Have you ever thought about how your beliefs and personal morals came to be? Scott Hershovitz, Director of the Law and Ethics Program at The University of Michigan, began engaging his two sons in conversations about ethical dilemmas just to see how they would respond. Surprisingly, the boys were not only interested in the topics raised in the conversations, they also had remarkably sophisticated opinions on many of the subjects. This isn’t just because they are the children of a professor, it is because at a very early age we all begin to think about our place in the world and how we fit in. Each chapter of the book begins with a discussion or example of how either of the boys reacts to something in their life and Hershovitz then looks at how that debate fits into the world of philosophy and ethics. This is a great example of why we should spend more time talking with children to find out what they think. We might even learn something if we’re not careful.
As we enter another major election year, it is important to be aware of the rhetoric that will be tossed around. This book looks to lay to rest many of the assumptions that we have made about our country and its history. How does the history of the treatment and sidelining of indigenous peoples inform our treatment of immigrant populations? Can we really refute the fact that we have long been an empire? If the great allure of capitalism and free markets is that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, how did we get to the state that we are in today? Is there such a thing as a “good protest?” Keep this book with you during the next debate you watch and see how many throwaway lines by the candidates go unchecked.
For this second collection of recipes and writing, the folks at Zingerman’s Bakehouse focused on celebrations throughout the year and the recipes (not just baked goods) that highlight the seasons and specific holidays. Broken into the four seasons, these selections almost feel like a year-long menu of what the Bakehouse has to offer. The recipes themselves are painstakingly written and leave little room for error. Just make sure you read everything over carefully before beginning as I have learned from experience. The big highlight in the book for me is the Cheery Cherry Pie, featured on the cover and a longtime favorite!
This book is not an indictment of fans as much as it is of the “Sports industrial Complex” and the things that team owners, leagues, and the media have done to exploit local and national fan bases. Between outlandish public financing arrangements for stadiums, manufactured patriotism, and deliberately setting teams up to fail, it seems that fans have been pushed to their limit from what once seemed a fun and mindless pastime. Calcaterra’s book not only looks at the many problems that fans of sports have had to deal with over the years, it also proposes ways to fight back and feel that you have more control over the situation. I have never seen such a cogent defense for being a fair-weather fan (which justifies my approach to the NBA over the past 30 years).
In this third installment of his North Bath Trilogy, Richard Russo’s examination of life in a small, working class community in upper New York, finds the city and residents of North Bath at a critical juncture. The city is being swallowed up by its wealthier neighbor, which has left the Chief of Police without a job. Donald “Sully” Sullilvan has been dead for a few years and has left his legacy and a lengthy checklist of people and things to look out for to his son, Peter. Oh, and there has also been a grisly discovery at the Sans Souci Estate, once a symbol of hope for the city but now a worn and abandoned reminder of how things really are.
Somebody’s Fool is filled with the unique warmth and wonderful dialogue that we experienced in the first two installments. I have always marveled at Russo’s ability to derive laughter out of life’s most mundane and heartbreaking moments. This is a fine conclusion to the series - although I wouldn’t mind seeing a fourth book if it comes along.
I first discovered Fern Brady from her standup material online and I was struck by her matter-of-fact approach on stage. I found her to be witty and cutting and truly enjoyed her demeanor. In 2020, she was diagnosed as autistic, a condition she had long felt she lived with but medical professionals wouldn’t believe her self-diagnosis. This memoir looks at Fern’s life and how the symptoms that she exhibited throughout her teens and twenties were regarded as cries for attention or simple misbehavior actually told a deeper story. She also looks at how women who are not properly diagnosed as autistic at an early age are harmed not only by the lack of acceptance of their condition but also by the coping mechanisms they undertake to deal with their affliction. By turns funny, sad, and brutally honest, this book is quite eye-opening and well worth your time.
How many times have you encountered a control panel, switch, or even a door that was not easy to use? How many times have you walked away from the experience thinking that YOU were the one at fault because you couldn’t figure out how to use the item? The flaw was not with you but with the design of the device. Don Norman’s book (now in a revised and expanded edition) looks at the process needed for good design, from initial concept to the need for feedback. This is really a book about the management process and how to make sure that the needs and desires of the people who ultimately use the item being designed need to be considered at every point in the process.
