Goodreads Book Review: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You are an astronaut on the third manned mission to Mars. You, and your five other fellow astronauts, will be there for a month of mars days (aka sols). It’s going to be the best month of your life. But then—six days into the mission—disaster strikes! You are dead. Or so your crew thought. They abandon the mission and head back to Earth. Unfortunately…you are not actually dead. What do you do? How will you survive? Will you survive the next 4 years until the next scheduled mission to Mars?


The Martian
, by Andy Weir, is a space castaway story. It is full of science, space, ingenuity, and luck. It follows the successes and failures astronaut Mark Watney faces while stranded on Mars. Weir chose to utilize a diary-like format to really put readers into Watney’s frame of mind. The story of what occurs on Earth uses standard prose format (third person, past tense).

Weir self-published The Martian in 2011. Eventually, requests came in to have the book put in an Amazon Kindle format. He did, setting the price for the minimum that Amazon would allow. The book just exploded from there. It was quickly made into a movie starring Matt Damon . I actually enjoyed the movie version as well. It kept pretty true to the book (of course, things were left out because that always happens in a book to movie conversion).

The Martian is great for book clubs, in fact, at the end of the book, there are some good questions for discussion. A word of caution, the book has a bit of a gallows sense of humor and some swearing. If that language is inappropriate for the audience reading the book, you may want to pre-screen the book. Swearing is not often and is used well in context.

While some situations were a little far-fetched, for example, the economics of the various situations/problems and Watney’s ingenious plans, they were within reason. Most readers accept a bit of suspension of disbelief when reading.

So, did Watney survive? Would you? The only way to know for sure is to read (or watch) The Martian.

View all my reviews

Take a Look, It’s in a Book!

Earlier this summer LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow created a Kickstarter to raise $1 million dollars.  There were two goals: everywhere on the web and free subscriptions to 1,500 classrooms who want Reading Rainbow but can’t afford to pay for it.

Burton set a timeline of 35 days.  It wasn’t necessary.  He was fully funded in 11 hours.

The campaign stayed open for the full 35 days and when it ended on July 2, the Kickstarter had raised $5,408,916.  To top that off, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and American Dad, “promised to match every dollar pledged following the $4 million mark to the $5 million mark if the campaign reached $5 million.”  In other words, if the Kickstarter made it to $5 million, MacFarlane would match the last million, making the $5 million dollar benchmark all the more sweeter (by turning in into $6 million).  Since Kickstarter has a $10,000 limit on donations, MacFarlane’s donation is not added into the number seen on the Kickstarter site.  Thus, the final total that the Kickstarter raised is $6.4 million dollars.

The Reading Rainbow Kickstarter is the 5th most funded campaign on Kickstarter.  According to Forbes.com, “The top four are: Pebble ($10.2 million), OUYA ($8.5 million), Pono ($6.2 million) and the Veronica Mars movie ($5.7 million).”

There is one record that the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter broke: the most backers.  Over 105,857 backers pledged to bring Reading Rainbow to all mobile devices, consoles, and OTT boxes as well as 7,500 classrooms who can’t afford it.

If your book adventures took you away to magical places and were unable to join the Kickstarter, you can still donate through Reading Rainbow’s site.  You can $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $125, $175, $375, or $5000.  While all the packages have names based upon the dollar amount or rewards you can earn, the last two are special: $375 is the perfect amount to pay for a “adopt” a classroom and $5000 will allow you “adopt” a school.  If you really want to know exactly where you money is going, those two cannot be any more specific.

The Reading Rainbow Classic Series is available on Amazon Instant Video (free to Prime subscribers) and on iTunes (video).

The Reading Rainbow app is available for iPad and the Kindle Fire.

Though time has passed, Burton has aged, and the books have gone digital, the fact remains that Reading Rainbow is still enchanting as ever for the next generation of readers.  Then again, LeVar Burton always sticks around for The Next Generation.

