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Bloggers

 

Mad, Mad World

Mad Men on the Couch The Unofficial Mad Men CookbookThe Real Mad Men

Have you wondered what it would be like to live in the advertising world depicted on AMC’s award-winning drama series Mad Men?  Former copywriter Andrew Cracknell gives us an inside look with The Real Mad Men:The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising.Reneg  

Written from firsthand experience and featuring beautiful photographs from the era, this book explores the history of modern American advertising, the movers and shakers of the industry, and how the “golden age” business culture of the 1960s treated women and minorities.  This title has great appeal for fans of Mad Men, as well as anyone with an interest in advertising. 

 

For a more psychological take on the show, try Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.  Author Dr. Stephanie Newman delves into the minds of each main character and discusses issues like sexism, identity, parenting, and homophobia through a modern lens.  And don’t worry about psychological jargon – Newman employs a light and accessible tone.  This highly recommended title is as informative as it is entertaining and makes each character come to life.      

 

And just for fun, check out The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.  This fully illustrated book highlights many of the meals and cocktails seen on the first four seasons of the show, along with brief episode summaries that place each recipe in its historical context.  The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is a must-read for any serious Mad Men fan.

Alex

 
 

Standing Together

Standing Together

posted by:
April 20, 2012 - 12:11pm

The Silence of Our FriendsGraphic novels depicting actual events can be incredibly successful or dismal failures. In the case of The Silence of Our Friends, happily, the former is true. This semi-autobiographical story of the race tensions and riots in 1968 Houston deals with events largely unknown or forgotten. In the months before the demonstrations in and around Texas Southern University began, co-author Mark Long’s father had moved his family from San Antonio to Houston. Jack Long’s career was that of an on-the-scene reporter for a local TV station’s news department. To get a more accurate perspective of the situation, Jack Long befriended an African-American man, Larry Thompson and both families tentatively got to know each other. As the movement grew more heated, a deadly riot broke out on campus and both Jack Long and Larry Thompson found themselves in the middle of a murder trial. A well-known quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. is the source of the work’s title: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

A great benefit to the format of the graphic novel is retelling a story of this nature in a new, evocative manner. Eisner-Award winner Nate Powell’s flowing line drawings capture the era, and add to the storyline. In particular, Long’s recollections of his family’s internal issues are captured in the images if not directly confronted in the text. The words pull no punches with the overt racist attitudes of the day, including uncomfortable language.  This book is highly recommended to readers interested in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and those who are looking to better understand the value of the graphic format.

Todd

 
 

Can You Swim Faster in Syrup or Water?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?The answer to that and other tricky posers used by Google in interviews can be found in William Poundstone’s Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy.  Since its first recruiting campaign in 2004, Google has been notorious for conducting some of the toughest job interviews.   They include brainteasers and other open-ended mental challenges, along with the standard behavioral questions to identify the candidates most capable of creative problem solving.  In adopting this approach, Google is looking to better predict employee performance, seeing where candidates run out of ideas. The questions are designed to measure mental flexibility, entrepreneurial potential, and the ability to innovate. 

 

Google is a cutting-edge company where Human Resources is called People Operations (People Ops) and every job candidate is the subject of a 50-page package.  In addition to the usual academic, professional and social history, this report also critiques the potential employee’s overall “Googliness.”  The perks associated with working at the Google campus are legendary and include free food, coin-free laundry facilities, and an annual ski trip.

 

Other employers have taken notice, and today, along with passing social network checks and displaying above-average intelligence, candidates must sit through more interviews than ever before and pass questions that try to screen for a particular personality.  Poundstone offers strategies for making the best of these nerve-racking situations, identifies interviewers’ hidden agendas, and offers tips for saving a failing interview. This informative title will appeal to job seekers looking for inside information and interview strategy.  Those safely employed will enjoy the compelling writing and puzzles and be glad they don’t have to face such an ordeal.

 

Try your hand at the Google interview at http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2012/0208/Would-Google-hire-you-10-test-questions-to-find-out/A-plane-flight.  And just so you don’t have to swim in syrup, the surprising answer to the question above is that there is no difference in speed!

Maureen

 
 

A Thousand Words

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little RockA naked Vietnamese girl crying and running, JFK saluting at his father’s funeral, an anguished scream over a prostrate body at Kent State; these iconic photos capture moments which illustrate the turbulence of the mid-twentieth century. Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick explores another seminal photograph taken on September 4, 1957 as black Elizabeth Eckford attempts to enter, and integrate, Little Rock, Arkansas’ heretofore all white Central High. In this instantly recognizable image, petite Elizabeth, dressed in crisp white with a binder clutched to her chest, is followed by fellow student, white Hazel Bryan. Hazel is rigid with anger, mouth open, teeth bared.

 

Elizabeth was part of the Little Rock Nine; she was one of nine black teens carefully chosen to integrate the high school as a result of Brown v. Board of Education.  Margolick relates the backstory of the girls in the picture but he also writes of the women those girls became and the ripple effect of the photograph and events surrounding it on the pair.  As adults, Hazel reaches out to Elizabeth to apologize for her actions memorialized on film and the two woman forge a tentative friendship. Each finds her life forever impacted by the photograph, despite Hazel’s assertion that “life is more than a moment.”

