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Rachel Cooke, The Guardian
A man's strolls with his pooch prompt all manner of engaging reflections in this innovative book.
Randy Kennedy, New York Times
Copying passages from another author used to be an unforgivable sin. But remix culture is coming to literature.
Jonah Lehrer, New York Times
The persistence of this affliction — and the fact that it seemed to be heritable — posed a serious challenge to Darwin’s new evolutionary theory. If depression was a disorder, then evolution had made a tragic mistake, allowing an illness that impedes reproduction — it leads people to stop having sex and consider suicide — to spread throughout the population. The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse.
Maria Russo, New York Times
This collection’s characters circle a disturbing truth: the power to shape our lives can be as terrifying as it is liberating.
Jason Goodwin, New York Times
Jerry Delfont, the narrator of Theroux’s latest novel, “A Dead Hand,” is a travel writer firmly embedded in the transactional side of the business. For him, it’s a question of cadging free flights from airline press agents or being “comped” to a hotel room in return for mentioning the donor in his articles. Theroux is spilling a few industry beans here. Hard though it is to get a travel book off the starting block, travel itself has never been easier. Worldwide, the travel industry is a behemoth, employing millions of people and taking in billions of dollars. Air fares are still comparatively low, and the Russians, the Indians and even the Chinese are taking the place of the once ubiquitous Japanese tourist, complete with luxury bus and long-lensed Nikon. We harness the power of the Internet to search out new places, cheaper fares, discounted rooms, bargain packages. With television travel shows, travel magazines and guided tours on your iPod, who needs books anymore?
Cathleen Schine, New York Times
At the age of 26, when I returned to New York after an inglorious stab at graduate work in medieval history on the frozen steppes of Chicago, I had a horrifying realization: I was illiterate. At least, I was as close to illiterate as a person with over 20 years of education could possibly be. In my stunted career as a scholar, I’d read promissory notes, papal bulls and guidelines for Inquisitorial interrogation. Dante, too. Boccaccio. . . . But after 1400? Nihil. I felt very, very stupid among my new sophisticated New York friends. I seemed very, very stupid, too. Actually, let’s face it, I was stupid, and it was deeply mortifying, as so many things were in those days. But I have since come to realize that my abject ignorance was really a gift: to be a literarily inclined illiterate at age 26 is one of the most glorious fates that can befall mortal girl.
Eric Asimov, New York Times
A good selection of Belgian-style ales is like the very best kind of buffet, offering an assortment of flavors, aromas, styles, strengths and types. You want strong ale, sour ale, sweet ale, dry ale, golden, dark, wheat, fruity and malty. When we set out to draw a stylistic standard for a planned tasting of Belgian golden ales, it seemed as if we’d taken on an impossible task. But glory does not come to those who quit easily.
Bill Smee, Slate Magazine
Why live sporting events are for suckers.
Alex Clark, The Times
Her early stories explore the shifting worlds of the rootless and the dispossessed.
Alison Flood, The Guardian
With novels about leukaemia, car crashes and the afterlife topping young adult reading lists, why are teenagers so fascinated by tales of death and dying?
David Alpaugh, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
The notion that writing and performing "poetry" is the easiest way to satisfy the American itch for 15 minutes of fame has spilled out of our campuses and into the wider culture. You can't pick up a violin or oboe for the first time on Monday morning and expect to play at Lincoln Center that weekend, but you can write your first poem in May and appear at an open mike in June waving a "chapbook" for sale. The new math of poetry is driven not by reader demand for great or even good poetry but by the demand of myriads of aspiring poets to experience the thrill of "publication."
Dwight Garner, New York Times
American travel writers over the past century have taken special delight in describing the intricacies, and the lunatic comedy, of driving etiquette in foreign countries. Some enterprising publisher is bound to scoop up the best of these observations and issue a queasy-making anthology: “Carsick: A Global Reader.”
When that anthology does arrive, Peter Hessler’s new book, “Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory,” deserves a special place in it. It’s not merely that Mr. Hessler convinces us that the Chinese, being new to driving, are simply awful at it. He makes the additional, and delightful, case that perhaps no other people “take such joy in driving badly.”
