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Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.
“That little book had such an impact. It changes the course of history. When you think about how sheer accident can change so much, it’s breathtaking.” A set of Luo-language books written by President Obama's father are up for auction until today, reports The New York Times. Written for the East African Literature Bureau,“the series uses the character Otieno, the Wise Man to offer advice on farming, healthy eating habits and other topics.” Pair with our own Janet Potter on reading presidential biographies.
Alexandra Alter interviews National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates about the success of Between the World and Me. As he puts it, "The best part of writing is really to educate yourself. I don’t want to be anybody’s expert. I came in to learn." Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s Millions piece on Coates’s epistolary essay.
If your default mood hovers between melancholy and despair, you may be cheered (or at least made a bit less glum) by this argument that striving for happiness is bad for us in the long run. Mari Ruti makes the case that a “happy, balanced life” depends in large part on a kind of emotional numbness.