Connecting to the Past by Picking up a Book

to kill a mockingbird

Until earlier this week, Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird was not available electronically. Readers had to discover Lee’s story of young Scout Finch growing up in a small Alabama town the old-fashioned way, by cracking open a book. (Or by seeing the acclaimed 1962 film version. But a student assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird for school would certainly never just watch the movie, right? Right?) But now, Lee, who just last year sued for control of the copyright of her work, has agreed to let her book be published electronically, for reading on computers and e-readers.

In a statement, Lee said: “I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation.”

As many more people acquire e-readers and read their books online, this was undoubtedly a smart choice for Lee and her publishers, who surely want to give people the option of reading her classic novel for as long as possible, in whatever format is the most popular. E-books and electronic publishing certainly seem to be the way of the future right now, and it’s good to know that whatever the future will bring, people will still be able to read To Kill A Mockingbird.

A different question raised by this news, though, is if the experience of reading a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, which is so tied to a specific time and place in the past (Alabama in the 1930s) will be affected by reading on a digital platform. For a young person reading To Kill a Mockingbird today, they are looking at a world very different from their own. Could reading about it on an e-reader create an even bigger sense of disconnect?

Books, physically, are a spectacular and lasting connection we have to the past. Our lifestyles and hobbies and distractions may change, but reading a book is reading a book, no matter when you do it. A book printed today is not fundamentally different from a book printed one-hundred years ago (or two or three hundred years or more, for that matter). Little technical things may change, but it’s still pieces of paper with printing on them, bound in a particular order to convey a story or inf0rmation. When someone today reads about Scout Finch picking up a book, they are able to connect with that moment. No matter how different their life and situation may be from Scout’s, they understand what a book feels like.

But for people who have no real conception of what a physical book is, this moment of connection with the character and story will be lost. They may recognize what a book is intellectually, but have no understanding how it feels. It’ll just be another thing making Scout’s world alien from their own.

Listen, I’m not a Luddite. I love books, but have no problems with technology. I’ve read books on computers and iPads, and it’s pretty nice. Plus, here at Morgan Reynolds, we release all our books electronically as well as physically and even have some e-book exclusives that not only tell great stories but will also look spectacular on your digital screen of choice. And when you get down to it, the important thing is that people read at all- what they read on is a minor issue.

Furthermore, To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel for a reason- it tells a great story filled with memorable characters, and features themes that resonate beyond any particular time or place.

But it is interesting to think that for centuries, the physical act of reading a book has remained largely unchanged, and very soon, it may be completely altered. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing- it just is. Still, even though To Kill a Mockingbird may now be accessible with just a quick click on your Kindle, it may be worth holding onto the old, dusty, dog-eared paperback on your shelf. The future is coming no matter what. It can spare a few moments to be wistful about the past.

To learn more about Harper Lee, and how her life inspired her classic novel, please check out Real Courage: The Story of Harper Lee by Katherine Don (ISBN# 978-1-59935-348-7) from your local library or purchase it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

Pardoning the Past, Looking Towards the Future

Charles Weems and Clarence Norris, two of the Scottsboro Boys, read a newspaper in their Alabama jail cell.

Charles Weems and Clarence Norris, two of the Scottsboro Boys, read a newspaper in their Alabama jail cell.

At the start of this year, I wrote about Alan Turing, and the effort to get the renowned scientist and mathematician an official pardon from the the British government. Now, as the year is coming to an end, that pardon has been given: on December 23, 2013, the Queen of England officially absolved Turing of his crimes, just under sixty years after his death.

Similarly, back in November, the last three of the Scottsboro Boys who had yet to be exonerated were granted a posthumous pardon. (The Scottsboro Boys were a group of black teenagers who were falsely accused and convicted of rape in 1931. The unfairness of their case and the trials that convicted them helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement.)

Though the stories obviously have many differences, they both show modern authorities attempting to rectify the injustices of the past with symbolic gestures. As well intentioned as they are though, this hardly seems like enough. Though there is some satisfaction to the fact that official records will no longer indicate these people as guilty of crimes they didn’t commit, their lives were still ruined by the charges unfairly brought against them.

So what value then is there in trying to correct the mistakes of the past? The past is past, and nothing can change it. But in granting these pardons, in admitting that mistakes were made, and offering some justice–if only symbolically–after the fact, we can hope that we are making a promise to the future. A promise that such injustices will not occur again, a promise that we can and will do better, or at least try.

At Morgan Reynolds Publishing, we spend a lot time thinking about history, about the past, about the thousands of events that have occurred throughout time that have led us to where we are today. Whether it’s the story of young men unfairly accused of a crime because of the color of their skin, or of a genius mathematician who pioneered computer science, or the way the spread of a disease affected civilization, or even the way a fashion designer overcame poverty to clothe a president, everything that has happened has the led the world to where it is today, for good and ill. By studying it, by trying to understand, we aim to understand the world around us, and hopefully–hopefully–have a greater grasp on where we are going and who we are. So that we can do better. Or at least try.

We don’t grant official pardons, but we do try to always present the truth, or as much of the truth as can be known. We believe that the facts should speak for themselves, that the truth offers its own condemnations, and its own pardons.

Thanks for reading along with us. We are looking forward to the new year, and hope you’ll keep reading.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -Jane Austen

James Edward Austen-Leigh once wrote, “Seldom has any literary reputation been of such slow growth as that of Jane Austen.”

But now, Austen’s work has never been more valuable.

Last week, Austen’s earliest surviving manuscript, names The Watsons, sold for $1.5 million at Sotheby’s in the UK to an anonymous bidder.

An Antiques and the Arts article reported,  “Probably written in 1804, this heavily corrected draft represents the earliest surviving manuscript for a novel by Jane Austen. The work, which was not published during her lifetime and remains incomplete, provides a fascinating insight into both her writing practices and her development into one of Britain’s greatest authors.”

Like many artists, Austen’s work became popular after her death. She is now, however, not only appreciated among literary connoisseurs  the world over, but considered one of the greats.

“She wrote about what she knew, which was only a small corner of the world, but with such wit and appreciation that audiences today are still able to respond to her work with enthusiasm,” wrote Juliane Locke, author of the Morgan Reynolds book England’s Jane: The Story of Jane Austen. 

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information on Jane Austen, check out England’s Jane: The Story of Jane Austen (ISBN 9781931798822)

Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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“As I have said for many years throughout this land, we’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. Every bit of that has to change.” -Al Gore

U.S. gas prices are pushing toward $4 a gallon. With the summer driving and flying season right around the corner, this is bad news for travelers. Political unrest in the Middle East is blamed for the rising prices, and in a recent speech President Obama rolled out a blueprint for curbing our dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, Obama is not the first president to promise and then fail to reduce energy imports.

The question is how did the U.S. become so dependent on foreign oil in the first place. You can find the answer to this question within the pages of Diminishing Resources: Oil (978-1-59935-117-9)a beautifully illustrated 112-page Morgan Reynolds book. Oil provides the historical background needed to understand how the U.S. got into its current situation, as well as explores how the country might pull itself out of this predicament with renewable energy sources, such as corn ethanol, wind and solar power, and even expanded domestic oil and gas production.

Diminishing Resources: Oil is one of four books in a Morgan Reynolds series that takes a hard look at how we’re managing, or mismanaging, the diminishing resources of oil, water, forests, and soil.

Veteran journalist Timothy Gardner, currently the energy and environment correspondent for the international news service Reuters, is the author of Oil. He writes that “In the summer of 1859, “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake drilled the first successful oil well in the United States.” Before the discovery of petroleum, Gardner explains that oil extracted from whales was used to light homes and businesses. (Read Morgan Reynolds The Great Whaleship Disaster of 1871 (978-1-59935-043-1) to learn more about the worldwide whaling industry and how it fueled the massive machinery of the thriving Industrial Revolution.)

Now, some 150 years later, the U.S. gets roughly half of its daily fuel needs from foreign oil. “And since OPEC countries have most of the world’s remaining oil reserves, the continued reliance on petroleum would likely increase tensions between the Middle East and consumers,” Gardner writes in Oil. He adds that “demand for oil is growing in a new part of the world. Early in the new century Asia became the world’s top region for growth in oil demand. A race is already on for oil from the Middle East and North Africa because China and India, which want to industrialize like the United States has, have little oil of their own.”

“One thing is certain, though,” Gardner concludes, “drillers will look to riskier frontiers—even to the ends of the Earth—for new oil sources.”

So what is our best bet? Stick with oil until it dries up? Build new nuclear plants? Modernize existing ones to prevent the kind of meltdown and radiation exposure Japan recently experienced? Put more money and effort into developing wind and solar power? Biofuels?

All of these options and more are explored in Diminishing Resources: Oil.

By Sharon Doorasamy (Managing Editor) and Adrianne Loggins (Associate Editor)

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Ideally, we should like to define a good book as one which ‘permits, invites, or compels’ good reading.” – C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow, Booklist will be publishing reviews for three of our books in its bi-monthly magazine:

Earl Warren by Leslie Wolf Branscomb (Supreme Court Justices Series)

Michael Bloomberg by Sandra Shichtman (Political Profiles Series)

Founders of Faiths by Joan Price (World Religions Series)

As an introduction to “review day”, we’d like to take a second to thank our readers.

When we get letters in the mail, receive calls in the office, or find blog posts saying how informative our books are, that means a lot to us, as we strive to publish the highest quality of books for students to dive into in order to broaden their minds and hopefully learn something new.

In fact, check out Edi Campbell’s blog about Vera Wang from the Profiles in Fashion Series.

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But we also love it when we get rave reviews, so as a teaser, here is one of the three from Booklist:

Earl Warren

Also, check out the Profiles in Fashion Series, awarded Booklist’s Top 10 Series Nonfiction in 2011.


 

 

 

 

So thanks, everyone! We promise to keep the books coming if you promise to keep reading them!

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Every thing must have a beginning … and that beginning must be linked to something that went before.” -Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

When John Riley and Anita Richardson founded Morgan Reynolds almost twenty years ago, their hope was to produce nonfiction books that would both supplement middle school and high school curricula and spark the interest of young adult readers.

According to Readfaster.com, “Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even as little as fifteen minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.”

Even Dr. Seuss knew what kind of opportunities reading could present, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

But the publishing industry is changing.

If there is one thing for certain, it is that change, no matter what industry you are in, will always be a constant. For publishing, never has that been more true. Economic ups and downs, advancements in technology, and changes in what teens, the most fickle of readers, are interested in are just some of the things publishers have to consider.

As a small independent publishing company, we want to use this blog to share who we are, what we publish, what our philosophy is, what events we will be attending, and how we are adapting to the constant changes in the publishing world.

We will be posting things that pertain to our company and our industry. So stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

*Be sure to take a look at our Mary Shelley biography, Strange Creatures: The Story of Mary Shelley


Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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