Find your next read: a list of National Book Award finalists


Image Credit: National Book Foundation

2014 National Book Awards Finalists

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, announced the 2014 shortlist of finalists for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people’s literature on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday.

If you’re looking for your next read or planning some early Christmas shopping for a book lover you love, here’s the complete list of finalists in each category:

Finalists for Fiction

Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press/ Grove/Atlantic)

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner/ Simon & Schuster)

Phil Klay, Redeployment (The Penguin Press/ Penguin Group (USA))

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House)

Marilynne Robinson, Lila (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Finalists for Nonfiction

Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury)

Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes (Metropolitan Books/ Henry Holt and Company)

John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (W.W. Norton & Company)

Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Edward O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence (Liveright Publishing Corporation/ W.W. Norton & Company)

Finalists for Poetry

Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Fanny Howe, Second Childhood (Graywolf Press)

Maureen N. McLane, This Blue (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Fred Moten, The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press)

Finalists for Young People’s Literature

Eliot Schrefer, Threatened (Scholastic Press)

Steve Sheinkin, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

(Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan Publishers)

John Corey Whaley, Noggin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster)

Deborah Wiles, Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic Press)

Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA))

The National Book Awards winners in each category will be announced at a November 19 ceremony in New York City emceed by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) with special awards presented by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Ocean at the End of the Lane) and Kyle Zimmer (co-founder, CEO, and president of First Book).

If creative writing and critical reading are skills you’d like to cultivate, we welcome you to explore ETSU Online and find flexible and convenient online Literature and Language courses at East Tennessee State University to get you started. Critical Thinking and Argumentation, Critical Reading and Exposition, Literary Heritage, American, British, and World Literatures, and Literary Ethics and Values are among the courses regularly offered online.


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ICYMI: Under the Pumpkin Sun

Why does the sun look like a Jack-o-Lantern, and why is it that we tend to see faces everywhere?


Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

The Science of the Pumpkin Sun

Last week NASA released a composite photo of the sun using two different wavelengths of light (specifically, the 171 and 193 angstroms … explained below). In the photo, the sun looks an awful lot like a smiling Jack-o-Lantern.

The image, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on Oct. 8, 2014, shows the sun’s active regions (the areas that appear brighter are the areas that were emitting more light and energy) using the combination of two extreme ultraviolet wavelengths typically colorized in gold and yellow. The wavelengths observed by NASA’s SDO are used to measure and monitor specific aspects of the sun’s surface or atmosphere. The length of each wave is measured in distances called Angstroms (which are about one ten-billionth of a meter, or 0.1 nm).

The wavelengths SDO observes, measured in angstroms, from the sun’s surface outward are:

  • 4500: Showing the sun’s surface or photosphere.
  • 1700: Shows surface of the sun, as well as a layer of the sun’s atmosphere called the chromosphere, which lies just above the photosphere and is where the temperature begins rising.
  • 1600: Shows a mixture between the upper photosphere and what’s called the transition region, a region between the chromosphere and the upper most layer of the sun’s atmosphere called the corona. The transition region is where the temperature rapidly rises.
  • 304: This light is emitted from the chromosphere and transition region.
  • 171: This wavelength shows the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, when it’s quiet. It also shows giant magnetic arcs known as coronal loops.
  • 193: Shows a slightly hotter region of the corona, and also the much hotter material of a solar flare.
  • 211: This wavelength shows hotter, magnetically active regions in the sun’s corona.
  • 335: This wavelength also shows hotter, magnetically active regions in the corona.
  • 94: This highlights regions of the corona during a solar flare.
  • 131: The hottest material in a flare.

The wavelengths used to create the Great Sun Pumpkin are marked in bold, and, according to NASA, they are “markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.”

But, why do we see faces everywhere?

Scientist Carl Sagan hypothesized that humans are “hard-wired” to identify human faces and that, from an evolutionary perspective, there was a definite survival advantage for humans to be able to do so. The result is, according to this line of thinking, that we are primed to see faces even when what we’re looking at is a random occurrence in nature (Man on the Moon anyone?), or a grape juice stain on the carpet, or interior wood paneling from the 70s. You get the idea …

This “psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant” is called pareidolia. It’s also attributed by some to be the idea behind the creation of the original Rorschach Test, which was widely used in the 1960s. The test relied on inkblots to incite pareidolia in test subjects in an attempt to identify perceived significance of the images as a way to detect underlying thought disorders in patients.

Pareidolia is one of many interesting aspects of human psychology. If this is particularly interesting to you, there are many free, open courses, like the East Tennessee State University’s OpenBUCS Introduction to Psychology course, available online and on a variety of platforms, offering the opportunity for anyone with an interest to explore the basics of psychology at a collegiate level without enrolling at a university or committing to paying tuition dollars.

