Category Archives: School in a Book

School in a Book: History of Australia

Australia is a continent as well as a country. Its remote location has given rise to an uniquely Australian ecosystem, one that the rest of the world might see as wild and dangerous. However, since colonial times, Australia’s development has been similar to that of the Americas and other places in the world. Then, after World War II, the continent’s economy boomed along with those of Japan, the U.S. and many other countries. Increased tourism and immigration were part of the reason for this, as was increased postwar industrial production. During this time, Australia imported a great deal of American technology and culture; improved their infrastructure; provided greater access to healthcare and other social benefits; and grew from a relatively small, isolated nation to the important economic power we know today.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Aborigines: The indigenous people of Australia, who might have come from Asia on a land bridge during prehistoric times. (During the last Ice Age, sea water was trapped as ice and sea levels were much lower, allowing for migrations in areas that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.) The Aborigines lived in tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They are known for their music, including the use of the didgeridoo, a wind instrument made from a hollowed-out tree trunk; for their spiritual connection to nature, including their concept of the Dreamtime, which refers to the time of creation and the connection between the living world and the spirit world; and for their expert wood carving.

Easter Island statues: The famous collection of around 900 statues that was created by the Polynesians or an earlier unknown people on Easter Island in the Pacific. They are made of volcanic rock and some stand over 30 feet tall. Shaped as human figures, including full bodies, torsos and heads and shoulders, they might have represented watchful ancestors.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The indigenous people of New Zealand, who likely arrived during the Middle Ages from Polynesia. They are known for their traditional forms of dance; their intricate tattoo art; and their seafaring skills.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

New Holland: The name the Dutch gave the Australian continent after locating it in the 1600s. (The Dutch also located Tasmania and New Zealand around this time.) The Dutch did not settle the area, however.

James Cook: The British explorer who is known for his trips to the Pacific in the 1700s: several to New Zealand and Australia, parts of which he claimed for Britain; one to the Hawaiian Islands; and one to Antarctica, where thick pack ice prevented him from landing. He is also known as Captain Cook.

New South Wales: The name that Captain Cook gave to the east coast of Australia while mapping it, 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.

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. He 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. After settlement, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

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.

Treaty of Waitangi: The 1800s treaty between the British and the Maori that gave sovereignty over the island to the British in exchange for various rights and protections, including land ownership rights. Two versions of the treaty were written, though, with one leading the Maori to believe they were giving up governorship, not sovereignty. Following this, there were wars between the British and Maori. Eventually, New Zealand became an official British colony.

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the mid-1800s that occurred after the discovery of gold there and that 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: The full name of today’s Australia, a parliamentary democratic federation of the six Australian colonies, which was founded in the early 1900s. Though it is part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies), it is sovereign and independent. Its constitution is partially based on the American and British constitutions and calls for free trade and equal rights.

The Australian Imperial Force (AIF): The Australian military group that fought alongside the British during World War I and participated in significant battles, including those at Gallipoli and the western front. Australia allied with Britain because they were a part of the British Commonwealth.

Battle of Kokoda Track: A World War II battle during which Australia successfully prevented Japan from invading. In spite of having limited resources, Australia fought on the side of the Allies in Europe and in the Pacific; were faced with invasion by Japan; and suffered the 1941 bombing of their city, Darwin, by Japan.

Battle of the Coral Sea: A World War II battle during which Australian and American forces successfully halted a Japanese naval offensive

School in a Book: Writing and Literary Analysis 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.


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.

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: Literary Analysis and Poetry

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 its 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 Cliffs Notes, 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 as well as its use of repetition, rhyme, rhythm, cadence and, most importantly, diction (both the connotations and the denotations of each word). Think about how each of these elements furthers the meaning of the poem. Ask yourself how these elements add to the meaning of the piece. You might be surprised how much there is to say about those few lovely stanzas.

Most people should probably know most of the terms below; 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.


Subject: The objective main topic of a literary work. An example is Tom Sawyer’s adventures in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Theme: The subjective, philosophical idea that is explored in a work. An example is the theme of boyhood in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Narrative: A work’s story line

Premise: A work’s basic setup, which might include its setting and the question or problem faced by its main character. An example is the premise of George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which the main character’s desire for freedom is thwarted by a totalitarian government.

Plot: The events of a story

Subplot: An additional plot interwoven with the main plot

Conflict: A struggle or challenge that affects the story line

Setting: The time, place, and conditions in which a work’s action takes place; a work’s context

Point of view: The perspective from which the story or piece is told. It can be first person; second person; third-person objective; third-person limited omniscient; or third-person omniscient.

First person point of view: The narrative perspective in which the narrator speaks as themselves, using “I,” “me,” and “we”

Second person point of view: The narrative perspective in which the story is told directly to the reader using “you” and “your”

Third-person objective point of view: The narrative perspective in which the narrator remains an observer and does not reveal the internal thoughts or feelings of the characters. They use pronouns like “she,” “he,” “they,” and “them.”

Third-person limited omniscient point of view: The narrative perspective in which the narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of one or a few characters, usually the main character. They use pronouns like “she,” “he,” “they,” and “them.”

Third-person omniscient point of view: The narrative perspective in which the narrator shows complete knowledge of all the characters in the story, including their thoughts and motivations. They use pronouns like “she,” “he,” “they,” and “them.”

Dramatic structure: The traditional five-part format many or most stories follow. It includes an inciting incident in which the protagonist must make a choice of some kind, rising action, a climax, falling action, and the resolution (also called a dénouement).

Climax: The peak moment of the action, occurring at or near the end of the work. It is often the turning point for the protagonist.

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

Genre: A work’s category based on its content and form. Some examples are mystery, science fiction, romance and historical fiction.

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

Fable: A story intended to depict a useful truth or moral lesson and that frequently involves 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

Exposition: Explanatory writing

Didactic writing: Instructional writing

Freewriting: Writing continuously without much thought in order to discover hidden ideas or feelings

Diction: Word choice

Denotation: The dictionary meaning of a word

Connotation: A word’s unspoken implication(s)

Jargon: Terms only familiar to those in the know

Syntax: The ways words are organized in sentences and paragraphs

Pace: The speed and rhythm of a work, which is conveyed through sentence length, plot movement and more

Style: The distinctive way an author writes, which includes their diction, voice, tone, mood, pace, favored themes and more

Tone: The attitude or mood of the author or narrator toward the work. Some examples are formal, conversational, humorous and nostalgic.

Voice: The distinctive personality or perspective of the author, including the author’s ideas and beliefs. A magazine can have many voices, but maintain a single tone throughout.

Mood: The overall feeling of the piece. Some examples are dark, brooding and fanciful.

Literary convention: A commonly used feature, style, idea or technique in literature. Some examples are: a hero’s journey; a three-act structure; and a sidekick character.

Literary device: A writing tool that helps convey ideas and meaning or adds interest to a work. Some examples are imagery, foreshadowing and personification.

Figurative language: Language that implies or represents an idea rather than directly stating it, often for mood, dramatic effect, or humor. Some examples are hyperbole, understatement, imagery, similes and metaphors.

Simile: A figure of speech in which two things are compared using the words like or as

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which something is said to be something else, without using the words like or as. An example is Shakespeare’s line, “All the world’s a stage.”

Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which a part stands in for the whole or a whole stands in for a part. Some examples are: using the word boards in place of the word stage and saying “the Americans” instead of “the American team.”

Metonymy: A figure of speech in which a related concept is substituted for the whole. An example is saying “the White House” in place of “the President.”

Analogy: A comparison that goes into some detail

Imagery: A mental picture or representation of a person, place, or thing

Symbol: Something that appears in a piece of writing that stands for or suggests something else. An example is the red letter A worn by the main character in The Scarlet Letter.

Motif: A recurring idea, symbol or set of symbols in a work that contribute to the work’s theme(s). An example is the house in Gone With the Wind, which is named Tara.

Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds in closely-placed words. An example is: “Sally sells seashells by the seashore.”

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in closely-placed words. An example is: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

Pun: A play on words that relies on a word’s having more than one meaning or sounding like another word. An example is: “A boiled egg for lunch is hard to beat.”

Cliché: An overused expression. An example is: “Actions speak louder than words.”

Double entendre: A phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways. An example is: “That’s what she said.”

Euphemism: An innocuous-sounding phrase used in place of something distasteful or offensive. An example is the use of the word passing in place of the word death.

Irony: A figure of speech that occurs when reality is the opposite of one’s reasonable expectation. An example is: “I was hired to write books but instead, I am burning them.”

Oxymoron: A phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings. An example is “open secret.”

Paradox: A statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense. An example is: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

Allusion: A reference that is not directly stated or explained. An example is using the phrase “to be or not to be” without mentioning Hamlet or Shakespeare.

Foreshadowing: Hints of upcoming events in a work, often included to build suspense. An example is: “She didn’t know what she was getting herself into.”

Personification: The attributing of human characteristics to something that is not human. An example is: “My computer hates me.”

Onomatopoeia: A word or words that imitate a sound. Some examples are bang and pop.

Editorial: A short article expressing an opinion or point of view. Often, but not always, written by a member of the publication staff.

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.

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

Unsolicited manuscript: A manuscript that an agent or editor has not asked to see

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).


Stanza: A group of lines in a poem that form a metrical or thematic unit and that are set off by a space

Verse: Poetic lines composed in a measured rhythmical pattern, that are often, but not necessarily, rhymed

Beat: A one-count syllable or pause in speech, action, or poetry

Stress: An emphasis given to a particular syllable in word pronunciation or in poetry reading

Meter: A recurring rhythmic pattern of stressed 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 and the most common stanzaic form in the English language

Iambic pentameter: A metrical pattern commonly used in English poetry in which each line has five metrical feet, with each foot containing two syllables. The first syllable of each foot is stressed and the second syllable is unstressed.

Epic: A long narrative poem told in a formal, elevated style with a serious subject

Lyric: A brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker, not necessarily of the poet

Sonnet: A poem that consists of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme

Acrostic: A sentence or poem in which the first letters of each word of the sentence stand for a different word or idea. An example is “Lighthearted Overwhelming Virtuous Eve: LOVE.”

Villanelle: A poem consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into six stanzas

Ode: A dignified poem written to praise someone or something

Free verse: A poem that is free of rules and formal structure

Limerick: A lighthearted rhyming poem with a particular structure

Ballad: A narrative folksong-like poem

Haiku: A traditional Japanese poem consisting of three lines, with the first line having five syllables, the second line having seven syllables, and the third line having five syllables

Elegy: A poem expressing grief and loss

Epigram: A concise, clever statement; a witty quote

Epitaph: A brief poem sometimes written on a gravestone paying tribute to a dead person or commemorating another loss

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.


Comma (,): The symbol used to separate ideas within a sentence to improve readability. It sets off parenthetic expressions, separates items in a list and separates independent clauses. In some cases, its use is a matter of stylistic preference, with no clearly correct or incorrect choice.

Serial comma: The symbol that is sometimes used at the end of a list, right before the or or and, such as in the sentence “The cat likes to play with yarn, cat toys, and clothing.”

Colon (:): The symbol sometimes used to introduce a quotation, explanation, example, or series. It is also sometimes 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. An example is: “I have four pairs of boots: one for rain, one for snow and two for fashion.” Another example is: “My sister is beautiful: she has dark hair and a great smile.” A third example is: “Yes, I have a best friend: my sister.”

Semicolon (;): A symbol that is sometimes used between two independent clauses in place of a period, especially when the second clause is closely related to the first, and to separate words and phrases in long lists that already have commas or other internal punctuation in them. An example of the first use is “I was sad; she hurt me on purpose.” An example of the second use is “I own: three black and yellow hats; one long, dark skirt; and one pair of shoes.”

Apostrophe (‘): The symbol used to form contractions or show possession. It is also used as a single quotation mark around a quote that lies within another quote. Some examples are I’ve and Sara’s.

Quotation marks (“): The symbols used around quotations

Slash (/): The symbol used to separate numbers in dates, in website addresses, in fractional numbers, to separate lines in a poem, in the phrase and/or and more

Hyphen (-): The symbol used to join words together to create a compound word, such as “self-esteem”

En dash (–): The symbol used to indicate a range of numbers or dates

Em dash (—): The symbol that is longer than an en dash and used to indicate a break in thought or to emphasize a phrase. An example is: “My dogwho I loveis sweet as heck.”

Parentheses (()): The symbols used to contain additional information that isn’t otherwise grammatically connected to the sentence. An example is “My dog (who I love) is sweet as heck.”

Brackets ([]): The symbols used to add needed information into a quote that does not include it, to enclose editorial comments or corrections, to indicate an ellipsis in a quote, and for other reasons. An example is “He said, ‘She [Ms. Smith] is the new director.'”

Braces ({}): The symbols 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. An example is: 2{1+[23-3]}=x.

Ellipsis (…): The symbol used to indicate omitted words or a trailing off of thought


Noun: A person, place, thing or idea

Proper noun: The given name of someone or something in particular, which are always capitalized

Pronoun: A small word used in place of a noun, including she, her, he, him, they, them, we, it, I and you

Verb: An action or state of being word, like have or walk

Helping verb: A verb that helps some main verbs express the action. There are 23 in all: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being, have, has, had, could, should, must, may, might, must, can, will, would, do, did, and does.

Adjective: A word that describes a noun or pronoun, like pretty or smart

Adverb: A word that describes a verb, an adjective or another adverb, like slowly or carefully

Article: The words a, an, and the

Preposition: A word placed before a noun to form a phrase that, taken as a whole, modifies another word in the sentence. The most common are in, with, by, for, at, in, on, out, to, under, within and without. An example is: “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.

Prepositional phrase: A phrase that is made up of at least one preposition and one noun (the phrase’s object) and that modifies another word in a sentence. An example is the phrase “on the shelf” in the sentence “The book on the shelf is mine.”

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. There are several types of these, such as coordinating conjunctions, which connect grammatically equal elements, and subordinating conjunctions, which connect clauses that are not equal (because, although, while, since, etc.).

Interjection: A word used to express emotion, such as oh, wow, and ah

Sentence: A unit of writing consisting of a single main subject and a single main action. An exception is when a semicolon joins two sentences that both convey a similar idea.

Run-on sentence: A grammatically incorrect sentence that contains two or more independent clauses without proper punctuation (such as a period or semicolon) to separate them

Loose sentence: A sentence that starts with an independent clause and also includes one or more dependent clauses. These can give a paragraph breathability and flow, but too many in a row are tiresome. An example is: “My friend Bill is a farmer and often reminds me of the importance of nature, and I often remind him that I am a city kid, to which he replies that no one is truly a city kid.”

Sentence fragment: A group of words that is missing some element needed to make a complete sentences, such as the subject or the verb. Two examples are “Because I need it” and “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. There are twelve of these: four main types (simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive) with three subcategories for each type (past, present and future). When writing, it is important to be consistent in this choice.

Present tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I eat”

Past tense: The verb tense used in the phrase “I ate”

Future tense: The verb tense used in the phrase “I will eat”

Simple tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I eat,” “I ate,” and “I will eat”

Progressive tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I am eating”, “I was eating” and “I will be eating”, where action is ongoing

Perfect tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I have eaten”, “I had eaten” and “I will have eaten”, where action was or will be completed before a specific time

Perfect progressive tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I have been eating”, “I had been eating” and “I will have been eating”, where action started in the past, continued up to a specific point in time, and may continue in the future

Clause: A group of words that contains both a subject and a verb

Independent clause: A clause that can stand alone (and might or might not do so). An example is “I baked some bread” in the sentence “Because I like bread, I baked some bread.”

Dependent clause: A clause that cannot stand alone. An example is “because I like bread” in the sentence “Because I like bread, I baked some bread.” It should be placed directly after the independent clause to which it refers.

Suffix: A word ending that changes the word’s tense or meaning. An example is -able in the word “readable.”

Prefix: A word beginning that changes the word’s meaning. An example is -un in the word “unhappy.”

Synonyms: Words with the same or approximately the same meaning. Examples are “happy” and “joyful.”

Antonyms: Words with opposite meanings. Examples are “happy” and “sad.”

Homonyms: Words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings. Examples include “bear” and “bare.”

Homophones: Words that are pronounced alike but different in meaning, origin, or spelling. Examples are “flour” and “flower.”

Dipthong: A combination of two vowels to make a single blended sound. Examples are au and ou.

Digraph: A combination of two letters to make a single sound. Examples are th and ph.

Palindrome: A word or phrase that is spelled the same when read in either direction. An example is “eve.”

Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. An example is ASAP, which stands for “as soon as possible.”

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.


Introductory Classic Nonfiction and Mythology

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 Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli (1500s)
  • 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)
  • The “I Have a Dream” speech, 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)
  • Black Boy, Richard Wright (1900s)
  • Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1900s)
  • The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (1900s)

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
  • 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, Gavin de Becker
  • 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
  • Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin
  • Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin

School in a Book: Religion and Spirituality

Spirituality isn’t something that can be learned in school. However, a basic understanding of world religions and belief systems encourages appreciation and curiosity regarding other cultures. And that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.


Christianity: The most followed religion in the world, which is based on the Holy Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. According to this religion, an all-knowing, all-loving, everywhere-present, all-powerful God created the universe. Humans are sinful and in need of redemption. Salvation–that is, eternal life in a place of bliss called Heaven–comes to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Others go to Hell after death. In addition to faith, followers should practice love, humility, morality, prayer, Bible reading, and good works.

The Holy Bible: The religious text upon which Judaism, Christianity and some other religions are based. It includes the Old Testament, which discusses events that occurred prior to the life of Christ, and the New Testament, which discusses the life of Christ and events following it.

The Old Testament: The group of historical and instructional religious texts written by various Hebrew authors, likely from about 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE, that makes up the first part of the Bible. Some of the stories take place during the Hebrews’ time and some are based on ancient oral traditions. Parts of it are thought to be fairly historically reliable.

The New Testament: The group of historical and instructional religious texts written by various Greek authors in the first few centuries CE, largely about the life of Jesus Christ and the development of Christianity

Jesus Christ: A spiritual teacher who lived in the first century CE in the Middle East and became the founder of Christianity. He was born in Bethlehem, taught in Jerusalem, and was executed in Rome for his teachings. His followers believe he was God incarnated and that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven after three days in the tomb. His teachings included parables and stories that were recorded by his disciples and later formed the first part of the New Testament of the Bible.

Catholicism: The largest branch of Christianity, which started during Roman times and emphasizes the Holy Trinity; the authority of the Pope, the veneration of saints, and the importance of sacraments, such as baptism, the Eucharist, and confession. It is organized into a hierarchical structure, with the Pope at the top, followed by bishops, priests, and deacons.

The Pope: The bishop of Rome, the highest leader of the Catholic Church, and the leader of the Vatican City State. Their responsibilities include leading religious ceremonies, making doctrinal decisions, appointing bishops, and more.

Protestantism: A branch of Christianity that emerged during the Reformation in the 1500s after Martin Luther and others began to reject certain Catholic teachings, such as the authority of the Pope and the practices of the Eucharist and confession. It emphasizes the authority of the Bible in conveying religious truth and is divided into many denominations, each with their own traditions, such as Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others.

Judaism: One of the oldest religions in the world, which originated in the Middle East over 3,500 years ago among a tribe called the Israelites, later known as the Jews. It is based on the Torah and other sacred texts. Teachings include: monotheism; the importance of avoiding sin; the importance of maintaining purity; and the importance of separateness. Rituals include the study of Jewish Texts, prayer, observation of the Sabbath and other holidays, circumcision, and bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies.

The Torah: The central text of Judaism, which is made up of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books detail the history, laws, and teachings of the Israelites.

The Talmud: A text upon which Judaism is partly based and which is interpreted by rabbi scholars. It is a large collection of Jewish laws, customs, and traditions. The Midrash, another important Jewish text, is used alongside it to help interpret it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/Mormonism: A large branch of Christianity founded in the U.S. by Joseph Smith in the 1830s after he was visited by the angel Moroni and given the Book of Mormon to transcribe. It is based on the Bible, the Book of Mormon and two other books called The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. It emphasizes the importance of family and has a strong missionary program.

The Book of Mormon: An important religious text upon which Mormonism is partly based. It tells the story of a group of Israelites who migrated to the Americas and received the gospel of Jesus Christ from God. It also contains teachings on faith, repentance, and the importance of following God’s commandments.

Islam: The second-most followed religion in the world, which is based on the Quran. Teachings include the existence of one merciful, all-powerful God, with Muhammad as his final prophet and messenger; the existence of angels; and the existence of a blissful heaven as well as a place of eternal punishment. Rituals include the Five Pillars and more. The religion is divided into two sects, the Sunni and Shia, with the major original difference between them being who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad as the leader of the Muslim community.

Muslim: A follower of Islam

The Five Pillars: The five main spiritual practices of Muslims, which include: recitation of the creed; daily prayers; almsgiving; fasting during Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime

Muhammad: The founder of Islam who is considered by Muslims to be the final prophet and messenger of God. He is said to have received his first revelation from God through the angel Gabriel in the early 600s CE while meditating in a cave near Mecca. After spreading his message there, then facing persecution from the Meccan leaders, he and his followers migrated to the city of Medina, an event that marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Several years later, he negotiated with the Meccan leaders to perform pilgrimages to Mecca, a holy city of Islam, but the peace treaty was broken and battles ensued. Eventually, he and his followers returned to Mecca and established Islam as the dominant religion in the area.

