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Books are always the best gifts, especially when they are a gift to yourself!
Read avidly. Think boldly.
Avidly Reads is a series of short books about how culture makes us feel. Founded in 2012 by Sarah Blackwood and Sarah Mesle, Avidly—an online magazine supported by the Los Angeles Review of Books—specializes in short-form critical essays devoted to thinking and feeling. Avidly Reads is an exciting new series featuring books that are part memoir, part cultural criticism, each bringing to life the author’s emotional relationship to a cultural artifact or experience. Avidly Reads invites us to explore the surprising pleasures and obstacles of everyday life. Explore the first three books in the series: Avidly Reads Board Games, Avidly Reads Making Out, and Avidly Reads Theory.
“It is a truth too rarely acknowledged that there is nothing better than being both smart and fun: how lucky for us, then, that Avidly Reads books are both. To delve into them is to engage new ideas without having to sacrifice pleasure for knowledge, or feeling for thinking.” —Naomi Fry, staff writer at The New Yorker
Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games
By Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.
In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”
“The Dark Fantastic will entirely change the way you read science fiction, fantasy, [and] horror, and I can absolutely assure you it will be for the better.” —BookRiot
“One of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature.” —LA Review of Books
The Story of American Political Cartoons
By Donald Dewey
The Art of Ill Will is a comprehensive history of American political cartooning, featuring over two hundred illustrations. From the colonial period to contemporary cartoonists like Pat Oliphant and Jimmy Margulies, Donald Dewey highlights these artists uncanny ability to encapsulate the essence of a situation and to steer the public mood with a single drawing and caption. The Art of Ill Will provides a survey of American history writ large, capturing the voice of the people?hopeful, angry, patriotic, frustrated?in times of peace and war, prosperity and depression.
Despite the increasing threats they face as daily newspapers merge or vanish, cartoonists have given us some of our most memorable images, from Theodore Roosevelt’s pince-nez and mustache to Richard Nixon’s Pinocchio nose to Jimmy Carters Chiclet teeth. At a time when domestic and foreign political developments have made these artists more necessary than ever, The Art of Ill Will is a rich collection of the wickedly clever images that puncture pomposity and personalize American history.
“Not just a story of cartoons but a history of America through cartoons. A great gift book.” —Brian Lehrer Live
“An afternoon with The Art of Ill Will is time well spent, especially when followed by Funny Times, the cartoon monthly, and The Colbert Report.” —New York Times Book Review
By Theodore Winthrop
Introduction by Peter Coviello
“Cecil Dreeme is remarkable, compelling, and completely unclassifiable…This prophetic and rich novel whose very existence must be seen as surprising against the backdrop of 21st century skepticism as to the possibility of ‘gay’ literature in pre-modern times. It deserves the widest possible readership.” —The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review
An Illustrated, Comprehensive Record of New York City’s Historic Buildings
By Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
The Landmarks of New York includes such iconic structures as Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall, as well as those that may be less well known but are of significant historical and architectural value: the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House in Brooklyn, the oldest structure in New York City; the Bowne House in Queens, the birthplace of American religious freedom; the Watchtower in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem; the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx; and Sailors Snug Harbor on Staten Island. The sixth edition adds 106 new individual landmarks, two special addenda on the hotly-contested “back-log” and resultant 30 pending designations, over 150 new photographs, and new historic district maps.
“A spectacular book….Diamonstein-Spielvogel has proven that New York City cares deeply about its past and its connections to the present and future.” —Gotham Magazine
“To read this book from cover to cover is to reread the past 400 years of New York history.…Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
Media and Spectacle in American Culture
By Michael Serazio
Michael Serazio maps and critiques the cultural production of today’s lucrative, ubiquitous sports landscape. Through dozens of in-depth interviews with leaders in sports media and journalism, as well as in the business and marketing of sports, The Power of Sports goes behind the scenes and tells a story of technological disruption, commercial greed, economic disparity, military hawkishness, and ideals of manhood. In the end, despite what our myths of escapism suggest, Serazio holds up a mirror to sports and reveals the lived realities of the nation staring back at us.