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Remembering Maya Angelou – Rainbow in the Clouds

On a rainy Tuesday in March of 2006, Maya Angelou addressed a gathering of 3,600 on the campus of East Tennessee State University.

Her message: be a rainbow in the crowd.

To Angelou, being a rainbow in the crowd meant hope. It meant not giving up. It meant being a blessing to others, even if they don’t look like you, speak like you or dance your dances.

Rainbow in the Clouds


Today we feel sadness because of her death and gratitude because of her life. Angelou’s example of tolerance, love and grace have and will be a rainbow in the cloud for us. We are grateful to have had the pleasure of having such a truly remarkable woman on our campus, and we feel privileged to have known her through her works.

Love Liberates


Still I Rise


Angelou was an award-winning poet and author as well as a social and civil rights activist. In 1993, she recited “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost in 1961 and the performance of which garnered her a Grammy Award. Her works include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, The Heart of a Woman,  Mom & Me & Mom.



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ETSU Online Offers SGA Debate Via Live Stream

ETSU OnlineEast Tennessee State University’s Office of eLearning, home to ETSU’s online programs and courses, will broadcast the April 14 Student Government Association election debate via live streaming.

SGA President Michael Wallace says live streaming the debate is an important component in informing as many students as possible about the candidates and their platforms.

“We want all students to make an informed decision,” Wallace said. “Student Government has faced many disagreements this year internally … and we need leadership that upcoming senators can look up to and respect.”

The Office of eLearning will provide the live streaming, which Digital Media Services Director David Currie says directly supports one of the primary goals of the department: to increase student access to information through technology

“It will certainly benefit traditional and online students who are not able to attend but who will vote in the SGA elections,” Currie said. “And ultimately we’re here to offer that kind of student support.”

Wallace hopes that making the debate widely accessible to students will result in leadership that accurately represents ETSU’s student body. “ETSU has faced many changes as a university,” Wallace said. “And we need a leadership team that can keep with the pace of an evolving university while knowing the pulse of the students and what they want.”

The SGA election debate is a collaborative effort by members of the Forensic and Debate team, Model UN, and the Student Government Association. The debate will take place at 7 p.m. in the Ballroom of the D.P. Culp Center.

The live stream broadcast will be available at

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3 Time Management Tips We Love

Time Management Tips We Love

Three Timeless Time Management Tips We Swear By

The staff here at ETSU Online have chosen their favorite time management tips and tricks to share with you. They won’t fit on candy hearts, though. Sorry about that.

Tip #1 – Work in Increments

A lot of times we’re faced with tasks that seem overwhelming. Sometimes we’re faced with several of them. Our advice is something along the lines of what Lewis Carroll wrote in “Alice in Wonderland:”

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

It’s not usually possible to finish an entire task, or study all of the material for a test, or write an entire paper in one sitting, but an hour is always an hour. So, schedule a time to work exclusively on your task without interruption, go on until you come to the end, then stop. Repeat as many times as necessary until your task is done.

This is especially helpful because it helps you think of how your tasks can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This is especially difficult because you can’t do it unless YOU PLAN AHEAD, and stick (roughly) to the plan. Otherwise you’ll find yourself out of time.

Tip #2 – Make a List; Check it Occasionally

We aren’t slaves to our lists, and we don’t think you should be either. Still list making has some huge benefits.

First, writing down everything you need and want to do may help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control. Second, seeing your commitments and responsibilities on paper will help you prioritize. Third, there are always tasks that seem to be worse than they really are (for me, that’s almost any phone call I need to make). Seeing it written down makes it seem less scary.

You may find that you’re immediately able to go through your list and take care of all of the tasks that take less than five minutes each. Presto! Within an hour, you’ve made a serious dent in your to-do list.

For other projects, schedule them (using what you’ve learned in Tip #1). And stick to your schedule.

Wherever you keep your list, add to it when new items come in. You can use a small notebook with actual paper, the native note taking app on your phone or tablet, or specialized apps like Evernote or Wunderlist.

Review your list when a) you have no idea what you need to do next, and/or b) at regular intervals, whether it’s daily, every other day, weekly, or only on Tuesdays when the moon is gibbous. It’s entirely up to you and what works best for you.

Super tip: Only one list. If you have multiple pieces of paper or notes on your phone and on paper, you’ll likely feel the opposite of being in control.

Tip #3 – Know Thyself

If you’re a procrastinator, own it. Learn to work with it. It’s great to have a goal not to procrastinate, but if you’re really a procrastinator, you probably haven’t gotten around to it yet. Habits don’t change overnight.