Toby Lichtig, The Guardian
I'm a hostage to books. I can read the first page, maybe two and still put it down. But any further and I'd have to commit. Why I have to finish books, even if I don't like them ...
Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
Move over 'Clash of the Titans.' Here, in the Booker-award winner's latest, the Greek gods look on as a dying mathematician considers his flaws, fame and family.
Ned Block and Philip Kitcher, Boston Review
We admire the work that both Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini have produced over many decades. We regret that two such distinguished authors have decided to publish a book so cavalier in its treatment of a serious science, so full of apparently scholarly discussions that rest on mistakes and confusions—and so predictably ripe for making mischief.
Jennifer Ward Barber, The Atlantic
Like many expat Canadians, I often feel compelled to introduce Americans to the wonders of my home. Last Monday evening, as I watched a Canadian Olympian receive a gold medal on home turf for the first time in history, I knew it was an occasion for Nanaimo Bars.
Lesley Wheeler, Slate Magazine
Sam Jordison, The Guardian
Searching real shelves is the most satisfying way to find literary treasures – but can it survive the rise of Amazon and ebooks?
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker
How Paul Krugman found politics.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Helen Simonson’s first novel has intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone.
Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, New Yorker
Gerald Stern, New Yorker
Charles Simic, New Yorker
Tim Adams, The Guardian
What links Joshua Ferris's dazzling debut novel of office politics, Then We Came To The End, with this, his somewhat unnerving second book, is an atmosphere of parable. In each case, though he seems to be presenting a mimetic surface of contemporary life, he constructs original and affecting metaphors for curious truths about the way we live now.
Robert David Sullivan, Boston Globe
If you’ve started to feel that anticlimaxes have become the norm in Boston, you’re right. But it’s not because something has changed about the weather. It’s that something has changed about its packaging. Weather, especially on TV, has exited the realm of straight news, and even of entertainment, and entered the realm of marketing.
John Swansburg, Slate Magazine
The unexpected lessons of The Lost Books of the Odyssey.
Greg Breining, New York Times
In the winter, northern Minnesota becomes a lonely place, a wilderness to explore on snowshoes, where the only company is often four-legged.
Jeremy Bernstein, The New York Review of Books
In French cooking there is the notion of the amuse-gueule. These are tasty bits one has before the main meal in order to prepare the palate for the real thing. That is what this book is—a collection of amuse-gueules. One hopes that the reader will go on to sample the real thing.
Carl Zimmer, Photograph by Helene Schmitz, National Geographic
They lure insects into death traps, then gorge on their flesh. Is that any way for a plant to behave?
Mary Eberstadt, Policy Review
With the obvious assent of the American people, as well as most of our political and military and other leaders, the United States military now routinely recruits mothers or soon-to-be mothers of babies and young children — and often puts them in harm’s way more or less as it does every other soldier. This is a practice so morally questionable, and in virtue of that fact so fraught with policy difficulties, that both its persistence and its apparent lack of controversy fairly beg for explanation. It is past time to ask the question: Why?
Martin Filler, The New York Review of Books
Few makers of architectural documentaries exploit the full potential of film to create a convincing sense of what it is like to move through a sequence of interiors, an ability made much easier with the introduction of the Steadicam in 1976. A rare exception is Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine’s 58-minute-long Koolhaas Houselife (2008), one of two recent releases on the celebrated Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, principal of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam.
Geoff Nicholson, Los Angeles Times
A book about walking presents a few specific problems. An English pavement is the equivalent of an American sidewalk, while what the Americans call a pavement is what the English call a road surface. An Englishman may carry a rucksack when he walks, as opposed to a backpack. Sometimes I'll use a GPS, which in England is a "sat-nav."
Jarrett Wrisley, The Atlantic
I've often expressed a deep interest in opening a restaurant with professional chefs whom I'm closest to, but their responses are usually no different than the advice I once gave a chef who wanted to write. "Why the hell would you ever want to do that?" I growled.
