May 10:  Banned and Burned Books Day

On the evening of May 10, 1933, Students on 34 campuses across Germany gathered to burn books that were deemed “un-German.”  The book burnings were one of several of the actions the Nazi party took in the years leading up to World War II to bring German arts and culture in line with Nazi goals.

More than just spontaneous demonstrations, the book burnings were organized affairs, complete with ceremonial music and scripted statements called “fire oaths” that were read aloud as students tossed books onto bonfires.

In Berlin, where over 40,000 students and Nazi officials gathered, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, delivered a scathing speech denouncing the decadence and moral corruption found in the unwanted books.

Any book expressing ideas that in any way ran counter to Nazi ideologies was deemed fit for incineration.  The following is a small sample of some of the authors whose books were burned: Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Karl Marx, Bertolt Brecht, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, and Helen Keller.  

Also burned on May 10th were works by the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, whose words foreshadowed the horror to come:  “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people” (1).

Germany, of course, is not the only place where there have been book burnings.  In 1973, Charles McCarthy, Chairman of a school board in North Dakota had copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five burned because of its “obscene language.”  Fortunately, many denounced the book burning, including the book’s author who sent a letter to McCarthy, saying the following:

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.

Each September since 1982, the American Library Association has sponsored Banned Books Week, a national campaign that promotes the freedom to read and that celebrates a diversity of ideas, even those that are unorthodox or unpopular.  Activities during the week include public readings, panel discussions, and even a teen fashion show where designers display original fashion inspired by challenged or banned books (3).

Today’s Challenge:   Only You Can Prevent Book Burning

What are some examples of books that have been banned or challenged?  Research some books that have been frequently banned or challenged.  Select one and write a report that gives a brief overview of the book and its author, along with some details on the specific context in which it was banned or challenged.

The following are examples of books that have been banned or challenged:

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1984 by George Orwell

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

The Bible

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. -Ray Bradbury

1 https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005852

2-http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/i-am-very-real.html

3-http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

May 2: King James Bible Day

Today is the anniversary of the publication of what is probably the most influential work in the history of the English language, the King James translation of the Old and New Testaments, completed in 1611. Of course, one might argue that it is not one work but 66 separate books (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament); nevertheless, the reading and proclaiming of the words from the King James Bible have made a significant impact on the words we speak today.

The title page's central text is:"THE HOLY BIBLE,Conteyning the Old Testament,AND THE NEW:Newly Translated out of the Original tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall Comandement.Appointed to be read in Churches.Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Majestie.ANNO DOM. 1611 ."At bottom is:"C. Boel fecit in Richmont.".For example, take any letter of the alphabet and think of expressions we use in print and spoken word that came to us from the King James Authorized Version. Here are just a few examples from the letter A:

Adam’s apple

Apple of one’s eye

Adam’s rib

A little lower than angels

All things are possible

All things work together for good

Alpha and omega

Am I my brother’s keeper?

A soft answer turneth away wrath

Ask, and it shall be given

For a more complete collection of words and phrases from the Bible, see the book Mene, Mene, Tekel (The handwriting is on the wall): A lively lexicon of words and phrases from the Bible (1).

In the second year of his reign, after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, King James I ordered a new English authorized translation of the Bible. It was a time of renaissance for the spoken and written word in English as witnessed by the works of William Shakespeare, who was a contemporary of the men working on James’ translation. Over fifty scholars worked on the project, making it probably the most impressive work ever completed by a committee.

The King James Bible and the manner of speaking it influenced soon crossed the Atlantic to the New World, where in 1620 the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth to plant the seed of King James’ English in this new Promised Land.

The King James Bible was published the same year that Shakespeare began work on his last play The Tempest. In Shakespeare and the Authorized version of the Bible, we have the Yin and the Yang of the English language. Shakespeare prodigiously invented words, metaphors, and turns of phrase; his works make up a vocabulary of approximately 30,000 words. In contrast, the King James Version uses a sparse 8,000 words, a basic lexicon that could be read, spoken, and understood by common men and women.

Bard or Bible?

