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

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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

What’s Going On in North Korea?

kim-jong-un-horseThough it’s prominence in the news has lessened some, North Korea–and the actions and intentions of its young leader Kim Jong-un–continues to be a hot topic. Just this week, North Korea was a key point of discussion between President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye during the two’s first meeting in Washington. “Solidarity on North Korea is going to be the hallmark of this meeting,” Obama said, and both leaders agreed that they wanted to see an end to Kim Jong-un’s threats toward the US and South Korea.

This conference comes on the heels of last week’s (May 2nd) news that the North Korean government had sentenced American citizen Kenneth Bae to fifteen years of hard labor at a North Korean labor camp. Bae, from Washington state, ran a tour company out of China, and was arrested when he took a group of Chinese businessmen into the isolated country of North Korea. Bae was charged with “hostile acts” against the government. (Recent reports have suggested that Bae was a Christian missionary, and his efforts were viewed as a threat to the state’s reverence towards its leader, Kim Jong-un.) Bae’s arrest and sentencing on vague and dubious charges has inspired international criticism and anger towards North Korea.

Even basketball star and TV personality Dennis Rodman, who several months ago visited rodman-kim_2496070bNorth Korea without US state department approval and claims to have befriended Kim Jong-un, has gotten into the discussion. Rodman tweeted: “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.” (Rodman claiming to call the North Korean leader “Kim” as an expression of closeness is a bit odd, since Kim is a surname.)

These stories and others, such as the UN creating a three person panel for its first ever human rights investigation in North Korea, make it clear that the country will continue to be in the news and the world’s attention for some time to come. But still, much about the country is unknown. How did this small, isolated communist country begin commanding the world’s attention? How did its young, eccentric leader Kim Jong-un come to power? To begin to understand where North Korea is going, it’s vital to find out where it came from.

A crucial part of Korean–and US–history is The Korean War. Though not as well known or studied as other 20th century conflicts like World War II or the Vietnam War, The Korean War was a major and influential part of history. Not only was it one of the first and largest armed conflicts of the Cold War, it featured the rise to power of Kim Il-sung, grandfather of Kim Jong-un, setting the stage for the North Korea of today.

To help the students of today understand this war and it’s profound impact on history and current events, Morgan Reynolds Publishing proudly presents our first Ebook exclusive, Modern American Conflicts: The Korean War (ISNB# 978-1-59935-403-3) by Jim Corrigan. To order a downloadable copy for your computer or e-reader, visit morganreynolds.com, Mackin Educational Resources, or Follett.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

A propaganda poster of Kim Il-sung, leader of North Korea during the Korean War and grandfather of Kim Jong-un.

A propaganda poster of Kim Il-sung, leader of North Korea during the Korean War and grandfather of Kim Jong-un.

“If you see the President, tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back.” – Ulysses S. Grant

The attack on Fort Sumter

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. That’s the day Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, triggering the start of a four-year-long war between a country split in two.”No one was ready for a war,” Carla Joinson, author of Civil War Doctor: The Story of Mary Walker, writes. “Neither side expected the magnitude of the war that was about to begin.”

Details of what happened on that fateful day are chronicled in Morgan Reynolds’s The Firing on Fort Sumter: A Splintered Nation Goes to War, by author Nancy Colbert. Colbert writes: Major Robert Anderson was in command of the Union militia stationed at Fort Moultrie, nearby Sumter, in 1860. In the past, the army and the locals had been friendly. But Lincoln’s election caused a major rift in this relationship. Charlestonians were outraged, and Anderson knew his soldiers were not safe from their anger. They needed a sturdier fort, and Anderson looked to Sumter for protection of his troops. But he knew re-locating to Sumter would inevitably anger the locals even more.

Colbert further explains in The Firing on Fort Sumter that Anderson was told by Washington not to fan the flame with the people of Charleston, only to act when confronted with hostility. However, “It became clear to Anderson that his superiors in Washington were as confused as to what was the proper course of action as he was.”

In December of 1860, Anderson moved his garrison to Sumter. “Anderson’s move, which was meant to protect the peace, served as a rallying cry for war in the North. In the South the move was called even worse. The Charleston Courier shouted: ‘Maj. Robert Anderson, U.S.A., has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war.’”

Early in the morning of April 12, 1861, Colbert writes,

The sky became like a night of holiday fireworks. People in Charleston trooped up to the rooftops and along the waterfront to watch the show. The rumbling, deadening roar of the Confederate artillery filled the air. But Fort Sumter lay silent. No guns fired. The Confederates wondered if Anderson had decided to quite without a fight. When dawn came, though, the American flag was still flying proudly over the fort.

Thus the American Civil War began. And as Joinson writes, no one expected the four year long saga it would become. “Expecting a short war, few bothered to put the infrastructure in place that would move supplies efficiently, take men where they needed to go, and look to their needs after a battle.”

In the end, both the North and the South were burnt out from war and loss. After General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, General Robert Anderson returned to Sumter exactly four years after those first shots were fired to reclaim the fort, ceremoniously signifying the end of the war. As the United States flag was fastened to the pole, Anderson said, “After four long, long years of bloody war, I restore to its proper place this dear flag which floated here during peace, before the first act of this cruel Rebellion. I thank God that I have lived to see this day and to be here to perform this . . . duty to my country. I thank God who so singly blessed us.”

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

*For more information on the Civil War, check out Morgan Reynolds titles:

Civil War Doctor: The Story of Mary Walker by Carla Joinson

(ISBN: 978-1-59935-028-8)

The Firing on Fort Sumter: A Splintered Nation Goes to War by Nancy Colbert

(ISBN: 978-1-883846-51-0)

Ulysses S. Grant: Defender of the Union by Earle Rice Jr.

(ISBN: 978-1-931798-48-8)

Robert E. Lee: First Soldier of the Confederacy by Earle Rice Jr.

(ISBN: 978-1-931798-47-1)

Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm  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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