Category Archives: Blogs

2017 Reading Challenge and Using Goodreads to Keep It Fun

My 2017 Reading Challenge and Using Goodreads to Keep it Fun

Every year I set at least one goal/resolution for myself.  Big surprise, it’s to read more — or at least read!  Each year since before I can remember, I have set a reading goal for myself, and while in the beginning when I was still in school, it was very low and only included pleasure reading (even if some of my history texts were pleasurable), I have incrementally increased my goal every year since.  This year I’ve set a goal of reading 115 full length books, up from 2016’s goal of 110, a goal I feel that I barely eked out, thanks to lots of life events that prevented me reading as much as I would have liked.

Back in the dark ages, I used to keep my lists by hand, and track the titles, authors, pages, etc. of all my books each year, but would end up inevitably losing or misplacing my notepad and having to try to guess and try to reconstruct my list or just plain make something up.   That’s when I found Goodreads.  Now, I am sure most of you are familiar with Goodreads as it’s been the most popular social network for readers and books for years, and even more so now that it has been acquired by Amazon, so I won’t get into the details.  Just what I like about a feature I surprisingly did not know about until recently to help me decide what to read next since that’s always a problem for me!


So if you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for new books and something new to read and always seem to have a never-ending pile or backlog of books on your “Want to Read” list.  I can’t resist bookstores or the free and reduced e-book lists out there for Kindle.  My favorites right now are BookGorilla (an email subscription for free and reduced books based on your genre preferences) and AtoZWire (scroll their list for the daily free Kindle deals).  Unfortunately(?) this has left me with a “to read” list of over 1450 books!!

My biggest problem was trying to remember what I had, and then deciding what to read next.  I know there are always some books I will gravitate to, like superhero graphic novels (MARVEL!) or Star Wars books, but after reading something great, I struggle to find something new, or just in general I might want something new and different.  This is where I found a neat trick to keep myself guessing.


One of the great things about the merging of Goodreads with Amazon (though I miss Shelfari a little bit) is the ability to add your Amazon purchases to your Goodreads account. It is also very simple, if you know where to look.  After logging into Goodreads, click on the “My Books” link on the top banner.  Mine is set to show me my “To Read” list, but it doesn’t matter what yours shows, you can still find the “Tools” on the left hand side of your screen.  Make sure you scroll down the list to the bottom and you’ll see the link to “Add Amazon book purchases.” Click on that link and give the next page a little time to load and you’ll see all the book (print and Kindle) purchases you have made!  Under each, there’s a button and you can automatically add these to your “Want to Read” list!  Don’t want to add something?? there’s an option for that too! This comes in handy at the next step in your surprise reading…



Now the fun can begin…  Jump to your “To Read” list and scroll all the way to the bottom.  There you will see a spot where you can sort your newly padded list.  The default from Goodreads is to show you 20 titles sorted by Date Added in descending order.  So in other words, the newest book will be added to the top of the list and everything else bumped down one. (but you knew that.)  All you need to do to give yourself a surprise next-to-read is click on the “sort” and choose “Random” like so:

Ascending and descending order doesn’t matter here and you can display as many titles as you like.  Now, each time you refresh, you will have a totally different list each time!  Here’s what I got for my test list for this post:


When I ran it a second time (F5 or refresh), I got this:


Two completely different lists!  SURPRISE!!  Now, you can pick and choose what you like from this first page, or what I have chosen to do is just take the top book on the list when I am ready.  So, I’ll finish Inferno, which I’m currently reading, and unless there is something I need to read, I will jump to my “To Read” list and take what Goodreads gives me!

I find this to be a big help, since I end up finding that I can’t stick to other reading suggestions or challenges that ask you to read certain books from certain categories, like the 52 book challenges you can find online.  Even though my personal goal is nearly double that, I can’t force myself to read something I am not interested in, there’s too much I am interested in out there, and I will always fall short on those.

Hopefully this little trick can help you find, or rediscover some of those “lost books” in your kindle or on your shelf that you forgot you were once interested in.  I know that since I found this out myself, I have read some very fun books (and some not so fun ones), but always something I know that I wanted to read — even if it was three years ago!

Let me know your challenge for yourself, if you have one!  If you would like to follow along with my reading on Goodreads, you can find my profile here.  Please feel free to follow me or send a friend request.

If you’re interested in my past reading goals and summaries:






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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Blogs, Tips & Tricks, Websites


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Return to My Roots — App & Site Reviews

Return to My Roots — App & Site Reviews

It’s been a long time since I really dedicated myself to the idea of providing links and reviews to different educational apps and websites that you can use in your library or instruction.  This occurred for a multitude of reasons, namely my growing young family took up a lot of my free time (as they should!) and some volatility in my own employment between moving and finding the right fit in a school district and library.

Fortunately both of these have settled down a great deal and I want to get back into the swing.  I have to admit, I was putting this off a little bit until I attended a great Bureau of Education & Research (BER) Seminar on Monday — “Making the Best use of Technology in Your School Library Program to Support Instruction and Enrich Student Learning” with Deborah Ford.  Because my former district was not too keen on sending me out for seminars, trainings, and workshops, I found that I had missed out a lot on the technology end since leaving Palmyra where my tech side was encouraged in 2013.  Now at Cumberland Regional, where my inner techie again is being encouraged and fed, I feel the ability to grow and thrive and share and learn again.  Frankly, it’s exciting and I need more hours in my day!

While I work through trying and testing the various websites, apps, and tools I was introduced to on Monday (there are so many!!!) I’ll make sure I share them here as I plan and test them out to turnkey to my colleagues here at CRHS.  Thank you BER and Deb Ford for re-kindling this in me!

Thanks so much for hanging in and for your continued support.  I can’t wait to share and hopefully find something that YOU can use and love as your work through your own teaching and planning.

If you ever have any concerns, questions, or comments — plesae never hesitate to contact me!


