5 New Culture Books to Watch Out For

Beauty Sick: How Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Englen (31 May 2018)
beauty sick
An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women’s appearance is an epidemic that harms women’s ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg.

Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions when it comes to beauty. They don’t want to be Barbie dolls but, like generations of women before them, are told they must look like them. They’re angry about the media’s treatment of women but hungrily consume the very outlets that belittle them. They mock modern culture’s absurd beauty ideal and make videos exposing Photoshopping tricks, but feel pressured to emulate the same images they criticize by posing with a “skinny arm.” They understand that what they see isn’t real but still download apps to airbrush their selfies. Yet these same young women are fierce fighters for the issues they care about. They are ready to fight back against their beauty-sick culture and create a different world for themselves, but they need a way forward.

In Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, whose TEDx talk on beauty sickness has received more than 250,000 views, reveals the shocking consequences of our obsession with girls’ appearance on their emotional and physical health and their wallets and ambitions, including depression, eating disorders, disruptions in cognitive processing, and lost money and time. Combining scientific studies with the voices of real women of all ages, she makes clear that to truly fulfill their potential, we must break free from cultural forces that feed destructive desires, attitudes, and words—from fat-shaming to denigrating commentary about other women. She provides inspiration and workable solutions to help girls and women overcome negative attitudes and embrace their whole selves, to transform their lives, claim the futures they deserve, and, ultimately, change their world.

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf (7 Aug 2018)
reader come homeFrom the author of Proust and the Squid, a lively, ambitious, and deeply informative epistolary book that considers the future of the reading brain and our capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies.

A decade ago, Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid revealed what we know about how the brain learns to read and how reading changes the way we think and feel. Since then, the ways we process written language have changed dramatically with many concerned about both their own changes and that of children. New research on the reading brain chronicles these changes in the brains of children and adults as they learn to read while immersed in a digitally dominated medium.

Drawing deeply on this research, this book comprises a series of letters Wolf writes to us–her beloved readers–to describe her concerns and her hopes about what is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums. Wolf raises difficult questions, including:

  • Will children learn to incorporate the full range of “deep reading” processes that are at the core of the expert reading brain?
  • Will the mix of a seemingly infinite set of distractions for children’s attention and their quick access to immediate, voluminous information alter their ability to think for themselves?
  • With information at their fingertips, will the next generation learn to build their own storehouse of knowledge, which could impede the ability to make analogies and draw inferences from what they know?
  • Will all these influences, in turn, change the formation in children and the use in adults of “slower” cognitive processes like critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that comprise deep reading and that influence both how we think and how we live our lives?
  • Will the chain of digital influences ultimately influence the use of the critical analytical and empathic capacities necessary for a democratic society?
  • How can we preserve deep reading processes in future iterations of the reading brain?
  • Who are the “good readers” of every epoch?

Concerns about attention span, critical reasoning, and over-reliance on technology are never just about children–Wolf herself has found that, though she is a reading expert, her ability to read deeply has been impacted as she has become, inevitably, increasingly dependent on screens.

Wolf draws on neuroscience, literature, education, technology, and philosophy and blends historical, literary, and scientific facts with down-to-earth examples and warm anecdotes to illuminate complex ideas that culminate in a proposal for a biliterate reading brain. Provocative and intriguing, Reader, Come Home is a roadmap that provides a cautionary but hopeful perspective on the impact of technology on our brains and our most essential intellectual capacities–and what this could mean for our future.

Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con Man by David Howard (7 Aug 2018)
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A thrilling true crime caper, bursting with colorful characters and awash in ’70s glamour, that spotlights the FBI’s first white-collar undercover sting

1977, the Thunderbird Motel. J.J. Wedick and Jack Brennan–two fresh-faced, maverick FBI agents–were about to embark on one of their agency’s first wire-wearing undercover missions. Their target? Charismatic, globetrotting con man Phil Kitzer, whom some called the world’s greatest swindler. From the Thunderbird, the three men took off to Cleveland, to Miami, to Hawaii, to Frankfurt, to the Bahamas–meeting other members of Kitzer’s crime syndicate and powerful politicians and businessmen he fooled at each stop. But as the young agents, playing the role of proteges and co-conspirators, became further entangled in Phil’s outrageous schemes over their months on the road, they also grew to respect him–even care for him. Meanwhile, Phil began to think of Jack and J.J. as best friends, sharing hotel rooms and inside jokes with them and even competing with J.J. in picking up women.

