We’re approaching the book season, people! What’s the book season, you ask? It’s that time, like right now, when the weather is turning and people are staying indoors with delicious apple cider and sweaters and books and fireplaces and HAPPINESS ABOUNDS. At least I think so! Mmm books, mmm autumn.
Anyway, here are some new releases for the first part of October. Enjoy yourselves, nerds!
At Home: A Short Story of Private Life by Bill Bryson
From one of the most beloved authors of our time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.
“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has figured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.
The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris
Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.
In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of “morality”; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible. Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.
Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.
Great House by Nicole Krauss
A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.
Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.
Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?
Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.
The Playbook: Suit up. Score chicks. Be awesome. by Barney Stintson and Matt Khun
Since the dawn of history man has searched for the answer to the most fundamental of questions: “Why am I here . . . not banging chicks?” The search is over. Now, with the help of The Playbook, you’ll be able to approach any beautiful woman, discover her innermost passion, and use that to trick her into sleeping with you. You’ll master more than 75 seduction techniques, developed by pickup guru and all-around good guy Barney Stinson, guaranteed to turn you into a bona fide ladies’ man.
Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? by Whoopi Goldberg
Have you noticed that things aren’t as civil as they once were? Or that rudeness is no longer an exception but a lifestyle? Sure you have. All you need to do is set foot outside your door to see that bad manners are taking over everywhere. People are yakking on cell phones in restaurants, even at church. Folks in carpools wear enough cologne to make our eyes bleed. Complete strangers think it’s OK to rub a pregnant lady’s belly. Passengers abuse flight attendants, family outings to the ball park are ruined by rowdy drunks . . . a congressman heckled the President of the United States.
Well, Whoopi Goldberg has noticed all this and more and asked herself, “Is it just me?” Unleashing her trademark irreverence and humor, her new book of observations takes a funny and excruciatingly honest look at how a loss of civility is messing with the quality of life for all of us.
So if your pet peeve is folks who talk in movie theaters like it was their living room, or if you get bugged by people clipping their nails and performing other personal hygiene next to you on the bus, or if you cringe when “please” and “thank you” get replaced by “gimme” and “huh?” . . . you have found a kindred spirit. Because Whoopi has witnessed the growing disrespect and rudeness in our lives and realized she is not alone. And, as you’ll discover in these pages, neither are you.
Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe. Edited by Bernard Comment, narrated by Stanley Buchthal
Marilyn Monroe’s image is so universal that we can’t help but believe that we know all there is to know of her. Every word and gesture made headlines and garnered controversy. Her serious gifts as an actor were sometimes eclipsed by her notoriety—and the way the camera fell helplessly in love with her. But what of the other Marilyn? Beyond the headlines—and the too-familiar stories of heartbreak and desolation—was a woman far more curious, searching, and hopeful than the one the world got to know. Even as Hollywood studios tried to mold and suppress her, Marilyn never lost her insight, her passion, and her humor. To confront the mounting difficulties of her life, she wrote.
Now, for the first time, we can meet this private Marilyn and get to know her in a way we never have before. Fragments is an unprecedented collection of written artifacts—notes to herself, letters, even poems—in Marilyn’s own handwriting, never before published, along with rarely seen intimate photos.
These bits of text—jotted in notebooks, typed on paper, or written on hotel letterhead—reveal a woman who loved deeply and strove to perfect her craft. They show a Marilyn Monroe unsparing in her analysis of her own life, but also playful, funny, and impossibly charming. The easy grace and deceptive lightness that made her performances so memorable emerge on the page, as does the simmering tragedy that made her last appearances so heartbreaking.
Oh yeah, there’s a new Justin Bieber book too! I know some of you might be interested.
As usual, those are just a few highlights from the last two weeks. Not every new book ever, that’d be annoying, but if I’ve forgotten something awesome or fundamental to nerd culture, comment about it! And look for a review on Friday, of course.
Images: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Hyperion, Touchstone, W.W. Norton and Company, Free Press, Doubleday