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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Blogs


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Moby Dick Big Read Project

Moby Dick — Big Read

I came across this site through Open Culture which is a fantastic repository of all kinds of great free history and pop culture.  The Moby Dick Big Read Project was an enormous undertaking to record all 135 chapters of the novel into an audiobook format with each of the chapters read by a different voice.  Combining the voices of the known and unknown but all important this project has injected new live into one of the greatest American novels.

You can listen to the audio on the Big Read site itself, through iTunes, or through SoundCloud.

H/T to both Open Culture for the original post and Book Riot for pointing me their way.

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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Blogs, Websites


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PSA – New Book Review Blog

HI Everyone,

I just wanted to make you aware that if you are interested in my thoughts about new (and some old) books, please check out my companion site NJBiblio Reads for books and book reviews.

I will continue to update here daily, and add content to NJBiblio Reads as I finish each of my many reading adventures!

Thanks for all your continued support and for your  readership — it truly means the world to me!

Charlie (NJBiblio)

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Blogs


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Feedly — Your Google Reader Alternative


With the inevitable demise of Google Reader, I, and many others I’m sure, have been scrambling to find a new feed reader to have access to all our blog subscriptions.  After a little searching, I have settled on my choice:  Feedly.

Like many others already, I was impressed by the look and feel of Feedly, which is very graphic oriented, giving options to preview blog posts as if through a newsfeed as well as providing an easy to use archive interface to catch up on back posts.  What most impressed me about Feedly, however, was the ease of transition away from Google Reader.  A simple add-on install in both Firefox and Chrome were able to integrate Feedly into my browser, so I can receive new post alerts, and one click completely synched my feeds from Google Reader – including read and saved blogs!  Feedly is also available as a free app for iPhones and iPads, as well as Android devices.

I’m not sure how many readers access the content of this blog, be it through e-mails, direct links, or a feed reader.  If you are using Google Reader though, I’d advise you to pick up Feedly today, and save yourself the trouble or lost and missing posts from this, or any blog, come July.

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Apps, Blogs, Tips & Tricks


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100+ Great Video Sites for Educators

100+ Great Video Sites for Educators

Looking to bring more multimedia resources into your classroom but you either are not able to find what you like on YouTube or are not allowed to show YouTube in your district, why not try some of these fantastic video sites that have content specifically made for teachers and education.  This list was complied in 2012 by Edudemic and all sites have been checked and as of this posting are live and functioning.

Educational Video Collections

Specifically designed for education, these collections make it easy to find video learning resources.

  • TeacherTube: This YouTube for teachers is an amazing resource for finding educationally focused videos to share with your classroom. You can find videos uploaded by other teachers or share your own.
  • Edutopia: An awesome place to find learning ideas and resources, Edutopia has videos, blogs, and more, all sorted into grade levels.
  • YouTube EDU: A YouTube channel just for education, you can find primary and secondary education, university-level videos, and even lifelong learning.
  • Classroom Clips: Classroom Clips offers media for educators and students alike, including video and audio in a browseable format.
  • neoK12: Find science videos and more for school kids in K-12 on neoK12.
  • OV Guide: Find education videos on this site, featuring author readings and instructional videos.
  • CosmoLearning: This free educational website has videos in 36 different academic subjects.
  • Google Educational Videos: Cool Cat Teacher offers this excellent tutorial for finding the best of Google’s educational videos.
  • Brightstorm: On Brightstorm, students can find homework help in math and science, even test prep, too.
  • shares live animal cams, films, educational channels, and more for your classroom to explore.
  • UWTV: Offered by the University of Washington, UWTV has videos in the arts, K-12, social sciences, health, and more.
  • With, you’ll get access to browseable lectures designed for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, offering videos in architecture, business, technology, and many more categories.
  • TED-Ed: From a site that’s long been known for big ideas, you’ll find TED-Ed, videos specifically designed to act as highly engaging and fun lessons.
  • Zane Education: Zane Education offers resources for visual learning, including the very popular on demand-subtitled videos.
  • Backpack TV: In this educational video library, you’ll find a special interest in math, science, and other academic subjects.
  • MentorMob: Featuring learning playlists, MentorMob is a great place to find lessons you want to teach.
  • Disney Educational Productions: This resource from Disney is a great place to find videos for students at the K-12 level.

General Video Collections

Network TV, inspiring talks, and more are all available in these collections. Check out special categories and searches to find videos that will work in your classroom.

  • Hulu: A great place to find the latest TV shows, Hulu is also a source of educational videos. Documentaries, PBS, even Discovery videos are all available on the site.
  • Internet Archive: Find so much more than videos in the Internet Archive. Images, live music, audio, texts, and yes, historical and educational videos are all available on
  • TED: Share seemingly endless inspiration with your students through TED, a fountain of talks based on compelling ideas.
  • MIT Video: Online education giant MIT has an incredible video collection, offering more than 10,000 videos for science, technology, and more.
  • TVO: TVO is a really fun and useful online TV station, with great ways for kids, parents, and educators to learn about the world.
  • Big Think: Much like TED, Big Think offers videos (and more) from some of the world’s top thinkers and learners.
  • @Google Talks: On this YouTube channel, you’ll find talks from creators: authors, musicians, innovators, and speakers, all discussing their latest creations.
  • Metacafe: Find free video clips from just about anywhere, offering educational videos, documentaries, and more.
  • Link TV: On Link TV, you’ll find videos and broadcasts meant to connect you and your students to the greater world through documentaries and cultural programs.

Teacher Education

Featuring higher-level learning, these video sites are great resources for finding education that’s fit for teachers.

  • Academic Earth: Learn about science, justice, economics, and more from some of the world’s great universities. You can even earn a degree from this site!
  • Teacher Training Videos: Specifically created to teach educators, Teacher Training Videos is a great place to find online tutorials for technology in education.
  • Classroom 2.0: Check out Classroom 2.0′s videos to learn about Web 2.0, social media, and more.
  • Atomic Learning: Visit Atomic Learning to find resources for K-12 professional development.
  • iTunesU: Find university-level learning and more from iTunesU.
  • Videos for Professional Development: An excellent collection of professional development videos, Wesley Fryer’s post shares some of the best teacher videos available.
  • Annenberg Learner offers excellent teacher professional development and classroom resources for just about every curriculum available.
  • MIT Open CourseWare: The leader in Open CourseWare, MIT has free lectures and videos in 2,100 courses.