Phil Kitzer was at the center of dozens of scams in which he swindled millions of dollars, but the FBI was mired in a post-Watergate malaise and slow to pivot toward a new type of financial crime that is now all too familiar. Plunging into the field with no undercover training, the agents battled a creaky bureaucracy on their adventures with Phil, hoping the FBI would recognize the importance of their mission. Even as they grew closer to Phil, they recognized that their endgame–the swindler’s arrest–was drawing near…

Anchored by larger-than-life characters, framed by exotic locales and an irresistible era, Chasing Phil is high drama and propulsive reading, delivered by an effortless storyteller.

The Emoji Code: The Linguistics Behind Smiley Faces and Scaredy Cats by Vyvyan Evans (7 Aug 2018)
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Drawing from disciplines as diverse as linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience, The Emoji Code explores how emojis are expanding communication and not ending it.

For all the handwringing about the imminent death of written language, emoji–those happy faces and hearts–is not taking us backward to the dark ages of illiteracy. Every day 41.5 billion texts are sent by one quarter of the world, using 6 million emoji. Evans argues that these symbols enrich our ability to communicate and allow us to express our emotions and induce empathy–ultimately making us all better communicators.

Vyvyan Evans’s Emoji Code charts the evolutionary origins of language, the social and cultural factors that govern its use, change, and development; as well as what it reveals about the human mind. In most communication, nonverbal cues are our emotional expression, signal our personality, and are our attitude toward our addressee. They provide the essential means of nuance and are essential to getting our ideas across. But in digital communication, these cues are missing, which can lead to miscommunication. The explosion of emoji, in less than four years, has arisen precisely because it fulfills exactly these functions which are essential for communication but are otherwise absent in texts and emails. Evans persuasively argues that emoji add tone and an emotional voice and nuance, making us more effective communicators in the digital age.

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (30 Aug 2018)
the black and blue
Matthew Horace was an officer at the federal, state, and local level for 28 years working in every state in the country. Yet it was after seven years of service when Horace found himself face-down on the ground with a gun pointed at his head by a white fellow officer, that he fully understood the racism seething within America’s police departments.

Using gut-wrenching reportage, on-the-ground research, and personal accounts garnered by interviews with police and government officials around the country, Horace presents an insider’s examination of police tactics, which he concludes is an “archaic system” built on “toxic brotherhood.” Horace dissects some of the nation’s most highly publicized police shootings and communities highlighted in the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond to explain how these systems and tactics have had detrimental outcomes to the people they serve. Horace provides fresh analysis on communities experiencing the high killing and imprisonment rates due to racist policing such as Ferguson, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Chicago from a law enforcement point of view and uncovers what has sown the seeds of violence.

Timely and provocative, The Black and The Blue sheds light on what truly goes on behind the blue line.

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Marriage in the City by Penny Reid

marriage of incon

Blurb: 
There are three things you need to know about Kat Tanner (aka Kathleen Tyson. . . and yes, she is *that* Kathleen Tyson): 1) She’s determined to make good decisions, 2) She must get married ASAP, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Being a billionaire heiress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it sucks. Determined to live a quiet life, Kat Tanner changed her identity years ago and eschewed her family’s legacy. But now, Kat’s silver spoon past has finally caught up with her, and so have her youthful mistakes. To avoid imminent disaster, she must marry immediately; it is essential that the person she chooses have no romantic feelings for her whatsoever and be completely trustworthy.

Fortunately, she knows exactly who to ask. Dan O’Malley checks all the boxes: single, romantically indifferent to her, completely trustworthy. Sure, she might have a wee little crush on Dan the Security Man, but with clear rules, expectations, and a legally binding contract, Kat is certain she can make it through this debacle with her sanity—and heart—all in one piece.

Except, what happens when Dan O’Malley isn’t as indifferent—or as trustworthy—as she thought?

Review:

5 Knitting Club Stars

I love Penny Reid’s books, and I have really enjoyed her knitting in the City series. Marriage of Inconvenience is the seventh instalment to this series but can be read as a standalone.