 

Margolick’s writing style allows history and the women’s stories to take center stage in this book. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth’s recollections are particularly poignant; in one, she relates thinking the National Guard had been called out to protect her as she walked to school rather than to barr her entrance as they’d been ordered to do.  Elizabeth and Hazel goes beyond the confines of a picture to bring a personal look at two woman, the civil rights struggle and the fragility of forgiveness and reconciliation. For additional reading in a similar vein, try Norma Watkins’ memoir The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure.

 

Lori

 
 

Fat Kevin Federline and a Creed Song

You're Not Doing it RightBest known for his absurdist comedy sketch shows, "The State", "Stella", and "Michael and Michael Have Issues", Michael Ian Black is probably the last person anyone would expect to have something to say about what it takes to be a husband and father.  However, in his latest book, You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, the comedian takes a slight turn from his usual stream of sarcasm and delivers a touching and surprisingly personal memoir about these issues and more.

 

Nearing forty years of age, Michael Ian Black finds himself in constant state of ennui. Spending his days scouring the internet for pictures of fat Kevin Federline (Britney Spears’ notorious ex-husband) just isn’t entertaining him like it used to and he begins to question his own existence. Taking the reader with him, he explores his life up to this point.Beginning with his unusual childhood in New Jersey and continuing through his reminiscences as a married father of two, Black provides us with laughter and tears along the way. Readers who are familiar with Black’s comedy will perhaps be astonished by how frank and touching these confessions are. One of the best examples of this is when recounts a time while driving and thinking about his baby-to-be.  A  laughable song by the band Creed comes on the radio, and he proceeds to break down in sobs.

 

While this title will hold special appeal for first-time parents and newlyweds, You’re Not Doing It Right is a frank and humorous book recommended for anyone who’s survived an existential crisis.

 

Erin

 
 

Gypsy Secrets Revealed

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of Romany GypsiesRomani gypsies are an insular people, and little is known of their culture.  They distrust outsiders and prefer to live among, work with, and marry within their own cultural circle. Enter Mikey Walsh (a pseudonym), one of the first brave souls to write a memoir about growing up in a gypsy camp. Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies gives the reader an inside look at Romani gypsies, who trace their origins to the Indian peninsula and through Eastern Europe. Gypsy men are masculine, tough and charismatic, living by their wits and usually finding work by convincing unsuspecting marks to part with their money. Gypsy women are expected to care for the home and the children and rarely interact with the men. While male gypsies are encouraged to have sexual encounters in the world with non-gypsy women, female gypsies are supposed to remain chaste until early marriage by age eighteen.

 

Revealing gypsy secrets can be a dangerous undertaking, and the author refuses to be photographed in order to preserve his true identity. Walsh grew up in the shadow of his father, a robust bare-knuckle fighting champion who tried to teach young Mikey to fight by knocking him across the room. As he grows older, Walsh realizes that he is gay, something that is so unacceptable to his father that he can only live his life in terror, hoping for some kind of escape.

 

The author reveals a bleak and dysfunctional childhood, but his determination and perseverance eventually pay off.  Although some of the stories are harrowing, the author intersperses some humorous anecdotes involving some very quirky relatives. Walsh manages to find a way out of the gypsy life, get an education and tell the world his story. A companion biography, Gypsy Boy on the Run was published last year in the U.K. Through it all, he remains proud of his gypsy heritage.  Gypsy Boy is a quick read, with a sympathetic and likeable narrator.  Pick it up for a fascinating look into another culture. This title is recommended for those who enjoy hardscrabble memoirs like Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt or Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. 

 

Doug

 
 

Dancing in the Street with Introverts

Dancing in the Street with IntrovertsMany introverts will rejoice, exult and maybe even (quietly) dance in the street after reading Susan Cain's thoroughly engaging new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Far from being a self-help guide, Quiet celebrates introverts and the unique qualities they bring to their workplaces, classrooms, marriages and friendships. Combining fascinating anecdotes and extensive research from a variety of scientific fields, Cain makes a convincing argument for re-assessing the “extrovert ideal” in American culture.

 

In a society that increasingly favors “groupthink” or brainstorming sessions, Cain maintains there is also reason to value those people who prefer solitude, avoid social situations and prefer to express themselves in writing. Indeed, many of our greatest thinkers and artists have been introverts and have required absolute solitude to create, think and write. She shares fascinating glimpses into the lives of several famous introverts such as Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss.

 

One of the many strengths of Quiet is Cain's pragmatism. As a former corporate lawyer, she is no stranger to the highly social world of the American workplace. Introverts often prefer to work in a quiet environment, may find social situations draining, and usually prefer to work with few distractions. However, these conditions are simply not practical in today's workplaces and classrooms. Cain offers realistic, pragmatic solutions methods that allow introverts to be successful in the workplace and other social settings while remaining true to their own biological wiring. She also gives excellent advice to parents of young introverts. She advises parents to celebrate a child's true nature but also suggests useful navigation strategies for social situations in the classroom and playground.