Lesson Planning

Put together your lesson plans with the help of these useful video sites. (Most are full videos that take up at least a full 40-minute period.)

  • Teachers’ Domain: Join the Teachers’ Domain, and you’ll get access to educational media from public broadcasting and its partners, featuring media from the arts, math, science, and more.
  • Meet Me at the Corner: A great place for younger kids to visit, Meet Me At the Corner has educational videos, and kid-friendly episodes, including virtual field trips and video book reviews by kids, for kids.
  • WatchKnowLearn: WatchKnowLearn is an incredible resource for finding educational videos in an organized repository. Sorted by age and category, it’s always easy to find what you’re looking for.
  • BrainPOP: On this education site for kids, you’ll find animated educational videos, graphics, and more, plus a special section for BrainPOP educators.
  • The KidsKnowIt Network: Education is fun and free on this children’s learning network full of free educational movies and video podcasts.
  • Khan Academy: With more than 3,200 videos, Khan Academy is the place to learn almost anything. Whether you’re seeking physics, finance, or history, you’ll find a lesson on it through Khan Academy.
  • Awesome Stories: Students can learn the stories of the world on this site, with videos explaining what it was like to break ranks within the Women’s Movement, the life of emperor penguins, and even Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “We Shall Overcome” speech.
  • Nobelprize: Cap off lessons about Nobel Prize winners with videos explaining their work and life, direct from the source on
  • JohnLocker: JohnLocker is full of educational videos and free documentaries, including Yogis of Tibet and Understanding the Universe.

Science, Math, and Technology

You’ll find special attention for STEM subjects on these video sites.

  • Green Energy TV: On Green Energy TV, you’ll find learning resources and videos for the green movement, including a video version of the children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet.
  • BioInteractive: Find free videos and other resources for teaching “ahead of the textbook” from BioInteractive, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
  • ARKive: Share images and videos of the world’s most endangered species with your students, thanks to ARKive. These wildlife films and photos are from some of the world’s best filmmakers and photographers, sharing stunning images that everyone can appreciate.
  • MathTV: Students who need extra help with math can find support on MathTV. This site offers videos explaining everything from basic mathematics all the way to trigonometry and calculus.
  • The Vega Science Trust: A project of Florida State University, The Vega Science Trust shares lectures, documentaries, interviews, and more for students to enjoy and learn from.
  • The Science Network: Check out The Science Network, where you’ll find the world’s leading scientists explaining concepts including viruses and the birth of neurons.
  • PopTech: Bringing together a global community of innovators, PopTech has videos explaining economics, water, and plant-based fuels.
  • PsychCentral: Students can learn about what makes people tick through PsychCentral’s brain and behavior videos.
  • How Stuff Works: The video channel from How Stuff Works offers an in-depth look at adventure, animals, food, science, and much more.
  • Science Stage: Find science videos, tutorials, courses, and more streaming knowledge on Science Stage.
  • Exploratorium TV: Allow students to explore science and beyond with Exploratorium TV’s videos, webcasts, podcasts, and slideshows.
  • SciVee: SciVee makes science visible, allowing searchable video content on health, biology, and more.
  • The Futures Channel: Visit the Futures Channel to find educational videos and activities for hands-on, real world math and science in the classroom.
  • All Things Science: For just about any science video you can imagine, All Things Science has it, whether it’s about life after death or space elevators.
  • ATETV: Check out Advanced Technological Education Television (ATETV) to find videos exploring careers in the field of technology.

History, Arts, and Social Sciences

Explore history and more in these interesting video collections.

  • The Kennedy Center: Find beautiful performances from The Kennedy Center’s Performance Archive.
  • The Archaeology Channel: Students can explore human cultural heritage through streaming media on The Archaeology Channel.
  • Web of Stories: On Web of Stories, people share their life stories, including Stan Lee, writer, Mike Bayon, WWII veteran, and Donald Knuth, computer scientist.
  • Stephen Spielberg Film and Video Archive: In this archive, you’ll find films and videos relating to the Holocaust, including the Nuremberg Trials and Hitler speeches.
  • Culture Catch: Students can tune into culture with Dusty Wright’s Culture Catch.
  • Folkstreams: On, a national preserve of documentary films about American roots cultures, you’ll find the best of American folklore films.
  • Digital History: A project of the University of Houston, Digital History uses new technology, including video, to enhance teaching and research in history.
  • History Matters: Another university project, this one is from George Mason University. Sharing primary documents, images, audio, and more, there’s plenty of historic multimedia to go around on this site.
  • Social Studies Video Dictionary: Make definitions visual with this video dictionary for social studies.
  • The Living Room Candidate: From the Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate features presidential campaign commercials from 1952 to 2008.
  • Video Active: Find Europe’s TV heritage through Video Active, a collection of TV programs and stills from European audiovisual archives.
  • Media Education Foundation: The Media Education Foundation offers documentary films and other challenging media for teaching media literacy and media studies.
  • English Central: Video series to help learners of English as a second language.

Video Tools

Make it easy to find, share, and view videos with these tools.

  • DropShots: On DropShots, you’ll find free, private, and secure storage and sharing for video and photos.
  • Muvee: Using Muvee, you can create your own photo and video “muvees” to share privately with your class.
  • Tonido: Tonido makes it possible to run your own personal cloud, accessing video files on your computer from anywhere, even your phone.
  • Vidique: On Vidique, you’ll find a video syndication system where you can create your own channel of curated content for the classroom.
  • SchoolTube: On SchoolTube, you’ll find video sharing for both students and teachers, highlighting the best videos from schools everywhere.

Network and Program Videos

Check out these sites to find public broadcasting and other educational programs.

