Category Archives: School in a Book

School in a Book: Algebra and Geometry

When it comes to algebra and geometry, most schools emphasize skills practice while spending almost no time helping students understand the ideas they are putting to use. Studying the definitions of commonly used higher-level math terms might help further your grasp of these subjects and allow you to converse about them more easily. Fluency in these ideas might also ease transitions between math teachers and curriculum and shorten your review time before exams.

Note that calculus and trigonometry terms are not included in this book, as these ideas require the kind of in-depth explanations that aren’t practical in this format. Also, this treatment of algebra and geometry focuses on the ideas and processes that are most useful for a general audience.


Algebra: An extension of arithmetic in which unknown numbers can be represented by letters

Variable: Any letter that stands for a number

Expression: Any string of numbers and symbols that makes sense when placed on one side of an equation; for example 5x + 4x

Term: Any part of an expression that is separated from the other parts by either a plus sign or a minus sign; for example, 3x and 5x in the expression 3x – 5x

Coefficient: The numerical part of a term; for example, the term 3x has a coefficient of 3

Constant: A number without a variable; for example, the number 2 in 6m + 2 = x

Like terms: Terms whose variables (with any exponents) are the same; for examples, 3x and 5x

Order of operations: The correct sequence of operations to use when solving an expression with multiple operations. Mathematical symbols are often used to indicate this sequence; for example, in (3x + 5x)/2, 3x and 5x are to be added before that number is divided by 2.

Theorum: A mathematical proposition that has been proven true, such as the Pythagorean Theorum

Rational number: A number that can be made by dividing two integers (an integer is a number with no fractional part)

Irrational number: A real number that can NOT be made by dividing two integers (an integer has no fractional part)

The Commutative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when two terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Commutative Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when two terms are multiplied, the order of multiplication does not matter

Associative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when three or more terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Distributive Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when a number is multiplied to an addition of two numbers, it results in the output which is same as the sum of their products with the number individually. The equation for the for this is: a × (b + c) = (a × b) + (a × c). For example, x2 × (2x + 1) = (x2 × 2x) + (x2× 1).

The inverse property of addition: The rule that states that for every number a, a + (-a) = 0 (zero)

The inverse property of multiplication: The rule that states that for every non-zero number a, a times (1/a) = 1

Factorization: The mathematical process of breaking a number down into smaller numbers that, multiplied together, equal the original number

Prime number: A positive number that has exactly two factors, 1 and itself

Square root: The number that, multiplied by itself once, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the square root of 16 is 4 because 4 x = 16.

Root: The number that, multiplied by itself one or more times, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the number 2 is a cube root of 8 because 2 x 2 x 2 equals 8.

Radical: The symbol √ that is used to indicate the square root or nth root of a number

Exponent: A number that indicates how many times to multiply its associated number. An exponent is written in a smaller font at the top right-hand corner of its associated number.

Exponential growth: The rapid numerical growth that occurs when numbers are multiplied, then multiplied again, with each iteration folding in the previous total and multiplying it by x number.

Second-degree term: A variable raised to the second power, like x2, or the product of exactly two variables, like x and y

Linear equation: An equation in which the highest power of the variable is always one. The standard form of a linear equation with one variable is: Ax + B = 0. These are some of the easier algebraic equations to solve, and are introduced early in the subject.

Linear model: A model that assumes a linear relationship between the input variables (x) and the single output variable (y)

Quadratic equation: An equation that has a second-degree term and no higher terms

Quadratic formula: A formula that provides a solution to the quadratic equation ax2 + bx + c = 0. The quadratic formula is obtained by solving the general quadratic equation.

Polynomial: A mathematical expression with one or more algebraic terms, each of which consists of a constant multiplied by one or more variables raised to a nonnegative integral power (such as a + bx + cx2)

Monomial: A polynomial with only one term

Binomial: A polynomial with only two terms

Trinomial: A polynomial with only three terms

Degree of a polynomial: The sum of the exponents of variables that occur in that term (if there is no exponent written on a variable, such as in 3x, the exponent is one). The degree of a polynomial is the greatest degree of any term in the polynomial (for instance, for the polynomial 4x2 + 7xyz, the degree is 3 because of the last term).

Function: An expression that states a relationship between one variable (the independent variable) and another variable. These expressions can be graphed on a coordinate plane.

Nonlinear function: A function whose graph is not a line or part of a line

Vector: A quantity that has both magnitude and direction but not position. Examples of such quantities are velocity and acceleration

Simple interest: Interest that is calculated on the principle amount only

Compound interest: Interest that is calculated on both the principal amount as well as the interest accumulated over the previous period

Amortization: A method for calculating interest payments wherein a much higher proportion of the total interest is charged first, and reduced at a regular rate over the life of a loan

Scientific notation: A way of writing very large or very small numbers in a shorter form, using symbols; for example, 650,000,000 can be written as 6.5 ✕ 10^8

Relation: A collection of ordered pairs containing one object from each set

Transformation: A general term for four specific ways to manipulate the shape and/or position of a point, line, or geometric figure

Simultaneous linear equation: The two linear equations in two or three variables solved together to find a common solution


Plane geometry: The mathematics of flat, two-dimensional shapes like lines, circles and triangles

Solid geometry: The mathematics of three dimensional objects like cubes, prisms, cylinders and spheres

Point: A specific position on a line, plane, or in space. A point is a theoretical construct. It has no dimensions, only position.

Line: A one-dimensional figure that features length but no depth or height. A line is a theoretical construct.

Plane: A flat two-dimensional surface. A plane is a theoretical construct with no depth whose height and width are infinite or indefinite

Solid: A three-dimensional shape

Polygon: Any two-dimensional (plane) shape with straight sides, such as triangles, rectangles and pentagons

Quadrilateral: A polygon with four sides

Pentagon: A polygon with five sides

Hexagon: A polygon with six sides

Septagon/Heptagon: A polygon with seven sides

Octagon: A polygon with eight sides

Rhombus: A quadrilateral with parallel and equally-sized opposite sides; a diamond

Parallelogram: A quadrilateral with parallel but unequally-sized opposite sides

Trapezoid: A quadrilateral with two parallel and two nonparallel sides

Isosceles triangle: A triangle with two sides that are of equal length

Equilateral triangle: A triangle with equal sides and angles

Scalene triangle: A triangle with unequal sides and angles

Right triangle: A triangle with one internal 90-degree angle

Cube: A three-dimensional square

Cone: A three-dimensional triangle with a round base

Cylinder: A tube-shaped object

Sphere: A ball-shaped object

Pyramid: A three-dimensional figure on which the faces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top

Prism: A three-dimensional figure with identical ends of any shape. For example, a rectangular prism has identical rectangles at each end. Note that a cube is a prism.

Angle: Two lines that meet to form a corner

Parallel lines: Lines that do not intersect

Perpendicular lines: Lines that intersect at a 90-degree angle

Vertex: A corner point

Right angle: A 90-degree angle

Acute angle: An angle less than 90 degrees but greater than 0 degrees

Obtuse angle: An angle greater than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees

Diameter: A straight line that passes through the center of a circle or sphere and ends at the circle or sphere’s outer edges

Radius: A straight line that extends from the center of a circle or sphere to the outer edge; half of a diameter

Chord: The line segment between two points on a curve

Face: A surface plane of a three-dimensional shape

Edge: The meeting place of two faces on a three-dimensional shape

Slope: The steepness and direction of a line as read from left to right

Transversal line: A straight line that intersects two other straight lines

Coordinate: Two numbers (or a letter and a number) that signify a specific point on a coordinate plane

Coordinate plane: A grid with a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis that meet at a center point, with the center point value being 0 and each line on the grid representing whole numbers as they increase or decrease along each axis. The plane has four quadrants: quadrant I, with a positive x value and a positive y value; quadrant II, with a negative x value and a positive y value; quadrant III, with a negative x value and a negative y value; and quadrant IV, with a positive x value and a negative y value. A coordinate plane is used to graph points, lines and other objects.

X-axis: The horizontal axis in a coordinate plane

Y-axis: The vertical axis in a coordinate plane

Congruent: The same shape and size (though not necessarily positioned the same way)

Similar: The same shape, with the same angle degrees (though not necessarily the same size)

Pythagorean theorem: The rule of mathematics that states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. Written as a formula, this is: a2 + b2 = c2 (for a right-angled triangle).

Proof: Statements that prove that a mathematical concept is true

Formula for calculating the area of squares and rectangles: Multiply height by width: hxw. Note that some areas can be divided into multiple squares and rectangles and the results can be added together to find the total area.

Formula for calculating square footage: Use the same formula as for finding the area of a square, using feet as the measurement: hxw

Formula for calculating the area of a triangle: Multiple the height by the width, then divide by two: (h x w)/2

Formula for calculating diameter: Multiply pi by radius, then square this number: πR2

Formula for calculating perimeter: Add length and width, then multiply this by two: 2(length + width)

Formula for calculating the volume of a cube or rectangle-based shape: Multiply width, length and height: l x w x h

Formula for calculating the volume of a sphere: Cube the radius, then use this formula: 4/3 × π × R3

Formula for calculating the volume of a prism or cylinder: Find the area of the end shape, then multiply by its depth

Formula for calculating the volume of a cone or pyramid: Calculate the volume of the base as if the base were a square, then divide by 3.

Formula for measuring an angle: (n – 2) * 180

Trigonometry: The branch of mathematics that applies algebra and geometry skills to circular and periodic functions. It includes the use of sine, cosine and tangent.

Calculus: The branch of mathematics that works with series and sequences; probability and statistics; and limits and derivatives.

School in a Book: Science Skills and Projects

close up of microscope
Photo by Pixabay on

Science Skills

  • Interpreting the Periodic Table of the Elements
  • Drawing a simple diagram of an atom
  • Drawing simple diagrams of molecules
  • Drawing simple diagrams of plant and animal cells
  • Visually identifying parts of the body and body systems
  • Using a telescope
  • Using a microscope
  • Using a map
  • Calculating time zone differences
  • Making and testing a hypothesis and using the scientific method
  • Identifying local plants and animals (daisy, bluebell, iris, crocus, pansy, lilac, rose, marigold, tulip, daffodil, buttercup, lavender, juniper, oak tree, maple tree, ivy, blueberry bush, apple tree, pear tree, palm tree, raspberry bush, blackberry bush, cedar, pine)
  • Identifying rocks
  • Classifying animals into major taxonomic groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, vertebrates, invertebrates, those having live births and those which lay eggs)
  • Making a sun dial
  • Identifying important cities, states, countries, and bodies of water on a map

Science Projects

  • Building science-related structures and models with Lego and/or other media (such as animals, vehicles, etc.)
  • Block building
  • Train set building
  • Playing with magnets
  • Breaking open and identifying rocks
  • Building circuits
  • Taking nighttime walks
  • Watching astronomical events (such as a lunar eclipse, shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis)
  • Making homemade environmentally friendly house cleaners (using borax, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and more)
  • Learning computer programming basics
  • Growing crystals
  • Making a balloon rocket
  • Making a volcano using baking soda and vinegar
  • Making a bottle submarine
  • Making invisible ink
  • Hunting for fossils
  • Making a rainbow
  • Making a bat house
  • Making a birdhouse
  • Making a birdbath
  • Making a bee house for honeybees
  • Making a foam-and-cardboard planetarium
  • Growing coral
  • Comparing rates of decomposition
  • Going on tidepooling and nature collecting excursions
  • Watching sunsets and sunrises

School in a Book: Statistics and Research

white android tablet turned on displaying a graph
Photo by Burak The Weekender on

Statistics are for everyone. You might not need to know all of the terms presented here, but conversational fluency on politics, economics, science and much more requires most.

Basic Statistics

Percentage: A part of one hundred, with one hundred representing the whole

Mean/average: The score that is found when a group of scores are added, then divided by the total number of scores

Median: The score that falls directly in the middle of a group of scores when those scores are presented in numerical order

Mode: The most frequently occurring score in a group

Range: A number that shows how dispersed a group of scores is

Data set: A collection of numbers or values that relate to a particular subject

Sample: A single data point in a data set

Data distribution: A function that shows all possible values for a variable as well as their frequency of occurrence. Data distributions can be used to find probability.

Standard deviation: The average amount of variability in a data set. Standard deviation shows how far any given value lies from the mean.

Normal curve/normal distribution/bell curve: The arrangement of data into a graph that delineates the average in the center, most of the data points within one standard deviation of the center, and fewer data points two, three and four standard deviations from the center. The normal curve is always symmetrical, since it depicts where various data points lie in relation to each other and to the average.

Probability: The likelihood of something happening. Probability can be represented as percentages or other numbers.

Conditional probability: The likelihood of something happening if something else happens first

Statistical significance: The likelihood that a given result occurred due to the independent variables being studied, rather than random chance

Correlation: The degree to which two or more quantities increase or decrease together. Data sets have a positive correlation when they increase together, and a negative correlation when one set increases as the other decreases. High correlation does not indicate causation.

Spurious correlation: An inaccurate or questioned correlation

Type One error/false positive: The statistical error that occurs when a true null hypothesis is rejected

Type Two error/false negative: The statistical error that occurs when a false null hypothesis is retained

Regression testing/statistical regression: A way of mathematically analyzing experimental results that uses past results to predict future results. Regression testing is used to predict college GPAs based on high school SAT scores, for example.

P value: A number that indicates the degree to which a relationship between two variables has significance; in other words, the probability

Validity coefficient: A number between 0 and 1.0 that indicates the validity of a test, with 1.0 indicating perfect validity

Correlation coefficient: A number that indicates the amount of correlation that exists between two variables, with 0 showing no correlation, a positive number showing a positive relationship and a negative number showing a negative relationship

Reliability coefficient: A number that indicates the reliability of a test’s scores from one iteration to the next, with a number greater than 1.0 indicating low reliability

Nominal scale: A binary scale such as yes/no or male/female

Ordinal scale: A scale in which scores are rated or ordered in comparison to each other

Interval scale: A scale that uses intervals, but not as part of a ratio, such as temperature

Ratio scale: A scale in which scores can be quantified in absolute terms; for example, height, length and weight

Derived score: A score that results when a raw score (for example, 67/70 on a test) is converted to a standardized scoring ratio (for example, 3.8 on a GPA scale)

Scatterplot: A set of data points plotted on a grid with horizontal and vertical axes. Scatterplots are used to visually show relationships between data points.

Venn diagram: A diagram that uses circles that sometimes overlap to show relationships between data sets. Overlapping circles represent data sets that are similar to the degree that they overlap, and different to the degree that they do not.

Basic Research

Experiment: A scientific test to determine whether or not a hypothesis is true. A proper experiment includes a control group, an experimental group and variables (including independent, dependent and controlled variables).

The scientific method: The accepted process for “doing science”; that is, the way that scientific theories are tested. The steps include: making an observation; forming a hypothesis; gathering data, which might include conducting one or more experiments; and analyzing the results and drawing conclusions.

Hypothesis: An educated guess which might provide the basis of an experiment or other research. The hypothesis is also sometimes called the alternative hypothesis, since experiments are usually based around a null hypothesis.

Null hypothesis: The statement that contradicts the research hypothesis, saying that no effect of statistical significance exists. Experiments are often built around a null hypothesis since it is easier to disprove a null hypothesis than to prove a hypothesis directly.

Independent variable: A variable that is not affected by another variable

Dependent variable: A variable that may be affected by an independent variable

Experimental group/treatment group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is exposed to the dependent variable being studied

Control group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is not exposed to the dependent variable being studied. Control groups might include placebo groups, treatment as usual groups or even groups that are not acted on within the experiment in any meaningful way.

Random assignment: The practice of assigning subjects to treatment groups and control groups randomly

Random sampling: Choosing subjects by pure chance, from the whole known population

Probability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a randomized manner, rather than purely at random

Nonprobability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a non-randomized manner. Subjects might be selected due to their unique characteristics or due to their willingness to participate, for example. Nonprobability sampling is not used to show the probability of a variable, only to study the variable in other ways.

Saturation: The practice of administering a test to subjects over and over again until no new data refute findings of previous data

Validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures

Internal validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures, based on the structure of the test itself

External validity: The extent to which a test’s results can be generalized to other contexts

Face validity: The extent to which a test seems valid at first glance

Content validity: The extent to which a test’s content relates to the subject at hand

Construct validity: The extent to which a test’s construction increasing the test’s validity

Concurrent validity/convergent validity: The extent to which a test’s results overlap with other tests that measure the same phenomenon

Threats to validity: Participant effects; researcher effects; environmental effects; time-related effects; testing modality effects; drop-out effects; maturation effects; placebo effects; participant selection and more

The placebo effect: The effect on subjects not exposed to treatment that occurs when they believe they have received treatment

Reliability: The extent to which a test’s results are consistent, recurring in different iterations. Valid tests are by definition reliable; however, reliable results aren’t always valid since results can be reliably wrong.

Inter-scorer/inter-rater reliability: Degree of consistency of ratings between two or more raters observing the same behavior (like two judges of a contest)

Test-retest reliability: The consistency of the scores of the same test taker across multiple instances of the same test

Sensitivity: The extent to which a test is accurately identifies the presence of a phenomenon

Specificity: The extent to which a test accurately identifies the absence of a phenomenon

Power: The likelihood of detecting a significant relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable, which is due to an experiment’s design

Internal consistency: Measures how consistent the test taker’s answers were to show they were honest and consistent, taking the test correctly

Descriptive research: Research questions that merely explore data in a non-experimental way. These include case studies, observational studies, statistical reports and more.

Relational research: Research that explores correlation

Causal research: Research that seeks to prove or disprove that X phenomenon causes Y phenomenon

Case study: A nonexperimental research study that presents data on a single individual or a single group of individuals experiencing the phenomenon of interest

Blind study: A study in which participants don’t know whether they are in the control group or the experiment group

Double blind study: A study in which both the researchers and the participants don’t know which group participants are in (the control group or the experiment group)

Naturalistic/observational study: A nonexperimental research study in which participants are observed, usually in their natural environment, but not directly experimented on. Interviews might also be used.

Statistical report: A nonexperimental research study consisting of a report that provides a variety of statistical data on a given topic. Two examples are reports on crime statistics in a particular city and a company annual report.

Action study: A nonexperimental study conducted for the purpose of program evaluation and improvement. An example is a needs assessment for a school free lunch program that presents relevant data, conclusions and action steps.

Quantitative research: Experimental research that presents all data in the form of numbers

Qualitative research: Experimental research that presents at least some of its data in the form of words, pictures, video and/or artifacts

Mixed-method research: Research that presents both quantitative and qualitative data

Pilot study: A less extensive preliminary experimental study for the purpose of determining whether or not a full-scale study is warranted. It is designed as an experiment, but is not a true experiment.

Comparative research design: A research design for investigating group differences for a particular variable. Simplistic; doesn’t show causation.

Longitudinal research design: A research design in which the same subject (either the same individuals or samples from the same cohort) is examined and re-examined over the course of time. Answers the research question, “What were the effects on this group over time?”

Single-subject research design: A research design for studying the effect of an experiment on a single subject or group without comparing it with another group

Time lag research design/cohort sequential research design: A research design that duplicates the experiment on a second cohort shortly after the first experiment is conducted; similar to cross-sectional but sequential

Cross-sectional research design: A research design for studying several groups at the same time. The groups might be different from each other in some way, such as children in different grades.

Correlational research design: A research design for studying the relationship between two variables. This design, however, does not show whether the variables directly affect each other.

Ex post facto/causal-comparative research design: No true randomization but otherwise, does show causation

Split-plot research design: A research design in which an experiment is first done on a large plot, then the plot is split into smaller sections and various aspects of the treatment are given to the subplots. This helps show which aspect of the treatment had the most impact on the results.

Norm-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the average score of the entire test-taking group, such as the SAT

Criterion-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the criteria, such as a skills test

School in a Book: History of Japan


Overview of Japanese history: One of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world, Japan was settled by 30,000 BCE. Its classical period lasted from 300 BCE to 800 CE, and its Golden Age took place during the 700s. Following this, the Fujiwara Dynasty took power and held it till about 1150. Then, dynastic Japan ended and was replaced by a feudal system run by military dictators with ceremonial emperors. During this period, colonists attempted to gain control of the area but were mostly unsuccessful until the 1850s, when the U.S. forced Japan to open trade. Rapid modernization followed, as well as some mostly failed attempts at territorial expansion. After its World War II defeat and atomic bombing, Japan rebuilt as a capitalist, democratic nation.

Ancient Times (3500 BCE to 500 CE)

Classical Japan: The period of Japanese history that took place from approximately 300 BCE to 800 CE and that was characterized by technological advancements such as bronze and iron; the introduction of rice and barley from neighboring countries; and greater cultural unity that included Shintoism. During this time, Japan began the process of unification.

Shinto: The classical religion of Japan featuring nature spirits and the worship of ancestors

Priestess Hiiko: A tribal priestess who, during the 100s CE, used her religious influence to unite about thirty Japanese tribes, creating the first united Japanese state. She then sent ambassadors to China to learn about their culture and modeled her combined tribe after it.

