From the creator of The Good Place and the cocreator of Parks and Recreation, a hilarious, thought-provoking guide to living an ethical life, drawing on 2,500 years of deep thinking from around the world.
Most people think of themselves as “good,” but it’s not always easy to determine what’s “good” or “bad”—especially in a world filled with complicated choices and pitfalls and booby traps and bad advice. Fortunately, many smart philosophers have been pondering this conundrum for millennia and they have guidance for us. With bright wit and deep insight, How to Be Perfect explains concepts like deontology, utilitarianism, existentialism, ubuntu, and more so we can sound cool at parties and become better people.
Schur starts off with easy ethical questions like “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” (No.) and works his way up to the most complex moral issues we all face. Such as: Can I still enjoy great art if it was created by terrible people? How much money should I give to charity? Why bother being good at all when there are no consequences for being bad? And much more. By the time the book is done, we’ll know exactly how to act in every conceivable situation, so as to produce a verifiably maximal amount of moral good. We will be perfect, and all our friends will be jealous. OK, not quite. Instead, we’ll gain fresh, funny, inspiring wisdom on the toughest issues we face every day.
About Michael Schur
Michael Herbert Schur is an American television producer, writer, and character actor. He was a producer and writer for the comedy series The Office, and co-created Parks and Recreation with Office producer Greg Daniels.
A book of philosophy written by the creator of The Good Place?!
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America's oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone's boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl's leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media--the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams--even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.
About Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history.
F uck the Fuckity Fuckin’ Fucker. Readers of Katherine Dunn won’t be surprised that this was her father’s favorite sentence, or that, as a young girl, she heard it as a kind of profane poem, a secret song. For many of us, the language of Geek Love carries a similar staying power, born of Dunn’s agile use of language and her strange, beautiful diction. And as a true exegete of the expletive, she remained undividedly devoted to obscenity—both as scholar and practitioner.
In On Cussing, Dunn sketches a brief history of swear words and creates something of a field guide to their types and usages, from the common threat (“I’ll squash you like a shithouse mouse”) to the portmanteau intensifier (“Fan-fucking-tastic”). But she also explores their physiology—the physical impact on the reader or listener—and makes an argument for how and when to cuss with maximum effect. Equal parts informative and hilarious, this volume will delight Dunn’s legion of fans, but it’s also a must-have for anyone looking to more successfully wield their expletives, be it in writing or in everyday speech.
About Katherine Dunn
Katherine Dunn is best known for her beloved novel "Geek Love," which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1989. She is also the author of the novels "Attic" (1970) and "Truck" (1971). A fourth novel, entitled "The Cut Man," has been in-progress for decades and was purportedly scheduled for a September 2008 release.
Dunn is also known as a prolific sports journalist in the field of boxing, and has written several articles on the subject.
By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon, a powerful true story of adventure and obsession in the Antarctic, lavishly illustrated with color photographs
Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.
Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton's men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton's legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.
In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton's crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back. On November 13, 2015, at age 55, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.
David Grann tells Worsley's remarkable story with the intensity and power that have led him to be called "simply the best narrative nonfiction writer working today." Illustrated with more than fifty stunning photographs from Worsley's and Shackleton's journeys, The White Darkness is both a gorgeous keepsake volume and a spellbinding story of courage, love, and a man pushing himself to the extremes of human capacity.
About David Grann
David Grann has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid to the presidential campaign. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001; The Best American Crime Writing, of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing, of 2003 and 2006. A 2004 finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” Grann has also written for "The New York Times Magazine," The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic.
Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.
Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.
Ephron writes about falling hard for a way of life (“Journalism: A Love Story”) and about breaking up even harder with the men in her life (“The D Word”); lists “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” (“There is no explaining the stock market but people try”; “You can never know the truth of anyone’s marriage, including your own”; “Cary Grant was Jewish”; “Men cheat”); reveals the alarming evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (“The Six Stages of E-Mail”); and asks the age-old question, which came first, the chicken soup or the cold? All the while, she gives candid, edgy voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but rarely acknowledging.
Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true—and could have come only from Nora Ephron—I Remember Nothing is pure joy.
“On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can? The past is slipping away and the present is a constant affront.”
