Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens: Scientific American

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens: Scientific American | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

By Ferris Jabr


"How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper is relevant not just to the youngest among us, but to just about everyone who reads—to anyone who routinely switches between working long hours in front of a computer at the office and leisurely reading paper magazines and books at home; to people who have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, but admit that for some reason they still prefer reading on paper; and to those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin?"

Via Jim Lerman, Jonathan Jarc
Pam Colburn Harland's curator insight, April 28, 2013 7:57 AM

I loved the part about mind mapping and the meta-cognitive things we do before we start reading. Great article with research-based facts.

Sunflower Foundation's curator insight, June 20, 2013 3:32 AM

I think that, given time, our brains will adapt. The generation now in primary school are hardwiring their brains from toddlerhood. But for older readers, my own experience is that while the screen grabs the brain and gets me reading, I don't necessarily read attentively.

It might also increase differences between poor and wealthy as those with access to multiple devices may develop differently to those without. But the jury is still out as to who will have the advantage.

Angela Watkins's curator insight, December 30, 2013 3:23 PM ... -

Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List! | Gatsby Explained

Lavishness and decadence stand as long-running motifs from F. Scott Fitzgerald's timeless classic,
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember when I discovered that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived the spitting image of the life style he criticized in The Great Gatsby.


I remember the song "I'm Easy" from the film Nashville being a quite moving love song written and performed by Keith Carradine) whose character in the film was a complete "player/hypocrite" in his own love life.

And of course there is  the long list of authors whose personal lives seemed to be tragically flawed in spite of the wisdom expressed in their work.

This article takes an interesting look at the comparison of the lifestyle of the actor and the character he or she portrayed in the recent adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

No. I don't suppose actors are hypocrites if they are very like the unlikeable characters they might play in their films. But this particular infographic provides for some amusing contemplations nevertheless.

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Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre

Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Here are three essential books you should read in every major genre.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember being shocked when I discovered that the authors of published articles do not often get to title their articles. The reason being that unlike titling books, articles that are published in newspapers, magazines, and often online must live within layout restraints. 


Tradition has it that the best titles are as close to the same length as the line space in which it sits. One line titles with only a word or two and lots of white space on the right end of the line look like empty space as opposed to the much desired white space. This is particularly important when the layout  has the article text in multiple columns and the headline doesn't reach across the columns.


Okay that was a digression intended as a set up for my problem with this article's headline. The good news is that it demonstrates the desire to "fill the space." However, it does not accurately reflect the important point being made in the article and thereby implies something that happens to annoy me a bit.


The author does not say that he considers some books to be essential books for the article's readers. In fact, his very first sentence says that the list is subjective. And, his second sentence says that they happen to be the books he mentions because they were important to HIM. He even goes on to suggest that he doesn't address "Every Major Genre" in spite of what the headline says, pointing out that he has no listing for "Romance" writing because personally it isn't an important genre for him. He even ends the article by making the point that even though it's a personal list of HIS FAVORITES, his thesis is not that they are essential for everyone, but rather for an audience of people who happen to write in any of the genres he does include.


Okay. So what bothers me besides the misleading headline? The use of the word "essential." That's what bothers me.


The term reeks of the long held belief that the only literature of any merit worthy of being in the curriculum was that of "dead white guys."


That's sort of like refusing to think outside the small, hertetically sealed box.


There are many paths to gaining the benefits of literary reading. Shakespeare may or may not be essential for all. For many Neruda might serve a very similar purpose.


How many adults have become truly great thinkers without ever having read a single word of Shakespeare? And, conversely, hom many adults have become truly great thinkers specifically because they had encountered the wisdom of Shakespeare?


In the real world, it is often not a simplistic either / or situation. There can be many right answers and many right answers that are not right for everyone.


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Orwell 2013

Orwell 2013 | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Orwell 2013 - The Huffington Post
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember reading 1984 in high school and wondering whether 1984 was going to look anything like Orwell's novel.


‡•0 whoa!



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Poster for Penguin book makes light of #mentalhealth help, "literature-induced psychosis"- what do you think? - via @Rethink_

Poster for Penguin book makes light of #mentalhealth help, "literature-induced psychosis"- what do you think?   - via @Rethink_ | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just what we need huh?



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Watch the world's longest domino chain made of books

Watch the world's longest domino chain made of books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
To kick off its 2013 Summer Reading Program, the Seattle Public Library set a world record with a library-appropriate domino chain. Twenty-seven volunteers lined up 2,131 books and knocked them all down.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just for fun.


Watch and just for the heck of it, pay attention to all the people reading on the floor as the books fall. I thought they were mannequins at first.



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Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"Deep reading" is vigorous exercise from the brain and increases our real-life capacity for empathy
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

It's just one of those days!


My third scoop of the day and each takes a slightly different take on the value of openness to ambiguity and alternative interpretations.


Like the ThugNotes comments, this article poses both concepts and ideas that I find quite attractive and  concepts and ideas that I'm not so certain I can agree with.


But in either case, reading both what I agree with and what I may not agree with provides a value much richer than reading with blinders on. 


For example, I really liked this..



“ 'Deep reading' — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them."

Yet at the same time, when the author extends this argument to suggest ...