The Quran: The text upon which Islam is based, which was revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad

Sharia law: A comprehensive system of Islamic law that encompasses all aspects of life, including personal, social, economic, and political matters. It is derived from the Quran, the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, and the interpretations of Islamic scholars throughout history.

Sufism: A mystical branch of Islam that emphasizes the inward search for God and enlightenment through various spiritual practices such as meditation, chanting, and dance. Sufi masters are those who have achieved a high level of spiritual realization and can serve as guides and sources of inspiration for others.

Hinduism: The third most followed religion in the world, which began around 500 BCE in India. It is based on a variety of texts and traditions, none of which are considered authoritative. Teachings include dharma (the path of rightness); samsara (reincarnation); moksha (enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of birth and death); karma (cause and effect); brahman (the ultimate reality); atman (the true self); maya (illusion); non-violence; respect for all life; vegetarianism; tolerance of other religions; the existence one or more gods, depending on the tradition; and more. Rituals include yoga, chanting, meditation and more.

Dharma: The path of rightness, as taught about in Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions. It refers to the one unchanging truth and the universal cosmic order and calls for carrying out one’s religious duty, maintaining moral virtue, and achieving harmony with nature.

The Vedas: The oldest scriptures of Hinduism, composed in India between 1500 BCE to 500 BCE, that were transmitted orally for many centuries before they were written down. They include four main collections of hymns, prayers, and ritual texts, plus a concluding part that was written later: the Rigveda (the oldest part), the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda, and the Upanishads (the concluding part). The Upanishads are considered to be the foundation of Hinduism, as they contain some of the most central teachings

Bhagavad Gita: An important sacred text in Hinduism which was written during the 100s CE. It is a dialogue that takes place between the god Krishna and the warrior Arjuna on a battlefield.There, Krishna provides Arjuna with teachings on duty, dharma, self-realization, the nature of the soul and more.

Avatars: Various earthly incarnations of the same Hindu god

Buddhism: The fourth most followed religion in the world, which is based on the teachings of Buddha, who lived around 500 BCE. Teachings include the Four Noble Truths; the Noble Eightfold Path; meditation; nirvana; reincarnation; karma; balance (called the “middle way”); nonattachment; compassion; the dharma; the sangha (teachers and fellow travelers one shares their earthly life with); and more.

Sutras: Buddhist texts based on the words of Buddha

Tantras: Buddhist texts created by ancient schools and scholars, which often emphasize rituals and symbolism

Siddhartha Gautama: The founder of Buddhism, who lived and taught in India around 500 BCE (though dates are uncertain) and became known as the Buddha. Born to a royal family in Nepal, he was a wealthy but unhappy young man who became enlightened while sitting underneath a Bodhi tree.

The Four Noble Truths: The four central principles of Buddhism, which include: suffering is universal; suffering is caused by desire and attachment; suffering can end; suffering ends through the Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path: The eight ways to end suffering, which include: right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration

Confucianism: The belief system that is based on the teachings of Confucius, which include the importance of tradition, morals, manners, rituals, loyalty, obedience, self-reflection, moderation, respect for elders and more. It holds no position on the existence of God or an afterlife, so is sometimes considered a philosophical system rather than a religion. It became the official state philosophy during the Han Dynasty.

Confucius: A philosopher who lived and taught around 500 BCE in China and who wrote The Analects of Confucius. He served in minor governmental positions before becoming a teacher and philosopher who sought a just and moral society.

The Analects of Confucius: The text upon which Confucianism is based, written by Confucius around 500 BCE

Taoism/Daoism: The belief system that is based on various Chinese philosophical writings such as the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching. It might have developed as a reaction to the authoritarianism of Confucianism. Teachings include the Dao (the Way–ultimate truth); wu wei (effortless action); yin and yang (opposites to balance each other); virtue; naturalism; the interconnectedness of all things; the existence of various gods, none of whom are supreme; the eternal nature of the soul; a regular afterlife as well as an enhanced afterlife; an more. Rituals include fortune telling, honoring deceased spirits, meditation; and more.

Laozi/Lao Zu: The Chinese philosopher considered to be the author of the Tao Te Ching, though evidence of his existence is mixed

The Tao Te Ching: One of the foundational texts upon which Daoism is based, which was written around 500 BCE. It consists of 81 short chapters that offer wisdom on a range of topics, including the nature of the universe, the meaning of life, and the principles of good governance.

The I Ching: The oldest Chinese classic text and one of the oldest surviving books in the world, which was compiled around 800 BCE and which influenced the Tao Te Ching. Sometimes used as a divination text, it consists of 64 hexagrams, each of which is made up of six lines that can be interpreted to offer guidance and insight on a range of issues.

Shinto: A traditional religion of Japan arising prior to 700 BCE that features the honoring of ancestors and a variety of nature spirits. With no central authoritative religious text, it emphasizes purity, gratitude, reverence for nature and reverence for the past, partly through rituals and festivals.

New Age spirituality/alternative spirituality: A form of spirituality that emerged in the 1960s and that encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, partly adopted from eastern religions. Central teachings include the existence of a single unifying life force, sometimes called God, of which all people are a part; essential human goodness; the absence of Hell and eternal judgment; moral relativism; religious tolerance; and the importance of self-mastery. Many followers also believe in reincarnation; the law of attraction; enlightenment and more. Practices include meditation; channeling; astrology; crystals; alternative healing modalities; and more.

School in a Book: World History Overview, Prehistory and World History Timeline

fire wallpaper
Photo by Pixabay on

People like to say that memorizing dates isn’t important, but I have to disagree–with a caveat. Learning approximate dates allows you to place events and eras in context without sidetracking your efforts toward rote learning. Approximate dates allow your brain to properly categorize the information and make the many helpful associations we rely on for thorough understanding.

In most of the history sections of this book, I have grouped terms into their major eras and placed them in approximate chronological order, but have avoided sharing exact dates. I’ve also provided a brief timeline below to serve as an overall framework for your history learning.  

In this book historical terms and concepts are chunked into four broad categories: 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 often have a “good enough” understanding of its context for casual conversation and application. 

Please note that most names of eras, including Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, Paleolithic Era, Mesolithic Era and Neolithic Era, are rough divisions. Since they’re defined by their technological developments, they started and ended at different times in different places of the world. 

Many 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. Wondering out loud whether the Earth formed 4 or 6 billion years ago isn’t embarrassing, but not even having some near-miss guess to choose from can be. Print this timeline, place it on your wall and leave it there until this date framework is easily recalled.



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

300,000s BCE: Homo sapiens began using stone tools, beginning the Paleolithic Era
12,000s BCE: The Last Ice Age ended

10,000s BCE: Farming began in the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia; the first towns were built; and the Neolithic Era began

8,000s BCE: Farming began in China

6000s BCE: Farming began in the Indus River Valley (India); metalworking began

4000s BCE: Farming began in the Americas


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

3000s BCE: The first civilization (the Sumerian Empire in Mesopotamia) began; the Egyptian Empire began; writing was invented, beginning recorded history
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
1600s BCE: The Shang Dynasty began

1500s BCE: The Phoenician people arose

1200s BCE: The Hebrew people arose

900s BCE: The Assyrian Empire claimed much of Mesopotamia

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 created the Macedonian Empire; the Fujiwara Dynasty arose in Japan

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

100 BCE to 100 CE: The Roman Empire replaced the Roman Republic; Jesus Christ lived and taught

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

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

600s CE: The Tang Dynasty led 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 began; 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 took place; the Opium Wars occurred; 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:World War II ended; the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Japan; penicillin was made available to the public

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

1950s 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

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-Qaeda attacked New York City on September 11


Prehistory: All history that took place prior to the invention of writing around 3000 BCE. The term is also sometimes used for all history that took place before the rise of cities and civilizations around 10,000 BCE.

Recorded history: All history that took place after the invention of writing around 3000 BCE, including the present day. It includes Ancient Times (including the Bronze Age and the Iron Age) (about 3000 BCE to about 500 CE); the Middle Ages (about 500 CE to about 1500 CE); Early Modern Times (including the Colonial Period, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and more) (about 1500 CE to 1900 CE); the Modern Era (the 1900s); and beyond.

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

The Stone Age: The prehistoric era that began when early humans began using stone tools (over 2.5 million years ago) and before they engaged in metal work in a widespread manner. The Stone Age encompassed the Paleolithic Era, the Mesolithic Era and part of the Neolithic Eras and ended at roughly the start of ancient times (around 3000 BCE), when the Bronze Age began, though the end came to different places at different times.

The Paleolithic Era: The prehistoric era that began with the evolution of the species Homo sapiens until the Mesolithic Era

The Mesolithic Era: The prehistoric era that lasted from about 10,000 BCE to about 8,000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent, and later in other areas, when people began creating more complex social structures, building semi-permanent settlements, developing art, domesticating animals and making other changes that led to the Neolithic Era

The Neolithic Era: The historical era that began when people started farming (around 10,000 BCE to 8,000 BCE, depending on the area) and, with this location-stable food supply, began to settle into towns, cities and civilizations. 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. It started during prehistoric times and lasted till about 1000 BCE (though dates vary by location). 

The Iron Age: The historical era that began when humans began replacing much of their bronze work with iron work instead. This occurred around 1000 BCE in some places in the world. Iron allowed for lighter, cheaper weaponry, which resulted in a more widespread use of it and more battles. 

Last Glacial Age/Last Ice Age: The most recent Ice Age (of many throughout the history of the earth). It lasted from about 2.5 million BCE to about 12,000 BCE. During this time, a land bridge formed between Asia and modern-day Alaska, which humans used to cross into the Americas. The land bridge formed because much of the world’s water was locked up in huge ice sheets and could not flow freely. From the Alaska area, humans settled North, Central and South America.

Last universal common ancestor (LUCA): The most recent living organism that survived to evolve into all current life on the planet, which formed around 3.5 bllion BCE

Hominids: The great apes that eventually evolved into humans, the first of whom lived approximately 7 million BCE

Homo habilis: The first human species, which evolved in East Africa from an unknown, extinct great ape around 2.5 million BCE. They were the first great apes to use stone tools and they had larger brains than their ancestors.

Homo erectus: The human species that evolved from Homo habilis around 1.5 million BCE and migrated out of Africa to Asia. These humans walked upright and were the first animal to use fire for cooking (around 1 million BCE). Around 500,000 BCE they started hunting with spears, building shelters and creating more complex tribal communities.

The Neanderthals: One of the most successful groups of the Homo erectus. After evolving in Africa at an unknown date, they migrated across Asia and Europe after the Sahara desert became passable and lived in Europe until around 40,000 BCE. They mated with Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens: The modern-day human species. They evolved around 200,000 BCE in Africa and were highly successful, migrating across Asia and Europe along with the Neanderthals. They were the first apes to speak in a complex way. They led other related species in the complexity of their societies and technology. Around 25,000 BCE they began performing ritual burials and making clothing, artworks, jewelry, advanced tools, boats, ovens, pottery, harpoons, saws, woven baskets, woven nets and woven baby carriers.

Cro-Magnons: The group of Homo erectus who, around 25,000 BCE, replaced the Neanderthals in Europe. Like the Neanderthals, they mated with Homo sapiens. From them, Homo sapiens inherited larger brains.

Early modern humans: The group of Homo sapiens that evolved around 40,000 BCE and settled that last two habitable continents: Australia (using boats) and North America (using a land bridge connecting modern-day Alaska to Asia)

Cradle of civilization: The various areas of the world in which civilizations arose, largely independently, along important rivers. These include Egypt (along the Nile River); Mesopotamia (along the Tigris River and Euphrates River); the Indus River Valley (along the Indus River); China (along the Yellow River and Yangtze River); the Incan civilization (in modern-day Peru); and, sometimes, the Mayan civilization (in modern-day Mexico–though this civilization arose later than the others, it might have arisen independently, with little or no external influence). The ability to cultivate land and use it as a reliable food source led to a decrease in the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the formation of the first towns. Town-based Mesopotamians built religious sites, smelted copper, developed writing, built irrigation channels, invented the wheel (which was only used for pottery until later) and much more. Just prior to farming, animal husbandry had begun. Some of the most important crops were barley and wheat, but other grains and vegetables were also grown.

The Neolithic Revolution: The move from a nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life to a town-based, agriculture-based way of life. The revolution occurred at different times in different places throughout the world; however, the change was seen on all continents in the span of several thousand years, despite no known contact between some of them. Note that the Neolithic Revolution is also called the Agricultural Revolution, though the Second Agricultural Revolution of the 1800s that helped bring about the Industrial Revolution is sometimes also called the Agricultural Revolution. Around the same time that the agricultural revolution began, Caucasians settled Europe for the first time.

Linear A: The written language of the Minoans, which was the world’s first written language. It has not been deciphered by modern historians.

Linear B: The written language of the Mycenaeans, which was the world’s second written language and the first to be deciphered by modern historians

Cuneiform: The world’s first complex written language. It was developed and used in Sumer after approximately 3,000 BCE and used pictographs. Its use triggered the beginning of recorded history.

Hieroglyphics: The world’s second complex written language. It was developed and used in Egypt shortly after cuneiform was developed and, like cuneiform, used pictographs.

School in a Book: Classic Fiction: Older Kids and Adults

Did you ever wonder what the best thing in the world is? Well, pay attention, because I know the answer: it’s reading. Reading is the best thing. Here is my list of the best books in the world that aren’t true, besides the ones in my classic children’s literature list.


Classic Poetry

  • They Flee from Me, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1500s)
  • Astrophil and Stella, Sir Philip Sidney (1500s)
  • Idea, Michael Drayton (1600s)
  • A Passionate Shepherd to His Love, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • Sonnets, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • There Is a Garden in Her Face, Thomas Campion (1600s)
  • A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, John Donne (1600s)
  • Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward, John Donne (1600s)
  • Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God, John Donne (from Holy Sonnets) (1600s)
  • Song: To Celia (I), Ben Jonson (1600s)
  • Song: To Celia (II), Ben Jonson (1600s)
  • Delight in Disorder, Robert Herrick (1600s)
  • To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, Robert Herrick (1600s)
  • Easter Wings, George Herbert (1600s)
  • The Pulley, George Herbert (1600s)
  • When I Consider How My Light Is Spent, John Milton (1600s)
  • To My Dear and Loving Husband, Anne Bradstreet (1600s)
  • To His Coy Mistress, Andrew Marvell (1600s)
  • The Disappointment, Aphra Behn (1600s)
  • A Description of a City Shower, Jonathan Swift (1700s)
  • The Lady’s Dressing Room, Jonathan Swift (1700s)
  • Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray (1700s)
  • The Indian Burying Ground, Philip Freneau (1700s)
  • The Lamb, William Blake (1700s)
  • The Sick Rose, William Blake (1700s)
  • The Tyger, William Blake (1700s)
  • I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth (1800s)
  • The Nightingale, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1800s) (1700s?)
  • Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1800s)
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1800s)
  • She Walks in Beauty, Lord Byron (1800s)
  • The poetry of John Hopkins (1600s)
  • Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1800s)
  • Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1800s)
  • Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats (1800s)
  • On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, John Keats (1800s)
  • Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats (1800s)
  • Paul Revere’s Ride, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (from Sonnets from the Portugese) (1800s)
  • Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1800s)
  • Fra Lippo Lippi, Robert Browning (1800s)
  • The Owl and the Pussycat, Edward Lear (1800s)
  • Battle-Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe (1800s)
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore (1800s)
  • The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe (1800s)
  • Annabel Lee, Edgar Allen Poe (1800s)
  • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1800s)
  • My Last Duchess, Robert Browning (1800s)
  • The Lady of Shalott, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1800s)
  • The Lotos-Eaters, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1800s)
  • Crossing the Bar, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1800s)
  • Ulysses, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1800s)
  • Song of Myself, Walt Whitman (1800s)
  • When Lilacs in the Dooryard Bloom’d, Walt Whitman (1800s)
  • Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold (1800s)
  • Modern Love, George Meredith (1800s)
  • (I never lost as much but twice …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (Success is counted sweetest …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (Not one of all the purple Host …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (“Faith” is a fine invention …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (“Hope” is a thing with feathers …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (There’s a certain Slant of light …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (I felt a Funeral, in my Brain …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (The Soul selects her own Society …), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (I heard a Fly buzz–when I died–…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (The Heart asks Pleasure–first–)…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (I like to see it lap the Miles–…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (Because I could not stop for Death–…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (My Life had stood–a Loaded Gun–…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • (Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–…), Emily Dickenson (1800s)
  • Jabberwcky, Lewis Carroll (1800s)
  • Drummer Hodge, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • The Darkling Thrush, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1900s)
  • Pied Beauty, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1900s)
  • To an Athlete Dying Young, A. E. Housman (1900s)
  • Easter 1916, William Butler Yeats (1900s)
  • The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats (1900s)
  • Sailing to Byzantium, William Butler Yeats (1900s)
  • Lapis Lazuli, William Butler Yeats (1900s)
  • Mending Wall, Robert Frost (1900s)
  • The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost (1900s)
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost (1900s)
  • Design, Robert Frost (1900s)
  • The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Wallace Stevens (1900s)
  • Anecdote of the Jar, Wallace Stevens (1900s)
  • The Idea of Order at Key West, Wallace Stevens (1900s)
  • The Red Wheelbarrow, William Carlos Williams (1900s)
  • Poetry, Marianne Moore (1900s)
  • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot (1900s)
  • The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot (1900s)
  • I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1900s)
  • Eight Sonnets, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1900s)
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen (1900s)
  • in Just-, E. E. Cummings (1900s)
  • “next to of course god america i”, E. E. Cummings (1900s)
  • “since feeling is first”, E. E. Cummings (1900s)
  • Dream Variations, Langston Hughes (1900s)
  • Song for a Dark Girl, Langston Hughes (1900s)
  • Theme for English B, Langston Hughes (1900s)
  • The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower, Dylan Thomas (1900s)
  • Do Not Go Gentle into That Green Night, Dylan Thomas (1900s)
  • A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas (1900s)
  • Howl, Allen Ginsberg (1900s)
  • Driving into the Wreck, Adrienne Rich (1900s)
  • The Colossus, Sylvia Plath (1900s)
  • Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath (1900s)
  • Coal, Audre Lord (1900s)
  • Digging, Seamus Heaney (1900s)
  • The Forge, Seamus Heaney (1900s)
  • Eggs, Susan Wood (1900s)
  • The Heavy Bear, Delmore Schwartz (1900s)
  • The poetry of Ezra Pound (1900s)

Intermediate Classic Fiction

  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (1600s)
  • Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (1700s)
  • The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe (1700s)
  • Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift (1700s)
  • The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann David Wyss (1700s)
  • Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott (1800s)
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Emma, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Mansfield Park, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving (1800s)
  • Rip van Winkle, Washington Irving (1800s)
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1800s)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (1800s)
  • The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas (1800s)
  • The Hound of Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle (1800s)
  • Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle (1800s)
  • The Last of the Mohicans, James Fennimore Cooper (1800s)
  • The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1800s)
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1800s)
  • The Professor at the Breakfast Table, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1800s)
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1800s)
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (1800s)
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1800s)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1800s)
  • Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1800s)
  • The Time Machine, H.G. Wells (1800s)
  • The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1800s)
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle (1800s)
  • The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry (1800s)
  • Dracula, Bram Stoker (1800s)
  • The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James (1800s)
  • The Golden Bowl, Henry James (1800s)
  • The Way of a Pilgrim, Anonymous (1800s)
  • The Pilgrim Continues His Way, Anonymous (1800s)
  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo (1800s)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo (1800s)
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1800s)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (1900s)
  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane (1900s)
  • Twelve Men, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford (1900s)
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London (1900s)
  • To Build a Fire, Jack London (1900s)
  • White Fang, Jack London (1900s)
  • A Room with a View, E. M. Forster (1900s)
  • Howard’s End, E.M. Forster (1900s)
  • A Passage to India, E.M. Forster (1900s)
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1900s)
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (1900s)
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck (1900s)
  • The Lord of the Rings series, J. R. R. Tolkien (1900s)
  • The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (1900s)
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1900s)
  • Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley (1900s)
  • Our Town, Thornton Wilder (1900s)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1900s)
  • The Once and Future King, T.H. White (1900s)
  • Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1900s)
  • The Lord of the Flies, William Golding (1900s)
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger (1900s)
  • Dune, Frank Herbert (1900s)
  • Twelve Angry Men, Reginald Rose (1900s)
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1900s)
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1900s)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote (1900s)
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (1900s)
  • A Separate Peace, John Knowles (1900s)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1900s)
  • The American Dream, Edward Albee (1900s)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee (1900s)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1900s)
  • The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1900s)
  • Rabbit, Run, John Updike (1900s)
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1900s)
  • Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller (1900s)
  • All My Sons, Arthur Miller (1900s)
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker (1900s)
  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (1900s)
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (1900s)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1900s)
  • Walden Two, B.F. Skinner (1900s)
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1900s)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allen Poe (1900s)
  • The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe (1900s)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • Desire Under the Elms, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • Morning Becomes Electra, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • A Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Anthem, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (1900s)
  • Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison (1900s)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (1900s)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus (1900s)
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1900s)
  • Native Son, Richard Wright (1900s)
  • The Jungle, Upton Sinclair (1900s)