I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections, Ephron’s last essay collection published before her death in 2012, touches on the tragedy of aging and is probably not something that I could fully appreciate only being in my 30s (but I still loved it). She discusses becoming forgetful, about physical changes, but she touches on stories from her life that she has managed to remember in vibrant detail. She also includes several recipes, in particular, one for ricotta pancakes in an essay about Teflon (which is far more riveting than it sounds at first glance.) She bemoans the discovery of the hazards of Teflon since her ricotta pancakes never come out quite the same in any other pan and in the recipe, instructs you to heat up a Teflon pan until carcinogenic gas is released into the air. I will always adore her wit though and her random stories that may seem inconsequential but are just anecdotes into the life of a pretty extraordinary sounding woman. Reading her discussion on the personal tragedy that led to her only fiction novel, Heartburn, was emotional.
“I mention all this so you will understand that this is part of the process: once you find out he’s cheated on you, you have to keep finding it out, over and over and over again, until you’ve degraded yourself so completely that there’s nothing left to do but walk out.”
You can tell when she writes that it’s old news, but it’s still something that managed to transform her into who she is today, leaving that unseen yet indelible impression.
“People always say that once it goes away, you forget the pain. It’s a cliché of childbirth: you forget the pain. I don’t happen to agree. I remember the pain. What you really forget is love.”
It will be a sad day when I no longer have any new Nora to read. The Most of Nora Ephron will be my last so I’m saving that one for a rainy day.
In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.
In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).
In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.
Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).
Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.
“Life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called a vending machine.”
My lovely friend got me this for Christmas but I waited to pick it up because I had heard that there were mild spoilers from the new season of Gilmore Girls. And then I finally watched the first episode. And I didn’t like it.
BLASPHEMY. I know, I know. I’m just as distraught as you. There was just something terribly forced about Lorelai’s sense of humor this go around and Rory’s poor boyfriend Paul View Spoiler »that she cheats on « Hide Spoiler that she literally keeps overlooking (like when she leaves the diner completely forgetting that he had just gone to the bathroom real quick?) It’s a running joke that she’s been meaning to break up with him but she just keeps forgetting. Good grief, that’s not funny, that’s just wretched.
I understand this is supposed to be a review of the book, not the show, it’s just my opinion of the show definitely tarnishes my thoughts on the book because this is all about her glorious reprisal to the role of Lorelai Gilmore. She discusses in depth just how wonderful it was to be back in Stars Hollow alongside everyone once again and I wanted to happily reminiscence with her but I’m still full of self-loathing that I couldn’t love the new season.
Discussions related to Gilmore Girls took up the vast majority of this short book, but as indicated by the sub-title ‘From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between‘ Graham included various other anecdotes about her childhood and other assorted roles that make up her career. The non-Gilmore Girls additions left the story feeling slightly uneven and I almost felt this would have been best left as a long recollection of all things Gilmore Girls. In retrospect, I also felt that her recollections from the original seasons were a bit sloppy. She didn’t keep a journal of this time in her life, which is fine, but she describes how she sat down to actually watch the original seasons (for the first time ever) and took a bunch of notes when things jogged her memory. The more I discuss, the more it seems I didn’t like anything about this book, but that’s not exactly true because even if Lorelai didn’t possess much in the way of humor, Graham’s humor shines through even on page. And there’s always the original seasons for me to fondly remember.
The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. Named a PEOPLE Magazine Best Book of Fall 2016.
When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.
“I liked being Princess Leia. Or Princess Leia’s being me. Over time I thought that we’d melded into one. I don’t think you could think of Leia without my lurking in that thought somewhere.”
Carrie Fisher played the role of Princess Leia at just nineteen years old and it went on to define her entire life. The diary that she kept at this age is retold in snippets (narrated by her daughter, Billie Lourd) and showcases her delightful way with words. It feels invasive to be shown this time of her life, while her affair with Harrison Ford was going on, and it’s effortless to understand the intense adolescent love that she had for him. The Princess Diarist even goes beyond the retold tales of Fisher’s time on the Star Wars set and sets out to describe just how much playing Princess Leia came to be a part of her own personal identity. She describes how jarring stepping into the limelight was for her despite her belief that it was something she understood already, having grown up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds.
