Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" Honorees



CallMeHomeThis morning, the National Book Foundation announced the 10th edition of its "5 Under 35 Honorees," all selected by writers previously recognized by the program.

5 Under 35 Honorees are writers under the age of 35 who have published one book of fiction within the last five years. In their press release, National Book Foundation Executive Director Harold Augenbraum says, "Over the past ten years, the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 program has established itself as a hallmark of emerging literary talent. The writers we've recognized have established themselves among the most acclaimed and admired working today." Supported by a donation from Amazon.com, the Foundation offers the 5 Under 35 authors an award of $1,000 each.

This year's honorees:

Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins (selected by Paul Yoon)

Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House (selected by ZZ Packer)

Megan Kruse, author of Call Me Home (selected by Phil Klay)

Tracy O'Neill, author of The Hopeful (selected by Fiona Maazel)

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Fra Keeler (selected by Dinaw Mengestu)

The National Book Foundation will announce the winners of its annual awards across of four categories on November 18 in New York City. Here are the 2015 National Book Awards longlists:

 

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The Best Business Books of September



Here are the Business & Leadership picks from our Best Books of September.

Read, enjoy, learn, and profit.

 

B1

Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor by Tren Griffin

Warren Buffett's much-less-famous partner has become a source of fascination for those with more than a passing understanding of Berkshire Hathaway. Here his knowledge is distilled from previous statements and writings.

 

B2

The Prize by Dale Russakoff

What is the future of public education? Mark Zuckerberg thought that he was that future when he announced to Oprah that he was pledging $100 million to Newark, New Jersey's failing school system. If only it was so simple.

 

B3

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

How does one go about creating? Elizabeth Gilbert has done so and achieved both critical recognition and  commercial success. In Big Magic she tries to lay out how you can have a more creatively productive life.

 

B4

Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Research shows that we overvalue talent and undervalue what, for lack of a better word, has come to be known as grit. Writing about grit with both humor and feeling, these two authors (who both rose up from their beginnings in the Bronx) illustrate strategies for success.

 

B5

The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, and Nick Toman

What kind of customers are most important to you? There are the ones that love your product, and it's hard to turn your attention away from them. But this book argues that you should turn to the Challenger Customer if you really want to succeed at a high level.

 

B6

The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett

Gillian Tett, journalist and senior editor for the Financial Times, uses her knowledge as an anthropoligist and a financial reporter to showcase how silos can create institutional blindness--and how we can overcome them.

 

 

B7

What You Really Need to Lead by Robert Steven Kaplan

Harvard Business School Professor Robert Steven Kaplan tells us that leadership is not a destination or a state of being. Leadership is about what you do, rather than who you are, and it starts with an ownership mind-set.

 

B8

5 Gears by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

The subtitle reads "How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time," and the book breaks down your life into five gears that allow you to achieve a new level of relational intelligence, granting you a competitive advantage in our task-driven world.

 

B9

Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Stanford business school professor Pfeffer sets the record straight on the oft-made prescriptions for leaders to be honest, authentic, and modest, tell the truth, build trust, and take care of others. By calling BS on so many of the stories and myths of leadership, he gives people a more scientific look at the evidence and better information to guide their careers.

 

B10

You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith

In 2008, coach Mike Smith took over a 4-12 Atlanta Falcons team and achieved an 11-5 record. He went on to win Coach of the Year honors in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Here we learn how to build a thriving organization and get a practical framework for leading the way to a winning culture.



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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How a Working Mother's "So-Called Manuscript" Turned Into a Delightful Debut



Elisabeth Egan's buoyant debut novel, A Window Opens, has that oh-boy-have-we-all-been-there quality A Window Opensmany of us recognize, whether we're mothers who work outside the home – or not. Here the author explains how she – mother of three, book editor, aspiring writer – managed to eke out the time to write her delightful book.

Girl on a train

A few years ago, I was driving in Cleveland with my father-in-law when he suddenly strapped a metal frame around his neck and started playing the harmonica. He was behind the wheel; I was in the passenger's seat—and there we were, cruising down Chagrin Boulevard in a sedan filled with music.

It turned out, my father-in-law taught himself to play the harmonica during his long drive to work. I wasn't surprised: over the same stretch of flat, grey Ohio highway, he's listened to a library's worth of audio books and mastered conversational Spanish. Phil is also a dog and baby whisperer, film buff, tai chi instructor and the curator of northeastern Ohio's largest collection of small kitchen appliances. Sixteen years into my marriage, he remains one of its greatest perks.