Advanced Classic Fiction

  • The Illiad, Homer (700s BCE)
  • The Odyssey, Homer (700s BCE)
  • The Oedipus Plays, Sophocles (400s BCE)
  • The Aeneid, Virgil (20s BCE)
  • The Metamorphosis, Ovid (10s CE)
  • Beowulf, Anonymous (1000s)
  • The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1300s)
  • The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (1300s)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anonymous (1300s)
  • La Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory (1400s)
  • Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes (1500s)
  • The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser (1500s)
  • Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Hamlet, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Othello, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Utopia, Sir Thomas More (1500s)
  • Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • Faust, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • Volpone, Ben Jonson (1600s)
  • The Alchemist, Ben Johnson (1600s)
  • The Bourgeois Gentleman, Moliere (1600s)
  • The Misanthrope, Moliere (1600s)
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton (1600s)
  • Paradise Regained, John Milton (1600s)
  • The Beggar’s Opera, John Gay (1700s)
  • The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • The Dunciad, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • Candide, Voltaire (1700s)
  • Don Juan, Lord Byron (1800s)
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • The Brothers Karamozov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (1800s)
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1800s)
  • The Seagull, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1800s)
  • Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert (1800s)
  • Vanity Fair, William Thackeray (1800s)
  • Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope (1800s)
  • Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev (1800s)
  • A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • Women In Love, D. H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • Lady Chatterly’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1900s)
  • Ulysses, James Joyce (1900s)
  • Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (1900s)
  • The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (1900s)
  • The Trial, Franz Kafka (1900s)
  • The Bald Soprano, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • The Lesson, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • Jack, or the Submission, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • The Chairs, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre (1900s)
  • Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre (1900s)
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett (1900s)
  • Endgame, Samuel Beckett (1900s)
  • As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • Light in August, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • The Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • Miss Julie, August Strindberg (1800s)
  • Androcles and the Lion, George Bernard Shaw (1900s)
  • Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw (1900s)
  • Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust (1900s)

Additional Recommended Classic Fiction

  • The Orestia Trilogy, Aeschylus (400s BCE)
  • Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus (400s BCE)
  • Medea, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • The Bacchae, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • The Trojan Women, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • Hippolytus, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • Lysistrata, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • The Frogs, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • The Clouds, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • Odes, Horace (20s BCE)
  • The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, Epictetus (100s CE)
  • Cur Deus Homo, Anselm (1000s)
  • The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio (1300s)
  • Mabinogion, Anonymous (1300s)
  • Orlando Furioso, Ludovico Ariosto (1500s)
  • The Schoolmaster, Roger Ascham (1500s)
  • Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster (1600s)
  • Life is a Dream, Calderon de la Barca (1600s)
  • Pensees, Blaise Pascal (1600s)
  • Absalom and Achitophel: A Poem, John Dryden (1600s)
  • Oroonoko: The Royal Slave, Aphra Behn (1600s)
  • The Bassett Table, Susana Centlivre (1600s)
  • The Way of the World, William Congreve (1700s)
  • Pamela, Samuel Richardson (1700s)
  • Fantomina, Eliza Haywood (1700s)
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (1700s)
  • Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth, Susanna Rowson (1700s)
  • The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal (1800s)
  • The Red and the Black, Stendhal (1800s)
  • The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1800s)
  • Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy (1800s)
  • Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana (1800s)
  • What Every Woman Knows, J.M. Barrie (1900s)
  • The Petty Demon, Fyodor Sologub (1900s)
  • The Three-Cornered World, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • Kokoro, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • I Am a Cat, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • The Pastoral Symphony, Andre Gide (1900s)
  • The Seven Who Were Hanged, Leonid Andreyev (1900s)
  • The Life of Man, Leonid Andreyev (1900s)
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (1900s)
  • Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein (1900s)
  • Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvaang (1900s)
  • The Key, Junichiro Tanizaki (1900s)
  • The Horse’s Mouth, Joyce Cary (1900s)
  • The Sea of Grass, Conrad Richter (1900s)
  • Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (1900s)
  • Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata (1900s)
  • The Sound of the Mountain, Yasunari Kawabata (1900s)
  • Too Late the Philanthrope, Alan Paton (1900s)
  • God’s Little Acre, Erskine Caldwell (1900s)
  • Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (1900s)
  • The Ox-Bow Incident, Walter van Tillburg Clark (1900s)
  • The Assistant, Bernard Malamud (1900s)
  • The Fixer, Bernard Malamud (1900s)
  • The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk (1900s)
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1900s)
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1900s)
  • The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Muriel Spark (1900s)
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die, Robert Newton Peck (1900s)
  • Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya (1900s)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard (1900s)
  • All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren (1900s)
  • Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1900s)
  • Green Mansions, William Henry Hudson (1900s)
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett (1800s)
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy, Frances Hodgson Burnett (1800s)
  • The Out of the Silent Planet series, C.S. Lewis (1900s)
  • You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, John Ciardi (1900s)
  • No Longer At Ease, Chinua Achebe (1900s)
  • The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton (1900s)
  • The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1800s)
  • The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1800s)
  • The Egoist, George Meredith (1800s)
  • The Man Without a Country, Edward Everett Hale (1800s)
  • Modern Love, George Meredith (1900s)
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham, W. D. Howells (1800s)
  • The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1900s)
  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene (1900s)
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter (1900s)
  • The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter (1900s)
  • Black Spring, Henry Miller (1900s)
  • Johnny Tremain, Ester Forbes (1900s)
  • Nineteen, Nineteen, John Dos Passos (1900s)
  • Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther (1900s)
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest J. Gaines (1900s)
  • The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith (1900s)
  • You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe (1900s)
  • Dangling Man, Saul Bellow (1900s)
  • Herzog, Saul Bellow (1900s)
  • Everyman, Anonymous (1900s)
  • The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler (1900s)
  • Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1900s)
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (1900s)
  • Giant, Edna Ferber (1900s)
  • Books by Isaac Asimov (1900s)
  • Lost Horizon, James Hilton (1900s)
  • Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1900s)
  • The Maltese Falcon, Dashiel Hammett (1900s)
  • The Citadel, A. J. Cronin (1900s)
  • Magic, Inc., Robert Heinlein (1900s)
  • Waldo, Robert Heinlein (1900s)
  • A Death in the Family, James Agee (1900s)
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee (1900s)
  • Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes (1900s)
  • The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass (1900s)
  • My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • The Chosen, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • The Promise, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, Hannah Green (1900s)
  • A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines (1900s)
  • Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene (1900s)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1900s)
  • At the Bay, Katherine Mansfield (1900s)
  • Red Roses for Me, Sean O’Casey (1900s)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster (1900s)
  • Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham (1900s)
  • Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • Main Street, Sinclair Lewis (1900s)
  • Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis (1900s)
  • Tom Jones, Henry Fielding (1700s)
  • Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding (1700s)
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Lawrence Stern (1700s)
  • Sartor Resarus, Thomas Carlyle (1800s)
  • Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac (1800s)
  • Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (1800s)
  • The Ball and the Cross, G. K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann (1900s)
  • Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann (1900s)
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather (1900s)
  • O Pioneers!, Willa Cather (1900s)
  • The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot (1800s)
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot (1800s)
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (1800s)
  • Tess of the D’ubervilles, Thomas Hardy (1800s)
  • The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1800s)

School in a Book: Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary

I have a basic working Mandarin vocabulary–what I call “traveler’s Chinese.” Though it’s one of my life goals to become fluent or close to it (mostly because it would be so much fun), I also feel that this basic level is extremely valuable in its own right. Once you get past the language basics and talk to some natives who–surprise!–actually understand you, the groundwork has been laid; you become confident. After that, you have fun with it: talk to people you meet, ask them to explain things, practice a bit here and a bit there. A decade or so later, you’re ready to visit the land of your chosen second language and make a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time.

A note on the list: There are four tones in Mandarin Chinese. Fortunately, they’re not hard to master; just do an Internet search to hear them and practice. One more tip: At first, don’t worry about grammar too much. Get the main verbs, the main short words (“because,” “with,” “and,” “very,” and the time- and distance-related vocabulary) and the whole introductory conversation basics, then move on to your nouns–food, body parts, etc. When you practice, make as many mistakes as you can possibly make, grammar-wise; just get yourself understood. That’s the goal.

Conversational Basics and Common Phrases

Hello: Ni3 hao3
How are you: Ni3 hao3 ma
What is your name: Ni3 de ming2 zi jiao4 shen2 me
My name is: Wo3 de ming2 zi jiao4
First name: Ming2 zi
Family name: Gui4 xing4
How old are you: Ni3 ji1 sui4 le
I am __ years old: Wo3 you3 __ nian2
Good morning: Zao3 an1
Good afternoon:
Good evening: Wan3 an1
Yes: Shi4
No: Bu4 shi4
Please: Qing2
May I: Ke3 yi3
Thank you: Xie4 xie4
Excuse me/I’m sorry: Dui4 bu4 qi2
You’re welcome/I don’t mind: Mei2 guan4 xi1
No problem/I don’t care: Bu4 yao4 jin3
Where are you from: Ni3 lai2 zai4 na3 li3
I am from: Wo3 lai2 zi4
I speak __: Wo3 shuo1 __
Do you speak __: Ni3 shuo1 __ ma?
U.S.A.: Mei3 guo2
American: Mei3 guo2 ren2
English: Ying1 wen2
China: Zhong1 guo2
Chinese (person): Zhong1 guo2 ren2
Chinese (Mandarin language): Pu2 tong2 hua4
Chinese (Cantonese language): Guang3 dong1 hua4
How do you say: Wo3 zem2 me shuo1
What does this mean: Shen2 me yi4 ci2
Say it again: Zai4 shuo1 yi1 ci4
May I ask: Qing2 wen3
Can you please: Ni3 ke3 yi3
Nice to meet you: Hen3 gao1 xin1 jian4 dao4 ni3
Be careful: Xiao4 xin1 (yi1 dian3)
Hurry up: Kuai4 yi1 dian3
Wait a moment: Deng3 yi2 xia4
I am ready: Wo3 zhu3 bei4 hao3 le
Both are fine: Shen2 me dou1 ke3 yi3


To be: Shi4
To go: Qu4
To want: Yao4
To use: Yong4
To need: Xu3 yao4
To know: Zhi1 dao4
To like: Xi3 huan1
To love: Ai4
To live: Zhu4
To be born: Chu1 sheng1
To die: Si2
To sleep/go to bed: Shui4 jiao4
To wake up: Xing3 lai2
To cook: Zuo2 (fan4)
To read: Kan4 (shu1)
To practice: Lian4 xi3
To make/do: Zuo3
To look at: Kan4
To see: Kan4 dao4
To look for: Zhao3
To walk: Zou3 (lu4)
To run: Pao3 (bu4)
To go to work: Shang4 ban4
To finish work: Xia4 ban4
To rest: Xiu2 xi3
To play: Wan2
To sing: Chang4 ge1
To smile: Wei1 xiao4
To laugh: Da4 xiao1
To hug: Bao4
To cry: Ai1 hao4; ku1; bei4 qi4
To dance: Tiao4 wu3
To swim: You2 yong3
To take pictures: Zhao4 xiang4
To go shopping: (Qu4) guang4 jie1; gou4 wu4; mai3 dong1 xi1
To go to the bathroom: Shang4 ce4 suo3
To take a shower: Xi3 zao3
To wash hands/face: Xi3 lian2/shou3
To ride (a bike, etc.): Qi2
To ride (a car–no movement): Zuo4
To visit (someone): Bai4 fang3
To visit (something): Can1 guan1
To leave: Zou3
To wait: Deng3 (dai4)
To stay (there): Liu2 zai4 (zhe1 li3)
To stay home: Dai4 zia4 jia1 li3
To stand up: Zhan4 qi3 lai2
To sit down: Zuo4 xia4
To find: Zhao3 dao4
To pay: Fu4 qian2
To break: Sui4; lan4
To fix: Xiu1
To take: Na2
To listen: Ting1 (shuo1)
To lay down (something): Fang4
To lay down (body): Tang3 xia4
To meet (regularly): Peng4 dao4; peng4 tou2
To meet (past or future): Kan4 jian4
To show/indicate: Zhan3 shi3
To mistakenly think: Yi3 wei2
To try: Shi4 yi1 shi4
To taste/experience: Chang2 hang2; chang2 yi1 chang2
To guess: Cai1 yi1 cai1
To translate: Fan1 yi4
To hate: Hen4
To put on/wear: Chuan1; dai4
To change clothes: Huan2 yi4 fu2

Time Words

When: Shen2 me shi2 hou4
How long: Duo1 jiu2
Early: Zao4
Late: Wan2
Soon: Hen3 kuai4
Not soon: Hen3 man4
Always: Zong3 shi4
Never: Cong2 lai2 (mei2 you3)
Again: Zai4
Often/usually: Jing1 chang2
Sometimes: You3 shi2 hou4
Still more (time): Hai2 (you3)
Daytime: Wan3 shang4
Nighttime: Wan3 shang4
Day: Tian1
Morning: Zao3 shang4
Afternoon: Xia4 wu3
Time: Shi2 jian1
Hour: Xiao3 shi2; zhong1 tou2
Minute: Fen1 zhong1
Second: Miao3 zhong1
This week: Zhe4 zhou1
Next week: Xia4 zhou1
Last week: Shang4 zhou1
Before/earlier: Yi3 qian2; zai4 shi1 qian2
After/later: Yi3 hou4; hou4 lai2; dai1 hui3
At the same time: Tong2 shi2
First: Di1 yi1
Second: Di1 er4
One time: Yi1 ci4
The first time: Di1 yi1 ci4
Midnight: Ban4 ye4
Long (time): Jiu2; chang2 shi2 jian1
A while: Yi2 xia4
Future: Wei4 lai2
Ever: Guo1; ceng2 jing2

Size and Amount Words

How much/how many: Duo1 shao1
More: Bi3 (jiao4) duo1 de;
Less: Bi3 (jiao4) shao3 de
A little: Yi1 dian3
A little more: Duo1 yi1 dian3
Most: Zui4
Some: Yi1 xie3 de
Only: Zhi2 you3
Still more (amount): Hai2 you3
Almost: Cha4 bu4 duo1
Not enough: Bu2 gou4
Not quite: Bu2 tai4
Too (much): Tai4
Size: Da4 xiao3
Short (people): Ai3
Short (stuff): Duan3
Tall (people): Gao1
Long (things): chang2
Wide: Kuan1 kuo4 de
Deep: Shen1 de
Empty: Kong1 dong4
Amount: Deng3 yu2
Enough: Gou3 le
None: Mei2 you3 yi1 ge
Both: Liang3
Both/all: Dou1; quan2 bu2 de
Another one: Zai4 yi1 ge
Equal: Deng3 (yu1)
How many?: Ji3 ge
Another: Bie2 de
One or two: Yi1 liang2 ge
Either one: Bu2 lun4 . . . dou1 (hao1)
Only: Jiu4
Pound: Bang4
Kilo: Gong1 jin1
1/2 kilo: Jin1
Still more: Hai2 you3
Others: Qi2 ta1 de
Every: Mei3 yi1; mei3 ge
Each: Mei3 yi1 ge
The whole (one): Zheng3 ge4
The whole (time): Suo3 you3 (shi2 jian1)
Everything: Yi1 qie4 dou1; shen2 me dou1; suo3 you3 shi4 wu4
Something: Xie1 shi4
Nothing: Mei2 you3 dong1 xi1; mei1 you3 shi4
Everybody: Mei2 ge ren2; ren2 ren2
Anything: Wu2 lun2 shen2 me
Somebody: Yi1 ge ren2
Nobody: Mei2 you3 ren2
Anybody: Ren4 he2 ren2; shen2 me ren2
Everywhere: Mei3 ge di4 fang1; dao4 qu4 dou1
Somewhere: Yi1 ge di4 fang1
Nowhere: Mei2 you3 di4 fang1
Anywhere: Ren4 he2 di4 fang1

Direction and Location Words

A direction: Fang1 xiang4
A location: Fang1 wei4
Here: Zher4
There: Nar4
High: Gao1
Low: Di1
Beside: Zai . . . pang2 bian1/lin2 jin4
Between: Zai4 . . . zhi1 jian1/zhong1 jian1
Ahead: Zai . . . qian2 fang1/qian2 mian4
Over/above/on: Zai4 . . . shang4 mian4; gao1 yu2
In: Zai4 . . . li3 bian1
Under: Zai4 . . . xia4 mina4
The top: Zui4 shang4 mian4; zui4 shang4 bian4
The bottom: Di3 bu1; zui4 di3
Side/limit: Bian1
Behind: Zai . . . hou4 mian4
Both sides: Liang3 bian1
This side: Zhe4 bian1
That side: Na4 bian1
Central: Zhong1 yang1 de
Inner: Li3 bian1 de
Outer: Wai4 bian1 de
Right: You3
Left: Zuo3
Center: Zhong1 jian1
Close/near: Jin4
Far away: (Yao2) yuan2
To travel forwards: Ziang4 qian2 zou3
To travel backwards: Ziang4 hou4 zou3
On the corner: Zai4 jiao3 luo4
One block: Yi1 kuai4 zhuan1
To turn right: Xiang4 you4 zhuan3
To turn left: Xiang4 zuo3 zhuan3
To go straight: Zhi2 zou3
North: Bei1
South: Nan2
East: Dong1 fang1
West: Xi1 fang1
Easterner: Dong1 fang1 ren2
Westerner: Xi1 fang1 ren2

Other Small Words

This: Zhe4 ge
That: Na4 ge
But/nevertheless: Ke3 shi4; dan4 shi4
If: Ru2 guo3; yao4 shi4
Which: Na3 yi1 ge
Although/even though: Sui1 ran2
Therefore: Suo3 yi3
Will: Hui4; jiang1 (yao4)
Should: Ying1 gai1
Because: Yin1 wei4
Anyway/regardless: Qi2 shi2; bu4 guan3
Also: Ye3; you4
Probably: Huo4 xu3; ke3 neng2
In addition: Ling4 wai4; hai2 you3; chu1 ci3 gi4 wai4
Instead of: Er4 bu2 shi2
Not so: Bu4 ran2
To: Qu4 (location); gei1; zi1 (time)
From: Cong2; lai2 zi
Of: Shu3 yu2
For: Wei4
(Word at end of a question): Ma
(Word at end of a completed statement): Le

Numbers and Money Words

1-10: Yi1, er4, san1, si4, wu3, liu4, qi1, ba1 jiu3 shi2
11: Shi2yi1
20: Er4 shi4
Hundred: Bai3
Thousand: Qian1
Ten thousand: Wan4
Million: Bai3 wan4
Billion: Yi4
1/10th yuen2: Yi1 jiao3
1/100th yuen: Yi1 fen1
To barter/exchange: Huan4
Passcode: Mi4 ma3
Number one: Yi1 yao4
1.00: Yi1 dian4 ling2 ling2
Money: Qian2
The cost: Jia4 ge2
Debit card: Jie4 ji4 ka1
Credit card: Xin4 yong4 ka3
Receipt: Shou1 ju4

Family Members

Husband: Zhang4 fu1; lao3 gong1
Wife: Qi1 zi; lao3 po2
Mother: Mu3 qian1; Ma1 ma
Father: Fu4 qian1; ba1 ba
Parents: Fu4 mu3 qian1
Son: Er2 zi
Daughter: Nu3 er2
Older brother: Ge4 ge
Younger brother: Di4 di
Older sister: Jie3 jie
Younger sister: Mei4 mei
Grandparents: Ye3 ye3 nai3 nai4
Grandmother (mom’s mom): Wai4 po2
Grandmother (dad’s mom):  Nai3 nai1
Grandfather (mom’s dad): Wai4 gong1
Grandfather (dad’s dad): Ye3 ye


Best: Zui4 hao3 de
Better: Geng4 hao3 de; bi (jian4) hao3 de
Worse/worst: Geng4 huai4 de; bi3 (jiao4) huai4 de; bi3 (jiao4) cha4 de
The same: Yi2 yang4 de
Different: Bu4 tong2 de
Big: Da4
Small: Xiao3
Clamorous: Da4 shan1
Loud: Chao3 nao4
Quiet/peaceful: An1 jing4 de
Old (people): Lao3
Old (things) jiu4
Young: Nian2 qing1 de
Weak: Ruo4 de; shou4 ruo4
Strong: (Qiang2) zhuang4 de
Heavy: Zhong4 de
Light: Qing1 de
Light/bright: Deng1
Soft: Ruan3 de
Hard: Ying4 de
Wet: Chao2 shi2 de; shi2 de
Dry: Gan1 (zao4) de
Clean: Gan1 jing4 de
Dirty: Zang1 de
True: Zhen1 de
False: Bu4 zhen1 de
Cheap: Pian2 yi4 de
Used: Er4 shou3 de; yong4 guo4 de
New: Xin1 de
Stinky: Chou4
Handsome: Ying1 jun4
Pretty: Piao4 liang4
Beautiful: Mei3 liang3
Broken: Sui4 le; lan4 de; huai4 de
Bright: Ming2 liang2 de; xing3 mu4 de
Dim: Bu4 liang2
Well-organized: Zu3 zhi1 de; zheng3 li2 de
Works well: Zuo2 de hen3 hao3
Doesn’t work: Mei2 zuo4
Happy: Gao1 xin1; kai1 xin1
Sad: Bei1 shang1; shang1 xin1 de
Hopeful/to hope: Xi1 wang4 (de)
Surprised: Chi1 jing1 de
Angry: Sheng1 qi4 de
Jealous: Du4 ji4
Afraid: Hai4 pa4
Excited: Xing4 fen4
Nervous: Jin3 zhang1 (DE??)
Worried: Dan1 xin1; zhao1 ji2
Embarrassed: Diu1 ren2; gan1 ga4
Bored: Wu2 liao3
Famous: Zhu4 ming2; you3 ming2
Popular: Liu2 xing2
Unpopular: Bu4 de ren2 xin1; bu4 luo3 xing2
Shy: Hai4 xiu1
Outgoing: Kai1 fang4
Nice: Hao3 de
Mean: Huai4 de
Friendly: You3 hao3 de
Scholarly: Hao4 xue2 de
Smart: Cong2 ming2 de
Stupid: Ben4 de
Rich: You3 qian2 de
Poor: qiong2
Funny: You3 mo2 de; hua1 ji4 de
Interesting: You3 qu4
Unique: Tu4 bie2 de
Ordinary/common: Pu2 tong1 de; ping2 chang2 de
Rare: Xi1 you3 de
Important: Zhong4 yao4
Complicated: Fu4 za2

