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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I guess you could say that the Christmas shopping season is well upon us. If you are a bibliophile like me, you likely wish for a few volumes under the tree. If you are shopping for a book lover this year, I have the perfect gift for you:…

Words That Make a Difference

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I guess you could say that the Christmas shopping season is well upon us. If you are a bibliophile like me, you likely wish for a few volumes under the tree. If you are shopping for a book lover this year, I have the perfect gift for you: “More Words That Make a Difference"--the follow-up volume to equallly irresistable book “Words That Make a Difference.” Like the earlier book, “More Words that Make a Difference” is a collection of wonderful and provocative words, complete with pronunciation guides and definitions. What makes each book different is that the definitions include a sample passage in which the author uses the carefully chose word. And these aren’t ordinary authors, or ordinary passages. “Words That Make a Difference” included samples from The New York Times; the latest book includes sample prose from some of the greatest writers featured in the pages of The Atlantic since it was established in 1857.

Written by Carol and Robert Greenman, each book contains a wonderful selection of words presented in their original passages. They must have taken some time to assemble. Here is a sample from “More Words That Make a Difference.”

mellifluous
sweet-sounding or smooth flowing: Latin, mel, honey+fluere, to flow

In Paris, where the sense of style is everywhere, so that one looks around for the one mind that planned it all, Hemingway achieved such an instinct for how words should sound and how a sentence should hang, that very often the “true sentence” pleased him because it was the mellifluous sentence, the artly balanced sentence. In time Hemingway became as fond of his sentences as a matador of his veronicas, and “true sentences” were too often a run of sentences chic and marvelously phrased, displays of his technique.
-Alfred Kazin, June 1964

Wow, what a sentence. And what a book. Find it here at Levenger.

Posted by Joel on November 26 2007 • Books

To Read or Not To Read

An alarming report came out earlier this week. American’s aren’t reading much anymore. The New York Times concludes from the NEA’s report: “As that happens, [students] reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.”

As I reported in earlier posts on this blog, the NEA issued a report titled, “Reading at Risk” in 2004, which found that “fewer than half of Americans over 18 read novels, short stories, plays or poetry.” Yet, this report wished to include nonfiction as well. It’sconclusions we much the same as the earlier study. Reading in America is on the decline, and its consequences can be alarming. Times reporter interviewed Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who said he believes “the statistics could not explain why reading had declined, but he pointed to several commonly accepted culprits, including the proliferation of digital diversions on the Internet and other gadgets, and the failure of schools and colleges to develop a culture of daily reading habits. In addition, Mr. Gioia said, “we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.””

In the chariman’s preface to the report Mr. Gioia stresses that the report is not an elegy to a bygone era of print. Instead it’s a call to action, based on the evidence of how reading enriches our lives. “All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihoodof an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed. It is reassuring, though hardly amazing, that readers attend more concerts and theater than non-readers, but it is surprising that they exercise more and play more sports—no matter what their educational level. se cold statistics confirm something thatmost readers know but havemostly been reluctant to declare as fact—books change lives for the better.

Find the full study “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence” (PDF) here.

Posted by Joel on November 22 2007 • Current Affairs

Rereading Nation

A new study in the UK has found that a large portion of British readers return to their favorite books again and again. According to a recent story in the Guardian, “77% of UK readers revisit books they’ve enjoyed on first reading.”

Some other findings from the survey:
* 59% of readers never tire of their favorite characters.
* 34% of readers (or rereaders, rather) find they learn something new from each reading.
* The top three reread authors in England are JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien and Jane Austen.

Read the rest of Richard Lea’s story here, along with the list of the top 20 books to be pulled from the shelves more than once.

Posted by Joel on November 13 2007 • Books