Wednesday, December 14, 2016
By Jay Fung, MCS Librarian
Hello from the library! First, if you haven’t been by the library yet, please feel free to come visit us. Next, for our newest members of the Manhattan Country School community, these are the annual Holiday Shopping Lists. Several years ago, some parents asked me for recommendations for books for holiday gifts. The lists have grown and expanded to include one for grownups as well. I hope you enjoy them! Of course, if you have any questions about other books and anything else related to literature, please let me know.
“When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”
—President Barack Obama
This quote came from a conversation between President Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping and Gilead (and one of my favorite writers ever.) The president wanted to meet her and talk to her after reading several of her books. It seems to me that this is the very essence of why reading books is critical to us as humans. It is through literature that we can find such valuable connections to the outside world and ultimately, ourselves.
Reading a book at a young age is essentially a social undertaking. Before a child can read, this act is usually done with a grownup. As they get a little older, children are usually reading what their peers are reading, unless of course, they have a pushy librarian! It is only when we reach our teens and then adulthood that reading a book becomes a much more solitary operation. Yet, embedded in this act is the hope of making the kinds of connections that the president was talking about—to the past, to other cultures, to information and to some possible answers and questions.
When I first took the job as librarian, I could never have imagined how being a witness to daily connections of these kinds would affect me in such positive ways. This holiday season, I truly hope that you connect with a fantastic book. Happy reading, citizens and please come visit us in the new library space!
2016 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers
2016 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson - Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion. Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles - It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the 10-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell - On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want. What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams - Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. And at long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: 33 stories drawn from three much-lauded collections, and another 13 appearing here for the first time in book form. Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar. Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies - Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience. Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood. Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories—three inspired by real historical characters—to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but also American.
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson - One of the most terrifying stories of the 20th century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane. The Lottery and Other Stories, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with 24 equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range—from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous—and her power as a storyteller.
Umami by Laia Jufresa - Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious 12-year-old who spends her days buried in Agatha Christie novels to forget the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the summer she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. The ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge—Who was my wife? Why did my Mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown? In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart wrenching.
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 edited by Laura Furman - The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 gathers 20 of the best short stories of the year, selected from thousands published in literary magazines. The winning stories range in setting from Japan at the outset of World War II to a remote cabin in the woods of Wyoming, and the characters that inhabit them range from a misanthropic survivor of an apocalyptic flood to a unicorn hidden in a suburban house. Whether fantastical or realistic, gothic or lyrical, the stories here are uniformly breathtaking. They are accompanied by the editor’s introduction, essays from the eminent jurors on their favorites, observations from the winning writers on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines. Some of this year’s authors are: Marie-Helene Bertino, Robert Coover, Otessa Moshfegh and Ron Carlson.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett - The Mothers is an absorbing and powerful novel about motherhood, female friendship and finding love with a broken heart. Brit Bennett will captivate you with her characters—which are hurting, flawed and trying to navigate the unsteady transition into adulthood. Seventeen-year-old Nadia Turner has her world turned upside down when her mother commits suicide and shortly thereafter, she discovers she’s pregnant with the pastor’s son’s child. Nadia finds a safe harbor in her best friend Aubrey, but as the years go by, her past decisions invade the present, ushering in a new wave of wounds. The Mothers ambitiously tackles heavy circumstances, but the hope of these young black women and Bennett’s ability to convey the ferocity of what it means have a mother, to be a mother, and to want a mother, make this novel a resoundingly magnetic and essential read.
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans - Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy, set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small time con artist and a young orphan evacuee. When Noel Bostock—aged 10, no family—is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge—a 36-year old widow drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it. Noel’s mourning his godmother Mattie, a former suffragette. Wise beyond his years, raised with a disdain for authority and an eclectic attitude toward education, he has little in common with other children and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s provided unprecedented opportunities for making money, but what Vee needs—and what she’s never had—is a cool head and the ability to make a plan. On her own, she’s a disaster. With Noel, she’s a team. Together, they cook up a scheme. Crisscrossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life. But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war—and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn’t actually safe at all. . .
Swing Time by Zadie Smith - An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty. Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live. But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey—the same twists, the same shakes—and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.