The Golden Age of Japan: The Japanese era that took place during the 700s during which Shinto and Buddhism co-existed peacefully, Nara became the capital city, the emperor gradually became a ceremonial figure and the government came to be controlled by officials and monks.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

Fujiwara Dynasty: The Japanese dynasty that came to power approximately 800 CE and lasted till approximately 1200 CE. The Fujiwara family were regents, not emperors. They gained their right to rule by marrying their daughters to the emperors. Eventually, the Fujiwara regents became more powerful than the emperors. During their reign, art and literature flourished, but infighting led to civil war and, eventually, their downfall.

Shogun Japan: The rigid feudal system of government that arose in Japan around 1200 CE and ended in the late 1800s. It included the emperors, shoguns and daimyos in the ruling class; the samurai class; and the peasants, craftsmen and merchant classes.

Shoguns: Ruthless military dictators who led Shogun Japan and held more power than the traditional emperors (though the emperors remained as ceremonial figures). Their reigns (called shogunates)

Daimyos: The ruling-class lords of feudal shogun Japan who served under the emperors

Samurai: Specially trained and highly respected warriors who fought on behalf of their daimyos, especially during the first half of the Shogun era. The samurai class developed as a response to the jostling for power that occurred between the shoguns, daimyos and emperors during Shogun Japan. In addition to fighting techniques, samurai studied religion, arts, and more. They followed a code of honor and many detailed rituals. Many became Zen Buddhists.

Hara-kiri: The honorable act of suicide by a samurai after defeat by an enemy

Nobleman Yoritomo: The first shogun of Japan

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Portugese invasion: The invasion of Japan by Portugese sailors in the mid-1500s that introduced guns and Christianity to the area. Though Japanese viewed guns as as weapons of cowards, they adopted them out of necessity.

Oda Nobunaga: A daimyo who, in the late 1500s, overcame other daimyos and reunited Japan after a long period of instability and fragmentation. He was aided by his use of Western style guns.

Hideyoshi: The chief imperial minister following Nobunaga. Hideyoshi planned to expand Japan into China and Korea, but failed to capture Korea after invasion. A believer in a strong central control, he banned foreigners, Christianity and overseas travel.

Tokugawa shogun era/Edo period: The era of Japanese history spanning the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s and the final era to feature traditional Japanese government, culture and society. It was led by the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns and was known for its isolationist policies and a turn from feudalism to a trading economy. It featured a strong central government, increased stability and prosperity, a population expansion, improved education, advanced ideas about hygeine, reduced military conflict, the persecution of Christians, the new capital city of Edo (Tokyo) and more. During this time, once-respected daimyos and samurai became less relevant and important, while merchants and farmers expanded their businesses and began to thrive. During the latter part of this era, Japan responded to increasing Western pressure to open trade, allowing foreign ships to trade on nearby islands (not on the mainland).

Tokugawa Ieyasu: The first Tokugawa shogun

Nijo castle: The palace built by the daimyos during the Tokugawa shogun era and the largest castle in the world at that time

The Meiji Restoration: The toppling of the Tukugawa shogunate in the late 1800s which ended the Edo period and brought Japan into the modern era

President Fillmore: The U.S. president who sent four warships to Japan in order to intimidate them into opening trade. The effort succeeded and was followed by additional trade agreements with foreigners.

Matthew Perry: The commander of the warships sent by the U.S. to Japan to force trade

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the present)

Wars with China and Russia for Korea: The wars that Japan fought during the early 1900s in an effort to expand into Korea and China–efforts that were resisted by Russia and the U.S. Japan won both wars and annexed Korea, becoming the most powerful nation in Asia for a time.

Chinese-Japanese war: The war that Japan initiated against China in the 1930s. Due largely to China’s weakened position during its ongoing civil war, Japan was not defeated until 1945.

Rape of Nanking: The 1930s invasion of Nanking by the Japanese, during which they massacred 100,000 Chinese.

Emperor Hirohito: The ceremonial leader of Japan from 1901 to 1989 who aggressively opposed foreign nations during his entire reign.

Pearl Harbor: The December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. by the Japanese which spurred the U.S. to officially join the Allies. It followed Japan’s 1940 alliance with Germany.

Battle of Midway: The World War II sea battle during which Japan overtook Hong Kong, Burma, Indonesia and more, but was successfully resisted by the U.S. Much of the fighting took place off aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean. The victory by the U.S., which happened after they cracked Japanese radio codes, became a turning point of the war.

Kamikaze attacks: The air attacks made by Japan on U.S. ships during World War II, which were named for the Japanese word meaning “divine wind”–a word also used for the two successive storms that kept westerners out of Japan for a time before President Fillmore broke through.

Atomic bomb attacks: The 1945 attacks wherein the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These attacks occurred after the U.S. secured Okinawa and Iwo Jima. They were followed by Japan’s almost immediate surrender. Almost one million Japanese were killed, followed by another million as radiation spread. 100 Japanese cities were destroyed.

Post-war rebuilding of Japan: The rebuilding process that took place in Japan after World War II. With the financial help of the U.S., Japan rebuilt itself as a capitalist, industrial nation. They improved their education system, started holding democratic elections, built factories, incorporated modern technology and modernized their infrastructure. Eventually, Japan became a technological giant, with its people among the best educated in the world. It helped spread modernization to South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

School in a Book: History of India


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Pre-Vedic age: The pre-Aryan era of Indian history during which the first known Indian civilization was established

The Indus Valley civilization: The first known Indian civilization, named after the fertile region in which it was established. It featured agriculture including cotton spinning; animal husbandry; carts pulled by water buffaloes; advanced economics; pottery; copper and bronze works; and some trade with the Middle East. This civilization was larger than either of its close contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Mohenjo Daro and Harappa: The two most well-known ancient Indus Valley cities whose excavations greatly increased knowledge of ancient Indian history. Mohenjo Daro featured a citadel; a public bath; a granary; assembly halls; drainage; standard weights and measures; writing; and a population of around 40,000.

The Vedic age: The era of Indian history during which the Aryans ruled. It included the introduction and spread of Hinduism and the start of Indian literature.

The Aryans: A central Asian people who invaded and subdued India during ancient times and dramatically influenced the culture. The Aryan conquerors (who had two-wheeled chariots) became the upper classes of merchants, warriors, priests and rulers and the subdued people became slaves, laborers and artisans. In time this became a caste system. 

The Indian caste system:

The Vedas: The classical epic cultural and religious texts composed during the Vedic era in India. These are the first known literary texts of this region and are still widely read today. 

Siddhartha Gautam: The founder of the religion of Buddhism. Buddha, as he later became known, was born in India about 500 years BCE. His teachings did not take root until long after his death.

The invasion of India by Alexander the Great: The brief period of Indian history during which the Macedonians, led by Alexander, held Indian and Persian lands. In spite of their military losses, Indian leaders helped stop Alexander’s advancement with their devastating use of elephants during battle. Shortly after Alexander’s death, the Greeks withdrew from the area, which was too large and remote to rule effectively.

The Mauryan Empire: The first unified Indian empire, which rose to power around 300 BCE shortly after Alexander’s invasion and after a time of fighting between the various Indian kingdoms. During this empire, trade and wealth increased significantly.

Ashoka: The greatest Mauryan ruler, who expanded the empire through conquest then converted to Buddhism and advocated for peace. He helped spread Buddhism throughout India.

The Gupta Dynasty: The Golden Age of Indian history. This dynasty rose to power after several other empires following the Mauryan Empire failed to keep India united and thriving. During the Gupta Dynasty, India reunited and expanded. Trade with China increased greatly and literature, mathematics, astronomy and medicine flourished.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

India during the Middle Ages: After the Gupta Dynasty, parts of India fell to Hun invaders. Following this, several other dynasties (most of which were Islamic and spread the religion of Islam in India) took over temporarily but failed to reunite the whole of India. The invasion of the Turks and, later, the Mongols further hampered Indian progress. 

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Mughal Empire: One of the greatest eras in Indian history during which India was again reunited under one ruler. During this time, infrastructure, administration and the arts advanced greatly. Many well-known monuments were built and the government was reorganized. In some areas, the Mughals continued ruling until the British takeover in the late 1800s, though practically speaking, by that time most of India was controlled by various colonial powers.

Akbar the Great: The greatest Mughal emperor, who successfully united India. He instituted social reforms and promoted Hinduism and Persian culture. 

Shah Jahan: One of the last Mughal emperors. He is most famous for building the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal: One of the most beautiful buildings in the world, which was built in the 1600s by emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife after her death. It took 22 years to complete.

The Indian colonial period: The period of Indian history during which Europeans (including England, the Netherlands, Portugal and France) colonized India. This began in the 1500s as various European trading companies competed ferociously for trading rights and governmental control. It continued with British takeover from the late 1800s till India gained independence in 1947. 

The English East Indian Company: The organization created by England in the 1600s to conduct trade with India. They operated in Calcutta, Bombay and elsewhere.

Bombay: The English name of the Indian city of Mumbai. Bombay was first taken by Portugal, then given to the English king, then sold to the English East Indian Company and used as a trading base for many years.

The British Raj: The British ruler of India during British colonization

British imperialism: The period of Indian history during which the British controlled India. For a time, Queen Victoria served as the Empress of India. 

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

The Indian industrial revolution: The industrial revolution took root in India in the early 1900s

Indian nationalism: The political ideology that advocated for Indian independence

India during World War I: India fought on behalf of the British against their will. However, with the economic decline of Britain, Indian nationalists slowly gained influence during this time.

Mahatma Ghandi: The Indian nationalist leader who led the long fight for Indian independence from WWI on. Gandhi was a lawyer who lived in South Africa for a time and served as the leader of Indians living there. After returning to India, he launched a movement of non-cooperation with the British which included boycotts of British goods and schools. He advocated for non-violence, though others involved in the movement did not follow this recommendation. Gandhi went to prison multiple times during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He was assassinated in 1948, a year after India won independence.

India during World War II: As in World War I, in World War II India fought on behalf of the British.

Prime minister Nehru: The first prime minister of India, who helped create the Indian constitution in the late 1940s

Indian constitution: The constitution created after India gained independence from Britain. It strictly regulated industry, establishing some industries as fully government controlled and others as privately run.

India during the 1950s and 60s: Indian reforms increased irrigation, boosted agriculture and increased industrial production. At the same time, India’s population increased rapidly and poverty and illiteracy were widespread. India also fought some battles with China and Tibet during this time, both of which tried to encroach on its territory.

India during the 1970s and 80s: India experienced inflation and a recession due in part to rapidly rising oil prices. 

India during the 1990s and 2000s: India deregulated the economy, which led to rapid economic growth, and its population continues to rise quickly. 

School in a Book: Logic and Rhetoric

Everyone loves winning an argument. Actually, everyone just loves an argument. It’s stimulating. Challenging. Energetic. If you want to argue better, or just be better able to discriminate between arguments, logic studies will help–a lot. Just keep in mind that once you learn this stuff, it’s hard not to get a bit snobbish about it; I recommend you flavor your powers of logic with tact.

Important note: Many logical fallacies are known by more than one name. I’ve attempted to use the most common in my list, but if you rely too much on memorization, you won’t always recognize other people’s terms. More important, you’ll miss the point.

Finally, a quote to consider: “One and one cannot become two, since neither becomes two.”– Gongsun Long, Chinese logician (c. 325–250 BCE)

I think that pretty much says it all.


Logic: The set of rules that guides the formation of valid arguments and tests argumentative conclusions for validity.
Rhetoric: The art of persuasion

Practical uses for logic: Ethics, politics, computer programming, writing and any situation in which arguments are posited, questioned and defended.

An argument: A defense of an opinion or position. Arguments can be logical or rhetorical. Logical arguments are those which determine whether a particular statement is true or false. Rhetorical arguments are those which attempt to persuade a person or audience that a particular statement is true or false, regardless of whether it actually is true or false.

Premise: An idea upon which other ideas in an argument rely.

Logical form: The formula that an argument uses to arise at its conclusion. Example: All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s.

Valid: Logically correct. Example: All zebras are mammals and all mammals are ugly; therefore, all zebras are ugly.

True: Actually correct. Example: All zebras are mammals and all mammals drink their mothers’ milk; therefore, all zebras drink mothers’ milk.

Rational/sound: Logical, valid and true

How to analyze an argument for soundness: First, notice whether or not the form of the argument makes sense. Does the conclusion follow from the premises? If not, you likely have a formal fallacy on your hands. As a beginning logician, don’t spend too much time figuring out the name of the fallacy; instead, point out the problem and say something like, “The conclusion doesn’t follow the premises.” Step two is to notice whether or not the statements made in the argument are true; if not, there is an informal fallacy. You should be able to identify all ad hominem fallacies and name them as such. You should also be able to call out these fallacies by name: the fallacy of equivocation; the slippery slope fallacy; the poisoning the well fallacy; the straw man fallacy; the appeals to emotion, fear, pity, ridicule and the like; and the appeals to tradition, authority, and popularity. Other fallacies can simply be identified as such, and often, this is enough.

Semantics: The meanings of words. These can often be problematic and unstable, which contributes to illogic.

Inference: A true or false conclusion in the form of “A, therefore, B.”

Implication: A true or false conclusion in the form of “If A, then B.”

Deductive reasoning: Deducing a specific fact from a general principle

Inductive reasoning: Arriving at a general principle from a specific fact or case

Analysis: Deconstructing part-by-part to find deeper meaning

Synthesis: Putting parts together to find deeper meaning

A posteriori: Not known to be valid or true except through observation and experience

A priori: Known to be valid or true by reason alone

History of the study of logic: Logic comes from the Greek word logos, originally meaning “the word” or “what is spoken”, but later meaning “thought” or “reason”. Aristotle was the first known proponent of formal logic, and since then, it has been applied to many scientific areas, including computer programming. Logic studies, though, normally refers to rhetorical logic.

Logical fallacy/non sequitur: A weakness in an argument, often hidden, that causes the conclusion to be invalid or untrue. Informal fallacies have to do with the content of the argument, and formal fallacies have to do with the form of the argument. (Non sequitur means “it does not follow.”)

Formal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the structure of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid, regardless of the content of the argument. Remember, just because an argument contains a fallacy doesn’t mean the conclusion isn’t true. It simply means that particular argument doesn’t prove it to be so.

Informal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the content of the argument. Most often, informal logical fallacies are simple distractions from the actual argument. They point to external ideas or the opponent’s personality and the like. Literally any distraction from the validity of the argument itself can be an informal logical fallacy. Don’t memorize the names–just understand the problem with them in the collective. (For a ridiculously long list, see Wikipedia’s list of logical fallacies.)

Common Formal Logical Fallacies

The affirming the consequent fallacy: An argument that states “If A, then B; B, therefore A.” Example: “If Fred killed Todd, Fred is angry. Fred is angry, therefore, Fred killed Todd.”

The denying the antecedent fallacy: An argument that states, “If A, then B; not A, therefore not B.” Example: “If Fred killed Todd, then he hated him. Fred didn’t kill Todd. Therefore, he didn’t hate him.

The affirming a disjunct fallacy: An argument that states, “A is true or B is true. B is true. Therefore, A is not true.” In fact, both could be true.

The denying a conjunct fallacy: An argument that states that “It is not the case that both A is true and B is true. B is not true. Therefore, A is true.” In fact, both could be false.

Fallacy of the undistributed middle: An argument that states that “All Zs are Bs. Y is a B. Therefore, Y is a Z.” One must first prove that all Bs are Zs.

Common Informal Logical Fallacies

Ad hominem (“to the man”) fallacy: An argument that relies on attacking the arguer instead of the argument. This is really a category of fallacies which includes the appeal to authority/expert fallacy and the opposite of this, the courtier fallacy (which attacks the opposition’s knowledge, credentials or training).

The equivocation fallacy: An argument that relies onthe misleading use of a term with more than one meaning (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).

The straw man fallacy: An argument that relies onan argument based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.

The slippery slope fallacy: A slippery slope argument (SSA), in logic, critical thinking, political rhetoric, and caselaw, is a logical fallacy in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect.

The poisoning the well fallacy: A subtype of ad hominem presenting adverse information about a target person with the intention of discrediting everything that the target person says.

The appeal to emotion fallacy: An argument that relies on the manipulation of emotions. This is a general category that includes the appeal to threat fallacy, the appeal to fear fallacy, the appeal to flattery fallacy, the appeal to pity fallacy, the appeal to ridicule fallacy and more.

The false dilemma: An argument that relies ontwo alternative statements are held to be the only possible options when in reality there are more.

The circular reasoning/begging the question fallacy: An argument that relies on the presence of the conclusion within the premise in order to appear logical

The ad nauseam/ad infinitum fallacy: An argument that relies on mere repetition

The appeal to tradition fallacy: An argument that relies on a conclusion supported solely because it has long been held to be true.

The appeal to the people/bandwagon fallacy: An argument that relies on a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so.

The guilt by association and honor by association fallacies: Arguments that rely on the idea that because two things share some property, they are the same.

The red herring fallacy: A speaker attempts to distract an audience by deviating from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument the speaker believes is easier to speak to. Argument given in response to another argument, which is irrelevant and draws attention away from the subject of argument.

The cherry picking fallacy: An argument that relies onact of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

The appeal to consequences fallacy: An argument that relies on describing the terrible things that would happen if the opponent’s position were true.

The appeal to motive fallacy: An argument that relies on attacking the motive of the opponent.

The tu quoque (“you too”) fallacy: An argument that relies on pointing out the hypocrisy of the opponent.

The etymological fallacy: reasoning that the original or historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day usage.

The moving the goal posts/raising the bar fallacy: An argument that relies onargument in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded.

The survivorship bias fallacy: An argument that points to a small number of successes of a given process are actively promoted while completely ignoring a large number of failures

The false analogy fallacy: An argument that relies on an argument by analogy in which the analogy is poorly suited.

The hasty generalization: An argument that bases a broad conclusion on a small sample or the making of a determination without all of the information required to do so.

The oversimplification fallacy: An argument that relies on it is assumed that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes.

The appeal to ignorance: An argument that relies on assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa.

The pooh-pooh fallacy: An argument that relies on dismissing an argument perceived unworthy of serious consideration.

The moralistic fallacy: An argument that relies on assuming what ought to be true, is in fact true

School in a Book: Art and Architecture

Basic Art and Architecture

Composition: The placement of a work’s various elements and the ways these elements work together

The six basic elements of art: An artist’s visual tools, including: line, shape, color, value, form, texture and space

Elements of art technique: The various ways of depicting a work’s elements, including: lighting, values, proportions, silhouettes, gradient, contrast, shading and detail

The basic principles of art: Aspects of a work that together make up the work’s effect, including: balance/proportion, contrast/emphasis, movement/rhythm, pattern, unity/harmony/variety

Qualities of a successful piece of visual art: Technical skill; emotive power; movement; pattern; and a balance of contrast and emphasis, unity and variety, and proportions

Balance: The relative proportion of a work’s various elements

Emphasis: Visual dominance

Movement: The way a work encourages the viewer’s eye to take it in, area by area. This can be created by diagonal lines, curvy lines, negative space and/or repetition.

Pattern: A repetition of a work’s element or elements

Rhythm: A type of movement resulting from repetition and variety within a work

Unity/harmony: A sense of relatedness of the parts of a work. Generally, a successful piece has both unity and variety.

Symmetry: A mirror-image visual effect

Asymmetry: A non-mirror-image visual effect, with contrasting elements on opposite sides

Radial symmetry: A visual effect resulting from elements being equally spaced around a central point (as the spokes in a hub)

Dominant: Larger and more eye-catching than other elements in the piece. Magazines, newspapers and websites often use a single dominant photo as the centerpiece of each page.

Negative space: Empty space, as opposed to filled positive space

The golden ratio: A number that appears many times in geometry, art, an architecture. Approximately 1.618.

The rule of thirds: The artistic guideline recommending that the central focus and other key elements of a work should be placed 1/3 of the way down, up, right or left in a composition in order to achieve visual balance

The 70/30 rule of drawing: Make 30 percent of the work the main focus and the rest filler

Color theory: The set of rules that describe how colors relate to each other

Primary colors: Traditionally, these are red, blue and yellow. These are still the primary colors used in art theory. However, the primary colors of pigment (colored substances like ink) are cyan, magenta and yellos. These are the primary colors that are used in printing that are mixed to make up the other colors.

Secondary colors: The colors that are made up of exactly two primary colors. When using the traditional primary colors, these are orange, purple and green.

Complementary colors: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel

Analagous colors: Colors that border each other on the color wheel

Achromatic colors: Uncolored; black, white and/or grey

Neutral colors: Achromatic and near-achromatic colors (beige, tan, grey, etc.)