“The crew was mostly men. That’s how it was and that’s pretty much how it still is. It’s a man’s world & show business is a man’s meal with women generously sprinkled through it like over-qualified spice.”
Fisher was always outspoken about the mental health and addiction problems that she dealt with for most of her life but The Princess Diarist doesn’t delve into that aspect of her as much. Nonetheless, this was an unexpectedly emotional read for me even though I was a fan of Fisher’s. She would make occasional references to when she passes as well as a mention of how her obituary would look like (with a picture of her as Princess Leia complete with buns) and it was a bit of a punch to the gut. Her sardonic sense of humor lightened the heartbreak but it was clear that Fisher believed she still had a lot of life to live. Listening to her raspy voice tell her final story was a treat and I can only hope that she got to say all that she wanted in the time she was given.
I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?
“So be who you really are. Embrace who you are. Literally. Hug yourself. Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.”
I was having a pretty bad day when I started this. There was a lot of driving involved that I wasn’t looking forward to and an unexpected blizzard to boot. I always like a good audiobook to keep me company I just didn’t think anything was going to be able to get me out of the funk I was in — but I underestimated Ellen.
I’m Kidding…Seriously aims at being a light-hearted advice manual with the main goal of just making you smile. She takes digs at her fellow celebrities and their hilarious lifestyles but becomes quickly somber when discussing the importance of being true to yourself and accepting who you are as a person. This isn’t your typical inspirational celebrity memoir on how to make it big in Hollywood but rather reads like an internal monologue with the author herself. If you’re an audiobook lover, do yourself a favor and listen to this one because Ellen’s tone and delivery make this all the more enjoyable an experience. If you’re a fan of her stand-up comedy routines, you’ll find much to laugh about in this. I know I did.
‘I feel bad for people December birthdays […] It’s not fair and I have a message for parents out there. Don’t do that to your kids. Plan your love. I’m not great at baby math, so I’m just gonna say in the early part of the year, maybe January until March, stay away from each other. It’s not gonna be easy. Those are winter months and you’re going to want to stay warm. But unfortunately one of you is going to have to sleep in a tent in the backyard.’
Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration,A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.
Photo Credit: http://appalachiantrials.com/
“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.”
A Walk in the Woods is somewhat of a travelogue of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile trail that passes through 14 states. A part of me mulls over that statistic and thinks, “Wow, that’d be amazing” and the other, predominant part of me thinks:
I am so not a nature person. I’d like to think I am, would like to get excited about the idea of camping, but once I get out in it it’s a whole different story. I once told this guy I was dating that “Sure! I love hiking!” and next thing I knew I was being drug on a one-way 6-mile trip to visit some lake.
Yeah, yeah, the lake is admittedly extremely gorgeous but did I mention it’s like 6 miles up a mountain? And that you at some point have to go down 6 miles to get back to your car? Suffice it to say, I learned my lesson and am far more honest about my aversion to nature. So that small part of me that likes to think I’m gung-ho about nature can be satisfied by reading about others adventures like this because I’m simply not cut out for that shit.
A Walk in the Woods not only details Bryson’s adventures on the trail with his friend Katz, but goes into the particulars of the history of the Appalachian trail, the towns it runs through, the plant and animal life, and the people who made history by tackling the trail in its entirety. The history bits were incredibly informative considering I knew next to nothing about the AT (Appalachian Trail) but they took up far more of the book than I had expected. While interesting, I was invariably anxious to get back to the bits about Bryson and Katz’s actual adventures. They were quite hilarious at times. Bryson and Katz are both middle-aged men at the time of this story and Katz especially is no where close to being fit enough to carry a full pack and walk at the same time. On their very first day starting out, during moments of great displeasure, Katz started throwing stuff off his pack he deemed non-essential. Like food. Hilarious to read about but that had to be pretty exasperating to his hiking partner.
Speaking of his hiking partner, Bryson, well… this is his story after all. He wrote it. But honestly? Bryson was a bit of a snooty prick. He didn’t start hiking the AT as some professional hiker that knows anything and everything about long distance hiking (which is what I loved most about him first). Nope, he went to REI like us other newbie hikers would end up doing and bought out the store. Regardless of his inexperience, he was constantly criticizing people for their equipment choices or the people they encountered that wanted to have “gear chats”. Admittedly, I would probably have also made fun of the guy with the Enviro Meter and felt the need to ask if it also bakes cookies too. While these exchanges were certainly humorous, he still came off as quite a prig.
