5 Books to Read Now

Ellen Heltzel, book critic and author of "Between the Covers," joined us today, inspired by kids going back to school.  She told us about five great books that all have a connection to learning and the classroom.

You'll find more book review from Ellen on her Book Babes website.

"Everyone's a Winner: Life in Our Congratulatory Culture," by Joel Best -- This is one of those books that skips the public policy part and just tries to explain one of those strange little aspects of contemporary life: Everyone gets a trophy! Best divides education advocates into two types -- those who emphasize mastery, or the knowledge gained in school, and those who focus on the opportunity -- in life, career, etc. -- that education offers. Both like awards. mainly for the same reason, because prizes help us affirm the groups to which we belong.

"The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris," by David McCullough -- In the 1800s, Paris became the educational mecca for America's opinion makers, whether they were in politics or art, architecture or science. America's raconteur of history (without him, where we would be in understanding John Adams or Truman?) traces those who trekked abroad, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Thomas Alva Edison, and how their eagerness to imbibe French ways of thinking and doing in turn influenced Americans back home.

"Pigeon English," by Stephen Kelman -- Harrison Opuku is an 11-year-old who emigrated from Ghana to London's housing projects. His begins when the body of a classmate is discovered and he decides to find the person who killed him. Between school and his detective work, Harri becomes one busy, delightful and slang-talking boy. Bollocks! He may be the best boy hero since "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

"Wunderkind: A Novel," by Nikolai Grozni -- The Sofia Music School for the Gifted is setting for this lovely novel about an Bulgarian piano prodigy who grows up behind the Iron Curtain, where political oppression hangs like a cloud over the young man's adolescent life and musical development. The story is largely autobiographical, as Grozni himself was a prize-winning young pianist at the same school during the 1980s, and each chapter heading references a piece of classical music that relates to the words that follow. 


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