I started wondering how I could maximize my own forty-five minute commute, which I usually frittered away on Facebook or Google searches for Facebook friends I haven't seen since the eighties. The harmonica and romance languages were out of the question since I travel to work by train and in the quiet car, where intentional noise of any kind is strictly forbidden. I considered solitaire (too lonely) and Sudoku (too many numbers). I tried meditation and fell asleep every time.

Then I decided to write a book. I'd always wanted to be a writer and had been waylaid by a cocktail of laziness, insecurity and small children. But now I was about to turn forty and start a new job—this was a season of big leaps. I already had a head start—about 100 pages—composed during my daughter's early morning swim practices and saved on my desktop in a document called "MCSM" for "My So-Called Manuscript." I didn't hold out much hope that it could be expanded into anything more than the ramblings of an exhausted madwoman. But, inspired by my Renaissance father-in-law, I forged ahead.

For the next year, I boarded the 8:16 train into New York City with my MacBook Air strapped to my back in a red Herschel pack. I dropped into a window seat on the right side of the first car and kept typing until my train arrived in midtown. The window flashed from suburban New Jersey (brick buildings, oak trees, traffic jams), into the Meadowlands (straggly vegetation, oil-slicked puddles, abandoned shopping carts), into a black tunnel under the Hudson that finally made way for the dimly lit, gum-pocked platforms of Penn Station. Older commuters retired and were replaced by a fresh crop of college grads. New buildings climbed the skyline.

I had one rule: keep typing. It didn't matter if the words read like crossword clues or my characters felt like distant cousins I wouldn't recognize at a wedding. The goal was forty minutes and then I was done until the ride home, when I did the same thing again in reverse. Some days, I read over what I'd written and felt hopeful; other times, I felt a red crawl of mortification across the back of my neck. When I ran into neighbors or colleagues, I pointed to my laptop and made the universal "I have to work" grimace.

Actually, I didn't really mind the work, but there were plenty of times when I doubted that my typing would amount to anything. That's when I thought about The Little Engine Who Could, which was popular in our bedtime rotation at the time. I pictured that little train making its way to the top of the mountain, or my own train pushing toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The whole city lay in wait on the other side; I just had to get there. It turns out, if you think you can do something and you chug away at it for long enough, it will get done. If you want to play bluegrass or speak Spanish or tell your story, you can stop waiting for an engraved invitation because the ticket is already in your hand. All you have to do is climb aboard.

I was standing in a friend's office when I found out that my so-called manuscript was going to become a book. Of course I celebrated that night at home, with my husband beaming and our kids taking advantage of my good mood to request seconds on ice cream and the dog chasing a champagne cork around the dining room. But the real victory lap started on the train ride home from work: just me, a brown-bagged Amstel Lite and the familiar uninspiring landscape sliding by outside. That night, the Meadowlands took on the yellow glow of Tuscany and the conductor was as cheery as a first-class flight attendant. The soundtrack was the same as always—low bleat of train horn, whisper of newspapers, snore of seatmate. I didn't care. That night, everything was music to my ears.


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"Say Cheese" Doesn't Cut It: Photography Secrets from the Masters



ReadThisPeopleFace it: If you own any camera bigger than a deck of cards, you've probably fantasized about becoming the next Brandon Stanton. If it were only that easy. Photographing humans, in New York or elsewhere, requires not just proper technique, but proper behavior; you can't just walk up to somebody on the street, stick a thousand-dollar lens in their face, and expect a human result--in either the image or their reaction.

Henry Carroll has followed up Read this If You Want to Take Great Photographs, his simple yet informative guide for novice shutterbugs, with Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs of People. This new volume exposes the secrets of portraiture in the same way its predecessor taught novices photography basics: by pairing iconic images with the techniques used to create them, going beyond f-stops and shutter speeds to illustrate the ways in which photographers interact with their subjects.

Enjoy these images and text excerpted from Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs of People.

 


 Ongoing momentsHenryCarroll_Ongoing

A Pedestrian
Otto Steinert, 1950

In Otto Steinert's photograph the tree appears pin sharp, as indelible as the many years it has spent slowly growing in that one spot. In contrast a passer-by – transient, always on the move – appears as a blur, his foot only discernable as it makes contact with the ground before being uprooted by his haste.

Use slow shutter speeds to capture a sense of time passing.

More often than not, photographers choose to freeze the hustle and bustle of people on the street. This creates abstract, singular moments. By blurring people's movement you create a different kind of moment, one that seems elongated.

