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Jazz, Cocktails, and the Overlooked Players of Film Noir

A noir protagonist usually finds himself encountering a new danger around each corner. A jazz musician, in venturing into the throes of an intricate composition, must also anticipate the unknown.

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‘Bop Apocalypse’: What Happened When the Beats and the Boppers Set Out to Change the World

Fifites' jazz and the Beat Generation are often linked. Aside from the drug use, however, this new book on the history begs to differ.

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A Clean-up Worker’s View Inside Fukushima’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Ichi-F is rich in detail and strikingly perceptive in analysis, and yet it oddly supports the nuclear industry even as the radiation continues to take its toll.

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Joe Gould, Madness, Creativity, and the World in Between

How do we treat our most disturbed fellow citizens? How far should we go to accommodate and tolerate eccentricities for the sake of a good story?

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An Unmerciful Consideration of Anne Lamott’s Book on Mercy

The profession of teaching has taught me that Lamott’s view of merciful action is impractical and improper.

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David Sedaris’ ‘Theft By Finding’, Truth or Elaboration, Matters Not

David Sedaris' decades-spanning collection of his diary entries reveals the growth of one of America's most beloved humorists.

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Contrary to Popular Belief, the Blues Were Not Born on the Mississippi Delta

Historians Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff debunk myths about the origins of blues music, locating them not in the Mississippi Delta but in southern black vaudeville.

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On Georgette Heyer’s Debonair, Polished Butchery

Heyer perfected the art of banter and her social engagements on the page often read like David Campton and Edward Albee plays -- sans the existential subversions.

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Joy Kogawa’s Latest Asks: Is There a Limit to Our Capacity to Forgive?

From the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to her father's pedophilia, Kogawa embarks on a brutally honest and personal exploration of the nature of guilt and forgiveness.

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Istanbul: From Emperors to Street Vendors

Historian Thomas F. Madden's Istanbul leaves one with a sense of awe for how much of the human experience is on display in this one city, in this part of the world.

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Alfred Hitchcock May Be a Moralist, but He Does Not Moralize

Hitchcock’s Moral Gaze argues that Hitchcock examined the darkest edges of his characters to help his audience understand their connection with the act of watching, gazing, and sometimes not connecting.

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What Can Today’s Activists Learn From the Vietnam Anti-war Movement?

The lessons of the Vietnam peace movement are at risk of being distorted and forgotten, argues one of its founding voices.

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Tina Turner Got It Right: We Don’t Need More Heroes

Jordan Flaherty's No More Heroes argues that the greatest danger to progressive movements often comes from within.

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What Is It About Teens Behind Closed Doors That Scares Us So?

Jason Reid’s Get Out of My Room! takes us inside the private enclaves of the adolescent being, revealing both individual and collective anxieties and expectations.

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Has Corporate Malfeasance Signaled an End to Law and Order in America?

Has the US become a country where crime pays? Could the corporate death penalty help rein in America's criminal banks?

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These ‘70s Avant-Garde Jazz Musicians Blew Freely, Fiercely, and Reverently

These cats blew all night and day a new, astonishing page into the jazz lexicon. What they couldn't do was get gigs in jazz clubs.

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The World Is an Unfair Place: An Interview With Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko is a multi-generational look at the little-known plight of Koreans living in Japan.

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How to Study Kafka in East Berlin Without Really Trying

A review of Schadenfreude, a Love Story, including some personal observations and self-identification that connect to a memoir with a really long title and lots of German words

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It’s a Wonderful Death: A Thanksgiving Carol

This novel is reminiscent of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol -- but with a twist.

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The Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones’ Memoir ‘Lonely Boy’ Leaves One Wondering

If punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS, what were Rotten, Jones, Cook, and Matlock doing reforming the Sex Pistols in 1996?

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Philippe Druillet’s Lone Sloane Adventures Artfully Take You to Other Worlds

These books create a visually mesmerizing mix of sci-fi and fantasy, where rocket ships cause men to stumble upon gods and monsters that occupy the distant corners of the universe.

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Barack Obama Bio ‘Audacity’ Is at War With Itself

Chait's defense of gradualist politics-as-usual undermines the supposedly audacious achievements of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

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Radicalism and the Art of Compromise

Under a Trump Administration, is it better to be a rebel with a cause, or a reformer with a platform? "Red" Ellen Wilkenson's biography gives us some insight into these difficulties.

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If Studs Terkel Were Alive Today, What Would Steve Bannon Tell Him?

Terkel biographer Alen Wieder reminds us that if he were alive today, Studs would actually listen to the voices of the Trump voters -- all of them.

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Was Your iPhone Produced by Slaves? Has It Made You One, As Well?