Food Words

Food: Fan4; shi2 wu4
Fruit: Shui3 guo3
Vegetables: Shu1 cai4
Apple: Ping2 guo3
Banana: Xiang1 jiao1
Orange: Ju2 zi
Grape: Pu2 tao2
Carrot: Hu2 luo2 bo1
Peas: Wan1 dou4
Cucumber: Huang2 gua1
Spinach: Bo1 cai4
Broccoli: Ye1 cai4
Cabbage: Da4 bai2 cai4
Onion: Yang2 cong1
Corn: Bao1 gu3; yu2 mi3
Cauliflower: Hua1 cai4
Tomato: Xi1 hong2 shi4
Celery: Qin2 cai4
Green pepper: Qing1 jiao1
Red pepper: Tian2 jiao1 hong2 jiao1
Rice: Mi3 fan4; fan4
Noodles: Mian4 tiao2
Bread: Mian4 bao1
Chicken: Ji1 rou4; ji1
Fish: Yu2 rou4; yu2
Tofu: Dou4 fu1
Pork: Zhu1 rou4; zhu1
Egg(s): Ji1 dan4
Meat: Rou4
Beef: Niu3 rou4; niu3
Hamburger: Han4 bao3 bao1
Milk: Niu2 nai3
Alcohol: Jiu3
Beer: Pi2 jiu3
Wine: Jiu3
Potato: Tu3 dou4
Soy sauce: Jiang4 you3
Sauce: Jiang4
Oil: You2
Sugar: Tang3
Dessert: Tian2 shi2; tian2 dian3
Wheat: Mai4
Cookie: Bing3 gan1
Seafood: Hai3 xian1
Steak: Niu3 pai2
Beans: Dou4 li3; dou4
Shrimp: Xia1
Berry: Jiang1 guo3
Lettuce: Sheng1 cai4
Green vegetables: Qing1 cai4
Green beans: Ji1 dou4 ji1
Beverage: Yin3 liao4
Water: Shui3
Ice: Bing1
Sweet: Tian2 de
Salt: Yan2
Salty: Xian2 de
Spicy: La4 de
Sour: Suan1 de
Fresh: Xin1 xian4 de
Menu: Cai4 dan1
Fork: Cha1 zi
Knife: Dao1 zi
Spoon: Shao2 zi
Bowl: Wan3
Chopsticks: Kuai4 zi
Cup: Bei1 zi
Plate: Pan2 zi
Wok/pan: Ping2 guo1; guo1
Caffeine: Ka1 fei1 yin1
Coffee: Ka1 fei1
Decaf coffee: Two1 ka1 fei1 yin1 de ka1 fei1
Bottle: Yi4 ping2
Spices: Xiang1 liao4; tiao2 wei4 pin3
Cheese: Nai3 lao4
Pizza: Pi1 sa4
Snack: Dian3 xin1
Salad: Sha1 la1
Fast food: Kuai4 can1
Butter: Huang3 you2
A dish: Cai4
Soup: Tang2

Personal Effects

Pencil: Qian1 bi3
Pen: Bi3
Paper: Zhi3
Scissors: Bi3 ji4 ben3; ben3 zi
Tape: Zhao1 dai4
Computer: Dian4 zi3 (ji1 suan4 ji1)
Glue: jiao1 shui3
Map: Di4 tu3
Cards: Ka1 pian4
Letter: Xing4
Calendar: Ri4 li4
Stamp: You2 pian4
Envelope: Xin4 feng1
Cell phone:
Sign: Biao1
Light/lamp: Deng1
Clothes: Y2 fu2
Shirt: Chen4 shan1
Pants: Ku4 zi
Sweater: Mao3 yi1
Shoes: Xie4 zi
Skirt: Duan3 qun2; qun2 zi
Hat: Mao4 zi
Coat: Wai4 tao4
Socks: Wa4 zi
Underwear: Nei4 yi1; nei4 ku4; duan3 ku4
Bra: Wen2 xiong1; xiong1 zao4
Pajamas: Shui4 yi1
Shorts: Duan3 ku4
Jeans: Niu3 chang2 ku4
Blanket: Bei1 zi
Hairbrush: Shu1 zi
Comb: Shu1 zi
Handbag: Shou3 ti2 bao1
Purse: Qian2 bao1
Towel: Mao2 jin1
Shampoo: Xi3 fa1 shui3
Conditioner: Zhe1 li3 shui3
Soap: Xiang1 zao4; fei2 zao4
Lotion: Ying1 yang3 shuang1
Toothpaste: Ya2 gao1
Toothbrush: Ya2 shua1
Suitcase: Xiang1 zi; lu3 xing2 xiang3
Toilet paper: Ce4 zhi3
Garbage: La1 ji1
Garbage can: La1 ji1 xiang1
Air conditioner: Kong1 tiao2
Heater: Dian4 nuan3 qi4
Keys: Yao4 shi2
Batteries: Dian4 chi2
Clock: Zhong1
Camera: Zhao4 xiang4 ji1
Wallet: Qian2 bao1
Glasses: Yan3


Color: Yan2 se4
Red: Hong2 se4
Blue: Lan2 se4
Yellow: Huang2 se4
Green: Lu2 se4
Orange: Ju2 se4
Purple: Zi3 se4
Pink: Fen3 hong2 se4
Black: Hei1 se4
White: Bai2 se4
Gray: Hui1 se4
Brown: Zhong se4/ he1 se4
Silver: Yin2 se4
Gold: Jin1 se4

Body Parts

Body: Shen1 ti3
Head: Tou3
Mind: Si1 xiang3
Face: Lian3
Eyes: Yan3 jing1
Ears: Er3 duo1
Mouth: Kou3
Lips: Zui3 ba1
Nose: Bi2 zi
Hands: Shou3
Feet: Jiao3
Fingers: Shou3 zhi3
Toes: Jiao3 zhi3
Legs: Tui3
Arms: Shou3 bi4
Hair: Tou2 fa1
Back: Bei4
Neck: Bo2 zi
Skin: Pi2 fu1
Stomach: Du4 zi
Butt: Pi4 gu3
Poop: Fen4 bian4
Pee: Niao4

Travel Words

Car: Che1
Bus: Gong1 gong4 qi4 che1
Taxi: Chu1 zu1 che1
Motorcycle: Mo2 to2 che1
Plane: Fei1 ji1
Ship: Lun2 chuan2
Airport: Ji1 chang3
Bus station: Gong1 gong4 qui4 che1 zhan4
Train: Huo3 che1
Train station: Huo3 che1 zhan4
Bus stop: Gong1 gong4 qi4 che1 zhan4
Culture: Wen2 hua4
Foreign: Wai4 guo2
Foreigner: Wai4 guo2 ren2
To travel: Lu2 you2
Overseas/abroad: Hai3 wai4
Nation: Guo2 jia1; guo2 min2
Native language: Ben3 zu2 yu3
Trip/journey: Cheng2
Passenger: Cheng2 ke4
Hometown: Jia1 xiang1; ben3 guo2
Fare: Fei4 yong4
Hotel: Fan4 dian4; lu2 guan3


Where: Zai4 na3 li3; nai4 nar3
Place: Di4 fang1
Supermarket: Chao1 shi4
Small market: Cai4 shi4 chang3; shang4 dian4
Park: Gong1 yuan2
Library: Tu2 shu1 guan3
Street: Jie1 dao4
Bank: Yin2 hang2
Hospital: Yi1 yuan4
Building: Jian4 zhu4
Elementary school: Xia3 xue2
Middle school: Zhong1 xue2
High school: Gao1 zhong1
College: Da4 xue
Gym: Jian4 shen1 fang2
City: Cheng2 shi4
Church: Jian4 tang2
Temple: Miao4
Post office: You3 ju2
Bar/nightclub: Jiu3 ba1
Movie theater: Dian4 ying3 yuan4
Theater: Ju4 yuan4
Outdoors: Wai4 mian4
Indoors: Li3 mian4
The zoo: Dong4 wu4 yuan1
Great Wall: Chang2 cheng2
Art museum: Bo4 wu4 guan3
Apartment building: Gong1 yu4

Rooms and Furniture

Room: Fang2 jian1
Bedroom: Fang2 jian1; wo4 shi4
Bathroom/toilet: Ce4 suo3
Kitchen: Chu1 fang2
Living room: Ke4 ting1
Dining room: Fan4 ting1
Bed: Chuang2
Window: Chuang1 (hu4)
Wall: Qiang2 bi4
Chair: Yi3 zi
Desk/table: Zhuo1 zi
Couch: Chang2 sha4 fa1
Pillow: Zhen3 tou2
Closet: Zha3 wu4 fang2
Door: Men2
Home/house: Jia1
Apartment: Fang2 zi

Nature Words

Weather: Tian1 qi4
Hot: Re4
Cold: Leng2
Warm: Nuan3 he de
Cool: Liang2 kuai4
Spring: Chun1 tian1
Summer: Xia4 tian1
Fall: Qiu1 tian1
Winter: Dong1 tian1
Sun: Tai4 yang2
Moon: Yue4 liang4
Stars: Xing1 xing1
Land: Lu4 di4; tu3
Sea/ocean: Hai3 yang2
Wind: Feng1
Rain: Yu3
Snow: Xue3
Clouds: Yun2
Cloudy: Yin1 tian1 de
Storm: Feng1 bao4
Grass: Cao3
Flower: Hua1
Tree: Shu4
Bush: Guan4 mu4 cong2
Nature: Zi4 ran2
River: He2 liu2
Lake: Hu2
Beach: Sha1 tan1
Mountain: Shan1
Fire: Huo3
Sunny: Qing2 lang3
Rainy: Xia4 yu3 de
Temperature: Wen1 du4
Animal: Dong4 wu4


Doctor: Yi1 sheng1
Nurse: Hu4 shi4
Waitress: Nu3 zhao1 dai4; fu2 wu4 guan2
Waiter: Nan2 zhao1 dai4
Salesperson/shopkeeper: Shou4 huo4 yuan2
Driver: Si1 ji1
Manager: Jin1 li3
Supervisor: Zhu2 guan3
School principal: Xiao4 zhang3
Cook: Chu2 shi1
Janitor: Men2 wei4
Writer: Zuo4 jia1
Secretary: Mi4 shu1
Librarian: Tu2 shu1 guan3 li3 yuan2
Scientist: Ke1 xue2 jia1
Soldier: Shi4 bing1
Journalist: Bao1 jie4
Minister: You2 di4 yuan2; mu4 shi1
Singer: Ge1 shou3
Artist: Yi4 shu4 jia1
Dancer: Wu2 dao3 jia1
President: Zong3 tong3
Government official: Gong1 wu4 yuan2
Tutor: Jiao1 jao4
Boss: Lao3 ban3
Interpreter: Fan1 yi4
Cashier: Shou1 ying2 yuan2
Garbage collector: qin1 jie3 gong1
Police officer:
Housekeeper/housewife: Bao3 mu2; (jia1 ting2) zhu2 fu4
Computer programmer:
Business owner:

Activity, Entertainment and Celebration Words

Game: You3 xi4
Sports/exercise: Yun4 dong4
Ball: Dan4; qui2
Basketball: Lan2 qui2
Football: Gan1 an1 qui2
Baseball: Lei qui2
Soccer: Zu2 qui2
Volleyball: Pai2 qui2
Ping-Pong: Ping1 pong1 qui2
Badminton: Yu3 mao1 qui2
Competition: Bi4 sai4
Song: Ge1 qu3
Team: Huan2 dui4
To skate: Bing1 chang3
To see a movie: Kan4 dian4 ying3
Birthday: Sheng1 ri4
Christmas: Sheng4 dan4 jie2
New Year: Xin1 nian2
Spring Festival: Chun1 jie4
Happy birthday: Sheng1 ri4 kuai4 le
Merry Christmas:
Happy New Year: Xin1 nian1 kuai4 le
Congratulations: Zhu4 he4
Celebration: Qing4 zhu4
Holiday: Jia4 qi1
Vacation: Jia4 re4
Present/gift: Li3 wu4
Wedding: Hun1 li3
Funeral: Chu1 bin1

Sickness Words

Death: Si3
Life: Shen1 ming4
Sick: Bing4 le
Sickness: Ji2 bing4
Pills: Yao4 pian4
A cough: Ke2 sou4
A cold: Gan3 mao4
Fever: Fa1 shao1
Flu: Liu2 xing2 gan3 mao4
Stomachache: Du1 zi tong4
Headache: Tou2 tong4
?: Ban2
?: Shen1 bing4
To hurt/ache: Tong4
Tired: Lei4

Miscellaneous Words

Word: Zi4
Character: Xie1 zi4
New word: Sheng1 zi4; dan1 zi4
Sentence: Ju1 zi
Phrase: Ci2 zu3
Pronunciation: Fa1 yin1
Grammar: Yu2 fa3
Language: Yu3 yan2
Story: Gu4 shi4
Number: Hao4 ma3; hao4
Phone number: Dian4 hua4 hao4 ma3
Address: Di4 zhi3
Driver’s license: Jia4 shi2 zi2 zao4
Passport: Hu4 zao4
Age: Nian2 ji4
Literature: Wen2 xue2
Math: Shu4 xue2
History: LI4 shi3
Science: Zi4 yan2; ke1 xue2
Art: Yi4 shu4; mei3 shu4
Music: Yin1 yue4
Politics: Zheng4 zhi4
Government: Zheng4 fu3
Physical education: Ti3 yu4
Sign: Biao1 zhi4
Wood: Mu4 tou2
Plastic: Su4 liao4
Electricity: Dian4
Electric: Dian4 de
Machine: Ji1 qi4
Action/movement: Xing2 dong4
Problem: Wen4 ti3
Plan: Ji4 hua4
Idea/concept: Zhu2 yi4
Level: Shui2 ping1
List: Dan4 zi
Stress: Ya1 li4
Feelings/emotion: Gan3 jue2
Attitude: Tai4 du4
Mood: Qing2 xu4
Personality: Ge4 xing4
God: Shang4 di4
Classmate: Ton2 xue2
Relationship: Guan1 xi4
Friendship: You3 qing3

School in a Book: Chemistry

“So that’s what stuff is.” That’s an important realization. It could be a breakthrough moment in one’s education. Don’t underestimate young children’s ability to grasp many basic chemistry concepts, either; the earlier they start thinking about the big questions, the more interested and less intimidated they’ll be by them later on.

Like most other subjects, science is best learned through conversation. Experiments are great, too, but they’re not always necessary. If you have little kids who can’t yet handle close proximity to anything magnetic, explosive or filled with water, choose a few scientific concepts to talk about per day, and send the older kid to a more hands-on science class. (Video demonstrations, like those on YouTube, are great, too.)

That said, if you can manage it, there’s a huge number of great science project ideas out there, and hands-on projects are definitely a great memory aid.


Chemistry: The science of matter, including what it is and how it’s made

Chemical: Any substance made up of two or more atoms. This word is also used to refer to human-synthesized substances; however, this is a colloquial usage.

Matter: Anything that is made of particles, takes up space (has volume), and has mass. It is one of only two “things” in the universe. The other is energy.

Weight: A measure of the force of gravity on something. It changes relative to where in space an object is located; for example, a book weighs less on the moon than on the earth.

Mass: A measure of something’s absolute heaviness (the amount of matter within it). It doesn’t change when the forces (such as the gravitational force) change because it is measured relative to an absolute standard (one kilogram).

Density: The measure of something’s mass per unit of volume. Objects with more of this are heavier than other objects with less that take up the same amount of space.

The three states of matter: Solid, liquid and gas

Solid: A substance with a definite shape and definite volume

Liquid: A substance with definite volume but a varying shape

Gas: A substance without a definite shape or definite volume.

Atoms: The building blocks of molecules and the smallest units of matter that retain the chemical properties of an element. Each is made up of a nucleus containing protons and neutrons and a shell containing electrons that spin around the nucleus. They also contain other subatomic particles and a great deal of empty space. (The space between subatomic particles in an atom is relatively similar to the space between heavenly bodies in the universe.) Molecules are formed when atoms chemically bond together through sharing or transferring electrons. Whereas molecules can be easily split through everyday chemical reactions, atoms require extraordinary amounts of energy to split them. Also note that a sheet of paper is about one million atoms thick.

Subatomic particles: The incredibly tiny pieces of matter that make up atoms. They include protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, and more. They cannot be separated from each other without using extraordinary amounts of energy.

Nucleus: The center part of an atom that holds protons and neutrons

Protons: The positively charged parts of an atom, which are located inside the nucleus. The number of these in an atom corresponds to its element and its atomic number. For example, the oxygen atom has eight of these and its atomic number is eight.

Neutrons: The parts of an atom that contain no charge, are located inside the nucleus and, along with the protons, determine the atom’s mass number. The number of these in an atom is variable, with each possible variation creating a different isotope of the same atom.

Electrons: The negatively charged parts of an atom, which are located outside the nucleus and spin around it, and that enable chemical bonding between atoms

Atomic shells: The layers within an atom that surround the nucleus and contain electrons. They are organized by energy level, with the electrons in the innermost shell having the lowest energy, and those in the outermost shell having the highest energy.

Quarks: Subatomic particles that make up protons and neutrons

Element: A substance that contains only one kind of atom

Isotope: A particular variation of an atom, which is determined by the number of neutrons in that atom. For example, carbon-12 and carbon-13 both have six protons but carbon-12 has six neutrons and carbon-13 has seven neutrons. This means they also have different mass numbers. Also, while there might be some differences in their physical properties, chemically they behave alike.

Molecule: Any chemically bonded group of atoms, whether atoms of the same type, which form an element, or atoms of different types, which form a compound. Their bonds can only be broken through chemical change.

Compound: A combination of two or more substances that are chemically bonded together. The substances can’t be separated by physical means, only by chemical reactions. An example is water, whose chemical bonds are broken only through chemical reactions.

Mixture: A combination of two or more substances that are not chemically bonded and can, therefore, be separated through physical means. An example is air, which is not a single gas, but a mixture of gases and other particles. The gases aren’t chemically bonded to each other, and can be separated without breaking any chemical bonds.

Periodic Table of the Elements: A chart listing each known element, organized by these elements’ atomic numbers

Atomic number: The number of protons in an atom, which indicates the atom’s chemical properties and, by extension, its element type. The number of protons in an atom is the same as the number of electrons in an atom. 

Mass number: The total number of protons and neutrons in an atom

Chemical bonding: The joining of atoms to create molecules

Chemical reaction: The process that occurs when bonds between atoms in a substance are broken and the atoms rearrange to form new substances with different properties. An example is baking a cake: the cake is formed after heat changes the molecular structure of the batter.

Chemical symbol: The letters that represent the atoms of a particular element; for example, C for carbon

Chemical formula: A notation using chemical symbols and numbers to indicate the types and numbers of atoms present; for example, CO2 and H2O

Ion: A positively or negatively charged particle that is formed when an atom or molecule gains or loses one or more electrons. When an atom gains one or more electrons, it becomes negatively charged, and when it loses one or more electrons, it becomes positively charged.

Covalent bond: A chemical bond formed when atoms share electrons. Each atom still has its proper total number, but some of its electrons are attracted to the other atoms and stick there. Most non-metal elements are formed with this type of bond.

Double bond: A chemical bond formed when two atoms share two electrons each with each other

Ionic bond: A chemical bond formed when one atom loses one or more electrons to another atom. This creates a positively charged ion in one atom and a negatively charged ion in the other, which are attracted to each other.

