Monday, September 30, 2013

Series of the Month: The Five Foot Shelf of Classics, by Charles W. Eliot

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."  -  Charles W. Eliot, The Happy Life

Imagine you were asked to name the most enriching books in literary history: a list of books that represent the most compelling works of literature the world has to offer. It’s a pretty Herculean task, isn’t it? It’s certainly not something we’d like to try!

Thankfully, Charles W. Eliot—Harvard University president for a record forty years—did the heavy lifting and put together a 51-volume anthology of classic works that represent a history of the progress of man, his inventions, and thoughts. This collection of works, originally referred to as The Harvard Classics, is more commonly known now as “The Five Foot Shelf of Classics.”

A very wise man indeed, Eliot believed that just a few minutes a day with one of his 51 volumes would constitute a well-rounded education and allow the reader to become an informed contributor to society.

Since its publication in 1909, this remarkable series has served as a ‘home educator’ for anyone eager to improve themselves. Eliot’s collection was even featured in the memoir The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else, in which author Christopher Beha details how he turned to these great works for comfort and inspiration during a time of personal struggle. Beha’s memoir illustrates what Eliot believed about The Five Foot Shelf: that the great works of literature are still worth consulting, as a source not just of education, but of edification in every sense of the word.

The Five Foot Shelf of Classics is available in hardcover or paperback (call or email us for the full series), or for individual purchase on [Note: You will receive a 20% discount and free shipping and handling within the contiguous United States if you purchase any full series from Cosimo.]

Friday, September 27, 2013

Facts About Banned Books Week

*Artwork courtesy the ALA
It's Banned Books Week 2013, but did you know that the American Library Association (ALA) has hosted Banned Books Week since 1982? Back in 1982 there was a sudden influx of challenges to schools, bookstores, and libraries, to pull certain books off their shelves. Banned Books Week was started as a way to combat, and bring awareness to, censorship in America.

Here are some more interesting facts about Banned Books Week:

  • More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982
  • "Challenges" are when a person or group requests that books be pulled from the shelves of a library or from a school's curriculum--they become banned books when such a request is granted
  •  The ALA compiles a tireless list of banned books each year, monitoring challenges through the receipt of reports from schools and libraries, and keeping an eye on media publications that report on bans
  • Many classics have been challenged or banned, including the beloved novels The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), and Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  • The hugely successful Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling) is the most challenged series of 2000-2009
  • The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James), a fan fiction based on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight trilogy, has been banned or challenged in numerous libraries. In one Florida library it was pulled from shelves but later returned--due to popular demand!

For more information about the history of banned books (including comprehensive lists of the most banned authors and banned books by decade), check out the ALA's Banned Books Website

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Secret Language of Crime Lexicon in the News

While browsing the opinion pages of the New York Times, I stumbled onto an article by the author Kate Manning, The Lost Slumgullions of English about how she (and other novelists) could use interesting English words emanating from the 19th century.  My eye fell almost right away on the following paragraphs about one of Cosimo's Classics:

".....My favorite of all dictionaries is “The Secret Language of Crime” a mother lode of forgotten words. This little volume was published in 1859 by the New York City police chief, George W. Matsell. Mr. Matsell was also the editor of a newspaper, The Police Gazette, which fed New Yorkers a steady diet of murder, rape, abduction and thievery.

He kept notes on the slang of thugs and criminals, and wrote up a guide, so his cops and reporters would know what the bad guys were talking about when they went on like this: “He told Jack as how Bill had flimped a yack, and pinched a swell of a sparks -fawney.” In other words, “He told Jack that Bill had hustled a person, and obtained a watch, and also robbed a well-dressed gentleman of a diamond ring..................."

