some books Bill Gates recommends we read this summer

If you're in the market for book recommendations to fill up your stay-at-home hours, here's a short list of favorites from Bill Gates. Check out his longer list on his blog, GatesNotes blog. Read the rest

Band offers to send students copies of books banned by Alaska school board

In Alaska, the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board voted to pull classic literary works The Great Gatsby, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Invisible Man, The Things They Carried, and Catch-22 from the approved reading list of elective high school classes. You can read about the board's bullshit "reasoning" here. After many people spoke out about the stupidity, the board agreed to vote later this month on whether to rescind the decision.

Meanwhile, the band Portugal. The Man who are from the area have offered to send copies of the books for free to any student or parent in the district who wants to read them.

"We believe this decision is narrow-minded and un-Patriotic, and we are not OK with it," the band posted to Facebook. "That is why we are putting out a standing offer that if any student/parent in the Mat-Su Borough School District wants a copy of one or more of these books, we will mail them to you. Just hit us up at sticksandstones@portugaltheman.com

(CNN) Read the rest

Listen to Daniel Radcliffe read Harry Potter

Wizarding World has launched a new Harry Potter at Home hub with crafts, articles, quizzes, and other fun activities for witches, wizards, and muggles alike. As part of the fun, they've invited actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities to read chapters of the 1997 book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. See below for the teaser video. The first chapter is now available read by none other than Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry in the films. Listen on Spotify.

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The rise in home videoconferencing lets us browse more people's bookshelves

When I was young, the first thing I'd do when visiting someone's apartment for the first time was to browse their bookshelf and record (or tape or CD) collection. That was a great way to find connection with others and spark conversation. These days, most people's musical tastes aren't reflected in any tangible way. Same mostly holds true for books but I do think many avid readers still like having some printed matter around. These days, lots of celebrities are streaming appearances from their homes where a full bookshelf makes a nice backdrop. So what are we seeing in their home libraries? In the New York Times, Gal Beckerman looks at the books in the background at the homes of Cate Blanchett, Stacey Abrams, Prince Charles, Anna Wintour, Jane Goodall, and others. From the New York Times:

Jane Goodall On “PBS NewsHour,” April 22

1. “The Hidden Target,” by Helen MacInnes: This 1980 spy novel tells the story of an American college student on a world tour who becomes entangled with secret agents looking to stop a terrorist plot.

2. “The End of Food,” by Thomas F. Pawlick: Danger abounds at the grocery store in this 2006 expose of our current method of food production. Pawlick reveals that the vitamin, mineral and nutritional content of food is in shocking decline.

[...] Paul Rudd On “Saturday Night Live,” April 25

1. “Code of Conduct,” by Brad Thor: The 15th installment in Thor’s thriller series has counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath uncovering the inner workings of a secretive committee of elites running the world.

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Sci-fi author David Brin's recommended reading list

Science fiction author and futurist, David Brin, has put together an excellent list of sci-fi books to read. He posted this list years ago, but has re-surfaced it to remind people that now is a great time to READ.

He has the books divided up into interesting categories, like Harbingers of Hope, Sci-Fi for Kids, the Hard Stuff, Fantasy - with Brains, etc. Hundreds of great recommendations here.

Image: Glogger CC BY-SA 3.0 Read the rest

Resources for free e-books and entertainment stuffs

Here are two lists of e-books being made freely available on-line. Please add more in the comments!

PublicBooks.org's Public Books Database

This is a list of academic presses making their books and research freely available.

Jim C. Hines' list of Free and Legal Science Fiction and Fantasy

Hines has collected a list of authors providing their work online for free.

Naturally, your public library is a great resource and the Libby app is my best friend for e-books. We will also find that the public library gives incredible access to movies, music, and periodicals via the series of tubes we all know and love. Read the rest

Dolly Parton is going to start reading us bedtime stories starting on April 2nd

Pangalactic goddess of love, mercy, and big hair, Dolly Parton, is going to start reading us all bedtime stories, beginning on April 2nd (7pm EDT).

Weekly, Dolly will be reading selections from her Imagination Library, the collection of kids books that she gives away free to children every month, to the tune of 134 million books to date. Her first reading will be The Little Engine That Could.

Dolly plans to do the readings for ten weeks and sees the effort as a way of offering kids (and all who want to listen) “a welcomed distraction during a time of unrest.”

Dolly will be doing the readings every week from her YouTube page.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Show your kids! Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor reads inspiring children's book from space!

Astronaut and physician Serena Auñón-Chancellor spent almost 200 days aboard the International Space Station. Here she is in orbit reading the wonderful book Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty.