BONUS: LeVar Burton, Reading Rainbow, and Star Trek: The Next Generation

Kindle Unlimited: Not Worth Your Money

Have you heard?  Netflix for books has arrived!  Amazon now offers a new service called Kindle Unlimited.  For a nominal fee of $9.99/month ($119.88) you can “enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audio books on any device.” Sounds excellent, right?  Sorry, no.  It’s not worth your money.  Here’s why:

    • Borrowing books, not buying them…so there is a limit on how many you can have out a time.
    • Not included in Amazon Prime
    • Do not have access to all Kindle books
    • Better/More Popular selection available for FREE through your local public library using the app OverDrive.
    • Not a new, innovative idea

Borrowing Books, Not Buying Them Did you actually read the all the fine print or just watch the sailboat video?  I’ll say it plainly so there are no questions: you are borrowing books, not buying them.  The subscription service is not “get unlimited books for $10/month”, it is “borrow 10 books at time, as frequently as you want for $10/month”.  That’s right, you’re actually restricted to “ten books at a time and there are no due dates.”  While the restriction seems logical…it’s not so awesome if your family shares an Amazon account. A caveat of borrowing Kindle books is this: once you return the book, any annotations and notes you make are gone.  Technically, they are inaccessible because they are saved as a separate file on your Kindle, so if you borrow the book again your notes will be there…as long as you didn’t accidentally delete the “letter” that states your rental expired.

Not Included In Amazon Prime Kindle Unlimited is not added into the Amazon Prime subscription.  It’s an extra cost.  However, if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle, each month you can read free books through the Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (about 500,000 titles).

Do Not Have Access to All Kindle Books Did you read the first paragraph thoroughly or did you just skim right over the 600,000 titles number? Or did the difference simply not register?  Amazon boasts “over 1 million books are available for the Amazon Kindle”.  Let’s do some simple math: 1,000,000-600,000=400,000 Kindle books that Amazon has that are not available for Kindle Unlimited. So what accounts for the large difference? Five major publishing houses opted not to participateSimon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, MacMillan, and Penguin.  So while Scholastic and HoughlinMifflin Harcourt are participating, there is a noticeable lack of New York Times Bestsellers.

Better/More Popular Selection Available through OverDrive and Your Local Library OverDrive is a free app that you can download to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Nook, Mac, and Windows.  Once downloaded, you log into OverDrive using your library card and pin/password that was given to you at the library.  If you have any trouble with this, consult your local library. Be advised: the availability of books for you may differ from someone else as availability depends on what subscription your public library has with OverDrive. You can filter search results by format: Audio book, Adobe ePub, OverDriveREAD, Adobe PDF EBook, and Kindle.  Yes, you can borrow several Kindle books through OverDrive that are unavailable through Kindle Unlimited.

Not a New Concept There are already a few eBook subscriptions sites available: Scribd, Oyster, and Entitle, just to name a few.

Not Worth Your Money So, why is Amazon charging an extra $9.99/month to borrow books that I can digitally borrow on my iPad through OverDrive and my local public library for free?  It’s a great business endeavor for them, but bad for the consumer.  You’re better off either buying the ebooks, borrowing for free from your local library, or using a different subscription service that actually has some of the top publishing houses.

Citing eBooks

eBooks have gained such a popularity that people can no longer avoid citing them in papers.

Why do people avoid eBooks for papers?  One reason: many people have a little bit of difficulty categorizing them, are they a book or electronic source?  However, the major reason many people have avoided using eBooks is the lack of page numbers.  So, either fearful of plagiarism or a poor grade, students avoid citing eBooks.

So where do they go?  Are they a book?  An electronic source?  Both, technically.  However, you’ll find the entry under books.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) states, “Begin the entry in the works-cited list like the entry for a comparable printed work and end it with a designation of the medium of publication. The medium is the type of electronic file, such as Kindle file, Nook file, EPUB file, or PDF file. If you cannot identify the file type, use Digital file.”

Rowley, Hazel. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage. New York: Farrar, 2010. Kindle file.

But what about page numbers?  MLA says, “Most electronic readers include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Do not cite this numbering, because it may not appear consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the nature of the number”.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (Rowley, ch. 2).

Lastly, MLA says, “If the work is a PDF file with fixed pages, cite the page numbers. If the work lacks any kind of stable section numbering, the work has to be cited as a whole”.

