Can’t decide what to read this summer? Don’t know how to get the whole family reading?
Not sure what to suggest for your Changing Lives Through Literature group—or other book group?
This fun Summer Reading Flowchart will guide you to the right book! We thank Sarah Fudin for sharing this fantastic Teach.com visual.
Brought to you by Teach.com
Read Sarah Fudin’s accompanying article—Keep Reading Fun—also published on this blog.
Sarah Fudin works at an education company where she manages the community relations for the George Washington University’s online MPH degree, an innovative program that allows students to take public health courses online.
By Louis Sharman
There have been some incredible, on-the-edge-of-your-seat crime novels published this year; some featuring our favorite protagonists while others thrill us with brand new, nail-biting narratives that you simply can’t put down.
Crime fiction seems to be ever-increasing in popularity recently, no doubt due to the proliferation of television and film adaptations. We’ve loved detectives from Rebus to Precious Ramotswe and Inspector Montalbano to Sherlock Holmes for years now, yet our appetite for the crime genre never wanes, only grows.
It’s fair to say that the quality of screen adaptations does vary, with some fans left disappointed with casting or plot amendments. Nevertheless, you can be sure that somewhere in the pipeline are plans to adapt some of the biggest crime books of recent years—so you may want to read them first. Here are four that you shouldn’t miss.
Disappeared by Anthony Quinn
Quinn’s debut novel has been hailed one of the greatest crime novels of the year, ahead of many more established crime writers. Set in Ireland, the novel concerns the disappearance of an Alzheimer’s patient set against a backdrop of the aftermath of the Troubles. It’s up to the wonderfully-named Inspector Celsius Daly to discover that the victim isn’t all he seems. The novel is tense, evoking Irish politics and history. One reviewer said it was “a major piece of work.”
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
Very different to the author’s other crime-fighting creation, Rebus, Inspector Malcolm Fox has divided opinion among Rankin fans. The fact is, he’s different and that’s never going to please everyone. However, Fox has been called “a worthy rival” in this book, in which Fox is tasked with finding out whether a police colleague took advantage of females he arrested. Add to that the murder of the accused’s uncle and you’ve got quite an involved plot.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly
The latest in the Harry Bosch series sees the investigator linking a bullet from a recent crime to a case which occurred back in 1992 which was never solved after Bosch himself passed it over to a special task force. Indications are that what was thought to be an accidental death during the LA riots was in fact, something more sinister. The book is praised as “riveting and relentlessly paced.”
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Commissario Brunetti, the clean-nosed, family-man detective thinks he recognizes the body floating in the lagoon, yet the victim possesses no identification other than some distinctive shoes. Without a missing person report, the case ceases. However, as with most Brunetti cases, Signorina Elettra comes to the rescue with some vital information, which provides Brunetti with a “fragile lead.” Gripping and harrowing, what’s lovely about the Brunetti series is Leon’s vivid description of Venice, which paints a romantic backdrop to even a grotesque murder.
A few more
Other fine pieces of crime literature include The Bat—Jo Nesbo’s 1997 novel scheduled for a July 2013 re-release—and John Grisham’s The Racketeer, not to mention James M Cain’s posthumous and “lost” novel, The Cocktail Waitress. Fans of the genre won’t be disappointed.
Louis Sharman works for a company called Foyles, a legendary award-winning independent bookstore with a long history. Foyles is based in London and Bristol, UK.
Press Release—Dartmouth, MA
Let Hamlet Transform You
In this video, J.C. Wallace portrays the complex role of Hamlet. “To be, or not to be” is one of the best-known lines in English literature. Wallace gives a superb performance of Hamlet’s greatest soliloquy.
This video was produced by JoAnne Breault, Director of Communication for Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL). Breault oversees CLTL’s Literature Transforms You campaign which promotes reading literature as a way to enhance lives. CLTL is based at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and was founded by Dr. Robert Waxler and Judge Robert Kane as an alternative sentencing program.
This is the second video in the Literature Transforms You series. Watch the first video—The Tell-Tale Heart.
