By Jared Diamond, author of The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: On the Evolution And Future of the Human Animal (Seven Stories, April 2014).The Third Chimpanzee For Young People

One day, when my twin sons were in middle school, they came home from school angry with me.  I wasn’t aware of having done anything particular that day to arouse their wrath, and so I asked them what was the matter.  They replied, “Our history teacher has assigned your book to our class to read.  We haven’t looked at it yet, but we already know that it’s a bad book.  Worst of all, our teacher is inviting you to come to school to talk to our class.  We are going to be so embarrassed in front of our friends!”

I duly arrived at my sons’ class, to find my sons sitting in the last row, with faces averted, huddled in uncomfortable postures, and obviously in agony from embarrassment.  As I began to talk about my book, their classmates started asking questions and expressing increasingly lively interest.  My sons gradually rotated to face forward, relaxed from their cramped posture, and began smiling.  They were delighted that their classmates liked my book, and that they didn’t have to be ashamed of me.  Since then, my sons have been among my strongest supporters, quick to denounce any criticism of my books.  (more…)

Approximately two (2) years ago LaSalle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island, integrated a Student Discussion Blog as their summer reading requirement.  Our English Department identified that our students were more likely to be enthusiastic and develop “ownership” to their “Summer Reading” requirement if they selected a book of interest and one that they could easily relate to.  Our current faculty also has many different and diverse interests, therefore, we all were asked to select a book of personal interest to add to the student Summer Reading selections.  Here our students were offered the opportunity to identify a common interest with their teacher.

Since I am a horse owner, an avid horseback rider, and thoroughly enjoy reading books on this topic; I decided to investigate, explore, and read several books that would be appropriate for our students to read—and at the same time—inspire them.  The book that inspired me the most was The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation, written by Elizabeth Letts.  (more…)

Dialogues by Stephen Spignesi

When Bantam first published my novel Dialogues in hardcover in 2005, it was described as a “reinvention of the psychological thriller.” Told mostly in dialogue, I wrote Dialogues as a compelling drama about a young animal shelter worker named Tory Troy who one day murders her six co-workers in the animal shelter gas chamber used to euthanize sick and unwanted animals.

Tory took a job at the animal shelter to help unwanted animals find good homes. She ended up being trained for, and working as an animal euthanasia technician. One day, after the deadly gas had done its job, she opens the chamber door and sees … a kitten who didn’t die. This begins a journey for Tory that ultimately results in a decision she alone can make: whether to live or die.

In addition to writing, I am also a Practitioner in Residence and Professor of English at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. A few years after its initial publication, I began assigning Dialogues to my English Composition and Literature students as a novel to read for the semester. I also gave them Dialogues assignments, some culled from the “Reader’s Guide to Dialogues,” written by Bantam for reading groups when the book was first published. The most important Dialogues-related assignment was a 1,000-word analytical essay in which the students had to analyze the symbolism, foreshadowing, word choice, style, tone, and all the other literary elements of the novel they had studied during the semester. (more…)

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

From the award-winning author of Life of Pi comes another provocative and mesmerizing novel, Beatrice and Virgil—which hits bookstores today.

When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together. With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.

We are delighted to award a free signed copy for one lucky fan of RHI Magazine on the Web. Email us to enter the contest with the subject line “Beatrice and Virgil Contest.”

 A teacher’s guide is forthcoming for the book. Email us to reserve one now. Click here to visit the book’s website. Click here to watch a video interview with the author.