Read the common expressions below. Which come from the King James Bible and which are from Shakespeare’s plays?

  1. Apple of one’s eye
  2. Out of the mouth of babes
  3. There’s the rub
  4. Fallen from grace
  5. Lamb to the slaughter
  6. It’s Greek to me
  7. Through a glass, darkly
  8. To eat out of house and home
  9. Tower of strength
  10. Pearls before swine
  11. Serve God and Mammon
  12. Sings of the times
  13. Too much of a good thing
  14. Skin of the teeth
  15. Fatted calf
  16. Feet of clay
  17. Giants in the earth
  18. Gone with the wind
  19. Every inch a kind
  20. Turn the other cheek
  21. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth
  22. Den of lions
  23. Cast the first stone
  24. Paint the lily
  25. Cruel to be kind
  26. Blind leading the blind
  27. Budge an inch

According to the scholar and critic E. D. Hirsch, knowledge of the Bible is not simply an issue of religious education; it is instead an issue of literacy (see March 1: Cultural Literacy  Day).. A basic understanding and working knowledge of the Bible is essential to being literate in the English-speaking world. As Hirsch puts it:

Literate people in India, whose religious traditions are not based on the Bible but whose common language is English, must know about the Bible in order to understand English within their own country.  All educated speakers of American English need to understand what is meant when someone describes a contest as being between David and Goliath, or whether a person who has the “wisdom of Solomon” is wise or foolish . . . . Those who cannot use or understand such allusions cannot fully participate in literate English. (2)

Allusions are references to people, places, events, and things from history, mythology, religion, or literature.  The mention of an allusion doesn’t just evoke a story, it also evokes an abstract idea or universal theme. For example, if a writer makes an allusion to “Judas,” most literate readers will comprehend the reference to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus as told in the New Testament.  In addition to the story of Judas, the allusion also evokes themes related to Judas’ story, such as treachery and betrayal.

Today’s Challenge:   Tales from the Testaments

What are some examples of stories from the Bible that everyone should know — the kind of stories that are alluded to not just in religious works, but also in secular poems, novels, and nonfiction works?  Brainstorm a list of stories you think of that come from the Bible, either the Old or the New Testament.  The following are a few examples of allusions that most literate persons would be expected to recognize:

Abraham and Isaac, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, Good Samaritan, Jacob and Esau, Job, Jonah and the Whale, Lot’s wife, Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Moses and the Exodus, Noah and the Flood, Pentecost, Pontius Pilate, Prodigal Son, Solomon, Tower of Babel

Select one allusion and paraphrase the essential elements of the story. Imagine an audience who has not heard the story before. Your purpose is to give them details concerning the story’s plot and its characters to that they will understand both the story and the meaning of the story. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand. –Mark Twain

1 – Ehrlich, Eugene and David H Scott. Mene, Mene, Tekel: A lively lexicon of words and phrases from the Bible. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.

2- Hirsch, E. D. The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

Answers:

KJV: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14,15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26

Shakespeare: 3, 6, 8, 9, 13, 19, 24, 25, 27

May 1:  Paradox Day

Today is the anniversary of the 1961 publication of the Joseph Heller novel Catch-22. In the novel, the anti-hero Captain Yossarian serves in the United States Air Force on a Mediterranean island near Italy during World War II. In order to survive the war, Yossarian attempts to avoid flying on dangerous bombing missions. His efforts are thwarted, however, by the paradoxical rule called Catch-22:

Catch22.jpgThere was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. [Bomber pilot] Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

According to Twentieth Century Words, the expression catch-22 to refer to “a supposed law or regulation containing provisions which are mutually frustrating” began to gain widespread use after the release of a film version of the novel in 1970 (1). The fact that the title of a novel took on a life of its own and developed a generic meaning in the language is a unique occurrence. For example, even a person who has never heard of Yossarian or Heller’s novel might be aware of the expression. After a job interview, for example, a frustrated teenager might return home and tell his mother: “They won’t hire me unless I have experience, but how can I get experience if no one will hire me? I’m caught in a catch-22.”