Chris Jones, Esquire
It has been nearly four years since Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw and his ability to speak. Now television's most famous movie critic is rarely seen and never heard, but his words have never stopped.
Andrew Hudgins, Slate Magazine
Ben Van Heuvelen, Salon
It began with two sweethearts tossing a tin lid in 1937 and ended up a testament to the American Dream
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
In “Voodoo Histories,” the journalist David Aaronovitch deconstructs a dizzying array of conspiracy theories with logic, common sense and at times exasperated wit.
John Castellucci, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
At about 2:30 a.m. on May 22, 1968, as New York City police entered Hamilton Hall, on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus, to clear it of demonstrators, files belonging to Orest A. Ranum, an associate professor of history, were ransacked, and papers documenting more than 10 years of research were burned. The fire came at the tail end of a month of protests that had roiled Columbia, paralyzing the university and provoking the biggest police bust ever undertaken on an American campus. Members of Students for a Democratic Society, which led the protests, denied responsibility for the arson, claiming that if anyone had set fire to Ranum's papers, it was the police.
Ian McMillan, The Guardian
Go left when you should go right, east rather than west: the world will seem a brighter place.
Manny Fernandez, New York Times
Yet this grimy phone — in a silvery booth that Superman would have skipped over, for it is doorless and not fully enclosed — survives and, in its own nickel-and-dime way, thrives.
Eric Felten, Wall Street Journal
It's odd that we celebrate love with perishable tokens.
Roberta Smith, New York Times
To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there is a whole lot of art making going on right now. All different kinds. But you’d hardly know it from the contemporary art that New York’s major museums have been serving up lately, and particularly this season.
Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian
Murder mysteries, once looked down on, are now fit for the literary elite.
Gary Rosen, New York Times
Timothy Ferris argues that the scientific frame of mind played a leading role in the emergence of democratic governance and individual rights.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New York Times
Sad as George Orwell’s early death was, one can’t escape a sense that in some way it was providential.
Edmund White, The Guardian
This book brings together all the elements that made New York so exciting in the 1970s – the danger and poverty, the artistic seriousness and optimism, the sense that one was still connected to a whole history of great artists in the past.
Yang Yao, Foreign Affairs
Can China's model of authoritarian growth survive?
Jean Hannah Edelstein, The Guardian
Just because an author writes a well-liked book shouldn't mean they are required to carry on forever.
Paula Marantz Cohen, The American Scholar
What I’ve learned from 30 years of teaching The Merchant of Venice.
Paul Romer, Prospect
Forget aid—people in the poorest countries like Haiti need new cities with different rules. And developed countries should be the ones that build them.
Ian Knauer, The Atlantic
My grandfather, like most men of his day, never cooked. He never even set foot in the kitchen. So it was to my great surprise when he called me from the lawn with a brisk wave of his arm. He'd made a sandwich for my lunch: an act that to this day, if only due to its rarity, still symbolizes his love for me.
Dave Eggers, The Guardian
In 1998 I started collecting fiction, essays and experiments for a journal I was planning to put out. I decided to name it Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Here's why.
Thomas H. Benton, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
One reason that graduate school is for the already privileged is that it is structurally dependent on people who are neither privileged nor connected.
Larry Rohter, New York Times
Zachary Mason, author of the critically praised first novel “The Lost Books of the Odyssey,” is a computer scientist eager to understand “thought with computational precision.”
Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books
As a result of rapidly accelerating globalization we are moving toward a world market for literature. There is a growing sense that for an author to be considered “great,” he or she must be an international rather than a national phenomenon. This change is not perhaps as immediately evident in the US as it is in Europe, thanks to the size and power of the US market and the fact that English is generally perceived as the language of globalization, so that many more translations go toward it than away from it. However, more and more European, African, Asian and South American authors see themselves as having “failed” if they do not reach an international audience.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Sarah Blake has coaxed forth a book that hits hard and pushes buttons expertly.
Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
Ellison died trying to finish his last book. That shouldn't stop you from reading it.