Please comment on this post to share how literature has transformed you (or someone you know).
By Philip Rudy
Literature can stimulate your mind and help you think a more clearly through the day. There is a direct relationship between your learning curve and reading. Reading helps you stay focused, keep your analytic skills sharp, and explode the door open for creativity.
Literature is tough however, and it is hard to make a living off of your writing. For example, did you know that the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, lived in her vehicle while she wrote those books and was rejected by a plethora of publishers before finally accepted?
Here is a list of some of the top people in literature that ever existed—these people have changed many lives.
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was baptized in the Episcopal Church but moved to Britain with his family. He later traveled back to the U.S.A. to serve in the military, which he eventually left to attend the University of Virginia to study languages. In 1827 he published his first book. In 1833 he was awarded a prize by Baltimore Saturday Visiter for his short story “Ms. Found in a Bottle.” He served many terms in the military throughout the years but was discharged in 1829. In 1830 however, he matriculated as a cadet. His wife died in 1847 and he died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1849.
Here is a small list of some of his most famous books:
- The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
- The Black Cat
- The Murders in Rue Morgue
- The Cask of Amontillado
- The Masque of the Red Death
- The Fall of the House of Usher
- The Tell-Tale Heart
- The Pit and the Pendulum
- The Raven
Although some might think of Anne Frank and not automatically associate her as one of the great persons in literature, her diary has traveled many places and touched many lives. She was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany and in 1942 her family went into hiding in a secret annex. On her 13th birthday, Anne got the best gift she could have ever gotten—her diary. She wrote in it for the next 2 years and her last diary entry was on August 1, 1944. (The Frank Family was arrested prior to that from their hideout in the Archterhuis in 1944). An American edition of the Anne Frank diary was published in 1952.
Charles Dickens was greatly regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period (correlating to the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901). He excelled at creating fictitious characters and in fact, his biographer Claire Tomalin claims Dickens is the best character creator of all time behind only one man— William Shakespeare. One of his best known books, David Copperfield, actually was his “most autobiographical” piece. In it tells the story of a young boy whose father died and was sent off to boarding school when his cruel stepfather took his place.
Dickens was also a leader in social reform and fought for children’s rights. Some of his most famous pieces include:
- The Adventures of Oliver Twist
- The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
- A Christmas Carol
- Great Expectations
- David Copperfield
Philip Rudy is a blogger for a law firm in Southfield, MI. In his spare time Philip loves reading and is a big fan of the three people mentioned in this article. He one day hopes to write a book of his own.
Lessons: Stories that connect from Stories Connect
By Sally Flint
People’s lives have been changed not only by reading and discussing literature, but by writing creatively too. In Exeter, England, this has culminated in publishing a book of linked short stories and poems. This book is Lessons and it comes from Stories Connect—a community project, similar in format to Changing Lives Through Literature, that takes place outside prisons to help ex-offenders, substance misusers and other vulnerable people get over difficult times in their lives.
In 2011, after reading Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads and Andrea Levy’s Small Island, discussions centred on the significance of characters in storytelling, how our lives interconnect, and how perceptions of one another can be very different according to our individual experiences. Rather than read more texts to illustrate this, both the participants and facilitators of Stories Connect began a collaborative writing experiment.
Each person invented a character—then got to know his imaginary person through answering a questionnaire which not only detailed a physical description and obvious things such as what the character did for a job, but also smaller things such as what the character kept under his bed. Once each character was firmly established in each writer’s mind the group discussed how the characters’ lives might overlap and be brought together. Part of the success of this collection is that each writer firmly took ownership of his own imaginary character and stepped into his character’s shoes.
However, to bring the characters together it was decided something more was needed—an event. Parties and weddings and all sorts of other occasions were brainstormed and somehow, out of talking about school reunions, the idea surfaced that the characters would all attend a memorial service for a recently retired headmaster, Keith Simon Lung.
