Welcome to the Reader's Corner Website/Blog.

The Reader's Corner is a new and used bookstore located in Rolla, Missouri.

We specialize in buying, selling and trading like-new condition used books.

We currently have around 75,000 books in 52 genres displayed in a unique setting,

meticulously designed to encourage unhurried, comfortable browsing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to the Real World - A Grandparent's Advice to New Graduates

By Larry Bowen

I came across an article my mother sent me twenty-five years ago from Modern Maturity Magazine and I thought, since it's graduation time for many students, I'd share it on my blog. Although it's written for graduates, I've read and re-read this for the last two and a half decades and I still get something from it every time I read it. In fact the older I get, the more I appreciate the advice. More than once I've asked myself, "Why didn't I remember that?"

From the June-July  1985 edition of Modern Maturity Magazine

Welcome to the Real World, A Grandparent's Advice to New Graduates
by Wes Smith

The strains of Pomp and Circumstance have faded. The cap and gown company has reclaimed your robe, and every grandparent on both sides has told you the future lies in computers.

School's out. Welcome to the Real World, you poor lost soul.

Granted, you'll never have to dissect another pond frog, and you'll be glad to know that the French Revolution hardly ever comes up in Real World conversations. But you've seen your last three-month vacation, old chum-unless you become a schoolteacher or get elected to Congress. From here on out it's dog eat dog, pay your own way, all for one and every man for himself. You'll now be expected to leave a tip and pay for your half of the golf cart.

To assist you in your first few tentative months in the Real World, we've assembled some helpful hints gleaned from years of stumbling about the cold, cruel, Real World, wishing we were back in homeroom or in the dorm throwing down pizza. Read these tips carefully. They'll do you a lot more good than all those French adverbs.

  • Young women should be aware that just because a man looks like your grandfather doesn't mean he thinks of you as his granddaughter. Conversely, young men, not every woman who looks old enough is old enough. And those who are old enough frequently are married.
  • In-office romance should be as carefully avoided as used sports cars and downtown after dark.
  • The chief beneficiary of life-insurance policies for young, single people is the life-insurance agent.
  • Going out for a drink with the boys or girls after work every night is a bad idea. Notice that the boss doesn't go. That's why he or she's the boss and they're still the boys or girls.
  • Find a friend with a ski boat and and extra life-jacket. Ingratiate yourself.
  • Trust no one. If your mother tells you that she loves you, check it out.
  • Single bars get more from you than you get from them. Go ahead and go, but always keep that in mind.
  • Never answer an advertisement for a "liberal" roommate. Odds are, you aren't that liberal.
  • No one ever sells a used car because it runs too well.
  • It is no disgrace to use coupons in public. 

  • Your parent's good name is their good name. The same applies to their credit.
  • Good credit is the key to life. Borrow some money from a bank real quick and pay it back even quicker. Life will be a breeze thereafter.
  • Never order a Harvey Wallbanger during a business lunch.
  • Unlike your neighbors in the dorm, not all of your Real World neighbors will appreciate AC/DC at full volume on Saturday mornings.
  • Dirty laundry never goes away.
  • Clothing manufacturers aren't kidding when they say, "Wash whites separately".
  • Hardly anyone cares that you chugged 13 beers without throwing up last night.
  • Buy good stuff. It lasts longer.
  • Dogs and apartments go together like gin and marshmallows. Buy some Guppies.
  • A few years after graduation, everyone becomes a high-school letterman.
  • Avoid a young woman whose father calls her "Princess." Chances are, she has come to believe it.
  • Never shop for groceries on an empty stomach.
  • Never eat green toast.
  • Barbecue grills make everyone a good cook.
  • Sandpaper will take the charred remains of your Oxford shirt off the face of the iron. Salt on a towel works too.
  • At some point in your life, your family will be all you have. Treat them right.
  • Being "fixed up" is almost as much fun as being X-rayed.
  • Love is grand. Marriage lasts longer.
  • Everyone is lonely at some point in their life. At least you'll have comfort in that.
  • The only thing worse than asking people how much money they make is telling how much you make.
  • If you hate going to your job every day, it shows. And it's not worth the ulcers. So, do something you like to do.

