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Wonderbook

Jeff VanderMeer offers the world's first "illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction", with advice from contributors George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. LeGuin, and many more.

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Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century

If your friend complains when you blunderschedule, try not to apologibe in response.  Liesl Schillinger's witty collection of necessary new words -- with charming avian illustrations from Elizabeth Zechel -- will have you on a jollyroll.

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Spectrums

Charles and Ray Eames's film Powers of Ten might finally have a contender for most useful and enlightening discussion of our place in the micro- and macrocosmos. Blatner examines myriad phenomena from above and below the familiar everyday human realm of comfortable size and perception. Whether he's probing invisible things like radiation or time or examining tangible astronomical objects, he always ties everything together in an organic whole that allows the readers intelligence to slide easily up and down the universal scale of marvels.

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Real Man Adventures

Examining the fraught territory of masculinity and gender identity from the rare perspective of a transgender man, novelist T Cooper charts both his own journey and that of his fellow identity pioneers, through frank and intimate confidences from his own life, as well as conversations with such experts as Kate Bornstein and the parents of transgender children. Placing his personal choices in a larger societal context, Cooper argues powerfully and convincingly for fluidity and acceptance.

 

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Facing the Torturer

François Bizot chronicles his bizarre interaction with a genocidal mass murderer, the Cambodian known as Comrade Duch, or "the Butcher of Tuol Sleng." Taken into custody by the Cambodian authorities in 1971, Bizot escaped torture and death only by forging an empathetic relationship with his captor. When, decades later, Duch is brought to trial, the author must confront his own past.

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Hello Goodbye Hello

Author Craig Brown traces a loop of chance encounters between celebrities, politicians, artists, and authors. Whether marveling at Mark Twain's gracious reception of a 23-year-old Rudyard Kipling or casting an incredulous eye on the praise H. G. Wells heaps on Stalin, you'll be astonished by the extent to which everyone is connected.

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Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free

Harvard sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot examines how small goodbyes -- as we finish a phone call, or leave for work in the morning -- echo our feelings about more significant departures, from the end of a career to the end of life itself. A book that will have you rethinking the little moments, and the big ones, too.

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Why Cats Land on Their Feet

The feline acrobatics and other mysteries of everyday physics that Mark Levi explores in this charming book are just the beginning. A fun and enlightening workout for your gray matter.

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Central Park

Consider the paradox: For more than a century, one of the iconic elements of the concrete-encased island of Manhattan has been the 800-plus acres of verdant green at its heart. This literary celebration of the park's unique charms, which- which collects work from authors including Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran Foer, Bill Buford, and Susan Cheever, is as varied and inviting as its namesake. Take it to the nearest spot of green, spread a blanket, and enjoy.

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A Pocket Guide to Vietnam, 1962

This surprisingly timeless text reprints the original document issued by the US Department of Defense to Americans traveling to Vietnam as part of the effort to prevent the global spread of Communism. Brimming with straightforward advice ("You will fulfill your duty best by remembering at all times that you are in a land where dignity, restraint, and politeness are highly regarded."), the book illuminates recent history and an ancient culture.

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Red Plenty

Noted for his free-wheeling and eclectic nonfiction,  Francis Spufford offers a debut novel that brilliantly displays his researcher's talents along with a new flair for science-fictional world-building. Painting a vivid portrait of the near-mythic 1950s period of the Soviet Empire, when the planned economy seemed seemed likely to outpace capitalism's free market, Spufford conjures up a deluded Russian era when ideological wishful thinking became state policy.

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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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The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing

This is no yoga memoir.  Melissa Holbrook Pierson's aerodynamic new book is the story of the author's quest for personal renewal through what may seem like the most unlikely of pursuits: long-distance motorcycling. Inspired by legendary rider John Ryan -- and the members of the "Iron Butt Association" -- Pierson heads out in search of the point where passion becomes mania, and blows past both to encounter a new understanding of self.  

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The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Having presided over a previous volume of imaginary diseases, the prolific pedant Thackery T. Lambshead is invoked once again by award-winning editors Anne and Jeff Vandermeer.  They call upon a legion of writers -- including Naomi Novik, Minister Faust, China Mieville, Alan Moore, Lev Grossman, and Charles Yu – to pry open a packrat's trove of arcane memorabilia that evokes the spirits of Gorey and Lovecraft.  An awesomely bizarre catalog of horrifying, spellbinding fun.

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The Ripple Effect

Can't imagine living without enough petroleum? What about water? A lack thereof is the reality today for millions, and a likelihood for millions more in the future. Paul Prud'homme intelligently and dispassionately surveys the landscape of our shrinking fresh water supplies, and finds the irrefutable parched results hard to swallow.

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Indigo

Although abundant in nature, the color blue is notoriously hard to create as a dye. In fact, the process behind indigo's transformation from parasitic shrub to precious stain is still only partially understood by scientists. Catherine E. McKinley tells the pigment's fascinating story here, winningly weaving into her historical researches a personal narrative illuminating her own tangled heritage, which has uncanny ties to the fabled hue.

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Lastingness: The Art of Old Age

Man of letters Nicholas Delbanco, himself nearly seventy years young, turns his keen sensibility to the matter of old age, finding in the lives of a variety of famous creators secrets to maintaining vitality of mind and soul as the years add up.

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Ugly Beauty

What a convoluted backstory lurks in a bottle of mascara or a tube of lipstick bearing the Rubinstein or L'Oreal trademarks! Fierce rivals till their eventual hostile merger, the two companies share pasts steeped in European history and culture, from Nazi collaboration to evolving gender politics. All is ably chronicled in this fascinating study by Ruth Brandon.

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Chocolate Wars

This engaging history of the 150-year rivalry among the world's greatest chocolate makers—the English firms Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury (to which the author, Deborah Cadbury, is an heiress), their European competitors Lindt and Nestlé, and the American upstarts Hershey and Mars—is delightful, especially for its fascinating portrait of the 19th-century success of Quaker capitalism, built quite remuneratively on the ideal that wealth creation entails repsonsibilities beyond personal gain.

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The Great Typo Hunt

Jeff Deck had been poked in his editorial eagle-eyes once too often by the glaring typos that seemed to be breeding on signs all around him. Enlisting his friend Benjamin D. Herson in the Typo Eradication Advancement League, he set out on a quixotic journey to make right the errors proliferating across the American landscape. Great fun.

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Bedridden with a mysterious illness, Elizabeth Tova Bailey becomes absorbed in observation of a snail that accompanies a gift of wild violets a friend has brought her. You'll be surprised how much that snail teaches her, and us.

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Tacit & Explicit Knowledge

Part philosophy, part science, this deep-digging exegesis of the subtle ways in which knowledge is held and classified and handled in our mental structures shines a searchlight on the foundations of our everyday repertoire of tricks for navigating life. Fascinating. Read more...

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Murder in the High Himalaya

Casting the undeniable tragedy of a Tibetan nun's thwarted escape from Communist rule as a symbol of the oppression of an entire nation, journalist Jonathan Green depicts the ethical and realpolitik frigidity that mirrors the harsh physical conditions at the Roof of the World. Read more...

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Grand Strategies

This provocative work by diplomat Charles Hill revives the study of statecraft as a cultural arena that encompasses but transcends the political demands of the day. That he does this through a consideration of literature from Homer to Salman Rushdie makes it all the more fascinating. Read more...

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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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