PositiveBooklistLange is attentive to the ways in which twentieth-century visions of the mall as a kind of town square were deliberately conceived to keep out people of color and of lower incomes. This reminder of how the smells, sights, sounds, and spatial layout of the nation’s malls are carefully controlled is an important counterpoint to the highly individualized experiences that animate them.
Cristina de Stefano, tr. Gregory Conti
PositiveBooklistDrawing from Montessori’s own writings as well as recent works, de Stefano presents the pioneer as a strong-willed firecracker who understood that the world could be different, if only children were allowed to create it for themselves.
PositiveBooklistPhillips’s insights—like the disconnect between a creative’s expectation of unbroken focus and the reality of mothering as a state of constant interruption—are essential, but stacks of quotes from famous writers, philosophers, psychoanalysts, and others turn into litanies. This book offers no formula for success, but identifies in its subjects a shared willingness to break with convention and expectation.
PositiveBooklistMelding memoir with wide-ranging research into American experiments in communal living like the Shakers and The Farm (an intentional community founded by hippies in the late 1960s), Shirk seeks historical and contemporary ways of living that are more sustainable, bountiful, creative, and supportive than the siloed, workhorse model favored under capitalism. Without idealizing these communal experiments, Shirk takes their complexities and contradictions as part of the necessary reality of imagining other ways of living ... At times, an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative voice overwhelms the book’s many insights, but it also communicates the urgency and earnestness of her quest.
RaveBooklist... excellent ... Cusk has written a novel about what it might mean to be whole within one’s self and with others, and about the artist’s responsibility and art’s power.
RaveBooklist... terrific ... Within individual essays and across the collection, Zoffness moves back and forth through time with an elegant quickness that insightfully captures how the past shapes who we are and who we might become. Indeed, the significance of genetic, material, and spiritual inheritance threads through the book ... With characteristic humor and sensitivity, Zoffness considers what we’re willing to do for ourselves and for others and what we give both knowingly and not. In this and other essays, Zoffness’ Judaism is front and center, from her connection to an exiled Syrian Jew to the Holocaust’s latent shadow over a summer in Germany, but this is not a book about Judaism. Rather, these essays are about the cultural, familial, creative, and historical identities that help us make sense of our place in the world.
PositiveBooklist... long and roving chapters ... Adamson is a curator and some of the book’s most lively moments come when he is describing an object ... From enslaved craftspeople inciting rebellion to the ubiquity of the postwar amateur craft craze, from wampum to studio pottery, this is a celebratory history of craft’s potential to liberate America from its racism, xenophobia, and sexism.
PositiveBooklistThe ups and downs of Mitch’s NFL career and post-career life take a back seat to the emotional life of him and his loved ones, struggling to understand the meaning of success and how to attain it.
PositiveBooklistAs Kamp explains in his carefully researched and straightforward history of the era’s radical efforts to use television to teach children, Sesame Street’s creators pitched their program to underprivileged children of color ... Producer Joan Ganz Cooney emerges as the star.
RaveBooklistThe most impressive thing about this new Warhol biography is not its length—more than 900 pages—but the fact that art is discussed on nearly every one of them ... With each chapter corresponding to roughly a year in the artist’s life (though the first 17 are greatly condensed), [Gopnik] is able to slowly disclose the patchwork of Warhol’s diverse influences and art-world references ... Gopnik’s in-depth portrait is for the Warhol-initiated, who will gain new appreciation for the artist as the ultimate aesthetic \'sponge.\'
PositiveBooklistIn breezy, readable prose, Rips delivers this collection of people and things to the reader so that they, like the market’s gems, arrive without provenance. For example, he never dates his decades at the flea, and never names The Cowboy as radical anarchist artist Ben Morea. Protecting his collection, Rips insists upon being the key to unlock their secrets.
PositiveBooklistPufahl’s prose is lush and slow with the romance of emotion and the postwar frontier. Her dialogue is sparse and pointed, every word deliberately spoken. On Swift Horses is a queer Western for an utterly contemporary audience.
MixedBooklistLike his New Yorker articles and previous books, Gladwell’s newest is chock-full of gripping anecdotes from the recent and forgotten past, from Amanda Knox’s overturned murder conviction to the double agents who sunk the CIA’s spying efforts in 1980s Cuba. He uses these riveting stories to offer up bite-size observations about how we engage with strangers. For example, we think of ourselves as complex but of strangers as straightforward. Not so, Gladwell insists ... Gladwell’s case studies are thrilling, but their relevance to everyday encounters is frequently obtuse, and the takeaways from them are often buried or provocative ... Readers may find that Gladwell’s alluringly simple lesson dangerously oversimplifies power dynamics in twenty-first-century America.
PositiveBooklistLaurel and Daphne, identical-twin wordsmiths with fiery red hair, are this novel’s protagonists, but language is its heart ... central as words may be to this witty tale of sibling rivalry, Schine also suggests that there are some things they just can’t quite capture.
Sara Stridsberg, Trans. by Deborah Bragan-Turner
PositiveBooklist[Valerie\'s] pages are full of references to blood, piss, and vomit, which set the stage for this punk-rock myth. Valerie paints its troubled protagonist as feminist hero, thumbing her nose at the law, celebrity, the medical establishment, and more.