Media scholar Jack Linchuan Qiu argues that slavery-like conditions, which define digital media workers, mirror the slavery-like obsessions of consumers.

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7 Nov 2016 // 2:30 AM

Are We Gon’ Be Alright?

Crises abound in America, but while complacency won the day before, these times feel different.

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Pondering Life Post-Capitalism in ‘Four Futures’

Can markets be separated from capitalism? From money? From the disenfranchising effects of equating social power with money?

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The Unfathomable Confessions of Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen's autobiography, Born to Run, is on a mission to deliver us into the paradox of holy terror.

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Why Are So Many White Americans So Fearful These Days?

Published just as many white American conservatives embrace a xenophobic demagogue as their savior, Hochschild’s emotive and empathic study provides guidance for how the US came to this crisis point.

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The Mexican Journey That Made One of the 20th Century’s Finest Writers

Sybille Bedford's account of her remarkable year in Mexico is the perfect introduction to one of the 20th century's most remarkable writers.

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On Very Visceral Mysteries: ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’

Much of what happens to the protagonists here and in the comparable The Girl on the Train evades their control.

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Question Everything, Especially If You Believe in It: An Interview With Stuart Jeffries

It’s difficult to imagine today’s neoliberal universities producing anything remotely like critical theory, or even a school of thought that substantively challenges prevailing intellectual paradigms.

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At Last, a Sober and Punk Rendering of Bruce Springsteen’s Life and Work

Boss is a solid book because the firm, understated power of Gillian Gaar’s gutter feminist voice cuts through all that glitters around Springsteen.

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The Sustaining Lure of the Paris Commune

Today's equivalent to the Paris Commune is a New York in which Zucotti Park did not merely occupy Wall Street but burned it to the ground, hung the bankers, and opened the borders.

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On the Real Altamont and the Fake Rolling Stones

Joel Selvin’s new book digs deep into the seventh circle of rock music’s hell.

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Read Chuck Klosterman, Blow Your Mind, Then Put on Your Pants

Chuck Klosterman’s new book succeeds by failing spectacularly.

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The ‘Chainmail Bikini’ Success Story: Challenging Sexism in Gaming and Comics

A growing array of writers are challenging previously dominant tropes of misogyny, sexuality, and whiteness; 40 of them can be found here.

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We Still Want Everything: The Politicisation of Anti-work

Less work, more pay, more leisure, guaranteed income -- We Want Everything sends a stirring reminder that these are not new demands.

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The Geek Feminist Revolution Is Not Only Changing Genres of Fiction, but Society Itself

Whether new worlds are created with the stroke of a keypad or the waving of a placard, both reflect the human capacity for growth, for reinvention, for hope.

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The Sad Rest of Kurt Cobain

Nick Soulsby’s interview book for completists is not meant to entertain -- it's a 500-page death march.

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‘The Statesman and the Storyteller’: The Imperatives of State and the Imperatives of Conscience

Mark Zwonitzer's work offers a searing and sobering exploration of how America’s imperialist century opened: just as brutally as it would end.

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‘The Hunger Games’: The Writer’s Cut Really Is Better (Sponsored Article)

Even if you've seen The Hunger Games films dozens of times, the books will reveal character complexities that were left out of the film adaptations.

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‘The Restless Clock’ Will Have You Pondering the Matter of Matter

History of science professor Dr. Jessica Riskin examines how we banished agency from the science of living things.

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An Anatomical Dissection of Calvino’s ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler’

Postmodernism seeks to disrupt the grand narrative, and expose the artifice of writing. Dissected, its innards revealed, this resembles geometry.

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Teen Manga Tackle Tough Topics

From deafness to gender identity, teen manga offer rewarding and complex treatments of fraught issues.

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Muhammad Ali and the Day Fans Pelted the Ring With Trash

In his new book, Ali vs. Inoki, Josh Gross untangles the complicated history of the 1976 meeting of two legends -- and a failed experiment.

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‘Til Human Faces Wake Us: Don DeLillo’s ‘Zero K’

For all that it is cold and disquieting, DeLillo's latest is also his most sincere -- his most human -- meditation on death yet.

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Slain Journalist’s Open Letter Tackles Racism, Islamophobia, and Free Speech

For all its infamy, few outside of France really understand what Charlie Hebdo is all about. A manifesto posthumously published by its editor, offers insights.

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If You Are Patient Like a Samurai, Kazuo Koike’s ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ Will Reward You

Dark and bleak, absorbing and fascinating, Dark Horse's reprint of this massive samurai manga classic deserves your time.

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Drawing Disaster: Comics, War and Trauma

Disaster Drawn reveals that comics may be the most useful form for witnessing war and trauma.