  • If you get an offer for a better job, take it. Otherwise, shut up about it.
  • There's no such thing as a "friendly" divorce.
  • Never play softball with guys who "almost signed with the Cubs once."
  • You are about to be bombarded by wedding invitations. You are expected to bring a gift. IF you fail to bring one, don't expect a crowd when your turn comes.
  • Never introduce your girlfriend to a wealthy widower.
  • Find a friend with a pool. Ingratiate yourself.
  • Get a credit card. Sales clerks are suspicious of cash.
  • After several years on the job, you become a commodity. Know it and sell it.
  • Find a friend who is a plumber. Ingratiate yourself.
  • A $25 haircut hardly ever lasts as long as a $10 haircut.
  • Find a smart boss. You are judged by where you apprenticed. And smart bosses take smart employees up the ladder with them.
  • People your own age will soon be having babies and buying lawn mowers. Learn to take interest in both.
  • Anything-of-the-month clubs are the mail-order equivalent of chronic lower-back pain.
  • Never casually mention an interest in buying a home to a friend who works in real estate.
  • Never sit down in a car dealership unless you are sure you are want to buy.
  • You cannot remain healthy and clear-minded on a diet of pizza and cardboard burgers. Eat right.
  • Never run a tab in a bar that serves salted hors d'oeuvres.
  • No worthwhile conversation every began at a bar with ferns.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why I Like MERS Goodwills

by Larry Bowen

Okay, right off the bat I'll admit it. I'm a serious, hardcore bargain hunter. I was a "picker" when that term referred to someone who played the guitar or banjo, not a popular television concept. I prefer to describe myself as frugal-I'm not a cheapskate. I know the value of a dollar but I'm not chintzy. I'm a pretty generous guy but I don't throw my money around. For me, a big high-roller trip to Vegas would include blowing $100 over four days on the nickle slots and trying to find the increasingly elusive $1.99 all you can eat buffets. But nothing makes me happier than rummaging through a huge pile of stuff and finding a jewel.

It doesn't matter if that jewel is a book for 70 cents that I've been looking for to add to my personal collection or stock for my used bookstore. It could be a Ralph Lauren polo shirt for $3 that would sell for $70 at Macy's or a piece of artwork or an offbeat item for $6 that will add to that extra funky feel a good bookstore should have. I enjoy the thrill of finding that certain item that I would never find anywhere else or that I would never buy if I had to pay full price for it. I'll pay $3 for an Abercrombie and Fitch tee shirt but not $65. I'm not a clothes horse and Walmart shirts are fine but if I've found from experience that name brand clothes are better made and last longer.

That's why I like MERS Goodwill. For me, a day away from the Reader's Corner is usually spent driving to St. Louis and hitting every Goodwill along the way. I stop at the Goodwill in Washington, Mo first and since it's near a Starbucks, I'll spend at least a half hour at Goodwill and then have coffee at Starbucks. Then it's back on the highway to the circuit of eight to ten Goodwills in the St. Louis area that I try to visit before they close in the early evening.  It usually takes me all day and it's a lot of work looking for bargains. I never have trouble falling asleep on those nights.

 I usually come back with several hundred books and anything else I decide I can't live without. I like to fish too and a day bargain hunting at Goodwill is like a day at the river. When I leave the house in the morning, I don't know  if I'll catch a big one or if I'll get skunked. I've gotten skunked fishing many more times than I have visiting Goodwills.

I've attached three videos and a link to the MERS Goodwill web site. I'd encourage you to support this organization whenever you can. In the process of saving yourself money, you'll help them help others.  The staff is always friendly and helpful, the selection of merchandise changes every day and it's fun. I warn you though, the first time you see a Jerry Garcia designer 100% silk tie with an original price tag of $60 from Dillard's for $1.00, or for you women, a blouse that you know sells for $85 at Ann Taylor for $3, you might just be hooked. Maybe we can carpool!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some Thoughts About the Book "Cheap" by Ellen Ruppel Shell

by Larry Bowen

I've been reading the book Cheap, the High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. It's a fascinating look at the psychology involved in why we buy the things we buy. As consumers, we've shown that we prefer low price over quality, to a point, most of the time. The discount chains have spent millions of dollars trying to understand and market to this phenomenon. I'd like to share two paragraphs from the chapter "Death of a Craftsman" that I thought were incredibly poignant especially now that "Green" is such a buzz word. Again, they're marketing to what we're passionate about whether it's low price, good value or saving the struggling environment, but...

