5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Today is Earth Day; the day dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the place we call home.  There are many reasons why everyday should be Earth Day, but nonetheless having a reserved holiday dedicated to our planet is a nice little reminder of what we often take for granted.


Here are 5 great ways to celebrate Earth Day:

5. Plant a Tree

Okay, so this one is obvious, but it’s still a good idea. Trees are important to local ecosystems, as they provide home/shelter and food to many different species of animals and insects. They are also beautiful and provide much needed relief from the eyesores that are manmade infrastructure. If you have the room in your yard, you should visit your local nursery to pick up a young tree.

4. If You Live In the City, Buy some House Plants

I know that not everyone has a giant yard where you have the leisure to plant a tree whenever you want—but that doesn’t excuse you from partaking in this awesome event! Head out to a local flower shop and purchase some house plants. If you don’t have a lot of sun, then buy plants that don’t require a lot of sun. If you’re a beginner to houseplants, do some googling to find out which plants would be ideal for you. If you’re super lazy, just get a cactus!

Trust me, you’ll grow to love the green in your apartment/house.

3. Set up an In-home Recycling System

If you haven’t started recycling by now, there’s still time! 

Research how your town does recycling. Find out this key information:

 Do they have a recycling day?

Where you put out your recyclables instead of trash?

Or do you need to take it to certain locations?

What do they recycle?

Do you need to separate, if so what goes with what?

Once you know all this, buy as many recycling “bins” as necessary. For example, my family has these kinds of bins for cardboard/paper, plastic, and cans/glass. We have to take them to certain trash receptacles in town.

2. Watch Some Environmental Documentaries

Have a Netflix subscription? Have a library card? Have YouTube? Then why not take some time to sit down and watch a good documentary?! You’ll certainly reap some good information that will make you sound smart to all of your earth-loving, thrift shopping hipster friends. An Inconvenient Truth, Chasing Ice, Who Killed the Electric Car, are just a couple you should seek out.

1. Purchase Global Warming For Beginners

Come on, you knew there had to be a plug in here somewhere, right? But in all seriousness, understanding the science behind one of the biggest crises facing human kind, will benefit you. Global Warming For Beginners is organized into five compelling sections:

Global Warming, An Introduction
The Cause
The Consequences
The Solutions
What Steps Can I Take?

Working from the premise that no one can do everything but everyone can do something, the author challenges readers with experiments they can conduct to gain a better understanding of the science underlying the problems facing our planet, and concludes with a list of fifty easy actions people can choose from to start doing their part in the effort to slow or stop global warming.”

You should check it out if you haven’t already!


The 2014 World Book Night is April 23rd

World Book Night is an exciting event that takes place one day in April every year. About 35 books are chosen each year and are distributed by “givers” who elect to give away 20 free copies.

The event is a unifying experience for publishers, librarians, authors, and readers. According to the World Book Night website, “The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers.”


The givers are vetted extensively to make ensure that they are able “to reach light and non-readers.” The books are equally scrutinized “an independent panel of librarians and booksellers.”

World Book Night’s main mission is to get books “to those who don’t regularly read and/or people who don’t normally have access to printed books, for reasons of means or geography.”

Here at For Beginners, we wholeheartedly support World Book Night because it’s mission falls in line with our mission. We work to bring academic, seemingly inaccessible topics to mainstream audiences through graphics and easy to understand language.

This year’s books to be distributed at World Book Night are: 

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1 by John Flanagan

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Large Print edition) by Jamie Ford

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The Raven’s Warrior by Vincent Pratchett

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

Cuando Era Puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Large Print edition) by Maria Semple

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

100 Best-Loved Poems edited by Philip Smith

The For Beginners Quote of the Day!If you’re interested in Benjamin Franklin, check out Ben Franklin For Beginners.

The For Beginners Quote of the Day!

If you’re interested in Benjamin Franklin, check out Ben Franklin For Beginners.

Happy National Poetry Month, folks! Pick up a copy of Poetry for Beginners to celebrate.

Happy National Poetry Month, folks! Pick up a copy of Poetry for Beginners to celebrate.

The For Beginners Quote of the Day is by Ayn Rand.
For more information about her life and philosophies, check out Ayn Rand For Beginners

The For Beginners Quote of the Day is by Ayn Rand.

For more information about her life and philosophies, check out Ayn Rand For Beginners


Happy Birthday to Jacques Lacan

Happy Birthday to Jacques Lacan, the most infamous name in psychology besides Freud. He was born in Paris, France on April 13, 1901 to a Catholic mother and a soap and oils salesman father.

