Displaying articles for: January 2011

Evolution

Biologist Jay Hosler teams up with accomplished comics artists Kevin and Zander Cannon (the co-working Cannons are not related, by the way) to deliver a graphical guide to a complex subject. Casting their narrative as an alien-conducted tour of a hypothetical museum, the creators delve into macro and micro Darwinian matters. Accurate and entertaining.

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Instant Replay

There is no better reading in the run-up to the Super Bowl than this riveting diary of the 1967 football season by then Green Bay offensive lineman Jerry Kramer, who played a pivotal role in the Packers' dramatic NFL championship win against the Dallas Cowboys. Jonathan Yardley has called it "the best inside account of pro football, indeed the best book ever written about that sport"—and both assertions are still true.

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The Tell-Tale Brain

Utilizing case studies of the most extreme types of neuro-disasters to illustrate the evloution, construction, and functioning of the average human brain, V. S. Ramachandran, dubbed the "Marco Polo of neuroscience," explores how this miraculous organ makes us human.

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The Attenbury Emeralds

In Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Dorothy Sayers created a sleuthing twosome for the ages. Jill Paton Walsh's third Sayers-inspired novel is a deftly executed tale in which the couple, now happily married, find all sorts of challenges to occupy themselves in post-WWII Britain, including an old case of Lord Peter's that just won't die.

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The King's Speech

Anyone who has seen the fine film starring Colin Firth as George VI, who assumed the British throne in 1936, and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the innovative speech therapist who taught the monarch to master his debilitating stutter, will welcome this chronicle, based upon Logue's diaries and correspondence, of the real events behind the drama.

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The Diviner's Tale

A rich vein of gothic fantasy enriches this intriguing, unconventional mystery from Conjunctions magazine founder Bradford Morrow, as he relates the exploits of diviner Cassandra Brooks, whose official dowsing duties entwine her fate with that of a young girl in mortal peril.

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Heaven's Bride

Ida Craddock (1857-1902) earned notoriety as an advocate of women's rights, a student of human sexuality, and a proponent of mystical exploration in an era that felt all three territories (to say nothing of belly-dancing, of which she was something of a devotee) were better left unexamined. Her remarkable and bracingly eccentric life, recounted here by Leigh Eric Schmidt, represents the intersection of free speech, psychiatry, sex, spiritualism, and politics, a yeasty nexus still pulsating today.

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Filmology

Presenting a film a day for a one-year education in cinematic history—encompassing high art, low comedy, commercial blockbusters, and quirky gems it's a real treat to discover—BNR contributor Chris Barsanti proves himself an astute and witty guide to screen treasures of every description.

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The Metropolis Case

Four rich story lines involving disparate characters—scattered from 1864 to 2001, yet all enamored of Wagner's transporting opera Tristan und Isolde—converge to deliver a tale of mystery, romance, and redemption through music, craft, and passion. The result is a novel of uncommon narrative richness.

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All Things Shining

"It is not only species of animal that die out, but whole species of feeling," says Conchis in John Fowles's The Magus. "And if you are wise you will never pity the past for what it did not know, but pity yourself for what it did." What the past knew and what it can still teach us, through the works of Homer, Dante, Melville, and others, explain philosophers Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly in this brief but bracing book, is how to respond to the world with wonder and gratitude. It's an inspiring argument, and they're right.

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The Empty Family

Colm Tóibín probes the destinies of immigrants and those returning home in nine stories that trace the ghostly contours of the past onto lives distanced from it by loss and longing.

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The Price of Everything

Economics is far from "the dismal science" in Eduardo Porter's sparkling and often counterintuitive analysis of the values we irrationally assign to myriad services, products, and programs, from coffee to exclusive license plates to health care. 

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Alan Lomax

Few individuals have contributed more to popular culture than the musicologist Alan Lomax, who discovered and popularized such performers as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. Without his efforts, chronicled in John Szwed's welcome biography, the musical landscape of the twenty-first century might well be unrecognizable.

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The Year of the Hare

Watership Down meets On the Road? When an angst-ridden fellow abandons his mired life to hit the highways with a bunny companion, picaresque adventures ensue. A translation of Finnish novelist Arto Paasilinna's internationally bestselling comedy.

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The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi

Andrew McConnell Stott's biography of the late-Georgian era's most celebrated clown examines Joseph Grimaldi's revolutionary approach to the jester's role, and his unlikely friendship with such literary celebrities as Lord Byron and Charles Dickens.

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Sea Change

The narrator of this novel by Jeremy Page, author of the acclaimed Salt, lives adrift on an old Dutch barge in the North Atlantic, writing an invented future for his deceased young daughter in the form of a family road trip across America. Lyrical and haunting.

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The Abacus and the Cross

A science-minded Pope who honored Islamic thought? Such was the resumé of Pope Sylvester II, who, prior to his death in 1003 AD, did his best to enlighten the Dark Ages. Nancy Marie Brown sets his uniqueness in a vivid medieval context.

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The Novelist's Lexicon

At an international literary conference, 70 authors, including Jonathon Lethem, Colum McCann, A. S. Byatt, and Annie Proulx, were asked to choose one word that might offer a key to their work or their creative process. Their "passwords," and the musings they inspire, make fascinating reading.

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Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

Does yoga make us more virtuous? Does virtue make us more nimble? Can we "pose" our way to a better life? Claire Dederer's engaging memoir of motherhood, exercise, and self-discovery finds rewarding surprises, for herself and for her readers, in each of those subjects, and several more.

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Special Exits

Eleven years in the making, Joyce Farmer's graphic-novel memoir of  her elderly parents exhibits meticulous realism and pathos; it earns a place on the shelf next to such unforgettable examples of the form as Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and David B.'s Epileptic.

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Manhattan Skyscrapers

The revised third edition of this 1999 classic survey of Manhattan's concrete and steel magnificence includes eight new entries on recent buildings likely destined for landmark status. Contemporary monuments such as the climbable new headquarters of The New York Times receive lavish exegesis in savvy words and stirring pictures.

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Fruitlands

To live in the experimental Alcott household known as Fruitlands must have been fraught with dizzying chaos and unease, but to read about Bronson Alcott's madcap 19th-century utopian schemes is pure pleasure. Richard Francis transports us  to a time when America was only half-fashioned, and any wild-eyed dream seemed capable of enactment.

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April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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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