You'll start to see signs of blur with shutter speeds slower than 1/60 and the slower you go the greater the blur (see p.90). Avoid camera shake, as Steinert has done here, by using a tripod.

 


 Blending in

HenryCarroll_Blending

Cornett family men and boys stand around a pile of car parts; one leans on wood pole while another leans on a car with its hood up
William Gedney, 1972

The men in this photograph must have known of William Gedney's presence, but he's captured a moment when all five are totally absorbed in the matter at hand.

The central figure, as skinny as the piece of wood supporting him, kicks at an old motor like it's a dead animal by the side of the road. The boys, probably his sons, slouch with their heads down and listen to their old man's mumbled words. And look at how the position of each figure creates a rhythmic flow from left to right.

To capture people in their natural state you have to remain unobtrusive.

Candid photography relies on the power play between subject, photographer and viewer to be weighted with the latter two. Here the photographer looks at the men. We look at the men. But the men don't look at us.

Achieving this is a question of time and space. People need to get used to you being there. That can take time and can't be rushed. Then it's about giving your subject(s) just enough physical distance so they forget you're there, but not so much that you, and we the viewers, feel like uninvited onlookers.

Look at Gedney's position in relation to his subjects. He's both a part of the group and apart from them. This is the sweet spot of candid photography, the place where you become invisible.

 


 Making eyes

HenryCarroll_Making

Abdullahi Mohammed with Mainasara, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria
Pieter Hugo, 2007

A candid photograph, one where the subject is seemingly unaware of the photographer's presence, often carries a greater sense of "truth." We feel like we're seeing the person in their natural state. It's as if we're getting a glimpse of who they really are.

A posed photograph, one where the photographer has positioned the subject in a certain way, is very different. Subjects become complicit in the act of being photographed. We're not seeing them as they are, but rather as they are when being photographed.

Photographing people results in a tense power play of gazes between subject, photographer and viewer.

In his series "The Hyena and Other Men," Pieter Hugo followed a troupe of Nigerian street performers as they travelled from village to village with their animals. Unfamiliar and full of otherness, the men in Hugo's images stare right back into his lens and hold their own to the point of intimidation under the scrutiny of our gaze.

Never underestimate the power of your subject's gaze. If you ask them to look into your camera they, in turn, look right back at the viewer. This returned gaze sets up a confrontation between the subject and viewer. In Hugo's portraits, both hold their own.

 


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Monday, September 28, 2015

Exercise Your Right to Read



September 27-October 3 is Banned Books Week. This annual celebration of the freedom to read was Exercise Your Right to Readfirst conceived in 1982 when the Office of Intellectual Freedom received an inordinately high number of challenges to books based on things like offensive language, violence, sexuality, political and religious viewpoints...The list goes on and on, and includes so many things I enjoy learning about that if I were to take all of the challenges into account, my bookshelf would be bare--and so would yours. So, in the spirit of exercising our right to read, and for pointing out the perils of censorship, we give you a handful of our favorite banned books.

 

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Sara Nelson: I guess I don't get why Snow Falling on Cedars is on the Banned Books list in the first place. I mean, I get it: it's about a relationship between a white boy and a Japanese girl. But c'mon, guys: even though the story is set in the mid 20th century, it was published in 1995, something like 30 years after the repeal of the miscengenation laws that had prohibited such interracial marriages. (The kids in the book were never even married, but never mind.) Anyway, I love this book because my son's father is Japanese (I am not) and I have some experience dealing with American attitudes toward that quaint but not forgotten old word MISCEGENATION, and with race in general, I guess. Which even in this so called liberated day and age isn't nothing. So maybe I do get why the book was banned, but I'd like to think we've moved on to a time where if they even had to ban books, they wouldn't even think to ban this one. It offends no one and should move nearly everyone, with its beautiful writing, the compelling mystery at the center of the story, and its irresistible characters.
 

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Chris Schluep: It's ironic that people would seek to ban a book about the banning of books. There's a weird circular logic at work. (Like eating all the pretzels out of the Chex mix because you don't like pretzels.) I once had a discussion with Ray Bradbury about what he was thinking when he wrote Fahrenheit 451. I told him that I thought it was a response to the excesses of McCarthyism. He told me, "I wasn't thinking about McCarthy so much as I was thinking about the burning of the library of Alexandria 5,000 years before." He wrote the book in a typing room at UCLA in the early '50s -- he said, "I would walk through the stacks at UCLA, look at all those books, and think about more recent events in Italy and Germany, and the rumors about Russia during the war. What could endanger all those books?" Turns out normal, well-intentioned people can.
 

