Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

December 22, 2009

I love Chabon’s writing and this collection of essays is very good. . . put a copy on your nightstand and occasionally dip in.


The Periodic Table: Elements with Style by Basher and Adrian Dingle

December 10, 2009

Probably the most fun anyone is ever going to have studying the periodic table. Basher/Dingle have created first- and third-person narration to explain each element, as well as logical groupings of elements. Basher’s illustrations (he describes himself as a “graphic surrealist”) captures the character of each element with a Pokemon/Anime aesthetic. Copper’s entry begins, “I am an age-old metal that gave birth to whole chunks of history and launched civilizations . . .” Other titles in the series – written with Dan Green – include Physics: Why Matter Matters, Biology: Life As We Know It, Rocks and Gems: A Gem of A Read, Astronomy: Out of This World, and Planet Earth: What Planet Are You On?

I love these little paperback books (although I wish they had spiral bindings on them). They make great gifts for almost any age (they’re less than $10 each) and they are perfect for stashing in the car for kids to thumb through in odd moments.

I don’t remember where I read that childrearing tip but I pass it along frequently: keep 2-3 non-fiction books and/or magazines in the backseat of your car (I use a basket stuck between the bucket seats). Even the most reluctant readers *will* pick them up to thumb through at odd moments. Rotate titles every so often to keep readers interest . . .

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

December 4, 2009

I listened to the audio book version of this (read by the author who did a very good job) and couldn’t stop talking about it to . . . well, anyone who would listen. The book is about what makes some people really stand out . . . and some of our misconceptions about what it takes to be successful.

Perhaps the most interesting issue Gladwell raised is the one about professional hockey players: professional hockey players in Canada are almost all born in the first 3 months of a calendar year because Dec. 31 is the cutoff date each year for kids hockey. That means at age 5, a kid born in January is significantly “older” and has more physical dexterity than a kid born in Dec. The “older” kids tend to outperform the younger kids at very young ages. So guess which kids on any given team get more playing time? more of a coach’s attention? get chosen for all-star teams or special league mentoring/play? By the time a January-born hockey player reaches high school, the cumulative effect of the extra attention and coaching is that most professional hockey players in Canada are born in the first 3 months of the year. Since this represents only about 25% of Canada’s population, how much athletic potential is not being developed because a December-born 5-year-old doesn’t have what it takes to compete with a January-born 5-year-old?

According to Gladwell this happens all over the world, in many areas of life. And the ramifications reach far beyond professional sports . . . one of Gladwell’s points is that we tend to do the same thing in education. We begin “tracking” kids at very young ages. What percentage of any country’s given population is not getting the time or attention it needs to be successful academically? What if we created pre-school/kindergarten and primary grade classrooms based on partial years e.g. Jan-Apr kids in one class, May-Aug kids not only in another class but starting school at a different time e.g. when they are actually 5 rather than 5 by Dec. 31? At least until “age” becomes less of a factor in a student’s likely ability to “compete” or keep pace with his or her peers (which begins to happen at about 9 or 10 years of age)?