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Buy a Friend a Book (Week)

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Did you know we're approaching the end of Buy a Friend a Book Week? Well, now you do, and I sure hope that kernel of knowledge somehow guilts you into buying a friend a book! After all, you have an explanation for your book gift during BAFAB Week -- every other week of the year you're just being nice for its own sake. So get with the program!

BAFAB Week actually comes four times a year -- the first weeks of January, April, July, and October. The entire notion of the project is encapsulated in its title, so I won't belabor it with more procedural explanation. Where it gets interesting is figuring out what book to buy and for whom?

If you need suggestions for books to buy, the BAFAB site has a blog with recommendations. If those aren't up your alley, check the comments on this recent post listing favorite authors or Jason's Friday Happy Hour: Book Club Edition from July. Powell's Books (my hometown bookstore) has a great Staff Picks section, which has sold me many times on new and old titles. (They also have a Gift Ideas section, but I prefer the staff picks.)

Oh, you thought I was done with links to sources for books? Not hardly. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a list of Australians' 100 favourite books, the Harvard Book Store staff's top 100 are a bit more literary, and Art Garfunkel's 135 favorite books may appeal to you. (If you haven't seen it, check out David's post on Art Garfunkel the bookworm -- including a link to Garfunkel's list of every book he has read for the past 30 years.)

So, book-buyers -- are you going to take the challenge and buy someone a book? If so, what book did you choose and who's getting it?

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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Tim Boyle/Getty Images
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literature
How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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