Herman Melville — American novelist, short-story writer, and poet — was born in New York City on August 1, 1819 and died, at the age of 72 on September 28, 1891. He is best known for his seafaring tales: Typee (1846), Omoo(1847), White Jacket (1850), Moby-Dick; or The Whale(1851), White Jacket, and Billy Budd, Sailor, published posthumously in 1891. Melville wrote many short stories, but his most famous one is “Bartleby, the Scrivener” published in 1853. But of course, the literary work that endures, because it is considered one of the Great American Novels, is Moby-Dick. Although millions of students…


What in the world is a feghoot? A type of owl? A musical instrument? Don’t try looking in a dictionary, because it is one of those wonderfully quirky words that is not found in any dictionary — not even the exhaustive Oxford English Dictionary. A feghoot is a humorous short story or vignetter that ends in a pun of a proverb or well-known phrase. In short, a feghoot is a punny story. The father of the reshoot is American science fiction writer Reginald Brenor (1911–1992), who wrote under the pseudonym “Grendel Briarton” (an anagram of his name). Brenor had developed…


Before someone can answer the question “Have you ever been breadcrumbed?” we have to determine what is breadcrumbing is, right? One might ask, “Is that anything like the ice water bucket challenge, but in this case, a person jumps into a large container of breadcrumbs and rolls around, getting breadcrumbed in the process?” That’s not a bad guess; however, breadcrumbing has a less literal meaning. Originally, back in the 90s, breadcrumbing was a metaphor applied to navigating webpages, showing the series of web pages that a user has visited to get a particular page. The origin of this metaphor is…


The coronavirus pandemic had a tremendous impact on small businesses, particularly small, independent bookstores who were forced to close their doors to customers as the shelter-in-place orders were rolled out across the country, eliminating much-needed foot traffic. As of October 2020, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) noted that 35 member bookstores had closed their doors — a rate of about one store closure each week. Not only are independent books struggling during the pandemic, even after the CARES act financial relief packages and an infusion of $2.7 million of relief funds from the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, they face a…


There is a lot to unpack in Netflix’s fascinating documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, directed by Chris Smith. After you watch you will feel shocked, infuriated, or demoralized — or perhaps all three. The documentary focuses on William “Rick” Singer, the founder of The Key, a for-profit college counseling and preparation business, and its related charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, used to funnel “donations” that were actually bribes. Between 2011 and 2018, extremely wealthy parents paid Signer approximately $25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators at some of the most highly-ranked colleges in America to get over…


In a recent interview conducted for Time magazine former First Lady Michelle Obama asked inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, who wrote the stirring poem “The Hill We Climb,” “No matter how many speaking engagements I do, big audiences always trigger a little bit of imposter syndrome in me. Can you talk about how you’ve learned to deal with that…?” Gorman responds, “Speaking in public as a Black girl is always daunting enough… that in itself is inviting a type of people that have not often been welcomed or celebrated in the public sphere. Beyond that, as someone with a speech impediment…


My first book, Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf, is now available in paperback and on Kindle. It is the perfect gift for a booklover, literature aficionado, word lover, student, teacher, or writer. Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf was written and designed by a bibliophile for bibliophiles. It is a beautifully designed and eloquent homage to books, reading, and lifelong learning. The book presents over 100 thoughtful and witty essays filled with fascinating insights, inspiring passages and parables, eloquent quotes about books and reading, valuable life lessons, fascinating rare English words, and arcane literary facts. I take the reader on a…


This is one of the most overused quotations in the world of education: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” by William Butler Yeats. You find it on websites for schools and colleges as well as many books about education and teaching. And of course, it is found on all kinds of merchandise: posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and so forth. But like many quotes found on the internet, there is no evidence that the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats ever said or wrote this. Some websites attribute the quote to Socrates, Plato…


After five days of counting votes, the election has been called: Joe Biden is projected to be the 46th U.S. President. For at least half the country, this ends a nightmare of a tumultuous Trump presidency fraught with weekly scandals, lies, ineptitude, and corruption, capped with the mismanagement of a lethal pandemic that took the lives of more than 237,00 Americans (to date). Additionally, the run-away pandemic required the shut-down of the economy, causing a devastating recession, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, as evidenced by the highest unemployment levels (14.7%, 23 million Americans) since…


If you watched the vice-presidential debate you couldn’t help notice that rather brave fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head at what seems to be a very critical moment in the debate. Pence was on the defensive when Kamala Harris criticized President Trump for refusing to directly condemn white supremacy. Pence, with the characteristic composure of a cadaver or a zombie (depending on your perspective), began by attacking the liberal media and noting that Trump has Jewish grandchildren. He added, “This is a president who respects and cherishes all of the American people.” Viewers at home gagged at this ridiculous…

Alexander Atkins

President of Alexander Atkins Design, a leader in philanthropic graphic design for nonprofits & schools; author of Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf.

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