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Jules Verne: Poignantly Prescient

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When we think of Jules Verne, we think of the genius behind 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Journey to the Center of the Earth (my personal favorite of only because I read it first, at an impressionable age, and it got me on a sci-fi kick). In these stories, as well as others like Around the World in Eighty Days Verne, brilliantly prescient, wrote about flying, space and underwater travel way, way, way before any of it was actually possible.

But his ability to foretell the future, especially with regard to technology, which he viewed with a good dose of skepticism and fear, is best seen in his relatively unknown novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century. First, the fascinating story behind the publication of the book...

Verne wrote the book in 1863, the year before he started publishing Journey to the Center of the Earth. He showed the manuscript to his publisher, who read it over and scribbled "Wait twenty years to write this book," in the margins. "Nobody today will believe your prophecy, nobody will care about it." Verne followed Hetzel's advice and the manuscript was dropped into a safe where it lay until 1989 (no, it's not a typo!) when it was discovered by Verne's great-grandson.

After much hype, the novel was finally published in 1994. The story is set in 1960, nearly 100 years in the future from when Verne penned it. He got so much right about the future, it's sort of scary. But the coolest part was that Paris in the 1960s would need another decade before actually catching up to Verne on some of his predictions. The book describes a city where people communicate via a worldwide telegraphic communications network (fax machines? Internet?)—where people commute to work in gasoline-powered automobiles and high-speed trains. He predicted that reading would decline, computers would rule our lives, people would live in skyscrapers and that criminals would be sent to their deaths "by electric charge." Pretty interesting, huh?

As a novel, the book is lackluster in just about every way imaginable. So don't read it looking for an amazing story/plot like with his classics. Speaking of, have a favorite Verne novel? Tell us which (and why) in the comments below...

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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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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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