Posted by admin on 04.15.2008 at 11:24 am
On one hand, I’m tempted to post this just because of its prose, which is beautifully done. On the other hand I’m tempted to post this because it’s a Nobel lecture for literature, which is certainly a worthy post. But what made me give in to temptation was her involvement with getting books to the African continent (something we know a little about, having shipped 920,000+ books to our partners…)
I am standing in a doorway looking through clouds of blowing dust to where I am told there is still uncut forest. Yesterday I drove through miles of stumps, and charred remains of fires where, in ’56, there was the most wonderful forest I have ever seen, all now destroyed. People have to eat. They have to get fuel for fires.
This is north-west Zimbabwe in the early eighties, and I am visiting a friend who was a teacher in a school in London. He is here “to help Africa,” as we put it. He is a gently idealistic soul and what he found in this school shocked him into a depression, from which it was hard to recover. This school is like every other built after Independence. It consists of four large brick rooms side by side, put straight into the dust, one two three four, with a half room at one end, which is the library. In these classrooms are blackboards, but my friend keeps the chalks in his pocket, as otherwise they would be stolen. There is no atlas or globe in the school, no textbooks, no exercise books, or biros. In the library there are no books of the kind the pupils would like to read, but only tomes from American universities, hard even to lift, rejects from white libraries, or novels with titles like Weekend in Paris and Felicity Finds Love.
There is a goat trying to find sustenance in some aged grass. The headmaster has embezzled the school funds and is suspended, arousing the question familiar to all of us but usually in more august contexts: How is it these people behave like this when they must know everyone is watching them?
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, africa, books, nobel prize
Posted by admin on 04.11.2008 at 4:52 pm
Today if you want to find five good looking guys who are into supporting literacy by selling books (as well as bicycling, basketball, and Patriot League sports/Notre Dame football) then swing by the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. There, if you can wade through the awesomeness at the Greenfest you’ll find, Rudy (of ARC fame), Xavier, Justin, Geoff and myself making the rounds and reppin’ BWB at our booth. Come by, get a shirt, tote or just say hey!
Expect some new enhanced (ooooo!) content this weekend.
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, green festival, seattle
Posted by admin on 04.09.2008 at 11:02 am
Over at The Guardian they have posted a fabulous set of contrasting viewpoints on the topic:
“I love a good semicolon, but this sounds like one of those Literature is Dead! Stories that The New York Times likes to run,” he says. “I’ve never heard from a reader confused by one of my semicolons, and I don’t remember ever throwing a book aside for being semicolon-free.”
The late Kurt Vonnegut, meanwhile, takes the subtle approach and compares semicolons to cross-dressing she-males: “If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts. But do not use semicolons,” he has cautioned. “They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
Where do you stand on the topic?
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, grammar, semicolon
Posted by admin on 04.08.2008 at 8:50 am
From left to right: David Hoffman, Christian Blue, Chris Johnson, Walter Sears (center left), Tom Warth (center right), Jacob Fu, Pat Plonski and Dustin Holland.
I wanted to share a couple of highlights from the Library Division’s trip to Minneapolis to exhibit at the Public Library Association’s biannual conference. We tend to measure our impact on literacy through books donated or revenue raised and no doubt, that’s important. What was interesting about this week was the impact some of our key literacy partners had on us!
The 1st day we spent almost entirely with Tom Warth and Pat Plonski, the Founder and Executive Director respectively of Books For Africa. With their warehouse in St. Paul, we also had the good fortune of touring their facility later that evening. For Tom and Pat to take their time that weekend with the Better World Books crew, made a big impression on me. Two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and you know exactly where their hearts are in terms of ending the book famine in Africa.
In keeping with our Non Profit Literacy Partner’s involvement in the conference, we kicked off the weekend by attending John Wood’s opening keynote address. This really helped me understand more in depth the business model that Room to Read employs. His speech clearly struck a chord with all who were in the room because the conference was buzzing all weekend with Room to Read’s cause. John was gracious enough to mention Better World Books’ support for his mission and that resulted in a firestorm of visitors to our booth to find out how their library can utilize our Library Discards & Donations Program to benefit Room to Read. Thanks John!
Thursday evening, after the exhibits closed, we were treated to the New Orleans Public Library’s Master Plan Party. We started off at the swank digs of Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle where we were given a taste of the vision and direction that the NOPL Foundation has taken in their efforts to ReBuild New Orleans Public Libraries. As MS&R’s spokesman touched on, there is a deeper relevance that exists in an architect located at the start of the Mississippi River, providing services to the rebuilding effort down at the mouth. It’s remarkable to think of it in that sense; the ability of one terrible event to engage a nation of people. People like Irvin Mayfield who sits on the board of NOPL’s Foundation and with a hot jazz trumpet and complementary band, encapsulates the rebirth of New Orleans. Following the presentation at MS&R, the Better World Books crew had the unique opportunity to attend Irvin’s live performance that night. He played a total of 3 nights in Minneapolis and all raised funding for the New Orleans Public Library.
