Tag Archives | Books

The Hidden Messages in Children’s Books

Alice_in_WonderlandAre there really hidden messages in children’s books or are certain adults just determined to impose their own subtext? From BBC Culture:

As a child many of my favourite books had food as a theme. One in particular told the story of a boy who helped save his local burger bar by becoming a gastro-sleuth to track down a lost secret ingredient.

Long after losing track of the book and forgetting its title, I found myself in Edinburgh to interview Alexander McCall Smith. He was already the mega-selling author of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but years earlier, he had published a few children’s books. There among them on a shelf was The Perfect Hamburger.

It was my book. Except that it wasn’t – not really. While burgers do indeed feature in lip-smacking detail, this time it was clear to me that The Perfect Hamburger is actually a tale of corporate greed and the fate of small businesses forced to compete with big chains.

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Harvard Confirms It Has Book Bound In Human Flesh

book fleshA few weeks ago we ran a story about Harvard University’s library containing books bound in human flesh. Scientists at Harvard have now confirmed the report for at least one volume, Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de lame, per The Independent:

Harvard scientists have confirmed a volume in one of its libraries is “without a doubt” bound in human skin after a series of tests conducted on the binding confirmed the origin of the material.

Scientists and conservators used several different methods to test the binding and are now “99.9 per cent” sure the material covering the book, Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame, is of human origin.

A team used a process known as peptide mass fingerprinting to examine microscopic samples of the covering and eliminate the chance that the 19th century book was made out of other binding materials such as sheep or goat skin.

The binding was then analysed further to determine the order of amino acids, the building blocks of each peptide, which are different in each species.

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Trigger Warnings On Classic Literature Are One Small Step From Book Banning

160px-Gatsby_1925_jacketPersonally I completely agree with Jen Doll, who adds that so-called “trigger warnings” are “one giant leap for censorship. Why add a ‘spoiler alert’ to the pain – and healing – inside the act of reading itself?,” writing at The Guardian. Any differences of opinion, disinfonauts?

There’s a discussion that’s been heating up for a while in various corners of the internet, and now at a number of US colleges, about how we take in information, and whether that information should be treated with what essentially constitutes a warning label – so long as it’s likely to impact anyone in an unfavorable way due to their personal background, emotional state and/or life experiences. We call these emotional disclaimers “trigger warnings”, alerting a consumer that the content within might offend or cause distress.

“This is triggering” (and therefore requires a trigger warning) is a phrase you might see in the comments section of an online article that addresses racism, rape, war, anorexia or any number of subjects about which a discussion may not leave the reader with a care-free, fuzzy sort of feeling.

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Why You Should Avoid Best-Selling Books

As duas irmãs - Renoir“If you read what everyone else reads, soon you’ll start thinking like everyone else,” claims Shane Parrish, relating his tale of reading 161 books in a year at The Week:

We all know we should read more. Few of us do.

Well, last year I made reading a priority and ended up reading 161 books cover-to-cover. I reasoned that if reading was the key to getting smarter, I wouldn’t let anything get in my way.

What I learned most from my year of reading surprised me because it wasn’t found in any particular bit of knowledge in any of the books I read. The big lesson was a simple heuristic: Avoid most best-selling books. These books are not fertile ground for learning and acquiring knowledge. In fact, most are forgotten within a year or two. Why learn something that expires so quickly?

Well let’s start with this question: Why do we read best-sellers in the first place?

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The Harvard Library’s Collection Of Books Bound In Human Flesh

book of fleshLooking for a read that you can sink your teeth into? Roadtrippers on Harvard’s flesh books:

A few years ago, three separate books were discovered in Harvard University’s library that had particularly strange-looking leather covers. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the smooth binding was actually human flesh… in one case, skin harvested from a man who was flayed alive.

The practice of using human flesh to bind books, referred to as anthropodermic bibliopegy, was actually popular during the 17th century.

Harvard’s creepy books deal with Roman poetry, French philosophy, and a treatise on medieval law, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias… that has a very interesting inscription inside, as the Harvard Crimson reports:

‘the bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book […] together with ample of his skin to bynd it.’

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‘How to Poo on a Date’ Wins Oddest Book Title of the Year

poo datePersonally I'm wondering how this topic could take up an entire book. From Reuters:
A tongue-in-cheek book that purports to deal with an awkward but critical issue, "How to Poo on a Date", scooped an award for the Oddest Book Title of the Year on Friday. The winner of the Diagram Prize, awarded annually since 1978 and based on a public vote since 2000, beat out other titles including "Are Trout South African?" and "Working-Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City". The prize, which carries no cash award, is run by The Bookseller, a British-based business magazine and website for the book industry...
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Ghosts of Video Games Past Online Now

PitfallChristmas has come and gone but the gifts just keep coming. My family and friends plundered my wish list, handing me a healthy stack of the DVD’s and books that I look forward to at this time of year. I love films and reading so I didn’t think I could be happier with my haul.

However, another unexpected gift arrived which reminds me of Christmases long-past when the only thing I wanted was the newest game for my Atari 2600. Arriving with the promptness of a flying reindeer, it was just announced that the Internet Archive is making a place for playable, online games from the original, classic home consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Odyssey 2.

Here’s the scoop from PC MAG.

Feeling nostalgic? We’ll let archivist Jason Scott explain:

“For a generation of children, the most exciting part of a Christmas morning was discovering a large box under the tree, ripping it apart, and looking at an exciting, colorful box promising endless video games.

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Reading Changes Your Brain

Concentrating (3460165669)I highly doubt that reading this post will do too much to you, but new research shows that reading novels definitely does change your brain with lingering effects. Carol Clark-Emory reports for Futurity:

After reading a novel, actual changes linger in the brain, at least for a few days, report researchers.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, appear in the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

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‘Anarchist Cookbook’ Author Wants It Banned In Wake Of Latest Murder

Anarchist cookbookOne suspects that more than a few disinfonauts have perused a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook since it was first published in 1970. It quickly became something of an underground classic, but author William Powell later disavowed it. On the book’s Amazon page he is quoted as saying:

During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make – not the author’s.

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Mike Tyson Has Better Taste In Books Than You Do

Picture: Octal (CC)

Picture: Octal (CC)

Mike Tyson isn’t just a former champion heavyweight boxer, he’s also a heavyweight reader, too. What are some of the books on Tyson’s nightstand right now? Napoleon’s letters to Josephine, a little Kierkegaard, and more than a few volumes devoted to Alexander the Great.

Via Open Culture:

I read everything about Alexander, so I downloaded “Alexander the Great: The Macedonian Who Conquered the World” by Sean Patrick. Everyone thinks Alexander was this giant, but he was really a runt. “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity,” he said. I so related to that, coming from Brownsville, Brooklyn.

What did I have to look forward to—going in and out of prison, maybe getting shot and killed, or just a life of scuffling around like a common thief? Alexander, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, even a cold pimp like Iceberg Slim—they were all mama’s boys.

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