"A growing body of evidence suggests that online reading may be less engaging and less satisfying, even for the “digital natives” for whom it is so familiar. Last month, for example, Britain’s National Literacy Trust released the results of a study of 34,910 young people aged 8 to 16. Researchers reported that 39% of children and teens read daily using electronic devices, but only 28% read printed materials every day. Those who read only onscreen were three times less likely to say they enjoy reading very much and a third less likely to have a favorite book. The study also found that young people who read daily only onscreen were nearly two times less likely to be above-average readers than those who read daily in print or both in print and onscreen."



...I have concerns that the explanation for such data has insufficiently considered the causes and effects leading to the conclusions drawn. 


I think a serious case could be put forward that printed reading is becoming much less engaging for many digital reading of the same text. But that is not the parameters of comparison here. Comparing engagement with paper text with engagement with e-reader text is a perhaps more authentic than comparing printed text (implying paper) to web reading (including very different kinds of reading).


I would concede that reading text on my laptop does cause me to lose that deep engagement. Yet, reading text on my iPad is much more engaging for me. The difference? The physical process of reading on my iPad is very similar to reading a paper-based version of the same text. I can hold my iPad in one hand. I virtually turn pages in a very similar fashion, I can slouch around in my hammock while reading or sit on a rock at the top of a mountain with my iPad. But, I can't do that with my laptop so easily.


On my laptop, I can't as easily pause and savor while highlighting and writing marginalia (which does slow the reading allowing for the very slowing down the author endorses). When comparing paper-based reading to web reading, these disadvantages of web-based reading do make web-reading less engaging to me. 


But, on the other hand, my iPad kicks the butt of paper-based reading when it comes to highlighting and marginalia conveniences and advantages.


Is the author wrong and therefore is this article to be dismissed? Of course not, critical thinkers don't really judge complex issues in such black and white terms.


I like much, perhaps even most of what this author is suggesting in spite of the fact that there are parts of the argument that I find troublesome.


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Anne Oswalt's curator insight, June 15, 2013 6:32 PM

Ammo for 1st day of school.

Robin Burns's curator insight, June 20, 2013 10:54 AM

Interesting read.

Sharon Hayes's comment, August 28, 2013 3:00 AM
This has come up at the Writers Festival this year. I think I've always known this but nice to have research to back it up!
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'The Great Gatsby' Be Straight Trippin'

'The Great Gatsby' Be Straight Trippin' | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Sparky Sweets, PhD is back with more literary analysis, this time of the F. Scott Fitzgerald – and Baz Luhrmann – classic The Great Gatsby.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Be careful. This video has more than enough reasons to be considered inappropriate. But, that being said I really believe that an English teacher who doesn't watch the entire video is missing an incredibly valuable professional development opportunity.


Personally, I've never been a big fan of The Great Gatsby. This is not to say that I think it is a bad book. There's certainly plenty of opportunities for contemplating the great literary themes. And, I have no doubt that it "works" for many teachers and students. 


I just had trouble finding a bridge from the world I knew as a high school student to the world of annoying people in the story. For the most part, I blame this on my "late blooming." So this is not intended as an anti-Great Gatsby argument by any means.


I just wasn't ready for it when my life trajectory crossed the course syllabus trajectory. 


I read the book again in college and only disliked it a little less than I did in high school. I still found the style to be indistinguishably pretentious from the characters's pretentiousness. That's when I learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived life pretty much in the same fashion as those he appeared to despise in the book which I found fairly off-putting. Though at the time I was beginning to discover that many authors' personal lives were not the best example of the value of the wisdom they appeared to profess in their work.


But, somewhere along the line there were experiences that began to clear some of the many fogs of youthful obliviousness. One such experience was hearing Dick Cavett once say, ...


It is a rare person who wants to hear want he doesn't want to hear. 


Another was when I ran across Voltaire's quote...


"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."


The key here, at least in my mind, was that I came to understand that I didn't always have to pit my beliefs against others' beliefs as though life were no more than knowing which answer on a multiple choice test was the one and only correct answer. And, that if "A" was the correct answer then "B," "C," and "D" couldn't possibly be correct. 


There are plenty of examples of there being "one and only one" right answer I suppose, but there are also plenty of examples of there being many viable alternatives to a single question.


So, as has become my practice, I am a bit reluctant to treat my opinions as though they were tattoos that I committed to thinking would always appear to me to have been a good decision for which I'd never see as foolish in hindsight. (And just to be clear, no I don't have any tattoos)


Therefore, my personal opinion of The Great Gatsby aside, I've never dismissed it as having no real value in the curriculum or the canon. It, like so many other complex elements of the real world, works for some and not for others.


So, I went to see the The Great Gatsby film the other day, just to see what my reaction might be. I must admit that I'd liked the controversial version of Romeo and Juliet also directed by 

Baz Luhrmann and also starring Leonardo diCaprio.


And, like so many other film adaptations (To Kill A Mockingbird for example), I found much to be disappointing and much to like.


And then I came across this video that certainly discusses The Great Gatsby in terms that many will not want to hear. And, though we do live in times when a dangerous percentage of people are absolutely unwilling to listen to anything they do not want to hear. There's a rather unexpected turn of events in this video. 


I'd have a pretty tough time defending the use of this video in class. And I'd be extremely cautious about recommending this video to colleagues, knowing that many would find it offensive. Yet, I'd definitely recommend it WITH A WARNING that offensive as it might be to some, there is significant reason to watch it to the end rather than to stop watching it at the first sign of offensive content.


So thanks to Baz Luhrmann and Sparky Sweets, I think I'll dust off my copy of The Great Gatsby and give it another read.