  • PBS Video: Watch and share PBS videos online with this site.
  • National Geographic: Find some of the world’s most amazing videos of natural life on National Geographic’s online video home.
  • NOVA Teachers: NOVA shares highly organized videos for teachers, with 1-3 hour programs divided into chapters, plus short 5-15 minute segments from NOVA scienceNOW.
  • Discovery Education: Use Discovery Education’s videos to inspire curiosity, bringing the Discovery channel into your classroom.
  • C-SPAN Video Library: Find Congressional and other political programs and clips in this digital archive from C-SPAN.
  • NBC Learn: Check out NBC Learn to find excellent resources for learning from NBC, including the science behind just about everything from the summer Olympics to hockey.
  • Watch full episodes, clips, and videos from the History channel.
  • Biography: Get the true story behind peoples’ lives from these videos from the Biography channel.
  • BBC Learning: BBC offers an excellent learning site, including learning resources for schools, parents, and teachers. One of BBC’s most impressive resources is a live volcano conversation discussing the world’s most active volcano in Hawaii.

Free Movies and Clips

Documentaries and other educational movies and clips are available on these sites.

  • Free Documentaries: On Free Documentaries, “the truth is free,” with a variety of documentary films available for streaming.
  • SnagFilms: On SnagFilms, you can watch free movies and documentaries online, with more than 3,000 available right now.
  • Top Documentary Films: Watch free documentaries online in this great collection of documentary movies.
  • TV Documentaries: This Australian site has excellent documentaries about child growth, historic events, and even animations about classical Greek mythology.


Satisfy students’ desire for knowledge and hands-on learning by sharing how-to videos from these sites.

  • 5min: If you’ve got five minutes, you can learn how to do something on this site. Check it out to find instructional videos and DIY projects.
  • Wonder How To: Learn everything about anything from Wonder How To’s show and tell videos.
  • Instructables: This community of doers shares instructions (often, video) for doing just about anything, from making secret doors to tiny origami.
  • Howcast: Find some of the best how-to videos online with Howcast.
  • MindBites: Check out MindBites to find thousands of video lessons, how-tos, and tutorials.
  • W3Schools: Through W3Schools’ web tutorials (video and otherwise), you can learn how to create your own websites.
  • Videojug: Videojug encourages users to “get good at life” by watching more than 60,000 available how-to videos and guides.

Government and Organizations

Offered as a service from government organizations and other groups, these are great places to find top-notch educational videos and often, historical treasures.

  • US National Archives: Explore US history in this YouTube channel from the US National Archives.
  • National Science Foundation: From the National Science Foundation, you’ll find a wealth of multimedia, including instructional and educational videos.
  • NASA eClips: NASA offers a great way for students and educators to learn about space exploration, with clips divided by grade level.
  • NASA TV: Tune in to NASA TV to watch launches, talks, even space station viewing.
  • Library of Congress: Through the Library of Congress, you can find videos and other classroom materials for learning about American history.
  • American Memory Collections: Search America’s collective memory to find videos and other multimedia from the American past, including film and sound recordings from the Edison Companies and 50 years of Coca-Cola TV ads.
  • Canadian National Film Bureau: Check out the Canadian National Film bureau to find hundreds of documentaries and animated films available online.

The original list of the 100 best videos for educators can be found at Accredited Online Colleges

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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Blogs, Tips & Tricks


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Numberphile — Cool Math Videos


Their slogan is “Videos about numbers and stuff” and these are indeed fun, informative videos about all kinds of mathematical properties.  The goal of Numberphile is to take some of the more complex and abstract mathematical concepts and make them more accessible through their video series.

Stretching the gamut from explaining about the value and properties of pi (Π) through infinity, dividing by zero, complex encryption, through how to successfully order 43 chicken nuggets Numberphile has close to 100 individual videos available.  These are all hosted on YouTube, so make sure that you would be able to show them at school – or use a converter.  Videos range from about 3 minutes up through about 15, so they can be used as a supplement to a lesson or perhaps an alternate explanation of a concept you can direct students toward.

Numberphile does assume a level of competency in basic mathematical principles and operations in their videos, so this would most likely not be for lower level or struggling students.

Also of Interest – My post about Downloading Streaming Video and other Media might be helpful if your school filter will not allow access to videos through YouTube.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Blogs, Websites


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100 Books Every High School Student Should Read

100 Books Every High School Student Should Read

A quick hit today from the folks at with their list of the 100 Books Every High School Student Should Read. (Since removed from their website)

The idea here is that the classics are critical for high school students not only to get a jump on some college or university literature classes they may take, but also these are all books that “they are good books about the nature of the human condition. They reveal something magical about the workings of the world. They are invaluable to the person attempting to become an academic.”  Ranging all subjects and genres, this list of 100 Books does stick to fiction, but reading even a fraction of these will help enlighten any high school age reader.