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Socialist Solutions for America’s Problems

A growing array of America’s leading thinkers and activists have gone from critiquing the excesses of capitalism to charting the future of American socialism.

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How to Save the Media (and Democracy)

The system of media and journalism on which our democracy relies is under threat. French economist Julia Cage surveys the scale of the crisis and proposes a unique solution.

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Criticism: It Gets Personal

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott defends his craft in a thought-provoking book, even as he gets attacked by the very industry he critiques.

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Is Copyright Killing Creativity?

It's time to move toward an open-source model for literary and creative production, argues Illegal Literature, a provocative new challenge to traditional copyright models.

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How Does a Feminist Deal With a Cheating Husband?

Couple Mechanics is a suspenseful, moving drama about marriage, resilience, and the misogyny of faux feminist men.

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Was Frederick Douglass America’s First Media-savvy Political Activist?

The Lives of Frederick Douglass and Picturing Frederick Douglass reveal a radical approach to discussing politics, race and self.

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Patrick Modiano’s Powerful Glimpse Into the Spirit of Paris

Young Once and In the Cafe of Lost Youth offer a concentrated sense of both the immensity of space and density of meaning that defines Paris.

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Ireland’s Newest Literary Sensation, Sara Baume, Crosses the Atlantic

The enchanting story of a one-eyed dog has stolen hearts across Europe. Its author reflects on her success, her first smartphone, and literary distinctions between Europe and America.

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The Compulsive Artist: An Interview With Julie Doucet

Julie Doucet is still often associated with her award-winning comics work of the ‘90s. As Carpet Sweeper Tales demonstrates, however, she’s been doing a lot more since moving on from comics.

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“The Marketplace Is a Greater Democracy Than the Political Arena”

The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man may be the most important book of 2016, since reading it is like getting a top secret state department debriefing on world affairs.

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Ametora: When Cultural Appropriation Becomes Fashionable

The insightful new study, Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, demonstrates how Japan beat American fashion at its own game

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On Writing the Hidden History of American Women’s Lives

Sonja Livingston uses poetic essays to breathe life into some of America’s most remarkable, and little known, women.

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A No-Nonsense Agenda for the Left

The authors of Inventing the Future ask: why think local, when there’s a world to win?

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Christianity’s Crisis in Medieval Japan Says a Lot About Cultural Dialogue Today

Shusaku Endo’s classic novel of faith, doubt, and intercultural communication, Silence, readies itself for a timely big-screen debut by Director Martin Scorsese.

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Anthropology’s Storyteller-Shaman-Sorcerer Strikes Again With ‘The Corn Wolf’

Michael Taussig’s work both attracts and angers other anthropologists. It also re-enchants a discipline that is in desperate need of it.

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What Rod Dreher Ought to Know About Dante and Same-Sex Love

Getting Dante straight means getting him gay, as well.

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Showa Epic of Japan Concludes the Story of a Man and His Nation

Past and present converge in Mizuki’s conceptually rich manga.

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‘The Autobiography of James T. Kirk’: Backstories for Everyone!

Filled with in-jokes and subtle references to the show, uber-fans will love this "auto" biography of Star Trek's Captain Kirk and the stories of the people in his life.

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On Judging the Judges of the US Supreme Court

Cass R. Sunstein categorizes the Court’s judges into personas, tracing their personalities according to the position they assume in their rulings.

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‘Asking For It’ Is a Harrowing Read, But Offers Hope, Too

Kate Harding offers a damning survey of rape culture’s tenacious hold on American society, and argues that recognizing the problem is the first step to fixing it

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What Can Mushrooms Tell Us About the End of Capitalism?

An anthropologist ties together mushrooms, salvage accumulation, and the end of capitalism’s progress narrative.

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Ian Buruma: A Voice of Tolerance and Erudition Among Liberalism’s Intellectuals

In Theater of Cruelty the politics of love, war, and popular culture define the career of one of today’s foremost public intellectuals.

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Performing Politics: Judith Butler and the Struggle for the Street

We may hate that we are vulnerable and dependent upon one another, argues Judith Butler, but it's that very interdependence that allows us to mobilize together as social movements.

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Gabriel Urza Redefines the Political Novel With ‘All That Followed’

The former public defender notes that All That Followed "...requires people to think about political actors as individuals rather than as ideologues. That's been my experience in real life."

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Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet Offers Penetrating Psychological and Sociopolitical Insight

A committed feminist, Ferrante writes with often astonishing candor, even "ferocity", about women's lives, their conflicted relationships with their bodies, with each other, and with men.

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‘Operation Ajax’ Illustrates How the CIA Destroyed Democracy in Iran

The extent of US involvement in undermining Middle Eastern democracy is gradually coming to light, and being told through a variety of genres.

