What are the effects of children on their parents? Academics have long studied the question, and most readers have some back-of-the-hand knowledge of the subject. But rarely have those two groups been in conversation—until now. Jennifer Senior successfully connects a barrage of scholarship with the real experiences of moms and dads, and the resulting book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, is completely fascinating.
Cheryl Strayed wrote about how the death of her mother changed her life in the best-selling Wild. In a similar and yet very different vein, Kelly Corrigan writes about the effects of her mom’s presence in a wonderful new memoir, Glitter and Glue.
At the time of his death, Abraham Lincoln was immensely popular with the Northern public. The country’s political elite, however, regarded him as a good country lawyer ill-suited to deal with the heavy responsibilities of a wartime presidency. Influential writers and politicians of all stripes blamed him for a series of political blunders.
Wild, irregular and free, Henry Thoreau cut a distinctive figure in 19th-century Concord, Massachusetts, whether carving “dithyrambic dances” on ice skates with Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne or impressing Ralph Waldo Emerson with his “comic simplicity.” More at home in the woods than in society, Thoreau began the first volume of his celebrated journals with a simple word that also functioned as his motto: solitude.
Leah Vincent is a good girl who loves her rabbi father. In her Yeshivish community—a sect within ultra-Orthodox Judaism—she’s a girl “who would never sneak a kosher candy bar that did not carry the extra strict cholov Yisroel certification.”
Few writers engage readers in thinking about the meaning of scientific discoveries as well as Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker. Kolbert’s enviable talents, her wit and intelligence, the clarity of her prose, are on full display in The Sixth Extinction, a fascinating and alarming book that examines mass extinctions of life forms, past and present.
The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success is true to its title, flipping an entrenched view of success on its ear. Author Megan McArdle argues for the value of failure, not just in business but law enforcement, job hunting, even love. Writers like to toss around the Samuel Beckett advice to “fail better,” but what does that mean in practice?