Dominic’s recommendations for the week:
Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers
In this age of wireless connectivity, do you ever feel the urge to disconnect? Do you feel less distracted when you read a paper book than when you read a blog on a laptop? In a historical account of technological revolutions from the written word to telegraph to the rise of the digital age, journalist William Powers make the case that digital self-restraint can not only allow for you to appreciate being in the physical presence of family and friends, but also spend more time reflecting on your own priorities in life.
Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
In this incredibly engaging history of genuine creativity from Guttenburg to Darwin to Miles Davis. Science and Media studies author Steven Johnson discusses the commonalities that ideas in across disciplines share, and sheds insight into how individuals and organizations can foster innovation.
Bonk by Mary Roach
A great history of the experimental study of human sexuality, Mary Roach searches across the world for different laboratories and asks the questions that for reason are taboo and who’s researchers are treated with scorn from the greater scientific community and general public. A great introduction to a science that is at present greatly neglected.
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
Anthropologist Wade Davis has created a thrilling biographical account of the people who would provide the first accounts of climbing Mount Everest and places great contextual importance on each of the key players, ranging from young veterans of World War one to the British Raj military generals. Wade has such a grasp of the details of the period that I hope he ventures more into historical event writing.
Jonah’s recommendations for the week:
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
It’s a shame that Amy Hempel isn’t at the top of the list when it comes to the greatest short story writers of the last fifty years. Her stories are deceptively simple, often only a few pages long, but even her shortest works have more emotional heft than most full novels you can find today. Her story “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” is my single favorite short work of all time. Her stories are rarely something you take in all at once. Instead, they’re made up of a hundred separate pieces that build beautifully on each other but also stand alone as works of pure linguistic beauty. And that’s what makes Amy Hempel such a great writer – you could cut out any individual line and it would be a pleasure to read just that sentence. Writers as diverse as Alice Monro and Chuck Palanhiuk have rightfully praised her as a uniquely female, uniquely American voice and I promise that anyone looking for something equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming will find it in her stories!
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
I love mystery stories, but I’m often frustrated by how formulaic some can be. And although we’re lucky enough to have new and talented writers come along every once and a while to reinvent and re-purpose the formula, there’s no one in the history of the mystery genre to switch it up quite like Paul Auster in his New York Trilogy. Billed as a “metaphysical detective story,” the plot of the first book, City of Glass, follows a writer of mystery stories who is mistaken for Paul Auster, the world’s greatest detective (and friend of the unnamed, ever-watching narrator), and hired to follow a man obsessed with rebuilding the Tower of Babel. The second book deals with another detective, hired to watch a stranger out of his apartment window – all the while, the stranger watches him. Finally, the third story chronicles the attempt of a failing mystery writer to assume the identity of a more popular author who was recently gone missing. If you’re looking to sum the whole trilogy up in a phrase, it would be “David Foster Wallace writes The Maltese Falcon.”
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratara
More and more Westerners, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, are becoming interested in meditation. Bhante Gunaratana, a highly respectful Sri Lankan monk, offers a perfect non-religious introduction to insight meditation, a breath-focused approach first taught more than 2,500 years ago. Both gentle enough for newcomers and comprehensive enough to set up a long-term meditation practice, Mindfulness in Plain English is a perfect way to start on the road towards living joyfully in the present moment. The extra material in the 20th anniversary edition also makes the book even more accessible to non-Buddhists who are interested in the practice.
Jesica Dehart’s recommendations for the week:
Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol
I have been a fan of Amy’s blog http://www.angrychicken.typepad.com for 5-6 years and love her style. What I love about this book is the simplicity and variety of sewing projects and her incredible photos and instructions. I have made many of the projects in this book from the great gnome hat out of a recycled sweater to various bags and aprons. These are wonderfully unique and useful projects that you won’t find in every other book and perfect for all levels of sewers even the most beginner. Amy lives in Portland, Oregon and her sense of humor and ingenuity are very refreshing.
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.
I read this book for two different book groups and quote it and refer to it regularly. I love Wendy’s perspective and way of intertwining wisdom, stories and research. One of my many favorite points she makes in the book is about looking at what drives you crazy about your child and thinking of it as being their greatest strength instead of flaw. Our job as parents is to take that behavior or trait and teach the child how to foster it into their asset. It really helped me rethink the arguing, sensitivity, stubbornness and so forth in a whole new way. While she uses “Jewish Teachings” as the skeleton, it is accessible and beneficial to anyone and I was the only Jew in both book groups that read it. My husband also read it and agreed that it offers a unique and much needed perspective on parenting today.
Tal: His Marvelous Adventures with Noom-Zor-Noom by Paul Fenimore Cooper
I wish there more books like Tal. During my years as a 1st/2nd grade teacher, I read it every year to my students and they loved it so much they refused to miss a day of school for fear of missing a single word. Every parent always ended up buying this book for their family because it is one that immediately upon reading the last word, the child without fail says, “can we read it again?”. No matter how many times we reread it, it feels like a new story and my children claim that it magically changes between re-readings. Written in 1929, it is a timeless classic with stories intertwined within stories. It is a story of adventure, of friendship and absolutely my favorite chapter book of all time.
Amy Wilson Sanger’s World Snack Board Book Series
First Book of Sushi, Yum Yum Dim Sum, and Let’s Nosh are just a sampling of titles from this wonderful board book series that introduces children from a young age to the delights and language of world cuisine. My children took these books with them everywhere and they are the ones they insist on saving to give to their children. The books also complimented my families desire to have children that loved foods from around the world and were curious to try new flavors. The rhyming language and intricate pictures made with paper recreations of food are spectacular. Mmmm just sitting here looking at the books we carry from this series makes my stomach rumble for some international cuisine!
We hope you’ll check out the books we’re loving this week; make sure to check back next week for more recommendations. In the meantime, happy reading!