When Meghan Daum published her first collection in 2001—the brilliant My Misspent Youth—her fresh, honest musings as a Manhattan 20-something immediately made her the envy of a generation of aspiring writers.
For women of a certain age, Brooke Shields was our more perfect sister. In 1980, I didn’t understand what “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” meant any more than Brooke herself did. But I knew I needed a pair of those jeans.
On two consecutive days—Monday, June 10, and Tuesday, June 11, 1963—President John F. Kennedy gave two speeches that led to what many regard as the most significant achievements of his presidency, one in diplomacy and the other in civil rights. Both speeches were unprecedented and politically risky.
This fall, music keeps playing around in our heads thanks to a crop of books by and about some of rock's most elusive artists, as well as its most treasured songs.
A few years ago, I taught Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild in a college freshman writing class. I thought the story of Chris McCandless, who turned his back on civilization to hike into the Alaskan wilderness, would resonate with undergraduates. Chris’ tragic journey may have ended with his death, but his quest for purity and adventure was inspirational. Or so I thought.
“Running a totalitarian regime is simple: tell the people what they’re going to do, shoot the first one to object, and repeat until everyone is on the same page.” Such was life in Ukraine for young Lev Golinkin and his family, and it might have been tolerable had he not also suffered daily beatings in school for being a Jew. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the family fled to Austria where they lived in a refugee hotel before immigrating to the U.S. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is the story of that journey and of Golinkin’s struggle to reclaim his identity.
One of the first artists featured in Sarah Thornton’s fascinating 33 Artists in 3 Acts is American Jeff Koons, who tells her that he never wants people to feel small when they view his art. Clearly Thornton ascribes to a similar principle. In this witty, smart follow-up to her 2008 bestseller, Seven Days in the Art World, Thornton generously cracks the sometimes perplexing code of modern art.
After writing an award-winning biography of Frances Perkins (The Woman Behind the New Deal), former Washington Post reporter Kirstin Downey turns her attention to a woman with far broader influence: Isabella, the queen of Castile.
Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, with its intriguing and evocative title, was an international bestseller that fed Western readers’ appetite for learning about life under a fundamentalist regime. Her new book, The Republic of Imagination, bears some of the hallmarks of that success—literary criticism blended with personal history—but it flips the equation, offering an assessment of Nafisi’s adopted country (she became an American citizen in 2008) through the lens of her passion for literature.
From “Game of Thrones” to The Pillars of the Earth, popular culture offers up medieval stories where royals grab for power, where crucial alliances are built between church and state, where important people suddenly fall over dead after a sumptuous meal, poisoned by a hidden rival. But this world did, in fact, exist, and the subject of Kirstin Downey’s fascinating new biography, Isabella: The Warrior Queen, maneuvered through it with unlikely and thrilling success.