• CULTURAL STUDIES

Walkable City

For the first time in human history, the majority of mankind lives in urban environments. A city planner by trade, Jeff Speck has a wealth of ideas about how to make these stone canyons more pleasant, and to bring out a crowded town's natural pedestrian pleasures.

 

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Detroit City Is the Place to Be

Rolling Stone reporter and Detroit native Mark Binelli examines his hometown's vertiginous fall, calling it the greatest urban failure in American history. And yet, he espies hope in the offbeat cast of characters who have been drawn to this nothing-left-to-lose frontier, a gaggle of dreamers and doers intent on jumpstarting the Motor City.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

The Book of English Magic

Just in time for All Hallows' Eve, a wide-ranging survey of Britian's magical traditions from Stonehenge to 21st-century spellcasters. Philip Carr-Gomm, who has led the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids for twenty years, and Sir Richard Heygate conjure an invaluable resource for anyone curious about the Anglocentric arcane arts.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

The End of Men

Agree or disagree with Hanna Rosin's bold arguments about how a cultural and economic revoltuion has given women the upper hand in the classroom, the workplace, and the home, but her book is fast becoming one of the essential reads of the season. Sure to foster debate and provoke fresh thought.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

The Last Bohemia

Robert Anasi provides a firsthand account of how drastically Williamsburg, Brooklyn has changed since he first moved there in 1994. From factory backwater to hipster mecca, the neighborhood's transformation mirrors profound shifts in American culture that the author parses with humor, insight, and a poignant nostalgia for simpler -- albeit grimier -- times.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Our Kind of People

Uzodinma Iweala's debut novel, Beasts of No Nation, astonished readers with its unflinching portrayal of child soldiers in West Africa. He returns to the troubled continent in this nonfiction account of the AIDS crisis that is similarly startling and original. Rather than focus on stories of death and destruction, Iweala instead addresses the millions who live every day with the disease.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Segregation

Carl H. Nightingale's eye-opening work of history examines how the use of urban division to reinforce economic disparity was transformed by colonialism and became race-based segregation. The author then imagines a model for the integrated cities of the future in a book that seeks to understand and ameliorate inequality.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

The Grey Album

Award-winning poet Kevin Young takes a journey through our nation's history using the art of the remix to illuminate the African-American heart of the American experience. Combining essays, cultural criticism, and lyrical choruses with appraisals of authors from Langston Hughes to Colson Whitehead, the resulting work of nonfiction is a whirlwind tour of storytelling, music, and artistic expression.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Religion for Atheists

Anyone who has encountered Alain de Botton's writing already knows that he is a bastion of sanity, compassion, and open-minded inquiry in a polarized world. His latest highly readable treatise is no exception. Carefully sorting through the claims of religion, both practical and numinous, de Botton analyzes what kind of worthwhile practices can be rescued from the larger, harder-to-swallow theological constructs.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Kosher Chinese

Winner of the 2011 Discover Great New Writers Award for Nonfiction. When Michael Levy arrives in rural China to work for the Peace Corps teaching English, finding something to eat proves easy compared to fitting in to a social world vastly different from his own American Jewish background. But Levy's narrative truly shines not when he's chronicling culture clashes, but rather in the moments -- coaching his school's basketball team, making Shabbat dinner for his students -- where he feels the bonds of shared human experience.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

New

Human beings are biologically wired to be fascinated by novelty. But how do we keep the constant flow of new products, ideas, and data from overwhelming us? Winifred Gallagher (the author of Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life) digs into our natural inclination toward the new and offers ways to distinguish passing fancy from permanent improvement.

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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

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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  • CULTURAL STUDIES

Lip Service

Smile, and the whole world smiles with you. But they don't all necessarily mean the same thing. Marianne LaFrance convinces us there's a secret wealth concealed behind that most common of facial expressions. Drawing from the allied fields of medicine, biology, psychology and anthropology, with a dash of computer science, LaFrance dissects the smile into its component parts and reassembles them into a potent force for both transparency and chicanery, friendship and enmity.

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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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