Synopses & Reviews
A riveting book for all readers who know and love a place where the sea meets the land.
In 1937, Adam Nicolson's father answered a newspaper ad -- "Uninhabited islands for sale. Outer Hebrides, 600 acres . . . Puffins and seals. Apply . . . " -- and found the Shiants (the name means holy or enchanted islands). Adam inherited this almost indescribably beautiful property when he was twenty-one: Sea Room describes, and relives, his love affair with the three tiny islands, composed as he prepares to give them to his oldest son.
The Shiants lie east of the Isle of Lewis in a treacherous sea once known as the "stream of blue men," after the legendary water spirits who menaced sailors there. For millennia they were a haven for those seeking solitude -- an eighth-century hermit, the twentieth-century novelist Sir Compton Mackenzie -- but their rich, sometimes violent history of human habitation includes much more. The landscape is soaked in centuries-old tales of restless ghosts and Bronze Age gold, and it cradles the heritage of a once productive world of farmers and fishermen. In passionate, keenly precise prose, Nicolson evokes the paradoxes of island life: cut off from the mainland yet intricately bound to it, austere yet fertile, unforgiving yet bewitchingly beautiful.
Sea Room does more than celebrate this unique, profoundly isolated place. It shares with us the greatest gift an island bestows on its inhabitants, a deep, revelatory engagement with the natural world.
"The best books change the way you think. This is one of those." (National Geographic Adventure)
"Brody's book is more than merely a personal story. It is also a radical and ambitious argument about human history." (Newsday)
"[Brody] presents a culture of exceptional maturity, rich in many of the things we believe we have lost . . ." (The New Yorker)
"A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology and pop cultural history . . ." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
The greatness of Cézanne could be conveyed only by an artist equally great." (Howard Moss, The New Yorker)
"An engaging piece of cultural and religious history . . . [and] a compelling introduction to Christianity." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Reading the church building itself as a text, [Visser] renders its language of marble and mosaic into a splendid narrative . . ." (The New Yorker)
"This is a book of epiphanies . . . transforming our experience not only of this particular church but of all churches." (Commonweal)
"A marvelous window into the ways a house of worship can give concrete shape to spiritual experience." (Entertainment Weekly)
"A fast-moving, sparkling, erudite book . . . simultaneously informative, chilling and hilarious." (Stephen Bodio, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
"To this most extraordinary treatise . . . Aftel . . . brings sheer delight in the bouquet of aromas in the natural world." (Publishers Weekly)
". . . fascinating facts about the history of perfume . . . Aftel proves an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide." (Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times)
" . . . a wake-up call for parents to get their kids to play outdoors and explore the natural world." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"A rollicking roll through the heart, myth, soul-and-belly of the land of Bon Appetit, a century after Escoffier." (Molly O'Neill, The New York Times Magazine)
An epicure's delight by the author of olives
In France," said Montesquieu, "one dines. Everywhere else, one eats." A Goose in Toulouse is Mort Rosenblum's delightful foray into the French culinary experience, and into the soul of France itself. Good food, good sense, saveur, and savoir faire are the reasons this nation of sixty million inhabitants still lights the way for gastronomes around the globe. France's culinary expertise has long been an integral part of the country's national identity, and the rise of French grandeur owes more to kings' and emperors' chefs than to their generals. But if the rise of French civilization can be measured by the knife and fork, so can its fall. In a globalized world of fast food and genetically engineered crops, what does the future hold for France?
Mort Rosenblum's quest to unravel the complicated politics and economics of food leads him to snail farmers and oyster rustlers, to truffle hunters, starred chefs, and legendary vintners, to those who mourn the passing of the old days and those who have successfully adapted. The result is "marvelously insightful . . . truly a French banquet" (Paul Theroux).
A startling account of an evil regime and one young man's efforts to defy it.
Twenty-eight-year-old James Mawdsley spent much of the past four years in grim Burmese prisons. The Iron Road is his story, and the story of the regime that jailed him, the way it jails, tortures, and kills hundreds of Burmese each day.
Mawdsley was working in New Zealand when he learned about the struggle of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel laureate who is under house arrest. Outraged, he went to Burma, staged a one-man protest, and was jailed.
There his own amazing story begins. He is tortured, interrogated, released, jailed again. He turns his incarceration into a contest of wits -- going on a hunger strike, toasting the year 2000 with a cigar and "prison champagne," and requesting "1 packet of freedom, 1 bunch human rights, and 2 bottles of democracy." At the same time, he asks himself: What leads those of us in peaceful democracies to ignore others' suffering, just because it is happening "over there," to "them"?
James Mawdsley is a hero in a generation said to lack heroism. The Iron Road -- named for a torture in which skin is scraped from bone with a piece of iron -- is an urgent call for an end to human rights abuses in Burma and is a keen analysis of the totalitarian mind-set. And it is the story, at once moving and terrifying, of how one person can further the cause of justice through sheer will and determination.
"[A] lovely madeleine of a book" (The New York Times) about the intertwined lives of the sixties' most gifted young foursome.
When twenty-five-year-old Bob Dylan wrecked his motorcycle near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was already recognized as a genius, a youth idol with an acid wit and a barbwire throat; and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.