A catch-22, then, is a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ type of situation. It’s a no-win situation; a chicken and egg problem that traps you in a double bind of circular logic wrapped around a conundrum. In other words, it’s a kind of paradox.

A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself, yet is true. In a paradox, truth and falsehood collide and synthesize into wisdom. Great quotes, great poetry, and great speeches of all kinds are full of paradox. The etymology of paradox is Greek paradoxon, meaning conflicting with expectation. An excellent anthology of paradoxes, is the book Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History’s Greatest Wordsmiths. In this book, Dr. Mardy Grothe has collected over one thousand examples of paradoxical quotes, including the following one from Joseph Heller: When I grow up I want to be a little boy.

Today’s Challenge:  True Lies

What are some examples of quotations that express paradoxical truth?  Do some research to find a paradoxical statement that you think shows great insight about a universal idea, such as the examples below.  Record the complete quotation and cite its author; then, explain what specifically you like about the paradox.

-Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s own ignorance. -Confucius

-When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. -Eric Hoffer

-We are in bondage to the law in order that we may be free. -Cicero

-The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth. -Jean Cocteau

-Success is ninety-nine percent failure. -Soichiro Honda

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:   A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it. -Mark Twain

1- Ayto, John. Twentieth Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

2-Grothe, Mardy. Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History’s Greatest Wordsmiths. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

April 28:  Mockingbird Day  

Today is the birthday of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She was born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926 and the events in her novel parallel her life growing up in the South during the Depression. One example is the character Dill who was drawn from Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote. In 1959, Lee assisted Capote in his now classic non-fiction novel In Cold Blood (1966) (See April 14:  Prepositional Phrase Day). To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962, the novel was made into an Oscar-winning film, but strangely, Harper Lee never wrote another novel.  In 2015 the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird was published under the title Go Set a Watchman.  Harper Lee died in 2016.

Cover of the book showing title in white letters against a black background in a banner above a painting of a portion of a tree against a red backgroundThe success of To Kill a Mockingbird continues today. It’s taught in nearly 80 percent of America’s middle schools and high schools. According to the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature, To Kill a Mockingbird is on every list of the book-length works most frequently taught in high school English.

Here are the lists:

Public Schools:

Romeo and Juliet; Macbeth; Huckleberry Finn; Julius Caesar; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Scarlet Letter; Of Mice and Men; Hamlet; The Great Gatsby; Lord of the Flies.

Catholic Schools:

Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; Macbeth; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Great Gatsby; Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Of Mice and Men; Julius Caesar; Lord of the Flies. (1)

Independent Schools:

Macbeth; Romeo and Juliet; Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; Hamlet; The Great Gatsby; To Kill a Mockingbird; Julius Caesar; The Odyssey; Lord of the Flies

Particularly interesting is that To Kill a Mockingbird is not only the most contemporary work listed, it is also the only work by a woman.

Today’s Challenge:  A Truly Must-Read Book

What one book would you say should be a graduation requirement for high school?  Brainstorm some titles of books that you think should be read by high schoolers.  Then, select the single book that you would argue is the most important. Write your argument for why this book should be required reading.  Explain what the book offers students, and why is it an important book both for today and for tomorrow (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. -Harper Lee

1-Applebee, Arthur N. ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. Bloomington IN. 1990-05-00. Eric Identifier: ED318035.

 

April 25:  Interrogative Mood Day

Do you know what the interrogative mood is?  If you had an opportunity to learn, would you take careful notes?  Would the prospect of a pop quiz on the subject matter increase or decrease your motivation to learn the material?  Does the topic of grammatical mood interest you in the least? If someone were incorrectly using the subjunctive mood, would you correct him or her?  Have you ever played 20 questions? Do you ever ask questions without concern to actually answering them? Do you think it is possible for someone to compose a 160-plus page book entirely of questions?  Do you get annoyed when people ask too many questions, or do you find it oddly interesting?