Color wheel: A circular representation of the relationships between various colors

Color scheme: A set of colors that provide a theme

Hue: A specific wavelength of light; a color

Saturation: A color’s intensity

Shade: A hue producted by adding black

Tint: A hue produced by adding white

Tone: A hue produced by adding grey

Value: The lightness or darkness of the color

Pigments: Work to create other colors by subtractive mixing

Basic Art and Architecture History

Prehistoric art: The earliest arts, found on every continent, which included cave writings and drawings; pottery; textile weaving; statue making; and more

Ancient Mesopotamian art: The art of ancient Mesopotamia and nearby, which included wood and stone statues; hieroglyphs, cuneiform and other pictographs; gardens; ziggurats and pyramids; ceremonial architecture including monuments, tombs, temples, sphinxes, obelisks and shrines; and more

Ancient Chinese art: The art of ancient China, which included silk textiles; delicate ceramics; bronze ritual vessels; jade and gold statues; the Terracotta Army; the Sanxingdui excavation; and more

Terracotta soldiers: A large collection of larger-than-life clay warriors created in ancient China then buried for thousands of years in the grave of Shi Huang Di

Sanxingdui excavation: A collection of about fifty large bronze heads and a large bronze human figure decorated with elephant heads created and long buried in ancient China

Ancient Grecian art: The art of ancient Greece, which includes simple sculptures in bronze and clay; cave painting; and some life-sized statues like a snake goddess which were influenced by Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian art: The art of ancient Egypt, which includes the pyramid, sarcophagi (intricately decorated coffins), gold works and more. Many ancient Egyptian tombs were crammed with gold jewelry, statues and much more. The Great Pyramid of Giza is Egypt’s most well-known artistic and architectural achievement.

Inuit art: The ancient and medieval art of far-north North America that includes walrus ivory sculpture

Chinese art: The ancient and medieval art of these regions that includes delicate painted ceramics; intricate calligraphy; gold jewelry; ink handscroll with gold embellishment; silk weaving; and more.

Traditional Tibetan and Indian art: The ancient and medieval art of these regions that often features sacred themes, drawing inspiration from Buddhism, Hinduism and tribal religions. Notable examples include religious icons; Tibetan murals and frescoes on monastery walls; cave paintings; textiles and more. Many works were intended to be used as meditation aids.

Traditional African art: The ancient and medieval art of these regions that includes African masks in buffalo hide; brass statues; gold jewelry and sculpture (especially in Zimbabwe); brass sculpture; brass heads; palaces and more. Many traditional African art forms are created as conduits to the spirit world and change appearance as materials are added to enhance their beauty and potency.

Ancient Japanese art: Ancient ancient pottery, sculpture, ink painting and calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints, ceramics, origami, and more recently manga—modern Japanese cartooning and comics—along with a myriad of other types.

[add modern japanese art]

Traditional Aboriginal art: The art of native Australians, which includes rock engravings and paintings from 50,000 years ago; the Easter Island statues (larger-than-life human figures built during the Middle Ages); treasure chests; masks; battle shields; paintings; and more

Medieval European art: The art of medieval Europe, which reflected the dominance of the Catholic Church and included illustrated and illuminated manuscripts; paintings with gold leaf; religious icons; stained glass; detailed church architecture; and more

Medieval Byzantine art: The traditional art of this region that includes icons, sacred books, gold leaf on glass, illuminated manuscripts, mosaics, holy vessels.

Medieval Celtic art: Art from 1000 CE onward by people who spoke Celtic languages and other culturally similar people, including medieval Irish and British peoples

The Book of Kells: The most famous medieval illuminated manuscript, which was created by monks in Ireland, Scotland or England in approximately 800 AD. It was named after the Abbey of Kells, where it was kept for centuries. It is appreciated for its masterful calligraphy and illustrations and its overall intricacy and detail. It contains the four gospels of the New Testament, plus various other religious texts.

Medieval Anglo-Saxon art: The traditional art of these peoples that includes illuminated manuscripts and Romanesque-style metalwork including metal armor

Medieval Viking/Norse art: The traditional art of these peoples that includes animal heads and plain large stone structures

Megaliths: Large stone building-like structures such as Stonehenge and Newgrange. The purpose of many of these is unknown.

Medieval Russian art: The art of Russia after the region’s state-led westernization that included Christian icons, religious paintings and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, which features onion-shaped domes in bright colors

Native American art: The traditional art of North America that includes Zapotec masks; ornate Aztec clothing; stone calendars of the Aztecs; massive Olmec heads; Mayan illuminated manuscripts on tree bark; pottery painting; totem poles; masks; quillwork; beadwork; ceramics; burial mounds; and gold and jade statues

Medieval Islamic art: The traditional art of the Middle East that was inspired by Islam and includes ceramics

Romanesque art (950-1200 CE): Monumental stone structures, austere churches enlivened by small decorative sculptures. Most church interior were painted with frescoes. Many more illuminated books.

Renaissance art: The art movement of the 1400s and 1500s that was a response to the magical thinking of medieval times and that focused on scientific principles and realism. Notable examples include Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci; The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli; and David by Michaelangelo.

Romanticism: The art movement of the 1800s that emphasized emotion and subjectivity over realism

The arts and crafts movement: The art movement that featured handmade furniture as a response to the dawn of mass production. A notable arts and crafts artist is John Ruskin.

Art Nouveau: The style of art that arose during the late 1800s in which the work’s elements follow a single curved line or several curved lines to bring unity, balance, emphasis, movement and an organic quality to the piece

Impressionism: The partially abstract style of painting that arose during the late 1800s and that features relatively small, thin strokes and an emphasis on light and movement to create an impression of an image, rather than a realistic depiction of it. A notable example is Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Other important impressionists are Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Modern art: The art movement that arose during the late 1800s that encompasses a variety of non-traditional, anti-authoritarian styles

Art Deco: The style of art that applied modernism to useful items like clothing, furniture and dishes, bringing a modern style to an average home

Expressionism: The style of art that arose during the early 1900s in which a realistic image is distorted in order to reveal the artist’s ideas and feelings about it, and about the world. A notable example is Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Pablo Picasso: The Spanish artist who invented Cubism and was the most prominent and influential modern artist

Cubism: The style of abstract modern art that arose during the early 1900s features fragmentation, geometrical shapes and multiple perspectives of the same subject

Contemporary art: Any art style or work of art being created during the current time

Abstract art: Any art style or work of art that depicts its subject in a symbolic, rather than realistic, way

Dadaism: The artistic movement that arose as a response to World War I that rejected realism and rationalism, instead depicting chaos and nonsense

Surrealism: The artistic movement that arose [when?] and combines real and unreal, dreamlike elements, with strange beauty resulting

Salvado Dali: The most prominent and influential artist of the Surrealist movement, whose enigmatic work breaks many formal rules

Pop art: The art movement that emerged during the 1970s that incorporates objects not normally used in artworks, such as newspaper, soup cans and discarded items. Pop art denounces the traditional hierarchy of artistic culture–and often culture itself.

Andy Warhol: The most prominent and influential pop artist who famously used soup cans to comment on consumer culture

Street art: The style of art that emerged during the 1970s and is featured in public spaces with the intention of taking art out of its typical confined settings such as art galleries. It encompasses a variety of mediums like painting, sculpture, or stained glass and is sometimes made illegally in the form of graffiti.

Basic Architecture

Atrium: An interior courtyard-like space

Buttress: A structure that helps to reinforce and strengthen a wall

Gable: The triangular portion between intersecting roof pitches. Gable roofs are efficient because the steep slope allows for water to drain easily and for better interior ventilation.

Mezzanine: A half floor that usually opens to and overlooks a high-ceilinged space

Pavilion: A structure with a roof and beams but no walls that often serves as a shelter in gardens and parks

Ziggurat: A step pyramid, which was the precursor to the sloped pyramid. Ziggurats were created in multiple early world civilizations, including Mesopotamia, the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations, separately, and were often meant to bring people closer to heaven.

Ancient Greek architecture: One of the first large-scale architectural styles in history, which introduced columns, canopies and more, and that provided the foundation for architecture throughout history thereafter. With a deep appreciation for aesthetic refinement, Greeks designed large buildings like the Parthenon to account for visual distortion, adjusting the tilt of the columns so that the human eye saw it as if it were perfectly straight.

Ancient Roman architecture: The architectural style that dominated for nearly 1,000 years in Europe and that introduced concrete, domes, arches, triumphal gates, paved roads, aqueducts and more. The most well-known architectural achievements include the Roman aqueducts and the Colosseum.

Byzantine architecture: A glamorous architectural style that came about during the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome that featured elevated domes organized into octagons, extensive mosaics and other enhanced Greek and Roman ideas

Ottoman Empire architecture: The architectural style that incorporated both Byzantine and Islamic ideas

Romanesque architecture: The architectural style that came about in Europe during the Middle Ages whose style incorporated classical Roman and Byzantine elements like arches and sculpture

Gothic architecture: The elegant architectural style that followed Romanesque architecture and that incorporated some medieval and some Renaissance characteristics

Renaissance architecture: The grand architectural style that came about as part of the Renaissance and focused on realism, symmetry, mathematics and discipline

Baroque architecture: The highly ornate architectural style that arose during the 1600s and early 1700s and featured decorative elements like gargoyles, lion heads, baby angels, horns of abundance, etc.

Baroque architecture: The dramatic architectural style that took Renaissance architecture to a new level with higher, larger, grander and more ornamental features. A response to the Reformation and Protestantism in the 1600s and originating with the Catholic Church in Italy, it focused less on unity of design and more on emotional evocation.

Neo-classical architecture: The architectural style of the 1700s and 1800s that sought to mimic aspects of Greek and Roman architecture

Colonial architecture: The architectural style that adapts a colonizing culture’s styles to the place they have colonized

Art Nouveau: The architectural style that came as a response to the classical style and was the first step toward modern architecture

Modern architecture: The architectural style guided by the idea that form follows function, known for minimalist features, lack of ornamentation, simple silhouettes and basic materials such as concrete

Postmodern architecture: A quirky, playful architectural style that came about in the 1960s as a response to the cold, function-focused modern style

Some important world architectural landmarks: The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Acropolis in Athens; the Parthenon in Athens; the Colosseum in Rome; The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; the White House in Washington, D.C.; Buckingham Palace in London; Big Ben in London; Westminster Abbey in London; the Empire State Building in New York City; St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow; the Space Needle in Seattle; the Guggenheim in New York City; the Taj Mahal in India; the Dancing House in Prague; the Louvre Museum in Paris; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; the Sydney Opera House in Australia; the Geghard Monastery in Armenia; La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; Burj Khalifa in Dubai; Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur; Casa Batlló in Barcelona; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

School in a Book: World History Overview and Timeline

History isn’t hard. It’s just stories. Lots of stories. And remembering some dates is important, too. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to recall the approximate date for the beginning of the universe, or the invention of fire, or the first known appearance of Homo sapiens on the spot but could not. Knowing a few key dates is hugely important to your understanding of the world. It provides a framework that you can build on as needed. Below is that framework.

That said, I am not the world’s biggest fan of the timeline. Other than the basic one below, in this book historical terms and concepts are chunked into four broad categories instead: ancient history, the Middle Ages, early modern times and modern times. If you know which of these historical periods an event occurred in, you will have a “good enough” understanding of its context for casual conversation and application.

Note that many dates given here are approximate, tentative and rounded.


Prehistory: All history that took place prior to the first cities, civilizations, and writing. Prehistory ended around 10,000 BCE. It includes: the beginning of time, the earth and hominids (14 billion BCE to 3 million BCE); and the Stone Age (including the Paleolithic Era and the Mesolithic Era and the beginning of the Neolithic Era) (3 million BCE to 10,000 BCE).

Recorded history: History that took place after the invention of writing. It began around 10,000 BCE and continues into the present. It includes: the rest of the Neolithic Era (10,000 BCE to 3,000 BCE); ancient times (including the Bronze Age and the Iron Age) (3,000 BCE to 500 CE); the Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE); early modern times (including the Colonial Period, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and more) (1500 CE to 1900 CE); and the modern era (the 1900s).

The Stone Age: A general term for the prehistorical era after Homo sapiens began using stone tools (around 3000 BCE) and before they engaged in metal work in a widespread manner. The Stone Age encompasses the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Eras and ended at roughly the start of ancient times (3,000 BCE), when the Bronzeron Age began.

The Paleolithic Era: The historical era that began with the evolution of the species Homo sapiens in which these and other hominids primarily survived through big-game hunting.

The Mesolithic Era: The historical era between the Paleolithic Era and the Neolithic Era when humans lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribal lifestyle

The Neolithic Era: The historical era that began when humans discovered farming (around 10,000 BCE) and, with this location-stable food supply, began to settle into towns. The end of the Neolithic Era took place at approximately the beginning of ancient times (around 3,000 BCE).

The Bronze Age: The historical era that began when humans learned how to forge metal, particularly bronze, which was particularly useful in weaponry. The Bronze Age usually refers to ancient Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Egyptian history.

The Iron Age: The historical era that began when humans began replacing much of their bronze work with iron work instead. Iron allowed for lighter, cheaper weaponry, which resulted in a more widespread use of it and more battles.

Ancient history: The historical period from the beginning of recorded history (around 3,000 BCE) to the fall of the Roman Empire (around 500 CE)

The Middle Ages: The historical period from the fall of the Roman Empire (around 500 CE) to the discovery of the New World (around 1500 CE)

Early modern times: The historical period from the discovery of the new world (around 1500 CE) to 1900 CE

The modern era: The historical period of the 1900s, marked by industrialism, globalism, rapid technological advancement and world war

Outline of world eras: The terms Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, Paleolithic Era, Mesolithic Era and Neolithic Era are all very rough constructs. Since they’re defined by their technological developments, they took place at different times in different places of the world. However, a rough timeline is as follows.



The Beginning of Time

14 billion BCE: The Big Bang occurred

4.5 billion BCE: The Earth formed

4 billion BCE: The first living organisms formed

3.5 billion BCE: LUCA, the last universal common ancestor, formed

7 million BCE: Hominids evolved

The Stone Age

300,000 BCE: Homo sapiens began using stone tools and the Paleolithic Era began

10,000s BCE: Farming began, the first towns (proto-cities) were built and the Neolithic Era began

8,000s BCE: Mesopotamian and Chinese agriculture began

6000s BCE: Indus River Valley agriculture began and metalworking (copper and gold) began

4000s BCE: Mesoamerican and Central American agriculture began


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

3,000s BCE: The first civilization (the Sumerian Empire, in Mesopotamia on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) was founded; the Egyptian Empire (on the Nile River) began; writing was invented (cuneiform in Mesopotamia and hieroglyphics in Egypt) and recorded history began

2000s BCE: The Indus River Valley civilization began; the Chinese civilization began on the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers; the Mayan culture began; the Chavin culture began; bronze metalworking began; the Babylonian Empire and the Akkadian Empire defeated the Sumerian Empire in turn [?]

1600s BCE: The Shang Dynasty founded

1500s BCE: The Phoenician people arose

1200s BCE: The Hebrew people arose

900s BCE: The Assyrian Empire claimed much of Mesopotamia

700s BCE: The first Greek city-states were founded

500s BCE: The Roman Republic was founded; the Persian Empire claimed Mesopotamia and beyond; Buddha lived and taught; Muhammad lived and taught

400s BCE: Athens and Sparta were at their cultural height

300s BCE: Alexander the Great claimed Greece, Mesopotamia and parts of India for Macedon, creating the Macedonian Empire; the Fujiwara Dynasty arose in Japan

200s BCE: The Qin Dynasty took power; the Mayas were at their peak power

100 BCE to 100 CE: Julius Caesar became the first dictator of Rome; Jesus Christ lived and taught; the Roman Empire replaced the Roman Republic under Augustus Caesar (Octavian)

400s CE: The Byzantine Empire formed and the Roman Empire came to an end

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

600s CE: The Tang Dynasty ushered in China’s Golden Age

800s CE: Vikings began exploring and raiding; the Toltec culture arose; the Maori culture arose; the aborigine culture arose

1000s and 1100s CE: The Crusades took place

1200s and 1300s CE: Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan led the Mongolian Empire; the Aztec Empire began

1300s CE: The Ottoman Empire was founded; the Black Plague occurred

1400s CE: The Gutenberg Press went into use; the Incan Empire began; Constantinople fell, ending the Byzantine Empire; Russia began to unify

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

1492 CE: Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas

1500s CE: Amerigo Vespucci landed in South America and created the first map of the New World; the colonization of South America began; the African slave trade greatly increased; the Ottoman Empire was at its peak; the Elizabethan Era began; the Protestant Reformation began; North American exploration began

1600s CE: The Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony; the colonization of North America began; the Edo Period began in Japan; the steam engine was invented

1700s CE: The Enlightenment began; Peter the Great unified Russia; Australian colonization began; the French Revolution occurred; the Industrial Revolution began

1776 CE: America declared independence from Great Britain by issuing the Declaration of Independence, starting the American Revolution

1800s CE: The South American colonies gained independence from their colonial rulers one by one; the Scramble for Africa (African colonization) occurred; the Victorian Era began; the Opium Wars took place; the first transcontinental railroad opened; Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb; the Wright Brothers invented the airplane

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

1900s CE: Henry Ford invented the Model T; Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity; the Australian gold rush began; the dynasties ended in China and were replaced with the Republic of China

1914-1918 CE: World War I occurred

1920s CE: The first modern television was invented

1929 CE: The Wall Street crash set off the Great Depression

1933 CE: The Holocaust began

1930s CE: The Spanish Civil War occurred

1939-1945 CE: World War II occurred

1941 CE: The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, spurring the U.S. to join World War II

1945 CE: The U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Japan; the Holocaust ended; penicillin was made available to the public

1940s CE: The League of Nations was founded; India gained independence from Britain

1950 CE: The Korean War occurred; the USSR developed atomic weapons and the Cold War began; apartheid began in South Africa; the civil rights movement began; the Vietnam War began; space travel began

1969 CE: People landed on the moon for the first time

1970s CE: The Vietnam War ended

1989 CE: Pro-democracy student demonstrations were violently quashed at Tiananmen Square in China; the Berlin Wall fell

1990s CE: The Gulf War occurred

2001 CE: Middle eastern terrorist group Al-Queda attacked New York City on September 11

2008 CE: Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States

History Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the important similarities between various historical cultures? What are some of the important differences?
  • Were there any good civilizations in history? Were there any bad ones?
  • What part did ethnocentrism play in various historical cultures? What part did racism play?
  • What are the main reasons nations and states waged war? Why did smaller tribes and peoples wage war?
  • How was history influenced by various technological discoveries, including metalwork, gunpowder, the printing press, the train and many more?
  • What are some examples of religious wars? To what extent were they motivated by the spread of religious ideas and the quashing of other religious ideas and to what extent were they motivated by other desires or needs?
  • What are some possible reasons towns and civilizations spring up independently in so many different parts of the world within a few hundred years of each other?
  • Why did safe, prosperous nations, like Rome, continuously try to grow larger? Was this a wise strategy?
  • What are some of the historical reasons for poverty?

School in a Book: Anatomy and Medical Science

We love our bodies, don’t we? It’s just so nice to understand what’s going on inside of all of this skin.


The eleven systems of the human body: Skeletal system, respiratory system, muscular system, nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, circulatory system, endocrine system, lymphatic/immune system, integumentary system, urinary system

Skeletal system: The framework of bones and cartilage that supports the body and provides hard surfaces for the muscles to contract on

The four types of bones: Flat (e.g., ribs), long (e.g., legs), irregular (e.g., spine), short (e.g. fingers)

Cranium: The skull bone

Mandible: The jawbone

Scapula: The shoulder blades

Clavicle: The collar bone

Sternum: The breastbone

Vertebrae: The bones that make up the spine

Pelvis: The main hip bone

Coccyx: The buttocks bone

Humerus: The upper arm bone

Radius: The bone on the topside of the lower arm

Ulna: The bone on the lower side of the lower arm

Femur: The upper leg bone

Tibia: The shin bone

Fibula: The bone on the underside of the lower leg

Patella: The kneecap

Metatarsals: The foot bones

Tarsals: The ankle bones

Carpals: The wrist bones

Metacarpals: The finger bones

Phelanges: The finger and toe (digit) bones

Joint: The places where bones meet. Most joints are movable.

Bone marrow: The store of fat inside the bone cavity

Cartilage: The alternative to bone that’s more flexible. Most baby bones start as cartilage and slowly turn into bone as the baby grows.

Muscular system: The system that enables the body to move using muscles

Muscles: Stretchy tissues all over the body that allow for movement. Some pairs work together with one contracting as the other relaxes. They can only contract and relax, not push.

Muscle contraction: The movement that occurs when muscles become shorter and harder and may bulge

Muscle relaxation: The movement that occurs when muscles become longer and softer

Voluntary muscles: Muscles that respond to conscious intention (such as the quads)

Involuntary muscles: Muscles that move without conscious intention (such as the heart)

Skeletal muscle: The muscles located on the skeletal system

Cardiac muscles: The heart and related muscles

Visceral muscles: The muscles inside organs (such as the intestines)

Abdominal muscles: The stomach muscles

Biceps: The muscles on the front of the upper arms

Deltoids: The muscles on the top of the shoulders

Gluteus: The buttocks muscles

Hamstrings: The muscles on the back of the thighs

Obliques: The muscles on the sides of the torso

Pectorals: The muscles on the front of the upper chest

Quadriceps: The muscles on the front of the thigs

Triceps: The muscles on the back of the upper arms

Trapezius: The muscles on the upper and mid-back that help with neck stability

Circulatory system: The system that circulates blood around the body via the heart, arteries and veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and cells and carrying their waste products away. It also equalizes the temperature in the body. It includes blood, blood vessels and the heart.

