Staff Picks

July 28, 2011

Through A Glass, Clearly: Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars 5


One comes away from Ghost Wars with two seemingly paradoxical impressions: 1. unlike most civilians, American leaders saw 9/11 coming years before it happened; and 2. barring a run of stupid luck, they had almost zero chance of stopping it, given the realities of the pre-9/11 world.

July 26, 2011

Staff Pick: The Real State of America Atlas 2


Where The Real State of America Atlas truly shines is in its demolition of the notion – the enduring fantasy – that America is a land of equal opportunity.

June 29, 2011

The Devil in a Cadillac: Langston Hughes’ Tambourines to Glory 0


This is a living book—one that summons the age of the Great Migration and Sarah Vaughan and Joe Louis.  And while it’s a morality fable, its characters aren’t the flat allegorical kind.

June 27, 2011

The Beauty I Long For: Maira Kalman and the Principles of Uncertainty 4


Her books are quirky, deeply moving, and beautiful documents of life on earth. She considers Spinoza, George Washington, fruit platters, her dog, the nature of war. If this sounds incoherent, it isn’t. “I am trying to figure out two very simple things,” she said once at a TED conference. “How to live, and how to die. Period. That’s all I’m trying to do, all day long.”

June 24, 2011

Staff Pick: Blaise Cendrars’ Moravagine 4


Following in the wake of Moravagine’s violence and abandon is also a vicarious thrill for the reader; the book’s prose and pacing and bravado is fearsome, irresistibly so.

May 27, 2011

Staff Picks: Richard P. Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces 4


This is not really physics for beginners, then, but extremely advanced physics explained conversationally, so that students with a working knowledge of the sciences will be intrigued and inspired by the majestic complexity of the discipline, even if they can’t grasp it yet.

May 17, 2011

Staff Pick: China Mieville’s Embassytown 9


Instead of doing the safe thing and revisiting his imaginary world of Bas-Lag or his reconfigured city of London, Mieville now takes us to his titular “city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.”

April 14, 2011

Staff Pick: Two Crime Novels 12


The most recent books I’ve read in the genre confirm my long-held suspicion that attempting to categorize books by genre does readers a disservice; these books are no less literary than any of the other great books I’ve read this year, they just have crimes and/or guns in them.

March 31, 2011

Staff Pick: The Patterns of Paper Monsters by Emma Rathbone 7


I longed for a contemporary novel about contemporary life. I longed for references to malls, and to boners, and to “intense cell phones” and to a pillow made of denim with an actual jeans pocket on the front, “like it thinks it’s Bruce Springsteen.”

March 30, 2011

Staff Pick: The Literary Life: A Scrapbook Almanac 1900 to 1950 0


Phelps and Deane were interested in the individualized, romantic convergence of reader and writer; in the deeply-felt notion that literature matters in life, that indeed it is life.