Today is the birthday of novelist Padgett Powell, born in Gainsville, Florida in 1952.  Powell has taught writing at the University of Florida for more than 20 years, and he has published six novels, as well as three collections of short stories.  His most intriguing work, however, is a book entitled The Interrogative Mood, A Novel?  In case you are unfamiliar with the term, interrogative mood, it simply refers to questions — as in what you are asked when you are interrogated.  And Powell’s book is full of them.  In fact, it is nothing but questions.  So, instead of a typical novel that features a narrator, The Interrogative Mood features an interrogator.

There are four basic moods in English; A sentence’s word order and specifically the position of its main verb changes depending on its mood.  If, for example, you were writing about the topic of buying a car, you would craft your sentences differently depending on your grammatical mood, which should not be confused with your emotional mood:

-Indicative Mood deals with matter-of-fact statements:  I think I’m going to buy myself a new car.

-Imperative Mood deals with commands:  Stop talking about buying a new car, and just do it.

-Subjunctive Mood deals with hypotheticals or wishes:  If I were rich, I would buy a new car.

-Interrogative Mood deals with questions: Should I buy a new car?

Clearly, Powell’s preferred mood is the interrogative.  In the course of the 160-plus pages of his book, he asks roughly 2,000 questions without giving a single answer.

Here’s a small sample:

Can you read music?  Would it be reasonable to ask someone if he or she has a favorite musical note?  Would you like to visit a tar pit or a peat bog, or would you rather eat cucumber sandwiches on a pleasant veranda with a civilized hostess in England?  Will you wear a garment with a small tear in it? Do you cry at movies where you are intended to cry, or at other points in the drama, or not at all?

Powell got started asking questions when he noticed that some of his university colleagues wrote emails to him composed entirely of questions.  He began composing his own witty replies, all in the interrogative mood (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Interrogative or Imperative?  Choose one!

Would you prefer to write entirely in the interrogative mood or the imperative mood?  Follow Powell’s example and write a composition composed of at least 20 questions.  Try to vary the length of your questions – some long, some medium, some short. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

OR

Imagine you were to compose a novel called The Imperative Mood – Buy This Novel Now!.  Compose the first 200 words writing in the imperative mood: sentences that are commands.  Do it now. Don’t wait, and don’t procrastinate.

Quotation of the Day:  A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? -Albert Einstein

1-Powell, Padget.  The Interrogative Mood.  Ecco, 2010.

 

April 24:  Library of Congress Day

On this date in 1800, President John Adams approved an appropriation of $5,000 to purchase books, establishing the Library of Congress. The books were ordered from London and a total of 740 volumes were housed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Invading British troops destroyed the library when they set fire to the Capitol Building in 1814. In 1815, Congress accepted an offer by retired President Thomas Jefferson to replace the library with his own eclectic collection of 6,487 books.

The library moved to its current location, the Thomas Jefferson Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, in 1897. Two additional buildings were added in 1939 and 1980: The John Adams Building and the James Madison Memorial Building.

Today, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world.  Its more than 38 million books are stored on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.

While the Library of Congress plays an important role in the government of the United States and is the de facto national library of the U.S., just as important are the thousands of local libraries around the world.  Too often we take these spaces for granted. Here are a few choice quotations to remind us the value of libraries:

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.Walter Cronkite

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.Ray Bradbury

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. -Lady Bird Johnson

Today’s Challenge:  The Future of Books

What is the future of libraries?  In the age of the Internet and all the changes in the way people access information and the ways they read, are physical libraries filled with physical books still important?   Research what people are saying about libraries and about the future of physical books.  Then, make your argument about what role libraries and books will play in the future, and use evidence from your research to support your reasoning.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Outside of a dog, books are man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read anyways. -Groucho Marx

1 – Library of Congress website. https://www.loc.gov/about/fascinating-facts/

April 17:  Story Contest Day

On this day in 1397, Chaucer read his great work The Canterbury Tales before the gathered ladies and gentleman of the English court.  It was not surprising that someone would read stories out loud. After all, in the 14th century, before Gutenberg introduced movable type, books were rare. What was surprising, however, was the language that Chaucer wrote in and spoke in as he read his stories: English.