If, by chance you happen to find this video of some interest, you might also find Sparky Sweets' Thug Notes explanation of Crime and Punishment worth a look. (see:


Intrigued? Check out: 

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Mining literature for deeper meanings - Amy E. Harter

View full lesson: Writing a great English paper can be tough because literature ...
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i sccoped an article earler if you missed it, this video might lure you towards the site.


Lots of very high quality lessons in format and quality well beyond the usual.


 ~ http;// ~

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The Brain and Reading | Inside Higher Ed

The Brain and Reading | Inside Higher Ed | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"In today’s Academic Minute, Michigan State University's Natalie Phillips examines how the brain functions while reading literature. Phillips is an assistant professor of English at Michigan State, where she specializes in 18th-century literature, the history of mind, and cognitive approaches to narrative."

Inside Higher Ed

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

i've actually scooped an article about Natalie Phillips' work called "Your Brain on Jane Austin. see:


The kind of benefits of literary reading that might be difficult to measure without a Functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. But, there are benefits even the most bibliophilic English teacher might find absolutely fascinating.

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Mapping with Google - Course

Mapping with Google - Course | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

Discover new ways to navigate the world around you with Google Maps and Google Earth.

Improve your use of new and existing features of Google's mapping tools.

Choose your own path. Complete a project using Google Maps, Google Earth, or both, and earn a certificate of completion.

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:


Mapping with Google

Taught by Google Maps and Google Earth Product Managers.


Google Lit Trips fans... AND Google Maps and Google Earth fans too!


Looks like I'll be helping to facilitate some Google Hangouts associated with this FREE online course being offered by Google. Not just for those interested in Google Lit Trips. Anyone interested in using mapping tools will find this a GREAT opportunity.



Jonathan Jarc's curator insight, May 28, 2013 6:49 PM

Especially for fans of Google Lit Trips and other uses of Google Earth & Maps...

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Why Should You Read Today? {100+ Reasons...} - Learning Unlimited

Why Should You Read Today? {100+ Reasons...} - Learning Unlimited | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

'Independent reading sometimes gets a bad rap. Not enough time. Not enough books. Not enough accountability. Not enough evidence. You get the picture.'

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An intriguing list. 


Now, what might we do with the list? One of my favorite learning experience design strategies is to construct a three part experience.


And by the way, though it takes a bit of time to explain the following, it actually doesn't take long to do the following. For example the multiple steps in the first part might not take more than 10 minutes all together.


The FIRST PART consists of a short individual experience designed to give each student a little time to contemplate a personal relationship with a topic. It's pretty freeing because it allows students to recognize that there are sometimes many right answers. And, that what might be a right answer for some may not be a right answer for others. AND THAT SOMETIMES THIS IS PERFECTLY OKAY.


In this case, I might type up this list in a form that removes any indication of some reasons for reading might be better than others. So, I'd lose the bold type that implies such a judgment.


I'd preset the removal of judgment by prefacing the experience with some sort of statement like, "You know when I was a kid I really liked reading stories about imaginary places like OZ in the Wizard of OZ. But, my best friend preferred stories about faraway real places. That's one of the neat things about reading. There's something for everyone."


Then I'd invite the students to a challenge to find out what they like about reading. I'd give them the list [OR A VERSION OF THE LIST ADAPTED TO FIT THE STUDENTS' AGE]  and say, "Here's a list of many reasons that people say are reasons they like to read. What I'd like each of you to do is read the list and circle any of the reasons that are reasons that you like to read. Don't worry. Some of you will have many reasons circled. Some of you will have fewer reasons. And, my guess is that no one will have circled ALL the exact same words with no differences. 


Then I'd give them just a few minutes to circle the reasons that they liked the best. I'd encourage them to circle as many reasons as they could find  that matched the reasons they like about reading but not too worry too much about the exact number they circle. Just try to make sure you don't "miss any reasons" that they do like.


Then I'd casually tell them that I'd like to try an experiment that doesn't make any sense at all. I'd say, "What if there was a law that said you could only have 3 reasons for liking to read? That you could pick any three reasons you wanted from the reasons you circled, but you HAD TO cross out all the reasons you circled EXCEPT the three you'd keep? And then I'd say, "Of course this would be a silly law, but what if...? What three would you keep?"


Then I'd ask each to turn the paper over and divide it into 3 columns and to label each of the columns with one of their personal favorite reasons for liking to read.


In the columns I'd invite them to try to think of one or two or three stories that are good examples of stories they've enjoyed for the reason they wrote at the top of each column. (Be sure to let them know that some stories might appear only in one column and other stories might appear in more than one column)



All of this is designed to have them :


(All answers are right answers for liking to read, but everyone has permission to have a different set of right answers)

2. THINK ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT THE VARIOUS PERSONAL RIGHT ANSWERS ARE TOO THEM (Some of their personal "right answers" are "especially right answers for them)



And this creates a 'ready-set' for SECOND PART of the design which involves small group discussions. A "ready-set" is when students come to small group discussion having done a bit of pre-group contemplation; sort of like warming up in the on deck circle in a baseball game just prior to going up to bat. 


In the SECOND PART students are put into small groups. I'm a fan of groups of three and sometimes four; large enough to have a variety of input possibilities but small enough to preclude group members from "just letting everyone else do the talking."


Once kids are sitting in circles ready to begin, I explain the following rules.


