Weekly Roundup

Spring is here, April has arrived – and it’s Friday! With the weekend approaching, we thought we’d share some of the cool stuff we found around the internet this past week. Check out the links:


Rainbow Rowell got real about sex in books for girls on Twitter. It starts with this tweet.

Jessica Knoll wrote a powerful essay for Lenny Letter about the real rape behind her novel,
Luckiest Girl Alive.

Last Friday Gloria Steinem turned 82! Ms. Magazine‘s blog celebrates with favorite quotes
from some of

her books.

Netflix isn’t the only one with Gilmore Girls hype. This Kickstarter plans to launch an unofficial Gilmore Girls cookbook!

Jane Austen lovers, have you played this Pride and Prejudice card game?

Top Ten Strange But True Facts about Extinct Giant Animals

By Jeff Campbell, author of Last of the Giants


Is the world a poorer place whenever a giant animal goes extinct? No question. The world also becomes a little less strange.

For instance, consider the lost species featured in Last of the Giants. Here is a collection of incredible, bizarre, wonderful, and occasionally gross facts about extinct animals who once brought the weird.

  1. The elephant bird of Madagascar was not only the world’s largest bird, but it laid the largest egg. Bigger than any known dinosaur egg, it was equivalent to perhaps 200 chicken eggs. Now that’s an omelet.
  1. The Steller’s sea cow was once the second-largest mammal after whales. Its heart was roughly two feet square (about the size of a one-year-old child), and its intestines, stretched out, were nearly 500 feet long—or over one and half football fields.
  1. All river dolphins have bad eyesight because they swim in murky, brown rivers. Besides wickedly good sonar, how did the baiji compensate? As it developed in the womb, the eyes of a baiji fetus traveled higher on its head to improve the view. Eew!
  1. In nineteenth-century America, California grizzlies were once captured and forced to fight Spanish bulls. The grizzlies usually won, but they used brains as much as brawn. Their favorite technique? Grab the panting bull’s tongue and hold on till the bull collapsed.
  1. Here’s some more bull. Aurochs, the original wild bovine, were notorious for the shaggy lock of hair on their gigantic forehead. This forelock became a hunting prize, and folklore once said that if a pregnant woman wore a string of forelocks on a belt, it would aide childbirth. Exactly how did that work?
  1. On islands, giant animals tend to diminish over time. Dwarf elephants in the Mediterannean shrunk to the height of ten-year-olds, and dwarf hippos on Madagascar grew no taller than a dining room table. Aaaw, how cute!
  1. Passenger pigeons weren’t big either, but they flocked by the tens of millions, even the billions. John James Audubon once witnessed a single giant flock passing overhead continuously for three days. Not three hours: three days.
  2. South America once boasted the largest cat that ever lived, the sabertooth Smilodon populator (“he who brings devastation”). Smilodon was nearly 900 pounds and had a pair of 11-inch-long curving fangs. The real mystery? Why it isn’t still around. For 13 million years, sabertooths ruled.
  1. Tasmania’s thylacine was a smart, wolf-like predator with tiger stripes who inspired so much fear some believed it lived on blood like a vampire. Yet

    others successfully tamed thylacines, who became devoted companions and could be walked on a leash. Because who wouldn’t want their own vampire dog?

  1. How tough were Indian Ocean giant tortoises? They could live for a year without food or water. As they say on TV, don’t try this at home. Unfortunately, in the era before canning, that leathery pluck made giant tortoises the perfect portable meal for eighteenth-century sailors, who picked the Mascarene Islands clean.

“But wait!” you say. “Don’t giant tortoises still exist?” Yes, they do. Separate species of giant tortoises still live in the Galapagos and on Aldabra, and they are equally capable of this epic feat of stamina.

Yet they wouldn’t be with us at all without the dedicated efforts of conservationists. The same is true for lions, tigers, rhinos, and more—even as certain species have gone the way of the dodo, others remain endangered, some teetering on the brink of extinction. Saving these animals is important for lots of reasons. Just remember:

It’s also how we keep the world weird.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, which is kind of a big deal around here, because if you hadn’t noticed, feminism is kind of our jam.  And the icing on the already awesome March 8th cake (there should definitely be actual Women’s Day cake), is that today is also the official publication day of Laura Barcella’s Fight like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World.

FightlikeagirlFrom Mary Wollstonecraft to Beyonce and Oprah to Judy Blume, Fight Like a Girl  highlights women who are traditionally recognized as being change makers, and those who haven’t always gotten the recognition that they deserve.  Short but thorough profiles of all 50 women, including soundbites about why each is “awesome,” are featured alongside beautifully rendered portraits, eye-opening sidebars on related topics and iconic quotes.

