Deviating from the typical outdoor memoir of thru-hikers working through despair or daily observations during a sabbatical in rural surroundings, Robert Moor's debut is something entirely fresh to this genre. His work is not so much about our experience but about the paths and traces left by us individually and collectively by those before us-- the remains of our movement and even the scars of thoughts.
Very rarely can I say that an artist's death affects me in any real way, but Vic Chestnutt's 2009 suicide was a legitimate bummer. A long career that ended on the verge of very quiet success, the Athens singer songwriter risked becoming a mere memory of minor notoriety. Luckily fellow friend and musician Kristin Hersh has gifted us with a very personal memoir of her often stressed friendship with the brilliantly sincere songwriter and lifelong receiver of the raw deal. Vic Chesnutt was a painfully authentic artist and one of the most influential songwriters that most people have never heard of.
For theologian and backpacker, Belden C. Lane, spirituality is a wilderness to explore on par with that of the most rugged of landscapes. Lane brings along guides to lead him through these wildernesses-- Kierkegaard in the Bell Mountain Wilderness, John of the Cross in Canyonland's famous The Maze, Thomas Merton in Arizona's own Aravaipa. These writings are not popularized tales of adventures but the culmination of a lifetime contemplating remoteness and solitude. They are personal and beautifully written pieces.
Naturalist, tracker, and photographer David Moskowitz has created a fresh new addition to the dialogue on America's most revered and hated animal. Focusing specifically on the Pacific Northwest, we get a detailed look at wolves and how they they continue to live in the most remote corners of this region's backcountry. Moskowitz combines raw data, his own field research experience, and some of the most intimate photographs of these animals ever taken to show us their losing and near impossible struggle to survive. Both a personal work and serious piece of scholarship-- this is an essential volume in the library of any wildlife enthusiast.
As one of the earliest godfathers of the digital world, no one has more business writing about technology than Jaron Lanier. Not necessarily picking up where he left off with You are Not a Gadget, but maybe expanding around it, Lanier confronts our current and future economic state by looking at it as information technology. We live in a world where financial supercomputers out-process economic integrity and freely hoard information to sell back to us. But don't worry — in true Lanier fashion, this is not just a book to spread fear and gloom but one with solutions to embrace technology and put it back on our side.
I'm not a huge buff of military history and at some point realized that I had learned very little about WWII since college. When I saw that Max Hastings' Inferno was being raved about as a new masterpiece, I figured it was the perfect time to read up. This book blew me away — it's a seamless intertwining of statistics and eyewitness accounts. One could say it's part "peoples' history." Inferno is perfect for a serious history scholar looking for a fresh perspective or for a beginner historian just treading water in this massive topic.
Even if you've never read Freud and have never even heard of William Halstead, you'll still find this book fascinating. Markel takes an in depth look at two of the most influential men in modern medicine and their complex relationships with cocaine. Mostly functional but often not functional addicts, An Anatomy of Addiction is an account of how easily genius can succumb to dependency. Though packed with info, Markel writes in a way that will not overwhelm the casual science reader.
