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Books to Watch | May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

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Each and every week, our marketing team—Marketing Director Blyth Meier (BRM), Digital Marketing Specialist Gabbi Cisneros (GMC), and Editorial Director Dylan Schleicher (DJJS)—highlights five new books we are most excited about.

This week, our choices are:

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The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World by Patrik Svensson, Ecco

I've always been attracted to the ocean and the wonders it hides. All the strange animals with no eyes, multiple eyes, stingers, flippers, fins, shells, membranes. Escaping into a book feels the same way as learning about the ocean: transportive. Author Patrik Svensson makes the marine landscape feel as much a character as the marine life itself. The Book of Eels perfectly captures the magic of the sea, in very much the same way as Rachel Carson did in The Sea Around Us. Blending memoir and nature writing, facts of science and questions for contemplation, Svensson introduces us to the strangeness and beauty of eels. "How far do you have to be prepared to go to understand an eel? Or a person?" I hope you're prepared to dive deep. (GMC)

Patrik Svensson reveals why writing a book on eels was “a way for me to try to write my way back to my origin, to my own Sargasso Sea” in an article from the New York Times.

 

Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration by Keith Ferrazzi, with Noel Weyrich, Currency

If we’re paying attention rather than trying to deflect it, the times we are living through have been acting like a mirror on ourselves and our society, exposing the flaws, shortcomings, inequities, and divisions that have always existed within. These all existed even before a deadly disease spread across the globe and claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 individual human beings in America, the current epicenter of the outbreak. They were entrenched, for too long, in the environment most of us have spent the majority of our waking hours in adult life—at work. As Keith Ferazzi writes in his new book: 

This era of explosive change has merely exposed the built-in flaws and unsound footing of how we have always worked. 

But it is also now more apparent what our greatest strengths are: our connections to each other and the ability to elevate ourselves and one another in whatever ways we can. Keith Ferazzi has been championing that idea for over fifteen years, since the release of his breakthrough book, the bestselling Never Eat Alone. What his new book offers is a new model of leadership, one not dependent on authority, but on mutual collaboration and co-elevation amongst peers. 

We are experiencing a real crisis in leadership, but we can do something about it. We can lead ourselves and each other. We may not have authority, but claiming that because we don’t, we can’t do anything about the problems we face has become a lie exposed by what we’ve all done together to stop the spread of a global pandemic, what we’ve all done to keep our businesses and economy operating at all. We are, all of us, the only ones who really can make a difference right now. But it has always been so. The problems we face are daunting, but we can address them. We can rise to the challenge if we are open to and willing to elevate others, if we work together instead of against one another.  (DJJS)

Ferazzi posted recently on LinkedIn about how we we can use this unprecedented time as an opportunity to move forward.  

 

Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz, Princeton University Press

Zena Hitz was not raised in the religious tradition, but she found one in adulthood. She begins her new book telling us how she left an elite academic career for three years in the middle of her life to live in a Catholic religious community in Ontario. I do not belong to that church or any other, but such a choice gave her instant credibility in my eyes. Anyone who has made a deliberate decision to bow out of our culture of ambition, with its striving for advantage and prestige and impact, to spend time in a community where one’s identity isn’t tied to their work—because everyone’s work there is the same: doing dishes, weeding gardens, tending yeast and baking bread, restoring furniture and repairing books, and most of all contemplating life—has my immediate respect. She has returned to academic life, but the message in her new book, Lost in Thought, is a reflection of that decision, a reminder that the intellectual life of our country isn’t confined to institutions, but resides within each of us and within our people. It is a reminder that learning and education is, beyond whatever immediate economic or political impact it may have, the highest good for us as individuals understanding the world we live in and our short time here on Earth, and extending that understanding beyond our own lifetimes. As Hitz writes: 

If human beings flourish from their inner core rather than in the realm of impact and results, then the inner work of learning is fundamental to human happiness, as far from pointless wheel spinning as are the forms of tenderness we owe our children and grandchildren.

