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these just in … 29 July, 2008

Tom Friedman 1989-2008: Essays

by Arthur C. Danto & Ralph Rugoff

Hardcover $85.00 - 10% Gagosian Gallery Art

How to Read Chinese Paintings

by Maxwell K. Hearn

Paperback $25.00 Metropolitan Museum of Art Art

The Chinese often use the expression du hua, “to read a painting,” in connection with their study and appreciation of such works. This volume closely “reads” thirty-six masterpieces of Chinese painting from the encyclopedic collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in order to reveal the major characteristics and themes of this rich pictorial tradition. The book examines multiple layers of meaning—style, technique, symbolism, past traditions, and the artist’s personal circumstances—through accessible texts and numerous large color details. A dynastic chronology, map, and list of further readings supplement the text.

Spanning a thousand years of Chinese art, these landscapes, flowers, birds, figures, religious subjects, and calligraphies illuminate the main goal of every Chinese artist: to capture not only the outer appearance of a subject but also its inner essence.

Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000

by Barry Cunliffe
Hardcover $39.95 - 10% Yale University Press History

Europe is, in world terms, a relatively minor peninsula attached to the Eurasian land mass. Yet it became one of the most innovative regions on the planet, generating restless adventurers who traversed the globe to trade, to explore, and often to settle. By the fifteenth century Europe was a driving world force, but the origins of its success have until now remained obscured in prehistory.

In this magnificent book, distinguished archaeologist Barry Cunliffe views Europe not in terms of states and shifting political land boundaries but as a geographical niche particularly favored in facing many seas. These seas, and Europe’s great transpeninsular rivers, ensured a rich diversity of natural resources while also encouraging the dynamic interaction of peoples across networks of communication and exchange. The development of these early Europeans is rooted in complex interplays, shifting balances, and geographic and demographic fluidity.

Weaving together titanic concepts while remaining sensitive to specifics, Cunliffe has produced an interdisciplinary tour de force. His is a bold book of exceptional scholarship, erudite and engaging, and it heralds an entirely new understanding of Old Europe.


by Hermann Hesse, read by Jeff Woodman
Audiobook $29.95 - 15% BBC Audiobooks America 5 discs


by Robert Sullivan, photos by Joshua Lutz
Hardcover $50.00 - 10% powerHouse Books Local Interest / Photography

Just two miles west of Manhattan lies the Meadowlands, a 32-square-mile stretch of sweeping wilderness that evokes morbid fantasies of Mafia hits and buried remains. Development has claimed two-thirds of the region, making way for scores of landfills, motels, and gas stations. The growth of poorly planned communities and the impending construction of Xanadu, a five million-square-foot entertainment and retail complex, threaten to change these lands forever.
Under the pretext of searching for Jimmy Hoffa, photographer Joshua Lutz began exploring these lonesome wetlands ten years ago; what started as a strict documentary project soon evolved into something else entirely. Meadowlands, Lutz’s first monograph, is a compelling portrait of this vast and stunning landscape, whose unspoiled area is quickly dwindling. The Meadowlands are a place of solitude, a place you pass through on your way somewhere more inviting—and yet, within it all resides a quiet beauty, a glimmer of hope, a hidden potential for renewal and rebirth.

Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!

by Jennifer McCann
Paperback $19.95 Da Capo Press Cooking
If you think vegan lunchtime means peanut butter and jelly day after day, think again! Based on the wildly popular blog of the same name, Vegan Lunch Box offers an amazing array of meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free meals and snacks. All the recipes are organized into menus to help parents pack quick, nutritious, and irresistible vegan lunches. Ideal for everyday and special occasions, Vegan Lunch Box features tips for feeding even the most finicky kids. It includes handy allergen-free indexes identifying wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free recipes, and product recommendations that make shopping a breeze.

Leningrad: State of Siege

by Michael Jones
Hardcover $27.95 - 10% Basic Books New Hardcover Non-Fiction
During the famed 900-day siege of Leningrad, the German High Command deliberately planned to eradicate the city’s population through starvation. Viewing the Slavs as sub-human, Hitler embarked on a vicious program of ethnic cleansing. By the time the siege ended in January 1944, almost a million people had died. Those who survived would be marked permanently by what they endured as the city descended into chaos.In Leningrad, military historian Michael Jones chronicles the human story of this epic siege. Drawing on newly available eyewitness accounts and diaries, he reveals the true horrors of the ordeal—including stories long-suppressed by the Soviets of looting, criminal gangs, and cannibalism. But he also shows the immense psychological resources on which the citizens of Leningrad drew to survive against desperate odds. At the height of the siege, for instance, an extraordinary live performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony profoundly strengthened the city’s will to resist.A riveting account of one of the most harrowing sieges of world history, Leningrad also portrays the astonishing power of the human will in the face of even the direst catastrophe.

Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine

by Stanley Crawford
Paperback $12.95 Dalkey Archive Press Fiction
“Forty years ago I first linked up with Unguentine and we made love on twin-hulled catamarans, sails a-billow, bless the seas . . .”So begins the courtship of a certain Unguentine to the woman we know only as “Mrs. Unguentine,” the chronicler of their sad, fantastical tale. For forty years, they sail the seas together, alone on a giant land-covered barge of their own devising. They tend their gardens, raise a child, invent an artificial forest—all the while steering clear of civilization.Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine is a masterpiece of modern domestic life, a comic novel of closeness and difficulty, miscommunication and stubborn resolve. Rarely has a book so perfectly registered the secret solitude of marriage, how shared loneliness can result in a powerful bond.

Review Of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 2008

Paperback $8.00 Dalkey Archive Press Literary Journals

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America

by Roger Tory Peterson, forward by Lee Allen Peterson
Paperback $26.00 Houghton Mifflin Nature
In celebration of the centennial of Roger Tory Peterson’s birth comes a historic collaboration among renowned birding experts and artists to preserve and enhance the Peterson legacy. This new book combines the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds into one volume, filled with accessible, concise information and including almost three hours of video podcasts to make bird watching even easier.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

by Dana Thomas
Paperback $15.00 Penguin Fashion / Business
From Booklist:
Thomas has been the fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris for 12 years and writes about style for the New York Times Magazine and other well-known publications. She traces the origins of luxury from the mid–nineteenth century, when Louis Vuitton made his first steamer trunks and custom-made clothing was strictly the province of European aristocracy, through the fashion boom of the 1920s, when names such as Dior, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent came into prominence, and buyers with expendable income could afford exquisite clothing and perfume. Sadly, today most of the well-known names are owned by multinational groups, and luxury items have become commodities, where buyers crave name brands for what they represent rather than their inherent quality of manufacture and design. Thomas takes us into the streets of New York, where counterfeit items are sold that look so much like the real thing that it takes an expert to tell them apart, to the Guangzhou region in China, where children make knockoff goods under appalling conditions. She manages to remove the veil from the fashion industry with a blend of history, culture, and investigative journalism.

The War for All the Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo

by Roy Adkins & Lesley Adkins
Paperback $17.00 Penguin History
From Publishers Weekly:
Husband and wife Roy Adkins (Nelson’s Trafalgar) and Lesley Adkins (Empires of the Plain) team up for this vivid account of the naval campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars (1798–1815). Contending that the wars were won at sea, the authors trace the nautical action from the Battle of the Nile (1798), where a British fleet destroyed the French fleet and stranded Napoleon’s army in Egypt, to the decisive Battle of Trafalgar (1805), where the British overwhelmed a combined French and Spanish fleet supporting an invasion of Britain. The narrative concludes with an account of the protracted war of attrition that followed Trafalgar and ended with Bonaparte’s final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. This low-grade conflict—coastal blockades and shipping raids—caught neutral nations like the United States in the middle and ultimately led the Americans to declare war on England in 1812—a conflict that was never more than a sideshow for the British. This rollicking saga ranges from the Mediterranean to the Indies, East and West, and ends with Britain in control of the world’s sea lanes—the foundation for her future empire. Meticulously researched—drawing on extensive and intimate eyewitness accounts from contemporary journals, letters and memoirs—this lively narrative will delight students and fans of nautical history.

Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire

by William Rosen
Paperback $16.00 Penguin History / Science
During the golden age of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian reigned over a territory that stretched from Italy to North Africa. It was the zenith of his achievements and the last of them. In 542 AD, the bubonic plague struck. In weeks, the glorious classical world of Justinian had been plunged into the medieval and modern Europe was born.At its height, five thousand people died every day in Constantinople. Cities were completely depopulated. It was the first pandemic the world had ever known and it left its indelible mark: when the plague finally ended, more than 25 million people were dead. Weaving together history, microbiology, ecology, jurisprudence, theology, and epidemiology, Justinian’s Flea is a unique and sweeping account of the little known event that changed the course of a continent.

