Displaying articles for: November 2010

The Deeds of My Fathers

Paul David Pope tells the story of his grandfather Generoso, an  immigrant who rose from laborer to New York construction titan and who also wielded political influence as  publisher of the Italian-language newspaper Il Progresso, and his father Gene, who created a tabloid empire with the National Enquirer. Briskly told, it's filled with larger-than-iife characters from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Frank Costello—think Horatio Alger meets The Godfather meets Gawker.

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The Secret of Chanel No. 5

Tilar Mazzeo's history of the creation and unparalled international success of Coco Chanel's signature scent travels from Paris to New Jersey to the pastoral flower plantations where the raw ingredients of the perfume originated. What was Chanel's secret? You'll be surprised.

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Apollo's Angels

A trained dancer as well as a historian, Jennifer Homans offers an insider's perspective in her lavish survey of four centuries of ballet, from its days of aesthetic primacy to its current exile from culture's center stage.

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Hero

Some historical figures become more fascinating with each passing decade, and Lawrence of Arabia is one. As Middle Eastern issues continue to bedevil international relations, the magnificently stirring life of this English adventurer—brilliantly recounted here by Michael Korda—seems ever more relevant, and ever more mysterious.

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Virtual Words

Does any field of endeavor contribute more new words to our language than science and technology? Politics, music, and literature combined run a distant second. Why and how does this sphere of human activity generate so many neologisms and new constructions of old terms? The man in charge of Wired magazine's "Jargon Watch" provides the answers.

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The Zabime Sisters

A vast amount of the unique cultural wealth of Guadeloupe is zestily compressed into this narrative of a single day of summer enjoyed by three sisters. Alas, this graphic novel represents the final work of Aristophane, the noted French artist who died tragically young, at age 37.

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Kingdom Under Glass

A taxidermist action hero? That's the only characterization we can give to the over-stuffed, exotic, dangerous life of Carl Akeley (1864-1926), the Indiana-Jones-style adventurer responsible for such landmark scholarly exhibits as the American Museum of Natural History's Africa dioramas. Jay Kirk's rousing biography follows Akeley across several continents in his pursuit of science—and thrills.

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One Big Table

Ten years in the making, sumptuously presented, and suffused with the love that Americans lavish on the food they bring to their tables, Molly O'Neill's compendium of "600 Recipes from the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters and Chefs" is cause for thanksgiving all by itself.

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Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell

The work of one great American storyteller, the artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), as revealed in the collections of two other great American storytellers, filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

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Mud Pies and Other Recipes

"Dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared." So begins Marjorie Winslow's wonderful "cookbook for dolls," which is as filled with droll treats for whimsical adults as it is replete with recipes—Mud Puddle Soup, Tossed Leaves, Rainspout Tea—for  young cooks happy to get their hands dirty. This small book is a wonderful work of imagination, the perfect stocking stuffer for any girl (or playful grownup) you may  know. Ages 5 to 9.

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Patience

A primer on one of the most neglected and powerful of virtues: taking time. Akiko Busch explores her theme with well-paced alertness, mixing reminiscences, observations of nature, and her attentive reading into a book that is filled wisdom, usefulness, and consolation.

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The Man Who Lied to His Laptop

Stanford's technology maven Clifford Nass dissects the curious web of emotions and expectations that bind man and machine, discovering that hardwired components of our brains, evolved to deal with organic beings, adapt themselves instinctively to creatures of silicon and plastic, too.

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The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

A 91-year-old is rescued from dementia by an experimental medical program that rejuvenates his mind while limiting his remaining days. Broadening the scope of his crime novels yet retaining their edgy suspense, Walter Mosley here ponders themes of aging, memory, family, and love with powerful effect.

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The Anthology of Rap

Whether you're an aficionado of rap or unschooled in its eloquence, you'll likely be surprised by the unswaggering yet persuasive confidence with which this anthology of 300 lyrics, written over 30 years, makes the case for the immediate and enduring relevance of its poetic tradition. Edited by Andrew DuBois and BNR contributor Adam Bradley.

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Heart of the Artichoke

If you've spent any time perusing David Tanis's first book, A Platter of Figs, you'll know why the kitchen hearts in my house are aflutter at the arrival of his second. Tanis has been chef at Chez Panisse for more than a quarter-century, and his culinary sophistication reveals itself in an inviting embrace of simplicity and pleasure. The book's well-composed pages have an easy beauty—a serenity of thought and feeling—almost as nourishing as the recipes.

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God on the Rocks

For those of us who have come to recognize the British fiction writer Jane Gardam as one of the very best living novelists, this reissue of her 1978 tale of a young woman's coming of age between the world wars is cause for rejoicing. Those who've yet to encounter the magic of this marvelous storyteller are in for an even bigger treat.

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And the Pursuit of Happiness

"Sincere, yet disarmingly screwy"—I've spent my adult life reading publishers' book publicity, but I've never known it to be as accurate as those four words, which perfectly capture the inspiriting charms of artist Maira Kalman's year-long quest to discover the character of American democracy. A stunning, visually vivid journal, shot through with quirky gravity and profound grace.

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Compass Rose

Novelist John Casey returns to the Rhode Island coastline he navigated, with deft attention to human nature and nature's  consolations, in his National Book Award-winning Spartina. His new book builds a family saga from the future of Spartina's characters, with careful sympathy for the fragile but enduring character of the "tiny ecosystem" that every family represents.

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Anterooms

"Richard Wilbur's imagination has regarded life in the bud—the seedling, the fledgling, the sprout, the egg," writes Mary Jo Salter of the nearly 90-year-old poet's latest volume. "His flowering never ceases to unfold." Wilbur's late poems, distilled to simplicity from a lifetime of intricate meters and imagery, are epitomes of lyric inspiration.

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The Report

A gripping novel—focusing on the real-life tragedy at the Bethnal Green tube station in London in March 1943, when 173 people died seeking haven from what seemed another German air raid (although no bombs were dropped)—delivers a profoundly moving meditation on the elusiveness of both truth and safety in Jessica Francis Kane's remarkable debut.

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Matt Kramer on Wine

Matt Kramer is the most sensible, engaging, and perspicacious wine writer I've ever read, in no small part because of the grace and eloquence of his prose. Readers seeking a guide to wine drinking that is passionate and practical—and a joy to read—could do no better than this book.

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A Grand and Bold Thing

How do you map infinity, and make the result elegant, comprehensible, and useful? Such was the challenge facing astronomer Jim Gunn with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a new map of the universe that enlisted the expertise of hundreds of astronomers and led to revolutionary discoveries. Anyone who has ever marveled at the night sky will enjoy Ann Finkbeiner's lucid and thrilling account of how the heavens spilled their secrets.

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April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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