1. The conversations should be limited to sharing the many reasons why people like reading AND the titles of books that they enjoyed reading. BUT, the conversation shouldn't drift off into disagreements about whether one reason for liking reading wasn't a good reason or a conversations about why someone's favorite story "wasn't a good book."

2. Students are welcome to ADD TITLES to their list if someone mentions a favorite book they had forgotten to put on their own list or a book they had not read but might want to take a look at since it was someone else's favorite book for one of their own favorite reasons.

3. And, finally students are also free to forget about the limitation of only three reasons for liking to read. So, if the conversation intrigues them they are now free to add new reason columns and new titles.


Then the students simply take turns going around the group sharing a connection between any one favorite book and the reason they put that title in one of their columns. They continue going around the circle as many times as they like or as many times as they can in a time span set by the teacher.


Generally speaking, the members of the group will find some commonalities as each share..


Perhaps a book they've enjoyed was mentioned by somebody else. But each put that same book under a different reason for liking it. Or perhaps one student mentions a book that another had not read but the first person put that book under a reason for liking it that connects with another student's top reasons for liking to read.  Or perhaps a favorite book is mentioned and connected to a reason that another person didn't consider a reason why some people liked the book.


Students might discover "new titles" that fit their favorite reasons for reading. They might discover new reasons to be open to reading new titles and/or new titles to read for their favorite reasons to read.


PART THREE is optional. And there are a vast array of options that might be of value.


Perhaps students could collect "data" from all groups to find out the class's top "X" number of reasons for liking to read.

Perhaps students could collect "data" from all groups to find out the class's  top "X" number of favorite stories

Perhaps the students could blend the previous two data sets into a wall chart with the class's ~"top 10" reasons to like reading and the top 10 titles listed under each reason.

This chart could be the source of monthly reading groups designed around common interests. 


Just some thoughts... I'm sure there are a thousand ways to use this list to give ownership of designed independent reading to the students while encouraging them to explore beyond what they might choose on their own.



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Billy Collins - An Evening Of Poetry At The White House

Billy Collins reads his poems Forgetfulness and The Lanyard during An Evening Of Poetry At The White House - Hosted by President and Mrs. Obama - 11 May 2011...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Following my earlier post today about  The Curse of Reading and Forgetting.


I offer this charming favorite and somewhat disturbingly reassuring poem called "Forgetfulness," by Billy Collins.


If you teach literary reading you may be amused. Perhaps a bit disturbed and hopefully reassured.


Must watch if you haven't read or seen "Forgetfulness."


By the way, there are actually two poems in the video, the second was my favorite poem to share with my creative writing class just prior to Mother's Day.

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ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai?

ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Forget penning odes with a quill and parchment – predictive text is the poetry tool of the future according to Carol Ann Duffy, who believes "the poem is a form of texting ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Coincidence that I'm finding articles that take me to thoughts of hypocrisy? Dunno, but I'm intrigued by how many very interesting articles I'm finding on the website. A site otherwise devoted to the depths of superficiality to which one can delve in the fashion world.


Okay. Maybe fashionista-living will lead one to complete safisfaction with how a life has been spent. I just can't quite get past the lemming-ness of it.


Nevertheless, there are quite freguently very intriguing literary articles to be found on the site.


This one is a bit on the light side, but I'd bet there'd be some great possibilities for engaged learning here. The article presents the original poems, many often taught in schools, followed by a "translation" into "TEXT SPEAK," the shortcut text that pretty much every cell-phone tethered teen is quite familiar with.


I had an interesting thought as I read through these poems and their "translations." My guess is that those of us less "proficient" at TEXT SPEAK might find  a sort of fingernails-on-the-chalkboard (assuming many of us actually remember the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard!) ear-pain as the beauty of the original poetry clashes with our sense of the ugliness of the TEXT SPEAK translation.


Yet, in a sense, we might be responding as TSSL (Text Speak as Second Language) speakers. It may be that the disconnect isn't there for native TEXT SPEAKers. I wonder if they might read the TEXT SPEAK version, not only not bothered by the disconnect, but not even noticing it AND thereby potentially as equally moved by the beauty of the poem's sentiments as we might be less capable of appreciating because we are bothered by "poor translation."


I taught Candide for decades. I don't speak French, but for the first 2.5 decades, I gave little attention to the quality of the English translation. But, somewhere in the third decade, when ordering replacement copies, the district ordered copies with a different translation. And, I was shocked at what I perceived as the ugliness of the new translation.


The translation I'd used for 2.5 decades began...


"In Westphalia, in the castle of My Lord the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckj, there was a young man whom nature had endowed with the gentlest of characters. His face bespoke his soul. His judgment was rather sound and his mind of the simplist..."


I loved the phrasing...

"endowed with the gentlest of characters"

"His face bespoke his soul."

"his mind of the simplest"


It was so poetic.


BUT The new translation! Oh my! It began...


"In the country of Westphalia, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity..." 


How dry. How it "didn't sing" to me. How disappointed I was.


And then there was the reverse case experience. I'd read Don Quixote (well okay the famous parts anyway) and found it hilarious and a quite wonderful read. Then several years later, a "new translation" by Edith Grossman was published. The translation was heralded as being magnificent. And, it was. It brought a pulse to the read that I had not missed in my previous readings. But recognized immediately when compared to the new translation.


