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  • Jenny Shank 4:00 pm on 2015/08/10 Permalink
    Tags: , college, , , high school, , , Muriel Spark, , , tobias wolff, university novels   

    5 Books That Give You That Back-To-School Feeling 

    Fresh pencils, shiny shoes, and stuffed backpacks might not be enough to get you in the back-to-school mood, especially if your semester—or your kid’s—starts well before summer fades. Fortunately, plenty of good books distill that back-to-school essence. Here are five that will get you raring to meet new teachers and make new friends, or, if the depiction of school in several of these books is accurate, acquire new enemies.

    Old School, by Tobias Wolff
    Tobias Wolff’s terrific novel revolves around life at an elite East Coast prep school like the one Wolff once attended. During the 1960 to ’61 school year, the narrator, a scholarship student, vies to prove his literary mettle in a writing competition, hoping to win a meeting with three illustrious visiting writers: Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. Wolff’s dialogue and observations are droll and authentic as ever, and the student writing samples he includes—misguided imitations of those famous writers—are hilarious.

    Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
    Frank McCourt may have riveted the book-reading public with his first memoir, Angela’s Ashes, but before he wrote it he taught English in New York City public high schools for 30 years. He reports in Teacher Man that his students were often less than attentive: “Tell them to copy what’s on the board. They stare. Oh, yeah, they tell one another. He wants us to copy what’s on the board. Look at that. Man wrote something on the board and wants us to copy it.” Not only do the students fail to take notes, they also turn in excuse notes “blatantly forged under [his] nose” and research papers that are “an ecstasy of plagiarism.” In this free-form memoir, we watch McCourt evolve from a harried beginning teacher into an innovative instructor who realizes when he begins to advise his students on the finer points of creative writing that he ought to write his own book some day.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Okay, so maybe Halisham, the school depicted in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, turns out to be a totally creepy boarding establishment for cloned children whose organs will eventually be harvested, but Ishiguro’s descriptions of it before this is revealed portray it as a bucolic institution and estate in the English countryside, where the children are encouraged to get plenty of exercise and fresh air and display their creativity through regular art sessions. Lots of fun, if you just stick your fingers in your ears and say “la la la” so you don’t have to overhear any troubling rumors.

    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
    At the Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh, teacher Jean Brodie tells her students that she’s in her prime, and singles out a group of six ten-year-old girls as her special favorites, her “set.” The children are soon in the thrall of this woman who says, “The word ‘education’ comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.” As much as Miss Brodie’s set loves their singular teacher, one of them will grow up to betray her.

    Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
    Chabon portrays the madcap dysfunction of a university English department in his second novel Wonder Boys, which details the travails of writer Grady Tripp, an English professor at the fictional Coxley College who is struggling to finish a 2611-page second novel to follow up his successful debut. Instead of writing, though, he’s busy with other matters: his wife leaves him, his mistress announces she’s pregnant, and he becomes involved with a troubled student, James Leer, who kills the university chancellor’s dog and steals a priceless Marilyn Monroe collectible. Sounds like college!

    What books put you in a back-to-school frame of mind?

  • Elodie 6:50 pm on 2015/07/28 Permalink
    Tags: , college, gifts for grads, ,   

    10 Must-Read College Survival Guides 

    College is a chaotic whirlwind of bad decisions, deadlines, and midnight tacos. No one really knows what’s going on at any given moment, and everything is going smoothly until it’s not. But it doesn’t have to be that way. College crusaders from all walks of life heard the call and have written about their experiences for your benefit—that way you won’t wind up, say, naked on the sidewalk in front of your building mid-fire drill wearing only a towel. (But that kind of thing has never actually happened to anyone, and certainly not us.) Here are 10 books to read before you head off to campus…or 10 books to give to your favorite recent high-school graduate.

    Stuff Every College Student Should Know, by Blair Thornburg
    College students have books to read, essays to write, and instant pasta to consume in unseemly quantities. They don’t have time to research what to do when you’re sick (don’t you just swallow a couple Tylenol and head to class anyway?) or how to manage your finances (what does that even mean?). That’s why this nifty little pocket-sized how-to guide covers all the finer points of dorm living, ramen-eating, and homesickness for you, in short, bite-sized sections. Score.

    The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, by Harlan Cohen
    This book could have been replaced The Naked Roommate with any number of other concerns, like, Sidewalk Puke:, or Eating Noodles Out of a Frisbee, or Awkward Elevator Eye Contact with Someone You Made Out With Once at a Party. Harlan tackles it all—everything from campus jobs to the 17 different kinds of hookups—with refreshing frankness and dry, down-to-earth humor.