Dodgers by Bill Beverly - Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East's hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he's never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become. Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple - A brilliant novel from the author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future. Eleanor knows she's a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office—but not Eleanor—that he's on vacation. Just when it seems like things can't go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
The Occupation Trilogy: La Place de LÉtoile, The Night Watch, and Ring Roads by Patrick Modiano - Born at the close of World War II, 2014 Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano was a young man in his 20s when he burst onto the Parisian literary scene with these three brilliant, angry novels about the wartime Occupation of Paris. The epigraph to his first novel, among the first to seriously question Nazi collaboration in France, reads: "In June 1942 a German officer goes up to a young man and says: 'Excuse me, monsieur, where is La Place de l'Étoile?' The young man points to the star on his chest." The second novel, The Night Watch, tells the story of a young man caught between his work for the French Gestapo, his work for a Resistance cell, and the black marketeers whose milieu he shares. Ring Roads recounts a son's search for his Jewish father who disappeared 10 years earlier, whom he finds trying to weather the war in service to unsavory characters. Together these three brilliant, almost hallucinatory evocations of the Occupation attempt to exorcise the past by exploring the morally ambiguous worlds of collaboration and resistance. Award-winning translator Frank Wynne has revised the translations of The Night Watch and Ring Roads—long out of print—for our current day, and brings La Place de l'Étoile into English for the first time. The Occupation Trilogy provides the perfect introduction to one of the world's greatest writers.
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones - This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones’ captivating story also brings into focus a changing China—this time the hidden world of high culinary culture. When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang. In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family—a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners—and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places.
The North Water by Ian McGuire - A 19th-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp, and highly original tale that grips like a thriller. Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the Arctic Circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage. In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring? With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire's The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore - For almost an entire generation, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals in a steadily escalating feud that is fueled by hearsay and fantasized superstitions. Both families' livelihood is dependent on their itinerant performances, from one town to the next, and both family shows have turned competitive, with the Corbeaus performing tightrope like acts in the trees and the Palomas presenting mermaid exhibitions in the natural waterways. Members of the families are born with particular marks that brand them according to their lineage. The Corbeaus have a patch of feathers at the base of their hairline, and the Palomas have a series of patterned scales. No Paloma, under any circumstance, should dare touch a Corbeau, or vice versa, for fear that this simple act could cause a potentially fatal catastrophe. This mandate does not keep Lucien "Cluck" Corbeau from rescuing Lace Paloma from a chemical disaster. That fateful moment spurred the beginnings of their star-crossed romance and forever changes the lives of the two clans. In this tale of magical realism, the magic is so deftly woven into the fabric of the story, readers might overlook the more subtle moments.
Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich - The collected works of Adrienne Rich, whose poetry is “distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity” (New York Times). Adrienne Rich was the singular voice of her generation and one of our most important American poets. She brought discussions of gender, race, and class to the forefront of poetical discourse, pushing formal boundaries and consistently examining both self and society. This collected volume traces the evolution of her poetry, from her earliest work, which was formally exact and decorous, to her later work, which became increasingly radical in both its free-verse form and feminist and political content. The entire body of her poetry is on display in this vast volume, including the National Book Award–winning Diving Into the Wreck and her prize-winning Atlas of the Difficult World. The Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich gathers and memorializes all of her boldly political, formally ambitious, thoughtful, and lucid work, the whole of which makes her one of the most prolific and influential poets of our time.
Look: Poems by Solmaz Sharif - Sharif's astonishing first book, Look, asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter. At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. "Let it matter what we call a thing," she writes. "Let me look at you."
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew - Meet Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Now in his early 70s, Chan has been making comics in his native Singapore since 1954, when he was a boy of 16. As he looks back on his career over five decades, we see his stories unfold before us in a dazzling array of art styles and forms, their development mirroring the evolution in the political and social landscape of his homeland and of the comic book medium itself. With The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye Sonny Liew has drawn together a myriad of genres to create a thoroughly ingenious and engaging work, where the line between truth and construct may sometimes be blurred, but where the story told is always enthralling, bringing us on a uniquely moving, funny, and thought-provoking journey through the life of an artist and the history of a nation.
Black Panther: One Nation Under Our Feet (Book 1) by Ta-Nehisi Coates - A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) takes the helm, confronting T'Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt—but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In-Between by Hisham Matar - When Hisham Matar was a 19-year-old university student in England, his father was kidnapped. One of the Qaddafi regime’s most prominent opponents in exile, he was held in a secret prison in Libya. Hisham would never see him again. But he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. “Hope,” as he writes, “is cunning and persistent.”
Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, the prison cells are empty and there is no sign of Jaballa Matar. Hisham returns with his mother and wife to the homeland he never thought he’d go back to again. The Return is the story of what he found there. It is at once an exquisite meditation on history, politics, and art, a brilliant portrait of a nation and a people on the cusp of change, and a disquieting depiction of the brutal legacy of absolute power. Above all, it is a universal tale of loss and love and of one family’s life. Hisham Matar asks the harrowing question: How does one go on living in the face of a loved one’s uncertain fate?
Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Mak - Words and definitions beloved by the author and representing 18 languages are arranged from one to three per page, accompanied by watercolor illustrations in subdued tones of russets, grays, greens, and browns. Smack-dab in the middle, “smultronställe” has a solo gig: “lit. ‘place of wild strawberries’; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.” A blonde, white girl rests among grasses and strawberries, and a bouquet of strawberry fruits and blossoms decorates the opposing page. The book’s first words evoke dawn, and near the end are nocturnal and love-related words. In between are words and phrases with other themes, ranging from practical to philosophical and from nouns to adjectives. The many people populating the pages have pleasant, if generic, features; skin and hair types are reasonably diverse, though white figures predominate. Many of the words evoke humorous art, as in the pairing of the Japanese words “tatemae” and “honne,” or pretended versus true beliefs; one shows people in an elevator presenting a careful face to the world, while the other depicts the same people on a balcony, demonstrating “what a person truly believes.”
First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson - In First Bite, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists, and nutritionists to reveal that our food habits are shaped by a whole host of factors: family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. Taking the reader on a journey across the globe, Wilson introduces us to people who can only eat foods of a certain color; prisoners of war whose deepest yearning is for Mom’s apple pie; a 9-year-old anosmia sufferer who has no memory of the flavor of her mother’s cooking; toddlers who will eat nothing but hotdogs and grilled cheese sandwiches; and researchers and doctors who have pioneered new and effective ways to persuade children to try new vegetables. Wilson examines why the Japanese eat so healthily, whereas the vast majority of teenage boys in Kuwait have a weight problem—and what these facts can tell Americans about how to eat better. The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But Wilson also shows that both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our tastes and eating habits, First Bite also shows us how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein - From the guitarist of the pioneering band Sleater-Kinney, the book Kim Gordon says "everyone has been waiting for" and a New York Times Notable Book of 2015-- a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life—and finding yourself—in music. Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would be cited as “America’s best rock band” by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant, exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, and redefined notions of gender in rock.
My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry by Philip Levine - In prose both as superbly rendered as his poetry and as down-to-earth and easy as speaking, Levine reveals the things that made him the poet he became. In the title essay, originally the final speech of his poet laureate year, he recounts how as a boy he composed little speeches walking in the night woods near his house and how he later realized these were his first poems. He wittily takes on the poets he studied with in the Iowa Writing Program: John Berryman, who was his great teacher and lifelong friend, and Robert Lowell, who was neither. His deepest influences—jazz, Spain, the working people of Detroit—are reflected in many of the pieces. There are essays on Spanish poets he admires, William Carlos Williams, Wordsworth, Keats, and others. A wonderful, moving collection of writings that just adds to our knowledge and appreciation of Philip Levine--both the man and the poet.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly -Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African-American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens. Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African-American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure.
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson - This lushly illustrated history of popular entertainment takes a long-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused. Johnson’s storytelling is just as delightful as the inventions he describes, full of surprising stops along the journey from simple concepts to complex modern systems. He introduces us to the colorful innovators of leisure: the explorers, proprietors, showmen, and artists who changed the trajectory of history with their luxurious wares, exotic meals, taverns, gambling tables, and magic shows. Johnson compellingly argues that observers of technological and social trends should be looking for clues in novel amusements. You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.
Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music and Family by Daniel Bergner - Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive. At the age of 12, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future. In 2011, at the age of 24, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses. Sing for Your Life chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters—including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes—technically, creatively—to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu - Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than 50 years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness's 80th birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the fact of life's inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.