My point? Perhaps we see a degradation in going from an original version of the poems in this article to the TEXT SPEAK versions and thereby do not or can not appreciate the "translation" as I was never quite able to appreciate the "new" translation of Candide. While at the same time our students who are more comfortable with TEXT SPEAK are in a position more similar to my experience with Don Quixote in that the quality of the poorer earlier translations did not hamper my appreciation of the story at all and perhaps never would have hampered my appreciation had I not chosen to reread the book in its newer and better translation.


What if a students is moved by reading...


how do i ♥ thee? lt me count d ways.

i ♥ thee2 d depth & breadth & h8t

my soul cn reach, wen fEln out of site

4 d ends of bn & ideal grace.


He or she might be as moved as we were when we first read...


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.


I dunno why, but I think it might be easier for a student who loved the TEXT SPEAK version to transition to the traditional version and thereby find even more to appreciate (as I did moving from old Don Quixote to new Don Quixote translation) than it was for me to move the other direction as was the case when I moved from old Candide to new Candide.


We might be wary of how we express our opinion about what our kids read and enjoy and by doing so miss a great opportunity to move their existing appreciation to even higher levels by sharing the "better" translation.


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Shocking Confessions of a Recovering Book Snob

Shocking Confessions of a Recovering Book Snob | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I have a shameful secret: I used to be really snotty about books. My reading rules have remained astonishingly the same over the years (though embracing er
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Ah! Let the introspection begin!


What does your literary journey look like in retrospect?



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How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names

How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

How many Literature teachers have secretly or otherwise contemplated a potential Pseudonym, Pen Name, or nom de plume?

I have one that I used when I was teaching and occasionally wanted to publish letters to the editors of my local newspaper.

Why? I did have opinions about community issues and felt that as a good citizen I ought to at least be a voice in community conversations. However, as a literature teacher, I always felt it was essential to teach the great questions, but unethical to express my own political and social "biases."

Those who know me beyond my classroom probably are quite aware of my various political opinions. But, in the classroom, my positions ran something to the effect of "I really don't care whether you might be a conservative or a progressive. I just care that you're well-informed about what intelligent conservatives AND progressives believe."

The essence... You can be one or the other. But, you're not well-informed unless you know the intelligent arguments expressed by both sides.

I'm not saying this practice was always successful. In fact, because I always sought an end of the year evaluation from my students, I was often amused that among those evaluations, there were always a couple of students who found me to be biased because I was such a liberal and simultaneously a couple of students who found me to be biased because I was such a conservative.

And, it doesn't take much to recognize that if students hear what they hear sometimes regardless of what was said, then it would probably also be true of the parent community who might be readers of the local letters to the editor. 

I didn't mind if they'd misunderstand the musings of my psuedonym writings. 

And, that's probably one of the reasons why for 25 years or so, I had the following quote by photographer Aaron Siskind running in large letters above my black>green>whiteboard...


"We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there."

 That nom de plume?  I'm not revealing that.



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Penelope's curator insight, June 17, 2013 7:24 PM


Do you write with a pen name? If so, you probably have an interesting story behind your own name.


J.K. Rowling's publishers didn't think her intended audience of pre-adolescent boys would read wizard stories written by a woman, hence the initials.


The author gives us seven more pen names of famous authors and why they were chosen.


***This review was written by Penelope Silvers for her curated content on "Storied Lives"***


Link to the original article:

Laura Brown's comment, July 31, 2013 11:17 PM
I've learned to keep names, logins and passwords simple. It drives me crazy trying to keep them all straight as it is.
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Famous Authors' Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature

Famous Authors' Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Writing a novel (or a story, for that matter) is confusing work. There are just so many characters running all over the place, dropping hints and having revelations. So it's no surprise that many a...
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Didn't anybody teach these people proper outlining formats???


I've noticed that the format of my notes often makes no difference at all. In fact, I frequently never reread my notes anyway; at least not thoroughly. Yet I take extensive notes. 


The value? The very pausing to capture an idea in the middle of a thought, abbreviating those thoughts, and scribbling those ideas frequently is enough to let those contemplations find a sticking place in my mind.


Ironically, traditional notetaking almost always never really worked for me. I'd spend so much time worrying about whether I was formatting my thoughts correctly that the contemplations and ideas I was trying to capture were fleeing in different directions while I was worrying about whether I was on a I., A., i, or a. level idea. And too often by the time I had decided whether a new thought ought to be enter as a I., B. level idea or whether it was a II., A level idea much of the idea had managed to successfully evade capture.


 I guess, Some things works wonders for some and Some things don't for others.


And, don't get me started on Robot Writing; you know the Five Paragraph Essay? The one that kids and college professors groan so much about.


Though in the case of the formal outline and the Five Paragraph Essay, they certainly have value in transitioning from chaos to the value of at least some level of ordered thinking. But, we should keep in mind and help our students come to understand that less chaos is not the only goal of ordered thinking. And, that Robot Thinking is only the lowest level of ordered OR Creative Thinking.


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» Meet the Expresso Book Machine!

» Meet the Expresso Book Machine! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Brainstorm the impact of this technology on reading. What do you think?


Solve any problems? Cause any?


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WATCH: Salinger Documentary Trailer Leaves Questions Unanswered

WATCH: Salinger Documentary Trailer Leaves Questions Unanswered | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The first trailer for the forthcoming documentary movie "Salinger," about the life of the famous recluse author, has appeared on Yahoo! Movies, and it looks intriguing.
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Jerome is a lonely name. As a kid I never knew another Jerome. In my 38 year teaching career, I only had one student named Jerome. I never really liked the name and am still not at all fond of it. I just respond ala Pavlov's dogs when I hear it because that's what you do when you hear your name.


