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The Late Movies: Book Trailers, This Year's Winners and Losers

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The same week I enjoyed Ransom's beautiful book trailer, I heard about the Moby Awards -- which, in addition to recognizing great book trailers, points out awful book trailers. Below, I've collected some winners...and losers. I'll be curious to see whether Ransom gets a nod next year!

Worst Performance By An Author

Jonathan Franzen: "This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this, since, to me, the point of a novel is to take you to a still place." This trailer is nominally promoting Freedom: A Novel, but it's primarily Franzen decrying the medium he's using and clearly feeling uncomfortable while doing it. Awkward, smart, and clearly done to satisfy a contractual obligation. I think this is a win for Franzen.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Ron Charles of Washington Post Book World: "Of all the Lifetime Achievement Awards I've won in my lifetime, this is the most recent." Again, this is a fundamental criticism of the notion of book trailers and video reviews of books.

Best Big House

A funny LOST-style retro-futuristic look at Mary Roach's Packing for Mars. I strongly encourage you to read this book and enjoy this interview with Roach on The Sound of Young America. I basically want to be Mary Roach's best friend after hearing that interview and picking up the book. Hey Mary, call me!

Worst Big House

For Savages, by Don Winslow. I can only hope that this was a parody.

Best Small House

For Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. Now here's a book trailer that takes you to Franzen's "still place."

Worst Small/No House

For Pirates: The Midnight Passage by James R. Hannibal. It's like The Room in crappy book trailer form!

Grand Jury/We're Giving You This Award Because Otherwise You'd Win Too Many Other Awards

For Gary Shteyngart's third novel, Super Sad True Love Story. Genuinely funny, probably funnier for authors and nerds than for everybody else. Wait for the Jeffrey Eugenides interview around 3:15.

The Rest

Check 'em out here. Includes the very NSFW "Most Monkey Sex" one.

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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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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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