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Jalen can never decide what to read, so he just reads everything. Although he studied music in college, he has a special interest in science, math, and philosophy, and doesn't see those fields as strictly independent from art. He also enjoys critical literature on gender, sexuality, and love, topics that confuse and fascinate him. When he's not reading, he's hunting for portals to parallel universes where dogs can talk, chocolate is a food group, and everyone uses their turn signal.
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What the hell is going on in Istanbul? Current events and dictators aside (Ms. Hughes was present during the deadly Gezi Park protests of 2013), the world has been asking that question for thousands of years. As one of the earliest settlements on Earth, Istanbul has an incredibly diverse history that regularly defies expectations. Is it a Muslim or a Christian city? European or Asian? Were the first citizens Turks, Greeks, Romans, others? What do we even call a city that historians call Byzantium, citizens call Constantinople, and the post office calls Istanbul? The City of Many Names seems like a living contradiction. I second Hughes: that contradiction is what makes it the most Human place on Earth.
Most of us fall in love at some point, and it really hurts when we discover that our priorities don't align with our partners'. Hardy and Easton aren't out to destroy relationships as we know them. Rather, their mission is to illuminate a conversation that is often assumed and rarely spoken. How do we practice love? What about desire? What do we expect of each other? Can we build a love that won't be blown over by the Big Bad Wolf of extra-amory? Every couple--or single, triple, etc., for that matter--should ask these questions before the answers come a-knocking in the night. ( And some of those answers can be really, really fun. ;)
With the growing use of Truvada for PrEP and advances in the treatment of HIV, many young gay men now say that they can live without fear of AIDS. What a monumental shift in so short a time! To me, that means it's time for a close re-read of Angels in America. Tony Kushner's landmark drama brought the fight against AIDS to the front of American consciousness after a harrowing decade of willful ignorance. Watching from 2018 feels like watching a sinking ship from a helicopter (that may or may not crash), but there is so much to learn from our new perspective.
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Charlie Harmon spent four grueling years as Leonard Bernstein's (LB's) personal assistant--a longer tenure than any other assistant to work under the maddening Maestro. Just the pace of the narrative--a single paragraph can take you from New York to Vienna to Tokyo and back--speaks to the breakneck itinerary through which Charlie steered LB, all while trying to keep him on track to finish an opera. During your journey with Charlie and the Maestro, you'll bump elbows with multi-national royalty, fret over the safety of LB's stuffed monkey Moneto, spot the ghost of LB's wife Felicia, stumble out of LB's Gatsby-esque parties, and walk in on the Maestro in bed with one of his young, ahem, "proteges." LB could be magnetically charming one day and grossly inconsiderate the next, but his dedication to musical education never waned. "People love me for what I do, not who I am," he once pined. He was wrong: here is an honest account of LB at his best and his worst, and I find I love him even more. You will too.
Isn’t it frustrating arguing with someone who says all the wrong things in all the right ways? Some people get away with entire political campaigns by using persuasive arguments that may be false or misleading. These are called logical fallacies—and thanks to this handy field guide, you are now prepared to identify them in the wild! Read with caution; this adorable book will also call you on your own bullshit.
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If the dog on stilts didn't grab you, then I'm sorry, there's no hope. Thankfully, hopelessness is one of Jason's choicest themes. Many authors make groundbreaking careers by making the bizarre or exotic seem familiar and relatable. Jason does the opposite. Growing up, getting a job, and falling in love in suburbia never looked so freaky and unnatural. You'll laugh till you cry.
After the third part of this steamy love story, I set it down and resolved not to pick it up again because I didn't want to end. It didn't work; Elio and Oliver fascinated me, and I had to know what came next, even though I knew it would hurt. I'm glad I pressed on. Every sentence is a small love song that builds on the others in counterpoint.
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"Cut doors and windows / to make a room./ Where the room isn't,/ there's room for you./ So the profit in what is / is in the use of what isn't." These 2.5-millenia-old words, lovingly rendered by novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, encompass every phenomenon in the universe, from atomic energy to the Grand Canyon, from music to the receptive ear.
Unlike other (male) translators, who seem obsessed with the power of wisdom, Le Guin emphasizes the influence of powerlessness, and the wisdom of wei wu wei: action by inaction. Existence by void. Power by weakness. Music by silence. Her comments, spare and impactful, exemplify the Tao.