Ms. Manning ends by saying:

"....All of these (words), Chief Matsell might be glad to know, are still there in his dictionary, waiting to enrich the language again, rediscovered, and deployed — sparingly — by all kinds of storytellers, more than 150 “stretches” after he wrote them down."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Emily Squires Honored at Emmys in Memoriam

Emily Squires, who was the director of Sesame Street and multiple documentaries, a writer and Cosimo author, was honored at yesterday's Emmy Awards of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in a salute to notable television figures who passed away since the previous year's ceremonies. See also our tribute to Emily earlier this year.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Banned Books Week 2013 Coverage

*Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
Here at Cosimo we’re pretty passionate about Banned Books Week. As an independent publisher we know how hard it is for authors—particularly independent ones—to find both support for their publication and, ultimately, readership. It’s heartbreaking to imagine any of our authors having their works pulled from the shelves of a library or bookstore and kept from those who might be enriched by the ideas contained within. 

As a publisher focused on the publication of books that “inspire, inform and engage” we also know that books (or, rather, the ideas they contain) can sometimes be scary to some people, and misunderstood. But this is why we’re in publishing in the first place: because books can propel us into thinking about who we are, what we know, and how we feel. Is there really anything more incredible than the fact that a string of words can change the world?

At Cosimo we seek out titles concerned with personal development, socially responsible business, and economics/public affairs because we understand the impact of the written word, and we want our impact to be a positive one. We think it’s important to challenge yourself and others to think outside the box, expose yourself to ideas (even ones you disagree with) and BE INSPIRED, BE INFORMED.

We'll be discussing our favorite banned books all week on Twitter and Facebook. Let us know what you think about books that have been banned or challenged at some point in time. Stay posted for more!

For more information on Banned Books Week check out the comprehensive website from the American Library Assocation.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Classic of the Month: The Child and the Curriculum

Students and teachers recently returned to the classroom for a new school year, and in honor of their return to chalkboards, term papers, and exams, we've chosen John Dewey's The Child and the Curriculum: Including, The School and Society as September's Classic of the Month.

The essays that comprise this collection represent two of Dewey's most groundbreaking works on educational reform in the American school system.
"Abandon the notion of subject-matter as something fixed and ready-made in itself, outside of the child's experience."
A prolific philosopher, educational reformer, and professor, Dewey's essays meld his interests into profound philosophical meditations on the relationships between curriculum and student, teacher and student, as well education and democracy. Dewey believed that students should learn by doing: by interacting with the world and relating the concepts of a given curriculum to their lived experience. The ultimate goal of a teacher, Dewey believed, was not to produce a classroom of students with a shared knowledge set, but to produce a classroom of students who would ultimately realize their personal potentials and positively contribute to society.

A seminal work by one of the most respected educational reformers in American history, The Child and the Curriculum is an absolute Must Read for American educators. It is available for purchase in paperback.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cosimo's Book of the Month: The Joy of Ritual

As the arid heat of the summer changes into the cooler winds of autumn, it's a good time to take stock of all the other changes happening in our lives. Even something as simple as a seasonal change can affect our bodies, moods, and spirits, which is why September's Book of the Month is Barbara Biziou's The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred.

The Joy of Ritual is a recipe book unlike any other, providing recipes not for fortifying the body, but for fortifying the soul. Biziou believes that rituals and spiritual practices can help us cope with all of life's changes and transitions—both big and small—because they remind us that "we have the power to design our lives."

This empowering collection provides the reader with a recipe book of rituals they can utilize to navigate a wide range of situations, from mourning a loved one (“Dealing With Grief”) to celebrating a move to a new house or apartment (“A New Home”). Biziou illustrates how rituals—even ones that take mere seconds—can bring stability to our lives, integrate the sacred into our daily routines, and transform the ordinary into moments of reflection and connection within ourselves.