My hiccups sounded like a shrill gasp if I wasn’t careful to keep my mouth closed. A few people eyeballed me as I walked, as though attempting to determine if I were in distress or just a weirdo making truncated shrieking sounds.

Kat is the sole heir to a Pharmaceutical empire worth billions and she needs help to save her father’s company. To do this she needs to get married. Dan is selfless and willing to give up his own happiness for Kat so she can save everything that means to the world to her. He made me laugh and I just completely adore him. I loved watching them as they got close to each other.

Parts of you are ugly and messy. I still want you. I want the ugly and the beautiful and everything in between. You don’t pick and choose the parts of a person you want. Shit, I’m the ugliest fucker I know, and I want to give it all to you.

There was a lot of awkward moments between Kat and Dan that had me laughing my ass off and made me love both of them so much. Marriage of Inconvenience is a wonderful feel good story. I really enjoyed seeing the rest of the Knitting crew and to see where their stories have gone. This book finished on a high and was the perfect ending to this series.

Brilliant Book Titles #204

the less than epic adventures.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries catalogue here.

Blurb: 
E.K. Weaver’s critically-acclaimed road trip romance comic is collected here in this award-winning, commercially-successful omnibus edition. Less Than Epic tells the story of Amal (just out of the closet and freshly disowned by his parents) and TJ (a mysterious and eccentric vagrant) and their journey across the continental United States.

Brilliant Book Titles #203

paul takes the form of a mortal girl
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women’s Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in a series of adventures that take him from Iowa City to Boystown to Provincetown and finally to San Francisco–a journey through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure.

Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel offers a speculative history of early ’90s identity politics during the heyday of ACT UP and Queer Nation. PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections.

“I love this book, in all its ecstasy, wit, and hilarity. I laughed out loud in recognition and appreciation of Lawlor’s spot-on portrait of an era, scene, and soundtrack, the novel’s particular sluice of pleasures, fluids, and feelings. The liberatory rush of Lawlor’s writing is as rare as it is contagious, not to mention HOT. Paul is on fire, and an antihero for the ages.”–Maggie Nelson

“Fast-paced and cheeky, full of intellectual riffs, of observations so sharp they feel like gossip, PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL is a touchingly sweet-hearted and deeply cool book. Andrea Lawlor has written a magic story, showing us the real magic of our world in the process. If you like your humor supersmart and your theory full of camp and irony and heart, you won’t be able to put this book down.”–Michelle Tea

“I am such a fan. Andrea Lawlor’s prose is restless, muscular and playful and uncannily able to zero in on the cultural details that make the world Paul is traveling through shimmer and pucker with truth. Stealth too. Lawlor is either a good ‘liver’ or a good liar. They know. PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL Lawlor takes the ancient trope of ‘the changeling’ and makes it be me, you. Paul’s such a funny book that studies how studied we are especially when we go out. Who do we seek and who or what is seeking? It’s a tight satisfying masterpiece which I am very glad to hand you if you happen to love sex, clothes, literature which now includes the apparitional blessing of a new elastic genre (which Paul initiates) that seamlessly makes both what’s out there and in here less lonely, less fixed and less fake. This book updates the present. In Andrea Lawlor’s fiction the dream walks, and I watch. Paul’s got flickering feet like Mercury.”–Eileen Myles

How to Bullet Plan: Everything You Need to Know About Journaling with Bullet Points by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

how to bullet plan

Bullet journaling is having a moment right now. You can’t go on Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest without a beautifully laid out bullet journal open on a white marble desk greeting you.

So what is a bullet journal? Well Rachel describes it as a system for writing down all the thing you want to remember in a single notebook. Everything from things you want or need to do, things you’ve already done, your thoughts and observations – basically encompassing all parts of your life.  What sets bullet journaling apart from a regular diary is that you use a handful of symbols to help categorise the information. Therefore you have a system in place to help keep track of information. In simple terms, it’s basically a to-do list, diary and planner all rolled into one.

As someone who works in a library, I obviously love being organised and having a system to follow. I always have a planner on the go, but I often wondered was I using it the most efficient  way possible.

The main reason I loved this book was that Rachel demonstrated in easy to follow photos, how to lay out your diary in many different ways , depending on your planning needs. They were all so simple but effective. If the overly intricate and complicated bullet journals on Pinterest make you anxious, you will love the examples in this book.