So own it. Learn to work with it. When are you most likely to procrastinate? Is it late afternoon? Mid-morning? What tasks usually trigger your urge to do something (anything!) else? Knowing the answers to these questions may help you schedule tasks when you’re most likely to get them done. If you know what specific tasks you tend to avoid like most kids avoid vegetables, you can schedule it right before a break or lunch (or the after hours get together). If you know that as soon as you complete the task, you’re free for a while, you may be more likely to get it done.

These three tips (usually) keep us out of trouble and from being so far behind that we’re staring at our own behinds. What tips would you add?

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Books We Love

Books We Love

Books We’re Bananas For

In no particular order, here are ETSU Online staff picks of most loved books.

Song of Fire And IceA Song of Ice and Fire (series), George R.R. Martin

The basis for the hit television series “Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire utilizes a medieval time frame, based on the real life War of the Roses, and a gradual introduction into a vast mythology along with an endless supply of well-rounded characters to create a rich series. You know, it’s pretty much what you might come to expect from a guy with two middle initials.

A Song of Ice and Fire could be described as one long book, and each new installment feels as though it is only an equal and opposite reaction to the previous one. The series remains fresh, shifting the point of view of the story between the various characters, and the author is bold enough to allow favorites to die (quite often, really) in order to push the story further. The brilliance of the story is that it teaches you early on not to hold onto any character as your favorite, which builds a sense of suspense as you try to figure out what will become of them all.

~Brandon Pennington, Online Admissions Counselor


Johnathan Livingston SeagullJonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach

Publisher’s Description: This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.

~Darlene Constantine, Executive Aide for Online Programs


Dairy, Chich PalahniukDiary, Chuck Palahnuik

Publisher’s Description: Misty Wilmot has had it. Once a promising young artist, she’s now stuck on an island ruined by tourism, drinking too much and working as a waitress in a hotel. Her husband, a contractor, is in a coma after a suicide attempt, but that doesn’t stop his clients from threatening Misty with lawsuits over a series of vile messages they’ve found on the walls of houses he remodeled.

Suddenly, though, Misty finds her artistic talent returning as she begins a period of compulsive painting. Inspired but confused by this burst of creativity, she soon finds herself a pawn in a larger conspiracy that threatens to cost hundreds of lives. What unfolds is a dark, hilarious story from America’s most inventive nihilist, and Palahniuk’s most impressive work to date.

~Katie Westbrooks, Graphic Designer


Narcissus and GoldmundNarcissus and Goldmund, Herman Hesse

“Hesse was a great writer in precisely the modern sense: complex, subtle, allusive; alive to the importance of play, to the desperate yet frolicsome game of writing….Narcissus and Goldmund is his very best….What makes this short book so limitlessly vast is the body-and-soul-shaking debate that runs through it, which it has the honesty and courage not to resolve: between the flesh and spirit, art and scientific or religious speculation, action and contemplation, between the wayfaring and the sedentary in us.” —The New York Times Book Review

~Heather Laurendeau, Director of Marketing for Online Programs


As A Man ThinkethAs a Man Thinketh, James Allen

It has been said that James Allen is the most quoted man you’ve never heard of. In 1902, Allen published As a Man Thinketh, universally acknowledged as a classic book on self-examination. The precept conveyed in Proverbs 23:7 ( As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he ) inspired the book’s title. It also captures the essence of Allen’s philosophy. Through his eloquent and succinct prose, Allen conveys his thesis that it is up to the individual to form his own character and create his own happiness. – 

~Darlene Constantine, Executive Aide for Online Programs


The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida

“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

~Katie Westbrooks, Graphic Designer


Ender's GameEnder’s Game, Orson Scott Card

Publishers Description: Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Ender’s Game was the winner of the Nebula Award for best Novel in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1986.

It has also become suggested reading for many military organizations, including the United States Marine Corps.

~Heather Laurendeau, Director of Marketing for Online Programs

We could go on like this all day, but we’ll stop here and start the search for our next favorite book. We’re always up for reading suggestions! What’s your favorite book?

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Quotes We Love

Quotes We Love

Quotes We Dote On

Here’s a list of 20 great quotes from the staff of ETSU Online to you. Enjoy!

1. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
― Steve Jobs

2. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
― Mahatma_Gandhi

3. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

4.“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
― Mark Twain

5. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― J.K. Rowling

6. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

7. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
― George Eliot

8. “Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso

9. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
― Albert Einstein

10. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
― Ayn Rand

11. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
― E.E. Cummings

12. “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

13. “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
― Oscar Wilde

14. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
― Anne Frank

15. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

16. “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
― Abraham Lincoln

17. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
― Plato

18. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

19. “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― A.A. Milne

20. “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney Company

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