Tag Archives: E-book

Book: Do/ Improvise

Do Improvise 

Yawn. At least it doesn’t cost any money (it’s free on Readmill)
144 pages, ★★

I love Readmill. It’s an iPad app for social reading. In this free iPad app, you can download free (or cheap) books and make highlights, page-marks and annotations with your fingers just the same as in iBooks and many other popular reading apps. In Readmill, however, your comments are shared with all the other people reading that book—and you can see everyone else’s comments, too. You can start a global discussion between strangers from any sentence on any page!

Not only is it interesting to see other peoples reactions to certain part so of the book that you found interesting, but it also gives all readers a crowd-sourced, pre-highlighted, pre-annotated version of the book available from the moment you open the first page! Social reading apps like Readmill could provide the social aspect that textbooks currently lack, and that students are craving (sometimes unknowingly) in today’s classrooms.

I am also glad that I teach. Reading this book aimed at corporate office-workers reminded me of the team-building exercises and networking opportunities that, for the most part, comprise the biggest highlights of those ‘corporate’ office jobs. The most useful of those in this book, and the most applicable to my career as a teacher, was called “Yes, and…”. It’s a variation of “Today, I went to the store and bought…” and the author touts it as a way of training your audience’s listening skills.

Games like these are fun, memorable ice-breakers but they honestly don’t teach anything. Education is far ahead of the corporate world with its modern, interactive teaching practices and we could actually teach the corporate world a thing or two. PEEL is just one example (although I wish it were free to access).

So I won’t be reading these free corporate books on Readmill any longer. Reading them is a waste of time, and reading education books and articles is a much better use of my time. That’s all I learned from Do Improvise: don’t read irrelevant books. ★★

Side note: while the book was awful, a workshop based on this book might actually be fun to attend (should I ever have the time…)

Book: A Little History of the World

A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich
I read this as a PDF on an iPod. The paperback version would probably earn five jameskennedybeijing stars. I’ve been reading this in bed.

Perfect Middle School World History Reader. Adults should read this with children.
305 pages, ★★★★ (probably five stars in paperback) 

A Little History of the World is delightful to read. It’s written in verbatim speech, more like a bedtime story than a history textbook. The author, E. H. Gombrich, wrote this book extremely fast: sometimes one chapter per day, and very little editing was done before publication. The book therefore retains an original, colloquial style. That adds character.

Gombrich brings an obvious Greece/Rome/Europe-centric bias to this book. Very little space is devoted to flourishing ancient cultures in China, India, Africa and the pre-colonial Americas. In fact, the sole chapter on Chinese Buddhism was written not by Gombrich, but by a guest author. I suggest reading this book in conjunction with both Quick Access to Chinese History and China’s History for a more balanced picture.

I like how Gombrich sets the historical background for world-changing ideas: Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism and Marxism, according to Gombrich, were inevitable results of social situations at different times. He explains the social background for each of these philosophies, and introduces each of them as a “solution to a major historical problem”. Historical atrocities are thus a little easier to accept. This suits children.

E. H. Gombrich tells stories less like a professional historian and more like a grandfather. His style is colloquial and his account of history is not 100% correct—he corrects his errors in the final chapter—but his vivid descriptions of character and situations are always memorable.

I’d read this to primary school students at bedtime; and I’d teach this to middle school students after school. A Little History of the World lends itself extremely well to annotations, research projects and extra homework assignments. It’s a book designed for adults to read with children. ★★★★