Metallic bond: A chemical bond between metal atoms formed when the atoms share a pool of electrons, which allow the metals to easily conduct electricity

Hydrogen (H): The most abundant element in the universe, which forms water when it is burned in oxygen and which can form compounds with most other elements

Helium (He): The second most abundant element in the universe, though is not abundant in the earth’s atmosphere due to its low atomic weight and high velocity

Oxygen (O): The third most abundant element in the universe, which helps plants and animals release energy from food through the process of cellular respiration

Carbon (C): The fourth most abundant element in the universe, which is found in all organic compounds and in more compounds overall than any other element

Water (H2O): The most common liquid on earth, one that is a universal solvent and necessary for life, and that is formed when two H2 molecules and one O2 molecule undergo a chemical reaction called combustion, releasing two H2O molecules and energy

Carbon dioxide (CO2): A greenhouse gas produced through plant respiration, decomposition of organic material, the burning of fossil fuels and more

Sodium chloride (NaCl): Table salt, a combination of a metal (sodium) and a non-metal (chlorine)

Carbon monoxide: A poisonous gas formed when fuels burn in a place with limited oxygen, such as an engine

Salt: A chemical compound formed from the reaction of an acid with a base, which usually crystallizes in the form of cubes

Organic compound: Any compound that includes carbon (with a few exceptions)

Soluble: Able to dissolve in a solvent

Insoluble: Unable to dissolve in a solvent

Solution: The combination of a solvent and the substance that is dissolved in it

Metal: An element or an alloy that is shiny in appearance; conducts heat and electricity; and usually remains solid at room temperature. Some, like iron and nickel, are also magnetic. The definition of this term is not exact, and changes as its application changes. Also, some non-metal elements become metals at very high temperatures.

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals or a metal and a different element to make a substance with enhanced usefulness

Acid: A chemical substance with a pH less than 7 that donates protons or hydrogen ions when dissolved in water, donates electrons to form chemical bonds and tastes sour when found in liquid solutions

Base/alkaline: A chemical substance with a pH greater than 7 that accepts protons from hydrogen ions in liquid solutions. Note that adding this type of substance to an acid helps neutralize the acid and produces water and salts.

pH scale: The 14-point scale used to measure whether a liquid solution is basic, acidic or neutral, with 7 being neutral, higher than 7 showing alkalinity and lower than 7 showing acidity

Corrosion: The damaging chemical reaction that occurs to a substance by its surrounding environment. For example, metal corrosion can occur when oxide forms on the surface of the metal.

Electrolysis: The separating of individual elements in a compound by passing an electric current through it when it is molten or in a solution

Fermentation: The process in which yeast and some bacteria break down sugars or other organic compounds into simpler compounds like carbon dioxide to produce energy without the use of oxygen

Endothermic reaction: A chemical process that absorbs heat

Exothermic reaction: A chemical process that emits heat

Oxidation: A chemical reaction in which a substance loses electrons, often by the addition of oxygen, causing it to change in some way. An example is the presence of iron oxide (rust) in metal exposed to water.

Reduction: A chemical reaction in which a substance gains electrons, often by the removal of oxygen, causing it to change in some way. An example is the conversion of iron oxide (rust) to iron in the presence of a reducing agent, such as hydrogen gas.

Oxidation-reduction (redox) reaction: A chemical reaction in which substance undergoes reduction, causing another to undergo oxidation. This happens because the substance undergoing reduction donates electrons to the other substance.

School in a Book: Computer Science

Computer science just isn’t a specialty anymore. Most companies create and/or manage several websites and computer programs, meaning that if you want to be successful in business, it’s helpful to understand these common terms.

How a computer works: When the computer is turned on, some of the microchips in the hard drive start the computer, then pass the control over to the boot loader. The boot loader initializes the hardware, loading the first sector of the hard drive to the memory. After this, it loads the operating system, the kernel, the computer settings and the shell. The shell presents the login screen to the user. After the user logs in, the operating system tells the driver to start talking to the hardware. After the user opens a program, the driver detects the clicks and talks to the kernel. The kernel then passes the information to the shell. The shell interprets it, then communicates it to the program. Finally, the program interprets it and the program is launched. The program loads the needed threads and processes into the RAM. Threads are run and interrupted on a regular basis according to how many time slices they’re allotted. The system clock tells the operating system when to stop each process, which is done after each time slice, no matter what. Each time this happens the OS checks to see if the program’s time is up or if it has more. It adjusts priorities and may switch to a different process. This activity is done in kernel mode, a mode in which the program isn’t allowed to control anything. After this, the operating system switches back to user mode and gives control back to the program. Computers running with multiple CPUs must share the kernel between them. Mistakes in this management can lead to crashes.


Parts of a computer: Hard drive; memory storage; input/output unit; CPU; monitor; operating system (OS); software applications

Hardware: The physical components of a computer, such as the input/output unit and the monitor

Software: A set of instructions to be executed on a computer, usually with a particular use. These are also called applications or programs.

Hard drive: The physical place in the computer in which memory is located

Central processing unit (CPU): The place in the computer that loads instructions from memory, parses them, then executes them

The shell: The OS’s user interface; the part of the OS that the user sees and interacts with

Internal memory: Applications, programs and other data and instructions located within a computer, including ROM and RAM

External memory: Applications, programs and other data and instructions located on external hard drives, USB keys, etc.

Virtual memory: located in the internal memory but is made up of addresses that point elsewhere in the memory for the purposes of convenience and security.

RAM: fast copied temporary memory located on the hard drive disc or in microchips which is lost when the computer is shut down

ROM: long-term stored read-only memory, usually unalterable, containing system-level instructions

Operating system (OS): The software that runs all the basic operations of the computer; provides a secure, reliable environment for programs to run on; and grants programs access to inputs, outputs, memory, system software like drivers, and networking features. It also schedules processes when more than one application competes for time on the CPU. It contains a system clock; a file system; a user interfaced called the API that includes a set of calls or methods app programmers use to interact with the OS; and more.

Windows: The operating system Microsoft computers use

OSX: The operating system Apple computers use

Linux: A popular open-source operating system

Executable file (.exe): A file that talks to the operating system

The kernel: The part of a Windows computer that loads drivers, handles hardware, enforces security, enables network communication–anything the application needs permission to do, even just opening MS Office. (Accessing memory is not included in this.)

Service: A background process run by the OS. (Example: system clock, firewall, window update checks.)

Kernel mode: The mode an application goes into when it is accessing the computer’s kernel. A program can only go into kernel mode when allowed and only run the kernel code, not its own code at all.

User mode: App mode in which the OS can be accessed through an app can switch back and forth from kernel to user frequently.

Boot loader: The software program that the hard drive passes the control to right after starting the computer. It loads the fist sector of the hard drive to memory and passes control to it.

Native system services/executive system services: OS services that are callable from user mode

Kernel support functional routines: Subroutines inside the OS that are callable only from kernel mode

Computer architecture: The way the parts of a computer interact with each other, including which parts of the memory are able to communicate with which other parts and in which order. There are many different working computer architectures.

Virtual machine: A remotely located package of software that presents itself to the local machine as a complete separate machine. Virtual machines are highly convenient for purposes of testing code, working on a networked machine with network privileges, and on other occasions when a second or different computer/operating system package is needed.

Database: An organized collection of data, usually stored electronically. If available on the Internet, it can be accessed through servers.

Cookie: A small text file with various fields that is stored in the web browser and/or on the client’s computers. Normally, it is used to manage a session (keeping a user logged in across multiple pages, etc.).

Session: All of the applications running on a single user ID between login and logout

Programming language: A set of standardized rules for coding that results in functional source code. There are many programming languages, including C# and C++.

Source code: The human-readable instructions that make up a software program, which are written in a standard programming language

Script: A language that is Internet-appropriate, like JavaScript

Binary code: A language made up entirely of 0s and 1s, which are the only units a computer can directly work with (execute on its CPU). These true/false or 1/0 binary choices are also called boolean expressions. All other programming languages are made into source code, then finally parsed (interpreted by the computer) as binary code by a compiler. This is also called machine language or machine code.

Bit: The basic unit of information in computing, expressed as either a 0 or a 1

Byte: A unit of 8 bits

Kilobyte: A unit of 1,024 bytes

Megabyte: A unit of 1,024 kilobytes

Gigabyte: A unit of 1,024 megabytes

Terabyte: A unit of 1,024 gigabytes

Command: A computer instruction. Many put together make up an algorithm.

Algorithm: A complex logic-based instruction set that plays a specific role in a computer program

Computer code: The set of instructions forming a computer program that is read and carried out by a computer, which is used in turn to make up computer programs

Procedure: A reusable block of code that performs a specific task in a program. It might be part of an object in object-oriented programming and is also called a function or a subroutine.

Thread: A single sequence of instructions that can be executed independently within a program and that together make up processes, which together make up programs

Multi-threading: Running more than one process simultaneously in the same program using a single CPU, which schedules these processes to occur successively but seamlessly

Object-oriented programming: A way of designing software by making reusable data objects (files, data units, independent procedures or a procedure/data object that perform a particular function) that interact with one another

Pointer: An object that contains the address of each piece of memory

The leap section: The place in memory that stores dynamically allocated variables needed by a program

The stack section: The place in memory that store info in stacks, with the lowest addresses (oldest) on bottom, like cafeteria trays

Buffer: A place in memory that receives and holds data until it can be handled by requested processes. Each process can have its own set of buffers. Each buffer has a predetermined length and data type

Bug: Any kind of error in a software program. It may cause a program to unexpectedly quit, to be vulnerable to attack, or to work improperly.

Debugging: The process of removing computer program bugs

Testing: Reviewing programs to find bugs and other problems

Crash dump: A record of a program’s slate system memory at the time of a crash. It can be analyzed to figure out why it occurred.

Deadlock: A conflict of needs and allocations that stops all computing

Network: A group of computers that talk to each other and share resources through one or more shared computers called servers

Virtual private network (VPN): A type of computer network that allows users to connect to remotely

Local area network (LAN): A type of computer network that is smaller than a wide area network and that includes WiFi and ethernet

Wide area network (WAN): A type of computer network that is larger than a local area network and that includes the Internet

Server: A computer that provides information to other computers or allows other computers to connect to each other, usually remotely over the Internet or in a smaller computer network.

Clients: The individual computers that the server talks to. Some computers have both a client side and a server side.

Proxy server: A backup server used on corporate networks to protect against web attacks

Domain controller: The main server in a group of servers

Administrator: The manager of a domain (or any group of users)

Internet: The global collection of computer networks and their connections, all using shared protocols to communicate

Internet 2: A second, higher-speed Internet that is used to send very large files, such as research data between universities

Protocol: Rules to standardize processes in networks. They are used on both the sending and the receiving ends of the communication.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): The set of rules for transferring files (text, graphic images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the Internet.

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure): HTTP, but with encryption

Uniform Resource Locator (URL): An internet address that is used by the browser to look up the IP address of the server and the server’s name so that it can talk to that server and retrieve the page’s HTML

Packet: A small chunk of information that has been carefully formed from larger chunks of information in order to more efficiently communicate over a network. If not encrypted, they are vulnerable to capture. They might be distributed over multiple routers according to which is currently available.

Router: A machine that captures and sends on data packets. Most internet communications require many routers along the way.

Switch: A smart hub/router that connects network segments, thereby routing packets more efficiently

Modem: A router used on a small scale, as between private homes or small networks

Bandwidth: The maximum rate of data transfer across a given path

Cyber security: Practices that mitigate internet exploits, including Web development and application development practices

Computer vulnerability: A mistake or oversight in computer code that exposes the program to attack

Computer exploit: An attack on a local computer or many local computers that either damages it or allows the attacker to make use of it in any way without permission. The three most common types are exploitation of browser vulnerabilities, exploitation of email application vulnerabilities, and social engineering exploits.

Firewall: A network device used to prevent unauthorized incoming traffic. It is usually located between a private network and a link to the internet.

Social engineering: Gaining compromising information by exploiting human vulnerabilities, such as tricking people into sharing sensitive information

Encryption: The process of converting plaintext or readable data into an encoded form called ciphertext, which is not easily understandable without the decryption key. It is a security technique used to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or interception, ensuring confidentiality and data integrity.

Cryptography: The process of encrypting plain text messages that are then sent and unencrypted on the receiving end with the use of a text key

Piracy: The illegal copying, distribution, or use of software

Direct memory access: Writing directly to RAM without going through the hard drive, as when a network file system is doing a transfer, over the internet

Active directory: A directory service that contains a database that stores security info about objects in a domain, inc users, computers, security IDs, etc.

Hacking: Using a computer to gain unauthorized access to data. The term is also sometimes used for creative problem-solving in coding.

Black hat hacking: The unauthorized and malicious activities carried out by individuals or groups with the intent to exploit computer systems, networks, or software for personal gain, disruption, or other harmful purposes

White hat hacking: Ethical hacking or penetration testing, involves authorized and legal activities performed by cybersecurity professionals to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computer systems, networks, or applications

School in a Book: Social, Emotional and Life Management Skills

You probably already have most of the skills on this list, at least to some degree. Treat this checklist, then, as a gentle reminder not to pass by the couple of things you haven’t quite nailed yet.

Note that this list does not include skills mentioned in other sections of this book or those generally possessed by people under the age of six, such as memorizing one’s address and phone number. My attempts at comprehensiveness, though well-meaning, are usually futile.


  • Managing time and tasks, including: creating short-term and long-term to-do lists; time-on-task estimating; padding time-on-task estimations; and breaking large projects into small steps
  • Keeping ongoing to-do lists and short-term goals lists, with steps to achieve those goals
  • Listing and working towards long-term life goals, dreams and plans
  • Managing money, including: budgeting, calculating interest, avoiding debt, calculating the highest affordable mortgage payment, saving for retirement, investing in the stock market, filing taxes and organizing financial records
  • Cleaning the home, including: washing laundry; washing dishes; dusting; cleaning the bathroom and more
  • Performing simple household maintenance tasks, including: changing lightbulbs; testing and changing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; cleaning the roof and gutters; mowing the lawn; maintaining a yard; fixing leaky faucets and unclogging the toilet
  • Cooking and baking, including: two soups or stews; two stir-fry sauces; muffins; cakes; roasted chicken; and grilled steak
  • Organizing one’s living space
  • Learning basic self-defense techniques
  • Maintaining a car, including changing the oil, checking tire pressure, checking fluid levels and scheduling regular tire changes and other maintenance
  • Applying basic first aid skills, including CPR
  • Caring for children
  • Using public transportation
  • Sewing
  • Writing formal letters and emails
  • Typing
  • Memorizing emergency procedures in various settings, including knowledge of using a fire extinguisher
  • Maintaining good hygiene, nutrition and exercise habits
  • Preventing disease, including STDs
  • Using responsible and healthy sexual practices
  • Visiting doctors and dentists regularly
  • Purchasing a house
  • Holding family meetings
  • Maintaining safe and secure Internet practices, including an understanding of online source verification
  • Choosing and purchasing insurance for home, health and car
  • Gardening
  • Recycling, reusing and caring for the environment
  • Using the Microsoft Office suite and other important computer programs
  • Interviewing for jobs and job shadowing
  • Knowing federal and local laws
  • Driving a car
  • Avoiding addiction and understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Registering to vote and choosing who and what to vote for
  • Doing community service work
  • Planning and budgeting for trips
  • Planning and hosting parties
  • Traveling locally and globally, if possible
  • Using basic tools, including: hammers, screwdrivers, power drills, hand-held sanders, knives, pliers, wedges and wrenches
  • Doing home improvement projects: painting, building simple furniture items, installing hardware and more
  • Building a fire
  • Using a directional compass
  • Making a water filter with sand, rocks, clay and charcoal
  • Listening to educational podcasts and audiobooks
  • Memorizing important poems and passages
  • Writing longhand letters to friends
  • Making a family tree
  • Starting a small business
  • Holding a garage sale

How to register to vote: In the U.S., legal residents over the age of 18 can vote. Register online, at a state or local election office or at the department of motor vehicles. Update your voter registration if you change addresses.

Other ways to get involved in politics: Serving as a poll worker, donating to candidates, running for local office, joining a citizen advisory board, creating a petition, writing about and discussing your issue or candidate of choice. Note that it is more effective to send letters to state officials than to DC. Calling is more effective than writing letters, and in-person visits are best of all.


  • Making friends
  • Cultivating healthy relationships
  • Communicating effectively, including: listening actively; restating the other person’s message; and calmly resolving conflict
  • Avoiding and de-escalating conflict
  • Using good eye contact
  • Using good manners
  • Shaking hands firmly
  • Projecting vocally when appropriate
  • Saying “no” without further explanation
  • Enforcing healthy boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others
  • Asking questions
  • Talking to strangers
  • Making casual conversation/small talk
  • Crafting a convincing and logical argument
  • Speaking in public
  • Telling a joke
  • Forgiving and apologizing first
  • Accepting and learning from other cultures, family types and gender identities
  • Responding to anger or unkindness without defensiveness, but instead with simple statements of fact (such as “I don’t agree” or “That’s interesting,”) questions (such as “Why did you do that?”) or kindnesses (such as, “Are you okay?”)
  • Using simple consequences instead of physical force or emotional abuse (for example, “If you do that, I am not going to play with you right now,” or, “If you are rough with my toys, I will take them away”)


  • Spending time alone
  • Engaging in long-term projects and hobbies
  • Labeling emotions
  • Separating fact from emotion
  • Using self-calming strategies like deep breathing
  • Doing self-guided cognitive therapy/reframing (writing down upsetting irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones)
  • Journaling about difficult memories and moments, then rewriting the story in a way that is healthy, helpful and self-compassionate
  • Maintaining healthy exercise and nutrition habits
  • Maintaining spiritual/grounding practices such as meditation (observing one’s own mind with nonjudgmental acceptance) and mindfulness (observing the present moment with nonjudgmental acceptance)


  • Love
  • Generosity
  • Healthy attachment
  • Respect for differences
  • Confidence
  • Dignity
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Morality
  • Loyalty/commitment
  • Hope, optimism and positivity
  • Personal responsibility
  • Willingness to work hard
  • Acceptance of hardship
  • Toughness and survivalism
  • Independence
  • Creativity/imagination
  • A sense of personal identity/uniqueness
  • Purpose
  • Cultivation of one’s best self

School in a Book: Educational Games and Other Recreational Activities

Ideas for enjoyable, educational activities aren’t hard to find. The trick is to remember them when the time comes. Here is a list to draw from on those quiet days when you want to spend time with friends or family while also furthering your knowledge base.


Educational Games

  • Scrabble
  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Go
  • Mah jong
  • Monopoly
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Dominos
  • Card games
  • Charades
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Logic grid puzzles
  • Mazes
  • Map puzzles
  • Complex strategy board games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic or Settlers of Cattan
  • Billiards/pool

Other Educational Recreational Activities

  • Show and tell
  • Talent shows
  • Art museums and galleries
  • Zoos
  • Aquariums
  • Science museums
  • History museums
  • Planetariums
  • Concerts
  • Theater plays
  • Sporting events
  • Educational and recreational clubs (scouting clubs, book clubs, science clubs, gaming clubs and more)
  • Travel, especially to historical locations

Additional Recommendations: Homemade Educational Games

If you want to make learning the material in this book more enjoyable–and a bit easier–consider trying one or two of the following self-made learning games. Homeschooling families might find them especially useful, as multiple players can reinforce concepts simultaneously.


Number of Players: Any

What You Need: One printed copy of one of the sections of this book per player, paper and writing instruments

How to Play: First, players review their fact lists for several minutes. Then they set the lists aside and start a timer for five to ten minutes. During the timed session, players list as many terms as they can remember, along with their definitions. The winner is the one who writes the most correct terms and accompanying definitions.


Number of Players: Three or more

What You Need: One printed copy of one of the sections of this book per player, paper and writing instruments

How to Play: First, players each create a 5×5 grid on their paper. Then, they fill in each box with one of the terms from their chosen fact list. One player volunteers to serve as the first caller and reads the definitions of the terms from the list in random order. The other players must guess the right term, then block it off their BINGO card if they have it. The first person to have five correctly named terms in a row is the winner. Players can take turns serving as the caller.


Number of Players: Two or more

What You Need: One printed copy of one of the sections of this book per player, paper and writing instruments

How to Play: First, one player (or team) chooses five terms from the chosen fact list. Then, they start a timer and the other player (or team) attempts to guess the terms one by one by using yes or no questions only. Only five terms may be named while questioning. For example, a player can ask, “Is it an object?” any number of times, but “Is it [term from the fact list]?” only five times total. After the team uses all five of their guesses, the timer is stopped. That team’s correct number of guesses and the time spent finding them are noted, and the teams switch roles and play again. The winning player or team is the one that identified the most of the five terms, with the time taken to do so as the tie breaker.


What You Need: One printed copy of one of the sections of this book, grid paper with large boxes and a pencil

How to Play: First, determine which of the terms on the chosen fact list are hardest for you to remember. Starting with those terms, create a simple crossword puzzle on the grid paper. This can work with just five or six terms, or you can make a more complicated version. Number each term as is standard for crossword puzzles and list the corresponding numbered clues next to the puzzle. The clues, in this case, will be the definition of the term. Create multiple puzzles and print out multiple copies of each and fill out the puzzles later on. (Note that crosswords using foreign-language vocabulary words can be easiest to create, since the native-language word can be used as the clue.)


What You Need: Paper, markers and a list of important dates

How to Play: First, determine which key historical dates you most want to remember. The historical timeline provided in this book might be a good place to find these. Draw a straight line down the middle of each piece of paper and divide the line into equal segments. Write the date increments on each segment, then write the corresponding events. Hang it on a wall for easy reference. Later, create a second version that only lists the dates and try to fill in the corresponding events by memory.


What You Need: A high-quality map of the world, or of a country or continent; scissors; cardboard

How to Play: Cut a map into puzzle-like pieces (for best results, use simple angular shapes). Reinforce the back of each piece with cardboard, then put the puzzle together repeatedly until you are able to do so quickly.