PositiveBooklistStories figure prominently in this collection of essays ... They’re addressed, of course, in the collection’s seven pieces about literature ... But stories are also at the crux of essays about driving, relationships, homemaking, and parenting ... Opening up the deep crevices of everyday life’s paradoxes, myths, and more, Cusk pulls apart the stories we tell to reflect on the mess underneath.
PositiveBooklistThough it resembles other sprawling midwestern family dramas, like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001), Lombardo’s book steers clear of social critique and burrows into the drama of familial relationships. The result is an affectionate, sharp, and eminently readable exploration of the challenges of love in its many forms.
RaveBooklist[A] stunning debut ... With powerful and poetic prose, Lin captures the uncertainty and insight of childhood ... Lin’s majestic writing immerses the reader in the bodily experience of her characters, who writhe, paw, dig, salivate, and draw readers into their world.
PositiveBooklistWho is Walter Gropius? This is the question that MacCarthy...answers in her comprehensive portrait of the German-born architect best known for founding the Bauhaus ... MacCarthy offers a buoyant account of her subject’s life, or, as she suggests, his lives[.]
Karl Ove Knausgaard
MixedBooklist...[Knausgaard\'s] approach is no different from that in prior works, for his meandering stream-of-consciousness puts him squarely at the center even though here his subject is purportedly the early-twentieth-century Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. This allows Knausgaard to contemplate creativity and the life of an artist more generally and subtly undoes the myth of the critic’s supposed objectivity. But it also makes the book difficult to follow as Knausgaard jumps between Munch paintings (many of which are reproduced), contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Vanessa Baird, and his own forays into the art world. Knausgaard tends to avoid using traditional chapters, thus immersing the reader in his rich mind and experiences. Here such text-dividers would have usefully structured his frequently compelling insights, helping to transform them into actual arguments. Knausgaard is attentive to how composition, color, and brushstroke can elicit in the viewer unanticipated emotions, but it’s hard to stay with him long enough to get there. Primarily for fans of this high-profile writer.
MixedBooklistThough the collection can be uneven—some reprinted essays seem like filler—the best pieces offer smart and studied reflections on the power of friendship ... While families are bound by blood and couples often by the law of marriage, the bonds of friendship expand and contract over time. Hopper fervently embraces this and the rich intimacies it affords.
Eve L. Ewing
RaveBooklistIn 2013, Chicago closed 49 public schools, 90-percent of them majority black. The city declared these schools underutilized and failing. But when the closures were announced, teachers, students, parents, and community members protested. If these schools were as awful as the city said, then why the fight to keep them? This question drives Ghosts in the Schoolyard ... Ewing is a Harvard-trained sociologist as well as a poet and an educator (among other things), and this comes through in her lively and accessible writing.
PositiveBooklist[Laurens] spins a compelling and tragic tale of poverty, power, and the arts that raises questions about the artist’s responsibility to his subject.
PositiveBooklistHartley’s prose soars when she shares stories from her own life ... Female readers will undoubtedly relate to the many first-person anecdotes of women obliviously or resentfully doing the draining work of emotional labor. But this is a book for men, too. To break the cycle, men need to step up to the plate. And then put it in the dishwasher.
PositiveBooklistAs befits Lange’s background, she writes with both an academic’s expertise and a journalist’s hooks and accessibility ... Lange’s survey shows how kids learn to be creative, social citizens in these different spaces (or how architects and others hope they will). Certain examples, such as an educator’s conviction that 50 sheets of wasted paper were necessary for one little girl’s growth, are questionable but offer an important reminder of the importance of play in a world increasingly organized around efficiency.
Rao Pingru, Trans. by Nicky Harman
RaveBooklistPingru’s intimate, illustrated memoir of a life shared with his wife, Meitang, offers a touching portrait of marriage. The story is driven by rich memories of everyday life, from the perfect bowl of congee on a trip to Liuzhou to nights in the 1950s spent at dance halls with friends ... Paired with Pingru’s expressive ink drawings, which appear on nearly every page, and an appendix with letters Meitang wrote him when they were apart, Our Story makes a compelling case for love’s power.
PositiveBooklist\"Relaying her journey in self-aware and witty prose, Wagner ultimately realizes that she’ll find herself not in stories of the past but in those of the present and future.\
PositiveBooklistTargoff’s biography shows how Colonna’s commitment to the Catholic Church intersected with her participation in cultural and political transformation.
RaveBooklist\"This is not a book about the wonders of motherhood but about the tension between culturally inherited ideals and the realities of lived, bodily experience. \'What if we treated pregnant women like thinking adults? What if we worried less about making a bad impression?\' O’Connell asks. Describing motherhood with brutal honesty and a sharp wit, And Now We Have Everything does just this. The result is a delight.\
Miles J. Unger
PositiveBooklistIn this vibrant biography, Unger tells the story of Picasso the man to illuminate Picasso the artist ... After three biographies of Renaissance greats (Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Lorenzo de’ Medici), this is Unger’s first foray into the twentieth century, and he ably brings it and its art to life.