"IKEA is the third largest consumer of wood in the world, just a step or two behind discounters Home Depot and Lowe's, and just a step or two ahead of Wal-Mart. The timber used in the wood products sold by these chains comes mostly from Eastern Europe and the Russian Far East, where wages are low, large wooded regions remote, and according to the World Bank, half of all logging is illegal. Forests in this region are on the decline, especially forests of high-demand varieties such as oak, ash, birch, and Korean pine. In pursuit of these and other valuable species, illegal loggers cut in restricted riverbanks, fish-spawning sites, and other conservation areas, and they bribe officials in exchange for documentation that the timber they poached was acquired legally. In 2007, the Washington Post published a penetrating and exhaustive investigation of illicit forestry practices that focused on Vostok, Russia, where villagers earned roughly a hundred dollars  a month felling trees and hauling logs. The Russian logs were milled into planks by low-wage Chinese workers and shipped to border towns in low-wage China. More wood, much of it illegally harvested, poured into China every day from timber depots in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Mekong Delta, central Africa, and the Amazon. Most of this wood goes to make cheap tables, chairs, bookcases, and other wood products sold by discounters, especially in the United States.

Wood is in theory a renewable resource, but environmentalists warn that the demand for cheap Chinese-made furniture-half of all timber in the world is traded there-has stoked a "cut and consume" cycle that is destroying the world's forests at a rate unprecedented in human history. This harvest is not sustainable, and what is being taken-and what is being lost in the largest sense-is not renewable. Illegal logging operations generally locate in remote areas that are difficult to oversee, including wildlife habitats and conservation land. Over the long haul, deforestation contributes mightily to climate change, accounting for over 18 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions-more than the entire global transport system or the whole of the industrial manufacturing sectors. Despite knowing this, few players on the global scene, be they factory owners, wholesalers, retailers, or customers, are motivated to question seriously the provenance of their wood products. Questions would only raise the price."

In my opinion, it's no wonder we've lost most of our manufacturing jobs in the United States. With the disregard for the environment and regulation and their only motivator being money, our competitors overseas will beat us every time. We have OSHA, the EPA, the DNR, Federal and State regulations and a host of other overseers making sure our products are safely made and friendly to the environment. Don't get me wrong, I think that's a good thing. But you'd have to be a fool not to see that we will never be able to compete as a nation without a level playing field. The only way we will ever get some of our jobs back in this country is to make our wishes known with our pocket books and I don't think as consumers we're willing to do that. We will usually choose price over other considerations every time. This book points that out and backs it up with page after page of statistics and studies. If I can get past the gloomy prospects of our future as a country and world, I'm enjoying the information presented by the author.

Monday, April 5, 2010

John Adams, Maligned and Misunderstood, Finds a 21st-Century Champion in David McCullough

Published in The New York Times: June 28, 2001
Admittedly, David McCullough is a booster of John Adams.

Without him, he said, there might have been no Declaration of Independence. ”With the force of his argument on the floor of Congress, he made it happen,” Mr. McCullough explained.

As a creator of the Massachusetts State Constitution, one of the oldest written ones still in use, Adams drafted a model for the United States Constitution. During the Revolution, he secured a loan from the Dutch that enabled the fight to continue. And as president, he steered the country away from a potentially disastrous war with France. ”It was one of his bravest acts,” Mr. McCullough said, ”because the French were humiliating us at sea.”

In fact, Mr. McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is campaigning for a memorial to Adams. Until one is built, he has contributed a monument of his own, a biography, ”John Adams” (Simon & Schuster), which has been No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for three weeks.

There are already several major biographies of Adams, the second president, including those by John Ferling and Gilbert Chinard. The scholarship also includes Joseph J. Ellis’s books ”Passionate Sage,” a biography, and ”Founding Brothers,” a group portrait of the founding fathers, which has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 26 weeks. As some historians have pointed out, we seem to be rebelling against the rebellion against the history of Great White Men.

So why another Adams biography?

Mr. McCullough believes that Adams, also the father of a president, John Quincy Adams, deserves a better shake. ”His importance is far greater than commonly understood,” he said recently at the Yale Club of New York (he is a member of the class of 1955), where he stays when he is away from his home on Martha’s Vineyard.

”The common, superficial understanding of him is as vain, irritable, obstinate, difficult and opinionated, that little fat fellow between two Virginians, Washington and Jefferson,” Mr. McCullough asserted. ”The fact is, he was full of life, high-spirited, affectionate, loyal to friends, a kind and a dedicated father and husband, who traveled further in the service of his country than anyone before him, and at greater risk.”