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Jon Foro: As far as banned books go, The Sun Also Rises has a lot going for it: sex, bad words, unsuccessful sex, a girl with a boy's name, Paris, Pernod--these are just a few of the louche particulars that tend to bunch staid underpants. And, predictably, those underpants were bunched, landing Hemingway's landmark novel on banned lists in Boston, California, and Ireland at various points since its 1926 publication (we might also assume it was banned in Hemingway's mother's house; she reportedly called it "one of the filthiest books of the year," which is better than "of all time," I guess). But the Nazis took it one step further, burning the book along with some of his others (A Farewell to Arms), either because Hemingway was a decadent communist or for his accurate depictions of war (apparently depravity is in the eye of the beholder). It's unclear. But here's the thing: while it was banned in Boston in 1930, Ireland (1953) and Riverside, CA (1960) took offense after the Nazis. When anyone bans a book, or burns a book, or takes violent action against the author of a book, they are probably not asking themselves Hey, the Nazis did this. Should we be doing this, too? As for the book itself, some love it while others find it insufferably self-absorbed (I can understand both; I loved it as a young man, though that's a gray memory and I haven't tried it recently). But its impact on 20th Century literature is undeniable, even if Hemingway's terse, direct style has taken its hits over the years. There's risk in being successful and inimitable: many people will imitate you, and when they can't, they resort to parody, which at this point is an overtold joke. You think you can do better? Isn't it pretty to think so?
 

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Adrian Liang: Based on the number of people who wanted Cujo banned because it was "trash," this book is a great example of "One man's trash is another man's treasure." As a teenager, I found the story of a mother and son trapped in their car by a rabid dog mesmerizing, and as I raced through the pages, I absorbed lessons from Stephen King about how to build suspense and tension. You might never think about poor Old Yeller the same way again, though.
 

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Erin Kodicek: Margaret Atwood's dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale, examines an anti-feminist future where sexual relations are clearly prescribed, and not following that prescription is punishable by death. Not surprisingly, it was banned for being too sexually explicit, and for supposedly being insensitive to certain religious groups. So, why shouldn't you ban it from your bookshelf or Kindle, besides the aforementioned sexual explicitness? Atwood penned this novel in 1985 and it's eerily prophetic, frighteningly so, and speaks to many issues of our day—It's speculative fiction at its finest.
 

Browse more banned books.

*A portion of this list was published on September 23 2013.



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The Best Cookbooks of September



TheoInteriorChocBundt225I feel like I've been eating more lately and while I blame it partially on the weather--a salad doesn't seem as satisfying as it did when the sun was still shining--I also blame it on all the mouth-watering September cookbooks I've been looking at. 

On our best of the month list below you'll find new cookbooks to take you on a historical cocktail tour, teach you the science of making recipes work, or tempt you with sweet and savory chocolate creations (like the one pictured above)...and that's just a taste of what's on the list:

 

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The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt
 
Kenji shows home cooks how to achieve better results with new―but simple―techniques that use science in place of convention.
 

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Healthy Japanese Cooking by Makiko Sano
 
Each of the five chapters focuses on a different cooking method to eating the mindful and healthy Shoku-Iku way.
 

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More than eighty recipes for spice-centric sweets from around the globe and updated versions of old classics.
 

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Following up on his bestseller, Michael Symon's 5 in 5, now Symon gives cooks 165 recipes organized by season that rely on five fresh ingredients and pantry staples.
 

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My Pantry by Alice Waters
 
Alice Waters invites readers into her home pantry with this book of essays and recipes highlighting the ingredients she relies on all year round.
 

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Food52 Vegan by Gena Hamshaw
 
From the author of the popular New Veganism column on Food52 comes a collection of new and favorite recipes for 60 inspired vegan dishes.
 

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Full color photographs celebrate all things chocolate in the first cookbook from one of the country's premier chocolate makers.
 

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San Francisco gave birth to a number of classic cocktails and McDonnell shares not only the recipes but also the history and lore of this famous city by the bay.
 

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Kitchen Gypsy by Joanne Weir
 
James Beard Award-winning author, chef, and PBS television host, Joanne Weir takes readers on a culinary journey from the kitchen of Chez Panisse to culinary hot spots around the globe.
 

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Learn to make real Indian food with recipes from three generations of Meera Sodha's family.
 


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