(Story Time From Space) Read the rest

Kindle Unlimited is a fun and cheap way to read comics

The Kindle Unlimited program is $10 a month, and it gives you access to over a million books and comics on Amazon. Amazon is currently offering a deal: 3 months for 99 cents a month. I especially like that you can read tons of comic books and graphic novels this way. I'm currently reading Grant Morrison's The Invisibles on my iPhone. It works really well using the one-panel-at-a-time mode. I prefer reading comics this way over reading the print version. Read the rest

Good deal on Kindle Unlimited

The Kindle Unlimited program is $10 a month, and it gives you access to over a million books and comics on Amazon. Amazon is currently offering a deal: 3 months for 99 cents a month. The program includes a lot of popular books: the Harry Potter series, The Handmaid's Tale, the Hunger Games trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even comics, like Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Read the rest

List of popular books people started reading and then abandoned

When I was younger, I would feel so badly about abandoning a book that didn't grab me, I'd force myself to slog through it until the bitter end. Then I realized that there are only so many books I'll have time to read in my lifetime so it's better to make each one count. If I'm not consistently pulled into the pages, I drop the book and crack another one. Of course there are exceptions, but it mostly means that I've enjoyed nearly all the books I've finished reading in recent years. Related, here is Goodreads' list of the most popular books users of the service have abandoned.

(via Kottke) Read the rest

Barack Obama's summer reading list

President Barack Obama opened his summer reading list post with encouragement to read or re-read Toni Morrison and then suggested ten other titles including the following:

• Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.

• Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.

• Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

See the rest of President Obama's picks here.

image: President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia shop for books at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Read the rest

How to read 80 books a year

Shane Parrish runs the popular website, Farnam Street. Its mission is to help readers "develop an understanding of how the world really works, make better decisions, and live a better life." I recently discovered it and it stands out from other websites of its kind.

Here's a GQ article that outlines Parrish's guide for reading 80 high-quality books a year, and how to remember the important parts. It describes how to select books, how to take notes, and how to abandon books that aren't paying off.

Develop a system of note-taking. Parrish calls his system The Blank Sheet: Before he begins reading a new book, he takes a blank sheet and writes down what he knows about the subject. Then, as he’s reading, he uses a different color pen to write down new ideas and connect them to what he had originally written, hanging the new knowledge on the old knowledge.

“Use a different color every time, so you can visualize what you're learning as you're reading,” says Parrish. “Then before you start your next reading session, to ease your brain into it, you just review the mind map. That gives you the context of where you left off… Then when you're done with the book, you have this summary of the book.”

Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock Read the rest

'Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe,' by Roger McNamee [BOOKS]

“The time has come to accept that in its current mode of operation, Facebook’s flaws outweigh its considerable benefits”. — Roger McNamee in ZUCKED.

Is it better to read a book or listen to it?

Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia psychologist who wrote "The Reading Mind," says that the most common question he receives these days is the following: “Is it cheating if I listen to an audiobook for my book club?” In a New York Times essay, Willingham parses the benefits and drawbacks of both formats. Which one is better? Of course personally preference and convenience matter, but Willingham argues that generally right now when it comes to listening or reading a book, there is "equivalence for easy texts and an advantage to print for hard ones." For example, audio books provide prosody, the intonation, tone, and rhythm of the words. Sometimes, hearing those cues helps us understand the material. But not always. From the NYT:

For example, one study compared how well students learned about a scientific subject from a 22-minute podcast versus a printed article. Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.

What happened? Note that the subject matter was difficult, and the goal wasn’t pleasure but learning. Both factors make us read differently. When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think. Each is easier with print than with a podcast.

Print also supports readers through difficult content via signals to organization like paragraphs and headings, conventions missing from audio. Experiments show readers actually take longer to read the first sentence of a paragraph because they know it probably contains the foundational idea for what’s to come.

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Antarctica: Scientist stabs colleague who kept spoiling the endings of books for him

Russians, obviously. Read the rest

The online chopblock of text is making it hard to read anything else

Jennifer Howard, a professional writer and editor, found herself unable to re-read a Hermann Hesse novel she loved: the "grafted, spasmodic, online style" of reading has forced itself onto all of her reading, making immersion difficult and the text unsatisfying. So she knuckled down to review Maryanne Wolf's Reader, Come Home, a book about what's happening to our "reading brains."

...the average person “consumes about 34 gigabytes across varied devices each day” — some 100,000 words’ worth of information. “Neither deep reading nor deep thinking can be enhanced by the aptly named ‘chopblock’ of time we are all experiencing, or by 34 gigabytes of anything per day,” Wolf argues

And...

Even as it keeps one eye on the future, “Reader, Come Home” embodies some old-fashioned reading pleasures, with quotes from Italo Calvino, John Dunne, Toni Morrison, Marcel Proust, Elie Wiesel and other illustrious word-workers. It unfolds as a series of letters addressed to “Dear Reader” from “Your Author,” a call to remember that books come alive as exchanges between writers and readers.

That structure can make “Reader, Come Home” feel — in a corny but charming way — like a throwback to an era already gone, if it ever existed. Wolf offers a persuasive catalog of the cognitive and social good created by deep reading, but does not really acknowledge that the ability to read well has never been universal.

Make reading great again.

Photo: Johnnydeezwax, CC-BY-SA Read the rest

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