Podcast Listening Hour with NPR Books

This week I listened to two NPR Books podcasts. I enjoyed the books presented by NPR. There was a good mixture of genres, but I did notice that few children’s books were mentioned. Primarily these books could be promoted in an upper middle school or high school setting.

7/27/10 NPR Books Podcast featured four books.

The first book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and History of the World from the Periodic Table of the by Sam Kean is about the science and history of the periodic table. This would be a fun book to present to a science chemistry class.

A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton’s Extraordinary Life and His Quest for the America’s Cup by Michael D’Antonio is a history of the Lipton Tea Company. It is an interesting story about how a young uneducated man goes from rags to riches. This would be an excellent book to introduce students about the value of hard work and creative thinking.

Technology is challenged in Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers. The author spoke about how he was struck one day while visiting New York by all the people who were engrossed in their electronic devices. They seemed lost to their surroundings and he wondered if this was a new phenomenon and it turns out to be an age old problem. Hamlet was addicted to his “tables” which was like a white board. Words could be written and easily erased. It was a new technology that Hamlet could not put down. Roman philosopher Seneca was experiencing, “the restless energy of a hunted mind.” The author equates this quote to our inability to pull ourselves away from our screens.
In this day and age of bombarding technology, this might be an interesting book to present to a school book group.

The last book explored during this podcast was The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman.
It was described as Sense and Sensibility meets our time. It’s about two sisters in the 1990’s. One sister is flighty and the other is level headed. The book is described as beautifully and well written. It sounds like a delightful book for a leisurely warm weekend. A summer read.

8/30/2010 NPR Books Podcast featured four books.

The first book featured in this podcast was Baby We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption by Scott Simon. This was one of the more emotional podcasts I’ve heard, but it was a good type of emotional. Simon describes him and his wife’s journey of adopting two little girls from China. The book was written as a way to encourage others to explore the adoption option while honestly looking at the difficulties. Simon talks about how his oldest daughter is beginning to ask gut wrenching questions about why her biological mother left her on a sidewalk outside a factory. He talks about the questions other adults ask about ethnicity. This would be an excellent book to give to a student whose parents are in the middle of an adoption or who is adopted. It sounds like a book about healing and love.

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha D. Trethewey is a poetic book about healing. The author describes how she has faced her past demons while exploring the after effects of Katrina. One moment during the podcast that struck me was when Trethaway talked about how things long gone will never come back and it’s time to move forward. This would be a good book to present in conjunction with one of the many Katrina unit studies being explored this year.

David Mitchell wrote The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The story is historical fiction and takes place in 1799. It is about the Dutch’s visit to feudal Japan. Mitchell spent four years researching and writing this story. It sounds intriguing and would be an interesting choice for a book group discussion.

The last book explored was Welcome to My Neighborhood by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Shino Arihara. This is an alphabet book, but quite unlike the others on the market. The story within the book explores the old Latino neighborhood of North Philadelphia. The letters are represented by either English or Spanish words. Many times the words within the sentences switch back and forth between languages. It is a nostalgic book. This would be a good book to present to a multi-cultural class or as a lesson on multi-culturalism within America.


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