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Most impactful book?

While I wasn't looking, the editors of The New York Times Book Review tossed in some new questions for their standing feature called By the Book.

This page features a Q&A with a prominent author in each weekly edition.

Yesterday's author was Jim Harrison, about whom I know little and about whom I care even less. So, I just scanned the questions and answers, only to learn that a few of the queries were different. The one that particularly caught my eye was this: What book that you read for school had the greatest impact on you?

Harrison responded that he read all of Willa Cather's books in seventh grade.

I was prompted to wonder about how I might answer that question, and I decided that the collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway probably had the greatest impact on me. These stories are spare, tight and energetic. I have re-read them more than once since I first encountered them in high school.

How would you answer that question?

Opening Cubans' minds

The Obama administration has certainly taken some bold steps to open doors between U.S. citizens and Cubans.

But more needs to be done and in a key area: world literacy.

Right now, a trade embargo is still in effect that effectively keeps U.S. publlishers and book-sellers out of the Cuban market and the Cuban marketplace of ideas.

Last month American authors, publishers, distributors, literary agents, and so on, met with Cuban officials, and that meeting resulted in the U.S. group calling on Congress and the president to lift this specific embargo.

Their points are well taken, especially their assertion that books are a huge catalyst for "greater cross-cultural understanding, economic development, free expression and positive social change."

Amen.

Now I see ...

Sometimes I get so busy I just skim the news and then find myself not thinking very deeply about what I've read or heard.

So it is that I've been afloat on the battle between Apple and the FBI over access to data on an iPhone that might help solve a crime.

Richard Clarke, former czar for antiterrorism in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, clarified the point on NPR this morning.

The main issue for Clarke is freedom of speech, in the case freedom from not having to speak. See, Clarke said, the government is trying to get Apple employees to write code that does not exist. That is forcing speech, the courts have found.

But, the bigger issue is that the NSA, already suspect after the Snowden revelations, wants to push this case to set a precedent so that they can make other tech companies do their bidding in the name of national security. That way lies totalitarianism.

Let's tread lightly.

As the world turns

Now there can be little doubt that the world of publishing is doing a 180:

McGraw-Hill Education, big-time publisher of textbooks, told the Associated Press this week that sales of its digital content and online programs "surpassed print sales for the first time last year."

I've written before about the high cost of texts at the college level, but I have no clue about what these books cost public school districts. A lot, I'm sure, and ever rising.

McGraw-Hill has online programs for teachers and students to work on lesson plans, content, reading materials, and so on.

So, this report represents a tipping point, in my opinion. As more students do their reading online, the more they move away from print. And the more they move away from print, the less print there'll be.

And so ...

Maybe they're onto something

A new study by Harvard researchers shows that people who read fiction are more sociable than people who don't read or people who read nonfiction.

Maybe that helps explain some of the political campaigns this spring: basically, the candidates with the most anti-social message appeal to people who don't read.

Makes sense to me.

 

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