  1. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: WH Auden thought this tale of fantastic creatures looking for lost jewellery was a “masterpiece”.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A child’s-eye view of racial prejudice and weird neighbours in Thirties Alabama.
  3. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore: A rich Bengali noble lives happily until a radical revolutionary appears.
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Earth is demolished to make way for a Hyperspatial Express Route. Don’t panic.
  5. One Thousand and One Nights Anon: A Persian king’s new bride tells tales to stall post-coital execution.
  6. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe : Werther loves Charlotte, but she’s already engaged. Woe is he!
  7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: The children of poor Hindus and wealthy Muslims are switched at birth.
  8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre: Nursery rhyme provides the code names for British spies suspected of treason.
  9. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons : Hilarious satire on doom-laden rural romances. “Something nasty” has been observed in the woodshed.
  10. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki: The life and loves of an emperor’s son. And possibly the world’s first novel?
  11. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch: A feckless writer has dealings with a canine movie star. Comedy and philosophy combined.
  12. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: Lessing considers communism and women’s liberation in what Margaret Drabble calls “inner space fiction.”
  13. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin: Passion, poetry and pistols in this verse novel of thwarted love.
  14. On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Beat generation boys aim to “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles.”
  15. Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac: A disillusioning dose of Bourbon Restoration realism. The anti-hero “Rastingnac” became a byword for ruthless social climbing.
  16. The Red and the Black by Stendhal: Plebian hero struggles against the materialism and hypocrisy of French society with his “force diame.”
  17. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: “One for all and all for one:” the eponymous swashbucklers battle the mysterious Milady.
  18. Germinal by Emile Zola: Written to “germinate” social change, Germinal unflinchingly documents the starvation of French miners.
  19. The Stranger by Albert Camus: Frenchman kills an Arab friend in Algiers and accepts “the gentle indifference of the world.”
  20. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: Illuminating historical whodunnit set in a 14th-century Italian monastry.
  21. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey: An Australian heiress bets an Anglican priest he can’t move a glass church 400km.
  22. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: Prequel to Jane Eyre giving moving, human voice to the mad woman in the attic.
  23. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Carroll’s ludic logic makes it possible to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
  24. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: Yossarian feels a homicidal impulse to machine gun total strangers. Isn’t that crazy?
  25. The Trial by Franz Kafka: K proclaims he’s innocent when unexpectedly arrested. But “innocent of what?”
  26. Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee: Protagonist’s “first long secret drink of golden fire” is under a hay wagon.
  27. Waiting for the Mahatma by RK Narayan: Gentle comedy in which a Gandhi-inspired Indian youth becomes an anti-British extremist.
  28. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque: The horror of the Great War as seen by a teenage soldier.
  29. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler: Three siblings are differently affected by their parents’ unexplained separation.
  30. The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin: Profound and panoramic insight into 18th-century Chinese society.
  31. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: Garibaldi’s Redshirts sweep through Sicily, the “jackals” ousting the nobility, or “leopards.”
  32. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino: International book fraud is exposed in this playful postmodernist puzzle.
  33. Crash by JG Ballard: Former TV scientist preaches “a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology.”
  34. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul: East African Indian Salim travels to the heart of Africa and finds “The world is what it is.”
  35. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Boy meets pawnbroker. Boy kills pawnbroker with an axe. Guilt, breakdown, Siberia, redemption.
  36. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: Romantic young doctor’s idealism is trampled by the atrocities of the Russian Revolution.
  37. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz: Follows three generations of Cairenes from the First World War to the coup of 1952.
  38. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson: This famous novella has been adapted for movies, opera and plays.
  39. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: Swift’s scribulous satire on travellers’ tall tales (the Lilliputian Court is really George I’s).
  40. My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk: A painter is murdered in Istanbul in 1591. Unusually, we hear from the corpse.
  41. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Myth and reality melt magically together in this Colombian family saga.
  42. London Fields by Martin Amis: A failed novelist steals a woman’s trashed diaries which reveal she’s plotting her own murder.
  43. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaoo: Gang of South American poets travel the world, sleep around, challenge critics to duels.
  44. The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse: Intellectuals withdraw from life to play a game of musical and mathematical rules.
  45. The Tin Drum by Gnter Grass: Madhouse memories of the Second World War. Key text of European magic realism.
  46. Austerlitz by WG Sebald: Paragraph-less novel in which a Czech-born historian traces his own history back to the Holocaust.
  47. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Scholar’s sexual obsession with a prepubescent “nymphet” is complicated by her mother’s passion for him.
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: After nuclear war has rendered most sterile, fertile women are enslaved for breeding.
  49. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger: Expelled from a “phony” prep school, adolescent anti-hero goes through a difficult phase.
  50. Underworld by Don DeLillo: From baseball to nuclear waste, all late-20th-century American life is here.
  51. Beloved by Toni Morrison: Brutal, haunting, jazz-inflected journey down the darkest narrative rivers of American slavery.
  52. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: “Okies” set out from the Depression dustbowl seeking decent wages and dignity.
  53. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin: Explores the role of the Christian Church in Harlem’s African-American community.
  54. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: A doctor’s infidelities distress his wife. But if life means nothing, it can’t matter.
  55. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: A meddling teacher is betrayed by a favourite pupil who becomes a nun.
  56. The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet: Did the watch salesman kill the girl on the beach? If so, who heard?
  57. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre: A historian becomes increasingly sickened by his existence, but decides to muddle on.
  58. The Rabbit books by John Updike: A former high school basketball star is unsatisfied by marriage, fatherhood and sales jobs.
  59. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: A boy and a runaway slave set sail on the Mississippi, away from Antebellum “sivilisation.”
  60. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle: A drug addict chases a ghostly dog across the midnight moors.
  61. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: Lily Bart craves luxury too much to marry for love. Scandal and sleeping pills ensue.
  62. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: A Nigerian yam farmer’s local leadership is shaken by accidental death and a missionary’s arrival.
  63. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A mysterious millionaire’s love for a woman with “a voice full of money” gets him in trouble.
  64. The Warden by Anthony Trollope: “Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money,” said WH Auden.
  65. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: An ex-convict struggles to become a force for good, but it ends badly.
  66. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis: An uncommitted history lecturer clashes with his pompous boss, gets drunk and gets the girl.
  67. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts” in this hardboiled crime noir.
  68. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson: Epistolary adventure whose heroine’s bodice is savagely unlaced by the brothel-keeping Robert Lovelace.
  69. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell: Twelve-book saga whose most celebrated character wears “the wrong kind of overcoat.”
  70. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky: Published 60 years after their author was gassed, these two novellas portray city and village life in Nazi-occupied France.
  71. Atonement by Ian McEwan: Puts the “c” word in the classic English country house novel.
  72. Life: a User’s Manual by Georges Perec: The jigsaw puzzle of lives in a Parisian apartment block. Plus empty rooms.
  73. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding : Thigh-thwacking yarn of a foundling boy sewing his wild oats before marrying the girl next door.
  74. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Human endeavours “to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world” have tragic consequences.
  75. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: Northern villagers turn their bonnets against the social changes accompanying the industrial revolution.
  76. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: Hailed by TS Eliot as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.”
  77. Ulysses by James Joyce: Modernist masterpiece reworking of Homer with humour. Contains one of the longest “sentences” in English literature: 4,391 words.
  78. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: Buying the lies of romance novels leads a provincial doctor’s wife to an agonising end.
  79. A Passage to India by EM Forster: A false accusation exposes the racist oppression of British rule in India.
  80. 1984 by George Orwell: In which Big Brother is even more sinister than the TV series it inspired.
  81. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne: Samuel Johnson thought Sterne’s bawdy, experimental novel was too odd to last. Pah!
  82. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells: Bloodsucking Martian invaders are wiped out by a dose of the sniffles.
  83. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh: Waugh based the hapless junior reporter in this journalistic farce on former Telegraph editor Bill Deedes.
  84. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy : Sexual double standards are held up to the cold, Wessex light in this rural tragedy.
  85. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene: A seaside sociopath mucks up murder and marriage in Greene’s novel.
  86. The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse: A scrape-prone toff and pals are suavely manipulated by his gentleman’s gentleman.
  87. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: Out on the winding, windy moors Cathy and Heathcliff become each other’s “souls.” Then he leaves.
  88. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Debt and deception in Dickens’s semi-autobiographical Bildungsroman crammed with cads, creeps and capital fellows.
  89. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: A slave trader is shipwrecked but finds God, and a native to convert, on a desert island.
  90. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Every proud posh boy deserves a bratty, prejudiced girl.
  91. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Picaresque tale about quinquagenarian gent on a skinny horse tilting at windmills.
  92. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Septimus’s suicide doesn’t spoil our heroine’s stream-of-consciousness party.
  93. Disgrace by JM Coetzee: An English professor in post-apartheid South Africa loses everything after seducing a student.
  94. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Poor and obscure and plain as she is, Mr. Rochester wants to marry her. Illegally.
  95. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust: Seven-volume meditation on memory, featuring literature’s most celebrated lemony cake.
  96. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: “The conquest of the earth,” said Conrad, “is not a pretty thing.”
  97. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: An American heiress in Europe “affronts her destiny” by marrying an adulterous egoist.
  98. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy’s doomed adulteress grew from a daydream of “a bare exquisite aristocratic elbow.”
  99. Moby Dick by Herman Melville: Monomaniacal Captain Ahab seeks vengeance on the white whale that ate his leg.
  100. Middlemarch by George Eliot: “One of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” said Virginia Woolf.

