Best Selling Books in History & Criticism - Criticism & Theory

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release date: May 30, 2017
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Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
One of the most anticipated books of 2017: Boston Globe, New York Times Book Review, New York's "Vulture", The Week, Bustle, BookRiot

A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017

A Goodreads Choice Awards nominee

David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making

For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences.

Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet.

Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can't fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It's a potent reminder that when you're as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there's no such thing as a boring day.
release date: Nov 21, 2017
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Why Bob Dylan Matters

“The coolest class on campus” – The New York Times

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan in 2016, a debate raged. Some celebrated, while many others questioned the choice.  How could the world’s most prestigious book prize be awarded to a famously cantankerous singer-songwriter who wouldn’t even deign to attend the medal ceremony?

In Why Bob Dylan Matters, Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas answers this question with magisterial erudition. A world expert on Classical poetry, Thomas was initially ridiculed by his colleagues for teaching a course on Bob Dylan alongside his traditional seminars on Homer, Virgil, and Ovid. Dylan’s Nobel Prize brought him vindication, and he immediately found himself thrust into the spotlight as a leading academic voice in all matters Dylanological. Today, through his wildly popular Dylan seminar—affectionately dubbed "Dylan 101"—Thomas is introducing a new generation of fans and scholars to the revered bard’s work.

This witty, personal volume is a distillation of Thomas’s famous course, and makes a compelling case for moving Dylan out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and into the pantheon of Classical poets. Asking us to reflect on the question, "What makes a classic?", Thomas offers an eloquent argument for Dylan’s modern relevance, while interpreting and decoding Dylan’s lyrics for readers. The most original and compelling volume on Dylan in decades, Why Bob Dylan Matters will illuminate Dylan’s work for the Dylan neophyte and the seasoned fanatic alike. You’ll never think about Bob Dylan in the same way again.

 

release date: May 01, 1991
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The Catcher in the Rye
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories, particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme--With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children.

The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices--but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
release date: Aug 05, 2014
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Bad Feminist: Essays

From the author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, the New York Times Bestseller and Best Book of the Year at NPR, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, and many more

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.

release date: Nov 01, 1997
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The Odyssey
The great epic of Western literature, translated by the acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles
 
Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, presents us with Homer's best-loved and most accessible poem in a stunning modern-verse translation. "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." So begins Robert Fagles' magnificent translation of the Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in the New York Times Book Review hails as "a distinguished achievement."

If the Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of an everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance. In the myths and legends  retold here,

Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox's superb introduction and textual commentary provide insightful background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles's translation. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

release date: Oct 31, 2017
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Jewish Comedy: A Serious History

A rich account of Jewish humor: its nature, its development, and its vital role throughout Jewish history.

In a major work of scholarship both erudite and very funny, Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber traces the origins of Jewish comedy and its development from biblical times to the age of Twitter. Organizing the product of Jews’ comic imagination over continents and centuries into what he calls the seven strands of Jewish comedy―including the satirical, the witty, and the vulgar―he traces the ways Jewish comedy has mirrored, and sometimes even shaped, the course of Jewish history. Persecution, cultural assimilation, religious revival, diaspora, Zionism―all of these, and more, were grist for the Jewish comic mill; and Dauber’s book takes readers on the tour of the funny side of some very serious business. (And vice versa.)

In a work of dazzling scope, readers will encounter comic masterpieces here that range from Talmudic rabbi jokes to medieval skits, Yiddish satires and Borscht Belt routines to scenes from Seinfeld and Broad City, and the book of Esther to Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.” Dauber also explores the rise and fall of popular comic archetypes such as the Jewish mother, the Jewish American Princess, and the schlemiel, the schlimazel, and the schmuck, and the classic works of such masters of Jewish comedy as Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Philip Roth, Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, and Larry David, among many others.

Jewish comedy, as Dauber writes, is serious business. And precisely what it is, how it developed, and how its various strands weave together and in conversation with the Jewish story: that’s Jewish Comedy.

release date: Apr 17, 1995
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A Clockwork Orange

Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized. Civilized my syphilised yarbles.

A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?" This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
release date: Oct 17, 2017
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Homegrown: Cooking from My New England Roots
Named a Best Cookbook to Give and Get by the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Herald, and Fine Cooking
 
“Simple, approachable, and delicious recipes. . . . Matt finds the perfect balance between honoring New England’s influential landscape and rich history while also providing a fresh twist on classic dishes, including influences from his wide travels and infinite repertoire.”
—Mario Batali, chef, author, philanthropist

 
A Game-Changing Chef Redefines a Classic American Cuisine

In his debut cookbook, chef Matt Jennings honors the iconic foods of his heritage and celebrates the fresh ingredients that have come to define his renowned, inventive approach to cooking. With four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: Northeast, three Cochon 555 wins, and a spot on Food & Wine’s 40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under list, Jennings is a culinary innovator known for his unexpected uses of traditional northern ingredients (maple syrup glazes a roasted duck; a molasses and cider barbecue sauce makes the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken wings; carbonara takes on a northern slant with the addition of razor clams). With over 100 vibrant, ingredient-driven recipes—including modern spins on New England staples like clam chowder, brown bread, and Boston cream whoopie pies, as well as beloved dishes from Jennings’s award-winning restaurant, Townsman—Homegrown shines a spotlight on a trailblazing chef and pays homage to America’s oldest cuisine. 
release date: Apr 27, 1994
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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication

"You must read this book."  Neil Gaiman

Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book)
With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material.

Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

Also included is instruction in the different techniques that work best for reading particular genres, such as practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science works.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests you can use measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.
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