The only reference he could find to Adams’s being obnoxious, he said, was Adams’s own descriptions. In reality, he said, he was ”a dear and endearing man.”

Mr. McCullough, 67, a formidable figure with expressive eyebrows, gleaming white hair, gray-green eyes and a sonorous voice, was for years the authoritative narrator of PBS’s ”American Experience” and ”Smithsonian World.” Through books like ”The Johnstown Flood”; ”The Great Bridge,” about the Brooklyn Bridge; ”The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914”; and his biographies ”Mornings on Horseback,” about Theodore Roosevelt; and ”Truman,” which won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. McCullough is perhaps this era’s most influential purveyor of American history.

Originally, he intended to write a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams. They represented opposing strains in the nascent democracy: Jefferson, the Republican, believed in government by the common man; Adams, a Federalist, was skeptical of the rule of the masses. After Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency in 1800, they didn’t speak for 10 years. But in retirement they began an extraordinary correspondence that lasted almost until their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.
But Mr. McCullough found Jefferson remote and sometimes devious, and was increasingly drawn to the outspoken, passionate Adams. There were over a thousand letters between Adams and his wife, Abigail, who ran their farm in Braintree, Mass., while he was away. Early on, his wife saw the evils of slavery and was a sounding board for his political philosophy.

Their letters, half of them unpublished, are in the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. The family papers there, which include Adams’s diaries, take up 608 reels of microfilm — enough, unrolled, to extend for some five miles.

Thought of as a patrician New Englander, Adams was actually the son of a yeoman farmer and a probably illiterate mother. He has been wrongly called a monarchist, Mr. McCullough said, even if he did say that George Washington should be addressed as ”His Majesty the President.” True, he distrusted the rabble and feared the French Revolution, but he ”believed we should be a nation of laws, not men,” Mr. McCullough observed.

In 1798, during his presidency, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, authorizing fines and imprisonment for critics of the government. Adams signed them, and they were ”rightly judged by history as the most reprehensible acts of his presidency,” Mr. McCullough writes. Still, he adds, they ”must be seen in the context of the time,” the threat of war with France.

Adams had great moral courage, Mr. McCullough observed, when, as a lawyer, he defended British soldiers who fired into a hostile crowd in 1770 in what came to be known as ”the Boston Massacre.” And when fire broke out in the print shop of a Philadelphia newspaper that had campaigned against him, Adams joined the bucket brigade.

For over six years, Mr. McCullough lived Adams’s life. He read the books that he read: by Samuel Johnson, Richardson, Cicero, Pope. In Europe, he and his wife, Rosalee, ”went to see every place he lived,” he said, ”walked through the room where treaties were signed.” They took the same route as Adams and Jefferson did while touring English gardens in 1788.

”The most moving moment,” he said, ”was when I went with one of my own sons” to stand in February on the freezing seashore near Adams’s home, where Adams and his son waited in 1778 for a ship to take them to Europe. Adams was going to assist Benjamin Franklin in obtaining aid from France.

Mr. McCullough’s portrayal of Adams has drawn some sharp criticism. Some historians have called it idealized. And Sean Wilentz has taken Mr. McCullough to task in The New Republic for writing a character-driven biography. ”If sterling character were the main guide to greatness, all America would formally commemorate the birthday of Robert E. Lee instead of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr,” he wrote.
Mr. Wilentz also described Mr. McCullough as a practitioner of ”the American Heritage technique,” which he said reached its apotheosis in Ken Burns’s documentary ”The Civil War.” He called the Burns work, which Mr. McCullough narrated, ”brilliant in its detail, evocative in its storytelling, but crushingly sentimental and vacuous in its historical judgments.”

Mr. McCullough did spend his early career at American Heritage and calls it ”my graduate school.” Explaining his methods of writing about historical figures, he said: ”I believe in narrative, because you’re doing it in their point of view. It’s hubris to look back and judge them by our standards.”

”If you take away their humanity,” he added, ”you take away the wonder of what they achieved.”
Mr. McCullough was born and reared in Pittsburgh. As a student at Yale, he met Thornton Wilder, who greatly influenced his writing. He also fell ”head over heels” for his future wife, then Rosalee Barnes, a Vassar student. They have five children and many grandchildren.