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How Should We Respond to Terrorism?

After the Paris Attacks is a collection of research that moves away from the US to look at Canadian and European debates over terrorism.

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Bingham Prize Winner Jack Livings on Imagining China

Award-winning fiction writer Jack Livings discusses his new book, The Dog, and the importance of writing with moral purpose.

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‘Spirits Rejoice!’ Takes a New Look Into an Old Tradition

Scholar Jason C. Bivins thinks through more difficult aspects of the relationships between jazz and American religions, while at the same time examining the permeability of both.

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What Is the Real Story of the Atomic Bombings?

America claimed the atomic bomb ended World War II and saved American lives. Journalist and historian Paul Ham calls that “a pack of lies”.

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Danielewski’s ‘The Familiar, Vol. 1’ Is Too Much, All at Once

As a compendium of inventive thought and prose, The Familiar, Vol. 1 succeeds. As a coherent novel, it's impenetrable.

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30 Jun 2015 // 2:30 AM

Is Gender Out of Fashion?

Sex and Unisex, a history of fashion trends offers insight into changing notions of gender – and raises the possibility that the concept has outlived its usefulness.

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Neoliberalism Is Changing Our World Without Our Even Noticing

Wendy Brown charts the ‘stealth revolution’ that’s transforming every aspect of society -- and now has democracy in its sights.

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19 May 2015 // 3:30 AM

Is Online Trolling a Reflection of Our Social Values?

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things confronts the interrelation between subversive trolls and mainstream ideas, and opens up conversations about post-internet politics, activism, and human relationships.

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15 Apr 2015 // 2:30 AM

On Epigraphs and Other Incestuous Things

Like a cover letter, the epigraph must take me to the textual meat without giving me reason to discard the sandwich altogether.

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Robert Christgau Falls From Grace in ‘Going into the City’

We have here the post-apocalyptic wanderer, able to go anywhere because there’s nowhere he belongs.

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What Would Don Draper Do? Reading Dante in a Secular Age

Many readers of our generation emulate Don Draper, having lost Dante's connections to Christianity or perhaps to any such deity.

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Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Social Media

Guy Kawasaki defines “good stuff” to post online, and how to really get more followers. (Hint: don’t pay for them!)

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Uncovering Queer History in ‘Gay Berlin’

Gay Berlin reveals a vibrant gay rights movement that flourished in Germany a hundred years before Stonewall.

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From Tehran to Tel Aviv: Of Crime and the Cities

Akashic Noir series continues to serve up delightful and disturbing gems that offer remarkable insights into the world’s great (and not-so-great) cities.

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Let’s Make Childhood Savage, Again

A growing movement says we ought to help our kids lead riskier lives with the intent of improving society.

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Will the Bubble Burst on Our Right to Privacy?

A legal scholar and former journalist warns that if modern media pushes the envelope too far, we could all wind up losing.

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Tracing a Literary Lineage in Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Kraus Project’

This unlikely combination of a translation and memoir offers as many telling insights into the preoccupations of Jonathan Franzen as it does into Karl Kraus' life and work.

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11 Feb 2015 // 3:30 AM

In Defense of Brunch

A provocative and insightful new book challenges us to rethink our obsession with brunch, and to critically consider what this overpriced, messy meal really says about shifting class identities in today’s world.

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America Went to War on Terror and Terror Won

Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn provides exceptional analysis of the Islamic State and the broader conflict in Syria and Iraq.

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In Conversational Orbit of ‘God’s Planet’ With Owen Gingerich

Religion and science, two of the great cathedrals of knowledge, are often perceived as being in a state of conflict with one another. Gingerich is of the mind that the two cannot be separated.

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‘The Secret History of Wonder Woman’ Also Reveals a Great Deal About Our Own Social History

Jill Lepore's hit new book on Wonder Woman sheds light not only on the astonishing origins of this iconic character, but also on the fascinating social and political strands of history which gave rise to her.

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Perilous Discoveries: The Feminist Murder-Mysteries of Charlotte Armstrong

Armstrong's women opened the same forbidden doors as Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth's, but her characters also opened those doors for other, more pressing, reasons.

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‘Philosophy Bites Again’ Is a True Philosophical Gourmet

This is a dinner party in book form, although with topics such as torture, group agency, hate speech, and the afterlife, it's not for the absent-minded.

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‘Collected Poems’ Captures the Vibrant Life of a Great Poet

Mark Strand's death in December 2014 casts a different light on his newest poetry volume, as it now carries the weight of summarizing a life in writing.

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The Thoughtful Absurdity of 'Spaceplan'

// Moving Pixels

"Spaceplan is a goofy game that still manages to pack a potent emotional punch.

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