What You Need: A high-quality picture of an important world landmark, body system, or other visual aide to learning; paper; a marker

How to Play: Place a piece of paper over the chosen picture. Outline the picture with dots in the proper places. Number the dots as you go. Then try to redraw the picture by connecting the dots.


What You Need: Coloring sheets that depict educational visual aides like planets, the parts of a plant, the parts of a cell, human body systems, maps and much more; crayons, markers or colored pencils

How to Play: Color and label the educational coloring sheet, taking time to appreciate its details. Hang them on a wall to jog your memory.

Additional Recommendations: Pretend Play Scenario Ideas

  • Camping
  • Store (toy store, grocery store, pet store, etc.)
  • Restaurant
  • Post Office
  • Theater/play/music performance
  • Art gallery
  • Zoo
  • Animal hunt
  • Fort building
  • Pet hotel
  • Tea party
  • Hospital
  • Cops and robbers
  • Superheroes
  • Pilots
  • Vet clinic
  • Lions and deer
  • Monsters and townspeople
  • Alligators and swimmers
  • Hot lava
  • Obstacle course
  • Firefighters
  • Race cars
  • Submarine
  • Astronauts
  • Royal family
  • Library
  • Aliens
  • Movie and TV show characters
  • Much more

School in a Book: Geography

There are many ways to reliably embarrass yourself in life. One of them is to reveal your lack of knowledge of the whereabouts of continents, oceans, nations and cities. Of course, one of the easiest ways to commit locations to memory is to visit them, even briefly, so you can associate unique sights and other sensory experiences (even emotion) to a point on a map.


Latitude lines/parallels: Imaginary lines running horizontally around the globe. They are measured in degrees, with the equator at 0° latitude, the north pole at 90° north and the south pole at 90° south.

Longitude lines/meridians: Imaginary lines running vertically around the globe. These meet at both poles. They are measured in degrees, with the prime meridian at 0° longitude (at Earth’s axis), and the farthest extensions at 180° east and 180° west.

Geographic coordinates: The two-number combination that gives a location’s latitude and longitude

Hemisphere: One half of the Earth’s surface, as divided by either the equator or by the Prime Meridian. There are four of these: the Northern and Southern hemispheres, divided by the equator (0° latitude); and the Eastern and Western hemispheres, divided by the prime meridian (0° longitude) and the International Date Line (180°).

Equator: The imaginary line around the center of the earth that we measure as zero degrees latitude. The Sun is directly overhead it at noon on the two equinoxes (March and Sept. 20 or 21). It divides the globe into the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and it appears halfway between the North and South poles, at the widest circumference of the globe. It is 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 km) long.

Prime Meridian: The imaginary line down the center of the earth that we measure as zero degrees longitude (0°). It runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich, England and divides the globe into the Western and Eastern hemispheres. The Earth’s time zones are measured from it.

International Date Line: The imaginary line located at approximately 180° longitude that, by convention, marks the end of one calendar day and the beginning of the next. It bends around countries to avoid date- and time-related confusion.

Tropic of Cancer: The imaginary line located at 23°30′ north of the equator. The sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer on the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere around June 21. It marks the northernmost point of the tropics, which falls between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Tropic of Capricorn: The imaginary line located at 23°30′ south. The Sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn on the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere around December 21. It marks the southernmost point of the tropics.

Arctic Circle: A line of latitude located at 66°30′ north, delineating the Northern Frigid Zone of the Earth.

Antarctic Circle: A line of latitude located at 66°30′ south, delineating the Southern Frigid Zone of the Earth.

Map projections: Distorted representations of the relative locations on Earth that allow for two-dimensional map making.

Mercator projection: The most famous map projection, which shows the far northern and southern areas of Earth as much larger than they are

Pangea: The most recent single, unified supercontinent to have preceded the current continental forms on the earth

The six main types of landforms: Mountains, hills, valleys, plateaus, plains, deserts. Islands, peninsulas, canyons, and deltas are also sometimes considered separate types of landforms, and there are many variations of all of these.

The seven continents: In order of size: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australasia/Oceania. Note that some people consider Asia and Europe as one continent that they refer to as Eurasia. Also note that the Middle East is considered part of Asia and is sometimes referred to as Asia Minor.

The five oceans: The Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Southern, and Arctic oceans

The Mediterranean Sea: The large body of water that lies between Europe, Africa and Asia and is mostly enclosed by land

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers: The river system that borders Mesopotamia and is surrounded by the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East

The Fertile Crescent: The part of the Middle East that surrounds the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and is the birthplace of farming and civilization

The Caspian Sea: The world’s largest inland body of water, located between Europe and Asia, with historical trading and political significance

The Nile River: The deep, gentle river in Africa that connects with the Mediterranean Sea. It is known for its predictable patterns and surrounding deserts. Its independent biosphere causes predictable flood patterns so that early civilizations did not need irrigation systems.

The Yellow River: The river in China on which Chinese civilization first sprang up

The Yangtze River: The longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world to flow entirely within one country

The Gulf of Mexico: A basin of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by Mexico and the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

The Missouri River: The longest river in North America and a tributary of the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River: The second-longest river in North America

The Great Lakes: A collection of lakes on the border of the U.S. and Canada that include: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Ontario

Mount Everest: The highest mountain in the world, which is located on the borders of Nepal and Tibet

K2: The second-highest mountain in the world, which is located on the borders of Pakistan and China

Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest mountain in Africa

Mount Denali: The highest mountain in North America and the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley

The Andes: The longest continental mountain range in the world, located along the western edge of South America

The Alps: The highest mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe

The Ural Mountains: The mountain range that lies along the western border of Russia that is the natural boundary between Europe and Asia

The Rocky Mountains: The largest mountain range in North America, which lies north to south in the western part of the U.S.

The Appalachian Mountains: The second largest mountain range that lies entirely in North America, which lies north to south in the eastern part of the U.S.

The Gobi Desert: A large desert located in Mongolia and China

The Mojave Desert: A large desert located in the southwestern United States

The Antarctic Desert: The snow and ice desert that makes up the continent of Antarctica and that is considered the largest desert in the world

The Arctic: The region located on and around the North Pole, including the Arctic Ocean and several nearby countries

The Arabian Desert: A large desert located in the Middle East

The Sahara Desert: The desert located in northern Africa that expands and contracts regularly. In prehistoric times, it shrank enough to allow humans to migrate out of Africa. In ancient times, it became increasingly dry, preventing communication between Northern and Southern Africans. Egyptians in the North had much more contact with Middle Easterners and Europeans than they did with Africans south of the Sahara.

Sub-saharan Africa: The area of Africa located south of the Sahara Desert which, during its early history, evolved separately and cut off from northern Africa and Eurasia

The Horn of Africa: The easternmost part of the African mainland

The Gold Coast: The region on the coast of West Africa that includes modern-day Ghana, parts of Togo and parts of the Ivory Coast that got this name during colonial times due to their gold supplies

Oceania: The area of the world that encompasses Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean

Polynesia: The islands of the central and southern Pacific, including Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands and more

Melanesia: The islands of the western Pacific, including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia

Micronesia: The islands of the western Pacific, including the Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia

The United Kingdom: The country that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Great Britain: The landmass that includes England, Scotland, and Wales, but not Northern Ireland

England: The largest and most populous country within the United Kingdom, with London as its capital

Ireland: The separate country on the island of Ireland that is not part of the United Kingdom

The five climate zones of Earth: Arctic and antarctic (in the far north and south); north temperate and south temperate; and tropical (the middle of Earth on both sides of the equator)

The four U.S. mainland time zones: Pacific Time (PT: UTC-8); Mountain Time (MT: UTC-7); Central Time (CT: UTC-6); and Eastern Time (ET: UTC-5). Other time zones are used in Alaska, Hawaii and elsewhere. During daylight saving time, some of these time zones shift one hour. When daylight savings time is not being observed, “standard” is added, so that PT, MT, CT and ET become PST, MST, CST and EST. When daylight savings time is being observed, the same abbreviations become PDT, MDT, CDT and EDT.

The five regions of the U.S.: The West Coast/West, the Southwest, the Midwest, the Southeast and the East Coast/Northeast

The current number of countries in the world: Almost 200

The current population of the world: Approximately eight billion

The largest country in the world by area: Russian Federation

The smallest country in the world by area and population: Vatican City

The country with the highest life expectancy in the world: Japan

The country with the highest gross national product (GNP) in the world: The United States

The three most populous nations in the world: China, India and the United States

The five most populous cities in the world: Tokyo, Japan; Delhi, India; Shanghai, China; São Paulo, Brazil; and Mumbai, India. New York, U.S.; Seoul, South Korea; and Mexico City, Mexico are close to the top of the list.

Capital of Alabama: Montgomery

Capital of Alaska: Juneau

Capital of Arizona: Phoenix

Capital of Arkansas: Little Rock

Capital of California: Sacramento

Capital of Colorado: Denver

Capital of Connecticut: Hartford

Capital of Delaware: Dover

Capital of Florida: Tallahassee

Capital of Georgia: Atlanta

Capital of Hawaii: Honolulu

Capital of Idaho: Boise

Capital of Illinois: Springfield

Capital of Indiana: Indianapolis

Capital of Iowa: Des Moines

Capital of Kansas: Topeka

Capital of Kentucky: Frankfort

Capital of Louisiana: Baton Rouge

Capital of Maine: Augusta

Capital of Maryland: Annapolis

Capital of Massachusetts: Boston

Capital of Michigan: Lansing

Capital of Minnesota: St. Paul

Capital of Mississippi: Jackson

Capital of Missouri: Jefferson City

Capital of Montana: Helena

Capital of Nebraska: Lincoln

Capital of Nevada: Carson City

Capital of New Hampshire: Concord

Capital of New Jersey: Trenton

Capital of New Mexico: Santa Fe

Capital of New York: Albany

Capital of North Carolina: Raleigh

Capital of North Dakota: Bismarck

Capital of Ohio: Columbus

Capital of Oklahoma: Oklahoma City

Capital of Oregon: Salem

Capital of Pennsylvania: Harrisburg

Capital of Rhode Island: Providence

Capital of South Carolina: Columbia

Capital of South Dakota: Pierre

Capital of Tennessee: Nashville

Capital of Texas: Austin

Capital of Utah: Salt Lake City

Capital of Vermont: Montpelier

Capital of Virginia: Richmond

Capital of Washington: Olympia

Capital of West Virginia: Charleston

Capital of Wisconsin: Madison

Capital of Wyoming: Cheyenne

Capital of the United States: Washington D.C.

Capital of Canada: Ottawa

Capital of Mexico: Mexico City

Capital of Russia: Moscow

Capital of Australia: Canberra

Capital of South Africa: Cape Town

Capital of Egypt: Cairo

Capital of Uganda: Kampala

Capital of Kenya: Nairobi

Capital of United Kingdom: London

Capital of Spain: Madrid

Capital of France: Paris

Capital of Italy: Rome

Capital of Germany: Berlin

Capital of Northern Ireland: Belfast

Capital of Denmark: Copenhagen

Capital of Ireland: Dublin

Capital of Scotland: Edinburgh

Capital of Finland: Helsinki

Capital of Norway: Oslo

Capital of Sweden: Stockholm

Capital of the Netherlands: Amsterdam

Capital of Austria: Vienna

Capital of Greece: Athens

Capital of Poland: Warsaw

Capital of Turkey: Ankara

Capital of Czech Republic: Prague

Capital of Serbia: Belgrade

Capital of Slovakia: Bratislava

Capital of Romania: Bucharest

Capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Sarajevo

Capital of Hungary: Budapest

Capital of Iraq: Baghdad

Capital of Palestine: Jerusalem

Capital of Afghanistan: Kabul

Capital of Peru: Lima

Capital of Chile: Santiago

Capital of Colombia: Bogota

Capital of Argentina: Buenos Aires

Capital of Venezuela: Caracas

Capital of Guatemala: Guatemala City

Capital of Panama: Panama City

Capital of China: Beijing

Capital of Japan: Tokyo

Capital of India: New Delhi

Capital of South Korea: Seoul

Capital of Taiwan: Taipei

Capital of Thailand: Bangkok

Capital of Philippines: Manila

Capital of Singapore: Singapore

Capital of Indonesia: Jakarta

Capital of Vietnam: Hanoi

Capital of Nepal: Kathmandu

Capital of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

Capital of Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar

State in which Chicago is located: Illinois

State in which Boston is located: Massachusetts

State in which Philadelphia is located: Pennsylvania

State in which New York is located: New York

State in which San Francisco is located: California

State in which Los Angeles is located: California

Country in which Toronto is located: Canada

Country in which Montreal is located: Canada

Country in which Vancouver is located: Canada

Country in which Sydney is located: Australia

Country in which Melbourne is located: Australia

Country in which Auckland is located: New Zealand

Country in which Berlin is located: Germany

Country in which Brussels is located: Belgium

Country in which Amsterdam is located: Netherlands

Country in which Zurich is located: Switzerland

Country in which Copenhagen is located: Denmark

Country in which Milan is located: Italy

Country in which Manchester is located: United Kingdom (UK)

Country in which Vienna is located: Austria

Country in which Warsaw is located: Poland

Country in which Barcelona is located: Spain

Country in which Lisbon is located: Portugal

Country in which Johannesburg is located: South Africa

Country in which Mogadishu is located: Somalia

Country in which Sao Paulo is located: Brazil

Country in which Rio de Janeiro is located: Brazil

Country in which St. Petersburg is located: Russia

Country in which Prague is located: Czech Republic

Country in which Minsk is located: Belarus

Country in which Istanbul is located: Turkey

Country in which Tel Aviv is located: Israel

Country in which Dubai is located: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Country in which Abu Dhabi is located: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Country in which Shanghai is located: China

Country in which Hong Kong is located: China

Country in which Singapore is located: Singapore

Country in which Ho Chi Minh City is located: Vietnam

Country in which Phnom Penh is located: Cambodia

Country in which Jakarta is located: Indonesia

Country in which Bangkok is located: Thailand

Abbreviation of Alabama: AL

Abbreviation of Alaska: AK

Abbreviation of Arizona: AZ

Abbreviation of Arkansas: AR

Abbreviation of California: CA

Abbreviation of Colorado: CO

Abbreviation of Connecticut: CT

Abbreviation of Delaware: DE

Abbreviation of Florida: FL

Abbreviation of Georgia: GA

Abbreviation of Hawaii: HI

Abbreviation of Idaho: ID

Abbreviation of Illinois: IL

Abbreviation of Indiana: IN

Abbreviation of Iowa: IA

Abbreviation of Kansas: KS

Abbreviation of Kentucky: KY

Abbreviation of Louisiana: LA

Abbreviation of Maine: ME

Abbreviation of Maryland: MD

Abbreviation of Massachusetts: MA

Abbreviation of Michigan: MI

Abbreviation of Minnesota: MN

Abbreviation of Mississippi: MS

Abbreviation of Missouri: MO

Abbreviation of Montana: MT

Abbreviation of Nebraska: NE

Abbreviation of Nevada: NV

Abbreviation of New Hampshire: NH

Abbreviation of New Jersey: NJ

Abbreviation of New Mexico: NM

Abbreviation of New York: NY

Abbreviation of North Carolina: NC

Abbreviation of North Dakota: ND

Abbreviation of Ohio: OH

Abbreviation of Oklahoma: OK

Abbreviation of Oregon: OR

Abbreviation of Pennsylvania: PA

Abbreviation of Rhode Island: RI

Abbreviation of South Carolina: SC

Abbreviation of South Dakota: SD

Abbreviation of Tennessee: TN

Abbreviation of Texas: TX

Abbreviation of Utah: UT

Abbreviation of Vermont: VT

Abbreviation of Virginia: VA

Abbreviation of Washington: WA

Abbreviation of West Virginia: WV

Abbreviation of Wisconsin: WI

Abbreviation of Wyoming: WY

School in a Book: Art and Craft Skills

Like freedom and fun, creativity is an inborn need. If you haven’t discovered this need in yourself, it’s possible you haven’t yet found your medium. It’s also possible that this checklist of art and craft skills will pique your interest.


  • Drawing: chalk, charcoal, crayon, marker, oil pastels, pen, pencil
  • Painting (with acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor on canvas, glass, fabric, human body, plaster, wood, walls with brushes, sponges, hands, stencils and more; this includes murals)
  • Sculpture: wood, wax, stone, metal, clay and mixed media
  • Performance art: Dance, theater, music
  • Collage, fresco and mosaic
  • Conceptual and installation art
  • Multimedia art, including recycled material art


  • Architecture
  • Carpentry/woodworking
  • Building (go-karts, playground structures, garden trellises, etc.)
  • Ceramics/pottery
  • Film making
  • Culinary art
  • Glass blowing
  • Lighting design
  • Landscape architecture
  • Graphic narratives/Comics/Cartooning
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Fashion design
  • Model making
  • Collecting
  • Scrapbooking
  • Textile arts: Crocheting, sewing, knitting, macrame, weaving and more
  • Graphic design/electronic art (creating brochures, magazines, etc.)
  • Website creation
  • Digital printing
  • Video game creation

Easy Crafts for Children

  • Clay/Play-Doh modeling
  • Braiding and weaving
  • Making wrapping paper
  • Beading
  • Making bean-filled heat packs to heat in the microwave
  • Making greeting cards
  • Making bound books
  • Making Christmas ornaments
  • Weaving paper baskets
  • Making masks
  • Making paper chains
  • Making edible necklaces and Christmas strings with popcorn or apples
  • Making mobiles
  • Making hand and finger puppets
  • Making miniature villages or people from various materials
  • Plastic bag painting (putting paint and small objects in a plastic baggie and shaking)
  • Coloring
  • Stamping
  • Making leaf and hand prints and rubbings
  • Gluing and taping with recycled materials
  • Hole punching and tying string
  • Making egg carton treasure boxes
  • Making stick and popsicle stick art, such as a flower pots or a birdhouse

School in a Book: Classic Songs and Musical Artists

You know how out of the blue one day you hear a song you used to love and you think, I can’t forget this again. I have to write it down. You start to wonder how many other great songs you’ve let slip from memory. Then you have kids, and you start actively seeking them out so you can pass them on. This list is a good jumping-off point for that process.

It’s highly unlikely that all your favorite songs are listed here. But there are a lot of great ones, and many that you’ll hear here and there throughout your life. Listen to them at the YouTube links provided, absorbing the style of each artist and thinking critically about what you like, what you don’t like, and why. No need to memorize song titles, but a working recall of most of these artists will help you immensely in your many enjoyable music-related conversations to come.

This list is a work in progress; check back for updates.