The four parts of the heart: Four chambers (two atria and two ventricles), valves to keep blood moving the right direction through the heart (each time one snaps shut there’s a heartbeat), veins and arteries that carry blood from heart to lungs, upper body and lower body and others for the opposite direction.

Artery: Channels that move oxygen-rich blood away from the heart (with a few exceptions). Arteries have thick walls and use muscle to move the blood.

Vein: Channels that move oxygen-depleted blood toward the heart (with a few exceptions). Veins have thinner walls and use valves to move the blood.

Capillary: The fine branching channels that help move blood around the body

White blood cell: The cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders

Red blood cell: The cells that are made in the bone marrow and make up blood, and that contain hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen

Digestive system: The system responsible for the mechanical and chemical processes that provide nutrients via the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines and eliminates waste from the body

Esophagus: The tube that connects the mouth to the stomach

Stomach: The sac that stores and processes food before it moves to the intestines and other places in the body

Liver: The organ that helps store food energy and process waste materials. It is the largest organ by mass. Extra energy beyond the liver capacity is stored as fat, allowing us to go between meals without eating.

Respiratory system: The lungs and the passages that lead to them and allow for breathing of oxygen and breathing out of CO2

Windpipe/trachea: A tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs, allowing the passage of air

Primary bronchus: The tubes between the trachea and each lung. After passing through the bronchus, air goes into the lungs. Then oxygen goes into secondary and tertiary bronchi, bronchioles, air sacs and capillaries and from there is distributed throughout the body.

Lung: A large air sack containing many tubes

Diaphragm: A flat sheet of muscle lying under the lungs. When you breathe in, your ribs move up and out and the diaphragm flattens. When you breathe out, your ribs move down and in and the diaphragm rises.

Voice box/larynx: The top part of the trachea

Vocal cords: Two bands of muscle that open to let air past when you breathe. When you speak muscles pull the cords together and air makes them vibrate. Shorter, faster cords, as in females, make higher pitched sounds.

Integumentary system: Skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands

Skin: The soft outer tissue covering of vertebrates. It contains the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous tissues (fat cells).

Melanin: Natural pigments found in most organisms

Pores: Tube-shaped sweat glands

Keratin: What skin and nails are made of

Hair follicle: The opening at the base of a hair. Its shape determines whether the hair is curly, wavy or straight.

Urinary/renal system: The system that controls the amount of water in your body and filters blood. It includes two kidneys, a balloon-like sac called the bladder and the tubes connected to them.

Urethra: The tube that connects the bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body

Kidneys: The two bean-shaped organs on the left and right in the retroperitoneal space. They are about 11 centimetres in length. They receive blood from the paired renal arteries; blood exits into the paired renal veins. Each kidney is attached to a ureter, a tube that carries excreted urine to the bladder.

Lymphatic/immune system: The system comprising a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph. It defends the body against pathogenic viruses that may endanger the body. The lymph contains the leftover interstitial fluid resulting from blood filtration.

Lymph: Lymph is the fluid that circulates throughout the lymphatic system

Lymph node: A kidney-shaped organ of the lymphatic system, and of the adaptive immune system, that is widely present throughout the body. Lymph nodes are major sites of white blood cells and important for the immune system.

Endocrine system: The system that provides chemical communications within the body using hormones

Endocrine glands: Small organs that make hormones

Hormones: Any member of a class of signaling molecules produced by glands in multicellular organisms that are transported by the circulatory system to target distant organs to regulate physiology and behaviour. The body makes over 20 types of hormones.

Pituitary gland: Makes growth hormone, prolactine, which control other endocrine glands, growth, mother’s milk production

Adrenal glands: The twin glands that make adrenalin and aldosterone which control blood glucose level, heart rate, body’s salt level

Thyroid gland: Makes thyroxin which controls metabolism

The ovaries: The pair of glands females have in which the eggs form and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made

The testes: The organ males have that produce sperm

The pancreas: The organ that makes insulin and glucagon and which controls the use of glucose by the body

The nervous system: The system that collects and processes information from the senses via nerves and the brain and tells the muscles to contract to cause physical actions. It is made up of the sensory organs, the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves. The nervous system coordinates both voluntary and involuntary body movements.

Brain: The organ under the skull that is made up of millions of neurons and cerebrospinal fluid. There are electrical impulses going on between nerve cells in brain all the time. Brain waves (patterns of impulses) can be measured.

Brain stem: The part of the brain that controls automatic functions like heartbeat and breathing

Spinal cord: The thick bundle of nerves that joins the brain to the rest of the body. It is located inside a tunnel in the backbone.

Neurons: Nerve cells. They include sensory, association and motor nerves cells.

Nerves: Cords that contain bundles of nerve fibers. Can be sensory, motor and mixed (both).

Motor nerves: Nerves that receive signals from the brain to the muscles to move

Nerve impulse: A signaling action of a neuron

Sensory organs: Organs that send nerve impulses to the brain along nerves

How eyes work: Light enters the pupil through the clear cornea and lens. These bend the light rays so they form an image on the retina and back of eye. (Turns image upside down.) Rods and cones convert the image to nerve impulses which take the optic nerve to the brain. The brain interprets and turns the image right side up.

Stereoscopic vision: Perception of depth and 3-dimensional structure obtained on the basis of visual information deriving from two eyes

Ear: The hearing organ. It contains an outer, middle and inner part.

How ears work: The ear flap funnels sound waves to the ear canal, then to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates. These vibrations pass through bones and holes to the cochlea, then to fluid chambers. Tiny nerve cells in the fluid convert vibrations into nerve impulses, which go along the auditory nerve to the brain. Ears also help keep you balanced through the vestibular system. This works by sensing movement of fluid in ducts and sending that info to the brain. Since you have two ears you can tell which direction sound is coming from.

Chemoreceptors: Small organs in the nose and tongue that detect smells and tastes, which are chemicals, and send this information to the brain

Nasal cavity: The large air filled space above and behind the nose in the middle of the face

Cerebrum: The largest part of the brain, located at the front of the skull and divided into the right and left hemispheres. It is responsible for voluntary physical activity and thinking.

Cerebellum: The part of the brain located at the back of the skull that is primarily responsible for muscle movement and balance

Corpus collosum: The bundle of nerve cells connecting the two hemispheres of the brain and allowing them to integrate cognitive, emotional and bodily functions

Cerebral cortex: The outermost layer of the brain that is divided into four lobes (the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes) and that is responsible for perception/sensing, thinking, and voluntary muscle coordination

Hypothalamus: The area of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst

Amygdala: The part of the brain that is primarily associated with emotional processes, such as fear

The lymbic system: The parts of the brain that work together to regulate emotions and behavior, particularly survival-related behaviors like feeding and reproduction

Peripheral nervous system: The whole network of nerves throughout the body

Autonomic nervous system: The part of the nervous system that controls muscles of internal organs (such as the heart, blood vessels, lungs, stomach, and intestines) and glands (such as salivary glands and sweat glands)

Sympathetic nervous system: The part of the nervous system that increases heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pupil size; causes blood vessels to narrow; and decreases digestive juices

Parasympathetic nervous system: The part of the nervous system that slows the heart, dilates blood vessels, decreases pupil size, increases digestive juices, and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract

Neurotransmitters: Various chemicals such as serotonin and epinephrin that allow neurons to communicate with each other. These are sometimes called “chemical messengers.”

Neurotransmission: The communication that takes place between neural networks

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: Sleep that is characterized by rapid movement of the eyes, deep relaxation, and vivid dreams

Reproductive system: The sex organs required for the production of offspring

Semen: The fluid made in the testicles that may contain sperm

Spermatoza (sperm): The male reproductive cells

Testicle: The testicle or testis (plural testes) is the male reproductive gland in all animals, including humans. It produces sperm and semen.

Prostate gland: A gland of the male reproductive system

Scrotum: The suspended dual-chambered sack of skin and smooth muscle that holds the two testicles

Vagina: The elastic, muscular canal leading to the uterus in which penetrative sex takes place and out of which a baby exits the mother’s body

Vulva: The external genitals of the female

Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that contracts and opens during childbirth

Fallopian tubes: The tubes leading from the ovaries to the uterus

Womb/uterus: The organ in which fetal development takes place.

Labia: The major externally visible portions of the vulva. It has two layers.

Placenta: The temporary organ that connects the developing fetus via the umbilical cord to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, thermo-regulation, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply; to fight against internal infection; and to produce hormones which support pregnancy

Umbilical cord: The conduit between the developing fetus and the placenta inside a pregnant woman


Infection: The invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce

Immunity: The balanced state of multicellular organisms having adequate biological defenses to fight infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion, while having adequate tolerance to avoid allergy, and autoimmune diseases

Drug: A drug is any substance (other than food that provides nutritional support) that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed via a patch on the skin, or dissolved under the tongue causes a temporary physiological (and often psychological) change in the body

Nutrients: The vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are used to make body parts, either by facilitating a chemical reaction or by being used as actual material (like calcium an amino acids from protein breakdown), and the carbs and fats that are burned for fuel.

Virus: A small pathogen that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms and can cause illness

Vaccination: The administration of antigenic material (a vaccine) to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen

Antibiotics: A substance that kills bacterial. Not antiviral.

Pathogen: A germ, usually a microorganism like a bacteria or virus, that can cause illness

Tumor: An abnormal and excessive growth of tissue that starts as a neoplasm, then forms a mass

Preventive medicine: Measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment

Alternative medicine: Unproven or disproven medical techniques and substances

School in a Book: Geology, Ecology and Meteorology

As humans, we experience the effects of chemistry, biology and physics every day, but not always knowingly. For this reason, geology and ecology are to me the most visual–even the most sensual–of the hard sciences, the ones that allows us to better understand our immediate environment.

Geology isn’t theory and microscopes; it’s what we see around us every day.

Sometimes, it’s hard to mentally separate geology and ecology. Here’s the short version: geology is the study of all the stuff on the earth, and ecology is the study of the way living things interact with it.

Add: The elements of the earth’s crust (oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium). The parts of the earth (crust—oceanic and continental; mantle—litho-sphere and asthenosphere; outer core; inner core). Types of clouds.


Layers of the earth: The four distinct parts of the earth, which include: the outer crust (oceans and tectonic plates), the mantle (rock), the outer core (extremely hot liquid metal), and the inner core (solid metal).

Rock: A collection of various minerals formed together into a hard mass. Common rocks include: limestone, shale, sandstone, granite, marble, basalt, obsidian, coal, quartz, conglomerate and chalk. Rocks are not made of single minerals or elements, but are compounds of several different minerals.

Mineral: A single material of uniform color, texture, luster and structure. It is usually made up of two or more elements.

Ore: Any natural, earth material that is mined and processed to obtain a desired metal. An example is iron ore, which is rock that contains iron.

Crystal: A mineral whose molecules are arranged in a highly regular pattern, which results in a characteristic shape. Some example of crystals are: table salt, graphite, ice and quartz.

Dirt: A mixture of minerals and organic substances that have been broken down through weathering, animal digestion and more

Soil: Dirt that is fit to grow plants in

Sediment: The dirt and sand that is carried away with water and wind and deposited in other places in layers. These layers separate according to the size and density of the materials and eventually harden into rock under the sea and elsewhere.

Fossil: The remains of organisms after those organisms are buried under layers of sediment and pressed upon for many years. Some fossils are rocks that show imprints of organic material that has eroded away. Other fossils are the actual remains of the organism, such as bone, or remains that have slowly become petrified (mineralized and turned into rock).

Clay: A kind of dirt that contains very small particles, which result in a soft, uniform, well-mixed substance. Clay soil (soil with a higher-than-average amount of clay in it) holds water well and is good for farming.

The three types of rocks: Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic

Sedimentary rock: Rock formed when other rocks break down into sediment, then gradually reform other rocks due to pressure and layering. The Grand Canyon is an example of sedimentary rock. Its layers are visible.

Igneous rock: Rock formed from magma that erupted from a volcano, then cooled into layers and chunks

Metamorphic rock: Igneous, sedimentary or other metamorphic rock that has undergone significant changes due to heat

Geological time: A perspective of the history of the earth that divides it into periods based on the types of fossils found in the various layers of the earth’s crust

Radiometric/carbon dating: A scientific, though inexact, method for determining the age of a rock by the amount of carbon it still contains

Water: The most common liquid on earth, whose chemical formula is H2O. It is a solvent that is formed when hydrogen burns in air (oxygen).

The water cycle: The process by which water is continuously recycled between the earth, the atmosphere and living things through heat and evaporation and clouds and rain

The carbon cycle: The process by which carbon cycles through plants, animals, the soil and the atmosphere. This happens mostly due to the respiration of carbon dioxide by animals, the incorporation of carbon dioxide by plants during photosynthesis, decomposition and the burning of fossil fuels.

The nitrogen cycle: The process by which nitrogen cycles through plants, animals, the soil and the atmosphere. When the nitrogen cycle is not in balance, global warming and ozone depletion can occur.

Tides: The rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravity of the moon and the rotation of the earth

Ocean currents: The movement of the water of the world’s oceans due to wind, the rotation of the earth and more

Groundwater: Water under the Earth’s surface. Most groundwater is found in porous rocks.

The water table: The depth at which groundwater is found, which is affected by rainfall or lack thereof

Air: The gas mixture that we breathe and that makes up the earth’s atmosphere. Air is made up of oxygen (21 percent), nitrogen (78 percent) and other gases, including carbon dioxide (1 percent). It helps plants make food; protects people from UV rays; and helps people obtain oxygen, which is an important component of human blood. The gases in air can be separated out by cooling and compressing the air. Each gas liquifies at a different temperature, allowing for separation.

Earth’s atmosphere: All of the air that surrounds the earth. It is held near the earth due to gravity. There is no distinct endpoint of this region, but instead a gradual decline into airlessness. This is because the gravitational pull on the higher air particles is gradually reduced. Higher air is thinner, with less oxygen, and unbreathable. (Side note: The moon’s gravitational pull isn’t strong enough to hold air down, which is why there is no air or similar gaseous atmosphere on the moon.)

Air pressure: A measurement of the closeness of the particles of air in a particular space. High-pressure air naturally expands into low-pressure air spaces due to its energy and momentum. (Side note: The eardrum in the human ear must have equal pressure on both sides; however, air has to move through a bottleneck and, during quick changes in atmospheric pressure, can move unevenly, resulting in what is known as “ear popping.”)

Earthquake: A sudden shaking of the surface of the earth due to tectonic plate shifts

Seismic activity: The sum of all of the tremors and earthquakes in a region

Tectonic plate: The plates that make up Earth’s crust, whose movement is driven by movements deep in the earth

Fault line: The deep cracks in Earth’s crust that make those areas vulnerable to extreme movement when earthquakes strike

Subduction zone: An area where two plates have collided, causing one plate to slide below the other

Volcano: Vents (openings) in the ground from which magma (molten rock), ash, gas, and rock fragments surge upwards, in an event called an eruption. They are often found at boundaries between the plates in Earth’s crust.


Ecology: The study of the way living things interact with their environments

Ecosystem: A group of plants and animals that interact with each other and their surroundings

Biome: A climate and soil type that is unique to a particular region of the earth

The eleven biomes of Earth: Tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, mountains, coniferous forests, scrub lands, temperate grasslands/prairies, tundra, tropical grasslands, deserts, polar areas and oceans

Biodiversity: The huge variety of living things in a particular area. Biodiversity is lost with selective breeding.

Renewable energy: Energy derived from renewable resources

Renewable resource: A natural resource that renews itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use. These include sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.

Non-renewable resource: A natural resource that does not renew itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use. These include minerals, metal ores, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and natural gas) and some groundwater.

Fossil fuel: A fuel that forms deep under the earth from the remains of decomposed animals and plants. Examples are coal, petroleum and natural gas. Fossil fuels are considered non-renewable because it takes millions of years for them to complete one cycle of formation.

The Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone (O3) that exists in the upper atmosphere of earth. It is poisonous to humans when inhaled but, at a distance, protects us from UV rays.

The Greenhouse Effect: The result of an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat and causes a greenhouse-like effect on Earth, warming oceans and air and, in turn, causing significant climate change

Global warming: A slow warming of the earth resulting from the Greenhouse Effect

Biodegradable: The ability of a substance to be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms in its environment

Erosion: The breakdown of minerals, rocks and organic materials through freezing, thawing, melting, abrasion, wind, acids and more. This is also called weathering. Erosion of soil lowers soil quality since topsoil is richest in nutrients.

Waterlogged: Oversaturated with water. Water-holding capacity is better for rich soil but poorer for sandy soil.

Aeration: The air flow to plant roots. Roots need oxygen, though plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen. Leaves transport sugar but can’t transport oxygen.

Drought: An extended dry period

Intensive farming: Farming with the help of chemicals, technology, high-output machinery and the like

Soil management: Maintaining proper balance of soil nutrients, airflow and water in soil

Soil conservation: Erosion prevention

Crop rotation: Rotating crops in order to balance the mineral levels in the soil since plants use and add different amounts of various minerals as they grow

Weather versus climate: Weather is the atmospheric conditions caused by changing air pressure and heat from the sun, while climate is the long-term weather conditions of a particular area

The four basic climate types: Tropical (hot all year); polar (cold all year); temperate (moderate, seasonal change); deserts (dry all year).

Wind: The movement of air that happens when higher pressure air is moving toward lower pressure air. If there is no pressure difference, there is no wind.

Storm: Any disruption in the atmosphere producing severe weather, including strong wind, tornadoes, hail, rain, snow (blizzard), lightning (thunderstorm), clouds of dust or sand carried by wind (a dust or sand storm)

Lightning: The visible and audible flow of electricity that occurs during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside a single cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. It produces an audible booming sound called thunder. Since the speed of light is greater than the speed of sound, we hear thunder after we see lightning.

Tornado: A funnel-shaped column of wind, evaporated water, dust and debris that moves rapidly, sweeping up objects in its path. It is formed when a thunderstorm occurs in areas of both cold and warm air.

Hurricane: A group of thunderstorms that have formed in close proximity over the ocean, then collided to create a cyclone–a spiral-shaped movement of wind with a low-pressure center. Hurricanes are also called typhoons, cyclones and tropical storms.

Tsunami: A series of huge, destructive waves formed during major events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite crashes and earthquakes. Tsunamis are sometimes mistakenly called tidal waves.

Atmospheric particle/particulate: Microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Some are organic and others are human-made.

Barometer: A tool to measure air pressure

School in a Book: Philosophy

Whether or not you’ve studied philosophy, you’re probably already a philosopher. You think about the meaning of life, absolute and relative moral precepts, political ideals and the indelible qualities of human nature. For this reason, the formal study of philosophy isn’t so much about defining or comparing philosophical ideas–something you’re already quite capable of doing–but about the thinkers of the past who famously argued different sides of these questions. Basically, philosophy is history.

Here, I do briefly introduce some of the major questions of philosophical debate, with the caveat that the list is not comprehensive. There is philosophy in everything—every subject. Every … thing. But these are the questions that have so far seemed most fundamental (such as the meaning of life), most practical (such as political ideas) and have been most famously discussed (such as the empiricism versus rationalism debate). Then I introduce you to many of the major philosophers of history and their most notable contributions, which will hopefully give your philosophical discussions and debates more texture, context and depth.


Philosophy: The study of the meaning and nature of life, consciousness and more. Every subject can be philosophically analyzed to determine the subject’s inherent qualities, purpose and right functioning. For example, the study of medicine has benefited from people asking what the ultimate goal of doctors should be, and then arriving at the Hippocratic Oath (“first, do no harm …”) The word “philosophy” literally means “love of wisdom.”

Some major questions of philosophy: What is the meaning of life? What qualities are fundamental to human nature? How can we know what we know (empiricism versus rationalism)? What is truth? How do we arrive at morality and values? What political structures are most beneficial? How does language shape our beliefs? What is the best way to live? Do humans have free will? What is the nature of existence? What is beauty?

Sub-fields of academic philosophy: Metaphysics (the study of ultimate, nonphysical reality), epistemology (the study of knowledge), ethics, ontology (study of what exists, i.e. God), cosmology (study of the cosmos), aesthetics (the study of beauty), political philosophy, logic and more

Eastern philosophy: The philosophical tradition of China, Japan, India and other eastern countries. Important contributions include Daoism (The Tao Te Ching of approximately 600 BCE), Confucianism (The Analects of Confucius of approximately 500 BCE) and Buddhism (which arose in India around 500 BCE). Eastern philosophy is characterized by an interest in the unknowable, the unspeakable and patterns and cycles.