    How to Survive Your Freshman Year, by Mark W. Bernstein
    Check this bad boy out if you’re in the market for tricks and tools of the trade from living, breathing college students. They’ve got the skinny on all things college (Facebook, laundry, the biannual Hunger Games arena melee also known as picking classes), and every single one of them survived their freshmen year with minimal existential scarring. So odds are you can, too.

    The Freshman Survival Guide: Soulful Advice for Studying, Socializing, and Everything in Between, by Nora Bradbury-Haehl and Bill McGarvey
    If you want to level up as a person (i.e., become a well-adjusted beacon of scholarly success rather than the kind of human catastrophe who thinks Doritos are a food group), this is the book for you. It offers up advice not just for passing your classes with flying colors but also for making something out of the forsaken desert wasteland that is your social life.

    The Secrets of College Success, by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman
    If the secret to success was simply “don’t make mistakes,” we’d all be royally screwed. Thankfully, it’s not, and The Secrets of College Success gets that. It contains a wealth of academic pro tips and learning strategies, but also operates on the assumption that we’re all just spelunkers in the cave of inevitable failure. “Success” doesn’t mean “not failing,” it means getting back in the saddle after you’ve messed up, and this book will show you how.

    College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year, by Julie Zeilinger
    For girls, doing college means juggling grades, professors, and parties, but it also means staying safe and knowing perfume can work just as well as pepper spray in sticky situations. Author Julie Zeilinger is a 2015 grad from Barnard College, so she was recently on the front lines of collegiate warfare. Basically, she knows her stuff, and A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year is her honest, funny, and empowering first-person take on everything from final exams to hookup culture.

    U Chic: College Girls’ Real Advice for Your First Year (and Beyond!), by Christie Garton
    College girls are not a hive mind of universally held interests, desires, and goals. That’s why U Chic has compiled stories and hot tips from all manner of collegiate women. So whether you’re party serious or you’d rather binge-watch episodes of Community for seven hours straight with no pants on (because your roommate went home for the weekend! YES!), U Chic has got your back.

    Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College, by Stefanie Weisman
    Everyone at freshman orientation probably barfed out semi-helpful, generic advice at you, like “Always get to know the professors!” and “Make sure you get a full night’s sleep and you’ll be fine!” But if you want to do well academically, sweeping generalizations just aren’t going to cut it. You want the nitty-gritty lowdown on this stuff, like, “What do I do if my project partner is an actual human slug?” or “How should I take notes so they don’t wind up looking like the hieroglyphics of an ancient culture?” If that’s your game, Secrets of Top Students is worth a gander.

    The Her Campus Guide to College Life, by Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Annie Chandler Wang, Windsor Hanger Western, and the Her Campus Editors
    The Her Campus Guide to College Life is like the cool older sister you never had (and probably wouldn’t ask for help with these things anyway, because let’s be real). It tackles the Real Stuff, like campus sexual assault and mental health problems, and also the WTF stuff, like how to coexist with your roommate in a tiny space without reverting to primal instincts and duking it out over use of the bathroom—all from an insider’s perspective.

    1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know: (Like Buying Your Books Before Exams Start), by Harry H. Harrison Jr.
    You may think you know a thing or two about life—you eat vegetables sometimes, for instance, and your not-falling-into-a-manhole record is pretty decent. But college is like a subset of this thing we call Real Life where problems heretofore unseen (like the “Freshman 15″? Is it real? And “good study habits”? What are those?) rear their ugly head with a frequency that’s downright startling. 1001 Things will answer any and all questions, including the ones you didn’t even realize you had, and it’ll do so with witty candor.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:52 pm on 2015/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: 101 things to do with ramen noodles, , , college, , cooking away from home, the $5 a meal college cookbook, the healthy college cookbook, the twinkies cookbook, will it waffle?   

    Cheap and Easy Recipes for the College Student 

    For many fledgling adults, making meals during the college years is equivalent to a child’s earliest efforts at crayon drawing (complete with having to explain to others what you just made). For every student who arrives at school and unpacks rice cookers and well-seasoned cast iron skillets, there are ten of us who beam with pride when realizing we can crack an egg into our pot of ramen for added protein. This list is for us—and for the next generation of cooking-impaired high school grads. These books probably won’t help them perfect their Coq Au Vin, but they’ll at least teach them toast isn’t made using magic.