While MLA is one of the most common citation methods, it is not the only one.  The American Psychological Association (APA) format follows the same advice, but the entry is slightly different.  It says, “The reference list entry for a whole e-book should include elements of author, date, title (with e-reader book type in square brackets if applicable; italicize the title but not the bracketed material), and source (URL or DOI):”

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable]. doi:xxxxx

The APA recommends the following if there are no page numbers:

  • a paragraph number, if provided; alternatively, you can count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document;
  • an overarching heading plus a paragraph number within that section; or
  • an abbreviated heading (or the first few words of the heading) in quotation marks, in cases in which the heading is too unwieldy to cite in full.

So why can’t you just cite the location in the eBook?  The APA explains:

As of March 2011, many Kindle books now have real page numbers that correspond to those in print editions (as far as we know, this applies only for Kindle third generation products and going forward). These real page numbers are appropriate to use in academic citation (as are the page numbers of other paginated e-books). Kindle “location numbers,” however, should not be used in citations because they have limited retrievability.

The Purdue OWL details how you can cite an eBook in Chicago Style.  There are several other types of citation formats, but they are not as common as MLA and APA.

The Time Keeper

As I have mentioned before, I have a Kindle and an iPad in which I read books on.  Recently, I renewed my public library card so I could borrow Kindle books.  I figured the book selection may not be diverse, but hey, it couldn’t hurt to browse the selection, right?  So, as a test/trial run I borrowed the first book that I recognized that I hadn’t read: Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.

Now, I read Tuesdays with Morrie when it was first published.  I’ve seen the movie version of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  I figured I was in a for a bit of a “tugging at your heart-strings” book.  It took me a couple of chapters to get the rhythm of the book down, but once I did, it was hard to stop reading.

It was a simple story, about a man named Dor who was the first human to count time who was then “cursed” to hear the cries of the people of Earth who wished for time to slow down or speed up, the cries for yesterday and for tomorrow.  For 6,000 years he endured this curse, only to be released and find out the job wasn’t quite finished.  He learned a few valuable lessons about time during his tenure in the cave and he had two to teach the lessons to two certain people while adjusting to a planet that had…changed…quite a bit in 6,000 years.  One of the characters that Dor had to help was the stereotypical teenager girl who was treated horribly by a guy and the other person Dor had to help was a man trying to cheat death by choosing cryostasis.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but if you’ve read any of Mitch Albom’s books, you know there are many lessons and many layers to his books.  I planned on reading this book just to see how borrowing a Kindle book worked on my iPad’s Kindle app, but I couldn’t avoid the lessons Albom’s book had in mind.  There were two that resonated within me.

The first:

There was always a quest for more minutes, more hours, faster progress to accomplish more in each day.  The simple joy of living between sunrises was gone.

The second:

With endless time, nothing is special.  With no loss or sacrifice, we can’t appreciate what we have.

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is the first in a quintet series.  It was originally published in 1985 but has since seen a resurgence in popularity and has been reissued recently.  There is a movie version slated to be released November 2013.

This book was brought first brought to my attention recently when I was student teaching.  It was being taught to a 9th grade English class.  The feedback I heard back from several teachers was that it appealed to the majority of students and many were able to connect to the material.  A book that students wanted to read and willing read ahead?  I wanted to know more.  So I read the book.endersgame

Since I still had some Amazon/Kindle credits left, I downloaded the book to my Kindle.  This edition had a foreword written by Card that highlighted how the story came to be, his astonishment of its success, and a few anecdotes about people who have written to Card describing the book’s influence on their lives.  I have to say, it was one of the best forewords to a reissue I’ve ever read.  I was choked up to read that a person who serves in the military has re-read the book several times for comfort while in combat.  The foreword also explained that people seemed to either really like it or really hate it.  People either could relate to Ender or they could not.  People either loved the structure of the book or despised it.  I wondered why there was so much polarization, but I did not let it deter me.