This book gives necessary and insightful context to a lot of the conversations we’re having about women, feminism, and reproductive rights right now.  So to celebrate how amazing women are today, we say you treat yo self to an amazing read.  Happy book birthday to Fight Like a Girl!

Hallie Fryd on the History of Valentine’s Day

Flowers, candy, being beaten to death with clubs, chasing women around Rome with bloody strips of goatskin…that’s right, it’s Valentines Day!


How does almost 2000 years of violence, and romance come together to make our modern Hallmark holiday? Let’s start with the holiday’s namesake: Valentine of Rome. Like a lot of things that happened in the 3rd Century the details around Valentine’s life (and death) are a bit sketchy. His legend is probably a combination of a couple different Valentines, and some parts are definitely made up. See if you can guess which parts!

Valentine up close

Being a Christian was officially illegal under Roman rule at the time, but it was possible to fly under the radar. Valentine however chose an especially dangerous way to express his faith. The Emperor, Claudius II (AKA Claudius the Cruel), forbid his soldiers from getting married thinking they’d be better fighters without the distraction of wives and kids to worry about. Valentine, that romantic, defied the law and married Christian soldiers secretly. Or kind of secretly because he was caught, and thrown in jail. While in prison, Valentine miraculously restored the vision of his jailor’s blind daughter, converting the whole family to Christianity in

the process.

Despite performing this medical miracle, Valentine wasn’t off the hook for the secret marriages, and for refusing to renounce his faith despite some pretty intense torture. On February 14th 269 CE he was stoned, then beaten to death with clubs. Then beheaded for good measure. On the morning of his execution he supposedly wrote a farewell message to the jailor’s now sighted daughter signed, “From your Valentine.” SOUND FAMILIAR?

What about the animal skins? St. Valentine may also have become associated with romance because his martyrdom coincided with the Roman holiday Lupercalia, a drunken, naked celebration of sex, romance and fertility. During Lupercalia Pagan men ran through the city whipping young women with the flayed skin of freshly sacrificed animals. This slapping, which the women supposedly enjoyed, was believed to encourage fertility. The men would also each draw the name of an available woman from a jar with whom they would be matched (sexually) for the duration of the holiday.

So buy your chocolates, and valentines, but if you want to go hardcore traditionalist consider performing a clandestine marriage, or sacrificing a goat! Caveat: I do not recommend chasing a 21st century woman around with that goat’s bloody skin. Not all women want to encourage fertility, and also it’s disgusting.

Hallie Fryd is the author of Martyrdom: The Coloring Book. Valentine






Our Holiday Gift Guide

Shopping for presents, but don’t know where to start? We’re here to help! In our totally biased opinion, books are the perfect gifts to give and receive – and we have something for every kind of reader:

Plotted: A Literary Atlas is filled with literal and abstract interpretations of the geography of favorite works of literature. It’s a gorgeous gift for bookworms, art lovers, and really anyone (including yourself!) who loves to reimagine and visit literary worlds.



How Not to Be a Dick_9781936976027How Not to Be a Dick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide was written for that special someone in your life… You know who we’re talking about.


MartyrdomMartyrdom: The Coloring Book should be gifted with some crayons. An unusual gift for the history buffs, even non-readers, and aspiring colorists.




Mug It! Easy & Delicious Meals for One  makes a sweet stocking stuffer for the hungry reader who just wants a quick meal. Pop in a cool mug and maybe a fork and spoon, and this gift’s ready to go!




Sticky Fingers_9781936976546

Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects keeps arts and crafts alive and fun! For people who like to be hands-on and creative, gift them this book with a bunch of rolls of duct tape.




Daisy to the RescueDaisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and Other Animal Heroes  has some of the most heartwarming stories of human’s best animal friends. Perfect for animal lovers, this book brings out the warm, fuzzy feelings we love to have around the holidays.




Alice+FredaForever_9781936976607Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis is for those who are looking for something with a darkness and an edge. This book recounts the tragic love story of two women in 1892 — a historical dive into late 19th century America that makes for a captivating read.





The Weird World of Words is for the literary geeks out there who love words and their etymologies. What words did Shakespeare invent? Where did our most popular phrases come from? Please don’t send your friend a dictionary — this book’s way more fun!




Rockin-the-BoatRockin’ the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries from Joan of Arc to Malcolm X is a unique and powerful view of history from the bottom up, through the eyes of people who dared to imagine a different world from the one in which they lived. Reminds us that we can change things–perfect for friends and family members who are fighting the good fight.