Classical Compositions

  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565, Johann Sebastian Bach (1600s)
  • Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto No 3, Johann Sebastian Bach (1600s)
  • Air from Orchestral Suite No 3, Johann Sebastian Bach (1600s)
  • Vivace from Double Violin Concerto, Johann Sebastian Bach (1600s)
  • Ave Maria, Johann Sebastian Bach and Charles Gounod (1600s)
  • The Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah, George Frideric Handel (1600s)
  • Canon, Johann Pachelbel (1600s)
  • Moonlight Sonata, Ludwig van Beethoven (1700s)
  • Fur Elise, Ludwig van Beethoven (1700s)
  • Adagio Sostenuto from Moonlight Sonata, Ludwig van Beethoven (1700s)
  • Ode to Joy from Symphony No 9, Ludwig van Beethoven (1700s)
  • Allegro Con Brio from Symphony No 5, Ludwig van Beethoven (1700s)
  • Overture from The Magic Flute, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Reminiscences de Don Juan from Don Giovanni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Overture from The Marriage of Figaro, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Adante from Piano Concerto No 21, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Rondo Alla Turca from Piano Concerto No 11, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Lacrimosa from Requiem Mass, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1700s)
  • Spring: Allegro from The Four Seasons, Vivaldi (1700s)
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1800s)
  • Marche from The Nutcracker, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1800s)
  • Opera 20 Act 2 No 10 Scene (Moderato) from Swan Lake, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1800s)
  • Opera 20 Act 1 No 2 Valse (Corps de Ballet) from Swan Lake, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1800s)
  • The 1812 Overture, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1800s)
  • Tutto nel Mundo from Falstaff, Giuseppe Verdi (1800s)
  • Overture from The Barber of Seville, Gioachino Rossini (1800s)
  • Hungarian Dance No 5, Johannes Brahms (1800s)
  • Spring Waltz, Frederic Chopin (1800s)
  • Nocturne No 2, Frederic Chopin (1800s)
  • Clair de Lune, Claude Debussy (1800s)
  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95/the “From the New World” Symphony from New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak (1800s)
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt Suite, Edvard Grieg (1800s)
  • Morning (Hovis Advert) from Peer Gynt Suite, Edvard Grieg (1800s)
  • Anitra’s Dance from Peer Gynt Suite, Edvard Grieg (1800s)
  • Hebrides Overture, Mendelssohn (1800s)
  • Ave Maria, Franz Schubert (1800s)
  • The Beautiful Blue Danube, Johann Strauss (1800s)
  • Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Giuseppe Verdi (1800s)
  • The Ride of the Valkyries, Richard Wagner (1800s)
  • Wedding Chorus from Lohengrin, Richard Wagner (1800s)
  • Prelude from Carmen, Georges Bizet (1800s)
  • Habanera from Carmen, Georges Bizet (1800s)
  • Radetzky March, Johann Strauss (1800s)
  • Meditation from Thais, Massanet (1800s)
  • Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), Mendelssohn (1800s)
  • Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, Sir Edward Elgar (1800s and 1900s)
  • Che Gelida Manina from La Boeme, Giacomo Puccini (1800s and 1900s)
  • Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini (1800s and 1900s)
  • Dance of the Adolescents from The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky (1900s)
  • O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, Carl Orff (1900s)
  • Peter and the Wolf, Sergei Prokofiev (1900s)
  • Glassworks, Philip Glass (1900s)
  • Interstellar, Hans Zimmer (1900s)
  • Time, Hans Zimmer (1900s)
  • Star Wars Theme, John Williams (1900s)
  • The Metamorphosis, Philip Glass (1900s)

Folk Songs and Spirituals

  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • America, the Beautiful
  • America (My Country Tis Of Thee)
  • God Bless America
  • You’re a Grand Old Flag
  • The U.S. Air Force Song (Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder)
  • The Marine’s Hymn
  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Glory Glory Hallelujah)
  • When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Amazing Grace
  • How Great Thou Art
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • Kumbaya
  • He’s Got the Whole World
  • Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus
  • This Little Light of Mine
  • I’ve Got Peace Like a River
  • Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Happy Birthday to You
  • Oh, Susanna
  • Coconut
  • Banana Boat Song (Day-O)
  • Home on the Range
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Someone’s In the Kitchen With Dinah
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad
  • Alouette
  • Clementine
  • On Top of Old Smokey
  • Yankee Doodle
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

Christmas Carols

  • The First Noel
  • Joy to the World
  • Silent Night
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Three Kings
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • Away in a Manger
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Deck the Halls
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • O Holy Night
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • O Christmas Tree
  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • What Child Is This?
  • White Christmas
  • Holly, Jolly Christmas
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • What Child Is This
  • Ave Maria
  • Winter Wonderland
  • The Little Drummer Boy
  • Here Comes Santa Claus
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Let It Snow
  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty, the Snowman
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Children’s Songs and Rhymes

  • The Alphabet Song
  • Rock-a-Bye Baby
  • Ba Ba Black Sheep
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • Skidamarink
  • Skip to My Lou
  • Knees Up Mother Brown
  • Down by the Bay
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Frere Jacques
  • Lollipop, Lollipop
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Skip to My Lou
  • The More We Get Together
  • This Old Man
  • The Ants Go Marching One By One
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Old McDonald
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Nick Nack Paddywack
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush
  • London Bridge Is Falling Down
  • She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
  • Little Bo Peep
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence
  • A Tisket a Tasket
  • Little Boy Blue
  • Old King Cole
  • Little Miss Muffet
  • The Muffin Man
  • Over the River and Through the Wood
  • The Farmer In the Dell
  • Baby Bumble Bee
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • Are You Sleeping, Brother John?
  • Five Little Ducks
  • There’s a Hole in the Bucket
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • I’m a Little Teapot
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • You’ll Sing a Song
  • Down By the Riverside
  • Lavender’s Blue
  • Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
  • How Much Is That Doggy In the Window
  • The Green Grass Grew All Around
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

Songs from Musicals

  • Tomorrow (Annie)
  • Maybe (Annie)
  • Hard Knock Life (Annie)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz)
  • When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio)
  • Footloose (Footloose)
  • You’re the One That I Want (Grease)
  • Summer Days (Grease)
  • I Could Have Danced All Night (My Fair Lady)
  • Sunrise, Sunset (Fiddler on the Roof)
  • Tradition (Fiddler on the Roof)
  • Oklahoma! (Oklahoma!)
  • Oh What a Beautiful Morning (Oklahoma!)
  • I Feel Pretty (West Side Story)
  • Da-Doo (Little Shop of Horrors)
  • Skid Row (Little Shop of Horrors)
  • Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast)
  • This Provincial Life (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Kiss the Girl (The Little Mermaid)
  • Spoonful of Sugar (The Sound of Music)
  • Edelweiss (The Sound of Music)
  • Sixteen Going on Seventeen (The Sound of Music)
  • My Favorite Things (The Sound of Music)
  • Do-Re-Mi (The Sound of Music)
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (The Sound of Music)
  • Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  • Bali Ha’i (South Pacific)
  • I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair (South Pacific)
  • Sisters (White Christmas)
  • Anything You Can Do (Annie Get Your Gun)
  • Sit Down, You’re Rocking’ the Boat (Guys and Dolls)
  • Singing in the Rain (Singing in the Rain)

Popular Artists

1920s, 30s and 40s

  • Billie Holiday (Blue Moon; God Bless the Child)
  • Doris Day (Dream a Little Dream of Me; Que Sera Sera; Perhaps, Perhaps)
  • Frank Sinatra (My Way; Fly Me to the Moon; New York, New York; That’s Life; I’ve Got the World on a String)
  • Bing Crosby (Swingin’ on a Star; Let Me Call You Sweetheart)
  • Sammy Davis Jr. (I’ve Gotta Be Me; Candy Man)

1950s and 60s

  • Elvis Presley (Can’t Help Falling in Love; Love Me Tender; Blue Suede Shoes; Hound Dog; Jailhouse Rock; Don’t Be Cruel; All Shook Up)
  • Otis Redding (I’ve Been Loving You too Long [to Stop Now]; [Sittin’ on] the Dock of the Bay; Try a Little Tenderness; I’ve Got Dreams to Remember)
  • Bill Withers (Just the Two of Us; Lean on Me; Ain’t No Sunshine)
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Nina Simone (I Ain’t Got No/I Got Life; Sinnerman; I Put a Spell on You)
  • Etta James (At Last; Something’s Got a Hold on Me)
  • B.B. King (The Thrill Is Gone; Every Day I Have the Blues)
  • Louis Armstrong (What a Wonderful World; Cheek to Cheek; Unforgettable)
  • Miles Davis (Blue in Green; So What)
  • John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, Parts 1-4; Naima)
  • Duke Ellington (It Don’t Mean a Thing [If It Ain’t Got That Swing])
  • Muddy Waters (Mannish Boy)
  • Sam Cooke (A Change Is Gonna Come; What A Wonderful World/Don’t Know Much About History)
  • John Lee Hooker (Boom Boom)
  • Chuck Berry (Johnny B. Goode; No Particular Place to Go; Maybelline; Roll Over Beethoven; Sweet Little Sixteen; You Never Can Tell)
  • Bobby Darin (Dream Lover)
  • Buddy Holly (Everyday; That’ll Be the Day; Peggy Sue)
  • Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (Why Do Fools Fall in Love)
  • Frankie Valli (Big Girls Don’t Cry; Walk Like a Man; Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)
  • Jackie Wilson (Lonely Teardrops; [Your Love Keeps Lifting Me] Higher and Higher)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis (Great Balls of Fire; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On)
  • Patsy Cline (I Fall to Pieces; Walkin’ After Midnight; Crazy)
  • The Drifters (Under the Boardwalk; Save the Last Dance for Me)
  • The Everly Brothers (All I Have to Do Is Dream; Bye Bye Love; Wake Up Little Susie)
  • Four Tops (Reach Out [I’ll Be There]; I Can’t Help Myself [Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch]; Baby I Need Your Loving; Walk Away Renee)
  • The Isley Brothers (Shout, Parts 1 and 2; This Old Heart of Mine [Is Weak for You])
  • The Righteous Brothers (Unchained Melody; You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’)
  • The Ronettes (Be My Baby)
  • Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill)
  • The Shirelles (Mama Said; Will You Love Me Tomorrow)
  • The Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin’)
  • The Staple Singers (I’ll Take You There; Respect Yourself; Let’s Do It Again)
  • The Supremes/Diana Ross (Baby Love; Where Did Our Love Go; Stop! In the Name of Love; You Keep Me Hanging On; You Can’t Hurry Love; I Hear a Symphony)
  • The Temptations (My Girl)
  • Roy Orbison (Only the Lonely; Oh, Pretty Woman)
  • Little Richard (Good Golly, Miss Molly; Tutti Frutti; Long Tall Sally)
  • Dion (Teenager in Love, The Wanderer, Runaround Sue, Abraham, Martin and John)
  • Paul Anka (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
  • Wilson Pickett (In the Midnight Hour; Land of a 1,000 Dances; Mustang Sally)


  • The Beatles (All You Need is Love; Come Together; Hey, Jude; Let It Be; Yesterday; Yellow Submarine; Ticket to Ride; While My Guitar Gently Weeps; With a Little Help From My Friends)
  • John Lennon (In My Life; Strawberry Fields Forever; Imagine; Happy Christmas [War Is Over])
  • Aretha Franklin (Respect; [You Make Me Feel Like a] Natural Woman; Chain of Fools; I Say a Little Prayer)
  • Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone’ Blowing in the Wind; Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; Mr. Tambourine Man; The Times They Are a-Changin’)
  • Cat Stevens (Wild World; Morning Has Broken; Cat’s in the Cradle; Where Do the Children Play; Blowin’ in the Wind)
  • John Denver (Take Me Home, Country Roads; Annie’s Song; Rocky Mountain High; Home Grown Tomatoes)
  • Willie Nelson (On the Road Again; Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys; Always on My Mind)
  • Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire; I Walk the Line; Hurt)
  • Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water; Scarborough Fair; Mrs. Robinson; The Sound of Silence)
  • Peter, Paul and Mary (Puff the Magic Dragon; Blowin’ in the Wind; If I Had a Hammer; Lemon Tree; We Shall Overcome; Leaving on a Jet Plane)
  • The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun; Close to You; Yesterday Once More; Rainy Days and Mondays)
  • The Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia (Workingman’s Dead; Uncle John’s Band)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Jimi Hendrix (All Along the Watchtower; Purple Haze)
  • Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee; Piece of My Heart; Summertime)
  • Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now; Help Me; Big Yellow Taxi)
  • The Doors/Jim Morrison (Light My Fire; People Are Strange; Riders on a Storm; Break on Through to the Other Side)
  • The Eagles (Hotel California; The Long Run; Take It Easy)
  • The Byrds (Mr. Tambourine Man; Turn! Turn! Turn!)
  • James Taylor (Five and Rain; Sweet Baby James; You’ve Got a Friend; Carolina in My Mind)
  • Neil Young (Cortez the Killer; Rockin’ in the Free World; Sugar Mountain)
  • Credence Clearwater Revival (Have you Ever Seen the Rain?; Bad Moon Rising; Proud Mary; Who’ll Stop the Rain; Down on the Corner)
  • Lou Reed (Walk on the Wild Side; Perfect Day)
  • Sonny and Cher (I Got You Babe)
  • The Beach Boys (California Girls; Surfin’ USA; I Get Around; Good Vibrations)
  • The Jackson 5 (I Want You Back)
  • Nancy Sinatra (These Boots are Made for Walkin’; Bang Bang)
  • Joe Cocker (With a Little Help From My Friends; You Are So Beautiful)
  • Al Green (Let’s Stay Together; Love and Happiness; Take Me to the River)
  • Curtis Mayfield (People Get Ready; Superfly)
  • James Brown (Get Up [I Feel Like Being a] Sex Machine; I Got You [I Feel Good])
  • Elvis Costello ([What’s So Funny About] Peace, Love and Understanding)
  • Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On; I Heard It Through the Grapevine; Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; Mercy Mercy Me)
  • Sam & Dave (Soul Man)
  • Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summertime; Family Affair)
  • Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Cruisin’; You Really Got a Hold on Me)
  • Kool and the Gang (Jungle Boogie)
  • Gloria Gaynor (I Will Survive)
  • Bee Gees (Stayin’ Alive)


  • Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were; You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; Don’t Lie to Me)
  • Bette Midler (From a Distance; I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today; Wind Beneath My Wings)
  • Billy Joel (Piano Man; New York State of Mind; We Didn’t Start the Fire)
  • Bob Marley (Don’t Worry Be Happy; Three Little Birds; I Shot the Sheriff; One Love)
  • Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.; Dancin’ in the Dark; Streets of Philadelphia)
  • Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Want to Have Fun; True Colors; Time After Time)
  • David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust; Let’s Dance)
  • Dolly Parton (I Will Always Love You; 9 to 5)
  • Gladys Knight (Midnight Train to Georgia; I Heard It Through the Grapevine)
  • Guns N’ Roses/Axl Rose (Paradise City; Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; Welcome to the Jungle; November Rain)
  • Kenny Rogers (The Gambler)
  • Moody Blues (Nights in White Satin)
  • Jimmy Cliff (I Can See Clearly Now)
  • Madonna (Vogue; Like a Virgin; Material Girl; Like A Prayer)
  • Pink Floyd (Money; Another Brick in the Wall Part 2)
  • Prince (Kiss; 1999; Purple Rain)
  • Queen/Freddie Mercury (We Will Rock You; We Are the Champions; Bohemian Rhapsody; Another One Bites the Dust)
  • The Ramones (Blitzkrieg Bop; Sheena Is a Punk Rocker)
  • Luther Vandross (Love the One You’re With)
  • Lionel Richie (Easy; Stuck On You)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sweet Home Alabama)
  • Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven)
  • Michael Jackson (Thriller; Bad; Black and White; We Are the World; Billie Jean)
  • The Bangles (Walk Like an Egyptian, Manic Monday; Eternal Flame)
  • Steppenwolf (Born to Be Wild; Magic Carpet Ride)
  • Stevie Nicks (Talk to Me)
  • Stevie Wonder (I Just Called to Say I Love You; Isn’t She Lovely; Signed, Sealed, Delivered)
  • The Animals (Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood; The House of the Rising Sun)
  • The Clash (Rock the Casbah; London Calling; Should I Stay or Should I Go)
  • Neil Diamond (Sweet Caroline)
  • Roxette (She’s Got the Look)
  • The Rolling Stones ([I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction; Paint It Black; You Can’t Always Get What You Want)
  • The Police (Message in a Bottle; Every Breath You Take; Roxanne)
  • The Who (Baba O’Riley; I Can See For Miles; Won’t Get Fooled Again)
  • Tina Turner (What’s Love Got to Do With It; Proud Mary, Simply the Best)
  • Journey (Don’t Stop Believin’)
  • Nat King Cole (Unforgettable; When I Fall in Love; Mona Lisa)
  • Natalie Cole (Unforgettable; This Will Be [An Everlasting Love])
  • Ray Charles (Georgia on My Mind; Night & Day; Hit the Road, Jack; I Got a Woman)
  • Tony Bennett (Fly Me to the Moon; I Left My Heart in San Francisco)
  • Diana Ross (I’m Coming Out; Endless Love)
  • Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria [Them])


  • Whitney Houston (I Will Always Love You; Greatest Love of All; I Have Nothing)
  • Celine Dion (The Power of Love; My Heart Will Go On)
  • Eric Clapton (Tears in Heaven; Wonderful Tonight)
  • Elton John (Can You Feel the Love Tonight; Rocket Man)
  • Eminem (Slim Shady; Without Me; Not Afraid; Godzilla)
  • Mariah Carey (I Don’t Wanna Cry; Hero; Vision of Love; Emotions)
  • Nirvana/Kurt Cobain (Smells Like Teen Spirit; Come As You Are)
  • Alanis Morissette (Ironic)
  • Phil Collins (Another Day in Paradise; In the Air Tonight)
  • Snoop Dogg (Gin and Juice; Drop It Like It’s Hot)
  • Jay Z (Forever Young)

School in a Book: Physical Education Skills

No one is saying you need to become an all-star. But learning the basics of a wide variety of sports helps you understand your options and, almost certainly, find something you will enjoy long-term.

For each of the activities below, learn the basic rules of the game, experience playing the game multiple times, and learn proper form for as many of the skills involved in the game as possible. (This is particularly important with swimming and running.) YouTube videos are an invaluable resource for this.


Team Sports

  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Badminton
  • Tennis
  • Pickleball
  • Cricket
  • Polo
  • Lacrosse

Solo and Two-Person Sports

  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Roller skating
  • Ice skating
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Water skiing
  • Wake boarding
  • Surfing
  • Sailing
  • Rafting
  • Snorkeling
  • Pool diving
  • SCUBA diving
  • Kayaking/canoeing/rowing
  • Snow skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Sledding
  • Dance (including square dancing, line dancing, ballet, jazz, tap, swing, ballroom, rumba, hip hop, salsa, and tango)
  • Parkour
  • Yoga
  • Rock climbing
  • Martial arts (Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, karate, MMA and more)
  • Weight lifting
  • Wrestling
  • Skateboarding
  • Golf
  • Frisbee
  • Frisbee golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Trampolining
  • Aerobatics
  • Table tennis/ping pong
  • Foosball
  • Wiffleball
  • Raquetball
  • Squash/hardball
  • Handball/wallball
  • Canyoneering
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Shooting
  • Archery
  • Horseback riding
  • Rodeo sports
  • Hang gliding
  • Paragliding
  • Kite flying
  • Parachuting
  • Auto racing
  • ATV riding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Motorcycling
  • Dune buggying
  • Go-kart racing

Yard Games

  • Hide and Seek
  • Capture the Flag
  • Tag
  • Sardines
  • Dodgeball
  • Kick the Can
  • Obstacle Courses
  • Keep Away
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Jump roping

School in a Book: Biology and Genetics

I remember learning basic biology in school. It was a long time ago, and yet, most of this stuff stuck. It’s everywhere, after all–in the news, in other books. And yet, after creating this list, I was struck by the fine delineations, especially regarding the differences between genes, genetic traits, chromosomes, alleles, and DNA.


Living thing: An organism that reproduces; grows; responds to stimuli; evolves over time; has metabolism; has homeostasis; and has a cell-based structure

Plant: A multicellular eukaryotic organism that gets its energy from the sun using chlorophyll and does not wholly move. Most reproduce asexually.

Animal: A multicellular eukaryotic organism that usually has a distinct orientation (i.e., a top and a bottom); symmetry; mobility; sexual reproduction; sense perception; and a reliance on living, biological organisms for energy 

Common name: The name commonly used for a species of animal or plant

Scientific name: The official name of an animal or plant. This is usually in Latin and made up of the genus and species names, but sometimes also contains the name of the sub-species.

Habitat: The natural environment in which a species lives and thrives

Life cycle: The stages of growth and development of living things. This is different for different species; for example, frogs have a tadpole stage and caterpillars have a cocoon stage.

Generation: All members of a species bearing offspring around the same time

Food chain: A series of plants and animals that use each other for food

Food web: A series of interlinked food chains

Excretion: The elimination of metabolic waste

Homeostasis: Biological equilibrium, when a living thing’s internal conditions (such as temperature and mineral levels) remain mostly steady

Dormant: Still alive but not actively growing, such as a seed in a package

Decomposition: The breakdown of organic materials (such as dead plants and animals) by bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms so the materials can be recycled in the environment for other uses

Metabolism: The set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms

Parasite: A living thing that feeds on other living things and also uses them as their home

Host: A living thing that homes and feeds a parasite

Evolution: The long series of small but significant genetic changes that happen to living things

Extinction: The dying out of a species

Mass extinction: The large-scale dying out of many species on earth. This happens due to human activity, major weather changes brought on by major events, like an asteroid hitting the earth, and other occurrences.

Natural selection: The natural process by which some species adapt and survive and others die out

Artificial selection: The human-controlled process by which plants and animals with desirable traits are selectively bred in order to produce offspring with those same traits

Male: The sex with the parts needed to fertilize the egg

Female: The sex with the parts needed to produce the egg

Sexual reproduction: Reproduction involving two parents, one male and one female

Asexual reproduction: Reproduction involving only one parent. Algae, mosses and some ferns reproduce this way because they don’t have flowers.

Vegetative reproduction: Asexual reproduction that occurs using a fragment or cutting of a plant. Some examples are plants that grow from runners (like strawberries), from tubers (like potatoes), from cuttings and even from just a few cells (as in a lab).

Fertilization: The combining of genetic material from a sperm cell with the genetic material from an egg cell, which results in conception

Embryo: The newly conceived form of life between the fertilized egg (zygote) stage and the fetus stage

Fetus: An unborn baby who is past the embryonic stage (about nine weeks into the pregnancy)

Ovulation: The release of eggs from the ovaries

Cell: The smallest unit of living matter that can carry out all of the functions of life

Tissue: Cells of the same type combined together to do a particular job

Organ: Tissues of different types working together to do a particular job, such as the stomach

System: Organs of different types working together to do a particular job, such as the digestive system

The eight parts of a plant cell: Cell wall; cell membrane; cytoplasm usually containing chloroplasts, chromoplasts, other organelles and the nucleus; and a large vacuole containing water, sugar and other dissolved substances

The nine parts of an animal cell: Cell membrane; cytoplasm; nucleus; nuclear membrane; mitochondria; ribosomes; endoplasmic reticulum; Golgi complex; and lysosomes

Nucleus: The control center of the cell

Mitochondria: The part of the cell that converts substances into energy

Golgi complex: The cell warehouse that stores and distributes substances made in the cell

Ribosomes: The part of the cell that builds proteins

Lysosomes: The part of the cell that breaks down and recycles waste

Mitosis: The process of cell division that results in two genetically identical cells, each with a set of the same chromosomes. This happens when the nucleus of the cell divides. Most cells reproduce in this way.

Meiosis: The process of cell division that results in four cells, each with half of the original cell’s genetic material. Sex cells (gametes) reproduce in this way.

