Out this week: Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes; Shadowless by Hasan Ali Toptas; Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman; The Letters of Sylvia Plath: Volume I; and Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“Eisenhower’s doctor, Howard McCrum Snyder, knew better than anyone that the commander in chief paid a heavy physical toll for the blandness he projected in public — and once had a presidential golf club thrown at him.” Janet Maslin reviews a new book on the “hidden” President.
“Check it out for yourself to marvel at the the long history of our language, including but not limited to the origins of the term ‘rock snot.’” The AV Club reports that the word nerds at Merriam-Webster have launched Time Traveler, a new tool that lets users look at the timing around when new words entered the print lexicon. Consider, also, authority and American usage.
“I didn’t really understand what reading was for. If I wanted a story, the thing to do was to get my grandmother to read it to me. Then listening to her voice, her story-reading voice which always sounded a little incredulous, marvelling, yet full of faith, bravely insistent, and watching her face, its meaningful and utterly familiar expressions—lifted eyebrows, ominously sinking chin, brisk little nods of agreement when, as sometimes happened, a character said something sensible—then I would feel the story grow into life and exist by itself, so that it hardly seemed to me that she was reading it out of a book at all; it was something she had created herself, out of thin air… But one summer I had the whooping-cough, and afterwards I could not go swimming or jump off the beams in the barn or boss my little brother, because by that time he had the whooping-cough himself. My grandmother was off somewhere, visiting other cousins. So I swung on my swing until I got dizzy, and then for no reason in particular I took the Child’s History out of the bookcase in the front room, and sat down on the floor and started to read.” Alice Munro writes about A Child’s History of England, the first book she ever read.
Curious what the Obamas will be reading over Christmas? The Scrutinizer in Chief stopped by Upshur Books in Washington, D.C. on Small Business Saturday to selected a nice little haul for the winter break with titles ranging from Jonathan Franzen’s Purity to Rachel Renée Russell’s Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life.
Recommended Reading: Meryl Cates of The Paris Review gets Millayed in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s gardens at Steepletop, the New England-style farmhouse where the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet worked and played. Pair with this essay from The Millions on reading writers’ houses.
“[L]overs of more experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives but it was comedy fans who scored the highest for relating to others.” A new study suggests that people who read books are nicer, reports The Independent. In our recent interview with author John Vaillant he wholly agreed. “Empathy is what gives you the access,” he told us. “I see the writer (fiction or nonfiction) as a kind of permeable membrane through which the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others can pass and manifest.”