By his late teens/early twenties, Lacan rejected religion and declared himself an Atheist, much to the chagrin of his family. He was highly interested in Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger and became a licensed Forensic Psychologist in 1931.

Lacan’s philosophical life can be divided into four stages:

1. “The first, from 1926 to 1953, marks an evolution from conventional psychiatric work to the gradual inclusion of psychoanalytical concepts in the clinic, both in diagnosis and treatment.” This is the period in which Lacan creates his theory of the “Mirror Stage.” The “Mirror Stage” is when infants are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, usually at about the age of six months.

“The infant must see the image of itself as both being itself and not itself, in that it is the reflection of its own face and only a reflected image at the same time. To become a subject, or social being, the infant must come to terms with the reflection not being identical to itself as a subject. This marks the child’s entry into language, and the formation of ego.” 

2. “From 1953-63 Lacan concentrated on structural linguistics and the role of the symbolic in the work of Freud.” Here Lacan studies how the human psyche is based in linguistics. “In Les Psychoses: Seminar III, Lacan claims that the unconscious is ‘structured like a language,’ and governed by the order of the signifier. This is contrary to the idea that the unconscious is governed by autonomous repressed or instinctual desires.” This is where Lacan deviates some from Freud’s writings. Lacan, in essence, took Freud’s interest in the unconscious but defined it through Saussure’s developments in linguistics.

3. “In the years 1964-73 Lacan departed further still from Freud and traditional psychoanalysis. His discourse became uniquely “Lacanian”, and he became known for his neologisms and complex diagrams. His view of the ego as the seat of neurosis rather than the place of psychic integration, and the Symbolic order as the primary place for subject formation, made his work groundbreaking. He still claimed to be continuing Freud’s work, which had only been obscured by Freud’s followers, and this accusation caused tension within the SFP.”

At this point, Lacan was attracting the interest of other philosophers, not necessarily associated with psychoanalysis, specifically the Structuralists.

4.  In the last stage of his career, Lacan worked diligently to integrate mathematics into his Lacanian, psychoanalytic theories. Here he began to combine his trilogy: the Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary.

“From 1974 he studied the intersection of the three registers through complicated topological figures. He began to confound even his most faithful followers, and students became suspicious of how applicable this type of education might be to their clinical practice.”

Lacan still remains one of the most controversial subjects in the psychology and philosophy communities. But “his work has had a significant effect on literature, film studies, and philosophy, as well as on the theory and practice of psychoanalysis.”

If you wish to delve into the intense study of Lacanian psychoanalytics, you can pick up a copy of Lacan For Beginners, which will prepare you to tackle some of the more scholarly works out there.  

 Author’s Note: All quotes and biographical information was taken from: http://www.egs.edu/library/jacques-lacan/biography/

- The European Graduate School is a great resource, along with the For Beginners series, to begin deconstructing these difficult subjects.


Check One: Female, Male…Nonspecific

On virtually any document, legal, business, government, or otherwise, you will be posed with the following question: 


Sometimes it will be include “unspecified,” other times it won’t. For me, and probably for you, this question is easy. However, there are some people that dread these types of questions. Their whole lives having been defined by an arbitrary binary in which they belong to neither.

In Australia, people who don’t fit neatly into the female/male categories are finally able to circle a choice in confidence: “nonspecific.” Norrie May-Welby, a woman born a boy, considers herself androgynous and fought to have her birth certificate change. Her case made it all the way to the High Court in Australia, where they ruled in her favor. 

The Australian High Court ruled “that the 1995 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (New South Wales) recognized that a person’s sex might be ambiguous and ‘does not require that people who, having undergone a sex affirmation procedure, remain of indeterminate sex — that is, neither male nor female — must be registered, inaccurately, as one or the other. The Act itself recognizes that a person may be other than male or female and therefore may be taken to permit the registration sought, as ‘nonspecific.’”

While the ruling only extends to New South Wales, “five of the seven Australian states and territories have the same language in their legislation, so it is expected to apply to most of the country, and to be used for interpretation of any laws that refer to the sex of a person.”

Just last year, Australia and New Zealand passed laws to allow their citizens to mark “indeterminate” on their passports.

While this is an amazing feat for intersexuals, transsexuals, and the like, it has also raised concerns in the intersex community, as Norrie is not biologically an intersex person. She was born with only one set of genitalia (a male’s), but doesn’t adhere to normal female or male characteristics. Thus, she prefers to be known as androgynous.