Everyone discussed, debated and created—then each person wrote his character’s story in a way that linked to the headmaster and his memorial. The stories took months to shape, edit and bring together as an anthology. This process fostered an environment of trust and commitment. It motivated both participants and facilitators to further improve their communicative and observational skills. Everyone worked hard to make each story stand alone, while ensuring there are many intriguing links to be made across the whole collection and questioned by the reader.
Some of the contributors had never written a story or poem before while some had read and written lots. Perhaps what this book reveals best, and why the group wanted it published, is to show how the process of writing brought them together. The result, Lessons, proves that stretching imaginations and the practice of storytelling unites people at all levels, regardless of age, background, ethnicity or past histories. In the process of creating, the group encountered the unexpected and overcame challenges and, it has to be said, they all laughed lots!
“This is a consummate piece of group story-telling, a feat of cooperation and collaboration,” writes poet and broadcaster Matt Harvey in the book’s forward. He supports and works with Stories Connect.
Lessons is published by Dirt Pie Press, University of Exeter: www.riptidejournal.co.uk
For more information, e-mail either:
Dr. Sally Flint, facilitator and publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org
Louise Ross, Stories Connect co-ordinator: email@example.com
By Mary Bell
Reading is definitely an escape from stress. It provides readers with an alternative world and imagination beyond recognition. It also provides information and different insights regarding recent and past issues that affect people of different statures. A relationship between readers and writers provide an ongoing cycle of demand and supply yet some are not aware of their rights as a producer and consumer.
Being a reader also has rights. Whether big or small, a bookworm can always be harassed into reading materials that he or she might not really want to entertain or acknowledge. Below is the list of rights of an avid reader. Knowing this might not only help them choose what to read, but also help them why and how to read. These may be obvious guidelines, but it will still help those who are still not aware of their rights.
1. The right to not read.
Like any other consumers, readers can choose what to and what not to read. You are not obliged to view materials that may be offensive or does notpertain to your field of interest.
2. The right to skip pages.
A reader may skip the pages of any book, magazine, leaflet, or handbook he/she buys. This exemplifies that the reader may not be entertained or satisfied with the contents of the page or the reader might have already read the contents of the pages already.
3. The right to not finish.
Whether it’s due to boredom or lack of interest, a reader may choose not to finish a certain reading material. He/she can always replace or put a book in the shelf if it does not satisfy his/her interest anymore.
4. The right to reread.
Obviously, readers have the right to read a book over and over again. May it be for research or just pure entertainment, the bookworm has the right to read his/her books any number of times he/she wants.
5. The right to escapism
The reader has the right to turn the book into an escape from reality. Whatever topic it may be, he/she is privileged to venture into another world through the pages of a book.
6. The right to read anywhere.
Readers need not to worry about the place they read their favorite books, as long as they are not offending anyone.
7. The right to browse.
Readers have the right to browse through a book before purchasing it. This enables them to get a preview of what content the book holds and may help them in being interested about a certain topic.
8. The right to read out loud.
A person is entitled to read out loud unless an area or institution prohibits noise. Try reading out loud in your room, kitchen, bathroom or wherever you want. It helps to bring out the emotions of the material you are reading.
9. The right to write about what you read.
Book lovers are entitled to be writers too. They can write anything about the books they are reading as well as give reviews and insights on its content.
On a writer’s point of view, creating a masterpiece takes a lot of time and effort. They are usually criticized on how they write the storylines and what content they put into their hard bounded memoirs. If you are interested in becoming a writer, you should know your rights and should not be afraid to emphasize them while doing your work. Below are the rights of writers and journalists. May these lines be helpful to you and your work.
1. The right to be reflective. Every writer has the right to reflect on what he/she is experiencing at the time. Whether it is a happy or painful experience, writers have the right to stop and reflect on the issues they are interested in writing about.
2. The right to choose a personally important topic.
A writer is has every right to write about an issue that affects him or her mostly. Giving insights on a certain topic, writers may express their feelings and insights whether it is favorable or not to a certain issue.
3. The right to go “off topic.”
Writers may choose to explore other topics that may still be related to the issue they are writing about. This gives new ideas and insights to the readers as well as aspiring bloggers and writers.
