Subjects

Earth Day: Read the Entry for Today from “A Year with Nature”

April 22, 2019
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Herpetologist and natural history writer Marty Crump is a collector of wild tales; and in this bedside book for nature lovers, her treasure chest of stories opens wide. Gathering science and lore, wit and wisdom into a day-by-day, charmingly illustrated wander through the year, A Year with Nature is a quotidian companion that doesn’t eschew conservation issues even as it encourages contemplation, awe, and fun. On April 17, we read a dispatch from the annual Black Bear Festival in Louisiana; on August 12, we learn about World Elephant Day; and on November 13, the day that Coleridge published his famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we fly with the albatross (of course). From pythons to oceans, from the moon to the Hope Diamond, the world that this joyful book celebrates is one that is still wild and wonderful—and worth protecting. This Earth Day, read on for A Year with Nature’s inspiring April 22 entry celebrating photographer and preservationist Ansel Adams, who died thirty-five years ago today. APRIL 22 Photography and Wilderness Preservation You don’t take a photograph, you make it. —ANSEL ADAMS, photographer Naturalists, conservationists, environmentalists, and others who dedicate their lives to preserving landscapes strive to accomplish their goals in different ways . . .

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Exploring Chicago’s Maxwell Street with Tim Cresswell

April 17, 2019
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To study the disappearing past of Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood and acquaint himself with its present, Tim Cresswell explored the area on foot, photographing everything he saw. Here are a few of our favorite photos, from Cresswell's newly released book, Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place. . . .

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Write That Book: Exercises for Creative Thinking from Janet Burroway

April 12, 2019
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In 1972, Janet Burroway was assigned to teach a “narrative techniques” class at Florida State. But when she went to find a text to use with the class, she could not find anything that spoke to fiction writing. “There were (it is difficult now to imagine) virtually no books to serve as guidance,” she explains in the introduction to the tenth edition of Writing Fiction, which publishes at the end of April. “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was a mainstay, but it took, as White notes, a barking tone toward its writer novices. I reread E. M. Forster’s lovely Aspects of the Novel, but it was mostly too abstract and too advanced for my Florida eighteen-year-olds. I combed Eric Bentley’s The Life of the Drama for clues to plot. I read another how-to, the name and author of which I no longer remember, but which memorably assured me that women use a lot of exclamation points but men should not.” So Burroway, a writer of novels herself, decided to create a guide of her own. Three decades later, Writing Fiction has sold more than a quarter million copies and remains the go-to book for aspiring writers. And despite the . . .

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Women’s History Month: Let’s Talk about Sexual Division of Labor

March 13, 2019
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Feminist linguist Deborah Cameron's new book isn't out until May, but we're giving you a sneak peek in celebration of Women's History Month. . . .

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“How did we get into this mess?” Two new books offering a deeper look into the state of democracy in America

December 12, 2018
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“How did we get into this mess?” Two new books offering a deeper look into the state of democracy in America

“How did we get into this mess? Every morning, many Americans ask this as, with a cringe, they pick up their phones and look to see what terrible thing President Trump has just said or done.” Those lines are stolen directly from the opening of the jacket copy for Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe’s new book The Politics of Petulance, which just published this October. And they now seem more appropriate than ever. With the Mueller inquiry rapidly decreasing the degrees of separation between individuals who have already been indicted, and members of Trump’s inner circle, including the President himself, institutional corruption and the unraveling of the electorate’s faith in the modern democratic system are topics now making front page news on an almost daily basis. But while the headlines might seem to implicate the Trump administration in particular in the current state of affairs, in the New York Times Book Review, Norman J. Ornstein offers a review of two new books from the University of Chicago Press that take a deeper look at the issue, teasing out the historical, cultural, and institutional trends that the authors argue are the real culprits responsible for “what ails America.”  Ornstein’s review offers a nice summary of both . . .