Canterbury Tales.pngSince the Norman Invasion of England in 1066, French and Latin had been the language of the court and the language of power.  English was spoken, but primarily by the peasantry. Change began to happen, however, as England waged war against France in The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453).  Anti-French attitudes opened the door for English, the vernacular tongue of the commoners, to become more and more acceptable among the nobility.

Chaucer’s work begins with a group of 29 travelers gathered at the Tabard Inn in London to begin their pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket, a Christian martyr, in Canterbury.  The pilgrims are accompanied by Harry Bailly, the host of the Tabard, who proposes a story contest. Volunteering himself as the judge, Bailly presents the stakes: the winner of the contest will be awarded a dinner paid for by the group when they return back to the Tabard Inn.

Thus begins the framing device for the collection of tales that became the first important work of literature in English and that earned Chaucer the title:  “Father of English Literature” (1).

Today’s Challenge:   Winning Storytelling

What are the essential key elements that make a good story?  What criteria would you use for judging the effectiveness of a story?  Brainstorm some criteria for storytelling and create a judge’s ballot that spells out each of your criterion along with the maximum points you would award for each of your criteria. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don’t go there to swim, then those young people don’t have to find out by trial and error. -Margaret Atwood

1-http://thisdaythen.blogspot.com/2012/04/17th-april-1397-geoffrey-chaucer-reads.html

 

April 14:  Prepositional Phrase Day

On this date in 1965, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were executed by the state of Kansas for the murder of four members of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas.  The murderers and their crime were the subjects of Truman Capote’s (1924-1984) groundbreaking nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, published in 1966.

In Cold Blood-Truman Capote.jpgCapote read about the murders in the New York Times in 1959.  Intrigued by the story, he traveled to the small farming community of Holcomb with his childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

With the help of Lee, Capote spent six years researching and writing the book, which was finally published in 1966.

In Cold Blood is seen today as a pioneering work of the true crime genre.  The book fits into a larger literary genre of the non-fiction novel, a work that blends historical figures and actual events with fictitious dialogue and storytelling techniques.  The genre is sometimes referred to a “faction,” a blend of the words fact and fiction (1).

The title of Capote’s book is a prepositional phrase, a phrase that begins with a preposition (“in”) and ends with a noun (“blood”).  

Prepositional phrases are the most frequently used phrases in the English language.  They are never the subject of a sentence, but they always provide additional details.

Here are some other examples of prepositions used in other book titles:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

One Hundred Years of Solitude

The Grapes of Wrath

Of Mice and Men

All Quiet on the Western Front

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Much Ado About Nothing

Today’s Challenge:  Prepositional Pitches

What are some examples of titles of great books or movies that do not contain propositions?  Brainstorm a list of at least 10 titles of books or films that do not contain prepositions.  Then, imagine you were going to re-title the book or movie. Create at least five new titles for five different works, and make sure that each title contains at least one preposition.

Examples:

Hamlet – Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark

Romeo and Juliet – Teenage Tragedy in Verona

Macbeth – Something Wicked in Scotland

Jaws – Summer of Sharks

Apocalypse Now – The Quest For Kurtz

Quotation of the Day: Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. -Truman Capote

1 -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-fiction_novel

April 11:  101 Day

In a typical non-leap year, April 11th is the 101st day of the year.

1984first.jpgIn George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Room 101 was the most feared room in the Ministry of Love. It was the room where Winston Smith was taken to be “rehabilitated” by O’Brien.

In the following passage from the novel, Winston learns what form of torture he will be facing:

‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. . . .’

‘The worst thing in the world,’ said O’Brien, ‘varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.’

‘In your case,’ said O’Brien, ‘the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.’

The fate of everyone who enters Room 101 is to face his or her worst fear and to believe, in the end, in something that is not true. In Winston’s case, O’Brien makes him believe through torture that 2+2 = 5, and that he (Winston) loves Big Brother.

Interestingly enough, at the beginning of the 1999 film The Matrix, Neo lives in Room 101. This is probably not coincidental since later in the film Neo learns that his life and the entire known world inside the Matrix is a lie.