Soon after moving to Kansas City, MO in 2007, author David Von Drehle met his neighbor Charlie White. Charlie at that time was 102 years old and was as spry and active as a person many decades younger. Over the next seven years, Charlie shared stories that described life before common usage of automobiles, telephones, even electricity (one of his earliest jobs was helping to install electricity and light fixtures in homes). Charlie’s ability to survive and even thrive through family tragedy, private trauma, war, cultural change, and advances in his chosen field (medicine – anesthesiology in particular) gives us all a glimpse into how we can all rise above the difficulties in our life. The story of Charlie’s life is fascinating and so unique, but the deeper questions of his adaptability through a period of incredible change is even more impressive.
The perfect gift for the person who loves baseball, lists, statistics, and passionate writing about all of the above. Posnanski’s list of the 100 best baseball players in history is his love letter to the game and starting point for debate between fans. As he notes in the introduction, the specific numbers within the top 100 might not have anything to do with the player’s ranking in the game but may be related to something else (Joe DiMaggio is ranked at #56 due to his famous hitting streak). This is not a book to be read in any particular order (I first looked for my favorite players and then went back to fill in the gaps) but it is a terrific recounting of the history of the game.
Setiya’s book is part self-help guide and part philosophical exploration. Using one word descriptions of difficulties that we face in life (infirmity, loneliness, grief, failure, etc.), Setiya uses examples from real life, literature, and other forms of popular culture to define the terms and scope. He then looks at how philosophers throughout time have tried to find a way to understand and learn from the trials that we face every day. The book is not designed to improve your condition but to understand and move ahead while working through the very things that make life hard.
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I remember enjoying the performances of Lauren Graham before she landed on Gilmore Girls. I loved that her characters always seemed to have an inner warmth, even when she was playing someone with a darker side. This collection of essays gives us a greater insight into who she is with remembrances about her early days of tryouts and figuring out the best path for her to pursue an acting career, struggling with keeping up appearances while trying to finding the perfect spa that had a television available (an almost impossible task), and getting a chance to direct after years of seeing how it was done. The essay on directing includes a lengthy list of best practices that can apply to anyone who wants good tips on being a leader (“It’s a universal truth that people at work really, really love good snacks.”). This is a collection that will give you plenty of smiles.
Steve Martin tells the story of his film career from his beginning in The Jerk to his semi-retirement and return on the small screen in Only Murders in the Building (he only touches on the latter briefly). The remembrances are amusing and the interactions in the illustrations harken back to Martin and Bliss’ earlier collaboration: A Wealth of Pigeons. Being a dog lover, I especially enjoyed the interactions with the illustrator’s dog, Penny, and how those interactions brought back memories of Martin’s dog, Roger. Eventually, the passage of time and loss of leading roles (the turn from being referred to as “Number One” to “Number Three’ on sets was quite a jolt) led to the decision to put this portion of his life to rest and move on to other interests. The last half of the book is filled with more of Bliss’ amusing illustrations.
Carl has been embarrassed by his father and his money-saving, green-living antics for years. Dumpster-diving for food, wearing the wrong-sized underwear, and making repeated trips to garage sales and the dump to find items that might work if they just got the right amount of tinkering starts to wear on the psyche of a 12 year-old boy that is trying to look hip and cool. One day, Carl comes across a book that might help him to save his summer and help him show his father the error of his ways. By using the lessons contained in a dog training manual, Carl attempts to correct his dad’s behaviors and set him on the right path.
Why is it that in an age which prides itself on efficiency, many are working in jobs or on tasks that are mind-numbingly value-less? David Graeber built on his ground-breaking essay from 2013 about the proliferation of “Bullshit Jobs” - work that holds no real value, by sharing examples sent to him in the years since the essay. Many examples are spread throughout the book, including a person hired to guard an empty room in a museum when a simple lock on the door could perform the same task. Graeber looks at how we reached this point in labor and economic history and the toll this kind of work takes on the psyche of the people tasked with these jobs. Though the book was written before “The Great Resignation,” this certainly sheds some light on how this phenomenon came to be.
I have been a long time player of games. Far from an expert level at any of them but I have always been fascinated by how game play has influenced the way we interact as individuals and as a society. This book takes a look at how the drive to master some of the most popular games in the world is just out of everyone’s reach but there is still a hope that it can be attained. Roeder looks at the development of Artificial Intelligence to learn and master games like Checkers, Chess, Go, Backgammon, and Bridge. He also took part in the World Series of Poker and the North American Scrabble Championship just to see how he would stack up (not so well but better than most considering his lack of expertise).