 

Susan Cain has written a highly readable book. She manages to bring historical and psychological context to her subject while consistently maintaining the interest of the reader. Quiet is highly recommended not only to those who identify as introverts but also to parents, managers, and educators who want to develop a deeper understanding of the introverts in their lives.

Zeke

 
 

A Shimmering Lady Finds her Way

The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-BauerWhen Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish salon hostess, sat for her portrait in 1907 by Austria’s most famous painter, Gustav Klimt, it is doubtful that either imagined the painting’s disturbing journey to come.  Washington Post journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor explores these realities in her well-researched book, The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

 

This story unfolds in turn of the century Vienna, where affluent Jewish families are lured by the city's sophisticated culture. Artists, led by Klimt, seek more freedom to express their "art of the soul."  They find support for their Secessionist movement from forward thinking patrons, like Adele and her industrialist husband, Ferdinand. When Ferdinand commissions Klimt to paint his wife, the result is a shimmering, gold mosaic of the dazzling, dark haired beauty. 

 

O'Connor frames the story in three sections, spanning more than one hundred years. While it can be challenging to keep track of all the Bloch-Bauer connections, the short chapters keep the narrative moving with poignant vignettes.  Much time is spent on the pillaging of the Viennese Jewish population by Nazi soldiers and theft of their art treasures. Even in post-Nazi Austria, stolen works with questionable provenance remained in Austrian museums. Adele's portrait was renamed The Lady in Gold, losing its Jewish identity. 

 

The author draws upon extensive interviews and correspondence with Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, whose successful legal fight returned the Klimt paintings to private hands, including Klimt's Adele.  While the painting today is at the Neue Galerie in New York, it may be impossible to gaze upon Gustav Klimt's muse without considering the human cost of war, the complexities of art restitution, and each stolen painting's story yet to tell.

Cynthia

 
 

Ironic Inequality

Ironic Inequality

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 10:14am

Behind the Beautiful ForeversBehind the Beautiful Forevers has everything a reader could ask for – drama, fast-paced narrative, compelling characters, and a fascinating setting. Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo has written an incredibly engaging, deeply human story. Her powerful new book takes an unflinching, intimate look at poverty in one of the world's most interesting, dynamic, and economically uneven cities: Mumbai.

 

Journalist Boo tells the stories of the residents of Annawadi, a slum set in the shadow of Mumbai's gleamingly modern International Airport, and just steps away from luxury hotels. Sitting atop tons of garbage and next to lakes of sewage, Annawadi is home to nearly three thousand squatters. They are making a living off of the refuse of their wealthy neighbors while trying to improve their lot in life. For more than three years, Boo lived among the families and recorded their stories. While she was initially treated with suspicion, over time the residents of community began to trust her and share their stories, sorrows, and hopes for the future.

 

Boo primarily focuses on human drama that plays out in the lives of one family and a few of their neighbors during her time there. Readers meet Abdul, a teen who sorts garbage each day, providing his family's only source of income; Zehrunisa, a formidable matriarch and Abdul's mother; Asha, Annawadi's powerful political negotiator; and Asha's bright daughter, Manju (the slum’s "most everything girl") who hopes that education will be her ticket to a better life. Boo tells their stories with clear, understated prose that remains fiercely riveting from beginning to end.

 

Readers of The Washington Post and The New Yorker will be familiar with Boo's relentless journalism and crystal-clear writing style. Throughout much of her career as a journalist, she has focused on telling the stories of society's poor and neglected citizens. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is set to be the most critically acclaimed title of the year. It has been praised in nearly every major media outlet for the author's fearless reporting, unblinking honesty, and understated prose. Boo’s ability to tell an incredible story makes Behind the Beautiful Forevers a book not to be missed.

 

 

Zeke

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Level Up!

Level Up!

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 9:31am

The Nerdist WayComedian Chris Hardwick, former host of MTV’s Singled Out and recent contributor to Attack of the Show, Chelsea Lately, and Web Soup, has a message for all geeks, gamers, dorks, and dweebs. You can actually use your nerdy traits to improve your life and find personal fulfillment!

 

Nerdists (a clever pairing of the words “nerd” and “artist”) skillfully combine creativity, focus, and a sense of fun in order to achieve his or her full potential. In this self-help/humor/philosophy title, Hardwick recommends treating your life like a role-playing game (RPG). This means using personal data to quantify, measure, and graph your success as you reach your goals. Gain experience points (XP) by completing tasks like working out three times a week, paying your bills on time, and meeting deadlines.  Watch your character and yourself quickly get to the next level.

 

With chapters on anxiety, time management, fitness, and maintaining your finances, this book is perfect for the self-improving nerd. Hardwick gives plenty of helpful tips, such as ignoring your brain (don’t believe everything you think) and becoming a “Charlie Rose of your own mind” (ask yourself a lot of questions). He recommends taking hints from evil geniuses: have a goal, stay focused, and never back down.

 

Filled with strikingly honest personal examples, hilarious anecdotes, and genuinely positive affirmations, The Nerdist Way is recommended for anyone who has ever let their overly stimulated brain get in the way of living the life they want.

 

 

 

Erin