You have to read this book. Not only is it the most timely book of 2011, but also probably the most groundbreaking and fascinating. Debt is such a huge part of everyone's life— has debt always worked like this? Where does it come from? Why do I feel morally obligated to my debt? Anarchist anthropologist and former Yale professor, David Graeber, tackles these questions and comes up with answers that will scare, infuriate, or free you. —Kyle
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Take the psychedelic brilliance of Grant Morrison and throw in a splash of "The Neverending Story" and you have this small masterpiece. 13 year old Joe's trip to find the soda that will keep him out of a diabetic coma quickly turns into a hallucinated epic adventure that he's not sure isn't actually real. As Joe's body begins to shut down, everything that haunts him begins to come to life. You'll find yourself reeling as this work constantly shifts between fairytale and sledgehammer to the heart. —Kyle
Every once in a while there’s some new sappy sounding graphic novel that everybody raves about but I just can't make myself read it right away because I’m already embarrassed that Blankets still makes me feel all weak inside and that I secretly always still read the new Jeffrey Brown. Well, I finally made myself read Daytripper. I teared up three times. If you want to make fun of me, I'm the balding guy with the beard. —Kyle
Let's face it—who hasn’t been fantasizing about remote islands since they were a child? You can admit it. Buy the book, go home, turn off your phone, and remember how exciting curiosity can be. It’s pretty awesome. —Kyle
Given security clearance and a desk in the middle of the terminal, Alain de Botton is given the week long title of Heathrow Airport's first “writer in residence”. His benefactors’ only request is that he not leave the grounds for the entire week. With warmth, humor, and insight de Botton shows us a view of air travel that can somehow be fresh and nostalgic all at once. A Week at the Airport is a small masterpiece that you will not soon forget. —Kyle
Literary wunderkind and first time father, Jonathan Safran Foer, wants what every parent wants—the healthiest baby on the block. As a life-long on and off again vegetarian, its finally time to confront his fickleness with some real facts if he's going to raise his child to be strong, healthy, and ethical. Foer goes on a mission to learn everything he can about the industry and the animals behind the meat we eat and finds out that even the fairest of views looks pretty awful. This is not just another anti-meat book—but a meditation on family, the power of big business, and the consequences of not asking questions. —Kyle
For Garth Ennis fans, Crossed, will not disappoint. It's everything one would expect his zombie storyline to be. But for anyone else (especially those with taste, morals, and the slightest sense of decency), please move on to the next book—this is not for you. Seriously, this is the most disgusting zombie story you'll every read. These things are worse than zombies. They're like John Wayne Gacy zombies—and they're winning. I'm not kidding. Don't open this book. If you complain to management, I'll get in trouble. -Kyle
What begins as an investigation of nuclear waste storage in Nevada soon turns into something that breaks all the rules. It's not Gonzo journalism—but not necessarily unrelated. D'Agata has composed a book part journalism, part memoir, and part suicide help-line. Maybe when you finish you'll start questioning some of his connections, but while reading you'll let his prose take you wherever it wants. About a Mountain is thoughtful, artfully crafted, and completely unforgettable. —Kyle
Virtual reality guru Jaron Lanier has collected his musing on current technology culture and come up with a no holds barred critique of something many of us feel to be essential to our lives. He takes a long look at the user-based technology we all thought was supposed to democratize the internet and argues that it might be doing the opposite. What if Web 2.0 and sites like Wiki, Facebook, and Twitter are really creating a hive-mind and what happens if there really is no long-term economic gain to any of it? Lanier also makes a strong case that the sacred pedestal we've raised technology to is obligating us to fit into its capabilities rather than bettering our own lives. We are asked to wonder, "is technology stripping us of what makes us most human?" After all -- what goes in as binaries comes out as binaries. —Kyle
Welcome to Zivatar, Hungary! Nothing ever changes in this quaint village—at least not until the town gets turned upside down by a love triangle it will never forget. Zivatar’s cranky old spinster and aggressively flirtatious aging barmaid are both after the local potter and the whole town is sitting ringside. This book will suck you in, and soon you’ll find yourself amongst the gossipy townsfolk. Though don’t be fooled, Marc Fitten’s debut novel is not just an undeniably fun and charming tale, but the smart and unforgettable journey of a small town being ushered into the modern world—and just like Calvino and Steinbeck, Fitten has created a place so wonderful that it hurts finishing the final page. —Kyle
Ten years after the Columbine shootings, this event is still totally misunderstood by the many Americans who will never forget it. It changed the way America thinks about and acts towards its youth. Eric and Dylan were not gunning down jocks and nobody was shot because they professed their faith in God. David Cullen’s comprehensive study of Columbine shows us why these two boys would commit these actions, how the media botched the story, and what some evangelicals did to take advantage of people in pain. This is a must read for anyone still confused by the chaos they saw that day or anyone wondering why they were treated like criminals at school. Be warned—this book pulls no punches. -Kyle
Don’t let the poetic verse fool you—Sharp Teeth is fierce. It’s kind of a werewolf (or were-creature) love story lost in the chaos of gang warfare. Toby Barlow’s debut novel is beautifully written, fast-paced, and thoroughly engaging—one of the most interesting and innovative novels you’ll read this year. Barlow is an ambitious writer that I can’t wait to read more from. —Kyle