As Card stated in his foreword, he has a master’s in literature.  He knows how to structure a story.  He knows the nuances that conventional stories typically follow.  He just chose to methodically break them.  After I finished the book, I read some reviews on Goodreads.com.  One thread began with a comment about the flat characters.  This lead to a difficulty in connecting to the characters or understanding their motivations behind their actions.  A response to this pointed out that Ender was repeatedly isolated, ostracized, and never stayed in one group too long to make many friends.  Card utilizes the dimension of his own writing to reflect Ender’s frustrated emotions of isolation and loneliness within the reader.  The reader connects with Ender, but since Ender wasn’t allowed to connect with anyone else, the reader is unable to connect with anyone else in the story.

If you read Ender’s Game and just look at the plot, the story does seem to drag, be disjointed, and be quite plain.  However, Ender’s Game cannot be just read for the surface story, like one can do with a romance novel; it must be read for the small nuances, symbols, and themes.  The novel is crafted to make the reader think about the characters and the decisions that are made as well as their opinions of right and wrong.  It is not meant to entertain with numerous explosions, witty one-liners for the movie trailer, and a nice-and-neat packaged ending with the guy and girl kissing despite one or both being all bloody, dirty, and sweaty.  It’s an ending that just kind of drops off.

There is one question you need to keep asking throughout the book:  “WHY?”  Card wrote each sentence, each scene, and each plot point with a purpose.  Figure out what the purpose is.  The book means something different to different people because the answer the to same question is different to different people.  Some people see a character who truly understands the mindset of a solider.  Some people see a character who is just a child but is being forced into a mold he doesn’t want to be in.  Some people see a character who has not only the weight of the world on their shoulders, but the weight of the human race.

Ender has no free will in the book.  Situations are manipulated to make him think he is making a decision on his own, but his life was already pre-written for him when the government allowed his parents to have a Third.  And honestly, who hasn’t felt at some point in their life that they’re just a puppet and someone else is pulling the strings to make them dance?

Ender’s Game is a great book to be teaching in high school.  There are so many insights into the human experience that I would love to discuss with a class.  There are just as many lesson of what is in the book as what is not in the book.  Sometimes, the lack of an element in a story provides more information that having an element.

I will admit, the book is not riveting.  I was not on the edge of my seat and staying up until 3am reading “just one more chapter” five times.  The ending did not leave my jaw on the floor.  However, we cannot use blockbuster-style stories and blindsided twist endings as markers of a good novel.  If we did, we’d soon grow weary of the same plot lines.  I liked Ender’s Game.  I’m debating if I want to read Speaker for the Dead.  You should read Ender’s Game.

Summer Reading

Summer reading was never a difficult task for me.  In fact, I looked forward to summer vacation because it meant I finally had time to read the books I liked at my own pace.  However, I know not everyone is like me and it may be a struggle to get students to read during “vacation”.  But summer reading really isn’t optional.

Research shows that summer vacation often has a significant negative effect on student learning. Providing opportunities for students to read regularly during the summer can prevent documented reading achievement losses. The bottom line is that students who read during the summer do better in the fall. (ReadWriteThink.org)

The best way to encourage students to read over the summer is to make them want to read by making reading fun. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore interests without the confines of a curriculum.  During the school year, education is regimented and, essentially, forced upon students.  Many students rebel and say they “hate” school, learning, and/or reading because they just do not like to be told what to do.  By framing summer reading in a context that feels student-chosen rather than force-upon, many struggles will dissipate.

Firstly, we need to answer the question: what is reading?  Is it only a book?  Summer reading can encompass magazines, blogs, comic books, manuals/directions, or anything with words.

Second, we need to establish sources of reading.  Students can read paper copies or digital copies on computers or mobile devices.  Students can borrow materials or purchase them.

Third, we need to consider content.  Summer reading should have no content restrictions, unless it is not age-appropriate.  Students should be allowed to read about cars, princesses, singing, sports, medicine, dancing, grilling, or whatever activity students find fun.  It is also a good time to disregard reading-level and let students read books below (and above) their reading level if they want.  (Remember: the goal is to encourage the student to want to read and to read!)