“The dao that can be told is not the dao.” – Laozi, who taught about the Tao/Dao, also known as The Way, the indescribable ultimate truth which can partly be discovered by acting in harmony with nature and meditating
“Happy is he who has overcome his ego.” – Siddhartha Gautama, later the Buddha, who prescribed meditation, the middle way (life balance) and letting go of suffering through wanting nothing
“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” – Confucius, who emphasized virtuous living, loyalty and obedience to one’s leaders, sincerity and self-reflection
“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.” – Rumi, a Persian who taught about reincarnation and Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam

Western philosophy: The philosophical tradition of the West dating from approximately 500 BCE with the Greeks (Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), to the Romans (Cicero and Seneca), to medieval Christian philosophers (Aquinas and Augustine) and beyond. Western philosophy is marked by an interest in logic, absolute knowledge and the Christian faith.

Idealism: belief that ultimate reality is non-material (mind, spirit and/or merely essence)

Materialism: belief that ultimate reality is materialism

Determinism: belief that ‘nothing can happen other than what does happen, because every event is the necessary outcome of causes preceding it,’ which were caused by events preceding them (even thoughts and decisions)

Mysticism: knowledge that transcends the physical world
naturalism: belief that reality is explicable without reference to anything mystical

Postmodernism: distrust of unifying answers; relativity

Pragamtism: a theory of truth. Holds that a statement is true if it accurately describes a situation, fits well with past observation, etc. Uninterested in the unknowable, impractical

Utilitarianism: theory of politics, ethics that judges actions on consequences—most pleasure/good for the most people = good

Noumenon: the thing-in-itself; the unknowable reality behind what present itself to human consciousness/ultimate nature of something

Phenomenon: an experience that is immediately present and observable

Numinous: anything regarded as mysterious and awesome and somehow beyond natural world

Phenomenology: study of our experience of things without making assumptions about their essential nature as independent things

Semantics: Study of word usage

Transcendental: outside sense experience; belief in things outside sense experience

Ancient philosophy overview: During ancient times, philosophy and religion largely overlapped. Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism were of primary signficance.

Daoism: (The Tao Te Ching of approximately 600 BCE), Notable quote: “The dao that can be told is not the dao.” – Laozi, who taught about the Tao/Dao, also known as The Way, the indescribable ultimate truth which can partly be discovered by acting in harmony with nature and meditating

Confucianism: (The Analects of Confucius of approximately 500 BCE) and … Notable quote: “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” – Confucius, who emphasized virtuous living, loyalty and obedience to one’s leaders, sincerity and self-reflection

Buddhism: (which arose in India around 500 BCE). Notable quote: “Happy is he who has overcome his ego.” – Siddhartha Gautama, later the Buddha, who prescribed meditation, the middle way (life balance) and letting go of suffering through wanting nothing

Rumi: A Persian who taught about reincarnation and Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. Notable quote: “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”

Ancient Greek philosophy: The philosophy of the Greeks from approximately 600 to 300 BCE. In short, Thales influenced Pythagoras; Pythagoras influenced Socrates; Socrates taught Plato; then Plato taught Aristotle.

Pythagoras: Pythagoras combined math and philosophy.

Socrates: Socrates developed the Socratic Method in which he asked question after question in order to confound people who believed themselves to be wise, digging for deeper truths in everything. He was condemned to die due to his ideas. He drank hemlock.

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” – Socrates
“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” – Socrates

Plato: Plato introduced the idea of the world of forms, an imagined place that holds the ideal of each type of real thing. (Example: A table has the essence–the form–of a table, even if it is old and broken. But the real table is a lesser version of the ideal table form.) He used the Allegory of the Cave to show how humans only see a mere shadow of what is ultimately real. Plato disagreed with this idea. He was not a rationalist (a believer in the primacy of reason and ideas in discovering truth) but an empiricist (a believer in the primacy of evidence and material reality in discovering truth). Plato founded a famous school called the Academy in Athens. Notable quote: “Earthly knowledge is but shadow.”

Aristotle: Taught by Plato. Opened his school, the Lyceum, also in Athens. Notable quote: “Truth resides in the world around us.”

Parmenides: Said that matter can’t die, and something can’t come from nothing, so everything that is real is eternal, unchanging, and containing some invisible unity. Protagoras argued for moral relativism. Notable quotes: “All is one.” “Man is the measure of all things.”

Ancient Roman philosophy: The philosophy of the Romans from approximately 300 BCE to 350 CE. The main Roman philosophy traditions were stoicism, epicureanism and cynicism.

Stoicism: The stoics (stoicism), led by Zeno, taught indifference to pleasure and pain and acceptance of one’s lot in life.

Epicureanism: By contrast, the epicureans (epicureanism), led by Epicurus, believed that the goal of life is pleasure.

Cynicism: The cynics (cynicism) taught that happiness is contentment with little, particularly little material comfort.

Philosophy of the Middle Ages: The philosophy of Western Europe from approximately 350 to 1300 CE. During this time, religion, particularly Christianity, influenced philosophy to the point of being intertwined with it.

St. Augustine: Wrote extensively about free will. He attempted to explain why both God and evil exist.

Boethius: wrote about God’s foresight but maintained Augustine’s philosophy of free will.

St. Anselm: Attempted an ontological argument for the existence of God, saying that if you can conceive of the greatest thing that could ever exist, it must exit, because the greatest thing has to exist or it wouldn’t be the greatest.

Thomas Aquinas: Wrote extensively about the logical and scientific nature of Christianity.

Renaissance Period philosophy: The philosophy of Western Europe from approximately 1300 to 1750 BCE: Here, philosophy becomes sharply more humanist.

Erasmus: Introduced modern humanism, arguing that religion is folly. Notable quotes: “To know nothing is the happiest life.” “Happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is.”

Niccolo Machiavelli: Argued that government can’t be bound by morality if it wants to succeed. Notable quote: “The ends justifies the means.”

Francis Bacon: Wrote about the value of the scientific method. Notable quote: “Knowledge is power.”

Thomas Hobbes: wrote that the nature of reality is purely physical, that there is no ultimate meaning to life. He introduced the idea of the social contract, saying that our agreements with each other are what enables a relatively peaceful society to exist. Notable quote: “… The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Rene Descartes: Unlike Bacon and Hobbes, Rene Descartes was a rationalist. He believed that even the existence of physical matter cannot be proven and the only thing we can truly know exists is our own minds. Notable quote: “I think, therefore I am.”

Blaise Pascal: A practical thinker, arguing that it’s safer to bet on God’s existence than to bet against it (“Pascal’s Wager”). Notable quote: “Imagination decides everything.”

Benedictus Spinoza: changed the argument, simply redefining God: everything is one, and everything is God. Notable quote: “God is the cause of all things, which are in him.”

John Locke: Returned us to empiricism, arguing that no truths are universal to all people and all cultures. He came up with the idea of the tabula rasa–the blank slate, which is a metaphor for the unknowing state in which each person is born before they are implanted with cultural ideas. Notable quote: “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

George Berkeley: Foresaw quantum physics, saying that a thing only exists in so far as it perceives or is perceived, and that there is no material substance. Notable quote: “To be is to be perceived.”

David Hume: certainty is absurd; custom is the source of knowledge. “Custom is the great guide of human life.”

Immanuel Kant: Sought to prove the existence of the physical world. He tried to marry empiricism and rationalism, saying that both reason and perceptions are needed for knowledge. “There are two worlds: our bodies and the external world.”

Georg Hegel: believed reality is constantly changing and suggested people use dialectic reasoning and avoid assumptions. “Reality is a historical process.”

Arthur Schopenhauer said that we are all limited in our knowledge due to our unique experiences of life.

Jean-Jacques Rosseau: On the political philosophy front, Jean-Jacques Rosseau argued that though man is fundamentally good, laws and government create injustice and oppression. “Man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”

Adam Smith, an economist, argued that the basis of society is trade. “Man is an animal that makes bargains.”

Edmund Burke said that governmental change should be slow and argued for a free market economy.

Jeremy Bentham tried to calculate pleasure and proposed that laws are created by considering which give the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. “The greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

Mary Wollstonecraft: The founder of feminism. “Mind has no gender.”

John Stuart Mill agreed with Bentham, adding that people should be free to do with their own bodies as they wished, but not harm anyone else. “Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Soren Kierkegaard said that as much as we think we want freedom, we really don’t. He is the father of existentialism, the theory that there is no meaning inherent in existence, that existence precedes essence. “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

Karl Marx said that class struggle is what causes all of the ills of society, arguing for communism, while “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Henry David Thoreau argued for individual liberty, non-conformism, and conscientious objection through non-cooperation and non-violent resistance. “Must the citizen ever resign his conscience to the legislator?”

William James founded pragmatism, saying that people should just do the best they can in spite of uncertainty. “Act as if what you do makes a difference.”

Friedrich Nietsche: an existentialist, wrote about the insufficiency of religion. “God is dead.”

Bertrand Russell: insisted that people attach too much importance to work. “The road to happiness lies in an organized diminution of work.” – Bertrand Russell

Ludwig Wittgenstein: described the limits of language and the limits placed on our thinking by language. “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Martin Heidegger: wrote about finding meaning in a meaningless world and about living authentically. “We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed.” – Martin Heidegger

Jean Paul Sartre: Agreed, saying that we must create our own life purpose. “Existence precedes essence.” – Jean-Paul Sartre – “Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” – Albert Camus

Simone de Beauvior: wrote about the oppression of women, “Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female.”

Noam Chomsky: argued for adherence to codes of ethics and

Jacques Derrida: was a deconstructionist who believed that knowledge is limited by language and by our ability (or lack of ability) to interpret it. Life is a series of flawed interpretations. “There is nothing outside of the text.” – Jacques Derrida “We are all mediators, translators.” – Jacques Derrida

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Sartayana

School in a Book: History of Russia


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

East Slavs:The earliest known settlers of modern-day Russia. They were independent, nomadic clans with no known agriculture or writing who spoke various Slavic languages.

The Vikings: The various tribes from Scandanavia who, during the Middle Ages, joined the East Slavs in modern-day Russia

The Rus: The tribe (likely Viking) that eventually united the various Viking and Slavic tribes into the single nation of Russia, and the tribe that gave Russia its name

Rurik: The leader of the Rus tribe and the first Russian ruler mentioned in Islamic and Western literature

Kievic Rus: The first Russian state, with Kiev at its center. It was a loose federation of various Rus and Slavic tribes and the center of Varangian wealth and culture

The Varangians: The new name given to the various combined Rus and Slav peoples as they expanded south to Baghdad and Constantinople and along the river routes connecting the Baltic to the Black Sea. After their failure to defeat the well-defended city of Constantinople, they elected to create an ally of it instead by sending gifts of soldiers and more. This effective strategy meant that by 1000, the Varangians were in complete control of the region. However, there was no central government. Varangian clans (each with a prince) ruled local areas along these important (but sparsely populated) trade routes. 

Prince Vladimir: The Rus prince of Kiev who, in the 1000s, greatly expanded Russian territory but failed to fully unify Russia. He adopted Christianity, which started a significant political and cultural shift in Russia that eventually led to the creation of a Russian national identity. He allowed Constantinople to set up an Episcopal see there, beginning the blending of Slavic and Byzantine cultures.

Mongol invasions: The event of the 1200s that contributed to the decline of Kiev and of the Russian state as a whole. This occurred during the last part of the Middle Ages. It halved the population of Rus.

Tartars/Golden Horde: The combined group of Mongol and Turkic invaders that controlled Russia during the 1200s and 1300s. They helped Russia advance in military tactics and transportation while allowing local princes to continue ruling as before. During this time, Russia also developed its postal road network, a census, a fiscal system and its military organization. Soon after the Mongolian Empire broke up, they lost power in Russia.

Moscow: The Russian city that grew in prominence during the Tartar reign by cooperating with it. It became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, then, under Ivan the Great, the capital of Russia.

Boyars: The Rus princes and upper class government administrators that reclaimed control of Rus from the Mongols. They did not attempt to unify the area under one rule and interfered minimally with the local clan rule. They collected taxes and performed other basic functions. There was only a rudimentary written law code. During this time, cultural and political distinctions formed from one Slavic territory to the next–distinctions that remain to this day.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

Ivan the Great (Ivan III): The leader of Moscow who, in the mid-1400s, united Russia. He extravagantly renovated the Kremlin, reformed military service and more.

The Kremlin: The Russian fortress at the center of Moscow that is now the center of Russian government.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Third Rome: The name given to Moscow after the fall of Constantinople to show that it had taken its place as the third Rome, after Rome and Constantinople

Ivan the Terrible: The ruthless, murderous Russian leader that ruled during the 1500s following Ivan the Great. He took the title of tsar, the Russian word for Caesar. He established the secret police, which terrorized Russia; however, he also established the first feudal representative government–an improvement on the previous feudal system

The Time of Troubles: A period of crop failure and famine in the late 1500s and early 1600s during which Russia lost territory to outsiders. During this time, there was no heir to the throne (Ivan the Terrible had murdered his son), so the other government leaders held the state together until appointing a new dynasty

Romanov dynasty: The dynasty that followed Ivan the Great’s, which ruled from the 1600s till 1917. During this time, the population increased significantly even though the peasants were burdened by high taxes

Peter the Great: The Romanov ruler who, in the 1700s, modernized Russia, which till then functioned under a primitive feudal system. Peter, a great admirer of Western culture, encouraged the arts; spent money carefully; abolished the boyar ruling class; moved the capital to St. Petersburg; gained territory; centralized the government; put the Orthodox Church under state control; hired Western teachers for Russians; created a civil service; improved and expanded infrastructure systems like roads and canals; introduced new industries; and more. Many of his improvements were inspired by his extensive travels to the West, which he undertook while disguised as an ordinary citizen.

The Crimean War: The war between Russia and Turkey over some Black Sea lands, which France and Britain entered on the side of Turkey to check Russia’s growing power. It included the failed Charge of the Light Brigade by the British and was the first war that was covered by newspapers with photographers.

Catherine the Great: The ruler that followed Peter the Great who extended his advances; expanded Russian territory; established social services like education and health care; and established free trade in Russia. Like Peter, she was an admirer of Western culture, and, like Peter, she did not abolish serfdom.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

Russian Revolution: The 1905 worker riots and strikes following Bloody Sunday, when defenseless demonstrators in St. Petersburg were fired on by government troops.

October Manifesto: Russia’s promise of civil rights and representative government following the Revolution. These promises were broken, however, leading to another revolt that ended the Romanov dynasty and instituted a liberal government in its place.

Bolsheviks: The socialist political party led by Lenin that took control of the new liberal government. The Bolshevik Red Army defeated the anti-Bolshevik White Army, then executed their enemies en masse. The Bolshevik party later became the Communist Party.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union for short): The nation created by a treaty between Russia, Ukraine and two other nation-states. It was led by the Communist Party under Lenin.

Vladimir Lenin: The leader of the Bolshevik party who founded the Communist Party in Russia and was the first leader of the Soviet Union. Following his communist ideals, he gave the land to the peasants and the factories to the workers and promised an end to poverty.

Marxism: Communism, as expressed by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Lenin was a follower of Marxism.

Josef Stalin: The communist leader that took over in 1924 after Lenin died (after fighting for power with Leon Trotsky). He served as dictator of the Soviet Union until his death in 1953.

Berlin Wall: The wall built between East and West Berlin in the 1960s to prevent people from the communist east to flee to the democratic west

The Iron Curtain: The metaphor used to describe the separation between the communist and democratic countries of Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War

The Cold War: The hostilities and threat of war between Russia and western countries that began after Russia obtained nuclear bomb technology (in the 1940s) till the late 1980s

Sputnik: The first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957 and beginning the Space Age

The Cuban Missile Crisis: The threat to U.S. that occurred during the 1960s after the Soviet Union built missile bases in Cuba, aiming the missiles at the US. It came to an end after the U.S. blocked trade with the Soviet Union and the Soviets responded by destroying the launch sites.

The fall of the Soviet Union: The end of the communist government of the Soviet Union, after which it was re-named Russia. This event led to various revolutions in Eastern Europe as these countries fought to gain independence.

Mikhail Gorbachev: The leader of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s who facilitated the dissolution of the Soviet Union, allowed Eastern Europe to elect democratic governments, and allowed the Berlin Wall to be torn down

The Berlin Wall: A guarded concrete barrier that divided poor, communist East Berlin from modernized, democratic West Berlin from the 1960s to 1989. It was a symbol of communist power and corruption, and came down partly due to U.S. President Ronald Regan’s diplomatic efforts.

School in a Book: History of North and Central America


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

Overview of the settlement of North and Central America: People came to North America overland from Asia during the Ice Age when the sea level was lower using a land bridge that connected Asia and modern-day Alaska. By 7000 B.C., natives had reached Mesoamerica. Here, they grew corn, beans, pumpkins and more. Mesoamerica was home to the first North and Central American civilizations, including the Mayans and the Aztecs. Meanwhile, smaller tribes across the area formed hunter-gatherer and permanent-village cultures. [By the 1500s there were about six million native Americans grouped into hundreds of unique tribes with different food, art, governmental styles and ways of life (for example, totems, tepees, tribal councils, wigwams, masks, etc.). Some of these tribes formed confederations. Some fought wars.]

Mesoamerica: The area which is now Mexico and Central America

The Olmecs: The people who built the first North American cities in Mesoamerica around 1500 BCE. Olmec cities featured earth and stone pyramids for religious worship and sculptures (including some of enormous heads).

The Zapotecs: The neighboring people to the Olmecs from around 800 BCE on, who became the first Americans to develop writing

The Mayans: The people who created the first great civilization of the Americas around 600 BCE and flourished till around 800 CE. At their height, they encompassed most of Mexico and beyond, building advanced cities with temples and pyramids, including the influential city of Teotihuacan. They were a peaceful people led by priests. Class system: nobles, priests, rules, officials, servants (in cities) and ordinary people (in countryside and went to cities for needs). Had about 800 hieroglyphs, advanced math, science; calendar; astronomy, intricate roads, crafts. Blood sacrifice. all were independent city-sttaes, as in greece. they fought each toher. declined when lost many farmers due to war (farmers taken hostage and many killed as blood sacrifices.)

Teotihuacan: The largest city in the Americas from approximately 1 to 500 CE, which was built by the Mayans. With a population of about 125,000 at its height, Teotihuacan began as a religious center and featured multi-floor apartment compounds, a planned grid system, temple complexes, and a trading system.

Teotihuacan/Teotihuacano): The people and culture of Teotihuacan

The Moche: The people who settled modern-day Ecuador (in Central America) toward the end of ancient times (around 300 AD) and through the beginning of the Middle Ages (around 700 AD). They made pottery, wove textiles, and did metalwork.

The Hopewell culture: The Native culture that formed in what is now Ohio around 300 CE.

The Middle Ages (500 to 1500 CE)

The Temple Mound cultures: The native cultures that formed along what are now the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers around 700 CE. They were known for their towns with central plazas surrounded by rectangular mounds with temples for the dead on top. They lived in adobe longhouses and grew corn, sunflowers, beans, pumpkins and more.

The Hopi: The Native culture that formed in what is now the southwestern U.S. around 700 CE. They were known for their effective irrigation systems, unique art, rain dances and other complex ceremonies, and the Cliff Palace. They grew corn, beans, squash, cotton and more.

The Inuits: The Native people of the far north in what is now Alaska and Canada, who traded with the Vikings. – middle ages

The Anasazi: The Native people of what is now Colorado, who lived in pueblos. – middle ages

The Cree, Chippewa and Algonquin: The Native peoples of what is now Canada. – middle ages

The Sioux: The Native people of what is now the American Midwest. – middle ages

The Iroquois: The Native people of what is now New York State. – middle ages

The Mohawks: The Native people of what is now New England. – middle ages

The Toltecs: The people that replaced the peaceful Mayans in Mesoamerica around 800 CE, establishing a militaristic city-state featuring temples guarded by stone warriors, warrior chiefs and more. During their dominance, the quality of poetry, art and literature declined.

The Aztecs: The people that replaced the Toltecs in Mesoamerica around 1200 CE. This warlike people is well-known for their pyramids, their unique calendar, their advanced governmental and economic structure and their tiered social structure. They built the city of Tenochitlan and traded throughout Mexico. By the 1500s, their empire stretched coast to coast. It was conquered quickly by the Spanish in the 1500s (In one instance, conquistadores led by Cortez pretended he was a god that Montezuma had been waiting for and tricked him into welcoming him.)

Tenochitlan: The central city of the Aztecs, which was built on an island in Lake Texcoco near present-day Mexico City. The city featured garden islands for growing food and was one of the world’s best-planned cities.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

Colonization: The forceful takeover of a nation or people by a foreign nation

Christopher Colombus: The first European to come to the Americas. Colombus, an Italian-born Spaniard who sailed for England, landed on the Carribean Islands in 1492. Believing it to be India (which had been his destination) he named the islands the West Indies. Colombus may never have known he had located the Americas, even after several successive visits.