Also of interest: Check out my post of the 100 Essential Books for the Lifelong Learner as well.


Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Blogs


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100 Essential Reads — Buff up your personal library

by Lauren Manning on Flickr


Looking for your next great read?  Putting together a holiday wish-list?  Need a new (old) book for your students?  How about finding something to fill the time over the holidays?

The folks at online have put together their list of “100 Essential Reads for the LIfe Long Learner”.  It has since been removed from their site, but in this list you will find everything from the classics, to books on any subject, including math and science, history, literature, biographies, and contemporary fiction.  See how many you can already check off your list and then add some new books to your “to-read” list.  Each title has a short annotation and the list is divided by subject for easy browsing.

Of course, these “best of” type lists are completely subjective, and you might not agree with what’s been included.  What do you think is a glaring omission or which title might you swap out from the list?


1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This classic is read by many a high schooler for good reason as it offers an excellent character study to help the reader explore morality, ethics, and society.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Huxley’s dystopian novel takes the reader to a futuristic society where humanity has taken a back seat to technology.

3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. This story of friendship and the struggle to survive is touching and intensely beautiful.

4. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Check out Orwell’s famous allegory of the Russian Revolution that can teach something to all readers about society and politics.

5. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt on the fringe of society.

6. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut’s novel provides a vehicle of hope through the traffic of war and insanity.

7. Native Son by Richard Wright. Get lost in the excellent writing and character development of this story, but don’t overlook the powerful statement Wright makes about the results of a society that devalues humanity.

8. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow. Perhaps this Nobel Prize-winning novelist’s most developed work, this short read delves inside the mind of a man in the midst of mid-life crisis as he struggles with himself.

9. Howards End by E.M. Forester. Explore class and society in this powerful novel set in early twentieth century England.

10. The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway. Read Hemingway’s account of the emasculating effects of war and women in this popular classic.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. This classic has interesting effects on the reader, usually based on the reader’s age and current state of mind. No doubt there is something in this book that details the confusion of adolescence with which most can relate.

12. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Marlow’s journey down the river and into the heart of a native Africa is but a metaphor for the even darker journey of self-exploration he makes.

13. The Call of the Wild by Jack London. If you haven’t already read London’s description of survival of the fittest from the dog’s perspective, then add this one to your list of must-reads.

14. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Lee’s popular classic explores racism, justice, family ties, and more in a story that is difficult to forget.

15. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Examine issues of equality and justice in America through the eyes of the Joad family in the Great Depression.


Non-Fiction Classics

From test pilots to boxers to the Civil Rights movement, these classic non-fiction books have maintained their popularity for good reason.

16. Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s account of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 serves as an important reminder of how much progress has been made and how much more work there is to accomplish.

17. Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein. Read essays written by Einstein on a broad range of subjects from science to human rights.

18. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Orwell recounts his service in the Spanish Civil War and his escape from the country afterwards as he narrowly escapes arrest as an enemy to the state.

19. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West. Those interested in Balkan history will want to tackle this massive, 1000-page classic.

20. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. The American space race didn’t start in the 1960’s, but many years earlier with the test pilots in the jet program, and Wolfe takes readers through it all up to the space race of the 1960s.

21. Working by Studs Terkel. Terkel is arguably the king of documenting oral history from Americans in the early 20th century. This book captures the voices of American workers from all walks of life who describe what they do all day and how they feel about it.

22. In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams. Williams paints his own version of historical figures throughout American history in the essays contained in this classic.

23. Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. This book recounts the battles over water rights in the American West and is a must-read for anyone interested in conservation, politics, or having water to drink. 

24. The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow. Learn about the history of JP Morgan and his banking business as it began and evolved up to the 1990s.

25. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. Study the nature of Mother Nature herself in this classic by Annie Dillard.

