Category Archives: “Non-fiction”

Rufus Wainwright’s Ten Favorite Books

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Here they are:  Continue reading

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The Day After MLK Day

MLK DAY 2016 Google

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016. People stayed home from work. The markets were closed. Some heeded the call to serve. There was a cool Google doodle and #MLKDay was trending on Twitter.

I remember in the early years of the Obama administration, when MLK Day often felt like a celebration. We were able to feel, for once, entitled to a little pride in our progress. Not just because of Obama, but because he brought in the most diverse cabinet and staff in the nation’s history. Because of the generation of kids whose first image of The President of the United States of America would be a black man. Because we could reasonably believe that our nation was entering the healing stage of a very bad, very long affliction.

The years since have felt like going into remission.  Continue reading

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What to Read: Not the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2014

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Hey, the New York Times 10 Best Books is a great place to look!

Pour yourself a nice mug of hot cocoa and get cozy to read about everything from, oh…uh, a collapsing marriage (Dept. of Speculation, Jeny Offill) or a family’s disintegration after a horrible tragedy involving a child (Family Life, Akhil Sharma), or a story collection about the devastating impacts of the Iraq War (Redeployment, Phil Klay).

Hmmm. Okay, well how about the one about the blind girl and the Nazi (All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr)? Or, uh, maybe the one about a female novelist who didn’t publish anything until she was almost 60 (Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee)? Okay, okay — here’s a “spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism” about….oh….vaccination (On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss). Probably don’t want to bring that up at dinner. Same goes for the one about Israel and peace in the Middle East (Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, Lawrence Wright).

What about the one titled Euphoria? That sounds nice. Oh, looks like it’s about another marriage breaking up. Alright.

I guess it could be worse. We could be among the irreplaceable habitats and species whose destruction has been chillingly documented by Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction. Jeez. What else is there? Oh, perfect, Roz Chast’s graphic novel about her parents’ decline into infirmity and old age: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I wish.

-Michael Moats

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Authors Note

If you haven’t already dropped all your cash on a Black Friday or CyberMonday gift, today is your chance to really spend some money, and ostensibly support a good cause.  Christie’s — the auction house where bidding typically starts about where your student loans are right now — is teaming up with the PEN American Center for “First Edition/Second Thoughts,” a charity auction of first editions that have been recently re-read and annotated by their authors.

Junot Diaz, Robert Caro, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Lydia Davis and 70 other authors and artists have looked back at their old works and added hand-written comments in the margins and elsewhere. Don DeLillo’s contribution, a 1997 edition of Underworld, features “four hundred pages of DeLillo’s handwritten notes, providing anecdotes, playful commentary, and his recollections of writing the book,” according to the New Yorker. “I found it interesting to become curious about something that I myself had written,” said DeLillo to the magazine, which also noted that the author communicates via fax.

The concept really is a cool one, and is among the few instances in which getting a “signed first edition” actually adds something to your reading. Here’s hoping there will be an opportunity in the future to read the annotations without having to bid the kind of money that would give any reasonable person, well, second thoughts*.

*Sorry.

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TL;DR Must Read

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FA review tag

It was something of a surprise when Thomas Piketty’s 700-page, statistics-laden economics tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a sensation earlier this year, selling out its early print run and even briefly passing Heaven is for Real for the top spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Less surprising was the news last week that the 700-page, statistic-laden economics tome now tops a list of books people are buying and then not reading.

According to an admittedly non-scientific study tracking the most frequently highlighted passages in popular e-books, most buyers of Piketty’s book didn’t highlight, and thus probably didn’t read, much of anything beyond page 26. It is “summer’s most unread book” for 2014.

So let me confess at the outset of this review that I am one of the many who have not finished reading this book.

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God Help is Hard to Find

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FA review tag

SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains a passing reference to the conclusion of the show LOST.

The most popular book on Christianity today — at least 120 weeks on the bestseller list, many of them at the top — is Heaven is for Real. It’s the true story of a four-year-old’s near-death experience, in which he recalls going to Heaven and meeting Jesus. Another bestseller, Proof of Heaven, has spent more than 60 weeks on the list. It was written by a neurosurgeon who had his own near-death experience during which he also met people on the other side.  Also consistently floating around the top ten is Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, which is the latest in his Killing [Famous Person] series.

I haven’t read any of these books and I don’t plan to. Continue reading

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