Amerigo Vespucci: The Italian explorer who sailed to the Americas in 1497 and 1504 and was the first to realize that a New World had been located. By publishing popular writings about his travels, he sealed his credibility and inspired cartographers to name the area after him.

John Cabot: The Italian explorer who sailed for England to the Americas and located Newfoundland, then set up a colony at Quebec in 1497

Ponce de Leon: The Spanish explorer who located Florida in 1513 at claimed it for Spain

Jacques Cartier: The French explorer who located parts of Canada, including Montreal, in 1534 and claimed them for Spain

Roanoke: One of many failed American colonies settled during the 1500s, which became known as the Lost Colony since none of its inhabitants made it back to their home country. Because all attempts to colonize the Americas during that century failed, most Europeans considered the continent unimportant.

Jamestown: The first permanent English colony in the Americas, located in Virginia near the Powhatan River

John Smith: The leading founder of Jamestown, Virginia

Pocahontas: A native American woman who facilitated trade between her people and the people of Jamestown and saved John Smith’s life twice after he was threatened by her people. Later in life, she was captured and imprisoned by colonists, then converted to Christianity and married a colonist–John Rolfe, who introduced tobacco to the colonies.

Plymouth Plantation: The first name of the first permanent North American settlement, which was founded in 1620 by the English. The first winter, Plymouth Plantation saw the death of over half its settlers. In 1621, however, they shared the first Thanksgiving meal with Squanto and other Native Americans. Over the following 20 years, about 20,000 new settlers arrived to Plymouth and surrounding areas. Without the help of the natives in the area, survival was unlikely. Less than a decade later, they began flourishing by growing tobacco on lands taken from the natives and selling it to Europe. Fur trading became popular as well.

Pilgrims: The original settlers of Plymouth Plantation, numbering about 100, some of whom were religious separatists, rejecting the Church of England, and some of whom were mercenaries. The term is also used for the other settlers of this area throughout the 1620s until the Puritans blended with them in the 1630s.

The Mayflower: The ship that brought the original pilgrims to North America

Plymouth Rock: Reportedly, the first landmark noted by the pilgrims at the place where they landed and settled

Puritans: The group of American colonists who founded the Massachussets Bay Colony and went on to settle many other parts of North America. Unlike some of the Pilgrims, the Puritans were not religious separatists, but considered themselves part of the reformed Church of England.

Squanto: A nickname for Tisquanto, a Native American who is known for helping the Puritans survive their first winter at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Squanto learned English after escaping a slave ship and settling in England for a time. He returned to America, then served as an interpreter for the Puritans and Native Americans, helping them make alliances and helping the newcomers grow crops. During his time as interpreter, Squanto displayed manipulative behavior that led his people to attempt his capture. William Bradford protected him, but he died of disease not long after.

The first Thanksgiving: The three-day feast of 1621 during which the Pilgrims invited Squanto to celebrate their first successful harvest.

The Massachussets Bay Colony: The second successful American colony, which was established near Plymouth in 1630

New Amsterdam: The original name of New York, one of the original thirteen colonies, established by the Dutch then later taken over by the English and renamed

Pennsylvania: The area given to a group of Quakers by the English king

William Penn: The founder of Pennsylvania and a strong proponent of religious freedom in the New World, whose ideas were a precursor to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Early French colonies in North America: The French settlements, which included the Great Lakes, the Mississippi river area and the St. Lawrence river area in Canada

Early Spanish colonies in North America: The Spanish settlements, which included Mexico and parts of California, Arizona and New Mexico. The Spanish took Native Americans as slaves to work in mines and Spanish missionaries destroyed native temples and idols.

Native American reactions to colonists: The various ways natives responded to the colonists. At first, the Native Americans in these areas were friendly to the Europeans. Then they began to suffer from smallpox, measles and other European diseases; to be killed; and to be driven off their lands. Until Europeans introduced them to horses, wheeled transportation and guns, they fought only with wood and stone tools, bows, slingshots and spears. The late 1600s saw many violent wars with the native peoples.

The American slave trade: The importing of Africans to the Americas by force, which began in 1619. Soon after, the majority of the people living in some areas were slaves.

Salem witch trials: The trials held in Salem, Massachusetts around 1700 in which men and women were found guilty of witchcraft due to Puritan fears. The trials led to the death of fourteen women and six men.

French and Indian War: The war between the French and British, along with each side’s native American allies, for American territory. It was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between European colonizing nations.

The original thirteen colonies: The American colonies that fought the American Revolution, which included: Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia

The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act: The exhorbitantly high taxes on sugar and stamp imports [exports?], imposed by the king of England on the American colonies.

“No taxation without representation”: The slogan used by American colonists to protest their lack of representation in the Enlish government in spite of the high taxes imposed on them by that government.

The Boston Tea Party: A protest by the American colonies against Great Britain over taxation of British imports in which a group of colonists snuck into the Boston Harbor at night and threw tea imports overboard.

The Declaration of Independence: The statement made by the American colonies declaring independence from Great Britain, which marked the beginning of the American Revolution. It was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson: The main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president

The Articles of Confederation: The document that held the American colonies together during the American Revolution, prior to the creation of the U.S. Constitution, which gave most of the power to the states

The American Revolution: The war between Britain and the thirteen American colonies that led to American independence. Partly, it was sparked by unfair English taxes and other laws. It occurred in the mid-1700s and is also called the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War. The final battle took place in Yorktown, where the British surrendered to America.

The Treaty of Paris: The treaty between the American colonies and Great Britain that ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation

The Constitutional Convention: The 1787 Pennsylvania gathering in which the founding father of the U.S. wrote the U.S. Constitution

Yorkstown: George Washington led the colonists to victory, the British finally surrendering at Yorktown in 1781. Two years later, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war.

The Constitutional Convention: In 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania, the founding fathers created the United States Constitution. (Prior to this time, America was held together by the Articles of Confederation, which gave almost all power to the states.)

The U.S. Constitution: The document stating the supreme law of the U.S. that provides the framework of the U.S. system of government

George Washington: The first president of the United States, elected in 1789, and the heroic general that led the Americans to victory in the American Revolution

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments (additions) to the U.S. Constitution, which provide for various individual freedoms, including freedom of speech, press, religion, the right to bear arms and more

U.S. expansion: The acquisition of U.S. territory and population during the 1800s, including European immigrants attracted to American freedom; the Louisiana Purchase; the annexation of Texas; the gaining of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico after a brief war of expansion against Mexico; and more

Upper and Lower Canada: The two parts of Canada after Britain split the English-speaking north (the Ontario area) from the French-speaking south (the Quebec are) to reduce tensions between these areas, who both wanted control

The Louisiana Purchase: The buying of 530 million acres of land, which included Louisiana, from France in the early 1800s–a purchase that doubled the size of the recently-created nation. It occurred because of Napolean’s extravagant spending and his desire to fund a war of expansion against [need fact check].

Lewis and Clark: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the explorers assigned by President Thomas Jefferson to map and report about the Louisiana Purchase and beyond. Their journey took about a year and a half, and they reached the Pacific Ocean at [where?].

Sacajawea: A native American who helped Lewis and Clark navigate across America

The War of 1812: The war between the U.S. and Great Britain over Britain’s continued involvement in U.S. trade. After it, Britain agreed to no longer have military posts on U.S. soil or block U.S. trade with Europe. The treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, helped establish the U.S. as a world power.

Nat Turner: The leader of a violent and unsuccessful slave revolt in Virginia in the 1830s that resulted in the deaths of 50 to 60 White people and the deaths and convictions of many Black participants and led to harsher penalties for slaves

The Alamo: The decisive battle in Texas’ war of independence from Mexico that occurred in the 1830s. In the 1840s, Texas, the Lone Star Republic, joined the U.S.

Davy Crockett: The most well-known defender of the Alamo

The Trail of Tears: The path that Cherokee and other Native Americans took after being forced out of Oklahoma by President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Thousands died on the trail.

The American Civil War: The war that took place from 1861 to 1865 that divided the United States in two—the Northern States versus the Southern States. While the northerners had already banned slavery, partly because their economy was based on manufacturing, the southerners maintained its legality, using slaves on their tobacco, cotton and other plantations. The North also wanted a stronger national government, while the South wanted more power for individual states. After the North won, slavery ended and the U.S. reunited.

Abraham Lincoln: The U.S. president of the mid-1800s who presided over the American Civil War. Lincoln opposed slavery and was in favor of a stronger national government.

The Confederate States of America: The name the southern states took for their union after seceding from the U.S., an act which started the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant: The military commander of the North during the Civil War

Robert E. Lee: The military commander of the South during the Civil War

Fort Sumter: The fort in South Carolina where the Civil War fighting began

Gettysburg: A decisive Civil War victory for the North

The Gettysburg Address: A speech made by Lincoln arging for equality and national unity

The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s announcement of the end of slavery in the U.S.

The thirteenth amendment: The constitutional amendment that ended slavery

John Wilkes Booth: The man who assassinated Lincoln five days after General Lee surrendered to General Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox, Virginia

Reconstruction: The process of rebuilding after the Civil War and transitioning away from slavery

Indentured servants: Servants that remain perpetually indebted to their masters, creating a type of slavery, in spite of being lawfully free

Harriet Tubman: A escaped slave who made trips through southern territory, helping others escape to the North

Canadian independence: The political independence of Canada, which was gained shortly after the U.S. Civil War. Soon, they folded in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario. They declared both French and English their official languages. Before the turn of the century, the Northwest Territories (a very large portion of modern-day Canada) as well as the Yukon Territory were also added. (These areas were previously owned by the Hudson Bay Company.)

Canadian gold rush: The 1800s discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory that led to a population expansion there

Canadian Pacific Railway: The railway completed in the late 1800s that united Canada from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

U.S. industrialization: From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, the U.S. quickly modernized, became an industrial power, and made significant inventions.

Wilbur and Orville Wright: The inventors of the Wright Flyer, considered to be the first airplane, which they first flew in 1903

Henry Ford: The inventor of the assembly line and the owner of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His company led the car sales industry, one of the hallmarks of modern life, and revolutionized factory production methods, which led to greater mass production, another hallmark of modern life.

Albert Einstein: The German physicist who developed the Special Theory of Relativity and other key theories centered around gravity in the early 1900s’ in the U.S.

The U.S. during the first World War: After a time of limited involvement in international affairs, the U.S. entered World War I after German submarines attacked their cargo ships.

President Wilson: The U.S. president at the end of World War I and the developer of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Though advocated for by Wilson, the U.S. government voted not to join the League and resume non-interventionalist policies.

The Roaring Twenties: The decade after the end of World War I and a boom time for the U.S. economy. During this time, city populations swelled, jazz music and movies were popular, the flapper style of dress came into fashion, car ownership increased and skyscrapers and elevators were invented.

Prohibition: The constitutional law against the sale and use of alcohol. Prohibition was granted by the 18th Amendment in the 1920s and ended by the 21st Amendment in the 1930s. During the time of prohibition, mafia and other crime organizations led by people like Al Capone set up bootlegging operations, increasing overall rates of crime.

The 19th Amendment: The constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote, which followed nearly 100 years of protests

Ku Klux Klan: A group of violent

The Scopes Trial: A trial that took place in the 1920s after teacher John Scopes was convicted and fined for teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee. It was also called the “Monkey Trial.” Scopes was convicted but his sentence was set aside.

Black Friday: The stock market crash of 1929, which started the Great Depression worldwide. It occurred because stock market speculators had overvalued many companies. Unemployment was extremely high, and a massive drought in the Great Plains (the Dust Bowl) and resulting crop failures exacerbated the problems.

NBC: The National Broadcasting Channel, the first company to put out an official network television broadcast, which they did in 1940

The New Deal: The set of government-sponsored programs initiated in the early 1930s by President Roosevelt to increase employment rates and reduce poverty during the Depression. These programs included infrastructure expansions, subsidized farming, a federal minimum wage and more.

Pearl Harbor: The Hawaiian military facility that Japan attacked on December 7, 1941, which led to the U.S. joining World War II the next day. 2400 soldiers were killed in the attack. Japan was motivated in part by U.S. pressure to stop attacking China.

U.S. involvement in World War II: During World War II, the U.S. sided with the Allies to stop the advance of Germany into Europe and beyond and the advance of Japan into China and beyond. They contributed troops and supplies to the European fronts and led the attack on Japan. They ended the war with Japan by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, purportedly in order to avoid an estimated million deaths from further attacks. President Truman made the decision to do so.

Enola Gay: The plane that dropped Little Boy,

Little Boy: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed 130,000 people and more later from fallout

Fat Man: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed 750,000 people and more later from fallout

Kamikaze: Japanese suicide bomber planes, which attacked Allied ships during a push for Okinawa

Relocation centers: Prison camps inhabited by Japanese and Japanese Americans starting in 1942 after Roosevelt ordered it. Many stayed for the remainder of the war.

The U.S. during the 1950s: In the decade following World War II, the U.S. led the nuclear arms race and prospered, partly due to wartime advances in industrial production. Americans enjoyed new in-home technologies; the highway and road system greatly expanded; and the television came to dominate home entertainment.

McCarthyism: An anti-communist ideology led by Senator Joseph McCarthy characterized by false accusations of communist allegiance to one’s countrymen

African American Civil Rights movement: The collection of protests that took place during the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. south and elsewhere that brought an end to racial segregation and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act

Brown vs. the Board of Education: The 1950s U.S. Supreme Court case between the Brown family and the Board of Education of Topeka that banned a Black child from a public school. The court unanimously favored Brown and banned racial segregation in public schools.

The “Little Rock Nine”: The nine students that integrated an Arkansas high school, to violent protest. The students were supported by the National Guard.

Statehood of Alaska and Hawaii: The 1959 creation of these U.S. states

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The most prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, who delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the 1960s and was assassinated in 1968. He promoted non-violence and civil disobedience.

John F. Kennedy: The U.S. president who was assassinated in Texas in the 1960s

Malcolm X: A black-nationalist leader who was assassinated in New York City at a rally

Thurgood Marshall: The first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice

The nuclear arms race: The race between the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and other countries to develop atomic weapons after World War II. (Though Russia fought on the side of the Allies during the war, they soon merged with communist countries in Eastern Europe, including East Germany, forming the U.S.S.R.)

The space race: The race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War to advance space exploration

Apollo II: The U.S. mission that took place in 1969 and resulted in the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This alliance of western nations formed against communist powers to promote democracy

The Korean War: The war between North Korea and South Korea that took place from 1950 to 1953. It occurred after the communist-led North Korea attacked the democratic South Korea in spite of their recent border agreement. The U.N. sent troops (including many American troops) to defend democracy, believing that any extension of communist-allied countries could lead to further communist military action around the world. No side won, and in the end, the border returned to the 38th parallel, where it had been at the start of the war.

The Vietnam War: The Vietnamese civil war that took place during the 1960s and 1970s between the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north (the two parties that took over after Vietnam claimed independence from France in the 1950s). The U.S. sent troops to aid the south to decrease the spread of communism, but no side won and millions died in this long-running conflict.

The draft: The practice of lawfully compelling people to join the army, a practice that took place in the U.S. during the Vietnam War

Space shuttle Colombia: The first reusable space plane, which the U.S. launched in 1981

Hubble Space Telescope: The first telescope in space, which brought pictures of deep space to the world

The U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s: During this decade of rapid modernization, the U.S. brought the personal computer and the internet to the world and continued to lead the world in G.D.P.

Barack Obama: The first African American to be elected president of the United States, who took office in 2008

September 11, 2001: The date of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that led to war in Afghanistan

School in a Book: History of South America

Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Chavins: The people who built the first South American cities. In addition to hunting and gathering they made pottery, weaved on looms and made elborate carvings. Their cities, which formed around 2500 BCE, were located in modern-day Peru. They included religious ceremonial sites and a three-story high building with mazes of rooms and corridors.

Tiahuanaco: The city that was built around 300 BCE in the Andes in modern-day Bolivia near Lake Titicaca. Its center featured enormous stone temples and palaces, and it was surrounded by long strings of smaller settlements reaching into the Brazilian rain forests. Distinctive jewelry, pottery and temple stones were found there. The city’s population reached 100,000 before it began to decline. It was abandoned due to drought or destroyed around 1000 CE. The people of Tiahuanaco are referred to as the Tiahuanaco people or the Tiahuanaco culture. They were peaceful and nonmilitaristic.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Huari: The militaristic people who built the empire that spread over half of modern-day Peru from about 800 CE to about 1000 CE.

The Incas: The people who built the empire that spread over much of modern-day Peru after the Huari civilization failed. They came into prominence around 1200 CE and built many important towns, including Cuzco and Macchu Picchu, which remain today. They built stone structures without mortar, using a precise stone fitting technique. Their cultural peak, during which they expanded their empire far north and south, conquering other tribes after a long period of isolationism, occurred in the 1500s. Key features of Incan life included: relay runners who carried messages along the two main roads that spanned the length of the empire; terraced farms built onto the sides of the mountains; wooden spears and slingshots; and quipus (knotted ropes that helped them count). They did not write.

Machu Picchu: A small Incan town located deep in the Andes mountains which served as a spiritual center and possibly as an escape for dignitaries. It featured an astronomical observatory and stone temples. During the early colonial period, natives used it as a last stronghold against their invaders.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Amerigo Vespucci: The first western explorer to reach South America and the first to realize that the Americas existed. After his travels, he created the first map of the New World, giving the new continent his name. His discovery occurred in 1499, just a few years after Christopher Colombus landed on the Carribean islands thinking he had landed in India. Though Vespucci was Italian, he sailed for Spain, which funded his travels with the hopes of colonizing new lands. Vespucci first landed in modern-day Guyana (the northernmost area of South America), then traveled into the Amazon rain forest and to the island of Trinidad.

The colonization of South America: The conquest of South America by the Spanish and, later, the Portugese. It began during the mid-1500s in the Incan areas, which were defeated and destroyed in a year’s time. From there, the Spanish spread throughout the continent, mistreating the natives, smashing native temples and idols and introducing deadly diseases. During the late 1500s and throughout the 1600s, they forced natives as well as African slaves to mine for gold, which brought extravagant wealth to Spain and allowed it to dominate Europe until greed and mismanagement undermined their power.

Conquistadors: The Spanish invaders of South America

South American independence: During the 1800s, South American countries began rebelling and fighting for independence. Eventually, all except French Guyana were successful. Because wealthy plantation owners still held most of the power in these areas, however, living conditions didn’t immediately improve.

Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin: The leaders of the successful South American wars for independence. Though both wanted all of the newly independent countries to unite into a single South American nation (like the United States), this did not happen. Instead, leaders from the wealthier classes fought for power over the working classes. They also did not trust Bolivar, who wanted to reign over South America as its king.

The Modern Era (1900 to the Present)

Overview of South America in modern times: During the 1900s, South America experienced many civil wars as well as wars for independence. Freedom fighters prevailed over colonialism in most of the areas that had not achieved independence in the 1800s; however, many of these new governments were oppressive dictatorships.

U.S. intervention in South America: The U.S. intervened in several South American civil wars, backing the sides they believed were favorable to their interests. At various times, U.S. troops invaded Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Granada and Panama.

Fidel Castro: The anti-capitalist leader of Cuba for the last half of the 20th century who established communism there

The Bay of Pigs invasion: A planned, but aborted, U.S. invasion of Cuba through missile power. It occurred in the 1960s as part of U.S. attempts to thwart the spread of communism.

The Panama Canal treaty: The treaty signed by the Republic of Panama and the U.S. in the 1970s agreeing that Panama would regain control the Panama Canal Zone in the year 2000. Prior to this, in the early 1900s, the U.S. had backed a successful Panamanian independence movement in exchange for control of this zone. They then built this highly valuable canal, which provides the only shipping path through the Americas.

The Cuban missile crisis: A 1960s exchange between the U.S. and the communist-led Soviet Union in which both countries positioned nuclear missiles facing each other and the countries came close to initiating a nuclear war. The Soviet missile was located in Cuba, where the communist leader Fidel Castro had agreed to work with the Soviets in their Cold War attempts at intimidation. Castro believed that doing so might prevent U.S. attacks on Cuba as well.

School in a Book: History of China


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers: The two rivers in China along which ancient agriculture-based civilizations arose. Though early Chinese dynasties were centered along the Yellow River, both of these areas are considered cradles of civilization.

The Xia Dynasty: The first Chinese dynasty, located along the Yellow River in the 2000s BCE. Due to sparse historical references and no historical records, this dynasty’s existence is disputed. It did not feature strong monarch; instead, it was a collection of small, mostly independent farming villages led by a ruling clan. During this time, irrigation and dams were developed.

The Shang Dynasty: The second Chinese dynasty and the first with written records. Like the Xia Dynasty, it was located along the Yellow River and was ruled not by a strong monarch, but by a ruling clan. This dynasty featured bronze and jade works; horses and chariots; domesticated animals; wheat, millet and rice agriculture; silk and calligraphy; and ancestor worship.

The Zhou Dynasty: The third Chinese dynasty, which was characterized by civil war. During this time, paper was invented.