When my children ask why they still need to do art and math, science and history lessons here at home, my wife and I do not tell them it is so they can get a job or earn a living or change the world, but because doing so honors our ancestors—that to accumulate and consider and contemplate the knowledge that they’ve passed down, and to pass it on to others, is the highest good we can do in life. I spend much of my time at work reading, and writing about what I’ve read, and probably just as much time making sure my identity isn’t tied to the fact that I do that for a living, but to live and lead the best life I can and teach my own children not what I might know (nothing) but to learn for themselves. We are all inheritors of a world of knowledge as much as we are the planet Earth, and we should do all we can to honor, preserve, and extend the life of both. Though they make a great contribution to it, our intellectual life isn’t the sole purview of “intellectual elites.” Our institutions—private and public, academic and governmental—are vitally important, as has become even more apparent lately as they’ve come up short or we just can’t access them. But even more important is learning for its own sake, which is always more private than public, where much of the work we do ends up hidden rather than written, but is lived and living, and, in the grand scheme of things, has an impact. (DJJS)

Look to Zena if you need to “Escape from quarantine” without leaving your home more than necessary.

 

The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate—Sustainably Canned, 100% Delicious by Bart Van Olphen, The Experiment

Every night after I close my laptop and pack away my “home office,” I get outside to stretch my legs and find out what’s happening in my Milwaukee neighborhood, which is a good mix of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, interspersed with lovely parks. One of the places I pass quite often is the Ma Baensch factory, a purveyor of fine marinated herring since the Great Depression (and proud owners of a simply amazing theme song). Now, marinated herring has always sounded, um, not better than pizza to me, and the thought of fish from a can has kinda turned my stomach. But if this strange time has taught me anything, it’s that what’s up is down and what’s down is bananas. What a perfect time to dig into some high-quality tinned fish and change my notions of the food world! The person to take me down this new road is Bart Van Olphen, the Amsterdam-based founder of the Fish Tales company, advocate for sustainable fishing, and Jamie Oliver’s BFF. His fourth book has landed at the perfect time for a world simultaneously digging into the far reaches of their cupboards and thinking about the climate change crisis still bubbling in the background of the pandemic. Starting with a quick overview of what to look for when choosing your fish, Van Olphen breaks down recipes by fish type, highlighting the versatility and range for each. Making their way to my grocery list are ingredients to make Pita with Mas Huni (a spicy tuna salad served daily in the Maldives), Salmon Cakes with Chimichurri, Smoked Herring Shakshuka, and the gorgeous Mackerel and Potato Frittata that adorns the book’s cover. Won’t you join me on this new food adventure, my friends? (BRM)

Test the waters of tinned fish cooking with this recipe for a tuna melt with ketchup, or one of the other three recipes excerpted from the cookbook.



Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit by Ashley Mears, Princeton University Press

Almost no week can go by without a new book revealing a new example of inequality to me. This week, Ashley Mears has revealed one I wasn’t aware of in Very Important People, an ethnography of "bottle girls," as in attractive people who get paid for lending their "bodily capital" to enhancing the image of clubs, restaurants, and private parties. Author Ashley Mears (who also happens to be an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies Program at Boston University) spent eighteen months as a very important person and shares fragments of that life and what she learned in this truly astounding narrative. For example, while explaining a situation where she tried to leave after the entree at a client's dinner hosted by a club owner, the owner scolded her, which was a risky thing for him to do. She explains: "Discipline is a delicate act. Girls cannot be treated as workers, because they are not there to work, but to have fun." It's a book that reveals the web of dangers lurking not too far beneath the thin surface of a superficially-based world and a job which ends up totally consuming one's life. Like a magic trick, in this world, nothing is at all how it seems. (GMC)

NPR interviewed Ashley Mears in 2011 on her book, Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model, which you may also find a fascinating 30-minute listen.

 

What we're reading away from work:

A Luminous Republic by Andres Barba“I am really enjoying A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba, translated by Lisa Dillman. It's an eerie story about a group of feral children who disrupt life in a provincial town in northern Argentina. Barba's writing is very plain in this book; his narrator is the epitome of plain: a bureaucrat. But the plainness of delivery is a perfect foil for the book's unsettling dramatic developments.” –Michael Jantz, Custom Projects Director

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