Displaying articles for: December 2011

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

This aptly named teensy tome, edited by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with help from his online creative collective, hitRECord, is packed with illustrated stories so short they can often be read in a single breath. Some of the stories and pictures in this slender volume are worthy of longer contemplation and repeat reading. Others are good for a chuckle. All of them push the boundaries of what we think of as short fiction.

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The Boy in the Suitcase

How's this for a chilling premise: A nurse who agrees to pick up a package at a train station locker for an estranged pal finds that the "package" is a suitcase containing a drugged, but alive, 3-year-old boy. But who is he? When the estranged friend turns up murdered, the nurse knows she and the boy are also in danger, but who's after them, and why? Stieg Larsson fans won't want to miss this award-winning Danish crime novel.

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The Artist of Disappearance

In this sensitive, subtle and unsettling trio of novellas, the acclaimed Anita Desai tells stories of people striving to move beyond the stagnant circumstances of their lives.  These are heartbreakingly honest explorations of how dreams can be thwarted -- and how hope endures. Delicate and deeply affecting.

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The Magic Room

A cynical take on the bridal business would be easy to write, but that wouldn't be Jeffrey Zaslow's style. In The Girls From Ames, he  captured the complex beauty of female relationships with insight and sensitivity. Here the Wall Street Journal columnist does the same for weddings and marriage, tenderly evoking the fantasies, expectations and personal stories of the women who step into a Michigan bridal shop's special room -- soft lighting, music, pedestal, mirrors and all -- to try on dresses for their big day.

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A Twitter Year

You can find out a lot about a year by surveying the real-time, 140-characters-or-less responses to breaking news on Twitter. In this orderly, fun-to-peruse almanac, journalist Kate Bussmann compiles telling tweets about many of 2011's key events: from the Royal Wedding to the death of Osama Bin Laden to the Super Bowl and the post-Christmas East Coast blizzard that came to be known as the "Snowpocalypse." File it under #veryinterestingread. 

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Lost Kingdom

Hawaii is the state where our president was born -- but how did the United States come to claim it as its own? In this deeply researched narrative history, author Julia Flynn Siler (The House of Mondavi) recounts the dramatic, disturbingly dark story of the island nation's annexation, and the overthrow of its proud final ruler by the U.S. This  poignant saga of imperialist ambition and paradise lost unfolds with an appropriately lush appeal.

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Relics

The enthusiasm Piotr Naskrecki, an entomologist at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, feels for visible, tangible signs of Earth's prehistoric past is irresistibly infectious. Combining lively first-person narrative with his own breathtakingly beautiful photographs, the author reveals the holdovers from a lost world (from horseshoe crab to horsetail ferns) that can be found across the globe or right in our own backyards.

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On Conan Doyle

Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda has subtitled this book "The Whole Art of Storytelling," with good reason. Starting from Arthur Conan Doyle's life and work -- which included, in addition to the Sherlock Holmes stories, wonderful works of historical fiction and adventure -- Dirda weaves a memoir of boyhood, a peek into the world of the "Baker Street Irregulars," and a meditation on the power of fiction. The game's afoot!

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Stuck

What do you do when your kite gets stuck in a tree? If you're Floyd, the hilarious protagonist of Oliver Jeffers' absurd picture book for young readers, you chuck your shoe at it to get it down. And when the shoe gets stuck as well? You throw other stuff: a bike, a boat, the kitchen sink, the front door, an orangutan, a fire truck, a whale who just happened to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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Lost in Language & Sound

Readers familiar with poet/author/playwright Notzake Shange's work, including her award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, know she can explore the touchiest topics (race, gender) with power, passion, and lyrical flair. In this memoir/collection of essays, she considers her life as a woman of color and an artist, as well as her childhood and the love for music and dance she inherited from her parents.

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Then Again

It's common practice for well-known, much-loved screen stars to pen their memoirs. What's unique about Diane Keaton's autobiography is that, in it, the actress best known for her role in Woody Allen's Annie Hall tells us not just her own story but that of her mother as well. In a gorgeous literary collage, Keaton pieces together journals, letters, and lists to form a picture of two fascinating women -- and of the relationship between mothers and daughters everywhere.