This wonderful book is currently available as an e-book (now at a special rate at the ReKiosk digital marketplace) or in paperback. Fans of Biziou's work can also purchase The Joy of Family Rituals

Follow Biziou on Twitter at @barbarabiziou for spiritual reflections and suggestions or visit her website for more information.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hazel Henderson on Syria and the International Criminal Court

Although the ground on the Syria crisis has started to shift, at this point we don't know how successful the Russian proposal for Syrian chemical weapons disarmament will be, neither what the response of President Obama and the Congress will be in case of failure. What we do know is how President Obama and his foreign policy team has framed the debate a few weeks ago. Now an intriguing article has been written by Hazel Henderson, well known as a sustainable economist, futurist, author of multiple books including with Cosimo, specifically addressing the false dichotomy presented by President Obama and calling for a non-military and legally sound option of referring the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC.) In her article Averting Another U.S. Foreign Policy Disaster published in The Globalist, Hazel Henderson states.

"So far, the public debate in the United States on what to do about Syria has been largely limited to an almost childishly binary proposition: “Bomb Syria — or do nothing.” President Obama has taken a first step out of this box by correctly throwing the decision on Syria to the U.S. Congress, as required by the U.S. Constitution."

Henderson then acknowledges that due to  Russia's initiative, President Obama has "now a way to put the military strike on hold. But should this initiative fail, there remains a strong possibility — given the grave doubts asserted by many, including military officers and other leaders — that Congress will answer President Obama’s request with a resounding “no” vote."

Henderson continues and calls for an alternative to the option of military action:

Danny Schechter on What Syria and the Financial Crisis Have in Common

At the eve of President's Obama televised speech to the American people, developments on the "ground" about Syria appear to be changing dramatically. Russia has made a proposal today to avoid a U.S. military strike on Syria by having international monitors take control of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons, while Syria's foreign minister Walid al-Moallem welcomed this proposal. This may turn out to be just a ploy to play for time or it might offer the Obama administration an unexpected way out of this political and diplomatic mess. Whichever it is, it's causing confusion in Washington: the U.S. Senate postponed a vote authorizing an attack, and President Obama's speechwriters will be having a hard time coming up with a speech that will be truthful, up-to-date, and effective. One can also wonder what effective would mean in this increasingly complicated war game.

Against the backdrop of the developments in Syria crisis, Danny Schechter, filmmaker, Cosimo author, media critic, aka the News Dissector  wrote an article on the disinformation website (published before Russia's proposal became public), titled: Financial Crisis and Impending War Are Converging As Failed Policies Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. In this article, Schechter is making an interesting connection about the convergence of two events, the Syria crisis and the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 on the one hand, and on the other hand the anniversary of the financial crisis. Schechter says:
"And, then, there’s the anniversary of the financial crisis which all the military bang-bang is sure to drive off the front pages even as New York Times economist Paul Krugman noted Friday:
“In a few days, we’ll reach the fifth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers — the moment when a recession, which was bad enough, turned into something much scarier. Suddenly, we were looking at the real possibility of economic catastrophe.
And the catastrophe came.”....
.....You can be sure that Obama does not intend to speak about the economic crisis next Tuesday, because he has no real answer to Krugman’s indictment of failed economic policies. One of the architects of that policy, Larry Summers is apparently about to be appointed to head the Federal Reserve Bank for TEN years, despite his pathetic record, with Obama’s support."

Schechter continues:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Upcoming Tsunami of JFK's Assassination Memorabilia

As the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are hardly behind us, attention is now shifting to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22. The New York Times reports on the various media and events preparing for this commemoration: 

"newsstands making space for "photo-heavy commemorative issues....bookstores are crowded with new volumes re-examining the single-gunman theory ... movie theaters and television sets will recreate the glory and the tragedy... visitors flocking to the Washington based Newseum exhibit of JFK.  So many authors have seized on the moment that an search turned up about 140 Kennedy-related books being released or rereleased this year..........Next month, Tom Hanks will release “Parkland,” named for the hospital where Kennedy died, ...... ReelzChannel will broadcast a second-gunman documentary called “JFK: The Smoking Gun.” And Stephen Gyllenhaal is making “The Kennedy Detail” about the president’s Secret Service agents, to be released next year,.........etc. etc. " While there may be lot of worthwhile new books, articles and movies being released, I think just reading