The book includes examples of monthly, weekly and daily spreads. As well as financial, meal-planning, travel and health & fitness spreads. There is no aspect of your life you can’t organise.

If you want to embrace bullet journalling, this is the perfect introductory book!

5 New Music Books to Watch Out For

Bluegrass Generation: A Memoir by Neil V Rosenberg (15 May 2018)
bluegrass generation
Neil V. Rosenberg met the legendary Bill Monroe at the Brown County Jamboree. Rosenberg’s subsequent experiences in Bean Blossom put his feet on the intertwined musical and scholarly paths that made him a preeminent scholar of bluegrass music. Rosenberg’s memoir shines a light on the changing bluegrass scene of the early 1960s. Already a fan and aspiring musician, his appetite for banjo music quickly put him on the Jamboree stage. Rosenberg eventually played with Monroe and spent four months managing the Jamboree. Those heights gave him an eyewitness view of nothing less than bluegrass’s emergence from the shadow of country music into its own distinct art form. As the likes of Bill Keith and Del McCoury played, Rosenberg watched Monroe begin to share a personal link to the music that tied audiences to its history and his life–and helped turn him into bluegrass’s foundational figure. An intimate look at a transformative time, Bluegrass Generation tells the inside story of how an American musical tradition came to be.

Unlimited Replays: Video Games and Classical Music by William Gibbons (1 Jun 2018)
unlimited replays
Classical music is everywhere in video games. Works by composers like Bach and Mozart fill the soundtracks of games ranging from arcade classics, to indie titles, to major franchises like BioShock, Civilization, and Fallout. Children can learn about classical works and their histories from interactive iPad games. World-renowned classical orchestras frequently perform concerts of game music to sold-out audiences. But what do such combinations of art and entertainment reveal about the cultural value we place on these media? Can classical music ever be video game music, and can game music ever be classical? Delving into the shifting and often contradictory cultural definitions that emerge when classical music meets video games, Replay Value offers a new perspective on the possibilities and challenges of trying to distinguish between art and pop culture in contemporary society.

I Got Something to Say: Gender, Race, and Social Consciousness in Rap Music (4 Jul 2018)
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What do millennial rappers in the United States say in their music? This timely and compelling book answers this question by decoding the lyrics of over 700 songs from contemporary rap artists. Using innovative research techniques, Matthew Oware reveals how emcees perpetuate and challenge gendered and racialized constructions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. Male and female artists litter their rhymes with misogynistic and violent imagery. However, men also express a full range of emotions, from arrogance to vulnerability, conveying a more complex manhood than previously acknowledged. Women emphatically state their desires while embracing a more feminist approach. Even LGBTQ artists stake their claim and express their sexuality without fear. Finally, in the age of Black Lives Matter and the presidency of Donald J. Trump, emcees forcefully politicize their music. Although complicated and contradictory in many ways, rap remains a powerful medium for social commentary.

Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music by Michael Robbins (24 Jul 2018)
equipment for living.jpg
“Funny and smart” (The New Yorker) criticism of why we turn to art–specifically to poetry and popular music–and how it serves as an essential tool to understanding life.

How can art help us make sense–or nonsense–of the world? If wrong life cannot be lived rightly, as Theodor Adorno had it, what weapons and strategies for living wrongly can art provide? With the same intelligence that animates his poetry, Michael Robbins addresses this weighty question while contemplating the idea of how strange it is that we need art at all. Ranging from Prince to Def Leppard, Lucille Clifton to Frederick Seidel, Robbins’s mastery of poetry and popular music shines in Equipment for Living. He has a singular ability to illustrate points with seemingly disparate examples (Friedrich Kittler and Taylor Swift, to W.B. Yeats and Anna Kendrick’s “Cups”). Robbins weaves a discussion on poet Juliana Spahr with the different subsets of Scandinavian black metal music, illuminating subjects in ways that few scholars can achieve.

As Dwight Garner said in The New York Times about Robbins: “This man can write.” Equipment for Living is a “freakishly original” (Elle) look at how works of art, specifically poetry and popular music, can help us understand our own lives.

