Review: The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional by Philip Yaffe

by First Mate Keira

Title: The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional
Author: Philip Yaffe
Format: Ebook
Page Count: 288 pages
Grade Reading Level: 9th Grade+

Why I read this book:

I was offered a review copy by the author. In addition, I was interested in learning the secret to effective expository writing… *cough* acing that pesky term paper *cough*

Why you should read this book:

Ever wanted to write the perfect term paper or ace a weighty presentation? Philip Yaffe’s The Gettysburg Approach will give the keys to successful writing to any student wishing to learn and willing to do the legwork. The text itself is a useful example of all of the principles, tips, and instructions the author explains throughout the book.

Early emphasis is on clarity, conciseness, and density. Formulas define what these words mean with instructions and exercises for applying them to your writing. Later Yaffe covers the differences between writing and speaking and how to make slide show presentations work for the speaker and listener alike.

Yaffe employs repetition and summation throughout the book to get points across and make sure they stick. Appendixes A-M continue the lessons from the main text of the book and provide plenty of practice to make sure you get what to do.

Aimed at college freshmen, Gettysburg Approach would also be good for high school students. Beyond the student application, I believe this book to be a good investment for new teachers wishing to keep students engaged. In addition, it would be good for presenters, speakers, and professionals that rely heavily on written communication.

Favorite Sections:

  • Author’s Story – How he learned to write (from complexity to effectiveness)
  • Inverted Pyramid – A journalism technique that gives busy readers what they want fast.
  • Line by Line Analysis – Specifically when Yaffe covers Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony soliloquy about the death of Caesar and the comparison between the two speeches
  • Lewis Carol’s Jabborwocky Poem – How nonsense can achieve an expository feel and be solidly constructed at the same time

Last Minute Thoughts: This is nitpicky, but I wish attention, attention span, or focus, was used in place of mind control throughout the book. Personally it jolted me out of the reading because it seemed at times the prevalent idea appeared to be mind control, not effective writing, though gaining and retaining reader attention resulted from professional writing. I have no interest in mind control. :P

Buy: The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional (print)

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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Review: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

by First Mate Keira

Title: The Mother Tongue
Author: Bill Bryson
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 245
Grade Reading Level: Ages 16+

Why I read this book:

It was loaned to me by a friend who knew how much I enjoyed English.

Why you should read this book:

The Mother Tongue is a non-fiction work that as the cover says is about English and how it got that way. I love words, so this book really struck a cord with me. I have soaked up more useless trivia by reading this than a sponge. Valuable trivia too. ;) Some of which I’ve included below the review.

It’s not a YA book by any stretch of the imagination, however, I would fully recommend it to high school students prepping for standardized tests. College students too for that matter, for the same reasons. It’s a fascinating, in-depth look into English. Bryson explains word structure, changes, and definitions while at the same time comparing English to other languages. I imagine anybody who takes the time to read this book will pass the language side of any standardized test (SAT, ACT, GRE) with flying colors.

My Top 10 Favorite Trivia from the Mother Tongue:

(Heavy on the paraphrasing)

  1. Slurvian is what the slurring of words is called.
  2. Chopping syllables off the front of a word is aphesis, apocope when it’s off the back, and syncope when it’s from the middle.
  3. Shakespeare was a master wordsmith. He created a new word once every ten words in his plays. That’s approximately 2000 words. This does not include his phrases that stick around to this day in common use.
  4. Ough can be pronounced 8 ways: through, though, thought, tough, plough, thorough, hiccough, and lough. Can you guess which is chough? The estimate is that only 1 person in 100 can be truly sure they got it right.
  5. English has more than 100 prefixes and suffixes in regular use.
  6. Harlot used to mean boy. (I take such pleasure out of that as a romance reader… haha.) Girl used to be any young person.
  7. We hear words faster than we can speak them; that’s why we have answers to questions before they’re finished being asked. Our desire to talk as fast as we hear is partially the reason behind mispronunciations and slurring.
  8. Th is probably one of the hardest sounds for non-native English speaking Asians to say. That and the el sound. They usually get pronounced as efs and ars accordingly.
  9. No letter in the English alphabet is pronounced the same way consistently in words. They all change depending on the other letters associated with the letter in question.
  10. The schwa, or upside down e, which looks like this ǝ, is the most common vowel sound in the English language. It features in nearly every multisyllabic word.

I’ll leave it there, but trust me, there’s so much more to discover. Your mind will be blown and you’ll probably wonder at some point while reading it how you could ever have learned English to begin with… but you’ll also be glad to know English because of how rich the depth of it can be.

Buy: The Mother Tongue

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

by Cook Cutlery, guest reviewer

Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
# of pages: 108 pages
Grade Reading Level: 8.7

Summary: Elie Wiesel is a young 14 year old Jewish Orthodox boy. He’s 15 at the end. He lived during the time that Adolf Hitler rose to power. He was one of very few to survive the Holocaust. Night is his journey of how he and his father survive the different concentration camps, one of which was Auschwitz. During the journey they are evacuated from Buna and sent to Auschwitz’s concentration camp.  Once they walk through the gate of Auschwitz it’s only the beginning of their rigorous journey to survive the horrors they are going to encounter and endure.

Why I Started This Book:

We read this book in language arts as part of our Holocaust unit. We read Night because he was the same age as many of us in class and this is the story of how he survived some truly awful terrible things.


  • Elie Wiesel is a truly extraordinary human being. I’m glad he survived and I can only wish there had been more survivors.
  • I am grateful many of the descriptions were brief and that some things were condensed to a few sentences. It made it easier for me to read it.
  • I liked this book because it tells a tale of inner strength. If someone, especially a kid, survive all that, it really makes you think. It’s sort of empowering because of that. It’s a good lesson to teach kids. You can survive even the worst of troubles, fears, and experiences.


  • This really isn’t against the book so much as it’s against human history. I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that anyone could think doing this to people is okay. Ethnic cleansing is not okay and it made me really uncomfortable to read about it from someone’s personal experience. It’s impossible to understand such evil.
  • On the trip to Auschwitz a woman has visions and starts to scream out “Fire! Can’t you see it? Fire!” Many people run to the edge of the cattle cart to see if there was a fire and there wasn’t one, but still she persisted in screaming “Fire!” until some men beat her up. How awful. Then they tie her up and gag her to silence her. Then when they arrive at the gate of Auschwitz they realized why the woman was screaming “Fire!” because when they looked up they saw a huge crematory and they looked at the chimney, coming out of it was huge flames. This is even worse. I can barely stand imagining such a scene let alone living through it in real life.
  • I also disliked the fact that his father didn’t survive when they got to the other camp. I wish Elie was able to say goodbye to his father before he was taken in the night. I wish I could rewrite the ending if not the whole story. The whole thing is so sad.

Last Minute Thoughts: Reading this book is like squeezing your heart until you feel all bruised and hallowed out. It isn’t pleasure reading and despite the rating I probably wouldn’t read it again, but it’s definitely a book you should made a point of reading.

Buy: Night

Rating: I give this book 3 out of 5 treasure chests.

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