In Positively 4th Street, David Hajdu recounts the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but also his part-time lover Joan Baez -- the first voice of the new generation; her sister Mimi -- beautiful, haunted, and an artist in her own right; and Mimi's husband, Richard Fari¤a, a comic novelist (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me) who invented the worldly-wise bohemian persona that Dylan adopted -- some say stole -- and made his own.
A national bestseller in hardcover, acclaimed as "one of the best books about music in America" (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post), Positively 4th Street is that rare book with a new story to tell about the 1960s -- about how the decade and all that it is now associated with were created in a fit of collective inspiration, with an energy and creativity that David Hajdu has captured on the page as if for the first time.
Rilke's prayerful responses to the french master's beseeching art.
For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.
Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cézanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful letters to his wife, Clara Westhoff, expressing his dismay before the paintings and his ensuing revelations about art and life.
Rilke was knowledgeable about art and had even published monographs, including a famous study of Rodin that inspired his New Poems. But Cézanne's impact on him could not be conveyed in a traditional essay. Rilke's sense of kinship with Cézanne provides a powerful and prescient undercurrent in these letters -- passages from them appear verbatim in Rilke's great modernist novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Letters on Cézanne is a collection of meaningfully private responses to a radically new art.
Margaret Visser's desire to find answers to her own questions -- as a traveler, a believer, and an insatiable "anthropologist of everyday life" -- led her to undertake this unique and revelatory book. Guiding the reader through a church outside Rome, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, she draws upon history, theology, anthropology, and folklore to illuminate the spiritual meanings embedded in its architecture.
Deer in Manhattan, coyotes in the Bronx, wild turkeys flying down Broadway -- in this first truly urban period in human history, confrontation and competition with the natural world is becoming an everyday occurrence. Anne Matthews explores these encounters, examining the implications of this unexpected and powerful resurgence of nature for the fate of a world of supercities and suburban hypersprawl.
A doctor who is also a long-term patient examines the body, in sickness and in health.
Jamie Weisman was a patient long before she was a doctor. She was born with a rare defect in her immune system that leaves her prey to a range of ailments and crises and that, because it is treatable but not curable, will keep her a patient for life. Her history has graced her with a deeper perspective -- a second sight, in a sense -- on the body itself, in all its frailty, glory, and irreducible mystery.
In this probing and inspiring book, Weisman brings her sojourns on both sides of the doctor-patient divide to bear on the issues of the flesh that preoccupy us all. She considers the randomness of illness, and the fears and fortitude it calls forth in those it strikes. She weighs the economic and moral value of sustaining any given life. She explores the vulnerabilities of the body and of those who care for it, including their capacity for error. And she conveys, by eloquent example, that the only cure for the fear of death is living.
As I Live and Breathe is a view of medicine from both sides of the trenches, embracing the patient's fervent desire for health and the doctor's fervent desire to grant it. It is a worthy addition to the best that has been written about our physical selves, a meditation on our extraordinary powers of healing and the limitations that leave intact the miracle and tragedy of being.
Thoreau's major essays annotated and introduced by one of our most vital intellectuals.
With The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau, Lewis Hyde gathers thirteen of Thoreau's finest short prose works and, for the first time in 150 years, presents them fully annotated and arranged in the order of their composition. This definitive edition includes Thoreau's most famous essays, "Civil Disobedience" and "Walking," along with lesser-known masterpieces such as "Wild Apples," "The Last Days of John Brown," and an account of his 1846 journey into the Maine wilderness to climb Mount Katahdin, an essay that ends on a unique note of sublimity and terror.
Hyde diverges from the long-standing and dubious editorial custom of separating Thoreau's politics from his interest in nature, a division that has always obscured the ways in which the two are constantly entwined. "Natural History of Massachusetts" begins not with fish and birds but with a dismissal of the political world, and "Slavery in Massachusetts" ends with a meditation on the water lilies blooming on the Concord River.
Thoreau's ideal reader was expected to be well versed in Greek and Latin, poetry and travel narrative, and politically engaged in current affairs. Hyde's detailed annotations clarify many of Thoreau's references and re-create the contemporary context wherein the nation's westward expansion was bringing to a head the racial tensions that would result in the Civil War.
A round-the-world detective story about rediscovering vanished species.
Three or four times an hour, eighty or more times a day, a unique species of plant or animal vanishes forever. It is, scientists say, the worst global extinction crisis in the last sixty-five million years -- the hemorrhage of thirty thousand irreplaceable life-forms each year. And yet, every so often one of these lost species resurfaces, such as the Indian forest owlet, considered extinct for more than a century when it was rediscovered in 1997. Like heirlooms plucked from a burning house, they are gifts to an increasingly impoverished world.
In The Ghost with Trembling Wings, naturalist Scott Weidensaul pursues these stories of loss and recovery, of endurance against the odds, and of surprising resurrections. The search takes Weidensaul to the rain forests of the Caribbean and Brazil in pursuit of long-lost birds, to the rugged mountains of Tasmania for the striped, wolflike marsupial known as the thylacine, to cloning laboratories where scientists struggle to re-create long-extinct animals, and even to the moorlands and tidy farms of England on the trail of mysterious black panthers whose existence seems to depend on the faith of those looking for them. The Ghost with Trembling Wings is a book of exploration and a survey of the frontiers of modern science and wildlife biology. It is, in the end, the story of our desire for a wilder, bigger, more complete world.
About the Author
is special correspondent for The Associated Press. His acclaimed books include the James Beard Award-winning Olives
. He lives in Paris and Provence.