Yea, yea, it’s Charles Dickens’ birthday. I’m sure you’ve heard, or at least been told by Google. But he’s only one artist born on this day. In addition, there’s James Yancey aka J Dilla, one of the most influential hip hop artists and producers of all time.
“Independent bookstores are intellectual centers of a city.” Our own Bill Morris, who’s currently on tour for his latest book, Motor City Burning, writes for The Daily Beast about the importance and continued relevance of bookstores in the age of Amazon.
Though the world may never know whether reading the greats makes you a better person, according to a recent study, those who take an active interest in the arts are more likely to be altruistic.
In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
Dave Eggers has a new novel out this week, while Neil Gaiman has an illustrated version of a previously published story on shelves. Also out: I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy; The City Son by Samrat Upadhyay; and The Last Magazine by the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings.
Adorable pictures of baby hippos aside, it’s a common misconception that animals are “smiling” at you out of sincere happiness. Probably you’re projecting that onto them, writes Lee Dye in a piece from 2010. For more on the perils of assigning human qualities to other animal species, I highly recommend checking out Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy’s When Elephants Weep.