The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York

by Gail Fenske
Hardcover $65.00 -10% University Of Chicago Press Local Interest
Once the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Woolworth Building is noted for its striking but incongruous synthesis of Beaux-Arts architecture, fanciful Gothic ornamentation, and audacious steel-framed engineering. Here, in the first history of this great urban landmark, Gail Fenske argues that its design serves as a compelling lens through which to view the distinctive urban culture of Progressive-era New York.
Fenske shows here that the building’s multiplicity of meanings reflected the cultural contradictions that defined New York City’s modernity. For Frank Woolworth—founder of the famous five-and-dime store chain—the building served as a towering trademark, for advocates of the City Beautiful movement it suggested a majestic hotel de ville, for technological enthusiasts it represented the boldest of experiments in vertical construction, and for tenants it provided an evocative setting for high-style consumption. Tourists, meanwhile, experienced a spectacular sightseeing destination and avant-garde artists discovered a twentieth-century future. In emphasizing this faceted significance, Fenske illuminates the process of conceiving, financing, and constructing skyscrapers as well as the mass phenomena of consumerism, marketing, news media, and urban spectatorship that surround them.
As the representative example of the skyscraper as a “cathedral of commerce,” the Woolworth Building remains a commanding presence in the skyline of lower Manhattan, and the generously illustrated Skyscraper and the City is a worthy testament to its importance in American culture.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

by Tom Vanderbilt
Hardcover $24.95 - 10% Knopf New Hardcover Non Fiction
“A great, deep, multidisciplinary investigation of the dynamics and the psychology of traffic jams. It is fun to read. Anyone who spends more than 19 minutes a day in traffic should read this book.”
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan“Fascinating, illuminating, and endlessly entertaining as well. Vanderbilt shows how a sophisticated understanding of human behavior can illuminate one of the modern world’s most basic and most mysterious endeavors. You’ll learn a lot; and the life you save may be your own.”
-Cass R. Sunstein, coauthor of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

“Everyone who drives-and many people who don’t-should read this book. It is a psychology book, a popular science book, and a how-to-save-your-life manual, all rolled into one. I found it gripping and fascinating from the very beginning to the very end.”
-Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist

“Fresh and timely . . . Vanderbilt investigates how human nature has shaped traffic, and vice versa, finally answering drivers’ most familiar and frustrating questions.”
-Publishers Weekly

“Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light.”-Kirkus

“This may be the most insightful and comprehensive study ever done of driving behavior and how it reveals truths about the types of people we are.”-Booklist

“Tom Vanderbilt uncovers a raft of counterintuitive facts about what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why.”-BusinessWeek

“Fascinating . . . Could not come at a better time.”
-Library Journal

“Brisk . . . Smart . . . Delivers a wealth of automotive insights both curious and counterintuitive.”

“A literate, sobering look at our roadways that explains why the other lane is moving faster and why you should never drive at 1 p.m. on Saturday.”

“An engaging, informative, psychologically savvy account of the conscious and unconscious assumptions of individual drivers–and the variations in ‘car culture’ around the world . . . Full of fascinating facts and provocative propositions.”
–Glenn Altschuler, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“An engrossing tour through the neuroscience of highway illusions, the psychology of late merging, and other existential driving dilemmas.”
–Michael Mason, Discover

Songs Without Words

by Ann Packer
Paperback $14.95 Vintage Fiction
From The Washington Post’s Book World:
(Reviewed by Carrie Brown)Ann Packer has been looking in our windows. The majority of readers of contemporary literary fiction in America — especially fiction written by women — are women themselves, and in her new novel, Songs Without Words, Packer has tapped into the things that worry many of these readers: love and satisfaction in their relationships, the emotional and psychological health of their offspring, the terrible possibility of spiritual and familial dissolution. Songs Without Words describes a childhood friendship tested by the challenges of adult lives that bear the friends along separate paths. Packer solidifies the reputation she established in the enormously successful The Dive from Clausen’s Pier as an uncannily observant chronicler of contemporary American domestic life. Songs Without Words touches every nerve exposed by the solidly middle-class dilemmas of today’s parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers. There are no wars or plagues here, no suicide bombers or political turmoil. Instead, there is the fraught landscape of suburban life with its troubling questions about marriage, parenthood, friendship and fulfillment.Packer is no ironist; she is not Claire Messud or Zadie Smith, whose most recent novels unspool under the cool panoramic gaze of a social critic. The characters in Packer’s novels are not so much exposed as they are understood — understood and seen, in all the psychological sense of that word. Packer is devoted to her characters, and it is her pleasure as a novelist — and ours as her readers — to watch these people move through the intensely familiar and intimate hours of their days and nights, spooning coffee into the Krups, taking a bath, crawling into bed. Packer follows them from bedroom to kitchen to bathroom (and to the car and the grocery store and Starbucks and the mall), and her pursuit is so unnervingly attentive that it becomes revelatory. Middle-of-the-night readers — and there will be lots of them — who cannot put down Songs Without Words will surely look up at the darkest hour with the sense that they are being watched.

The first paragraph of the novel is one of those lovely moments in fiction when a writer conjures in just a few sentences, with just a few images, the entire universe of the story that is about to unfold. The scene feels both like a presage of things to come and, in its quiet, painterly composition, like a metaphor — of what, at first, we are not exactly sure, of course, but the world Packer evokes here is the familiar beauty-crossed-with-loneliness of the suburban evening. (Countless writers have been drawn to this moment, most famously perhaps James Agee in the opening scene of his novel A Death in the Family). Here is Packer’s beginning:

“Each evening, the streetlights came on at dusk, and the view out the window changed, from barely glowing kitchens and TV rooms to the houses that contained them, and to the trees that sheltered the houses. It seemed to Sarabeth that for a little while there was a kind of balance out there, an equilibrium. But then, quickly, darkness came down from the sky, and soon the lit rooms returned to prominence, and finally everything else was black, and the world seemed limited to a few bright windows on a street in Palo Alto.”

Sarabeth and Liz grew up across the street from each other, their girlhood friendship deepened by the tragedy of Sarabeth’s mother’s suicide when the girls were in high school. Packer offers their history in a brief prologue, and the first chapter of the novel finds Liz married with two teenaged children and contentedly immersed in her roles as wife and mother.

Sarabeth, on the other hand, is still single, uncertain about her life and pursuing a career as a house stager, someone who creates the ambiance of cozy domesticity in homes people are trying to sell, a job that seems like a painful destiny for someone whose own childhood was interrupted by domestic tragedy.

Of the two, Liz appears to have it all, but when her 15-year-old daughter, Lauren — the novel’s most heartbreaking portrait — falls into the grip of adolescent depression, Liz’s world falls apart. And so does Sarabeth’s; Lauren’s unhappiness brings Sarabeth dangerously near to the memory of her own mother, and her retreat from Liz is both cowardly and — this is Packer’s generosity at work — completely understandable. The only thing that can drive old friends apart more surely than death is unhappiness, and it seems that Liz and Sarabeth’s estrangement will separate them permanently. “They all seemed irrevocably distant, the people she knew,” Sarabeth thinks, “as far away as Earth was from the moon.” There are some novels that show us the “other,” and in doing so expand our ideas about humanity. Songs Without Words is a novel that shows us — tenderly, and with a full awareness of the precious dignity and indignity of human experience — ourselves.

Black and White and Dead All Over

by John Darnton
hardcover $24.95 - 10% Knopf New Hardcover Fiction
A keenly intelligent, delightfully mordant novel that blends fact and fiction with the same deft hand that was at work in John Darnton’s best-selling Neanderthal.Bad news is brewing in the inner sanctum of the New York Globe, the city’s long-standing newspaper of note, whose back is to the wall. Readership, advertising, and circulation are plummeting—along with the paper’s vaunted standards—and the cost cutters have their knives out. But trouble of a wholly different kind begins one rainy September morning when a powerful editor is found murdered in the newsroom, with the spike that he’d wielded to kill stories hammered into his chest. The problem for Priscilla Bollingsworth, the young, ambitious female NYPD detective assigned to the case—besides the fact that the mayor is breathing down her neck—is that there are too many suspects to choose from.

She teams up with Jude Hurley, a clever, rebellious reporter, and together they navigate the ink-infested waters whose denizens include the paper’s resentful old guard, scheming careerists, a bumbling publisher, a steely executive editor, and a rival newspaper tycoon named Lester Moloch. But the waters thicken considerably when more bodies turn up, dead all over.

Armed with the firsthand knowledge he has acquired through forty years in journalism, John Darnton conjures up the cynicism and romanticism of the profession and gives us a cunning, pitch-perfect portrait of the declining—if not yet murderous—newspaper industry. Black and White and Dead All Over is a satirical mystery that entertains from first to last.

Beyond the Dunes: A Portrait of the Hamptons

by Paul Goldberger & Jake Rajs
Hardcover $60.00 - 10%          Monacelli / Random House      Local Interest / Photography

The South Fork of Long Island extends only forty miles, stretching east into the Atlantic Ocean from the Shinnecock Canal to the majestic bluffs at Montauk Point. Dotting the coastline are the stylish Hamptons—Southampton, East Hampton, Westhampton Beach, and Bridgehampton—and villages of Sag Harbor, Amagansett, Watermill, and Sagaponack.

The landscape in which these towns sit is unique in the United States. It is not one landscape but a collection of them—dune, farmland, woods, bays, swamps, ponds, marshes, pine barrens, and a high ridge, the moraine left by the glacier that long ago swept across the continent. All is bathed in an extraordinary silvery light that, at once warm and crisp, washes over both land and sea.

Acclaimed photographer Jake Rajs has created a compelling portrait of the Hamptons, juxtaposing privet hedges and pumpkin fields, crashing surf and serene coves, fishermen and polo players, contemporary houses and modest shingled cottages. Most important, he has captured the light throughout the day, from misty dawn to the vivid colors of sunset.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Hardcover $22.00 - 10%      The Dial Press      New Hardcover Fiction
“I can’t remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren’t my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book please—I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have written a wondrous, delightful, poignant book— part Jane Austen, part history lesson.  The letters in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society aren’t addressed to you, but they are meant for you.  It’s a book everyone should read.  An absolute treasure.”—Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells

“Here’s who will love this book: anyone who nods in profound agreement with the statement, “Reading keeps you from going gaga.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delight. Tart, insightful and fun.”—Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow, A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day

“Charming…. [Heroine] Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as readers will.”—Publishers Weekly
“A sure winner…. Elizabeth and Juliet are appealingly reminiscent of game but gutsy ’40s movie heroines.”—Kirkus Reviews

The 13 Clocks

by James Thurber, illustrations by Marc Simont, introduction by Neil Gaiman
Hardcover $14.95 - 10%       NYRB Children’s Collection        Young Adult Hardcover Fiction
The Thirteen Clocks is one of the cleverest [fairytales] that any modern writer has been able to tell…there is no living author who moves about in fairyland with such wit and easy familiarity.” -Time

“It’s one of the great kids’ books of the last century. It may be the best thing Thurber ever wrote. It’s certainly the most fun that anybody can have reading anything aloud.” -Neil Gaiman

“There are spys, monsters, betrayals, hair’s-breadth escapes, spells to be broken and all the usual accouterments, but Thurber gives the proceedings his own particular deadpan spin…It all makes for a rousing concoction of adventure, humor and satire that defies any conventional classification.” -LA Times

“My exemplary Thurber fairy tale is The 13 Clocks…a small masterpiece of respectful travesty honors the whole spectrum of the traditions.” -The Hudson Review

The 13 Clocks is especially wonderful.” -The Washington Post

“Rich with ogres and oligarchs, riddles and wit. What distinguishes [The 13 Clocks] is not just quixotic imagination but Thurber’s inimitable delight in language. The stories beg to be read aloud…Thurber captivates the ear and captures the heart.” -Newsweek

“For true modern fairy tales we leave you with James Thurber…who wrote a tale…with charm and grace in The Thirteen Clocks. These I recommend if you are tired of Grimm.” -ABC Radio

Thurber’s stories are “for children to dream through and for adults to read as parables” -Guardian

“Everyone who reads to their children knows…to read the stuff that you love, or that you love to roll off your tongue…I’d put in a personal endorsement for James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks here…” -Guardian

“Gothic, gruesome, and written with the wit of the master wordsmith.If you saw my copy, you’d believe me when I say I’ve read it more than 13 times.” -Nicola Morgan, The Scotsman

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel
Hardcover $21.00 - 10%        Knopf         Sports / New Hardcover Non Fiction
In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and—even more important—on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in running.

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