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Science on Ice

Chris Linder, a photographer and researcher associated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, offers us intimate and exciting accounts off his four separate voyages to the icy polar realms. Startling and beautiful photographs supplement a lucid text which allows the reader to see how scientific expeditions really work, in a terrain that is, alas, swiftly disappearing.

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Le Freak

Warning: This riveting memoir from the musician behind era-defining songs like "Le Freak," "Good Times," "We Are Family,"  and "I'm Coming Out" is highly addictive. From his candid portrait of childhood among drug-devoted hipsters to his rise as a performer and producer (collaborators range from Diana to Madonna) Nile Rodgers demonstrates a keen appreciation of life's ironies,  and an unwavering devotion to family.  A true story that never misses a beat.

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Legend

Marie Lu's debut young-adult novel is a gripping, gritty, dystopian story of two teenagers, wealthy prodigy June and wanted criminal Day. The author's sharp eye for detail makes the militaristic "Republic" (once the western U.S.) they live in seem all too real, and with fearless command of plot and pace she delivers a smashing opener of a new series. Perfect for readers who have devoured Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

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How Carrots Won the Trojan War

Rebecca Rupp takes readers on a high-spirited romp through the vegetable garden with 23 amusing and surprising tales of veggie lore and veggies of yore. Did you know, for instance, that celery has been used at various times in history as a fashion statement, a laxative, and an aphrodisiac (by Casanova, no less)? Or about the thwarted poisoned pea plot against George Washington? Definitely not your garden-variety food history.

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Look, I Made a Hat

Legendary lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim picks up where he left off in his acclaimed annotated collection Finishing the Hat. He packs this new volume with personal anecdotes, theater history, revealing photos, candid commentary, early drafts, and, of course, the complete lyrics to musicals including Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins, and Passion. A treasure trove of American stage history for diehard fans and dabblers alike.

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That Is All

TV watchers know John Hodgman as The Daily Show's "Resident Expert" and the deadpan face of the PC on those ubiquitous Apple commercials. Readers know he's also the bestselling author of two books in the heretofore incomplete Complete World Knowledge trilogy: 2005's The Areas of My Expertise and 2008's More Information Than You Require. With this third delightfully oddball volume of entirely made-up yet enthusiastically conveyed "facts," Hodgman picks up precisely where he left off: on page 596.

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Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto

One of Europe’s most celebrated writers of fiction for young readers, Gianni Rodari (1920-1980) presents a fable for all ages about privilege, terror, magic, and mortality. In the quest for eternal life, billionaire Baron Lamberto hires servants to chant his name day and night. But when criminals lay seige to his island villa, hilarity ensues in a story that retains the wonder and delight of Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.

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Time Travel and Warp Drives

Does modern physics hold out any hope for the realization of science fiction's wildest dreams of limitless and easy travel through the fabric of time and space? With unfailing rigor, yet open minds, professors Allen Everett and Thomas Roman survey all of the rapidly changing realms of research that might yet lead mankind beyond the stars or back to the Jurassic.

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The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am

This debut novel by Norwegian writer Kjersti A. Skomsvold tells the Kafkaesque tale of an elderly woman who finds herself upon the point of disappearing due to the mundanity of her old age, and who decides to attempt to rescue herself through whimsy and spontaneity. Alternately bleak and shining, the tale ponders if it's ever too late to make a fresh start. A B&N Discover Great New Writers selection.

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Velázquez and The Surrender of Breda: The Making of a Masterpiece

New Yorker writer Anthony Bailey (Vermeer: A View of Delft) uses one of 17th-century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez's most celebrated works, "The Surrender of Breda," a large-scale narrative painting depicting the transfer of the keys to the Dutch town of Breda to Spain in 1625, to anchor a portrait of the artist and his time. Filled with rich detail and lush descriptions, this book, like the painting that inspired it, is remarkable for both its scope and its intimacy.

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Users Not Customers

What's the best way to build loyalty online and boost your company's bottom line? According to Aaron Shapiro, whose digital marketing firm, HUGE, helps businesses manage their brands, it's to rethink your relationship with the buying public. Shapiro advises companies to give users a reason to engage with their brands before converting them to customers, citing Hulu, Zipcar, and Groupon as favorable examples. A sharp, insightful, strategic guide to doing business in a digital world.

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July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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