4. The right to personalize the writing process.
Every writer has the right to be recognized for his/her writing style. Remember, no two writers have the same style in writing. If so, that would be plagiarism.
5. The right to write badly.
Being an imperfect being, writers are also allowed to commit mistakes. That’s why they have a draft of their works so that they can edit it before publishing.
6. The right to “see” others write.
A writer has the right to observe other writers. This is essential for their work and may help them finish a book or article that they are currently working on.
7. The right to be assessed well.
Writers have the right to choose their review panel in order to have a feeling of fairness.
8. The right to go beyond formula.
Writers have the right to go beyond the traditional style of writing in order to create interesting and unique topics and storylines that capture the eyes and hearts of readers.
9. The right to find your own voice.
Writers have the right to find their own unique writing style in order to catch reader’s attention. Nothing prohibits a writer from becoming unique and creating his/her own voice.
These are but just simple and obvious privileges of writers and readers. We should be aware of every right and make sure to apply them whenever we feel violated and offended.
Mary Bell is a law and business blogger. She is a freelance lawyer and a full time mother of two wonderful kids. You may likely find her writing about related subjects and/or writing for companies like BailBondsDirect.com that has been in the bail bond industry since 1999. She has recently blogged about Bail Bonds.
By Bettina Borders and Estella Rebeiro
One day several years ago, Katherine Knowles, the director of the Zeiterion, approached the Juvenile Court to offer the possibility for court-involved youth to attend Zeiterion performances. Ms. Knowles envisioned the Z as a valuable community resource and wanted to extend it’s reach to include everyone. In her mind, this also meant the kids most folks want to forget.
There are many words used to describe these kids, trouble makers, delinquents, “druggies,” problem kids, misguided, etc. Ms. Knowles thought that perhaps some of them could find something at the Z to facilitate “turning them around.” It sounded good to the court. Why not try it. By and large these were kids with little opportunity to attend the Z on their own resources. Thus through the vision of Ms. Knowles and the generosity of her board, an ostensibly unlikely partnership began. Under the supervision of probation, young people from our court, and often their families, began to attend the varied theatrical performances offered by the Z.
There were several permutations to this partnership, which is part of two alternative sentencing initiatives supervised by probation and the court. At one point Ms. Knowles identified an anonymous donor who wanted to have the kids attend the theater in style. A limousine appeared at the courthouse, picked the kids up and drove them around various scenic areas of the city before dropping them, and their parents, at the Z. Later they were picked up and returned to the courthouse.
At another time, the youth participating in an alternative sentencing program, Changing Lives Through Literature, read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and later attended the play, courtesy of the Z. There have been plays, musicals, storytelling, dance, theater and magic performances these youth have had the opportunity to see. But the question remains: What has it meant?
For most of these youth and their families, this is an extraordinary experience. First, they are having a wonderful experience together, one that most of us take for granted. The probation officers who accompany these youth have watched while the demeanor of these kids transforms as the evening unfolds. They are indistinguishable from the rest of the audience; polite, engaged, attentive, well behaved, well dressed, inquisitive, mesmerized by the magical extravaganzas they are watching. They are out of their “comfort zone” and yet “belong” in this new environment. It is wonderful to hear about as the probation officers report back to the court.
But the transformation does not end there. The youth are asked to write about their experiences or discuss them in groups. Each youth is excited, energized and articulate when dissecting the play or gushing over the virtuosity of dancers or musicians. Many “thank yous” by letter and by mouth are sent by the youths. Another lesson learned. These are experiences we want for all of the youth in our community and Ms. Knowles and the Board of the Z must be commended for making them accessible to those teens least likely to find their way to the beautiful Z.
Art, we know, can transform people, all people. Ms. Knowles and her board have set a high standard for accessibility to art. One that can be replicated in many other areas of our community, particularly for youth. Our youth have much to learn from its leaders and the places frequented by them. Our court certainly appreciates the efforts made by the Z to include these youth. As Ms. Knowles says at the beginning of a performance: “Let the magic begin.” Perhaps she is on to something.