In English class, students have mostly read “literature”—books that are not popular fiction and rarely connect with students.  Students read for an academic purpose during the school year.  For summer reading, students should read for an enjoyment purpose.  Parents should not give their students quizzes or ask the student to write a paper after reading.  Instead, informal, old-fashioned conversation will yield the same outcome and increase confidence.  A good example of discussion is this: Ask why the student thought the main character was “stupid” instead of telling the student not to use that word.  Most likely, the student has a great explanation, but is just not using academic language.

So how can teachers and parents find the best summer reading for students?

Popular Recommendations—There are hundreds of summer reading lists available through Google searches.  The local librarian, an employee at the local bookstore, or the Top Books in for iBooks/Kindle/Nook will yield an even larger selection.  A popular TV show or movie “based on” or “inspired by” a book?  Pick up one of the books!  I found I loved reading Kathy Reichs’ books because my favorite TV show is Bones, which is inspired by her books.

Student/Friend Recommendations—Prior to the end school, students can write down what their favorite reading selections are.  The teacher can then compile the information into a list.  Students may be more apt to read a book a classmate thought was really good.

Form a Book Club—Perhaps reading a book as a group is best  because some students need the encouragement of others for the initial push into summer reading.  Friends from school, neighborhood kids, or a group at the library will work out well.  Groups can be of varying ages and give perspectives that students may not see otherwise.

Model Reading—Don’t just tell students to read this summer, show them!  Teachers should show students the reading that they have done for enjoyment.  Parents should read as well during the summer.  It might be worthwhile for a parent and student to read the same thing so they can discuss it together.  (Side Note—My mom did this with my brother and I when the first Harry Potter book was published.  It was so much more fun to be able to talk about the book with my mom and my brother.)

Reading Goals/Rewards—Some students need a little…motivation.  While the Six Flags® Read to Succeed Program® is closed for this summer, the idea remains the same.  Parents or teachers can create a set list of criteria that the reader must accomplish in order to obtain the goal.  Each level should be even more desirous than the previous.  The student can either “cash in” at a specific goal level and start over, or keep building until the ultimate prize.  For the Six Flags® program, it’s free tickets to ride the coasters for a day.  You could use gift cards, concert tickets, or whatever that “it” thing is that the reader wants at the moment.  For the Scholastic Summer Challenge 2013, it’s contributing the “World Record” of minutes read to try to reach the Moon.

Do Something—Don’t just read the book, do something with it.  Create something from the book, see a play, watch the movie (afterwards!), visit a museum with artifacts mentioned in the book, encourage someone else to read the book, etc.  The list is endless.

No matter how you approach summer reading, remember to keep track of the reading progress.  You can find printable summer reading logs through a Google search or by using a site like goodreads.com.

For more information and ideas for summer reading programs, books, and project ideas, see 5 Ways to Promote Summer Reading by TeachHub, Celebrate the first day of summer with summer reading by ReadWriteThink, and Summer Reading and Learning by National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Lessons from The Last Lecture

Cover of The Last Lecture bookI have been wanting to read The Last Lecture, written by Randy Pausch with Jeffery Zaslow, for a few years now.

For those who have not heard of the book, the lecture series, or Randy Pausch, go to www.thelastlecture.com. However, here is a brief synopsis. Pausch was a hard-working, tenured professor at Carnegie Mellon University with three young children and a wonderful wife. He was happy; his hard work was paying off. One day he a had stomachache…and a few tests later he knew the cause…pancreatic cancer. This aggressive cancer is essentially a death sentence. He had about 3-5 months left to live. He lasted for another year and passed away at the age of 47 on July 25, 2008.

But the book, The Last Lecture, isn’t so much a biography/autobiography of Pausch’s life or a self-help book on how to make your life better by reading the stories that taught him life lessons. The book isn’t a transcript of the lecture, though the two are similar. The book is about legacy; it is about figuring out what you can learn, do, and say today that will make a better tomorrow for you, those you love, those who exist right now that you don’t even know, and those who will come in future generations.

Many universities have a lecture series entitled Last Lecture Series, or something similar, in which professors are asked, “if you could only give one last lecture, what would it be about?” For Pausch, there was no if. He was dying of pancreatic cancer. He embraced the hour-long lecture and shared his life story and the lessons he learned along the way. Unfortunately, I never attended a last lecture while I was in undergraduate school. I was frequently busy and the dates never seemed to work out. After reading Pausch’s book and watching the video of his lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” I wish I had made the time to go to at least one of these lectures about life. I probably would have made some different mistakes (not less, just different ones!).