Irvin Mayfield, Jazz Trumpeter
How about that! A summary of highlights from Minneapolis and not one mention of the Mall of America! Whoops!
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, library, Our Partners
Posted by admin on 04.07.2008 at 12:12 pm
So, a couple of weeks ago, the Better World Books list servs were on fire with reminders about Earth Hour (If you haven’t heard of it, Earth Hour started in Australia in 2007. 2.2 million people and 2100 businesses in Sydney decreased the town’s energy usage by 10.2% by turning off non-essential lights for one hour).
I was revved for the newest of alternative holidays and had a bunch of folks were over to enjoy a nice candlelit dinner between 8-9, central time. I turned out every light, unplugged each appliance, followed the instructions to a T. I even unplugged things like unused phone chargers – no energy seepage allowed. Once the house was dark and we were ready to go, it turned out that in my whole house – seriously the whole house — there was only one candle. Oops… So, our candlelit dinner was the darkest candlelit dinner of my life. Dark like “How far is the fork from my mouth?” dark. Next year, I will have enough candles that folks walking past will think there is a raging fire inside my house.
Our participation stemmed from all the e-mails that circulated here at Better World Books (word of mouth is always the best form of promotion). That got me wondering how many other folks participated this year. I can’t find any real estimates of bodies involved, but I do know (from Earth Hour’s website) that in 2008, 38 countries participated in Earth Hour!
Among these were both Canada and the US, and get this: 146 cities in 12 of the 13 Canadian provinces participated! This then made me realize that since the Rocky Mountain Region was expanded to include Canada, I’ve communicated with so many generous, globally conscious students and bookstores that of course Canada would have rockstar representation.
So, my point: If Sydney can reduce energy usage by 10.2% in one hour, imagine the awesome results of having 38 countries involved! Imagine the results of just the 146 cities in Canada!
There are 1000s of easy ways to help keep our planet green, but Earth Hour is a crazy easy way to support a greener globe. So, spread the word to your friends and family that Earth Hour 2009 starts at 8 p.m. local time in roughly 356 days. While spreading the word, remind your loved-ones to buy some candles.
The Earth Hour website highlights some energy saving tips for your home/school/work life — but our purchasing habits are another great place to make a difference! All the books you buy from Betterworld.com are shipped to you carbon neutral and most of them are used; so buy a book, save some trees, reduce some carbon outputs – hooray!
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, earth hour, green for all
Posted by admin on 04.04.2008 at 10:21 am
Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full
Hey readers, I was just checking out the New York Times when I saw that their feature “Reading Room” was tackling Tom Wolfe’s great-text-cum-awful-movie, Bonfire of the Vanities. “Reading Room” is an excellent discussion about a text. In this case it begins with an hour long podcast with Wolfe, discussing everything from journalism to his thesis to his works and then moves forward with some really fascinating discussion about race and the book as a period piece (which I would say, and they would agree, that it is most certainly not).
Posted by admin on 04.03.2008 at 10:02 am
StoryTubes is here! From New York to California, kids in Grades 1-6 are talking up their favorite books. You can too!
Along with your parent or guardian, follow these simple steps:
–Make a 2-minute video about your favorite book;
–Upload the video to YouTube; and
–Come to this StoryTubes website and send in the link to your uploaded YouTube video using the online Contest Entry Form.
- >Voting mania will then begin and happen each week in May! At the end of each week, one lucky contestant will win $500 in books. Their sponsoring organization (school, library or designated organization for home-schooled youth) will receive $1,000 in books.
Four Video Categories:
From or For the Heart
Of Heroes and Heroines
Facts, Fads and Phenoms
Tell the story about your favorite book today. When entering, please don’t use your last name in the video. Entries will be evaluated on creativity, content and performance.
OK kids and parents, “let’s see the videotape!”
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, children's books, literacy, storytubes
Posted by admin on 04.02.2008 at 11:02 am
I came across a pretty interesting article by Rachel Donadio in the New York Times this Sunday. Check out a bit of it:
Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”
We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.
