On the 2nd of March 1904,the famous writer and illustratorTheodor Seuss Geisel, known as ‘Dr. Seuss’, was born in Footloose, Springfield, MA, USA. An Oxford University graduate, Geisel published 46 children’s books, characterized by imaginative characters and the use of anapestic meter – a breezy melodic rhythm for comic verse. His most celebrated books include Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Most of them were adapted extensively to theatre, television and cinema. Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been named National Read Across America Day by the U.S. National Education Association.
The son of Lutheran German immigrants, Geisel was a liberal Democrat and a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. In the early 1940s, before America became aware of the destructive power of…
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This week I present to you two books that are an interesting mix of nonsense and non-fiction. Math Curse and Science Verse, created by author/illustrator team Jon Scieska and Lane Smith, which, under the pretence of teaching maths and science embark on a fanciful, lyrical voyage into the minds of children as they grapple with concepts that seem to swallow life whole (or is it hole?). The books don’t exactly teach science and maths though there are certainly concepts, terms, numbers and equations in the mix. What they do do is do praise creative and whimsical thinking in combination with maths and science, the combine wordplay with these subjects and show that, with a dash of nonsense and wonder that perhaps… maths can be just a little fun? Afterall, haven’t we all wondered:
How many yards in a neighborhood? How many inches in a pint? How many feet in my shoes?
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This was my pick for psychology. Not having a background in the field and lacking familiarity with the associated jargon, I was hoping to find a book that was pretty accessible to “everybody else”. While Sacks has a tendency to throw names of disorders and other words around like I am supposed to know what they mean, for the most part this book still fit that bill. The more necessary terms were explained in detail, and when all is said and done, this book is less about the disorders and more about the actual patients who suffered from them.
The book is broken into four parts: Losses, Excesses, Transports, and the World of the Simple. The first two were the more interesting to me as they focus on patients dealing with problems you very rarely hear about, such as the sudden lack of ability to recognize your own…
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More than 400 of them, give or take a few.
I always think of Ammon Shea whenever these sorts of announcements happen.
“If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on,” writes Ammon Shea in this wonderfully quirky book. “I have read the OED so that you don’t have to.”
Ammon Shea loves words. He also loves dictionaries, and has amassed quite the collection. “By last count, I have about a thousand volumes of dictionaries, thesauri, and assorted glossaries,” he writes, adding, somewhat unbelievably, that he doesn’t view these thousands volumes of dictionaries…
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1. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day, 8 June, in 1949. But this wasn’t the original title of the novel. According to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Orwell initially planned to set the novel in 1980; this then became 1982, and finally 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the title is usually rendered).
2. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room in BBC Broadcasting House. In this room, during the Second World War, he had to sit through tedious meetings when he worked for the Ministry of Information. Indeed, the Ministry also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, where the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works. ‘Room 101’ has, of course, entered wider linguistic use as a term for something containing one’s pet hates or worst fears. Although the novel also popularised the terms ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘thought police’, these…
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1. William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central, 811 pages in my Penguin trade paperback edition (including end notes), is a virtuoso attempt to describe or measure or assess or explain or analyze the Eastern front of WWII, a part of the war that in my American ignorance I know, or knew (no, know) so little about.
2. The book covers 1914-1975, most of the composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich’s life. If Europe Central has a hero, it is Shostakovich.
From the book’s last end note, “An Imaginary Love Triangle: Shostakovich, Karmen, Konstantinovaskya”:
When I think of Shostakovich, and when I listen to his music, I imagine a person consumed by fear and regret, a person who (like Kurt Gerstein) did what little he could to uphold the good—in this case, freedom of artistic creation, and the mitigation of other people’s emergencies. He became progressively more beaten down, and certainly experienced…
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