Salutations, book nerds! Let’s get down to business, shall we? Here are the new releases for last week AND this week (in no particular order), so pick something up and give it a read!
The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? Over twenty years ago I wrote A Brief History of Time, to try to explain where the universe came from, and where it is going. But that book left some important questions unanswered. Why is there a universe–why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?
In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a “model-dependent” theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse–the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, “42.”
Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World by Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd
“Wake up, Muffy. We’re back.”
From Lisa Birnbach, the author of The Official Preppy Handbook—and designer Chip Kidd—comes a whole new take on the prep world that Birnbach turned into an international best-selling phenomenon thirty years ago.
True Prep is a contemporary look at how the old guard of natural-fiber-loving, dog-worshipping, G&T-soaked preppies adapt to the new order of things. Birnbach considers the prep attitude towards money (ambivalent), schools (good investment), wardrobe (now your clothes fit), work (some careers will never be prep), decorating (ask mummy), scandal (including rehab and prison), and food and drink (with some classic recipes for both). She also looks at weekends (and what to do to get asked back), entertaining, sports (including sailing and shopping), weddings, etiquette, the Internet and electronic gadgetry, political correctness, reality TV, and . . . polar fleece. And last but not least: a do-it-yourself eulogy.
With more than 200 original illustrations and photographs, True Prep promises to be a whole new, old sensation.
Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs by Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman
A grasshopper walked into a bar and ordered a drink.
The bartender looked at him and said, “You know we have a drink named after you?”
The grasshopper replied, “You have a drink named Stanley?”
Schtick happens. For five thousand years, God’s chosen people have cornered the market on knee-slappers, zingers, and knock-knock jokes. Now Old Jews Telling Jokes mines mothers, fathers, bubbies, and zaydes for comic gelt. What we get are jokes that are funnier than a pie in the punim: Abie and Becky jokes; hilarious rabbi, doctor, and mohel tales; and those bits just for Mom (Q: What’s the difference between a Jewish mother and a Rottweiler? A: Eventually a Rottweiler will let go!). Some are just naughty and some are downright bawdy—but either way you’ll laugh till you plotz. With Borscht Belt gags from Brooklyn to Bel Air to Boca, Old Jews Telling Jokes is like chicken soup for your funny bone. I mean, would it kill you to laugh a little?
Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz
One of America’s finest historians shows us how Bob Dylan, one of the country’s greatest and most enduring artists, still surprises and moves us after all these years. Growing up in Greenwich Village, Sean Wilentz discovered the music of Bob Dylan as a young teenager; almost half a century later, he revisits Dylan’s work with the skills of an eminent American historian as well as the passion of a fan. Drawn in part from Wilentz’s essays as “historian in residence” of Dylan’s official website, Bob Dylan in America is a unique blend of fact, interpretation, and affinity—a book that, much like its subject, shifts gears and changes shape as the occasion warrants.
Beginning with his explosion onto the scene in 1961, this book follows Dylan as he continues to develop a body of musical and literary work unique in our cultural history. Wilentz’s approach places Dylan’s music in the context of its time, including the early influences of Popular Front ideology and Beat aesthetics, and offers a larger critical appreciation of Dylan as both a songwriter and performer down to the present. Wilentz has had unprecedented access to studio tapes, recording notes, rare photographs, and other materials, all of which allow him to tell Dylan’s story and that of such masterpieces as Blonde on Blonde with an unprecedented authenticity and richness.
Bob Dylan in America—groundbreaking, comprehensive, totally absorbing—is the result of an author and a subject brilliantly met.
Dexter Is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay
Dexter Morgan has always lived a happy homicidal life. He keeps his dark urges in check by adhering to one steadfast rule . . . he only kills very bad people. But now Dexter is experiencing some major life changes—don’t we all?—and they’re mostly wrapped up in the eight-pound curiosity that is his newborn daughter. Family bliss is cut short, however, when Dexter is summoned to investigate the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old girl who has been running with a bizarre group of goths who fancy themselves to be vampires. As Dexter gets closer to the truth of what happened to the missing girl, he realizes they are not really vampires so much as cannibals. And, most disturbing . . . these people have decided they would really like to eat Dexter.
Jeff Lindsay’s bestselling, dark, ironic, and oftentimes laugh-out-loud hilarious novels about the lovable serial killer with no soul (but a redeeming desire to kill only people who deserve it) have gained a legion of fans and assumed a place in our culture.
Images: Doubleday, Villard, Knopf, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Bantam