    Will it Waffle?, by Daniel Shumski
    A waffle iron’s fatal flaw has long been that you can only use it to make one thing. One delicious and perfect thing, to be sure, but when storage space is at a premium, is it really worth having an item with such a limited repertoire? Well, all that changed when fearless food pioneer Daniel Shumski looked at his waffle iron and saw more than waffles: he saw potential. From creating such masterpieces as Waffled Bacon (and Waffled Meatballs) to turning leftover Mac and Cheese into the crispy delight known as Revitalized Mac and Cheese, Will it Waffle? offers enterprising cooks the key to creating simple yet delicious meals and snacks using the just the humble waffle iron. Those who discount this as a joke cookbook are making the biggest mistake of their college careers. Yes, even anthropology majors.

    The $5 a Meal College Cookbook: Good Cheap Food for When You Need to Eat, by Rhonda Lauret Parkinson and B. E. Horton
    Whether they’re trying to avoid overpriced and greasy local takeout, or just need a break from the humdrum routine of the cafeteria’s meal plan, students who are on a budget (okay, so, students) will love the quick and easy, delicious, and above all inexpensive recipes in The $5 a Meal College Cookbook. With over 300 recipes for everything from breakfast to late-night snacks (no more eating dry ramen from the package at 3 a.m. because the vending machine down the hall doesn’t take credit cards!), newly away-from-home cooks are sure to discover new favorites (Asian Lettuce Wraps) and remember old standbys (Easy Eggplant Parmesan). This is the perfect cookbook to stick in your kid’s footlocker as she packs for school.

    A Man, a Can, a Plan: 50 Great Guy Meals Even You Can Make!, by David Joachim and the Editors of Men’s Health
    Does the kitchen intimidate your college-bound child? Do they appear to like the idea of eating home-cooked meals, but hate the idea of cooking at home? Then A Man, a Can, a Plan just might be their perfect recipe book. A foolproof guide—right down to its easy-to-clean pages!—to preparing simple but hearty and flavorful dishes (think 50s-Style Creamed Chicken) with a minimum of mess and aggravation, this is the perfect introductory cookbook for beginner chefs who have mastered the can opener and are ready for the next level, as long as it still mostly involves a can opener.

    The Twinkies Cookbook, Twinkies 85th Anniversary Edition: A New Sweet and Savory Recipe Collection from America’s Most Iconic Snack Cake, by Hostess
    College students enjoy meals and snacks that store easily, travel well, and can be prepared with a minimum of fuss and production. They also love irony. Celebrate their appreciation for both with the new edition of the classic The Twinkies Cookbook, which has been updated in celebration of the 85th anniversary of the iconic dessert and is packed with 25 new recipes, both sweet and savory—including a Twinkiefied version of chicken and waffles and Twinkie pumpkin pie. A recipe book built around one of America’s favorite snack cakes? You can’t go wrong with this one.

    101 Things to Do with Ramen Noodles, by Toni Patrick
    Let’s get down to brass tacks: If they’re anything like we were back in the day, college students are short on money, short on time, and long on laziness. They don’t need a fancy cookbook that’s going to teach them how to blanche vegetables and make a perfectly risen soufflé; they need a cookbook that’s going to give them smart, practical tools and advice on how to improve the dishes we all know they’ll actually be making. And those dishes, to a large extent, are going to involve ramen noodles. Patrick’s smart, accessible book is filled with recipes that encourage you to be creative, to learn how to improvise, and, best of all, to add healthy veggies and meats to your ramen dish, making it as nutritional as it can possibly be. 101 Things to Do with Ramen Noodles: the cookbook for the college students we have, not the college students we wish we had.

    The Healthy College Cookbook, by Alexandra Nimetz, Jason Stanley, Emeline Starr, and Rachel Holcomb
    Here it is, the pièce de résistance—a cookbook written by college students, for college students, and featuring quick, healthy, and delicious recipes that can be cooked in a dorm kitchen (or a dorm room). A comprehensive guide for first-time cooks, it includes explanations of basic cookware and cooking terms, background on common herbs and spices, and a guide to shopping for and storing ingredients. Nearly 10 years after its original publication, it has been expanded to include 100 new recipes, including those that can be made on a George Foreman grill. This is the perfect comprehensive starter cookbook for the young cook-to-be, as it features both timeless and innovative recipes, some of which are sure to end up in heavy rotation even after students graduate. Don’t let your college-bound kid leave home without it.

  • Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick 4:00 pm on 2014/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , college, , , , , ,   

    10 Bookish Gifts for Your Favorite College Kids 

    Moleskine Voyageur NotebookThe holiday season is here again, and while most of our friends are asking for new gadgets and designer gear, we college-aged book lovers are writing a slightly different Christmas list. Sure, we all love a new iPad, but when it comes down to it all we really want is something reading-related. This can make shopping for us a little bit tricky for our family and friends who aren’t literary fanatics, but never fear! I’m here to help make your book-themed Christmas list simple. Here are some awesome gift ideas for the collegiate book nerd, whether that’s you or someone you know. As someone who spent five years of her undergrad and graduate career pretty much exclusively reading and talking about books, I can say I would have been crazy excited to receive any of these (and still would be, in case anyone is looking for a last-minute present for me).

    Moleskine Voyageur Traveller’s Nutmeg Brown Hardcover Notebook
    The perfect gift for anyone getting ready to study abroad. It has spaces for tickets, maps, and itineraries (aka, the things most important to your trip and the things most likely to get lost), as well as pages for you to write. So if you’re sitting under the Eiffel Tower or looking out a train window at the Tuscan countryside and start to feel inspired, you have a place to jot down your thoughts. Plus, there’s just something about a Moleskine notebook that makes you feel like a real writer.

    Jeff Fisher Lincoln/Erasmus Quotes Tote
    When it comes to expressing your love of books while on the go, let your bag do your talking. This tote is perfect for hauling your stuff to and from class. Plus, it lets the world know exactly what type of person you’re interested in: the kind that will give you more books.

    Pen is Mightier Than the Sword Resin Pen Cup
    It’s no real contest between the two, is it? We know the pen wins every time! So keep your favorite battle gear sheathed in this awesome pen cup. Putting it on your desk sends a pretty clear message: don’t mess with me, because I have a pen and I know how to use it.

    Doctor Who Clip-on TARDIS Book Light with UV Pen
    Raise your hand it you’re not a Doctor Who fan. To the one person who raised their hand: you can show yourself out now. For all us normal people who are are dangerously obsessed with the Doctor, let’s talk about this beautiful marriage of two of the best things in the world: Doctor Who and reading. You’ll never have to worry about keeping your roommate up while you finish “just one last chapter” ever again. Instead, just use this adorable Tardis reading light and read for as long as you want!

    Scholar Composition Book Folio Case for iPad
    Technology is great and helpful and the internet is not just a passing fad, despite my father’s continued insistence. But sometimes you want to kick it old school (or, more specifically, middle school). Combine your bygone school-days method of writing notes in your black-and-white composition book with your new tech-savvy style of taking down information with this awesome iPad case.

    642 Things to Write About Journal
    Every aspiring novelist/poet knows the feeling: you want to write, but you don’t know what to write about. This journal is full of prompts to get your creative juices flowing and provide some much-needed inspiration. Who knows, these fun exercises might just turn into the seeds of the next great American novel!

    Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
    One of the most important lessons you learn in college happens outside the classroom and inside the kitchen. Unless you’re living exclusively on dining hall meals and takeout (ew), you should probably learn a few go-to recipes. Thug Kitchen gives you easy ways to incorporate veggies into your diet and step up your cooking game. As they say, “Sh*t is about to get real.”

    Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist, by Tim Federle
    This one’s for the college student 21 and over, of course, so all you underage folks will have to wait a bit for this one. But for the legal crowd: are you a fan of cocktails but wish they could be more literary? Learn how to make such classics as the title’s “Tequila Mockingbird” or “The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose.” Because who doesn’t love alcohol and book puns?

    Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
    Everyone tries to give you life advice when you’re in college, but Amy Poehler is one of the few people you might actually want to listen to. Combine her fabulous new book with copies of books by fellow funny ladies Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling for a real trifecta.

    Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (A Song of Ice and Fire series), by George R.R. Martin
    We know you have a ton of reading to do for school, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break and fit some pleasure reading into your busy schedule. Relax with a boxed set of your favorite new series, like the uber popular Song of Ice and Fire series. Nothing will take your mind off your upcoming paper faster than the saga of the Starks. If you were really good this year, maybe you’ll even get a couple seasons of the hit TV show to go with it.

    What are you giving to the college kid in your life?