A species of aristocratic TV-headed warmongers. A spaceship that is also a magical tree. A sex-themed dreadnought hiding hideous crimes. A cyclops pulp fiction writer with a secret message. His ex-wife, a warm-hearted drug dealer (who is also a magical tree). At the heart of this wacky, action-packed sci-fi series are new parents Ilana and Marko, enemy soldiers from warring species, desperately trying to raise their illegally-conceived child at the fringe of intergalactic society. Like the novels of D. Oswald Heist, this gloriously campy comic book masks a heartfelt story about the hypocrisy of war. You will regret missing this one.
The term "grammar Nazi" should cause concern for a number of reasons. For one, no one should willingly compare themselves to a Nazi. For another, Nazism (or any abolutism) just does not work well in grammar, as Strunk and White exemplify. They key to good grammar is not to adhere to unrelenting rules, but to learn the proper usage of grammatical elements. What is the USE of an oxford comma, as compared to the lack of one? Or the USE of a semi-colon, as compared to a colon or a comma? Or the USE of a fragmented sentence? I made a game out of finding sentences where Strunk and White simultaneously describe and demonstrate the elements, like master painters illustrating the proportions of the body. This book is linguistic alchemy. Go make some gold.
I am so sick of the analog v. digital debate. It makes about as much sense as the Star Trek/Star Wars rivalry; they're both awesome for different reasons! Damon Krukowski (of Galaxie 500 and Damon and Naomi) shows us the different USES of each format, and explains why digital took the world by storm in the late twentieth century. This stuff is relevant for all musicians everywhere, including listeners. If you haven't had enough by the end of the book, check out Damon's podcast "Ways of Hearing", where you can hear the audio as he explains the differences.
I can stomach a lot of violence in books, but this one made me squirm. The title is the English translation of the main character's name, Onyesonwu. In Onye's world, the process of science has been forgotten, leaving behind only remnants in the form of magical abilities wielded by sorcerers. Only men are permitted to wield that power--but Onye plans to use hers to stop an evil sorcerer from destroying her people, and won't let anyone in her way. Ms. Okarafor does not shy away from difficult stories that seem unthinkable to those of us who haven't lived them, but that are all too familiar to women around the world. Many books use rape and circumcision to depict the brutality of the past and the present; what makes this book different is that it imagines such brutality in the future.
This book made me a better musician. Yes, you read that right. Yes, this is a book about drawing. What does drawing have to do with music? Beats me, but after completing the exercises within, I found I could execute piano pieces with greater accuracy and expression than I've ever been able to achieve. Perhaps the disambiguation of line and composition made it possible for me to conceive abstract elements as a whole--an invaluable skill in every walk of life. Ms. Edwards makes good on her promise to change how the aspiring artist sees the world.
Thanks to philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith, the octopus has become my favorite genetic relative. Octopuses are the problem child of the animal kingdom: they try to blend into the background; they recoil from social interaction; they pick fights with other octos for little or no reason; and yet they show signs of profound intelligence. When Godfrey-Smith encountered a rare community of octopuses off Australia's eastern coast, he knew he'd found something special: a chance to observe octopus behavior in a unique ecosystem. His study raises questions about the very fundamentals of life as we understand it. What is "intelligence"? How do nervous systems coordinate activity? And moreover, what can our most distant animal cousin teach us about our own souls?
"You got the world you hoped for or the world you feared--your hope or your fear made it so."
What does a purely millennial vision of the future look like? Mr. Doctorow comes close--with his info-era lingo, open approach to sex and intimacy, and 3d-printable communes--although I hesitate to agree with those who laud this book as a manifesto. This book presents one possible future, and a hyperbolic one at that, designed more to make us think about the plausibility of extremes than to actually plan out the twenty-first century. This is a book about hope--hope that we can learn to cooperate to build a sustainable world, hope that we can shake off our mistrust and social anxiety, and even hope that we can defeat death. We have to dream it before we can achieve it.