Honorable Bettina Borders is first justice of Bristol County Juvenile Court in New Bedford. Estella Rebeiro is senior probation officer. This op-ed was originally posted in the South Coast Today.
By Jeffrey Roe
Most people intending to become librarians often have strong memories associated with their school libraries and the people who worked in them. Those memories are likely what draws some librarians back to primary school, where they work to foster and promote literacy, learning, and, simply, a love of books. Others opt to go into research, working in high profile special collections with fragile documents full of unique information or of particular significance to history.
Few library students probably envision working in a prison library as their ideal place of employment. Contrary to what you might think, working as a prison librarian isn’t a maligned path so much as an overlooked one; it’s simply not a job on most people’s radar. This is unfortunate, as working in a prison library offers librarians a unique environment, one that is proactive in promoting education, literacy, and civic engagement, among other ideals closely related to the mission of libraries everywhere.
Becoming a prison librarian isn’t particularly difficult. As with all professional libraries, prison librarians must have a degree in library science, generally at the master’s level (MLS). Experience working in a civilian library (such as a school or public library) is also generally required. Some experience working in corrections is also ideal, but not required; it’s simply a good idea to understand the constraints that prison puts upon both the incarcerated and those who serve them. You could accomplish this by volunteering at a prison.
It’s important to understand what a library is to someone who’s been incarcerated: It is a place where inmates escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life, where they learn to improve their literacy, write letters, watch instructional videos and so much more. Prison libraries don’t differ much from public libraries in terms of content, though some do have dedicated legal sections. Prison libraries even sometimes host book clubs! Library services can be integrated with other services for the incarcerated, like visitation.
Prison libraries, like public libraries, suffer at the whims of state finances, but differ from their public counterparts in other significant ways. Internet is often unavailable to inmates or librarians; when it is available to librarians, it is only during hours when inmates are not present. Prison librarians also act as corrections officers, taking on the responsibility of supervising both the inmates working in the library and those using its services. Generally, inmates tend to treat librarians with a degree of respect since the services the library provides offer prisoners a respite from prison life and a way to better themselves and their situation. Prisoners who engage in educational programs, such as library services, tend to stay out of prison upon release at higher rate than those without access to such programs. Just another reason to consider becoming a prison librarian.
Jeffrey Roe is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. USC Rossier Online provides current teachers and those working on becoming a teacher with the opportunity to earn a masters in education completely online. In his free time, Jeff enjoys attending concerts and developing his talents as a videomaker.
By Sandy Atwood
“The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” – Michael Brunner, Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential.
As a Research Fellow at the National Institute of Justice, Michael Brunner drew a very stark link between poor reading skills and criminal conviction. A recent (2010) study has shown that 85% of all persons who are remanded to juvenile courts are functionally illiterate. Among adults, 70% of all inmates cannot read above the 4th grade level, and 60% are functionally illiterate. It is, of course, only one symptom of a matrix of conditions which lead to crime, but it is at least an area in which concrete improvement can be made and, perhaps, through such improvement the matrix can be changed.
While literacy programs, particularly prison-based, are not panaceas, they can benefit criminal offenders. In order to motivate offenders to improve their literacy, however, there must be some clear benefit. The following four advantages for prison inmates can be presented as inducements for inmates to improve their reading skills and to begin to read on a regular basis. These incentives are arranged from the most personal – even selfish – to larger and more long-term benefits.
Doing Time Between the Covers
Incarceration is boring. Yes, there is always the potential for violence – sometimes punctuated with active onslaught – but, for the most part, it is a life of monotony. This is why, for generations, the slang term for being in prison has been “doing time.” Entertainment of any kind is valued, which is why sports, games, hobbies and television are appreciated to such a high degree. If an inmate can be convinced of the entertainment value of reading as a pleasurable (and non-violent) means of spending time, the incentive for striving for better reading skills to enable him or her to read for enjoyment is that much greater. It allows an inmate to indulge in one of the great positive values of reading: Escapist fiction.