The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers and Book Lovers by Bob Eckstein - From beloved New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein comes this New York Times bestselling collection of paintings and stories from some of the world’s most cherished bookstores. The collection of 75 evocative paintings and colorful anecdotes invites you into the heart and soul of every community: the local bookshop, each with its own quirks, charms, and legendary stories. The book features an incredible roster of great bookstores from across the globe and stories from writers, thinkers and artists of our time, including David Bowie, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem, Roz Chast, Deepak Chopra, Bob Odenkirk, Philip Glass, Jonathan Ames, Terry Gross, Mark Maron, Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett, Chris Ware, Molly Crabapple, Amitav Ghosh, Alice Munro, Dave Eggers, Garrison Keillor and many more. Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures our lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional.
Kurosawa’s Rashomon: A Vanished City, A Lost Brother, and the Voice Inside His Iconic Films by Paul Anderer - A groundbreaking investigation into the early life of the iconic Akira Kurosawa in connection to his most famous film―taking us deeper into Kurosawa and his world. Although he is a filmmaker of international renown, Kurosawa and the story of his formative years remain as enigmatic as his own Rashomon. Paul Anderer looks back at Kurosawa before he became famous, taking us into the turbulent world that made him. We encounter Tokyo, Kurosawa’s birthplace, which would be destroyed twice before his eyes; explore early 20th-century Japan amid sweeping cross-cultural changes; and confront profound family tragedy alongside the horror of war. From these multiple angles we see how Kurosawa’s life and work speak to the epic narrative of modern Japan’s rise and fall. With fresh insights and vivid prose, Anderer engages the Great Earthquake of 1923, the dynamic energy that surged through Tokyo in its wake, and its impact on Kurosawa as a youth. When the city is destroyed again, in the fire-bombings of 1945, Anderer reveals how Kurosawa grappled with the trauma of war and its aftermath, and forged his artistic vision. Finally, he resurrects the specter and the voice of a gifted and troubled older brother―himself a star in the silent film industry―who took Kurosawa to see his first films, and who led a rebellious life until his desperate end. Bringing these formative forces into focus, Anderer looks beyond the aura of Kurosawa’s fame and leads us deeper into the tragedies and the challenges of his past. Kurosawa’s Rashomon uncovers how a film like Rashomon came to be, and why it endures to illuminate the shadows and the challenges of our present.
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver - “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood “friend” Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, “a place to enter, and in which to feel,” and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.
Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of History by Molly Schiot - Based on the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the 20th century that features rarely seen photos and new interviews with past and present game changers including Abby Wambach and Cari Champion. Two years ago, filmmaker Molly Schiot began the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, posting a photo each day of a female athlete who had changed the face of sports around the globe in the pre-Title IX age. These women paved the way for Serena Williams, Carli Lloyd, and Lindsey Vonn, yet few today know who they are. Slowly but surely, the account gained a following, and the result is Game Changers, a beautifully illustrated collection of these trailblazers’ rarely-before-seen photos and stories. Featuring icons Althea Gibson and Wyomia Tyus, complete unknowns Trudy Beck and Conchita Cintron, policymaker Margaret Dunkle, sportswriter Lisa Olson, and many more, Game Changers gives these “founding mothers” the attention and recognition they deserve, and features critical conversations between past and present gamechangers—including former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team captain Abby Wambach and SportsCenter anchor Cari Champion—about what it means to be a woman on and off the field. Inspiring, empowering, and unforgettable, Game Changers is the perfect gift for anyone who has a love of the game.
Nonstop Metropolis by Rebecca Solnit - Nonstop Metropolis, the culminating volume in a trilogy of atlases, conveys innumerable unbound experiences of New York City through 26 imaginative maps and informative essays. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, it explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey. We are invited to travel through Manhattan’s playgrounds, from polyglot Queens to many-faceted Brooklyn, and from the resilient Bronx to the mystical kung fu hip-hop mecca of Staten Island. The contributors to this exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated volume celebrate New York City’s unique vitality, its incubation of the avant-garde, and its literary history, but they also critique its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Nonstop Metropolis allows us to excavate New York’s buried layers, to scrutinize its political heft, and to discover the unexpected in one of the most iconic cities in the world. It is both a challenge and homage to how New Yorkers think of their city, and how the world sees this capital of capitalism, culture, immigration, and more.