The Warring States Period: The period during the Zhou Dynasty (around 500 BCE) during which Chinese towns were in civil war.

The Qin Dynasty: The fourth Chinese dynasty and the first to feature an emperor. This dynasty marked the beginning of China’s imperial (strong monarch) era and saw great advancements; however, it only lasted fifteen years. The wheelbarrow was invented during this dynasty.

Shi Huang Di (Qin Shi Huang): The first emperor of China. Sometimes called the Yellow Emperor, Shi Huang Di united who, after the Warring States Period, united China for the first time and started the Qin Dynasty. (This happened around 200 BCE. “China” comes from “Qin.”) Born Qin Shi Huang, the emperor changed his name to Shi Huang Di, which means “first emperor.” He introduced standardized weights and measures, a single currency and a writing system; created the Terra Cotta Soldiers; began construction of the Great Wall of China and the Silk Road; instituted Confucianism as the official state religion; replaced feudal system aristocrats with capable administrators; built roads, canals, irrigation systems and other infrastructure improvements and more. However, a modernist, Shi Huang Di also destroyed classic literary works, including some by Confucius.

Xiling Ji: Wife of Huang Di, who is credited with the discovery of silk

Great Wall of China: The wall started by Shi Huang Di in the 200s to help protect China from invaders, such as the Mongols

Silk Road: The trade route stretching across China and into Europe. Traversing it was treacherous and could take several years each direction.

Terracotta soldiers: The over 7,000 larger-than-life terracotta statues that were housed in Shi Huang Di’s tomb

The Han Dynasty: The fifth Chinese dynasty and one of the most powerful and important in Chinese history. Co-existing with the Roman Empire, the Han dynasty started trade with Central Asia and Europe along the Silk Road. During this time, Confucianism became the official Chinese religion and Buddhism and Taoism also grew in popularity. Chinese inventions during this time included the first anesthetic, the first seismograph and improvements in paper making. For a time, its capital was the largest city in the world, and China was as large as the Roman Empire.

Emperor Liu Bang: The first emperor during the Han Dynasty. Popular, he relaxed harsh laws and instituted fair Confucian laws. He also worked to replace classic writings destroyed by the Qin Dynasty, introduced Buddhism from India and beat back the Huns of Mongolia.

Mandarins: The professional Chinese officials that ran the government during the Han Dynasty. Their education included an exam on Confucianism.

Wei Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties: The other ancient Chinese dynasties to rule (briefly) before the more stable period that began around the start of the Middle Ages. Like Rome, China was in political disarray during this time due to economic troubles and border encroachment by outsiders. Buddhism grew in popularity during this time, partly due to its emphasis on suffering well.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Sui Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that restored stability during the early Middle Ages. During this time, China built the Grand Canal and rebuilt the Great Wall. Even more important, a strong bureaucracy was established. Bureaucratic positions were established and given to highly educated individuals who passed an imperial exam. This merit-based bureaucratic system lasted until the 1900s and provided a strong foundation for Chinese culture, unity and economy. Japanese emissaries sent to China brought these ideas back to their country, which vastly influenced their government.

The Tang Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that successfully expanded their western border in order to keep control of the Silk Road. A well-organized empire and one of the largest in history, it remained stable for 300 years, ruling over territories from Korea to Thailand to Afghanistan.

The Tibetan period: The period of Chinese history during which Tibet defeated parts of China and China was highly unstable. During this time, the Chinese invented porcelain and printed the first book. 

The Song dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that restored Chinese unity after the Tibetan period, then made considerable economic, technological and cultural advancements. During this time, China’s economy surpassed western economies. They perfected porcelain making; flourished in theater, poetry and painting; made peace on their borders; increased shipbuilding; invented gunpowder, clocks, movable-type printing, paddle wheel boats and the magnetic compass; expanded agriculturally; grew in population to 100 million; modernized banking; expanded trade; enacted government reforms; remained peaceful; started using the world’s first paper currency; and starting the practice of foot binding.

The Mongol Empire: The Chinese empire led by Mongols under Kublai Khan, which was established after China fell to them in the late Middle Ages. The Mongols conquered China with fast horses, far-firing bows and a disciplined army.

Genghis Khan: The first leader of the Mongol army, who took leadership of his small warlike tribe at the age of thirteen and, with it, conquered most of Eurasia. Genghis Khan means “emperor of all men.”

Kublai Khan: The grandson of Genghis Khan and the second leader of the Mongol army who completed the conquest of China (and other places in Asia) in the late part of the Middle Ages. 

The Yuan Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that was started by Kublai Khan in China, and which Khan ruled as emperor. Khan encouraged trade, opening the important Silk Road to the west.

Marco Polo: The Italian merchant and explorer who famously spent seventeen years at the court of Kublai Khan and wrote about the luxuries enjoyed by the Chinese

The Ming Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that followed the Yuan Dynasty, which returned China to Chinese leadership and restored peace and stability. (“Ming” means “bright” in Chinese.) Though the Mongols retained control of parts of China during the first part of this dynasty, by 1400 they had fallen from power in China (and in many of their other conquered lands). During this dynasty, the Forbidden City was built; roads, canals, palaces and temples were erected; trade and art flourished; and the capitol was moved from Xian to Beijing.

The Forbidden City: The extravagant residence of the emperor that was built during the Ming Dynasty. No one was allowed to enter or leave it without the emperor’s permission. It is said that it included 9,999 rooms. Its halls and temples, some of which were used solely by the emperor, were astonishingly ornate.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Overview of China during the colonial period: Colonists arrived in southern China in early colonial times, establishing thriving trading ports. The foreigners were met with suspicion by the Chinese, and for good reason: colonists waged war over port control and balanced imports and exports.

The Qing Dynasty: The last imperial dynasty of China, which ruled from the mid-1600s till 1911. Prosperous, it was ruled by the Manchu people. They expanded the Chinese empire to become the largest in the world in 1800; brought efficiency without greatly disturbing existing Chinese customs; and increased trade, especially of tea, porcelain, cotton and silk. However, they were isolationists, only allowing Chinese to take silver as payment for their goods and disallowing foreign goods to enter China. This policy increased illegal foreign trade, including the opium trade.

The Manchus: The rulers of the Qing Dynasty and a foreign people from the northeast. At first, the Manchus lived separately from the Chinese in closed-off areas and Chinese men had to wear long hear in pigtails to show inferiority to the Manchus; however, both Manchus and Chinese were allowed to be civil servants (mandarins). Eventually the Manchus assimilated and were accepted.

The first and second Opium Wars: The wars between China and the colonists over the illegal importing of opium into China. The Opium Wars occurred partly because the colonists were not allowed to trade their goods for Chinese goods, only silver. This policy caused an increase in illegal foreign trade, with opium as a key export. Colonists encouraged heavy opium use by the Chinese and exported huge quantities to this country. When Chinese officials burned British stores of opium, Britain sent warships. Britain won the war and took Hong Kong as its own. After this, China was forced to open trade and made trade agreements with many countries.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Boxer Rebellion:

The Republican Revolution: The revolution led by Sun Yat-sen in 1911 which overthrew the Qin Dynasty and ended the Chinese imperial era

Sun Yat-sen: The first president of the Republic of China and the leader of the Republican Revolution

Republic of China: The government that followed the Qin Dynasty and was ruled by a president and military leaders. It had two centers, one in the north in Beijing and one in the south at Nanjing. It was characterized by continuous civil war between the communist north and the nationalist south. It fell in 1949.

Chinese Civil War: The war that began with the Republican Revolution and continued throughout the time of the Republic of China until Mao’s communists emerged as victors and created the People’s Republic of China

China during World War I:

China during World War II:

Chiang Kai-Shek: The leader of the joint nationalist and communist forces who defeated northern rebels during the beginning of the Chinese Civil War, then became the leader of the Nationalist Party after the communists broke away

Mao Zedong: The leader of the Communist Party who prevailed after the long Chinese Civil War and created the People’s Republic of China

The Long March: The deadly march of Mao and his communist army from the south to the north before taking power

Chinese-Japanese War: The war between China and Japan that took place during the Chinese Civil War. It started in the 1930s when Japan invaded China and captured several important cities, including Beijing. For a time, nationalists and communists paused their civil war and allied to fight them. When they defeated Japan in 1945, they resumed fighting each other.

People’s Republic of China: The modern government of China, which was founded by Mao Zedong in 1949. Strictly communist for several decades, in the late 1970s it began adopting free trade policies that brought on an economic boom.

Great Leap Forward: Mao Zedong’s campaign to end poverty through the redistribution of land to be run by giant peasant communities. It was a failure, leading to widespread food shortages and the death of millions by starvation.

Cultural Revolution: Mao Zedong’s campaign to suppress anti-communist ideas in which over one million intellectuals, political opponents and others were placed in concentration camps and killed

Little Red Book: The nickname for Mao’s political treatise titled The Thoughts of Chairman Mao

Tiananmen Square demonstration: The 1989 student demonstration in Beijing in which 3,000 people were killed and 10,000 people were injured for advocating for democracy

Return of Hong Hong: The 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China after 100 years of colonial rule by the British

School in a Book: History of Australia and Oceania


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Polynesians: The first people to settle modern-day Australia and New Zealand, after which they became known as the aborigines and the Maori, respectively. The Polynesians might have come from Taiwan, then Melanesia, an area in the Pacific Islands. Around 1300 BCE, they settled the Polynesian Triangle around Fiji, then moved to Tahiti and the Marquesas. From there, they visited America, the Easter Islands and Hawaii. They carved wood; kept livestock; and grew coconuts, taros, yams and vegetables. They were remarkable sailors, with large oceangoing canoes featuring sails and paddles stabilized with outriggers or doubled up like catamarans. They also had advanced knowledge of stars, currents and winds.

Easter Island statues: The famous collections of over 1,000 statues discovered on Easter Island created by the Polynesians or an earlier unknown people. The statues, some of which are over 30 feet tall, are of human heads and shoulders, and might have represented watchful ancestors.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The Polynesians who settled modern-day New Zealand during the Middle Ages. They traded with the Aborigines.

The Aborigines: The first settlers of Australia, who were Polynesian. The Aborigines lived in tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They were experts in wood carving, even though they were isolated from Asia and Indonesia.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

New Holland: The name the Dutch gave the Australian continent in the 1700s after discovering it in the 1600s. (The Dutch also discovered Tasmania and New Zealand around this time.) The Dutch did not settle the area, however.

Captain Cook: The British explorer who claimed New Zealand and Australia for Britain. He also traveled to Tahiti, Hawaii and Antarctica. In Antarctica, he was pushed back by glaciers.

First Australian colonists: Convicts exiled from Britain in the late 1700s. These were followed by free settlers, who also colonized New Zealand. They introduced new diseases to the Aborigines and changed local culture.

British takeover of New Zealand: During the 1800s, the British colonists of New Zealand competed with the Maori for land. Eventually, the Maori gave ownership of the island to the British in exchange for land ownership rights. Some accounts claim that two versions of the treaty were written, though, with one leading the Maori to believe they were giving up governorship, not ownership. Following this, there were violent Maori uprisings. Eventually, New Zealand became an official British colony.

The new nation of Australia: The Australian nation was created by the British in the 1800s, using a name suggested by explorers who followed Cook. After the creation of this nation, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

Captain Arthur Phillip: The leader of the first British settlement of Australia, which was made up of over 700 convicts, a few free settlers, and 200 marines. Phillip was sent there in the late 1700s by the British government to establish a penal colony for English prisoners in order to alleviate prison overcrowding in England.

Sydney Cove: The bay settled and named by Arthur Phillip’s group of settlers, who struggled to survive in an unfamiliar climate with limited supplies. Later, other groups of convicts and settlers arrived. In the 1800s other colonies were built, some penal colonies and some free.

New South Wales: The name that Captain Cook gave to the Australian continent, which later became the name of the first Australian colony that included Sydney Cove. After other colonies arose in Australia, then gained independence, New South Wales became one of the six Australian states.

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the mid-1800s and on resulting from the discovery of gold there. This influx resulted in the creation of five new Australian colonies: Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. After Australia gained independence, these, with New South Wales, became the six Australian states. During the gold rush, the Aboriginal population declined significantly due to land fights and foreign disease.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Commonwealth of Australia: A federation of various Australian colonies which was founded in the early 1900s. It features a national parliament and is part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies). The Australian colonies that make up the Commonwealth have parliamentary governments based on free trade and equal rights with constitutions are based on the American and British constitutions.

Australia in World War I & II: During both world wars, Australia fought for Britain.

Postwar Australia: The rapid growth of world economies after WWII led to increased wealth and tourism for Australia. During this time they imported a great deal of American technology and culture. Many immigrants came from war-torn countries.

School in a Book: Writing Skills

In some people, the word writer inspires a feeling of pride or admiration. In others, it inspires dread. If you’re in the latter category, consider making writing improvement your top educational priority. If you aren’t, practice a lot anyway. It’s likely the most useful skill you’ll learn in school.

Writing Skills

How to write a paragraph: Write the main idea. Follow this with several supporting sentences. After mastering this basic formula, experiment with placing the main idea elsewhere in the paragraph. Switch to a new paragraph when the main point you’re making and supporting changes–no sooner and no later.

How to take notes on a text: First, find the main idea of the entire section of writing. Practice this skill alone until you are good at it. (This comes in handy in both personal and philosophical arguments, in which the main point of the speaker often gets lost.) After that, identify the main supporting ideas in the section—the points that give rise to the main idea. Finally, make note of any particularly insightful or important side point. Record your notes in the simplest form possible, without unnecessary blank spaces on the page. Use bullets.

How to write an outline: Place your thesis statement at the beginning. Then list the major points that support your thesis using Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.). Under each of these, list all of the supporting ideas or arguments using capital letters (A, B, C, etc.). If needed, under these, list subordinate ideas using numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.), then small letters (a, b, c, etc.).

How to write a short story: First, create a compelling dilemma involving interesting characters. Think of the story as a movie without a narrator, and write each scene like a movie scene without any background explanation. Start the story at a particularly interesting place in media res (in the middle of action). Make sure that every character undergoes inner change, and the protagonist is quite changed by the end. Make sure that in each and every scene there is an immediate conflict in addition to the story’s larger conflict, and make sure that every scene moves the story forward. Use the standard plot graph, with a slow introduction, then rising action (when lots of complications are thrown in), then a climax (when everything bad happens all at once), then a quick resolution.

How to write a poem: Read several poems of several types, including free verse, odes, haikus, rhyming poems with regular stanza lengths, nonrhyming poems with regular stanza lengths and more. Find a feeling within yourself and choose a subject that in the moment of writing causes that same strong feeling in you. Write a straight description of that subject/metaphor that includes words that convey your reaction to it, without ever describing your thoughts or feelings directly. As you edit it, get rid of any extra words and any words that sound in any way corny (flower, sunshine, beauty, etc.).

How to write an essay: First, research the topic. Then, write a great thesis statement. This will often be one sentence in length, but for more complex themes, you can state the argument, then use a second sentence to review your supporting evidence; for example, “This paper argues that rabbit habitats should be more carefully preserved. It discusses several reasons for this, then offers two practical changes that can be made.” Note that most instructors won’t object to the use of the passive voice or the self-referencing phrase, “this paper.” “Here, I,” as in, “Here, I explain …” also usually works. Next, choose references that support that thesis statement. Then, write a fairly thorough outline that includes the supporting arguments, evidence and references. Write a first draft of the essay without overly concerning yourself with proper grammar and perfect phrasing. The introductory paragraph should grab the reader’s attention and clearly state the position the paper will support. It usually briefly mentions several important supporting arguments and ends with the thesis statement. The middle paragraphs provide support for the main argument, one point at a time and offer credible references, and the conclusion restates the argument and the main supporting points, then ends by widening the reader’s scope. It might refer to the significance or larger application of the position or contain a call to action.

Writing Rules

The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. This happens when language is clear, concise, well-organized and direct. The following rules for good writing can and should be selectively broken in creative writing, but in most nonfiction writing and in most practical writing (letters, emails, instructions, etc.), they stand.

Be organized. Write an outline first, and use it.

Be specific and concrete. Otherwise, you’ll lose your reader.

Be concise. Overwriting sounds arrogant.

Don’t use a lot of adjectives and adverbs. They’re out of style.

Pay attention to transitions. When possible, don’t confuse the reader by jumping from one step to the next or one idea to the next without showing (subtly) how they relate.

Pay attention to rhythm. Intersperse long and short sentences and read the piece out loud or have someone else read it out loud to you to see if it flows well.

Use the active voice. This just means to avoid “is” and “are” when possible, particularly when doing so creates a needlessly long phrase, as in “is trying to help people figure out” instead of “helps” or “advises.”

For dialogue, use either “said” or “asked” or leave the quote bare. Don’t use “stated,” “exclaimed,” etc.

State quotes in the past tense, even if the author still believes what they said.

Use the positive form of the statement, avoiding double negatives when possible.

Do not use run-on sentences. One sentence per sentence is enough.

Place the phrase you want to emphasize at the end of the sentence.

Keep related words together. A clause (a descriptive phrase) should be right next to the person, place or thing that it’s describing.

Express coordinate ideas in similar form. (For example, when using bullet points, all of the points should be in the same form, same tense, and as parallel in structure as possible.)

Don’t accidentally inject opinion. When making unsupported statements, consider using “may,” “might” or “can” instead of “should” or “will.”

Don’t be awkward. When grammar rules feel wrong, they can safely be broken. Usually.

Don’t be fancy. No one will like you more for it.

Practice. Revise and rewrite. Wait a year, then revise again. To become a faster, clearer, more organized writer, practice outlining nonfiction texts. Also, master the art of writing short, factual, straightforward stories worthy of a top-notch news reporter. Then move on to the more creative stuff.

Essay Writing Tips

Pretend you’re in an argument. An essay is an argument, after all. Pretend someone is in the room with you right now. They don’t agree with what you’re saying but they’re willing to listen without answering back—yet. How would you answer these questions? (When stuck, imagine someone screaming them at you.)

  • Why is what you’re telling me important? Why should anyone care about your opinion on this? Are there relevant statistics, or is there a reason someone might disagree with you? (Introductory sentences or paragraphs, including introductions to new sections.)
  • What is your main point, anyway? (Thesis statement.)
  • What is your evidence? (Supporting paragraphs.)

Just spit it out. Do NOT stare at a blank screen. If you can’t think of a great first sentence, skip it and write the second one. Just write. If the person you’re arguing with were here in front of you, and your grade depended on your convincing them, you wouldn’t not talk. You would just start saying something. You’ll edit later.

Don’t be fancy. It’s harder. Use short, simple sentences. Pretend the person you’re arguing with is a high school student. You can always make things sound more professional in the final edit, combining short sentences to make longer ones and switching out a few key words to bring it up a level. (You might notice that you keep more of those unpretentious sentences than you thought you would, though.)

Be scannable. The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. Don’t make your teachers work too hard to understand what you’re saying. A good reader should be able to fully digest your paragraph in under thirty seconds. If it takes them longer than that, it’s the writer’s fault, not the reader’s.

Don’t pad. This is a first draft. Don’t add in any sentences that don’t strictly need to be there. In the final edit, if a point needs more explanation (and you need more pages), go ahead. Doing so before getting to the end is a waste of time.

Pretend it’s just an outline. Still too intimidated to start writing the real thing? Tell yourself you’re just filling in your outline a bit. Write full, simple sentences (and a few longer, more inspired ones as they come to you) within the outline itself. Then pop in your source quotes or ideas (properly referenced).

Oh, and do write that outline. Organization is everything. Writing is just what happens later.

Don’t go in order. First paragraphs are the hardest. Write whatever seems easiest first. Success begets success.

Don’t stop to research. Add something like [REFERENCE NEEDED] in the paragraph and move on. Which reminds me:

Bracket everything that isn’t yours. [LIKE THIS.] That way, you don’t end up accidentally plagarizing.

Take some hits. It’s painful, but some sentences don’t sound perfect. If you revise endlessly, you’ll spend twenty percent of your time perfecting one percent of your essay (and improving your grade not at all). Teachers aren’t looking for professional-quality writing. They’re looking for professional-quality thinking.

Use your last perfectly-formatted essay as a template. Erase the text, retitle the document, and you’re off.

Tell yourself you’ll bang the whole thing out in an hour. You won’t, but you’ll get the first draft mostly done, and after that you’ll just tie up few “loose ends.” (This really works.)

Remind yourself that this essay isn’t your whole grade. If your organization and thinking is clear, you’ll likely be just fine, grade-wise.

Remember that there’s never a good day to write an essay. They’re almost all equally unfit, and equally fine.

School in a Book: Literary Analysis

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is best-nonfiction-book.jpg

When it comes to analyzing a literary work, here is what you need to know: the basic historical context of the piece; the reason the piece is considered great or important; and what the piece is, ultimately, about (what’s the point?). After that, you’ll want to look at the literary devices in the work and understand how they add to its meaning, beauty and effectiveness. This sounds like a lot of work, but don’t be a martyr: for context, and to get through more difficult works, I highly recommend CliffsNotes and SparkNotes . . . and skimming.