26. The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling. Liebling details the world of boxing in its heyday to life.

27. The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross. While not technically a classic, this book by New Yorker music critic Alex Ross is sure to be one. Ross covers composers of the 20th century, including their biographies, the music, and the social context for it all.


Recent Literature

These books are some of the most powerful of more recent literature written.

28. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. This allegorical story follows Indian independence and the events leading up to it via the life of Saleem Sinai. The huge cast of characters, history of India, and religious mythology make this book a rich and engrossing read.

29. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. The title character of this novel will be difficult to erase from your heart after finishing this hilarious and poignant novel.

30. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Follow this family as they leave the comfort of their southern home to spread Christianity to one corner of Africa, then watch as the heart of Africa takes over the lives of each of the individual family members in their own unique ways.

31. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Atwood’s futuristic look at society and what it does to women is a cautionary tale that should not be missed.

32. Beloved by Toni Morrison. The ghosts of the past haunt this enchanting novel of slavery and freedom.

33. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The incredible character development carries this book that engages the reader in Cal’s life as both a girl and a boy, and the family history that unwittingly delivered Cal to such an unusual place.

34. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This easy-to-read tale is a deceptively simple account of one man’s struggle to survive.

35. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This fictional account of a platoon in Vietnam is based on Tim O’Brien’s experience in the war himself and explores the fear and courage that are necessary to bring one through to the other side.

36. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Through letters, the reader learns of Celie’s difficult life as a black woman in the south and her transformation as she discovers her inner strength.


Autobiographies and Memoirs

From Tobias Wolff’s struggles as a young black man in the south to Vladimir Nabokov’s childhood in pre-Revolutionary Russia, learn first-hand what it was like to live in a different place and a different era.

37. Black Boy by Richard Wright. Wright’s description of life as a black man in the south is both painful and beautifully written–and definitely worth reading.

38. The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain. Read about the amazing life of this American legend through his own eyes.

39. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov details his idyllic childhood in Russia, then immigrating to America at the age of 18 as a result of the Russian Revolution in his brilliantly written autobiography.

40. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X. Alex Haley and Malcolm X do a remarkable job conveying the many experiences and transformations experienced by Malcolm X on his journey to overcoming racial barriers.

41. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. This popular memoir details life in colonial Africa as Dinesen embraces Nairobi and the people who live there.

42. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. Learn about Stein and her life as an ex-pat in Paris through the frame of a biography of her partner, Alice Toklas.

43. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff. Wolff recounts his life as a boy and teen struggling with his identity as he lives with his divorced mother and her second husband in the 1950’s.

44. Autobiographies by W.B. Yeats. Yeats’ account of his life as a poet and playwright in Ireland up to his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.



Learn about such famous people as Florence Nightingale and Thomas Jefferson with these biographies.

45. Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith. Read this classic biography of the astonishing woman who was Florence Nightingale.

46. Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate. Bate takes readers beyond what is known publicly about Johnson and delves deep within the man in this outstanding biography.

47. The Age of Jackson by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This biography looks at both the president and the politics surrounding his administration.

48. Jefferson and His Time by Dumas Malone. This six-volume biography is likely just for those obsessed with Thomas Jefferson, but it is the pinnacle of information on this amazing man.

49. James Joyce by Richard Ellmann. Considered one of the best biographies on Joyce, the writings of Ellmann capture the true nature of the man.

50. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. Learn about Roosevelt’s early years with this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography.

51. Vermeer by Lawrence Gowing. This much-beloved biography informs about the life of this famous painter and also contains plenty of reproductions of Vermeer’s art.

52. Up From History by Robert J. Norrell. This account of Booker T. Washington’s life as a slave to a soft-spoken, educated advocate for civil rights is an informative read that reminds Americans of the beginnings of the modern day fight for civil rights.


World Literature

Read these books and step into a different culture or sometimes, a truly unique perspective of a familiar world.

53. The Assault by Harry Mulisch. In Nazi-occupied Holland, a young boy witnesses terrible tragedy. Follow the boy as he grows into a man and must come to terms with what happened while he learns truths about humanity with which all readers can identify.

54. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgokov. This novel is steeped in magical realism, but below the fanciful stories of a magical cat and the devil himself, this book explores power, corruption, good and evil, and human frailty.

55. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundara. The history of Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia is as much a character of this novel as the bumbling people who struggle to find their way amidst personal insecurities.

56. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Murakami’s unusual style of writing carries readers on a wild ride as a man looks for his missing cat in the midst of his personal crisis.

57. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The main character, Okonkwo, grapples with preserving his cultural history in the face of Western domination in this tragically beautiful novel.

58. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Recounting the history of a village through the Buendia family, Marquez’s lyrical writing and magical realism create a funny, yet hauntingly beautiful read.

59. Hunger by Knut Hamsun. Feel the hunger of the starving young artist in Hamsun’s novel that is a classic from this Norwegian author.

60. Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. Zorba’s unabashed embracing of life parallels that of the stoic narrator as this novel explores the dual nature of humanity and the repercussions of both approaches to life.

61. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Discover how to find the beauty in life no matter what your experience as you follow the life of a young shepherd who gains so much from his journey of life.

62. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. The tale of a young Brahmin’s spiritual journey throughout his life is told in this popular novel.

63. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Love and loyalty in the time of the Russian Revolution are the driving force behind this classic novel.



These books are some of the most famous and widely read history books around

64. The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams. This autobiography that isn’t really an autobiography excellently captures the feel of the American history throughout the 19th century and into the 20th as told through the eyes of Henry Adams.

65. The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner. Turner’s classic work explores the idea of American uniqueness being shaped by the specific ordeals confronted by the settlers along the frontier.

66. The Civil War by Shelby Foote. This three-volume set describes the Civil War in easy-to-read language that captures the reader’s imagination.

67. The Second World War by Winston Churchill. Churchill’s account of WWII is beautifully recreated in this six-volume account.