So for about the last 10 years of my teaching career, just above my black then green then white board, I framed and hung a collection of famous Jeromes. At least I wasn't alone.


St. Jerome

Jerome K Jerome

Jerome Seinfeld

Jerome Garcia

Geronimo (yes that one)

Hieronymus Bosch (yep)

Jerome Bettis

Jerome Kern

and Jerome David Salinger

Most went by Jerry, I wasn't fond of that name either.

Salinger went by JD.

It's as if among the few, even fewer actually used the name.

Oh well, there are people with worse problems in the world aren't there?

When I taught Catcher in the Rye, I'd begin by assigning the first chapter as homework and asked my students to come to class the next day with a list of as many adjectives as they could that they'd use to describe their first impressions of Holden. 

"How many adjectives do you want?" asked a beaming "A" student, eager to please.

"I don't know the answer to that question. How can I know how many adjectives you'd use?" And then casually, I'd throw in, "But, I can't imagine that anyone would come up with fewer than, oh, I don't know, maybe ten or so." hoping they'd take the bait; which they pretty much always did.

They'd come in the next day and pretty much half the class would have a list of exactly 10 adjectives. Friends often had "very similar lists" having helped each other stretch their lists to ten. And then there were always a few of the "look-at-me-I'm-an-'A'-student" types who'd show up with at least 20 adjectives; half of whom had reached the magic "twice as many as you wanted" number via words they had had no previous knowledge of until they ran their short lists past Roget. I always was amused by the kid who would take on a well-practiced casualness, suggesting that he or she had found "Holden to be rather vexatious." 

You know words like... ""galling,'" "nettlesome," "irksome" or my all time favorite, "pestilential;" words they'd never used; never even heard. But, their lists were impressively long.

Anyway, first thing the next day, I'd ask them to take out their lists and to take a moment to put a "+" next to every adjective that was basically a positive characteristic and a "-" next to those that described what they would consider a negative characteristic. 

When everyone had finished I asked them to turn their paper over and make a simple drawing of one of those old-fashioned balance scales where they'd put all of their negative words on one side and all of their positive words on the other side. I explained that I wanted them to show the scale tipping downward on the side that had the most adjectives and to show the scale tipping just a little if they had only a small difference in the number of words on each side and tipping a lot if they had significantly more words on one side than on the other.

Then we'd discuss some of the adjectives, which in a sense are nothing more than abbreviated topic sentences.

Holden in annoying!

Holden is funny!

Holden is rude!

Holden is crazy!

Holden is depressed!

Holden is cool!

"So," I'd casually ask, "do you like Holden?"

Interestingly, adjective like "rude" would be the reason why some students disliked Holden and also the reason why other students liked Holden.

As we continued to read the book, perhaps at a rate of 2-3 chapters a night, I purposely began each class discussion with the same question, "So, in last night's reading, was there anything that either supported your original opinion about Holden or that kind of changed your original opinion even just a little bit?"

I was pretty careful not to show any favoritism towards one side or the other. I simply pointed out that, "Yeah, I can see why people would feel that way about Holden." 

There were few moderate opinions about Holden at first. And, the majority of students leaned heavily towards the negative. But, along about the time Holden drops a tear on the red square of the checker board, even some of the most "annoyed by Holden" kids would think there was something sort of sweet about the guy.

And, of course, it was never long after doing or saying something nice enough to shake negative opinions just a bit, Holden would do or say something else that provided fuel for irritation again.

He's just a tough guy to pigeonhole. And, as we progressed through the story he became more and more difficult to pigeonhole. His sister, the baseball glove, his naive wish to be a catcher in the rye all tempered opinions, whether they "won" the tug-of-war of opinions or not.

We'd have some interesting discussions and I could just see the kids really thinking about Holden's complex nature.

So we'd eventually get to the end of the story. And I'd offer three optional thesis statements for a final essay.

1. Although Holden can be annoying, he still deserves some compassion.

2. Although Holden deserves some compassion, he still can be really annoying.

3. Starting with one of the previous thesis statements, change as many words as you like to whatever words you'd like and write that essay.

And, I would assure them that it was absolutely possible to get an "A" on their essay regardless of which of the three topics they chose to write about.

Not infrequently, a student or two would ask if he or she could change the word "Holden." 


"Can I write about this kid that everybody hated in my 8th grade class?"

"Well, I guess that would be a Number 3, wouldn't it?" I'd reply.

Regardless of whether students chose Assignment 1, 2, or 3, that was some of the most gratifying essay reading I ever received.

But I digress! (see Chapter 24 for a defense of digression)

This scoop is about the Salinger movie. Given Salinger's avoidance of all things Hollywood, I'm intrigued to say the least.

I'll be in the theatre on the day of release for this one.

By they way, is there anybody out there who found it ironic that Baz Lurhman used the "narrator as psychiatric patient" motif to tell the story of the recently released movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby?

I'm Just sayin'

 ~ ~


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Study: Reading Fiction Makes People Comfortable With Ambiguity

Study: Reading Fiction Makes People Comfortable With Ambiguity | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
New Canadian research finds reading a literary short story increases one’s comfort with ambiguity.
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Another serendipity! No sooner did I scoop and "defend" ThugNotes take on The Great Gatsby, than I came across this article addressing the very same concerns.