Maeve Higgins’ second book takes on a variety of tones. Her personal stories, ranging from family vacations to an accidental consumption of edibles, are laugh out loud funny. The observations on her visit to the 2020 Border security Expo in Texas (on the verge of the COVID outbreak) gives an outsider’s perspective to how our country is handling the immigration issue. Other essays involve the political manipulation of language (“Climate Change” to replace “Global Warming”), what it takes to truly become a citizen of America, and the use and symbolism of statues to convey control. Finally, the title of the book becomes clear as she finishes with a discussion of what we owe each other as strangers sharing space in a subway, or a city, or a nation.
As someone who frequently needs a little help to understand complex concepts, it seems that I have a set of Michaels in my world to help set me straight. Michael Lewis’ books make sense of economics and the importance of identifying market inefficiencies. My newest helper is Michael Shur, writer and creator of many popular television series and author of How to Be Perfect.
In this book, he shares the research and learning that went into creating The Good Place. Using provocative chapter headings (“Should I punch My Friend in the Face For No Reason?”, “This Sandwich is Morally Problematic. But It’s Also Delicious. Can I Still Eat It?”) Shur guides us through the entire history of Philosophical thought to find the best answers. This is like an Intro to Philosophy course taught by someone who has truly thought these ideas through and can also make you laugh.
This is not a book that will show you the best training methods and it is not going to recommend the proper training outfits or even what kind of stretches you should do before your workouts. This book is simply a way to motivate you to get started and keep going. If getting started on that resolution has been tough, this is the book for you!
Using relatable text, eye-catching charts, and a healthy dose of humor, Leonard’s book tells you why you should start running, why you should keep moving, and why walking is a legitimate form of running. Read it to get started and keep going back to it to keep yourself motivated.
For a Cleveland baseball fan like myself, 1948 holds a special place. This look at the 1948 Championship Season and four of the key individuals on the team that held the greatest impact on the future of the sport is a fast-moving and entertaining read.
Owner Bill Veeck’s keen eye for showmanship and promotion dovetailed nicely with Bob Feller’s need to make up for lost time and money during World War II, while Larry Doby and Satchel Paige represented the glorious past and uncertain future of the Negro Leagues and how the breaking of the color barrier was soon to change the game forever. I also received confirmation of a story that my mother told me about Cleveland Stadium that nobody else could ever confirm for her.
The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde
In 1965, an event occurred which resulted in a great number of rabbits (as well as a handful of other animals) to become human-sized and able to freely communicate with man. Since that time, the United Kingdom has been dealing with the fallout, politically, socially, and economically. The government has decided to build a MegaWarren,a structure promoted as a safe haven for all rabbits but in reality is a means to hide and keep a check over the rabbit population.
Part political allegory and part social satire, the story unfolds from the perspective of a mid-level bureaucrat, who finds himself drawn into the plight of the rabbit population after a rabbit family moves in next door. Themes of personal ethics and the importance of actions over good intentions resonate throughout this amusing and frightening read.
When I began working at Literati after more than ten years away from the book business, I was concerned about my knowledge of recent titles, especially in the world of Children's Books. Soon after starting the job, I happened upon this book when it was ordered by one of our customers. I was struck by the cover artwork and decided to tgive the book a quick read.
This is a magical and uplifting story that looks at the power of memory, the even stronger power of friendship, and the importance of keeping your friends close to your heart even when there is great distance. Given the way our lives have shifted over the couple of years, I found this to be such a meaningful book. The illustrations are beautiful and the message will stay with you long after the story ends.
In the fall of 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a journey across the United States with his French Poodle, Charely. His intetn was to find a narrative that would help to identify the Nation and its mindset at the beginning of the 1960's.
Meant intially as a travelogue, I feel that this has become more of a time capsule. Steinbeck was able to travel coast to coast while largely eschewing the interstate highway system that has since dominated the landscape, meeting folks from all walks of life and interacting with nature in ways that were most surprising to him. Along the way, he encountered migrant workers from Canada, bureaucratic border guards at Niagra Falls, roadside diners (who do breakfast well but not so much the other meals), a National Park ranger who understood the nature of dogs, and a pair coyotes who taught him about survival. He also witnessed the raial strife in the effort to desegregate the New Orleans Schools. Far different in tone from Steinbeck's novels, this book reflect our country at a particular time and is well worth the read.