After college Mr. McCullough worked for Time Inc. Then, ‘’swept up by the excitement of the Kennedy era,” he said, he became an editor and writer at the United States Information Agency in Washington and moonlighted for American Heritage. In 1964 he became an editor and writer there and began his first book, ”The Johnstown Flood,” about the flood of 1889 in the region where he grew up.
Its success inspired Mr. McCullough to quit his job and write full-time. ”I used to see the old fellows in their 40’s, talking about the book they were going to write someday,” he recalled. ”I was determined I was not going to be like that.”

”I have had a wonderful time writing every book I’ve ever written,” he added. ”It’s like traveling in a country I’ve never been in.”

Today Mr. McCullough and his wife live in West Tisbury, Mass., in a shingled house partly built in the 18th century. He writes in his studio behind the house every day. It has no phone, and no one is allowed to disturb him except grandchildren, the younger, the better.
”I would pay to do what I do,” he said. ”People say, ‘Take a vacation.’ How could I have a better time than doing what I am doing?”

Photo: David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, at the New York Public Library last month. His book, ”John Adams,” is an admiring biography of the second president, and has become a best seller. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

The Future of Reading

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
The Simses of Old Greenwich, Conn., gather to read after dinner. Their means of text delivery is divided by generation.
By MOTOKO RICH of the New York Times
Digital Versus Print
Nadia Konyk, 15, has a small book collection but prefers reading online.
Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer here in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.

A slender, chatty blonde who wears black-framed plastic glasses, Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses myyearbook.com, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.
Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A’s and B’s at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Ms. Konyk said, “I’m just pleased that she reads something anymore.”

Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among educational policy makers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.

But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write.

Even accomplished book readers like Zachary Sims, 18, of Old Greenwich, Conn., crave the ability to quickly find different points of view on a subject and converse with others online. Some children with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, like Hunter Gaudet, 16, of Somers, Conn., have found it far more comfortable to search and read online.

At least since the invention of television, critics have warned that electronic media would destroy reading. What is different now, some literacy experts say, is that spending time on the Web, whether it is looking up something on Google or even britneyspears.org, entails some engagement with text.

Setting Expectations

Few who believe in the potential of the Web deny the value of books. But they argue that it is unrealistic to expect all children to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Pride and Prejudice” for fun. And those who prefer staring at a television or mashing buttons on a game console, they say, can still benefit from reading on the Internet. In fact, some literacy experts say that online reading skills will help children fare better when they begin looking for digital-age jobs.

Some Web evangelists say children should be evaluated for their proficiency on the Internet just as they are tested on their print reading comprehension. Starting next year, some countries will participate in new international assessments of digital literacy, but the United States, for now, will not.

Clearly, reading in print and on the Internet are different. On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.

Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”

Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. Often, they argue, writers on the Internet employ a cryptic argot that vexes teachers and parents. Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers. And many youths spend most of their time on the Internet playing games or sending instant messages, activities that involve minimal reading at best.

Last fall the National Endowment for the Arts issued a sobering report linking flat or declining national reading test scores among teenagers with the slump in the proportion of adolescents who said they read for fun.
According to Department of Education data cited in the report, just over a fifth of 17-year-olds said they read almost every day for fun in 2004, down from nearly a third in 1984. Nineteen percent of 17-year-olds said they never or hardly ever read for fun in 2004, up from 9 percent in 1984. (It was unclear whether they thought of what they did on the Internet as “reading.”)

“Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media,” Dana Gioia, the chairman of the N.E.A., wrote in the report’s introduction, “they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.”

Zachary Sims, 18, likes finding different points of view and interacting with other readers online.

Children are clearly spending more time on the Internet. In a study of 2,032 representative 8- to 18-year-olds, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half used the Internet on a typical day in 2004, up from just under a quarter in 1999. The average time these children spent online on a typical day rose to one hour and 41 minutes in 2004, from 46 minutes in 1999.

The question of how to value different kinds of reading is complicated because people read for many reasons. There is the level required of daily life — to follow the instructions in a manual or to analyze a mortgage contract. Then there is a more sophisticated level that opens the doors to elite education and professions. And, of course, people read for entertainment, as well as for intellectual or emotional rewards.
It is perhaps that final purpose that book champions emphasize the most.

“Learning is not to be found on a printout,” David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, said in a commencement address at Boston College in May. “It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.”

What’s Best for Nadia?