Perhaps this article's presentation of the points I tried to make are more palatable than my expression of the issues.


I'd really encourage the reading of this article that begins...




"Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.

Fortunately, new research suggests a simple antidote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.


A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity."



And, it gets better and better. Lectures and Informational Reading certainly have their significant benefits; but literature can accomplish what is much more rarely accomplished in other expressions of wisdom.


That is unless "snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making" and the insistence for "cognitive closure" aren't personal and therefore social problems that need serious attention.


 ~ ~



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Does Great Literature Make Us Better?

Does Great Literature Make Us Better? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

The view that literary fiction educates and civilizes its readers is widespread, and unproven."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

If you teach literature you must read this article. 


Really! You may not like it. But it presents a question and an argument worthy of deep consideration.


And in what might be a bit of a surprise, I have to admit that I am in agreement with much of what is presented.


There is little evidence that there is a direct link between reading great literature and its civilizing impact on humanity.


IF THE QUESTION IS "Does great literature make us better?


However, IF THE QUESTION IS "Can great literature make us better?" then there is tremendous evidence of its ability to inspire, even in the long-term, our decisions and actions in the  presence of life's many ethical challenges. 


And even using the word "our" in the preceding sentence is a bit of a misleading and simplistic over-generalization. More accurately perhaps would be the replacing of the words "...our decisions and actions in the  presence of life's many ethical challenges..." with "...many people's decisions and actions in the  presence of life's many ethical challenges.." as it might be more accurate to suggest that some people do benefit from reading great literature while others do not.


And, to be even more accurate, it might be better to suggest replacing "...many people's decisions and actions in the presence of life's many ethical challenges..." with "...many people's decisions and actions in the presence of many of life's ethical challenges..." because even for the most dedicated bibliophile, none of us would suggest that reading great literature is a panacea-like preventative inoculation. 


There are simply too many variables that influence our decisions and actions in the face of life's ethical challenges to assign any universal conclusions. There is a world of difference between the question "DOES ____ make us better?" and "CAN _____ make us better?"


Personally, I'm convinced that literature and great art and spiritual beliefs and scientific discoveries and superstitions and wealth and poverty all have the potential for influencing our actions in the face of life's ethical challenges. And, that potential influence can actually influence people to sometimes make better ethical choices and sometimes make worse ethical choices. 


There are as some quite literate people believe and other quite literate people reject, many paths. No two of us take the same life journey. Nor are our decisions and actions influenced in exactly the same ways when we do share bits and pieces of our life's journeys. 


All of this is not to say that literature can not be defended if it can not be supported by evidence that it DOES make us better. But, I'm willing to bet that in representing the most articulate expressions of humanity's great questions, regardless of the original cultural, religious, social, economic or other circumstances influencing its creation, most have a universal common core of the very questions that CAN lead to influencing humane behaviors for many.


And for that reason, I can't help but believe that storytellers have always held an important "go to" place in every cultural in every age. 


The warning though at the end of the article, is well worth heeding...



"I have never been persuaded by arguments purporting to show that literature is an arbitrary category that functions merely as a badge of membership in an elite. There is such a thing as aesthetic merit, or more likely, aesthetic merits, complicated as they may be to articulate or impute to any given work."


"But it’s hard to avoid the thought that there is something in the anti-elitist’s worry. Many who enjoy the hard-won pleasures of literature are not content to reap aesthetic rewards from their reading; they want to insist that the effort makes them more morally enlightened as well. And that’s just what we don’t know yet."





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Lisa Bu: How books can open your mind | Video on

What happens when a dream you've held since childhood … doesn't come true? As Lisa Bu adjusted to a new life in the United States, she turned to books to expand her mind and create a new path for herself.
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When reading becomes self-assigned, discoveries are more welcome than ever.


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My Favorite Literary Oddities

My Favorite Literary Oddities | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"There should be a warning that is given to every future English Major. It should be in bold lettering with a dark-foreboding red hue.

WARNING: This major will impact how you read and enjoy books forever."

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Though not quite a fan of the new technique of plugging one's pending book publication by publishing articles on any of the many websites hungry for literature-related stories, i had to scoop this article.  (mission accomplished Mr. Southard)


I haven't read the book, of course, but the article's focus upon the relationship between authors and bibliophiles and literary scholars made a few points that got me thinking.


A fan of both Mark Twain and Vonnegut, I am one of those who see similarities beside the fact that each had bushy hair, mustaches and a way with sarcasm. Conceding that they each had bushy hair and mustaches does not add sufficient evidence to Southard's argument that his position that their being compared isn't a convincing argument and supporting his position with a single argument that Mark Twain was capable of writing in different voices while Vonnegut was always Vonnegut makes me wonder if the article was an unwelcome required assignment by his publisher that was thrown together in order to appease his publisher.


The article goes on to make an interesting point about the attraction of authors who can surprise even English majors. Those are pretty special writers, i must agree. In fact, that's one of the similarities I've always enjoyed about Mark Twain and Vonnegut. The author's examples of Vonnegut's ability to surprise are well chosen. Mark Twain's ability to come up with stories like, "The War Prayer," "Letters From Hell," and "Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism" certainly provide surprises not necessarily predictable as he takes his satire to the very edge of what was acceptable at the time. 


And like many other exquisite writers, including Jonathan Swift, who also threw in a surprising turn of events or two, "Mark Twain and Vonnegut shared a common trajectory from early hope that their writings might "make a difference"  to an increasingly embittered pessimism towards the ends of their lives.