As I read Pausch’s book, there were numerous teary moments—how can there not be when you are reading a book that continuously reminds you of the lessons he wants to leave for his children and the preparations he is making for “when [he’s] gone”. Here are several that I pulled out that I felt were meaningful.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“When parents tell children things, it doesn’t hurt to get some external validation,” (p. 9).

“When there’s an elephant in the room, introduce it,” (p. 16).

“That is what it is. We can’t change it. We just have to decide how we’ll respond. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand,” (p.17).

“Never make a decision until you have to,” (p. 23).

“Just because you’re in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean you have to run people over,” (p.33).

“Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals….You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work,” (p. 36).

“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you,” (p.37).

“If [you] work hard enough, there will be things [you] can do tomorrow that [you] can’t do today,” (p.37).

“Tenacity is a virtue, but it’s not always crucial for everyone to observe how hard you work at something,” (p.48).

“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something,” (p. 51-52).

“Sometimes, the most impenetrable brick walls are made of flesh.” (P.53)

“I told doctors I’d be willing to endure anything in their surgical arsenal, and I’d swallow anything in their medicine cabinet, because I had an objective: I wanted to be alive as long as possible for [those I loved],” (p. 58).

“Use semantics to phrase whatever [you can] in a positive light,” (p.62).

“Not everything needs to be fixed,” (p.87).

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better,” (p.88).

“Time must be explicitly managed, like money,” (p. 108).

“You can always change your plan, but only if you have one,” (p.108).

“Some old-school types complain these days that higher education too often feels like it is all about customer service. Students and their parents believe they are paying top dollar for a product, and so they want it to be valuable in a measurable way. It’s as if they’ve walked into a department store, and instead of buying five pairs of designer jeans, they’ve purchased a five-subject course-load.

I don’t fully reject the customer-service model, but I think it’s important to use the right industry metaphor. It’s not retail. Instead, I’d compare college tuition to paying for a personal trainer at an athletic club. We professors play the roles of trainers, giving people access to the equipment (books, labs, our expertise) and after that, it is our job to be demanding. We need to make sure that our students are exerting themselves. We need to praise them when they deserve it and to tell them honestly when they have it in them to work harder.” (P. 112-113)

“Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids’ dreams, too. Once in a while, that might even mean letting them stay up past their bedtimes,” (p.133).

“Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out,” (p. 138).

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us any happier,” (p. 139).

“It’s always best to try and treat the disease first. [For example, h]er symptoms were stress and anxiety. Her disease was the money she owed,” (P.140).

“Tips for Working Successfully in Groups” (p. 142-143)

Meet people properly: It all starts with the introduction. Exchange contact information. Make sure you can pronounce everyone’s names.

Find things you have in common: You can almost always find something in common with another person, and from there, it’s much easier to address issues where you have differences. Sports cut across boundaries of race and wealth. And if nothing else, we all have the weather in common.

Try for optimal meeting conditions: Make sure no one is hungry, cold, or tired. Meet over a meal if you can; food softens a meeting. That’s why they “do lunch” in Hollywood.

Let everyone talk: Don’t finish someone’s sentences. And talking louder or faster doesn’t make your idea any better.

Check egos at the door: When you discuss ideas, label them and write them down. The label should be descriptive of the idea, not the originator: “the bridge story” not “Jane’s story.”

Praise each other: Find something nice to say, even if it’s a stretch. The worst ideas can have silver linings if you look hard enough.

Phrase alternatives as questions: Instead of “I think we should do A, not B,” try “What if we did A, instead of B?” That allows people to offer comments rather than defend one choice.

“When you’re frustrated with people, when they’ve made you angry, it just may be because you haven’t given them enough time,” (p. 145).

“It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s how hard you get hit…and keep moving forward,.” (p. 147)

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted,” (p. 148).