Deborah Konyk always believed it was essential for Nadia and her 8-year-old sister, Yashca, to read books. She regularly read aloud to the girls and took them to library story hours.
“Reading opens up doors to places that you probably will never get to visit in your lifetime, to cultures, to worlds, to people,” Ms. Konyk said.

Ms. Konyk, who took a part-time job at a dollar store chain a year and a half ago, said she did not have much time to read books herself. There are few books in the house. But after Yashca was born, Ms. Konyk spent the baby’s nap time reading the Harry Potter novels to Nadia, and she regularly brought home new titles from the library.

Despite these efforts, Nadia never became a big reader. Instead, she became obsessed with Japanese anime cartoons on television and comics like “Sailor Moon.” Then, when she was in the sixth grade, the family bought its first computer. When a friend introduced Nadia to fanfiction.net, she turned off the television and started reading online.

Now she regularly reads stories that run as long as 45 Web pages. Many of them have elliptical plots and are sprinkled with spelling and grammatical errors. One of her recent favorites was “My absolutely, perfect normal life … ARE YOU CRAZY? NOT!,” a story based on the anime series “Beyblade.”
In one scene the narrator, Aries, hitches a ride with some masked men and one of them pulls a knife on her. “Just then I notice (Like finally) something sharp right in front of me,” Aries writes. “I gladly took it just like that until something terrible happen ….”

Nadia said she preferred reading stories online because “you could add your own character and twist it the way you want it to be.”

“So like in the book somebody could die,” she continued, “but you could make it so that person doesn’t die or make it so like somebody else dies who you don’t like.”

Nadia also writes her own stories. She posted “Dieing Isn’t Always Bad,” about a girl who comes back to life as half cat, half human, on both fanfiction.net and quizilla.com.

Nadia said she wanted to major in English at college and someday hopes to be published. She does not see a problem with reading few books. “No one’s ever said you should read more books to get into college,” she said.
The simplest argument for why children should read in their leisure time is that it makes them better readers. According to federal statistics, students who say they read for fun once a day score significantly higher on reading tests than those who say they never do.

Reading skills are also valued by employers. A 2006 survey by the Conference Board, which conducts research for business leaders, found that nearly 90 percent of employers rated “reading comprehension” as “very important” for workers with bachelor’s degrees. Department of Education statistics also show that those who score higher on reading tests tend to earn higher incomes.

Critics of reading on the Internet say they see no evidence that increased Web activity improves reading achievement. “What we are losing in this country and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading,” said Mr. Gioia of the N.E.A. “I would believe people who tell me that the Internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests.”

Nicholas Carr sounded a similar note in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the current issue of the Atlantic magazine. Warning that the Web was changing the way he — and others — think, he suggested that the effects of Internet reading extended beyond the falling test scores of adolescence. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he wrote, confessing that he now found it difficult to read long books.

Literacy specialists are just beginning to investigate how reading on the Internet affects reading skills. A recent study of more than 700 low-income, mostly Hispanic and black sixth through 10th graders in Detroit found that those students read more on the Web than in any other medium, though they also read books. The only kind of reading that related to higher academic performance was frequent novel reading, which predicted better grades in English class and higher overall grade point averages.

Elizabeth Birr Moje, a professor at the University of Michigan who led the study, said novel reading was similar to what schools demand already. But on the Internet, she said, students are developing new reading skills that are neither taught nor evaluated in school.

One early study showed that giving home Internet access to low-income students appeared to improve standardized reading test scores and school grades. “These were kids who would typically not be reading in their free time,” said Linda A. Jackson, a psychology professor at Michigan State who led the research. “Once they’re on the Internet, they’re reading.”

Neurological studies show that learning to read changes the brain’s circuitry. Scientists speculate that reading on the Internet may also affect the brain’s hard wiring in a way that is different from book reading.
“The question is, does it change your brain in some beneficial way?” said Guinevere F. Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University. “The brain is malleable and adapts to its environment. Whatever the pressures are on us to succeed, our brain will try and deal with it.”

Some scientists worry that the fractured experience typical of the Internet could rob developing readers of crucial skills. “Reading a book, and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage the imaginational processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode,” said Ken Pugh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Yale who has studied brain scans of children reading.

But This Is Reading Too

Web proponents believe that strong readers on the Web may eventually surpass those who rely on books. Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book.