Bonus points: Understand the difference between good and great literature (one is well-written and entertaining while the other is these, plus important and universal in some way) and don’t confuse a work’s true meaning with the meaning that the author intended (the authorial intent). Great literature, it is said, is a mystical creature with a life independent of its creator.

A few additional notes on poetry interpretation: Though any great literary work can abide line by line analysis, due to its shorter length, poetry is particularly amenable to it. At least once in your life, choose a poem you like and study its use of some of the literary devices below, its use of repetition, rhyme, rhythm and cadence and, most importantly, its diction (both the connotations and the denotations of each word). Think about how each of these elements furthers the meaning of the poem. You might be surprised how much there is to say about those few lovely stanzas.

Most people should probably know most of these terms; it just makes for better conversation about books. Play with literary analysis by choosing one or two favorite works and identifying some or most of the following literary devices in them. This will help you appreciate their beauty in a way you haven’t before.

Literary Analysis

Subject: The objective main topic of a piece of writing (i.e. Tom Sawyer’s adventures on the Mississippi)

Theme: The subjective, philosophical idea that is being explored in the work (i.e. boyhood or independence)

Narrative: The work’s story line

Genre: The type or category of writing (i.e. mystery, science fiction, romance, etc.)

Motif: A recurring idea, symbol or set of symbols in the work (i.e. the Mississippi River)

Premise: The question or problem posed by the work

Diction: Word choice

Syntax: The ways words are organized in sentences and paragraphs

Style: The unique way something is written, including the work’s diction and tone

Tone: The unique way the audience receives the work (i.e. formal, conversational, etc.)

Voice: The unique way the author writes. A magazine can have many voices, but maintain a single tone throughout.

Mood: The overall feeling of the piece (i.e. dark, brooding, light, fanciful, etc.)

Pace: The speed and rhythm with which a story is told

Literary convention: A commonly used style, idea or technique in literature

Figurative language: Language that implies or represents an idea rather than directly stating it, often for mood, dramatic effect, or humor (i.e. hyperbole, understatement, analogy, personification, euphemism, simile, metaphor, etc.)

Image/imagery: A mental picture or representation of a person, place, or thing

Analogy: A comparison that goes into some detail

Simile: A short description that compares two different things using the words like or as

Metaphor: A word or phrase that stands in for the object it’s being compared to. (Metaphors don’t use the words like or as.)

Symbol: Something that appears in a piece of writing that stands for or suggests something else

Onomatopoeia: A word or words that imitate a sound
Personification: The attributing of human characteristics to something that is not human

Irony: What occurs when reality is exactly the opposite of one’s reasonable expectation. Example: “I was hired to write books but instead, I am burning them.”

Paradox: A statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense

Foreshadowing: Hints of upcoming events in the story

Pun: A play on words that relies on a word’s having more than one meaning or sounding like another word

Cliché: An overused expression

Double entendre: A phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways

Euphemism: An innocuous-sounding phrase used in place of something disagreeable

Allusion: A reference that is not directly stated or explained (i.e. using “to be or not to be” without mentioning Hamlet)

Oxymoron: A phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings

Synecdoche: Substituting a part for the whole (i.e. “boards” for “the stage”) or the whole for a part (i.e. “the Americans” for “the American team”).

Metonymy: Substituting a related concept for the whole (i.e. “the White House” for “the President”).

Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds in closely-placed words

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in closely-placed words (anywhere in the words)

Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds in closely-placed words (anywhere in the words)

Connotation: A word’s unspoken implication

Denotation: The dictionary meaning of a word

Plot: The events of the story

Subplot: An additional plot interwoven with the main plot

Conflict: A struggle that affects the story line

Setting: The time, place, and conditions in which the action takes place; the work’s context

Point of view (POV): The view from which the story is told. It can be first person (the narrator speaks as himself), objective (the reader knows no more than the reader), limited omniscient (the narrator knows a bit extra about the characters, as when he/she tells the story through the eyes of the protagonist), or omniscient (the narrator knows everything about the characters and situations).

The five parts of dramatic structure: Exposition (inciting incident), rising action, climax, falling action (resolution), and dénouement

Rising action: The set of conflicts in a story that lead up to the climax

Climax: The peak moment of the action, occurring at or near the end of the work. It is the turning point for the protagonist.

Reversal: The point in the plot at which the action turns in an unexpected direction

Falling action: The action that occurs after the climax, moving it toward its resolution

Dénouement: The final resolution of the story

Characterization: Writing that brings a character to life and makes them unique

Protagonist: The story’s main character

Tragic hero/tragic figure: A protagonist whose story comes to an unhappy end due to his or her own behavior and character flaws

Antihero: A protagonist who isn’t all good and may even be bad

Antagonist: The story’s main bad guy

Round character: A character that is complex and realistic

Flat character: An uncomplicated character that doesn’t feel real to the reader

Foil: A character who provides a clear contrast to another character

Soliloquy: A monologue by a character in a play

Fiction: Imagined, untrue literature

Nonfiction: Factual literature

Biography: A nonfiction life story written by someone other than the subject

Autobiography: A nonfiction life story written by the subject

Memoir: A nonfiction story written by the subject about his or her own experiences, but not about his or her entire life

Anthology: A collection of short stories written by various authors, compiled in one book or journal.

Myth: A story that attempts to explain events in nature by referring to supernatural causes, like gods and deities. Usually passed on from generation to generation.

Fable: A story intended to depict a useful truth or moral lesson. Fables frequently involve animals that speak and act like human beings.

Tale: A story about imaginary or exaggerated events that the narrator pretends is true

Parable: A short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson

Parody: A humorous imitation of a popular work

Satire: A humorous work that makes fun of another work or anything else, revealing its weakness

Editorial: A short article expressing an opinion or point of view. Often, but not always, written by a member of the publication staff.

Exposition: Explanatory writing

Didactic writing: Instructional writing

Freewriting: Writing continuously without much thought in order to discover hidden ideas or feelings

Serial: A series of related works or a regularly published work, as a newsletter or magazine

Synopsis: A brief summary of a story, manuscript, or book

Rough draft: The first organized version of a document or other work

Hook: A starting sentence or idea that grabs the reader’s attention. In an essay, the hook might be a statistic or a paraphrased idea presented by an expert. In an article, the hook is usually the main idea.

Thesis statement: The part of an essay that clearly states the essay’s main point. It might also briefly mention several of the relevant supporting points. It is usually either one or two sentences in length (most commonly one).

Three-prong thesis statement: A thesis statement that offers three supporting points and is usually only one sentence long; for example, “I love rabbits because they are fast, soft and beautiful.” This is a simple way to go, if your ideas allow for it.

Five-paragraph essay: A simple essay format that includes one introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs and one concluding paragraph. The three body paragraphs present three supporting points for the thesis (which is usually a three-prong thesis).

Jargon: Terms only familiar to those in the know

Bibliography: The list of books, magazines, journals, people, websites, or any other resources that you consulted in the process of writing a book, article, or paper.

Boilerplate: A piece of writing that gets reused frequently, sometimes with minor changes

Canon: Works generally considered by scholars to be the most important of a genre

Byline: The author’s name appearing with his/her published work

Pseudonym: A “pen name” 

Public domain work: Any written material not under copyright

Query: A short letter pitching an article or a book idea to an editor or agent

Side bar: Extra information put alongside, but not in, the main article

Slant: The bias or angle in a piece of writing

Solicited/unsolicited manuscript: A manuscript that an agent or editor has or has not asked to see

Types of poems: Ode (dignified poem written to praise someone or something), lyric, free verse (rule-free poetry), limerick (lighthearted rhyming poem with a particular structure), haiku, sonnet, villanelle, sestina, acrostic, elegy, epigram, ballad (narrative folksong-like poem), epitaph (brief poem sometimes written on a gravestone paying tribute to a dead person or commemorating another loss), more.

Stanza: A group of lines in a poem that form a metrical or thematic unit, set off by a space.

Verse: Poetic lines composed in a measured rhythmical pattern, that are often, but not necessarily, rhymed.

Beat: One count pause in speech, action, or poetry.

Stress: The emphasis, or accent, given a syllable in word pronunciation or in poetry reading

Meter: A recurring rhythmic pattern of stresses and unstressed syllables in a poem

Rhythm: A term used to refer to the recurrence of stressed and unstressed sounds in poetry

Couplet: A group of two rhyming lines

Triplet: A group of three rhyming lines

Quatrain: A four-line stanza. Quatrains are the most common stanzaic form in the English language, having various meters and rhyme schemes.

Epic: A long narrative poem, told in a formal, elevated style that focuses on a serious subject and chronicles heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation.

Lyric: A brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker, not necessarily of the poet.

Sonnet: A fixed form of lyric poetry that consists of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme.

Acrostic: A sentence where the first letter of each word of the sentence helps to remember the spelling of a word, or order of things

Vilanele: A type of fixed form poetry consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into six stanzas.

Questions for Literary Analysis

  • What main point does the piece make?
  • What is the historical context of the piece?
  • Who was the author (profession, social standing, age, etc.) of the piece?
  • What is the genre of the piece?
  • What does the author have to gain or lose from others accepting or rejecting his ideas?
  • What events led to the writing of the piece?
  • What events resulted from the writing of the piece?
  • How did the piece change people’s thinking?

School in a Book: Punctuation and Grammar

Some of the rules of grammar and punctuation don’t need to be taught; instead, they’re inbued, like social skills. However, as with social skills, a little direct coaching goes a very long way. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how much more educated you’ll seem when you don’t make simple writing mistakes.


The fourteen punctuation marks: Period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, apostrophe, dash/hyphen, en dash, em dash, brackets, braces, parentheses and ellipsis

Comma: The symbol used to separate ideas within a sentence. Sometimes there’s no clear right or wrong way to use a comma. The serial comma is the comma sometimes used right before the “and” in a list, and most writers don’t use it anymore. Do use commas to set off parenthetic expressions and before other independent clauses.

Semicolon: The symbol used to connect separate sentences, the second of which includes a restatement of the first. It is also used to separate words and phrases in long lists that already have commas in them. Example: I was sad; she hurt me on purpose. Example: I own: three black and yellow hats; one long, dark skirt; and one pair of shoes.

Colon: The symbol used to introduce a quotation, explanation, example, or series. It is also used between sentences instead of a period to show that the second explains or adds directly to the first. Finally, colons can be used for emphasis. Example: I have four pairs of boots: one for rain, one for snow and two for fashion. Example: My sister is beautiful: she has dark hair and a great smile. Example: Yes, I have a best friend: my sister.

Dash/hyphen: The symbol used to connect compound phrases. Example: Cold-water fish

En dash: The symbol used to connect dates and more. It is largely a stylistic choice when to use it.

Em dash: The symbol that is twice as long as an en dash and used in place of commas, colons, or parentheses in certain situations

Brackets, braces and parentheses: The symbol used to contain additional information that isn’t otherwise grammatically connected to the sentence. Example: My dog (who I love) is sweet as heck. Parenthesis are most common. Brackets are used for technical purposes or to clarify a quote. Example: He [Mr. Smith] is my friend. Braces ({}) are used to contain two or more lines of text or listed items to show that they are considered as a unit. Used mostly in mathematics and computer programming. Example: 2{1+[23-3]}=x.

Apostrophe: The symbol used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of lowercase letters. Examples: I’ve; Sara’s.

Quotation marks: The symbols used around quotations. Single quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes.

Ellipsis: The symbol used to indicate that something is missing, the idea or list continues in the same way, or there was a pause in speech. They’re also used to end a quote if the actual quote did not end at the chosen ending.


The eight parts of speech: Noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection

Noun: A person, place or thing. Proper nouns are capitalized and are the given name of someone or something in particular. Common (generic) nouns are not capitalized.

Pronoun: A small word used in place of a noun: she, he, they, we, them, it, I, you, etc. You may use they, them and their as the indefinite singular pronoun, but try to avoid this pronoun entirely.

Verb: An action word

Adjective: A word that describes a noun, like “pretty” or “smart”

Adverb: A word that describes a verb, like “slowly” or “carefully”

Article: The words a, an, and the. (These are also considered adjectives.)

Preposition: A word placed before a noun to form a phrase that, taken as a whole, modifies another word in the sentence. (This phrase is called the “prepositional phrase.”) The most common are in, with, by, for, at, in, on, out, to, under, within and without. Example: “With my dog as company, I can do anything.” Contrary to popular understanding, it’s okay to end a sentence in a preposition; however, choose the wording that is the most clear. “The building in which I live” and “The building I live in” are both correct, but “The building I live in is brown” is hard to read.

Conjunction: A word that joins words, phrases or clauses but are not part of a clause or prepositional phrase. The most common are and, but, therefore, however, so, for, or, nor, yet, since, while, and because. Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements, while subordinating conjunctions connect clauses that are not equal (because, although, while, since, etc.). There are other types of conjunctions as well.Interjection: A word used to express emotion: oh, wow, ah, etc.

Sentence: A unit of writing consisting of a single main subject (someone or something that is doing something) and a single main action. (Caveat: If two complete sentences convey the same idea, a semicolon can be used to separate them and make up a single sentence.) Sentences may also include adverbs, adjectives, small words and clauses. The number of the subject of the sentence (whether it’s singular or plural) determines the number of the verb in the sentence. A clause should be placed directly after the noun or verb to which it refers. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.

Run-on sentence: Two or more sentences joined as one, without a period separating them

Loose sentence: A sentence that connects two different ideas with a conjunction like “and.” These give the paragraph some breathability and flow, but too many in a row are tiresome.

Sentence fragment: A sentence that is missing the subject, the verb, or both. “Aha!” is a sentence fragment, as is “Good question.”

Topic sentence: The sentence at the beginning of a paragraph that includes the main idea of the paragraph

Verb tense: The form of the verb that denotes the time of the action. It’s important to hold to one tense throughout a piece of writing.

The six verb tenses: Past, present, future, past perfect (“has eaten”), present perfect (“has been dancing”, and future perfect (“will have danced”).

Clause: A phrase that as a whole, modifies a verb or noun. Example: Running to meet her, I slipped.

Independent clause: A modifying sentence that, if desired, could stand alone

Helping verb: A verb that helps the main verb express the action. There are 23 or 24 in all: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being, have, has, had, could, should, must, may, might, must, can, will, would, do, did, does, and (sometimes) having.

Suffix: A word ending that changes the word’s tense or meaning

Prefix: A word beginning that changes the word’s meaning

Synonyms: Words with the same or approximately the same meaning

Antonyms: Words with opposite meanings

Homographs: Words which are spelled alike but have different meanings and/or pronunciations

Homonyms: Words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings

Homophone: One of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning, origin, or spelling

Dipthong: A combination of two vowels to make a single blended sound (for example, ou)

Digraph: A combination of two letters to make a single sound (for example, th and ph)

Palindrome: A word or phrase that means the same when read in either direction (for example, eve)

Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word

School in a Book: Classic Nonfiction

When I was in school, nonfiction was textbooks. And the encyclopedia and the dictionary, too. What nobody told me is that there’s another kind of nonfiction out there. There’s the kind that’s actually fun to read.

Modern nonfiction is some of the most entertaining, well-written stuff you can find. (After all, if you want to make money writing about neuroscience, for example, you’d better make it relevant, understandable, and full of fascinating anecdotes, right?) It’s stimulating and informative, but that’s not all it is: it’s a road map for becoming a better person. Nonfiction can widen your perspective, give you wisdom, make you stronger . . . maybe even make you a happier person. Nonfiction helps us come up with new goals and ideas about what our lives can encompass–then takes our hands and helps us draw the circles.

It’s such a great time to be a reader, isn’t it?

Of course, the lists below also feature numerous difficult-to-read works, particularly the advanced compilation. Confession: I haven’t read all of these. Instead, somewhere along the way (mostly in philosophy and history classes) I learned about the significance of the texts–the historical context, the main takeaways and the way the text changed people’s thinking. Feel free to do the same.

Essential Introductory Classic Nonfiction and Mythology

Essential Intermediate Classic Nonfiction

  • The Holy Bible
  • The writings of Buddha (500s–300s BCE)
  • The Analects, Confucius (500s BCE)
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze (500s BCE)
  • The Art of War, Sun Tzu (500s BCE)
  • The Quran (600s)
  • The Magna Carta (1200s)
  • The Declaration of Independence (1700s)
  • The Constitution of the United States (1700s)
  • The Bill of Rights (1700s)
  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano (1700s)
  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas de Quincey (1800s)
  • The Gettysburg Address (1800s)
  • Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth (1800s)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1800s)
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1800s)
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1800s)
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass (1800s)
  • The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois (1900s)
  • Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson (1900s)
  • I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1900s)
  • The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank (1900s)
  • The Story of My Life, Helen Keller (1900s)
  • Roots, Alex Haley (1900s)
  • Autobiography of Malcom X, Malcom X (1900s)
  • The Jungle, Upton Sinclair (1900s)
  • Black Boy, Richard Wright (1900s)
  • Native Son, Richard Wright (1900s)
  • Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1900s)
  • The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (1900s)

Essential Advanced Classic Nonfiction

  • The Histories, Herodotus (400s BCE)
  • The Republic, Plato (400s BCE)
  • History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (400s BCE)
  • Rhetoric, Aristotle (300s BCE)
  • Apology, Plato (300s BCE)
  • Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle (300s BCE)
  • On the Nature of Things, Lucretius (60s BCE)
  • De Republica, Cicero (50s BCE)
  • The Early History of Rome, Livy (20s BCE)
  • Wars of the Jews, Josephus (70s CE)
  • Annals, Tacitus (100s CE)
  • The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius (100s CE)
  • Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian (100s CE)
  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (100s CE)
  • Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch (100s CE)
  • Enchiridion, Epictetus (100s CE)
  • The Confessions, Saint Augustine (300s)
  • The City of God, St. Augustine (400s)
  • The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (500s)
  • The Ecclesiastical History, Adam Bede (700s)
  • The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Peter and Heolise Abelard (1100s)
  • Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas (1200s)
  • The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis (1400s)
  • In Praise of Folly, Erasmus (1500s)
  • The Education of a Christian Prince, Erasmus (1500s)
  • The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther (1500s)
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1500s)
  • History of the Reformation, John Knox (1500s)
  • The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila (1500s)
  • The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila (1500s)
  • Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross (1500s)
  • The Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney (1500s)
  • Novum Organum, Frances Bacon (1600s)
  • The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1600s)
  • Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (1600s)
  • Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (1600s)
  • Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1600s)
  • The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1600s)
  • An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (1700s)
  • The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine (1700s)
  • Common Sense, Thomas Paine (1700s)
  • On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1800s)
  • The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1700s)
  • The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1700s)
  • A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1700s)
  • On American Taxation, Edmund Burke (1700s)
  • Life of Johnson, James Boswell (1700s)
  • The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton (1700s)
  • On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin (1800s)
  • The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (1800s)
  • The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1800s)
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s)
  • Beyond Good and Evil, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s)
  • Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
  • The Ego and the Id, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
  • The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
  • Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (1900s)

Additional Recommended Nonfiction

  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys (1600s)
  • Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (1600s)
  • The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman (1700s)
  • Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale (1800s)
  • Memoir, Correspondence and Misc., Thomas Jefferson (1800s)
  • An Autobiography, Annie Besant (1800s)
  • The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo (1800s)
  • Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1800s)
  • A Child’s History of England, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • For Self-Examination, Soren Kierkegaard (1800s)
  • The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, parts one through four, Susan Wise Bauer
  • The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer
  • The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer
  • What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your First Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your Second Grader Needs to Know, E.D. HirscWhat Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your Third Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
  • Wikipedia
  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • The Meaning of It All, Richard Feynman
  • Alexander of Macedon, Peter Green
  • Treblinka, Jean-Francois Steiner
  • The War Magician, David Fisher
  • Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer
  • The Particle at the Edge of the Universe, Sean Carroll
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene
  • Endurance, Scott Kelly
  • Genome, Matt Ridley
  • The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin
  • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales
  • The Underachiever’s Manifesto, Ray Bennett
  • Being Mortal, Arul Gawande
  • Flourish, Martin Seligman
  • Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmivaly
  • The Inner Game of Work, W. Timothy Gallway
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcom Gladwell
  • Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
  • What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis
  • The Long Tail, Chris Anderson
  • Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler Cowen
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
  • Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
  • The Gift of Fear
  • On Writing, Steven King
  • Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder
  • The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell
  • How Children Fail, John Holt
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman
  • Love Sense, Sue Johnson
  • Parenting with Love and Logic, Foster Cline
  • If I Have to Tell You One More Time, Amy McCready
  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle
  • A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
  • The Conversations with God series, Neale Donald Walsch
  • Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, Robert Lanza and Bob Berman
  • Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable–and Couldn’t, Steve Volk
  • Dying to Be Me, Anita Moorjani
  • A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken
  • Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klostermann
  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • Educated, Tara Westover
  • Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
  • A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
  • A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout
  • Into the Wild, John Krakauer
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote