Reading list

An Earth Day Reading List

April 22, 2021
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An Earth Day Reading List

First observed in 1970, Earth Day has grown into an annual, April 22 celebration of the natural world—and the importance of humanity’s role in protecting it. As we mark Earth Day 2021, read on for ten recommended books that are sure to inspire thought, awe, and action. Barbara J. King’s Animals’ Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild “King’s Animals’ Best Friends is the most comprehensive exploration I’ve read of the complex relationship between the human and nonhuman, full of great insights and practical information.”—Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times Book Review, “By the Book” Charley Hailey’s The Porch: Meditations on the Edge of Nature “Hailey bears daily witness to the subtle vibrations of the natural world that well up from below, drift down from above, or move across his screened porch in the form of air, sound, light, weather, or wing beats. With this book, he fulfills a fundamental requirement of morality—paying attention.”—Robert Pogue Harrison, author of Juvenescence Sandra Knapp’s Extraordinary Orchids “In this captivating overview, Knapp covers the biology of both terrestrial and epiphytic (tree-dwelling) orchids and explains how epiphytes are adapted to living in trees, even using a special form of . . .

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A History of Chicago in 10 Books

March 4, 2021
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On March 4, 1837, Chicago was officially incorporated as a city. In the one hundred and eighty-four years since then, the city has grown and changed. On this anniversary of incorporation, we suggest ten books to get to know this complex city a little bit better. Sun Ra’s Chicago: Afrofuturism and the City In Sun Ra’s Chicago, William Sites brings this visionary musician back to earth—specifically to the city’s South Side, where from 1946 to 1961 he lived and relaunched his career. The postwar South Side was a hotbed of unorthodox religious and cultural activism: Afrocentric philosophies flourished, storefront prophets sold “dream-book bibles,” and Elijah Muhammad was building the Nation of Islam. It was also an unruly musical crossroads where the man then known as Sonny Blount drew from an array of intellectual and musical sources—from radical nationalism, revisionist Christianity, and science fiction to jazz, blues, Latin dance music, and pop exotica—to construct a philosophy and performance style that imagined a new identity and future for African Americans. Sun Ra’s Chicago shows that late-twentieth-century Afrofuturism emerged from a deep, utopian engagement with the city—and that by excavating the postwar black experience of Sun Ra’s South Side milieu, we can come to see the . . .

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Five Books to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

January 4, 2021
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At the beginning of each year, many of us make resolutions. But often, it’s hard to know just how to get started or stay committed. That’s where we come in! Books are one of the best ways to explore how to best fulfill a resolution, and so we’ve offered some suggestions below of books to get you started on the path to self-improvement. Improve your writing with Wordcraft: The Complete Guide to Clear, Powerful Writing. In one of the most broadly useful writing books ever written, legendary writing coach Jack Hart breaks the writing process into a series of manageable steps, from idea to polishing. Filled with real-world examples, both good and bad, Wordcraft shows how to bring such characteristics as force, brevity, clarity, rhythm, and color to any kind of writing. Find new ways to relax: Doodling for Academics: A Coloring and Activity Book With the help of hilarious illustrations by Lauren Nassef, Julie Schumacher infuses the world of campus greens and university quads with cutting wit, immersing you deep into the weirdly creative challenges of university life. Offering a satirical interactive experience for scholars, the combination of humor and activities in this book will bring academia into entertaining . . .

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How What We Eat Has Shaped Our World

November 9, 2020
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How What We Eat Has Shaped Our World

As we enter the holiday season, many of us are beginning to plan festive meals to share with our family and friends (virtual turkey-carving, anyone?). Visions of roasted meats, fresh breads, heirloom vegetables, herbs, spices, and sweet sweet pies abound. But what shaped our modern diets? Why do we eat what we eat, and what does the cultivation of our menus look like? We checked in with the authors of a range of foodie tomes to hear their response to a central question: how has food production and consumption shaped our modern world? Carolyn Cobbold, author of A Rainbow Palate: How Chemical Dyes Changed the West’s Relationship with Food “Man-made chemical additives and industrialization have democratized food consumption by bringing cheaper products with a longer shelf life to more people. At the same time, our trust in food, producers, and science has diminished. We fret about not knowing the provenance of our food while forgetting that billions of people can now eat like kings in cities devoid of farms. We worry about the long-term impact of consuming food filled with synthetic chemicals, but we forget that modern preservatives help to kill the bacteria that rots food and makes us ill. . . .

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A Very October Reading List

October 21, 2020
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In numerous cultures, it is believed, even celebrated, that with the arrival of autumn, the veil between the living world and what lies beyond grows thin—from Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in Mexico and Spain; to Fed Gede, or Festival of the Ancestors, in Haiti; to Yu Lan, or the Hungry Ghost Festival, in China; to Halloween in the United States. While each holiday is nuanced and unique, October welcomes traditions around the globe that center on mortality. As spirits, ancestors, ghosts, and ghouls parade into our earthly realm, we offer a reading list that will invite you to consider death and dying from a wide variety of vantage points. Is the Cemetery Dead? by David Charles Sloane In modern society, we have professionalized our care for the dying and deceased in hospitals and hospices, churches and funeral homes, cemeteries and mausoleums to aid dazed and disoriented mourners. But these formal institutions can be alienating and cold, leaving people craving a more humane mourning and burial process. Is the Cemetery Dead? gets to the heart of the tragedy of death, chronicling how Americans are inventing new or adapting old traditions, burial places, and memorials. In illustrative prose, . . .

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An Armchair Traveler’s Reading List

June 30, 2020
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“What did you do on your summer vacation?” For many of us this pandemic year, the answer is going to be: not much. But even if we can’t take the long-distance holiday our wanderlust desires, there’s nothing stopping our imaginations from roaming. To aid you on your journey, we’ve compiled a selection of travel writing from around the globe that can transport you from India to Dollywood to the Hebrides and back again to your own armchair. Bon voyage! Isolarian: A Different Oxford Journey by James Attlee “Attlee grabs our hand and drags us down Cowley Road in Oxford, determined to prove that it is not a stuffy, medieval, Masterpiece Theatre town. All the messy glories of Cowley Road—pubs and porn shops alike—come to life in this work, which becomes a meditation on home and the nature of pilgrimage.” National Geographic Traveler The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads by Robert A. Kaster “A wonderful preface for any traveler planning an outdoorsy day in Rome or, especially, a trip through southern Italy. Kaster’s enthusiasm for the road and the people (past and present) who populate it is contagious.” Library Journal Volcanoes and Wine: From Pompeii to Napa by Charles Frankel . . .

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Recommended Readings for Garden Season

June 18, 2020
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The warmth of the summer sun beckons new life out from the dirt and into our hearts. Summer gardening is an avid pastime for many, but now with the current restrictions and precautions, more people than ever are dedicating time and space to their gardens. Whether you have a green thumb and a full backyard or are just beginning with a modest kitchen window planter, this reading list is sure to dig up information and inspiration for your gardening pursuits. Discoveries in the Garden, by James B. Nardi  “Nardi’s wonderful new book is a must for anyone who wants to be an informed observer of and participant in the life of their garden. From the architecture of plant tissue to the magic shop of plant chemistry, Nardi shows how plants have evolved strategies to help them thrive and offers simple experiments allowing readers to ask them questions. I will never look at the brilliant colors of fall leaves or sniff the fragrance my tomato plants leave on my hands without thanking him for this book.” Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet Darwin’s Most Wonderful . . .

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