Dorothea Lasky, New Yorker
Claire Keegan, New Yorker
Ciaran Carson, New Yorker
Erin McKean, Boston Globe
Do we need a new punctuation mark?
Allan Kozinn, New York Times
It was not until 1990, when the music historian Richard Taruskin published “The Spin Doctors of Early Music” in The New York Times, and argued that contemporary notions of period sound were actually modern fashion statements, that the myth of authenticity was exploded decisively. And at that, it took a few years for the stunned early-music world to adopt Mr. Taruskin’s view, banish “authentic” from its collective vocabulary and adopt the phrase “historically informed performance” instead.
Joel Brouwer, New York Times
Asked why so many of his poems seemed animated by unhappiness, Philip Larkin once told an interviewer, “Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.” A supremely cynical thing to say — but also backhandedly romantic, isn’t it? A dreadful muse is still a muse. Like Larkin, Tony Hoagland seems to draw inspiration and fluency as a poet from his disappointment and frustration as a human being. And like Larkin’s, Hoagland’s poems, though chock-full of grousing, are so fully alive to the rich, dark depths of their grumpiness that they constantly threaten, against their author’s gimlet-eyed better judgment, to become beautiful.
Geoff Dyer, New York Times
Don DeLillo explores the radical manipulation of time in this novel, which brings an Iraq war planner, his daughter and a filmmaker together at a house in the desert.
Lee Siegel, New York Times
Christopher Lasch’s “Culture of Narcissism” offered an indictment of American life that displeased both the right and the left.
Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
You will find every kind of monster lurking within these densely-packed 350 pages. There are two headed-babies, mythical mermaids, a giant, detached mouth, not to mention that horrible thing that bursts out of John Hurt's torso in Alien. In a dizzying if not entirely coherent book, Stephen Asma is determined to look unblinkingly at the creatures that lurk on the edges of our consciousness, those sticky slitherers and orange-tusked grunters which hide in wardrobes or in the deep end of the swimming pool, just waiting to pull us down from our well-lit lives into murky mayhem.
Robert Sietsema, Columbia Journalism Review
But that doesn’t make you a restaurant critic.
Jane E. Brody, New York Times
In the more than four decades that I have been reading and writing about the findings of nutritional science, I have come across nothing more intelligent, sensible and simple to follow than the 64 principles outlined in a slender, easy-to-digest new book called “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” by Michael Pollan.
Stephen Towey and Helen Cota, Salon
In an age of audiobooks, only 10 percent of blind kids learn Braille. But listening isn't the same as reading.
Marion Maneker, Slate Magazine
One of the problems facing little magazines in this day and age is that bloggers have replaced them. A smart, impassioned blogger is the Phillip Rahv of our day.
Alan Bissett, The Guardian
Time for serious reading appears to be getting more and more pinched – and that's a loss to more than literature.
Olivia Judson, New York Times
How did the animals of the Galapagos get so tame and fearless?
Dwight Garner, New York Times
A thorny and provocative book about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and crippling poverty, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” also floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of “Erin Brockovich,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “The Andromeda Strain.” More than 10 years in the making, it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write. It signals the arrival of a raw but quite real talent.
Gail Mazur, Slate Magazine
Ingrid D. Rowland, The New York Review of Books
If the Earth has never been shy about proclaiming the instability of its surface, the creature misnamed Homo sapiens has never been shy about ignoring the message. Dubai’s 828 meter-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which opened in early January, is only the latest in a millennial series of contenders for the title of world’s tallest building. It looms, at least for now, above Malaysia’s Petronas Towers, Toronto’s CN Tower, Chicago’s Sears Tower, and the quaintly venerable Empire State Building in that proverbial city of towers, New York. Yet the profile of Burj Khalifa suggests nothing so much as a seventeenth-century engraving intended to ridicule the human habit of tower-building, part of the German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher’s exquisitely illustrated essay on the Tower of Babel, Turris Babel of 1679.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Troy Jollimore, The Walrus
Science fiction contains worlds of wonder, but without love it’s lonely in space.
Roberto Bolaño, New Yorker
Mark Doty, New Yorker
Jane Hirshfield, New Yorker