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Dog Eared

Books we love

Speculative Fiction

It goes by any number of rubrics: Science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy. Whatever you call it, a software developer here at the VT named Robert W. is a huge fan. When he's not busy fine-tuning our visualization technology, he's nose-deep in the genre. We asked Robert to tell us about his favorites:

The Uplift War by David Brin. What constitutes sentience? At what point does a species deserve rights?

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Honor, betrayal, sibling rivalry, Machiavellian machinations, lust, and completely unpredictable plot changes. Who could ask for anything more?

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. What would time travel do to the world of academics? Well, it would let historians work more like anthropologists.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. A hilarious, heart-warming, enjoyable look at the apocalypse. No, really.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. A glimpse of the near future. Funny, entertaining, and disturbingly plausible.

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I am not an identical twin. Before writing TWINS, I had started another novel about a young woman in San Francisco and then I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was write a book about myself. Instead, I set out to amuse myself. I started with a new, outlandish voice (Sue) and then countered her voice with a quiet, controlled opposite (Chloe).

I have always been fascinated by twins. I'm also drawn to coming of age tales, stories of troubled teens, confused college students; the stories of disaffected, young women always pull me in. I made Chloe and Sue blond and beautiful because I could, and smart, too, because I'm only interested in intelligent, sensitive suffering characters.

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Blog Excerpts

The Mysteries of Naming

What's in a name? According to expert Nancy Friedman, who writes a blog called Away With Words, everything: "A name is the title of your story. You may think you're naming your company or your product. But in fact you're putting a title on the story you're telling investors, shareholders, customers, and employees. If you're smart and lucky, the name you choose will be the title of a great story. A saga. A legend. A tale told around the campfire for generations." Read the entry here.
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Besides writing the monthly Language Lounge column, distinguished lexicographer Orin Hargraves creates our unique "themed" Words of the Day. Subscriber Marije Martijn recently sent us this comment on the word "Stipple," which ran on July 24th:

I just had to be my pedantic self and comment on the word of the day: if you want to thank someone for the root "stip" of your verb 'to stipple', you should thank the Dutch. I admit, there is also a German word "Stipp," but "stip" is a Dutch word. There is even a Dutch verb, "stippelen," i.e. "to dot." I don't know of a German verb like that. But then, I am not German, so there may very well be such a verb. Best wishes, Marije

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Lisa Napoli, a senior reporter on public radio's Marketplace, has led a busy 20-year career as a journalist, covering diverse stories like the first Clinton campaign, the culture of the Internet and NASCAR racing; producing for CNN and Fox; writing for the New York Times; appearing on MSNBC; and, of course, telling stories on the radio. With Lisa's broad experience, we here at the Visual Thesaurus wondered how she writes differently for the ear -- and what we can learn from it. So we called up Lisa and asked her.

VT: What's unique about writing for radio?

Lisa: You have to get a lot of information across with very few words -- and you have to write it like you'd speak it. That sounds really simple but you're usually not taught to write conversationally. You have to make sure you read your stuff out loud. If it doesn't make sense when you say it, it's not conveying any information.

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Blog Du Jour

"Bad Language" Blogs

We asked our Bad Language columnist Matthew Stibbe to tell us the top blogs on his "must surf" list. He says:

I scan over a hundred every day so it's hard to pick the good ones but I make a point of reading these four carefully.

Samuel Pepys's diary. This a blog created from the diaries of the famous historical figure.

Lifehacker. Neat geeky tricks for making life more efficient.

Guy Kawasaki. Always provocative and entertaining.

Presentation Zen. Really nice website about making presentations.

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Dog Eared

Books we love

Books That Changed Lives

The Academy of Achievement, an organization that brings students face-to-face with the "greatest thinkers and achievers of our age," compiled a list of books that have impacted the lives of remarkable people. Read the entire list here. A few examples:

James Earl Jones recommends The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jonas Salk, MD, recommends The Island Within by Ludwig Lewisohn

Author Peggy Noonan recommends The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

Explorer Sylvia Earle recommends Galapagos: World's End by William Beebe

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