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I think I would have to agree with this fun post by Kelly Gallucci at Bookish, of ten gifts that readers really want for Christmas. My favorite is the first on the list, which is the only a pair of noise canceling headphones for reading in crowded public spaces.

Gifts Readers Really Want for Christmas

I think I would have to agree with this fun post by Kelly Gallucci at Bookish, of ten gifts that readers really want for Christmas. My favorite is the first on the list, which is the only a pair of noise canceling headphones for reading in crowded public spaces.

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Posted by Joel on December 20 2014 • Books

The Art of Stillness

"At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”
Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

Posted by Joel on December 09 2014 • Books

Books of the Year

It’s the time of year when various media outlets begin to list their picks of the best books of the year. The New York Times Book Review has compiled its annual list of the year’s 100 best. Amazon has made its list.

Book-lovers will also enjoy NPR’s new tool: Book Concierge. NPR staff and critics select 250 favorites from 2014 and present them in a very useful app. Readers can use filters to find specific subjects and genres.

Posted by Joel on December 07 2014 • Books

Wolf at the Door?

image Should journalism worry about content marketing? That’s the question posed by the in-depth cover story in the Nov/Dec issue of the Columbia Journalism Review: Wolf at the Door.

Author Michael Meyer examines the content marketing efforts being conducted on behalf of many well-known consumer brands and compares what they do to traditional journalism.

“Everyone I talked to for this piece seems to agree that some essential distinction between journalism and content marketing needs to be preserved, but no one agrees on exactly what that distinction should be.” Meyer takes a look at content marketing being done by Nestlé Purina PetCare’s team, Chipotle, and others. It is a very good look at today’s publishing environment: “content marketing,” “native advertising,” “branded journalism,” etc.

“As content marketers grow more sophisticated, they will continue to adopt the trappings of journalism if not the journalistic mission, creating a world in which more and more content looks and feels the same but in fact isn’t,” writes Meyer. “The truth is, we’ve always been out there in the information landscape on our own, choosing what to trust and what to ignore. The difference now is that there are fewer distinct features, fewer landmarks to guide us. Instead, we have labels. The landscape is flattening, and flattening fast.”

Posted by Joel on November 23 2014 • Journalism

What is Philosophy For?

A delightful animated video, exploring what philosophy is for, from Alain de Botton, author of The Consolations of Philosophy and founder of The School of Life (courtesy of Brain Pickings):

Posted by Joel on November 02 2014 • Current Affairs

The 50 Year Argument

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the HBO documentary “The 50 Year Argument" examines the history of The New York Review of Books. Wow.

Posted by Joel on October 07 2014 • Journalism

The Sense of Style

Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style, may be a bit of a departure for the author but I’m still excited to read it. (In fact I’m already on page 57.) The subtitle offers further description: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Pinker is a wonderful writer himself. As he states in his introduction, the book isn’t a reference book or a style guide. Instead it highlights what makes good writing and why it is still so important to be able to communicate clearly, with a bit of style and personality. Here is a partial book description from Barnes and Noble.

“Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

“In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.”

Posted by Joel on October 05 2014 • Books

Marie Howe On Being

Krista Tippett’s recent guest on her show, On Being, was Marie Howe, the State Poet of New York and instructor at Sarah Lawrence College. It’s a wonderful interview about the power and mystery of poetry. Here she reads a new poem called “Magdelene-The Seven Devils," her interpretation from the only mention of Mary Magdalene in the Bible.

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” —Luke 8:2.

Posted by Joel on September 03 2014 • Journalism

Stunning Writing Studios

I believe I would find myself to be very comfortable in any of these ten stunning writing studios, from Flavorwire.


Posted by Joel on August 23 2014 • Books

Living Inside Stories

imageJonathan Gottschall comes the closest to fully articulating a theory that I’ve long been interested in, and one that has probably not been given its full due: that science and storytelling are indeed connected. As he says in this interview at Edge: No matter where you go in the world, stories are universal and “universally the stories are more or less like ours: the same basic human obsessions, and the same basic structure. The structure comes down to: stories have a character, the character has a predicament or a problem—they’re always problem-focused—and the character tries to solve the problem. In its most basic terms, that’s what a story is—a problem solution narrative.” We live inside our stories.

I look forward to reading his most recent book: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. Here’s a partial description from Barnes and Noble: “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why? ... Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?”

And here is the interview from Edge:

Posted by Joel on August 02 2014 • Books