“It takes a long time to read a 400-page book,” said Mr. Spiro of Michigan State. “In a tenth of the time,” he said, the Internet allows a reader to “cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view.”
Zachary Sims, the Old Greenwich, Conn., teenager, often stays awake until 2 or 3 in the morning reading articles about technology or politics — his current passions — on up to 100 Web sites.
“On the Internet, you can hear from a bunch of people,” said Zachary, who will attend Columbia University this fall. “They may not be pedigreed academics. They may be someone in their shed with a conspiracy theory. But you would weigh that.”

Though he also likes to read books (earlier this year he finished, and loved, “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand), Zachary craves interaction with fellow readers on the Internet. “The Web is more about a conversation,” he said. “Books are more one-way.”

The kinds of skills Zachary has developed — locating information quickly and accurately, corroborating findings on multiple sites — may seem obvious to heavy Web users. But the skills can be cognitively demanding.
Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy. In one study, Donald J. Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the University of Connecticut, asked 48 students to look at a spoof Web site (http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/) about a mythical species known as the “Pacific Northwest tree octopus.” Nearly 90 percent of them missed the joke and deemed the site a reliable source.
Some literacy experts say that reading itself should be redefined. Interpreting videos or pictures, they say, may be as important a skill as analyzing a novel or a poem.

“Kids are using sound and images so they have a world of ideas to put together that aren’t necessarily language oriented,” said Donna E. Alvermann, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia. “Books aren’t out of the picture, but they’re only one way of experiencing information in the world today.”

In the case of Hunter Gaudet, the Internet has helped him feel more comfortable with a new kind of reading. A varsity lacrosse player in Somers, Conn., Hunter has struggled most of his life to read. After learning he was dyslexic in the second grade, he was placed in special education classes and a tutor came to his home three hours a week. When he entered high school, he dropped the special education classes, but he still reads books only when forced, he said.

In a book, “they go through a lot of details that aren’t really needed,” Hunter said. “Online just gives you what you need, nothing more or less.”
When researching the 19th-century Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for one class, he typed Taney’s name into Google and scanned the Wikipedia entry and other biographical sites. Instead of reading an entire page, he would type in a search word like “college” to find Taney’s alma mater, assembling his information nugget by nugget.

Experts on reading difficulties suggest that for struggling readers, the Web may be a better way to glean information. “When you read online there are always graphics,” said Sally Shaywitz, the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” and a Yale professor. “I think it’s just more comfortable and — I hate to say easier — but it more meets the needs of somebody who might not be a fluent reader.”

Karen Gaudet, Hunter’s mother, a regional manager for a retail chain who said she read two or three business books a week, hopes Hunter will eventually discover a love for books. But she is confident that he has the reading skills he needs to succeed.

“Based on where technology is going and the world is going,” she said, “he’s going to be able to leverage it.”
When he was in seventh grade, Hunter was one of 89 students who participated in a study comparing performance on traditional state reading tests with a specially designed Internet reading test. Hunter, who scored in the lowest 10 percent on the traditional test, spent 12 weeks learning how to use the Web for a science class before taking the Internet test. It was composed of three sets of directions asking the students to search for information online, determine which sites were reliable and explain their reasoning.

Hunter scored in the top quartile. In fact, about a third of the students in the study, led by Professor Leu, scored below average on traditional reading tests but did well on the Internet assessment.

The Testing Debate

To date, there have been few large-scale appraisals of Web skills. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, has developed a digital literacy test known as iSkills that requires students to solve informational problems by searching for answers on the Web. About 80 colleges and a handful of high schools have administered the test so far.

But according to Stephen Denis, product manager at ETS, of the more than 20,000 students who have taken the iSkills test since 2006, only 39 percent of four-year college freshmen achieved a score that represented “core functional levels” in Internet literacy.

Now some literacy experts want the federal tests known as the nation’s report card to include a digital reading component. So far, the traditionalists have held sway: The next round, to be administered to fourth and eighth graders in 2009, will test only print reading comprehension.

Mary Crovo of the National Assessment Governing Board, which creates policies for the national tests, said several members of a committee that sets guidelines for the reading tests believed large numbers of low-income and rural students might not have regular Internet access, rendering measurements of their online skills unfair.

Some simply argue that reading on the Internet is not something that needs to be tested — or taught.
“Nobody has taught a single kid to text message,” said Carol Jago of the National Council of Teachers of English and a member of the testing guidelines committee. “Kids are smart. When they want to do something, schools don’t have to get involved.”

Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford who lobbied for an Internet component as chairman of the reading test guidelines committee, disagreed. Students “are going to grow up having to be highly competent on the Internet,” he said. “There’s no reason to make them discover how to be highly competent if we can teach them.”

The United States is diverging from the policies of some other countries. Next year, for the first time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers reading, math and science tests to a sample of 15-year-old students in more than 50 countries, will add an electronic reading component. The United States, among other countries, will not participate. A spokeswoman for the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, said an additional test would overburden schools.
Even those who are most concerned about the preservation of books acknowledge that children need a range of reading experiences. “Some of it is the informal reading they get in e-mails or on Web sites,” said Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on adolescent literacy. “I think they need it all.”
Web junkies can occasionally be swept up in a book. After Nadia read Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir “Night” in her freshman English class, Ms. Konyk brought home another Holocaust memoir, “I Have Lived a Thousand Years,” by Livia Bitton-Jackson.

Nadia was riveted by heartbreaking details of life in the concentration camps. “I was trying to imagine this and I was like, I can’t do this,” she said. “It was just so — wow.”

Hoping to keep up the momentum, Ms. Konyk brought home another book, “Silverboy,” a fantasy novel. Nadia made it through one chapter before she got engrossed in the Internet fan fiction again.

Reviews of South of Broad by Pat Conroy

By Larry Bowen

I’m currently listening to “South of Broad” on CD and, so far, it’s one of the most lyrically written books I’ve read/listened to in a while. Conroy is spot on in his depiction of Charleston though at times he overpowers the reader by spending too much time describing Charleston and not enough furthering the plot. All in all, this southern narrative makes me want to take a trip south as soon as possible.
I haven’t read Beach Music yet but it’s next on my list. I included the reviews for it because I think they apply equally well to South of Broad.
I’m including a link to a real estate website in Charleston so readers can see the beautiful homes south of Broad that are currently for sale and the prices. Especially the prices!

Praise for South of Broad
“Conroy is an immensely gifted stylist…. No one can describe a tide or a sunset with his lyricism and exactitude.”—Chris Bohjalian, The Washington Post

“Conroy writes with a momentum that’s impossible to resist.”—People, 3 of 4 stars.
“Beautifully written throughout…. Conroy is a natural at weaving great skeins of narrative, and this one will prove a great pleasure to his many fans.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Conroy is a master of American fiction and he has proved it once again in this magnificent love letter to his beloved Charleston, and to friendships that will stand the test of time.”—Bookpage

Praise for Beach Music
“Astonishing . . . stunning . . . the range of passions and subjects that brings life to every page is almost endless.” —Washington Post Book World

“Blockbuster writing at its best.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Pat Conroy’s writing contains a virtue now rare in most contemporary fiction: passion.” —Denver Post
“Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.” —Houston Chronicle

“Incandescent.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Grand.” —Boston Globe
“Breathtaking . . . perhaps the most eagerly awaited book of the year . . . a knockout.” —Charlotte Observer
“Few novelists write as well, and none as beautifully . . . Conroy’s narrative is so fluid and poetic that it’s apt to seduce you into reading just one more page, just one more chapter.” —Lexington Herald-Leader
“Compelling storytelling . . . a page-turner . . . Conroy takes aim at our darkest emotions, lets the arrow fly, and hits a bull’s-eye almost every time.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Changing Book World

By Larry Bowen

This is our first blog post. Our goal in doing this blog is to provide readers with what we hope will be interesting information about reading, books and the book business.
There are a lot of changes taking place today that will impact the way we will read in the future. Ebooks, Kindles, iPads, Nooks and Google’s attempt to digitize every book on the planet are all advancing at a rapid if not rabid pace.
I’m in my mid-fifties now and, aside from the age issue, have always been averse to change. I don’t want to read a book on a piece of plastic and I don’t like e-mails over a paragraph long. Because of the aforementioned, I probably won’t ever own a book reading device. But, I won’t shun those who do buy and use them. It’s change that keeps the world fresh and interesting. The older I get though, the more I seek out sameness and the comfort of familiarity. It makes me feel safe and at peace with a world that seems to travel at a pace that I can’t and don’t really want to keep up with.
I think there will always be a place and, from a bookstore owner’s perspective, a market for, good old-fashioned books.  At least there will be for me.