What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage

Amy Sutherland's What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage is a literary agent's dream: high concept, self help-y, and including the name of a cute performing whale in the title. What started as a New York Times "Modern Love" column (and one of the Times' most-emailed articles) got snapped up and has stretched into this thin, lighthearted book on applying the techniques of exotic animal trainers to human relationships. Sutherland's experience observing professionals in the field was so profound that, she claims in her introduction, "I have a peace of mind that comes from the world making so much more sense to me." (The money from a movie deal probably didn't hurt.) Along the way, she imparts some useful lessons, distilled from training philosophies. The mantra "It's never the animal's fault," for example, tells us that behavior is just behavior and that we shouldn't take it so personally. Another lesson gleaned is that nagging won't get you what you want. To illustrate this point, Sutherland mentions a few too many times her husband's habit of leaving his smelly bike clothes on the floor. Overall, her book offers a calming, less paranoid, and more detached view of romance and marriage than many relationship guides. So next time you find your mate's underwear on the kitchen table, just remember it's never the animal's fault. -

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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…

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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.