The world of books gave us the dark side of the number 101 from the mind of George Orwell, but it also gives us a much more positive side in the form of book titles.

A quick search on Amazon.com will yield an amazing variety of titles with the number 101. There are two main reasons this number is so prominent.

First, it refers to basic introductory material on any topic, as in basic introductory college courses like English 101 or Psychology 101.

Second, it refers to the number of options that will be provided on a topic, such as 101 Things to Do Before You Die.

A recent search on Amazon.com yielded more than 100,000 titles containing the number 101. Here are some examples from the first category – basic intro material:

Missed Fortune 101: A Starter Kit to Becoming a Millionaire

Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know

Triathlon 101: Essentials for Multisport Success

Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System

Anger Busting 101: The New ABCs for Angry Men & the Women Who Love Them

Hollywood 101: The Film Industry

Rick Steve’s Europe 101: History of Art for the Traveler

Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

Life 101: Real World Skills for Graduating College Seniors

Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family’s History and Heritage

And here are 10 titles from the second category – 101 options:

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged

101 Things to Do With a Slow Cooker

101 Great American Poems

101 Secrets a Cool Mom Knows

101 Useless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu

101 Ways to Bug Your Parents

101 Must-Know Blues Licks

101 Power Thoughts

101 French Idioms

101 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Today’s Challenge: Brainstorming 101 or Your 101 Course

Brainstorming 101: What brainstorming question can you generate that will yield at least 101 answers? On the 101st day of the year, brainstorm your own 101 options list. Create your own question, such as “What are 101 different ways to say ‘thank you’?” or “What are 101 reasons to procrastinate?”  or “What are 101 alternative uses for a paper clip?” Number each item on your list. If you run out of ideas, ask other people for ideas on how to answer the question, and use their ideas to generate more of your own.

Your 101 Course:  If you were to present a basic course for beginners, what would be your topic, and what would be the course’s content?  Create a title for your course, and write a course description that outlines the specific content of the course. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. -Socrates in Plato’s Republic

April 10: Why Literature Matters Day

On this day in 2005, Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, published an editorial in the New York Times entitled “Why Literature Matters.”

The purpose of Gioia’s editorial was to sound the alarm concerning survey statistics showing declining interest among Americans in reading literature.  Furthermore, Gioia’s purpose was to explore the consequences of declining literacy and to argue for the residual benefits that increased literacy can foster.  More than just promoting the reading of literature, Gioia argues that good reading habits foster higher-order thinking skills, creativity, imagination and empathy:

Unlike the passive activities of watching television and DVDs or surfing the Web, reading is actually a highly active enterprise. Reading requires sustained and focused attention as well as active use of memory and imagination. Literary reading also enhances and enlarges our humility by helping us imagine and understand lives quite different from our own.

Gioia also argues that reading literature not only helps to form individual character but also contributes to the character of our nation:

Just as more ancient Greeks learned about moral and political conduct from the epics of Homer than from the dialogues of Plato, so the most important work in the abolitionist movement was the novel ”Uncle Tom’s Cabin” . . . . Today when people recall the Depression, the images that most come to mind are of the travails of John Steinbeck’s Joad family from ”The Grapes of Wrath.” Without a literary inheritance, the historical past is impoverished.

In essence, Gioia’s editorial argued that there are dire consequences to consider when a nation stops reading stories because, as she puts it:  “Literature is a catalyst for education and culture.” There was a time when reading was our national pastime. Today, there are so many other forms of media competing for our attention; nevertheless, we should all pause to consider why literature matters (1).

Today’s Challenge:  What’s The Matter

What are some examples of topics that you care about, things that you think really matter?  Brainstorm a list of topics that you are passionate about.  Select one topic and make your case for why it matters. For example, you might argue:  Why Baseball Matters, Why Punctuation Matters, Why Voting Matters, Why Dogs Matter, or Why Singing Matters.  Make sure to support your claim with specific reasoning and evidence.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. -C. S. Lewis

1-http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/04/10/why_literature_matters?pg=full