Superfans – Music’s Most Dedicated: From the Beatlemania to the Beyhive by Tobias Anthony (1 Aug 2018)
superfans.jpg
Musicians and bands have been adored since the first notes were recorded, but it was Beatlemania in the ’60s that heralded the birth of the Super Fan – a breed of music obsessive that literally worshipped their idols.

Superfans looks at the crazed followers and fan groups that surround the old–school as well as modern music scene in a witty, fun and tongue–in–cheek way. From Beyoncé’s Beyhive, the Britney Army, Gaga’s Little Monsters, Nicki Minaj’s Barbz to Justin Beiber’s Beliebers – author Tobias Anthony goes deep into these fan groups to see how they tick

The Choice by Philly McMahon

the choice.jpg

When Dublin footballer Philly McMahon lost his older brother John in 2012, it brought to an end a painful decade, during which John had slipped from the family circle into a deteriorating cycle of addiction. The effects were personally devastating, but amidst the loss there was a glimmer of hope, of opportunity, and what ultimately became the starting point for a journey of remarkable self-discovery.

In this inspirational memoir, McMahon traces his and John’s paths… from his earliest recollections of their childhood through the maelstrom of Ballymun’s heroin epidemic. He considers the relationships, tensions, arguments and chance occurrences that pushed them in very different directions: Philly to university, the boardroom and the hallowed turf of Croke Park; John to exile in London, heartbreak and, ultimately, tragedy.

Raw, vivid and intensely moving, The Choice is many things – an epic story of triumph in the face of adversity and loss, a family saga, a tribute to the redemptive power of sport – but above all it’s a stirring meditation on the roles compassion and resilience can play in shaping our lives, and those around us, for the better.

This is a great read simply from a human level. It is also a great read for anyone who loves sport-and particularly the Dublin Football Team. Even as a Meath fan I enjoyed it! It would be great for Teenagers to illustrate how choices can make or break you.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #202

i killed scheherezade.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
Joumana Haddad is angry about the way Arab women are portrayed in the West. In I Killed Scheherazade she challenges prevalent notions of identity and womanhood in the Middle East and speaks of her own intellectual development and the liberating impact of literature on her life. Fiery and candid, this is a provocative exploration of what it means to be an Arab woman today.

Brilliant Book Titles #201

too loud too bright
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
In the publishing tradition of Driven to Distraction or The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing, this prescriptive book by a developmental psychologist and sufferer of Sensory Defensive Disorder (SD) sheds light on a little known but common affliction in which sufferers react to harmless stimuli as irritating, distracting or dangerous.

We all know what it feels like to be irritated by loud music, accosted by lights that are too bright, or overwhelmed by a world that moves too quickly. But millions of people suffer from Sensory Defensive Disorder (SD), a common affliction in which people react to harmless stimuli not just as a distracting hindrance, but a potentially dangerous threat.Sharon Heller, Ph.D. is not only a trained psychologist, she is sensory defensive herself. Bringing both personal and professional perspectives, Dr. Heller is the ideal person to tell the world about this problem that will only increase as technology and processed environments take over our lives. In addition to heightening public awareness of this prevalent issue, Dr. Heller provides tools and therapies for alleviating and, in some cases, even eliminating defensiveness altogether.

Until now, the treatment for sensory defensiveness has been successfully implemented in Learning Disabled children in whom defensiveness tends to be extreme. However, the disorder has generally been unidentified in adults who think they are either overstimulated, stressed, weird, or crazy. These sensory defensive sufferers live out their lives stressed and unhappy, never knowing why or what they can do about it. Now, with Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, they have a compassionate spokesperson and a solution–oriented book of advice.

The Art of Deception by A.J. Cross

art of deception

The New Year brings a gruesome new discovery for forensic psychologist Dr Kate Hanson and Birmingham’s Unsolved Crimes Unit. A mummified body is found beneath the floorboards of a deserted lake house in Woodgate Country Park. The dead man was art student Nathan Troy, who disappeared 20 years ago, but evidence at the scene suggests the killer has been keeping an eye on his on his long-dead victim.

I found this British whodunit had a well-developed plot, with enough information for the reader to come to the correct conclusion to the mystery, but not so much as to have it be a dead giveaway.

Definitely worth a read-especially during the recent snowy weather!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.