If you keep up with politics, you might find yourself asking “Well, how bad could it get?” Here is your answer, the worst possible extrapolation of current affairs. After war and eco-terrorism destroyed Earth, only the wealthy escaped to the claustrophobic space station CIEL--but it’s hard to say whether they got a better deal then those who merely perished. Their hellish micro-world is part Orwell, part MTV’s Aeon Flux; a concoction of political satire, surreal violence, and body horror. Ms. Yuknavitch designed this story to make you queasy, complimenting tough imagery with tough questions about war, art, environmentalism, love, sex, gender, and humanity. Would Earth be better off without humans? The darkness is a contrasting backdrop for beautifully written passages on nature and love, distributed like diamonds in a sewer. Caveat lector: ALL the trigger warnings!
What's the difference between story and reality? As Mr. Ibis points out, history is a poor facsimile of the past, "a charcoal-sketched simplicity for the children, or the easily bored." Gaiman's gods are not the literal gods that rule the universe, but the figurative ones that we depict in stories and worship with our actions. As new gods like Internet and Media gain popularity, old gods like Odin, Easter, and Anansi starve of worship. The ensuing battle may be fictional, but the battles between ideologies, cultures, and beliefs are not. What do you believe?
When we assume that death and taxes are certain, we're really just taking Mr. Franklin's word for it. There's never been an alternative, so most of us avoid the conversation altogether. But not Mr. Harari, who poses a startling question: in this new era of extended lifespans, unlimited food, advanced medicine, and instant information, is there any reason humanity should not strive for immortality and omniscience? The sky is too modest a limit for 21st century homo sapiens. It's time to dream bigger.
I listened to this magical book on audio using the Libro.fm app (which I highly recommend for all you binge readers on the go) and it had me spellbound. The very first chapter caught me off guard in more ways than one, foreshadowing the bizarre and touching adventure to follow. The narration toggles between two storytelling modes: a chorus of regretful ghosts interpolated with quotations from both real and fictional sources. This way, Saunders paints a multifaceted yet singular landscape of American identity, a conversation between the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the North and the South, the black and the white. This ambitious technique required 166 actors for the audiobook production (including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Don Cheadle, and the list just goes on!)
Talk about a camel through a needle! If you read Mr. Rovelli's first publication, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (emphasis on brief; the entire book is only 97 pages long), then you are already familiar with Rovelli's talent for condensing complex scientific ideas into compact, comprehensible chapters. While his second book is more book-sized, it is still a microscopic tardigrade in the canon of physics. Yet in these few hundred pages, he explains the knowns and unknowns of some of the most mind-bending concepts in science, including granularity, relativity, quantum fields, and gravity. Warning: readers may lie awake at night questioning the very existence of matter, as I did after reading chapter 4!
Emily Witt's investigation of sex and sexuality broke boundaries I didn't know I had. This book poses a question submerged in every American's conscience: do we really have a choice in our romantic destinies? With humor, insight, and wit (no pun intended), Ms. Witt interrogates the most intimate details of our lives, providing examples of non-normative romantic lifestyles that many of us never considered options. Needless to say, very NSFW content (I should know because I work here!)
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When I first noticed this book in our science section, I was certain it had been shelved incorrectly. What was a graphic novel doing next to Sagan and Hawking? I was delightfully surprised to open it and discover a masterful collage of scientific research, passionate romance, and gorgeous artwork. Ms. Redniss has defied convention to bring us this brilliantly crafted work about the scientists Curie and how they changed the world forever.
Whether you are an artist, athlete, video gamer, or businessperson, you are probably familiar with the euphoric state of complete mental engagement with a task. In his groundbreaking psychological work, Mr. Csikszentmihalyi (don't worry--his name is probably the most intimidating word in the book!) breaks down this experience he calls "flow" in clear, approachable language. Readers will learn not just the psychological concepts behind flow, but also how to achieve flow in their own work. If you are looking for a scientific approach to engagement, fulfillment, and happiness, then this is the book for you!
Never get too comfortable in Murakami's universe. Toru Okada lives a mundane, introverted life. He enjoys making spaghetti, listening to opera, and ironing shirts. When Toru receives a mysterious phone call from an anonymous woman, he discovers a maze of psychic chaos hidden in the quotidian details of his life. The beauty of the story comes from the dissonance between the humdrum vignettes of Toru's life and the bizarre experiences that he has. This is a perfect book for readers who have ever lost their direction in life.