“The lost art of thank-you notes…recognize that there are respectful, considerate things that can be done in life that will be appreciated by the recipient, and that only good things can result,” (p. 153-154).

“A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard,” (p.156).

“One of my greatest mentors…changed my life. I could never adequately pay him back, so I just pay it forward,” (p.157).

“Apologies are not pass/fail. I always told my students: When giving an apology, any performance lower than an A doesn’t cut it. half-hearted or insincere apologies are often worse than not apologizing at all because recipients find them insulting,” (p. 161).

“Two classic bad apologies:

  1. “I’m sorry you feel hurt by what’ve I’ve done.” (This is an attempt at an emotional salve, but it’s obvious you don’t want to put any medicine on the wound.)
  2. “I apologize for what I did, but you also need to apologize to me for what you’ve done.” (That’s not giving an apology. That’s asking for one.)

Proper Apologies have three parts:

1. What I did was wrong.

2. I feel badly that I hurt you.

3. How do I make this better?” (P. 162)

“People lie for lots of reasons, often because it seems like a way to get what they want with less effort. But like many short-term strategies, it’s ineffective long-term. You run into people again later, and they remember you lied to them. And they tell lots of other people about it. That’s what amazes me about lying. Most people who have told a lie think they got away with it…when in fact, they didn’t,” (p. 163-164).

“We all believe we have a right to a jury trial. And yet many people go to great lengths to get out of jury duty,” (p.175).

“Sometimes, all you have to do is ask,” (p. 177).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

You can purchase the book on Amazon in hardcover or paperback. The Last Lecture (Kindle Edition) is also available on Amazon. Just recently, The Last Lecture (Enhanced Kindle Edition) was released with embedded video and audio from the lecture.

Access to Textbooks

The internet, digital media, and mobile devices has made access to knowledge far easier than it used to be.  I’m going to use 10-15 years ago as a rough estimate.  I was in middle and high school during those years.  While we had the internet, PowerPoint, and laptops…it wasn’t the same.  I still needed “at least one book source” for most major papers.  Even more of a problem…I had to lug those big giant textbooks home every day.

It boggled my teenage brain why I had to lug 20 pounds of printed material on my shoulders home to look at…maybe…20 pages?  There was usually a short story in my literature textbook, a chapter in my science book, a chapter in my history book, a page for 20 math problems, etc.  I usually forgot all of it by the time I got back to school the next day because I couldn’t write in the book (I still have trouble writing in books!  Workbooks, no problem, but textbooks?  Nope, instinct is still to get out notebook paper).

Why did I have to lug them home every night?  Because I couldn’t go out and buy my own.  Elements of Literature wasn’t not something shelved at the local Barnes and Noble.  So much has changed now.  Parents can buy their children home copies of textbooks on Amazon for pennies or a few dollars.  Eventually, all the books I’ll need I can carry around on my iPad!  Paper and glue not required.

Today, I was at my local library and on Fridays and Sundays there is a used bookstore in the basement of the library that is open.  The books come from donations or have been taken out of circulation by the library.  I was perusing it, looking for a good,used copy of The Crucible since buying it for my Kindle will cost $12 (I’ll be teaching it soon).  I found one for $0.50.  As I was slowly making my way towards the counter I saw two literature textbooks: Elements of Literature: Fifth Course (2000) and World Literature (1993).  Both were in excellent condition.  In fact, when I looked on the inside front cover, Elements only had one name written in it.  World Literature only had two!  Both originally were $50-$100 brand new when they were just published.  I got them for $1!  EACH!  $2 for two large English textbooks?  I’ll get that investment back in using just one story from either book in any of my classes.  I don’t know what resources I’ll have as teacher, but I just could not pass up $1 like-new condition of literature textbooks.

Perhaps its the teacher in me, or just a sign of the times…but I’m still taken aback by all-access pass students nowadays have to textbooks.  They aren’t these giant books that only schools can buy.  Everyone can buy any book.  So why go to school?  The teacher.  It’s the TEACHER that makes the difference and not the books, the technology, or the lack of either books or technology.  A great teacher can teach with whatever resources he or she has.  Resources are needed because more students learn with a deeper understanding when they are given as many resources as possible.