BUT, of course, that's not even the reason I scooped this article. i was intrigued by the tongue-in-cheek humor of the idea that English Majors might need a warning about the dangers inherent in choosing that course of study. We who have gone down that path, know the taste of truth in Southard's suggestion that we can find it quite difficult to read any book with the fresh just-enjoying-a-good-story pleasure.


As Southard puts it, "[Once you're an English major] The wizard cannot go back behind the curtain, you know it is a silly old man now! Every book is a future study, even when you don’t mean to do it. And soon you may even begin to forget what it was like to simply open a book and enjoy the tale."

Yet we know that seeing the deeper themes in a well-told tale is a source of pleasure and enjoyment as well. And, we do hope that our students may discover via our guidance a path to the oft overlooked pleasures of deeper reading that does not ask them to abandon the pleasures of reading along the way.

I'm particularly fond of satire as one path from enjoying a funny story to capitalizing upon humor's inherent enjoyability for many to enjoying a funny story that is also thought provoking. it's an engaging and inviting incline for students heading towards becoming English majors as well as for those we hope will continue to be literary readers even if their college and career paths are focused in other areas.

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Scott D. Southard's comment, May 30, 2013 10:01 AM
Thanks for sharing my article!
Scott D. Southard's comment, May 30, 2013 10:03 AM
Actually, in regards to my blog. I've been working on it for almost two years now and write on a lot of different authors, books, writing, etc. That article was just one inspired by an upcoming book. I wrote another piece on Vonnegut as well that you might like on the site as well. Cheers!
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25 Signs You're Addicted To Books

The first step is admitting it. The second step is to keep right on reading.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

 Why Scoop an article that i found more annoying than interesting?




But, first a concession. The "voice" of this article is not intended to be the voice of an educator. The intention of this article is not to engage reluctant readers. The intended audience for this article is probably those already engaged in a life-long reading habit. And, my criticism is probably more about the importance of considering one's audience than about the intentions of the author and receptiveness of her audience.



Okay, so why did I find the article annoying?


It wasn't the inclusion of a word too rude to share with students. It's easy enough to begin a scoopit comment with a warning in that regard.


It wasn't the use of the word "addicted" in the title. Though using words like "addicted" and "obsessed" as if they referenced something admirable is annoying to me.


It had more to do with portraying readers...


as weak

primarily women

choosing reading over responsibility

ridiculously emotional

incapable of reading without being emotionally wounded



out of touch


afraid of the real world


lost in the real world



and did I mention snobs?


This is NOT a list of reasons to encourage young people to become readers.


DISCLAIMER: It's not that I can't take a joke or see an attempt to be humorous. But, with few exceptions, I can't help but see most of these as more similar to "dumb blond" jokes or "racist jokes." They do little to counter negative stereotypes.


And defending these self-deprecating attempts at literary humor as "just jokes" seems pretty much as irritating as those who defend racist and sexist jokes as "just jokes."


"Can't you take a joke?"


Not always.


As book lovers, of course, self-deprecating humor of this sort is easy to accept and even find amusing. And, perhaps that is a significant difference between we who are bibliophiles and our students who have not yet discovered adequate reasons to makee a committment to life-long reading.


What percentage of your students would find these "jokes" to be encouraging a love of reading? 


My guess is a higher percentage would be encouraged to ridicule their classmates who do like reading.



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It Begins… Communist Indoctrination Included in Common Core Literature for First Graders (Video)

This will make you puke. Reading, writing and arithmetic are out - Communist indoctrination is in! The radical left is indoctrinating FIRST GRADERS in communist doctrine disguised as educational tools for first graders.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Well, i was reluctant to scoop this one. it's pretty clear that the website has a clear bias. ironically, the criticism made about Common Core approved texts rests upon a hyperbolic expression, posing as a calm and reasonable concern, that kids are being "indoctrinated" just like those rotten Commies indoctrinated their youth. And, ironically, the criticism is of a perception that the Common Core encourages the to use of emotional words to manipulate the minds of our youth. Yet, the person who posted the video apparently had no problem with placing an image of Communist youth that has had Obama's famous logo photoshopped onto the young boys' neckerchiefs just above the video.  


Seems to me that if the person who posted the video is against using emotional language to make an argument (a position for which I'd think many intelligent people might agree if they believe good argument rests upon straight forward facts unbent by manipulative word play), then the poster ought not to employ misleading emotion triggering images to frame his own position.


I don't know what to think about this criticism of the particular Common Core text at hand.


Is the argument built from misunderstood cherry-picked out-of-context examples?


I dunno. But, I am reminded of the quote from famous photographer Aaron Siskind that I had over my black, then green, then whiteboard for much of my career.


"We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there."


I always read that quote as a warning against assuming our thoughts, perceptions, and opinions were beyond question.


There's something in this video to be of serious concern to both the intelligent and thoughtful supporters and to the intelligent and thoughtful critics of the Common Core Standards.


There's also something for all ELA educators responsible for addressing the Literary Reading Standards. Is there a better example of "Irony" as a literary device when a person who gets all upset with what he perceives to be the evils of using "emotional language" as an example of Communist indoctrination begins his argument with...


"This will make you puke.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are out – Communist indoctrination is in! The radical left is indoctrinating FIRST GRADERS in communist doctrine disguised as educational tools for first graders."

? ? ? ? ? ? 



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