No Impact Man


In this companion volume to the documentary film and popular blog, writer Colin Beavan chronicles a year spent making "as little environmental impact as possible" while living and working in New York City. The rules are: no elevators, subways, planes, cars, consumer purchases, plastics, paper goods, electricity, or non-local food; also, he must plant trees and collect garbage from the Hudson River. The journal from a fashionable, publicity generating "living experiment" would be insufferable in the wrong hands, but Beavan avoids the golden anchor of moralism and emerges as a likeable memoirist. For his young family, he admits, the project is "enforced martyrdom of the most trivial and ridiculous kind," and he charms the reader by copping to failures like the odd cup of coffee (unavailable locally) and resort to the washing machine for cloth diapers. The book's politics can be woolly, as when Beavan repeatedly wonders how to lift billions in the developing world out of poverty while disparaging economic growth and access to Western markets, the most likely solutions, and when he overlooks that organic crop farming uses far more land than traditional farming to feed the same number of people. Still, his aim is noble and his sacrifices affecting; few will close the book without resolving to rethink a consumption habit or two. That spirit, and not the environmental factoids and reminders interspersed throughout the narrative, proves No Impact Man's true value. The book is a loving testimonial to the possible futility and headlong hopefulness of bold gestures.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.