Cytokinesis: The final stage of cell division in which the cytoplasm and organelles are divided between the two daughter cells

External respiration: The movement of oxygen from the outside environment to the cells within tissues, and the movement of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction

Internal respiration/cellular respiration: The use of oxygen within the cells to convert nutrients (such as glucose) into energy in the form of ATP, which is then used for various cellular processes

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP): An organic chemical that provides the energy needed for various processes in cells, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, and chemical synthesis

Aerobic respiration: Internal respiration that uses oxygen

Anaerobic respiration: Internal respiration that doesn’t use oxygen (and produces less ATP)

Enzymes: Proteins that act as catalysts, speeding up chemical reactions in living things

Thermogenesis: The process of heat production in organisms

Basal metabolic rate (BMR): The rate of energy expenditure per unit time by an animal at rest

Calorie: A unit of measurement denoting the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius, which shows how much energy food provides to animals

Kilocalorie: A unit of measurement denoting the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius, which shows how much energy food provides to animals

Classification/taxonomy: The organizing of things into groups according to their shared features

The eight levels of the taxonomy of living things: Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Also, many species are divided into subspecies called races, breeds or varieties.

The three domains of living things: Bacteria/monera, archaea and eukaryota. Both bacteria and archaea are prokaryota. Scientists disagree about how to divide the domains.

The four kingdoms of eukaryota: Fungi, protistas, plantae and animalia

Prokaryote: A living thing whose cells do not have nuclei

Eukaryote: A living thing whose cells have nuclei

Bacteria/monera: A single-celled prokaryotic organism that exists everywhere on Earth

Archaea: A single-celled prokaryotic organism that has genes, enzymes and other similarities to eukaryota that bacteria do not have 

Fungus: A eukaryotic organism that lacks chlorophyll and feeds on living and dead things, including mold, yeast and mushrooms. Many grow in damp, dark places.

Protista: A eukaryotic organism other than animals, plants, or fungi. This is a catch-all group that includes mold, protozoas, algae and other eukaryotes, most of which live in moist environments.

Protozoa: A single-celled eukaryotic organism. Most feed on organic matter.

Amoeba: A type of protozoa that can change shape, usually by extending out pseudopods (fluid-filled sacs in the shape of arms or tentacles)

Species: The taxonomic level at which all the members can mate and reproduce offspring of their kind

Homo sapiens: The scientific name for the human species. This species belongs to the eukaryota domain; the animal kingdom; the chordata phylum (since they have a stiff rod that supports the body); the mammalia class; the primates order; the Hominidae family; and the Homo genus.


Genes: The sets of instructions inherited from parents and located in the body’s chromosomes that tell the body how to form particular characteristics. They are in every cell of the body (except red blood cells) and are made up of DNA. Most are either dominant or recessive. Each of these provides instructions for multiple traits, and some traits are determined by multiple genes.

Genome: The complete set of physical genetic material of an organism (DNA or RNA)

Genetic trait: A single characteristic that is expressed in a living thing in the way the related gene determines

Gene map: A visual arrangement showing the organization of the genes on a chromosome. It is used to learn about genetic influences in disease development and other genetic patterns.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): The chemical that makes up genes, has a double helix shape, and works with RNA to tell the body how to build the proteins that make up genetic traits

Ribonucleic acid (RNA): A chemical found alongside DNA that is similar to DNA in form but performs different functions (except in some viruses, which have RNA in place of DNA). It helps choose which genes are expressed in the organism and carries out the instructions provided by the DNA.

Chromosome: The bundles that hold all of the individual genes and are stored in the nucleus of most body cells. Humans have 23 pairs of these, each of which holds many, many genes.

X and Y chromosomes: The chromosomes that determine gender. Everyone has one X chromosome, but males have a Y and females have a second X.

Dominant gene: The gene in the gene pair that is expressed in the organism, whether paired with a recessive gene or another dominant gene

Recessive gene: The gene in the gene pair that is not expressed in the organism except when there are two associated recessives present, one from each parent

Co-dominance: The state that occurs when the contributions of both genes are displayed in a trait

Allele: One of the two associated genes in a gene pair that occupies the same position on a chromosome and determines the same trait as the other allele in the pair

Homozygote: An organism that has identical alleles for a specific gene

Heterozygote: An organism that has two different alleles for a specific gene, which enables their offspring’s corresponding gene to vary. An organism can be a homozygote for one trait and a heterozygote for a different trait.

Carrier: An organism that has a recessive allele for a genetic trait but does not display it. Carriers can pass the allele onto offspring, who will express it if they inherit the same one from both parents.

DNA profiling: Analyzing sections of an individual’s DNA in order to identify them. It is also known as genetic fingerprinting.

Genetic engineering: The direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology

Genetically modified organism (GMO): An animal, plant, or microbe whose DNA has been altered using human-created genetic engineering techniques

Gene splicing: The process of cutting and recombining genes from different organisms or different parts of the same organism to produce specific characteristics

Cloning: Producing genetically identical offspring of an organism either naturally or artificially. In nature, many organisms produce these through asexual reproduction.

Hybrid: A type of offspring produced by the mating of two different species. These are usually unable to reproduce offspring of their own kind due to differences in the chromosomes of the parents.

School in a Book: Botany and Zoology

Ahhhh … smell that fresh air. That’s the smell of you on a walk in a park with your kids, naming the trees and flowers you pass, then explaining sexual versus asexual reproduction.


Leaf: The part of a plant that makes food, which usually have veins and holes on their undersides to let in water and air

Stem: The part of a plant that supports it and move nutrients between the roots and leaves

Roots: The part of a plant that absorbs water and nutrients from the ground and anchors the plant.They have four parts: the primary root, the secondary roots, root hairs, and the root cap. The five types are: taproots (one main root with small offshoots, like a carrot has); fibrous roots (many equal-sized primary roots, like grasses have); adventitious roots (roots that grow from an unusual part of a plant, like the hairs on an onion bulb); aerial roots (roots that grow aboveground, like ivy has); and prop roots (roots that grow aboveground to provide additional support, like mangroves have).

Bark: The dead protective tissue on the outside of a tree, which is formed in a living layer underneath the current layer after that layer gets pushed out by the new rings that are forming. It provides oxygen and CO2 exchange; protects the tree from disease; insulates the tree; and helps hold in moisture.

Heartwood: The older, central rings of the tree which can no longer transport water and nutrients

Sapwood: The newer, outer rings of the tree which can still transport water

Annual ring: A single layer of thickening of a tree trunk, which takes one year to form

Fruit: The part of the flowering plant that holds the seeds. They include nuts, succulent fruits, berries, pods (like pea pods), kernels (like wheat kernels) and more.

Cone: The part of a conifer tree that holds the seeds. They start out open, then after pollination, close up. When the seeds are ripe and the weather is warm and dry, the scales open and drop the fertilized seeds so they can find dirt to grow in.

Seed: The part of a plant that holds the embryo, a food supply (to help the seed grow before photosynthesis is possible) and a protective coat. They are dispersed through animal excrement, wind, water and catching on animal fur.

Seedling: A small, newly-grown plant

Flower: The part of the plant that produces sex cells and enables reproduction. It can be either male or female. Plants that contain both types don’t need to cross-pollinate with other plants.

Petal: The part of the plant that protects the reproductive parts of the flower and attracts insects needed for pollination

Stamen: The male part of the flower, which contains pollen

Anthers: The top part of the stamen

Pistil/carpel: The female part of the flower, which contains ovules and can trap pollen. After ovules are pollinated they grow into seeds, which grow into fruit, which in turn produce more seeds.

Deciduous plant: A plant that loses its leaves each year

Evergreen plant: A plant that does not shed its leaves all at once, including conifers and some broadleaf trees and shrubs

Conifer: An evergreen with cone-shaped reproductive structures and tough, waxy needles that don’t lose as much water as regular leaves do

Angiosperm: A plant that produce flowers

Gymnosperm: A plant that does not produce flowers, whose seeds are located on its leaves instead

Hydrophyte: A plant that grows in water or waterlogged soil, such as algae, seaweed and lily pads

Pollination: The transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant

Photosynthesis: The process green plants use to make food from sunlight, water and air. This happens when chloroplasts in chlorophyll absorb sun energy, which the plant uses to combine water and carbon dioxide to make glucose and oxygen. The glucose is stored as energy for growth, while the oxygen is released into the environment.

Plant respiration: The process green plants use to break down stored energy for growth, in which they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide and water vapor. Though plants release carbon dioxide, they store more than they use and therefore serve as a CO2 sink, which reduces greenhouse gases in the air.

Dormant: Still alive but not actively growing; for example, a seed in a package

Germination: The waking up of a dormant seed

Growth season: The period of time during which a plant is actively growing and developing, which varies by plant

Annuals: Plants that die after a one-year life cycle

Biennials: Plants that die after a two-year life cycle

Herbaceous perennials: Plants whose roots live many years but whose above ground parts die back each year

Woody perennials: Plants whose roots and aboveground parts continue to live year after year

Ephemerals: Plants with very short lifecycles

Autotrophy: The ability of a plant to make one’s own food

Tropism: The ability of a plant to respond to external stimuli

Geotropism: The ability of a plant to sense gravity and grow away from it in order to seek light

Phototropism: The ability of a plant to sense light and grow toward it

Thigmotropism: The ability of a plant to sense touch


Biped: An animal with two legs

Quadruped: An animal with four legs

Vertebrate: An animal with a backbone

Invertebrate: An animal with no backbone, such as a snail)

Arthropod: An animal with an external skeleton/ exoskeleton, such as a grasshopper

Warm-blooded: Having the ability to regulate one’s body temperature

Cold-blooded: Having a body whose temperature changes with the environment

Herbivore: An animal that eats primarily or only plants

Carnivore: An animal that eats primarily or only meat

Omnivore: An animal that eats both plants and meat

Larva: The form some animals take before beginning metamorphosis

Pupa: The form some animals take during metamophosis

Metamorphosis: The total restructuring of an animal’s body, which sometimes happens inside a cocoon or chrysalis

Hibernation: A period of inactivity in some animals that includes the slowing of the metabolism

Migration: The large-scale movement of a species from one place to another

Echolocation: The ability of some animals, such as bats, to locate solid objects by emitting sound and hearing the echo come back to them

The main body structures of most animals: A fluid-filled cavity and a skeleton to hold the cavity in place and allow for movement; an outer layer to enclose the body, which can be skin, an exoskeleton, a cuticle, scales, shells, prickles, fur and more; and a part or parts of the body to provide for locomotion, such as fins, flippers, wings, legs, etc.

Animal senses: Sight; smell; taste; balance; touch (including through whiskers and tentacles); a sense of gravity; a sense of water pressure and currents (as some fish have); a sense of electric pulses (as sharks have); and possibly, a sense of Earth’s magnetic fields (as birds may have)

Types of animal communication: Body language, such as preening or dancing; making noises, such as using vocal cords or rubbing body parts together; sending out chemical messages through pheromones or by spraying; and changing color

Two types of animal reproduction: Laying eggs (before or after fertilization) and giving birth to live young

School in a Book: Spanish Vocabulary

Lots of people will tell you that learning a new language is easy. And it can be . . . but it usually isn’t. The problem isn’t with the actual difficulty of the language, though. The problem is that we don’t practice.

Unless you live among native speakers, it’s a problem that’s not easily remedied. My suggestion: every few months (more if you’re in a hurry), play some audio recordings of words with translations or children’s music in the car on repeat. Language learning is not an all-at-once thing; you’ll need lots of time and repetition to let it sink in. If possible, be casual about it, but be consistent.

If you’re a person who enjoys reading and writing, copy your word lists onto flash cards or foldable lists. Personally, I spend countless hours writing and rewriting my lists when in full-on language learning mode.

You can also make games out of your vocabulary words–all kinds of fun games. At the end of this post I provide a story you can tell your kids that incorporates practice and repetition (theirs or yours).


Hello: Hola
Good morning: Buenas dias
Good afternoonL Buenas tardes
Good evening: Buenas noches
Goodbye: Adios; chau
What is your name?: Como se llama?
My name is …: Me llamo; mi nombre es …
Pleasure to meet you. Mucho gusto.
How are you: Como esta (for a less familiar person); Como estas (for a more familiar person); Como esta usted (for a formal situation or older person)
Where are you from: De donde viene
I’m from …: Soy de …
See you later: Hasta luego.
See you tomorrow: Hasta ma­nana

Almost-Free Words

Important: Importante
Interesting: Interesante
Perfect: Perfecto
Excellent: Excellente


Thank you very much: Muchas gracias
You’re welcome: De nada
Execuse Me: Disculpe; perdoname; con permiso
Goodness: Caramba
Please: Por favor
I’m sorry: Lo siento
Forgive me: Disculpe
Help me: Ayudame
Danger: Peligro
Forbidden: Prohibito
No smoking: No se fuma
Fire: Fuego; incendio
Emergency: Emergencia
Hurry up: Appurase; rapido
For sale: Se vende
For rent: Se alguila
Look: Mira
Stop: Pare
Watch out: Cuidado
That’s fine: Esta bien
Go away: Dejeme
Bienvenido: Welcome
Oops: Opa (an expression from Greek)
True: Verdad
Of course: Por supresto
It’s okay/don’t worry about it: Tranquila; no se preculpe
Are you sure: Seguro
What do you mean: Como
How do you say: Como se dice
At what time: A que hora
Qual es: Which is it

Small Words

Me, I—mi, yo
You—tu (familiar) usted
They, them; ellos o ellas
Because—por que
Actually—-En verdad
The—la, e, los, las (depending on gender)
In—por, en
a—un, una
maybe—quisas o tal vez
She-he—-ella, el
Her’s/his.—la , le
Your—tu (familiar form)
Yes/no —si y no (shaking one finger is the most common form of no in South America—the index finger)
Therefore—por lo tanto
Of the —del
Like/similar to—paracido
Here—(different words used depending on distance aqui, aji, alla)
Together —-conmigo, contigo (familiar)


To be—Ser (permanent): soy, son, es; estar (less permanent): estoy, esta
To do—hacer…hago, hace
To feel—Sentir sineto , sienta
To be there—hay
To want—querer, quiero, quiere, quieres
To like—Gusta, me gusto, se gusta
To go (irregular verb) voy, vas, viene,
To live—vivir—vivo, vives, viva
To eat—comer como, comes, come
To drink—For non-alcoholic beverages: Tomar: tomo, tomes, tome; For alcohol: Beber …bebo, bebes, bebe
To cost—cuesta
To carry/transport—Llevar
To Exit—salida( noun)
To Arrive:—Llegar, llego, llegas, llega
To park: Estacionar
To Wait: Esperar, espero, espero, esperamos
To speak: Hablar, hablo, hables, habla
To say—digo, dices, dice
To stay put—quedar, quedense (command form)
To Help—ayudar, ayudo, ayudas, ayuda
To be able/capable—Puedar, puedo, puedes, puede
To understand—entender entiendo, entiendes, entiende
To comprehend—Comprender, comprendo, comprendes, comprende
To Hope—Esperar, espero, esperes, espere
To know/be acquainted with (person) Conocer, conozco, conoces, conoce
To know (facts) Saber, se, sabes, sabe
To charge/exchange—Cambiar, cambio,
To travel—viajer, viajo, viege
To close—Cierrar
to find—encountrar
to wash—lavar, lavo (clothes)
to clean—limpiar, limpio,
to buy—comprar, compro, ustead compra
to sit—sentar
to smoke—fumar
to take—tomer
to walk—cambiar-=–cambio, cambias, cambia
to search for—buscar, busco, buscas, busca
to see—ver veo, ve
To give—dar, doy, da
To pay—pagar, pago, paga
To sign—firmar, firmo, firme
To need—necesitar, necesito, necesita
To cook—cocinar cocino, cocina
To reserve—reservar,
To confirm—confirmar
To take a photo—sacrar una foto
To Call—llamar, llamo
To accept—acceptar, acepto
To sleep—dormir,duermo,duerma
To work—trabajar, trabajo, trabaja
To think—pensar, penso
To believer—creer, creo, cree
To stop—parar
To return—volver
To sell—vender,vendo, vende
To exit—salir, salgo
To come—venior, vegno, viene
To lose—perder, pierdo, pierde
To win—ganar, gano, unstead gana
To study—estudiar, studio
To dance—baillar, bailo, bailas
To sing—cantar, canto, canta
To play—jugar..juego, juega
To hate—odiar
To love—-amar, encantar, encanto, encanta


Slow—despacio o despacito
Good—bueno, bien
Bad—mal, malo
Handsome—guapo (word also means hard working in some contexts)
Hot—caliente (refers to heat, piquante refers to spicy)
The same—mismo
Necessary—necesito (this is a verb, not an adjective) Necesito eso, or necesita eso (you need this)
Not necessary—no necesito
Second hand—segundo

People and Animals

Everyone—todos las personas
No on—nadia
Children—ninas, ninos
Uncle/aunt—tio, tia
Men/man– hombres, hombre


Pair of glasses—lentes
Parts—partalores, partes
Garbage cans—basero
Everything—qualquier cosa


19 —diecenueve
20 —viente
80 —ochenta
1 million—un million
101—cineto uno
1100—mil cien
1300 mil trecientos

Days and Months


Question Words

What is it—que es esto
Where —donde esta
How much—cuanto?
Who is it?—quien es
Why—por que
Why not—por que no
What time is it? Que hora es?


Green—verde (careful in using this description, though: some things that are green are considered dirty, i.e. pornography or a “green” magazine)


Department store—almacia
Country—campo (refers to terrain/geography)
Exchange store—casa de cambio
Parking lot—estacionamonte
Bus stop—parade de autobus
Mall—cinto commercial
Shoe store—zapateria
Police station—comisaria
Post office—el correo
Place—lugar, parte, locale
School—escuela secendaria (secondary school); escuela escuela primaria (grade school)

Body Parts


Foods and Drinks

To eat—comer
Drink –beber o tomar
Miner water—aqua mineral
Soft drink—gaseosa
Bottle of wine—una botella de vino
Red/white wine—tino /blanco vino
Cold veggie soup—gazpacho
Pineapple—pina o anana
Ice cream—helado
Milk shake—batido de leche
Espresso—un expreso
Butter—mantequilla o Manteca
Steak—chursasco, carne
BBQ—churrasco , churro
Roast beef—rosbef
Mashed potatoes—pueredo papas
Potatoes—papas (careful to use las papas because the word is feminine. El Papa refers to the pope)
French Fries—papas fritas
Chicken breast—suprema de pollo
Soysauce—salsa d soya

Restaurant Words

Plate—un plato
Cup—una taza/copa
Teaspoon—una cuchariva
A can —una lata
Box—una lajo
A jar—un pomo
Menu—la carta
What is today’s special?—Cual es el plato del dia
I’dlike to order—quisiera pedar
Bill—-la cuenta
Fast to go—comida para llevar
Fast food—comida rapida


Where/there—aqui, aji
Here is—aqui tiene
One block—una cuadrenta
Opposite from—frenta a
Next to—junto a
In Front—frente
In back—al antes
Everywhere—en todas partes
No where—ninguna parte


Month—la mesa
Morning—la manana
Later—despues, lluego
Every day—todos las dias
1:00—una hora
1;15—la una y quince/cuarta
1:30—uno y media
1:45—cuarto al dos
1:01—la una y una
The end—el final


That’s all—eso es todo
Half kilo—medio kelo
A bit of—un poco de
Too much/too many—demasiado
Not enough—no bastante
A little—poco, poquito

Money Words

Travelers checks—chequs de viajero
Exchange rate—cambio
Small change—suelto
Signature—la firma
The payment—le debo
Credit card—tarjeta de credito
ATM—el cajero

Nature Words

Mosquito—los mosquitos

Medical Words

Doctor—-El Doctor
What’s wrong>–Que le pasa
I’m sick—Me siento enfermo
Headache—dolor de la cabeza
Flu—la gripe
It hurts here—me dula aqui
I feel dizzy—tengo mareos nauseas
Stomach ache—dolor to estomacho
Backache—dolor de espalda
I feel—siento
Vaccinated—vacundo (a)

Travel Words

Business trip—viaje de negocios
Baggage cart—carnto para maletas
Room—cuarto, habitacion
Single bed—habatacion con una sola cama
Private bath—bano privado
Oceanview—vista del mar
Car—auto, coche
Ticket—boleta, pasaje
Roadmap—mapa de carreteras, plano de ciudad
One-way ticket—billete de ida
Round-trip ticket—billete de y vuelta
Tourism/tourist—turismo, turista

Miscellaneous Words

One more time—ulta vez
County –pais (refers to actual country, not a general description)

“The Spanish Backyard” Story and Game

Harriet and Toby were just regular kids, living in just a regular house. Still, they had what many people don’t: they had a wonderful backyard.

Sometimes their yard was a wide, deep ocean. Other times it was a space station. But Harriet and Toby’s favorite times of all were when the yard became a magical kingdom far away, where anything they spoke in Spanish appeared.

The catch: they had to speak the sentence properly three times in a row.

One day, Harriet and Toby were hungry. They were waiting for their parents to finish cooking a large meal. So, they decided to make food appear in their yard–every kind of food they could imagine.

What do you think Harriet and Toby asked for? What would you want to make appear?

Note to teachers: Here, have your students make sentences with the word list you’re working on currently. Change the scenario to fit the types of words you want to practice. Each time the student gets the sentence right, draw what they said or say, “Look! It’s a …”

Harriet and Toby continued playing The Spanish Backyard until the sun was all the way down.