Tag: American Lit.

The Martian. Andy Weir. 2011. Cover Art: Eric White. Crown Publishing 2014.
The Martian. Andy Weir. 2011. Cover Art: Eric White. Crown Publishing 2014.

One of the best-reviewed books of 2014 is now one of the best movies out this year.  It isn’t hard to see why: astronaut Mark Watney, botanist on the third manned-mission to Mars, is presumed dead after a fierce storm forces the emergency departure of the rest of his crew.  Watney’s not dead, however, but he soon will be if he doesn’t figure out how to solve his food crisis, find a way to contact NASA, plan a way to leave the planet’s surface, and basically survive in an environment incompatible to human life.  It’s a suspenseful read, made more invigorating by Watney’s gallows humor and MacGyver-like acumen.

Author Andy Weir is a former software engineer and NASA junkie, and it cannot be emphasized enough how authentic the depictions in the novel are.  Except for the whole “we-haven’t-gotten-to-Mars-yet” thing, this book is one of the most realistic science-fiction books available now.  It’s so realistic that it’s only sci-fi by technicality – I would file it next to the survival skills handbooks in your library.  Truly, one of the best aspects about this novel (and the movie adaptation) is the free PR it provides for a mind of scientific inquiry.  Not to knock my beloved field of English, but if I was on Mars I wouldn’t stand a chance with only HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs as my “experts” .  This book is good enough to make you pursue a career in STEM, if only to increase your livability as a Martian.

The movie is also impeccable, directed by Ridley Scott with Matt Damon starring as Watney.  Both the film and the book earn a PG-13 rating, for scenes of peril and the use of mature language (being trapped in life-threatening situations can do that to you).  You can pick this one up at any bookstore, the county library, and my now-treasured class copy.  Earthlings might be setting foot on the Red Planet sometime this century, so read this book: it may save your life.

Reading Picks


Here are 31 spirited songs for the 31 days of October.  Listen to one a day, tell me how mine plays in full (just over two hours), or shuffle your own!

  1. Delta Rae – Bottom of the River
  2. Tom Waits – Little Drop of Poison
  3. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad
  4. The Coral – Dreaming of You
  5. The Avett Brothers – Paul Newman Vs. the Demons
  6. Disney’s The Haunted Mansion – Grim Grinning Ghosts
  7. Mannheim Steamroller – Rock & Roll Graveyard
  8. Queen – Killer Queen
  9. The White Stripes – Little Ghost
  10. Meat Loaf – Bad for Good
  11. Hunters & Collectors – Holy Grail
  12. Laura Marling – Ghosts
  13. Ron Sexsmith – Comrades Fill No Glass For Me
  14. Tears for Fears – Mad World
  15. The National – Anyone’s Ghost
  16. Bright Eyes – We Are Nowhere (And Its Now)
  17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – People Ain’t No Good
  18. KT Tunstall – Girl & The Ghost
  19. Van Morrison – Moondance
  20. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
  21. Ella Henderson – Ghost
  22. Shakey Graves w/ Esmé Patterson – Dearly Departed
  23. Jack White – That Black Bat Licorice
  24. Holy Ghost Tent Revival – Alpha Dogs
  25. Sweet – The Ballroom Blitz
  26. Róisín Murphy – Night of the Dancing Flame
  27. JBM – Winter Ghosts
  28. Elvis Costello (Ghost Brothers of Darkland County Soundtrack) – That’s Me
  29. Janelle Monáe – Dance Apocalyptic
  30. Mumford & Sons – Ghosts That We Knew
  31. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Theme from Swan Lake


Banned Books Week 2015, courtesy ala.org/bbooks
Banned Books Week 2015, courtesy ala.org/bbooks

Every year, the last week in September becomes the focal point for a concerted effort to celebrate the freedom to read.  In this country, the First Amendment’s right to free speech must contend with a long history of censorship – promoted by individuals, organizations, and government.  Banned Books Week is organized by the American Library Association (ALA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and a host of non-profits, publishers, and legal defense funds.  It is supported by myself, among much of the reading world, and, through this week’s Extra Credit opportunity, by you!

To receive Extra Credit for Banned Books Week, you must choose one of the following options, and use professional images, symbols, designs, or media:

A) Create a Poster to celebrate the week, using the three requirements below:

  • Include the title Banned Books Week, in flashy color/font to catch the attention of passerby
  • Include a quote about censorship from this video provided by Simon & Schuster Books: Celebrate the Freedom to Read
  • Include suggestions on how to celebrate Banned Books Week in school or at home

B) Create a Handout to share information about banned and challenged books, using these criteria:

  • A list of frequently challenged books (Here’s a resource from the ALA)
  • Reasons why books are often challenged (Resources from the Huffington Post, in 2012 and 2014)
  • A checklist of frequently challenged books – check off as many as you’ve read!

C) Compose a 1 page essay (typed – 12pt font, TNR, double-spaced) on To Kill a Mockingbird as a challenged book.  Why (and where/when) has it frequently been challenged?  What might be ironic about wanting this book censored?  What is your reflection on reading the book – how might you oppose or defend a challenge to this book at our school?

Whichever option you choose, it must be submitted by the end of the day Thursday, October 1.  To be eligible, you must follow the requirements for each option, as well as aim for professional quality (Mom would put it on the fridge, and so would I!).  Successful efforts will be awarded 20pts, and above-average efforts 30pts (each option is worth more than a homework assignment!).  If nothing else, you can celebrate this week by finishing TKAM, and moving on to a new book which, having been published, probably has found someone to challenge it by now!


Admin Class Resources Reading Picks