Tag: Books


In Art or Life, Imagine the Backstory

Did you ever wonder what happened to make the Mona Lisa smile? Or ponder the source of anguish in Edvard Munch’s The Scream? And why is the old man’s nose in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s An Old Man and His Grandson so puffed up? The (True!) History of Art is one of the most hilarious books I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the cleverest ways to invite people to engage with the world’s great paintings. Through this book, Sylvain Coissard and Alexis Lemoine enable children and adults to look at instantaneously......

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The Delusion of The Triple Package

It takes just a few hours to read “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and her husband, fellow Yale law professor, Jed Rubenfeld’s new book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. And it takes even less time to realize the wisdom in this book isn’t in its ideas but in understanding why such ideas resonate and the harm they do to us personally and collectively. The thesis of this book is simple. There are three (that’s right, three) psychological characteristics shared by all......

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What's So Special About Self-Control?

Here’s an age-old question: What’s so special about the human species? Until fairly recently, the answer for many people was found in the Bible: We are made in the image of God. But it can seem (to some people) that the theory of evolution – what we now know about human beings slowly emerging and having evolutionary continuity with all of life – makes it a bit more difficult to define exactly what makes us so different from other creatures. In his recent book, The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us......

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A Vivid History of an 'Unimagined' Victory

Here’s one of the wisest books I’ve read in a very long time: Like Dreamers – The Story of the Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi. Wise because it combines sharp analysis of Israelis’ continual wrestling with one another over what the nation is all about with a deep compassion for all of the players in the region’s ongoing conflict. Notably that includes those who have differing opinions – particularly, on the Israeli side, those who are ardently anti-Zionist. If you care about Israel, Palestine or......

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Patriotism and Protest in Song

Did you know that folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 as a reaction to Irving Berlin’s classic anthem “God Bless America” (originally written in 1918)? It’s one of the many fascinating facts about the beloved tunes found in John Shaw’s book This Land That I Love. Guthrie reportedly found “God Bless America” jingoistic and uncritical; using a melody borrowed from the old Baptist hymn “Oh My Lovin’ Brother” he wrote a six-verse protest song. The final three verses of “This Land Is Your Land” (which are......

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Jesus the Rabbi

Jesus, First-Century Rabbi continues a recent trend of books trying to better understand who Jesus was by placing him in the context of first-century Judaism. ?This admirable work, written by Rabbi David Zaslow, is a particularly accessible and loving effort, one which has the potential to ease tensions felt? between (some) Christians and Jews. The spirit in which the book is written – whether one agrees with the conclusions or not – provides a truly a beautiful lesson for interfaith encounters. However, I would offer two cautionary notes, also inspired by the......

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Stars of David

Over the weekend I went to see the off Broadway musical, Stars of David, based on Abigail Pogrebin’s best-selling book of the same name.? The show is great fun and reveals and celebrates the Jewish identity of some of the most well known Jewish personalities in America including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Leonard Nimoy, Michael Feinstein, Norman Lear, Joan Rivers, Kenneth Cole, Tony Kushner and more. The 16 songs, composed by a who’s who of composers, are touching, humorous, insightful and moving. Stars of David is for any of us questioning the value......

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Malcolm Gladwell on Keeping the Faith and Achieving Greatness

Finally got to read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, which Irwin wrote about a couple of weeks ago.? It’s a fascinating book which spoke deeply to me about three things, and troubled me a little about one thing?- more on that in a moment.? I might have hesitated to boil it down so succinctly, but in this interview, that is what Gladwell himself does. The three key insights here from the book are: 1. What others see as a weakness, may be a great strength 2. Religious faith is a powerful......

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Using Gladwell's Insight to Inspire Those Who Need It Most

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.? Like Gladwell’s prior books this one is entertaining, with great story-telling that explores one counterintuitive thesis. ?Blink compelled us to trust our guts. ?The Tipping Point suggested we seek out and invest in “influencers”.? And in Outliers, Gladwell posits that it isn’t talent, but rather luck and hard work that are far more important. As always with Gladwell you need to read him while understanding that what he “proves” is always more true......

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Not Just Now: Being Smart About 'Present Shock'

If you’re like me, your smartphone has become your boss. More than I care to admit, I am barraged by an onslaught of pings, and I find myself obsessively checking (if not chasing) every text, email, tweet, Facebook status and myriad updates I get throughout the day. Unplugging is the answer for some. But not everyone. I’ll share a coping tip: The book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now,?by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, has changed my life. With great insight, the author explores how being always on (always connected) affects our behavior,......

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