All human beings – and perhaps especially criminal offenders – have a tendency to believe that their situations are unique. Obviously, by being in prison, an inmate shares a common experience with many others, but there is still an isolating feeling that they are experiencing something that has never, quite happened to anyone else. Literature, biographies and history texts are replete with examples of others who have not only shared any individual convict’s experience, but have risen above that situation. It can be called “inspirational” reading, in the sense that the reader can experience a way out of his current situation; by reading about how others have overcome adversity can motivate him to attempt to do the same.
Even beyond individual isolation, criminal offenders are often socially and geographically isolated. They often grown up in and lived in a narrowly bound area – a defined neighborhood – and have a limited number of friends and acquaintances. No medieval villager has ever lived so bounded a life as many modern criminal offenders, even outside prison. By improving their reading skills, and practicing them, an inmate has literally the entire length and breadth of human history – and beyond – and all the earth – and beyond – to explore. This is more than escapism, it is a revelation that there are other possibilities, other places and other futures than what they had ever considered before.
A Library Ladder
If, as is often the case, a criminal offender has not experienced much success in a formal classroom setting, literature can provide a self-guided, self-motivated and self-taught course of education. Auto didacts can often achieve amazing results in broadening their knowledge, language skills and motivation for a less painful life. This is particularly true if, once a reader realizes what a treasure lies at their fingertips, they have a mentor to guide them on some of the possible styles, authors and genres they might have otherwise missed.
There is an old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, all the problems look like nails.” Literature can provide criminal offenders with an entire toolbox from which to choose solutions. No, literature is not a single remedy for all the troubles of the world, but it can add to the value to a troubled life.
By Aniya Wells
All the arts have their own unique virtues and strengths: the tactility of sculpture, the grace of dance, the vividness of cinema, the interactivity of gaming. None of these can be entirely replicated when a concept is adapted from one medium to another, no matter how skilled the adaptation.
With all the proliferation of new high-tech art forms since the Industrial Revolution, what is it in prose fiction that has not been bested or replaced? I would argue that it is the psychological depth of understanding, the interior experience of another, dissimilar person’s life.
It’s interesting to note that if anything, this faculty of fiction only deepened with the dawn of the modern era – just as phonographs and kinetoscopes and other newfangled devices that would change our media landscape were appearing, Henry James and others were drilling ever deeper into the human psyche with more novelistic sophistication. This tendency only increased to its logical limit: stream of consciousness. A temporary rebuke followed in the form of an avant garde who rejected the notion of literary character as we had known it, most prominently Alain Robbe-Grillet and the nouveau roman, but also certain American postmodernists.
But the fact remains that we read to experience being someone else. Allow me to suggest that this is another, more optimistic view of what is sometimes pejoratively called “escapism.” To be sure, it is a dubious proposition that we are morally enlarged by putting ourselves in the rather dapper shoes of, say, James Bond. But nevertheless, even in the tritest cases, reading remains an out-of-body experience, a stepping-stone to a more selfless or expansive awareness.
In many cases, this can take an overtly salutary political dimension. How many young consciences have been informed by the inclusion of To Kill a Mockingbird on syllabuses across the country, opened just a little to a bigger idea of justice? True, many other mainstays of high school literature classes are more groaningly didactic than that lovely book, assigned in hopes of much the same effect, but this hardly need be the case for reading to be edifying.
There is a sort of spiritual stretching that takes place when we take seriously the lives of others. We see it in those whose provincial prejudices are stretched by real-life friendships with those outside their in-group. We see it too in the sensitivity of the avid reader, hungry for the experience of new perspectives.
This is not to say that the well-read are automatically more moral; to be sure, there are many impeccably educated villains in this world. Moreover, the purpose of fiction is not ultimately to edify but to be beautiful and entertaining. Plato understood this and was suspicious of poets for this reason. It’s important to keep our awareness of this line between aesthetics and morality. But I would maintain that they more often go together in the end, that to enter into the mind of another is to be given a glimpse of something larger.
Aniya Wells is a freelance blogger whose primary focus is writing about online degree programs. She also enjoys investigating trends in other niches, notably technology, traditional higher education, health, and small business. Aniya welcomes reader questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.