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Books to Watch | October 15, 2019

October 15, 2019

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 the five books being released that we are most excited about.

This week, our choices are:

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The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee, William Morrow | More than any cookbook I’ve seen this year, The Art of Escapism is a look inside the brain of someone who loves to cook. Who is driven to cook. Whose sanity depends on her ability to transform her feelings of frustration and anger into obsessive, personal, one-of a kind food creations. Hong Kong-based food blogger Mandy Lee turned her angst about moving from New York to Beijing into the site Lady and Pups (subtitled: “Homecooking w Extreme Prejudice”), and this book is the physical manifestation of those digital efforts. It is filled with dark, dreamy, haunting imagery (we agreed here that the portrait of Lee on page one belongs in an art museum), evocative writing, and meat on nearly everything (see: “Clams over oatmeal”, p. 60). I’m not sure I want to actually cook any of the recipes in this book—not because they don’t look amazing—but more so because they feel part of a private diary that uses ingredients instead of words to make sense of the world. What Lee has created is a striking and singular addition to your cookbook shelf. (BRM)

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson, Doubleday | Bill Bryson enthusiastically builds a narrative around the theoretical building of a human being in this incredible guidebook to the body. Bryson doesn't dumb down the body's complex systems. Instead, he connects them. He embraces the reader's curiosity, occasionally including such asides as the etymology of the word "acne," the history of fingerprinting, and statistics on how many people choke to death on food each year (5,000 in the United States, 200 in Britain). Each section is injected with autobiographical anecdotes, life advice, and science-related histories that ground the extraordinary science of the body into a world we can more easily imagine. "There is no question about it. You are truly a wonder. But then so, it must be said, is an earthworm. And how do we celebrate the glory of our existence? Well, for most of us by eating maximally and exercising minimally." Bryson holds a mirror up to society, enlarges our cells under a microscope, and simultaneously sits down with and speaks to us like a friend, something more than a shaft of skin or science experiment. The Body could finally be the book to convince someone to eat better and exercise while also learning some impressive facts. (GMC)

From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins, Chelsea Green Publishing | We can’t yearn for a better way, for a better world, if we can’t imagine one. We can’t ignore “what is,” but we can ask “what if” and imagine something better, then call ourselves and others to action to bring it into being. We could replace our sense of collective dread with one of possibility, and our preoccupation with the existential problems and challenges we face with the knowledge that each poses an opportunity to change course and create something new. Rob Hopkins explains how artists, activists, local entrepreneurs, and others working together can make the imagination infectious, cross-pollinate ideas across disciplines, and spawn movements that blur the line between public and private space and action. Most importantly of all, he shows us how it’s already happening, and how we can join in. “If we wait for governments,” writes Hopkins, “it will be too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, and it might be just in time.” (DJJS)

Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller, Simon & Schuster | A congressional staffer for a member of the Financial Service Committee, Matt Stoller had a front row seat to the financial crisis. He couldn’t understand why, as the world was unraveling from 2008 to 2014, our leaders responded by pushing “even more wealth and power into the hands of the same people that caused it” while “the American middle class lost roughly $5 trillion” in a foreclosure crisis that upended families and undermined the stability of entire communities. It was a stability provided, in large part, by the protections of the New Deal and populists like Wright Patman who helped construct it—a tradition mostly lost as a new generation ceded authority over our economy to technocrat elites. But as Stoller writes, the crisis wasn’t “a technocratic problem that happened in the banking system. It was a political crisis that happened everywhere.” His book provides a look to the past, an understanding of the present, and hope for a future that challenges monopoly once again, restores free will to commerce, and creates truly free markets not dominated by concentrated corporate power that touches every aspect of our lives, public and private. (DJJS)

Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia, Basic Books | Maybe music played in a concert hall doesn't invoke the same thrilling mood as a modern-day rock concert, but music's many roots are anything but boring. Rebellion is a recurring subject throughout history, and music history is no exception. Scan down Ted Gioia's chapter's listing and you'll sense the exciting and innovative mood of the book. A few highlights: Chapter 1—The Origin of Music as a Force of Creative Destruction; Chapter 10—The Devil's Songs; Chapter 17—Subversives in Wigs; Chapter 28—Welcome Our New Overlords. Gioia seeks to eliminate the association between the term "music history" and an unattainable supercilious society. "But look around you at your next visit to the concert hall, and count how many people appear to be sleeping in their high-priced seats." He connects pre-human soundscapes to K-Pop to fiddling to jazz and everything else people across the world call "music," forming a history book that will engage you as much as your favorite song. (GMC)

 

What we're reading away from work:


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins “I’ve been slowly reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and I’m only on Chapter Four (25 pages in). It’s about a mother and her young son fleeing their hometown after cartel members kill her husband (a journalist who wrote about the cartel) and the rest of their family at a quinceañera. The third-person omniscient point of view is used to reveal secrets that pain you to know because they are kept from the main character, a courageous loving mother just doing what she can to stay alive in spite of a horrendous event that would leave anyone with very little to live for. I’m hoping to write a full review to be published when it’s released in January!" —Gabbi Cisneros, Digital Marketing Specialist

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