Sarah Vowell, known to many as the voice of Violet in The Incredibles, never lost her fascination with the many odd twists and turns our country's history has expereinced. Vowell travels far and wide across the country to tell the story of presidential assassins and their targets. We get to re-trace the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, learn about a 19th century sex cult, visit Fort Jefferson, where Booth's co-conspirators were held until their pardon, and discover the weird coincidences of a growing country (Robert Todd Lincoln was perhaps the unluckiest man in history). References and comparisons to modern culture (MTV's Cribs, The OC) are peppered throughout.
The book is amusing and interesting, but it is not frivolous. We learn how the Republican Party of Lincoln began to turn into the Republican Party of today. There are many comparisons between the conflicts of the 19th century and the modern political era. Vowell's throwaway lines about popular vs. electoral majority and cult of personality will lead you to belive this book was written much later than 2006.
Memory is a funny thing and this account of the first ten years of Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink's relationship is proof of that. Each wrote separate essays about their first ten years together, each essay covering one year. The differences and similarities in their recollections are Rashomon-like. One person's minor phrase could be a major topic for the other's essay. Some stories are only heard from one perspective whole others have completely different accounts. (Who actually paid for the Plan B pill?)
The essays touch on love, loss, how we make the big decisions in life, and how those decisions are sometimes made for us. Their feelings of love, respect, and togetherness are felt throughout the book. I hope to hear from Meg and Joseph again in another ten years.
Roger Bennett, cohost of the television program Men in Blazers, is a great authority on international football, but his true love and affection has long been centered on all things United States. Spending his formative years in post-industrial Liverpool, Bennett developed a love of the music, films, television programs, sports and fashion of America in the mid-80's.
This is a story of hope, and the writing is a joy to behold. The enthusiasm leaps off the page. It gave me a new perspective on the impact of American culture and just how much we take for granted. The book is funny, touching, and very personal.
Our favorite Fool, Pocket of Dog Snogging, returns for another visit into the world of William Shakespeare. This time, he finds himself in the city of Athens, Greece and its adjoining forest. Pocket has three days to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Puck, Jester to the Shadow King.
Fans and experts in the writings of Shakespeare will enjoy the many references to the Bard's works while Wiki-experts (like me) will enjoy looking for the source material.
Shakespeare for Squirrels continues Christopher Moore's mission to bring Shakespeare's works to a new audience. Funny, Bawdy, and fast-paced, This is well worth the read!
Not a strictly a book about baseball as much as it is a look at how mistakes are made due to the poor assumptions, biases, and fallacies that we all make in our everyday lives. Each chapter looks at one or more poor decisions in the history of the game and the thinking behind those decisions. How does anchor bias influence umpire calls? What does suvivorship bias have to do with Nolan Ryan's high pitch counts? How does the sunk cost fallacy figure into player salaries? A great book for fans of the game who want to learn more about the psychology and economic thought that has shaped the game.
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A book about making movies AND baseball?!? Sign me up! Shelton’s account of how he was able to direct his first film (based on a script he wrote) provides a unique perspective into the process of filmmaking. Shelton takes us a brief tour of his own minor league baseball career and how he turned stories that he either lived, heard about, or fantasized, into a realistic look into the life of a minor league baseball team and the colorful characters in and around the ballpark. Shelton also speaks to the frustration of meddling film executives (some of whom still insist that their ideas were best), placating grumpy extras and crew members, and how the support of a few key people can help make your dream come to be.
Picking up the story of Sammy, the Cheese, and all of their assorted acquaintances that we first met in Noir, we find that things are not any easier on the backstreets and alleys of postwar San Francisco. Someone is killing drag kings at various locations and Sammy has been asked by a club owner in fear of her life to find out who is behind it. In addition, Sammy’s friend “Moo Shoes” has been asked by his uncle to help find an artifact lost around the time of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. Moore continues to be a master of comic dialogue and keeps the action running between time and distance. Will we find out who is responsible for the killings? More importantly, are we going to get to the bottom of why the earthquake happened in the first place?