68. The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward. Take a hard look at the history of segregation, segregation myths, and more in this book that helped spark the Civil Rights movement.

69. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Learn about the unique time in the early 20th century that saw four countries working diligently to design an atomic bomb and the motivation behind this work.

70. A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee. Considered one of the most comprehensive and complete pieces of scholarship written and includes 10 volumes covering the rise and fall of virtually every civilization known.

71. The Great Bridge by David McCullough. This book tells the story behind building the Brooklyn Bridge by one of the great modern-day historians.

72. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War by Edmund Wilson. Read 16 essays each providing a unique perspective to the Civil War.

73. The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell. Fussell uses this book, which includes literature mostly from WWI, but from other wars as well, as a testament to what warfare does to those involved in it.

74. The Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson. McPherson’s book details the events that lead up to the Civil War and delves clearly into details of the actual war that can often seem confusing when written by other hands.

75. The Contours of American History by William Appleman Williams. This book has been used in college classes throughout the years as a text to illustrate the economic systems of America throughout history. While sometimes controversial, this book remains widely read and discussed.


Political Science

Justice, economics, and capitalism are just a few of the topics in these books.

76. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith. This book, written in 1958, provides a remarkably timely look at American economics and the American way of life.

77. The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper. Popper’s famous work discusses the role of the individual as separate from the state, while also tackling Marxism, despite his belief that Marx’s intentions were good.

78. A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. Rawls has updated his classic text from 1971 and continues to promote his theories on justice and fairness in a democratic society.

79. The American Political Tradition by Richard Hofstadter. While Hofstadter’s book sometimes comes with harsh criticism, it also serves as an important reminder that citizens should not blindly follow long-held beliefs or reputations without questioning why.

80. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter. Schumpeter’s economic theories continue to arise in current analysis. Find out the basis of his beliefs in his landmark book.

81. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by R. H. Tawney. This classic explores the interconnectedness of religion and capitalism within society and includes historical support for the theory.


Language Arts and Literary Theory

From awesome reference books to books that can take your study of literature to the next level, check out these books about the English language.

82. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White. Strunk originally wrote this rule book of grammatical style in 1919, and in 1959, White revised what has become an icon of the American written language.

83. The American Language by H. L. Mencken. Mencken was an early advocate for “American” as a language and style to be recognized as the powerful world force it has become.

84. The Mirror and the Lamp by Meyer Howard Abrams. This classic text of literary scholarship examines the role of the Romantic era on literature and the arts.

85. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Woolf discusses the historical differences between men and women writers and how these differences come down to the availability of freedom and money that men have in plenty compared to women.

86. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory by J.A. Cuddon. This classic text is an awesome reference book that every English language student should own.

87. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Jonathan Culler. Arranged by theme, this book covers the different types of literary criticism and the people behind each.

88. Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton. Eagleton’s easy-to-read book has shown up in graduate classes around the country as well as on the shelves of just about anyone interested in learning about literary theory.

89. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory by Peter Barry. Barry’s engaging text covers the basic principles of literary theory for beginners.

90. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by Vincent B. Leitch. This book offers comprehensive coverage of literary theory from the classical era to current schools of thought.


Science, Math, and Social Sciences

Find classics alongside more modern works from the fields of science, math, and the social sciences in this list.

91. Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton. Written while Cambridge was closed due to the plague, Newton penned his famous thoughts on gravity, mechanics, calculus, and light and color.

92. The Art of the Soluble by Peter B. Medawar. Medawar’s book of essays explores the role of scientists in the world of science.

93. Six Easy Pieces by Richard P. Feynman. This science classic presents six of Feynman’s lectures that explain the basics of physics from his perspective of understanding science in the context of history.

94. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Carson’s powerful writing on the topic of environmental justice creates a book that will make the reader think seriously about humanity’s relationship to the Earth.

95. The Ants by Bert Hoelldobler and Edward O. Wilson. Written by two of the leading authorities on ants, this book covers it all, is well written, and even won a Nobel Prize.

96. A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy. Those with a love of mathematics will appreciate this work that extols the beauty of math beyond the expected.

97. The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates. This book provides a look at the art of creating memory that was so important in days past.

98. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. Freud included the basics of his theories on psychoanalysis in this landmark work that is still read worldwide.

99. Pioneers of Psychology by Raymond E. Fancher. This fascinating book explores the beginning of psychology by exploring such thinkers as Descartes, Kant, Skinner, and more.

100.  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. Psychology student or not, this book will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the curious way the mind works–and how it does not work. Several of the most bizarre cases are detailed here.


Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Blogs


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Free Science Documentaries!

Photo credit: Reach for it. (Sérgio Bernardino/Creative Commons)

The 100 Best (Free) Science Documentaries

You know and I know that sometimes the best way to present some material is through the magic of video.  This is especially true when you want to or need to dig deeper into a particular topic, but just don’t have the class time to dedicate to a week’s worth of lessons. has put together a list of 100 free science documentaries that are all available online through various video hosts.  (I hesitate to use the word “best” myself, since it’s a rather relative term.)  The documentaries are divided by subject, to help you find just what you need and most are full length features like Super Size Me, An Inconvenient Truth, and Sicko!

Choose from:

  • Health and Medicine (11 videos)
  • Drugs (6 videos)
  • Genetics (10 videos)
  • Evolution and Biological History (12 videos)
  • Physics (10 videos)
  • Environment (10 videos)
  • Geology (9 videos)
  • Space (12 videos)
  • Technology (5 videos)
  • Nature (12 videos)
  • Miscellaneous Topics (3 videos)

The list is completely annotated, so you can easily see what the documentary will cover.  As always, however, remember to preview these to make sure they are appropriate for your class. In addition, make sure that you will have the capability to show them in your class.

Almost any computer with a basic video program (such as Windows Media Player, Quicktime, or Flash) will be able to handle these with a projector and speakers for viewing.  Some are hosted on sites that may potentially be blocked by a filtering program at school, so you might have to download them first for playback.  You can read about how to do this in my Downloading Streaming Video post.

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Blogs, Websites


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