Reading this, (despite the overt and somewhat heavy handed Pushkin reference that flies in the face of Donadio’s later quip a la Burroghs about the guy holding Beckett’s “Proust”) I was intrigued. We’ve all had relationships that went one way or the other and education and taste in books (and movies) has definitely been an issue in the early stages. I remember a girl I dated who was rather offended when I referred to Grisham as “beach worthy kitsch” and another who could never understand my lack of appreciation of the perfection of Austen’s complete works.
Fundamentally though, it’s the boring, hipster-esque snarkiness that creeps into the article that begins to take over any agreement, mocking men’s reading as middlebrow should they briefly embrace Ayn Rand, John Irving or Virginia Woolf (heaven forbid we read something with feminist tones that is actually well written! Stupid guys…).
The two quotes that really do it for me are “…Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.” The next time a girl is telling me about a life changing experience or a book she likes I’ll make sure to act like a total jerk, talking about how painfully quotidian her experiences are. Geez. If you can’t talk to me about the latest installation at MoMa (which is way overrated, I liked ______ better when people didn’t know his work as well) then you may as well embrace gender as social construct and pay your own bill and leave.
Then Donadio paints an altogether different picture, of someone not bored to tears, but actually amused by the banal baseness of a would be beau: “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” I will give Donadio this, can’t you just see this woman sitting across the table from a guy tittering about the clunky language of someone undertaking the task of 400+ pages of philosophic bildungsroman written in her non-native tongue? Clearly Rand should’ve taken cues from Solzhenitisyn’s “First Circle!”
Donadio notes “Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony.” Trouble is, in this article she can’t navigate her own advice, at once sounding disingenuous and flippantly certain. I like the concept of the article but trying to wade through all the Big Apple affectations of over-education is as rewarding as wading through the garbage in the East River (people wonder why I couldn’t swim until I was 12 even though I grew up in the Bronx…)
Luckily I remembered it was a fluff piece just in time… “If that person slept with the novelist in question, that would probably be a deal breaker — more than, ‘I don’t like Don DeLillo, therefore we’re not dating anymore.”
(that would be a deal breaker…)
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, books, dating, humor, new york times, snarkiness
Posted by admin on 04.01.2008 at 1:19 pm
Check out this month’s edition of our recurring feature, Worldfund’s Student of the Month. Worldfund is our Latin American non-profit literacy partner and we look to support them in any way we can as they support youths such as:
Six-year-old Dina is a kindergarten student at Worldfund’s partner school in El Salvador, Mano Amiga San Antonio . A confident and friendly girl, Dina works hard in school and helps with chores at home.
Sadly, she already has experienced myriad hardships, including a life of poverty, abandonment by her father, and the death of her mother. Dina and her younger brother Oscar live with their elderly grandmother, Adela. Until recently, they lived in a house that was constructed with sticks and scrap materials and located in a community made up of small islands surrounded by raw sewage and trash.
In 2006, the school’s Director arranged for Dina to attend Mano Amiga San Antonio. Dina’s enrollment marked a turning point in the lives of everyone in her family. Dina’s brother Oscar is now a student at the school, and the Director facilitated the family’s move into a house in CIDECO (Centro Integral de Desarrollo Comunitario), a special community affiliated with the school that provides housing, medical care and access to literacy, hygiene and other classes that help families live with dignity and transition out of poverty. Adela, Dina and Oscar have benefited from the activities and classes, learning to eat with plates and utensils, and learning about personal hygiene, among other things.
The scholarship that Dina receives enables her to receive a high-quality education and she takes advantage of all that the school has to offer. Since Dina enrolled in the school, her attitude has improved significantly. She especially enjoys attending her pre-mathematics class and playing soccer with her friends.
The stark contrast between Dina’s life before and after enrolling in the school demonstrates the transformative effect that generous donations and high-quality education have on impoverished children’s lives.
Have your say » | Tagged Impact, Our Partners, Impact, Our Partners, worldfund
Posted by admin on 04.01.2008 at 11:35 am
Post swiped from the NCFL’s hot new blog, “Literacy Now.”
The good times just keep rolling! Here are some of the conference highlights from Monday:
David Murphy of Better World Books helped open the general session with thoughts about how Better World Books are working to .merge commerce and philanthropy in a way that will make the world a better place. One simple way to do that…shop BetterWorld.com to buy books from a company that balances profit, planet, and people.
- Marie Bradby shared the background and inspiration for her book, More Than Anything Else.
- The NCFL photo booth wrapped up with almost 70 groups visiting and having their pictures made. Keep an eye out for your picture in your local paper!
And we were honored with some great coverage in the local newspaper in Louisville. Click here to see the online version of Monday’s article in the Courier-Journal.
Photo gallery and comment over at the original post
Have your say » | Tagged Our Partners, david murphy, NCFL, Our Partners
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