Another thing about undertaking the AT, us normal folk with day jobs couldn’t even consider doing something like this. And don’t even get me started on the amount of equipment he bought, the plane tickets to get to the start of the trail, and all the motels and restaurants visited along the way. Before long, this story starts to seem like a fantasy, albeit a fascinating one. (And that’s another thing, even though I’ve already admitted that I am not a nature girl, occasionally stopping off in various towns to stay the night in a motel seems a bit like cheating. I can understand stopping off to stock up on provisions but then you get your ass back out and pitch your tent. But maybe that’s just me.) Even if taking months off work was in your realm of possibility, could you truly imagine doing it? “Yeah I hiked around the woods for 5 solid months.” Sure, people figure out how to make it happen all the time and not just on the AT. The Pacific Crest Trail that extends through California, Oregon and Washington for 2,663 miles. The Continental Divide Trail that extends through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana for 3,100 miles. There’s also the John Muir Trail that goes through California at a mere 210 miles. I can appreciate the withdrawal from society and getting back to the basics but damn. Hats off to you people that make it happen.
What I loved most about this is its simplicity. It wasn’t written as a self-help, motivating guide to losing weight and getting healthy or rediscovering yourself in nature or anything of the sort. A Walk in the Woods is simply about getting back to basics and rediscovering nature as it was intended. Bryson’s story won’t necessarily drive you to start planning your own excursion to the AT, but instead brings to life the tragic story of nature being overtaken in the United States and the importance of preserving it. Even a non-outdoorsy type like myself can appreciate that.
A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.
An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.
The thing about books written by celebrities, especially non-fiction stories about their lives, is you have a predisposed idea of who they are as people. This idea can culminate through various ways such as the characters they play in movies/shows or the various stories that gossip magazines publish about them. And while I always felt that Mary Louise-Parker was a fascinating person, Dear Mr. You only made this all the more apparent.
“I wrote about us while you were away in a notebook that eventually saw the end of us, but the last I wrote about that time was in ink; it was a hurried, angry scrawl reading: Time, that cold bastard, with its nearlys and untils. I think, what a shame. Time should weep for having spent me without you.”
It has to be said, but I did not expect Mary Louise-Parker to be as remarkable a writer as she clearly is. I recently stumbled upon an article where she talks about her top ten favorite books and over half of them were poetry collections, so it’s clear where her poetic quality comes from. I read the majority of this book out loud to myself, simply because I wanted to slow down my normally fast-paced reading to better appreciate this small but stunning story. Her eloquence is something to truly aspire to.
As the title suggests, this is a collection of letters to the men that have in some way shape or form had an impact on her life. There was the occasional letter that was a miss for me, like the obscure one she wrote to a goat named Gem, but the majority of her letters moved me to unforeseen levels of emotion. Her letters run the gamut of emotions. The letter to Oyster Picker, recounting her father’s final moments on this Earth brought me to tears. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but I sobbed quietly, reading her profound words and then going back to re-read certain passages even though it was well past my bedtime. But there were also laughs, my favorite being the letter to her Former Boyfriend where she describes him eating all the guacamole off her plate and seething with rage she calmly picked up a fork and stabbed him through the hand. I’m not doing it justice but it truly was hilarious; I’m still chuckling in remembrance as I write this.
Parker has led a most fascinating life, full of delightful people, and it was a real treat being granted this glimpse into her life. At the end of this collection, she recollects how her father made her promise him she would always keep writing and I do hope that promise is fulfilled. It would be fantastic to see her recount her life again in letters, with a focus on the women instead. Bottom line, I do hope this isn’t the last we haven’t seen of Parker in the literary world.
“I love that sensation, when you think, this is too good, I’ll catch up with everyone else later. You just have to take in the truth of that expanse a few more seconds before it changes and becomes something else entirely, or before you do.”
From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.
M Train is a journey through eighteen "stations." It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories including her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant multiplatform artists at work today.
‘I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.’