Organisation Intersex International (OII) said Intersex people are recognised by international, national and State/Territory bodies as being born with biological sex characteristics, including genetic, hormonal or anatomical differences, that are not typically male or female. Intersex is about biology, not gender identity.” 

Thus many intersex advocates were worried about the ramifications such a ruling could have. Fortunately, the High Court took into account such sensitivities and included a judgment to alleviate fears intersex people may have.

“‘It appears from the Judgement Summary that the High Court has recognised diversity in intersex people, and has chosen the neutral term, “non-specific” to describe Norrie’s gender. We are greatly relieved by this welcome decision,’ OII said in a media statement. ‘We welcome this assessment. We hope that the media will respect the difference between intersex and transgender, and acknowledge Norrie’s gender classification as “non-specific.’”

This is a step forward and I can only hope that the United States follows Australia’s lead. If you’re interested in the history of sexuality and gender identity, you can pick up a copy of Gender & Sexuality For Beginners today!


Happy Birthday to the Legendary Paul Robeson

“Paul Robeson was on the greatest renaissance persons in American history. An exceptional scholar, lawyer, athlete, stage and screen actor, linguist, singer, and civil rights and political activist, he performed brilliantly in every professional enterprise he undertook. Few human beings have achieved his levels of excellence in one field, much less several. Any serious consideration of civil rights and radical politics as well as American sports, musical, theatrical and film history must consider the enormous contributions of Paul Robeson.

And yet, Paul Robeson remains virtually unknown by millions of educated Americans.”

- Paul Robeson For Beginners

If you’ve learned about the Civil Rights Movement in America in a classroom setting, then it might not come as a surprise that such an important figure was often overlooked. Robeson’s omission in many curriculums underscores glaring blind spots in traditional education.

Today is this enigmatic man’s birthday and what better way to celebrate than learning of Paul Robeson’s many legacies?

If you know of Paul Robeson at all, it is probably through his achievements on the stage. He’s best known for his renditions of Othello in Othello and Joe in Show Boat. In fact, you’ve probably heard his performance of “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat at some point.

Robeson also played an integral role in the Harlem Renaissance, where he played Brutus in The Emperor Jones (a sketch of Robeson in The Emperor Jones from Paul Robeson For Beginners is pictured below). Robeson received amazing critical responses for his role as Brutus, as it showed Robeson’s versatility.

When the play was made into a feature length film, Robeson once again starred as Brutus. It was the first film to star an African American in the U.S. You can see more of Robeson’s cinematic achievements on his IMDb page.

After his success with The Emperor Jones, Robeson began studying African culture and began to embrace his African roots. He then visited the Soviet Union, where he felt his color didn’t matter for the first time in his life.

On top of his acting successes, Robeson is an alum of Rutgers and Columbia Law School, where he made lasting impressions. In fact, Rutgers named their Cultural Center after him.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Robeson found himself acting as a political activist as he fought and advocated for Republican and war refugees through concert performances. He even visited the battlefronts to boost morale.

Back in the US, Robeson found himself fighting vehemently against the act of lynching after the lynching of four African Americans. He pressured President Truman to pass legislation against lynching, but Truman brushed him off. Robeson then founded the American Crusade Against Lynching. 

During his activities in the Civil Rights Movement, Robeson was pegged as a communist and thus forced to participate in the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) trials. You can read Robeson’s testimony here.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the achievements of the momentous man that Paul Robeson was, but if your curiosity is piqued, you can pick up a copy of Paul Robeson For Beginnerstoday.


For Beginners at the MoCCA 2014 Fest

This past weekend was the MoCCA 2014 fest, and we had an absolute blast!

We wanted to thank everyone who stopped by our first For Beginners booth at the MoCCA Arts Fest! We met great people, heard some great ideas, and really enjoyed ourselves. Best of all, we got to meet so many readers of the For Beginners series, as well as a bunch of folk who would love to write or illustrate for us. So to everyone we met, thank you for stopping by!

If you missed us at the MoCCA Fest, you might not realize the new titles that we’ll be releasing in late 2014 and early 2015 (you can like all of the pages on Facebook to stay updated on developments and news):

French Revolutions For Beginners
The History of Classical Music For Beginners
Fanon For Beginners
Lincoln For Beginners
The American Presidency For Beginners

We hope to see everyone again at next year’s MoCCA Arts Fest, but please don’t wait until then to make contact with us. We’d love to hear from you – what you like about the books, why, what you’d like to see us do in the future, anything and everything. The input we received from so many librarians, teachers, academics, and individuals was much appreciated – so keep it coming!

Thanks again and please keep in touch. We really value our readers and want to hear back from you.

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