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Magic, Mayhem, and Maps in the Harlem Jazz Age

October 10, 2018
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  Historian Susan Schulten takes us on a deep dive into the fascinating story behind a favorite map from her new book, A History of America in 100 Maps. In 2016, the Beinecke Library at Yale University paid $100,000 to add Elmer Simms Campbell’s energetic profile of interwar Harlem to its celebrated collection of black history and culture. The Library described Campbell’s image as a “playful rendering” of the age, but it also captures the complex dynamics that made Harlem the cultural capital of black America. Campbell’s success may even have surprised him. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to Manhattan in 1929 to seek work, though faced a string of rejections due to his race before catching a break at the newly founded Esquire magazine in 1933. For the next four decades, Campbell supplied the magazine with cartoons and illustrations that shaped its knowing, urban, and often cheeky sensibility. Though he initially struggled to find work, Campbell immediately found in Harlem’s jazz scene. He quickly befriended Cab Calloway, who, along with Duke Ellington, presided over legendary performances at the Cotton Club. The men became drinking buddies and regulars at Harlem’s famed clubs and speakeasies, all of . . .

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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

September 26, 2018
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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

Has there ever been an era in human history in which communication slowed down? Or is the increasing rate at which information is shared a historical constant? My money’s on the latter. In attempting to navigate the flood of information online, which seems in no danger of slowing down, it’s pretty much sink or swim. So why not invest some time checking out Professor of Education and History at Stanford University Sam Wineburg’s new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone). Confronting head-on the deluge of information that modern technology has made available, and offering crucial tips for navigating it, Wineburg’s book is of value to citizens and students alike, offering readers a tool set for vetting and verifying the myriad sources of information we encounter online, while laying bare the many rhetorical devices used to spin and bias purportedly factual information. Recently Slate magazine has invested a decent sized chunk of their online real estate to what Wineburg has to say, with an eye-opening interview with the author as well as an excerpt from his new book in which Wineburg offers an insightful and penetrating critique of Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States. Wineburg . . .

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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

August 24, 2018
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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

It is perhaps ironic that even the need to instill the next generation with a sense of connection to the natural world becomes increasingly important, the ability to nurture this type of connection and sense of responsibility in children has perhaps become more and more difficult in proportion. Mediated as we are by our technology and with the boundaries of the “real” wilderness receding ever further from our front doors, by what means can we best relate the importance of  protecting a seemingly alien ecology, upon which we nevertheless depend? With his recent book Beasts at Bedtime, University of DePaul Professor of Environmental Science Liam Heneghan offers one answer – one that is right under our noses, deeply infused in the tales that delight our children at bedtime. In his book Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Recently Heneghan stopped by WBEZ’s Worldview to discuss the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide with host Jerome McDonnell. The show aired Tuesday but the . . .

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6 Questions for Alastair Bonnett, author of ‘Beyond the Map’

July 13, 2018
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You never quite know where Alastair Bonnett will be off exploring on any given week. A modern day adventurer and lover of unusual places, Bonnett collected stories about his favorite intriguing spots around the world in his new book—Beyond the Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias. The New York Times Book Review praises: “Bonnett has a flair for communicating his passion for ‘the glee and the drama, the love and the loathing’ that emanate from the earth’s most perplexing and mutable places. . . .  provocative detours show us how much more we can know of the known world, if we know where to look, and how.” Publishers Weekly says, “By turns delightful and sobering, this book, like the best travel, inspires both the mind and the imagination.” We spoke with Bonnett recently to learn more about his upcoming travels, his motivations for writing the book, and some of his recommended reads. What are you reading at the moment? I’m going to Budapest next week so I thought I’d try something Hungarian; which has turned out to be Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. The title sounds really pretentious—maybe it’s better in Hungarian—and the sentences are ten miles long, but it’s . . .

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Nature reviews Henry Gee’s “Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates”

July 9, 2018
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Nature reviews Henry Gee’s “Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates”

The story of the evolution of life on earth is an incomplete one, with many ellipses in the narrative of how simple organisms, some of which seem like little more than spontaneous experiments in organic chemistry, somehow grew to become the massively complex organisms that we see around us today. Interestingly, one of the gaps that has both confounded and fascinated scientists the most is the origin of the vertebrates—the origins of us. Over the past few decades there has been an abundance of research done on the subject, so much so that distilling it into a clear picture of our current understanding of the subject could be a daunting task.  Though daunting it may be, there is perhaps no one more suited to it than paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Henry Gee, whose new book, Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates draws on his many years as senior editor at Nature to comb through the research to help us to see how far the field has come in crossing the invertebrate-to-vertebrate divide—and how far we still have to go. But you don’t have to take our word for it. A recent review penned by one of Gee’s . . .

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