“This is a powerful, intellectual, and vital contribution to our understanding of sports and sports culture. Michael Serazio walks the line between the scholarly and the popular with uncommon dexterity” —Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation
“Serazio digs the ball out of the dirt and fires it right on the money in this brilliant, entertaining and important analysis of the games we love that rarely love us back. A terrific book for fans and non-fans.” —Robert Lipsyte, author of SportsWorld: An American Dreamland
Making Worship Music in Evangelical America
Introduction by Maureen Meister
Written by Clarence C Cook
Central Park receives millions of visitors every year, tourists and locals alike. A Description of the New York Central Park, published in 1869, is recognized today as the most important book about the park to appear during its early years. The lively, often wry, text was written by Clarence C. Cook, a distinguished Victorian art critic, while the illustrations were drawn by the popular Albert Fitch Bellows. The author and artist examine many sites in the park that survive to this day as well as features that have vanished over time. It was published to champion Olmsted and Vaux and to advocate for their vision—a dream for a magnificent public park that has come to be regarded as New York City’s achievement and a model for the nation.
“A Description of the New York Central Park by Clarence Cook was one of the first comprehensive guides to Central Park and it remains one of the finest. This book is a must for anyone who cherishes Central Park and understands its historic significance as a masterpiece of landscape architecture.”—Douglas Blonsky, President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy and Central Park Administrator
Political Protest Posters from the Twentieth Century
Edited by Ralph Young
“This collection of posters—a sampling of the art and design of dissent—is a wonderful visual counterpart to the protest music of the age. Every page should provoke discussion.”—Beth Bailey, Foundation Professor, Department of History, University of Kansas
The Power of Social Influences
By Cass R. Sunstein
We live in an era of tribalism, polarization, and intense social division—separating people along lines of religion, political conviction, race, ethnicity, and sometimes gender. How did this happen? In Conformity, Cass R. Sunstein argues that the key to making sense of living in this fractured world lies in understanding the idea of conformity—what it is and how it works—as well as the countervailing force of dissent.
Lacking information of our own and seeking the good opinion of others, we often follow the crowd, but Sunstein shows that when individuals suppress their own instincts about what is true and what is right, it can lead to significant social harm. While dissenters tend to be seen as selfish individualists, dissent is actually an important means of correcting the natural human tendency toward conformity and has enormous social benefits in reducing extremism, encouraging critical thinking, and protecting freedom itself. Sunstein concludes that while much of the time it is in the individual’s interest to follow the crowd, it is in the social interest for individuals to say and do what they think is best. A well-functioning democracy depends on it.
“Sunstein unearths fascinating and surprising revelations … Perhaps the most profound insight from Sunstein’s book is the realization that conformity is working on us pretty much all the time. We think we choose what movies to watch, what books to read, or even what political tribe to claim—but our ability to form our own opinion on anything is greatly influenced by imperceptible forces nudging us towards consensus. That’s not always a bad thing. But, as Sunstein himself writes, ‘For all the good conformity does, it can also crush what is most precious and most vital in the human soul.’” —GQ
Tale of War and Loss
By Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front
German-American novelist Erich Maria Remarque captured the emotional anguish of a generation in his World War I masterpiece, All Quiet on the Western Front, as well as in an impressive selection of novels, plays, and short stories. This exquisite collection revives Remarque’s unforgettable voice, presenting a series of short stories that have long ago faded from public memory. In this collection, we follow the trials of naïve war widow Annette Stoll, reflect on the power of small acts of kindness toward a dying soldier, and join Johann Bartok, a weary prisoner of war, in his struggle to reunite with his wife.
Although a century has passed since the end of the Great War, Remarque’s writing offers a timeless reflection on the many costs of war. Eight Stories offers a beautiful tribute to the pain that war inflicts on soldiers and civilians alike, and resurrects the work of a master author whose legacy – like the war itself – will endure for generations to come.
“The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.” —The New York Times Book Review