Patti Smith carries us through her esoteric stories of the past and present in this short story/essay collection. M Train reads like an internal journey, a solo exploration. She recalls cafes visited all around the world, writing or simply sitting and reminiscing while drinking an insane amount of coffee that makes my own addiction to caffeine seem laughable. While Smith seems completely content with her own company and the adventures she undertakes alone, there’s still an underlying sadness when recollecting the loved ones she’s lost and the memories that still haunt her.
-What are you writing? I looked up at her, somewhat surprised. I had absolutely no idea.
Ultimately, this accurately sums up this non-linear story collection. Random, non-cohesive thoughts that bounce around her lifetime from past to present with no indication of time. It is possible for randomness to possess interest and there is no doubt that Patti Smith has led a most interesting life, such as the descriptions of her trip to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in northwest French Guiana to visit the remains of a French penal colony where criminals were kept. Of all the places in the world to visit though, only Patti Smith would decide to visit an old abandoned prison at the end of the world. Nevertheless, it was interesting, but while it was all very informative and her writing is forever fluid, none of it ever felt as if it had much substance. Her descriptions of her trip to Germany to attend a conference with the Continental Drift Club, of which she is a member strangely enough, were fascinating but then she goes on to describe how on her return trip home she decided to stay in London to binge-watch some crime shows on the BBC. Fascinating and then… not.
Just Kids was stunning and poignant and her writing transported the reader back to a long past period of time. While her writing is still top-notch and her talent is undeniable, M Train was simply too meandering and tangential for my liking. The triviality of these stories are clearly meaningful to her since our experiences in life are what make us who we are today, but the importance is easily lost when not experienced firsthand but only recapped from memory.
‘I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young we think we won’t, that we are different. As a child I thought I would never grow up, that I could will it so. And then I realize, quite recently, that I had crossed some line, unconsciously cloaked in the truth of my chronology.’
This captivating nonfiction investigation of the Pentagon Papers has captured widespread critical acclaim, including features in The Washington Post and on NPR, and selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist.
From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Newbery Honor Book Bomb comes a tense, narrative nonfiction account of what the Times deemed "the greatest story of the century": how whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into "the most dangerous man in America," and risked everything to expose years of government lies during the Nixon / Cold War era.
On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these files had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. The investigation that resulted--as well as the attempted government coverups and vilification of the whistleblower--has timely relevance to Edward Snowden's more recent conspiracy leaks.
A provocative and political book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children's nonfiction.
‘Perspective is everything.’
Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst at the Pentagon in 1964. He worked under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and had access to confidential documents which were never reported to the American people, but it was a part of his job to keep that information contained. He visited Vietnam personally and seeing the war firsthand irrevocably changed his understanding and opinion of the United States’ fight with Vietnam. Upon his return, his help was enlisted in compiling a top secret document of which the president wasn’t even made aware of on the conduct of the Vietnam War. The 7,000-page document was a wake-up call for Ellsberg as he resolved to make the American people aware of the vast conspiracy of lies that had been going on for several decades.
The story is a most shocking one, detailing the years of deception from not just a single president but four including their administrations over the course of twenty-three years. Going into this story, I was fairly oblivious to the history of the Vietnam War. I am not normally a non-fiction reader, however, I welcomed the prospect of being able to familiarize myself with something that is such a huge part of American history. My sole reservation (which is the same reservation I have for all non-fiction stories) is that it’ll end up reading like a dull textbook. Well, rest assured, Sheinkin has transformed the history of the Vietnam War while interlacing it with Daniel Ellsberg’s involvement to create one well-researched thriller that is both informative and captivating.
I was curious about the fact that this is a non-fiction story targeted to young adult readers, but it makes sense now. Most young adult readers these days won’t be well versed in this time period (as I am/was) and I almost think that going into this story knowing very little about the history is a benefit. The way this story is told will undoubtedly kindle an interest in this time period leading readers to pick up additional books that will further elucidate. Interestingly enough, in the epilogue, the connection is made between Ellsberg’s actions and that of Edward Snowden’s who in 2013 released details of classified United States government surveillance programs. Decades separate the two incidents, yet it’s clear that the government is still far from candid. Ellsberg’s story not only illuminates an important part of American history but it helps to illustrate how our government and society became how it is today.