  • Sabrina Rojas Weiss 3:59 pm on 2014/09/12 Permalink
    Tags: college, , , , ,   

    A Little Something Different Took A Very Different Path To Publication 

    Sandy Hall's A Little Something DifferentThe process of writing and selling a novel is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to take years of trial and error, submission and rejection, revision and revision, until those big fancy publishing companies put those pretty books on the shelves. Not so for Sandy Hall, the author of A Little Something Different. She whipped up the first draft of her debut novel in six days last October, and it’s in stores now, the first release from Macmillan’s crowd-sourced Swoon Reads imprint. Writers submit their romantic young adult and new adult manuscripts on the Swoon site, where it can be read by any and all who want to sign in. The books with the highest ratings make the short list for the publishers who then select which books to release to the rest of the world.

    A Little Something Different tells the story of Lea and Gabe, two college students who seem fated to fall in love, from the perspective of 14 different narrators (I’d say people, but this includes a squirrel and a park bench). On her book release day, Sandy Hall took a quick break from her day job as a teen librarian in New Jersey to tell us how she came up with this crowd-pleaser.

    Being a teen librarian kind of sounds like the most amazing job ever…
    It is. It’s a very good job.

    Which ambition came first for you, being a librarian or being a novelist?
    Definitely being a librarian. I’ve been working in libraries since I was 16.

    Did that then inspire you to write a YA novel?
    I was always a big reader, and I remember thinking as a kid, “I love YA romance. I love these cheesy romance novels. I bet I could write one,” in that way that you think when you’re a teenager. And then I put that idea away. I really didn’t think much of it. And then I actually failed writing in college, so I remember thinking obviously this isn’t for me. Then a couple years ago I gave it another try.

    Have you written other novels before this one?
    Here and there. This is only the second one that I ever finished. Prior to that I’d been mostly failing at National Novel Writing Month.

    Does being a librarian give you an inside track on what the kids are reading these days?
    I definitely think so, because I know what goes out, I know what sits on my shelf, and I know what they’re asking for. I had a couple of kids over the years say to me, There aren’t any normal books about college. Usually the characters are in trouble or dropping out or failing. So that I always kept in mind.

    What else planted the seed for the story?
    I always liked multiple points of view, and I had asked one of my friends, “What kind of romance do you want to read?” She told me this whole wonderful story about a boy and a girl who lead very parallel lives and never talk to each other. I love those stories, but I’ve seen a lot of them, so I figured a way to make that different would be to tell it from everyone else’s point of view.

    Have you ever witnessed a couple like Gabe and Lea, that you could tell were meant to be just by looking at them?
    I’m always telling myself stories about people I see. My mom always does it too. We’ll be out to dinner and she’s like, “Look at those two people there: I bet they were arguing earlier but now they’re out making up.” I think my mom influenced that.

    Did you really write this book in six days?
    Yes. I wrote the first draft very, very fast. I am a crazy fast typer. What happened was, I had been plotting this out for most of October, because I wanted to do it for National Novel Writing Month. On the last weekend in October, it just so happened that I was going to have a five- or six-day weekend, from comp days and vacation adding up. There were days when I wrote, like, 10,000 words. They would just fall out of my fingers. But it was also very particularly planned. I had an index card with every scene with conversation ideas. There was a lot of planning.

    You were a fan-fiction writer first. Did that help?
    I used to have a lot of trouble coming up with my own characters, so I learned a lot about writing about characters that I loved by writing fan fiction. Now I can come up with my own characters. Fan fiction gets a bad rap, but it’s probably one of the best ways to test yourself and learn about other parts of writing.

    Did that also make you better at writing for an audience that’s voting with their views?
    Definitely. It also made me comfortable with putting my work out there like that.

    What was the feedback you got from putting your work on Swoon Reads?
    I got a lot of great feedback, and a lot of super thoughtful and kind feedback. The Swoon Reads community is great at “three things you did good and one piece of criticism.” That’s a thing you’re supposed to do as a teacher. It’s constructive and thoughtful and kind, even in their criticism. The biggest [criticism] was that originally I had 23 points of view, and I got it down to 14.

    Was the squirrel in there from the very beginning?
    Yes. The book takes place at Fake Rutgers, where I went to college. The squirrels at Rutgers are insane. They have no fear of people. I always imagine them having this other life, so that’s why the squirrel is there. They have opinions.

    There’s been so much conversation about the need for diversity in YA. Did that play into your decision to make Lea Chinese?
    There was no way I could write about kids going to school at Rutgers without having a ton of diversity. It’s just one of those places.

    Are you going to try to publish this way again?
    I’m working on something that I hope they like, and then we’ll see what happens. I’m definitely not writing as fast this time. I seem to have a lot of stuff on my plate. All of my vacation time is going to author-y stuff and not writing.

    Sandy Hall is now on tour! Here are the dates, and here’s the book.

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