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The Avid Reader
April 09, 2021 09:50 AM PDT
Discovered as three notebooks in an antique store in Rome at the turn of the millennium, The Reincarnationist Papers offers a tantalizing glimpse into the Cognomina, a secret society of people who possess total recall of their past lives.
Evan Michaels struggles with being different, with having the complete memories of two other people who lived sequentially before him. He fights loneliness and believes he is unique until he meets Poppy. She recognizes his struggle because she is like him, except that she is much older, remembering seven consecutive lives. But there is something else she must share with Evan—she is a member of the secretive Cognomina. They are, in effect, immortals—compiling experiences and skills over lifetimes into near superhuman abilities that they have used to drive history over centuries.
Poppy invites Evan into the Cognomina, but he must face their tests before entering this mysterious society as their equal.
April 05, 2021 01:03 PM PDT
When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.
Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.
April 01, 2021 12:16 PM PDT
Today music fills our lives. How we have created, performed and listened to this music throughout history has defined what our species is and how we understand who we are. Yet music is an overlooked part of our origin story. The Musical Human takes us on an exhilarating journey across the ages – from Bach to BTS and back – to explore the vibrant relationship between music and the human species. With insights from a wealth of disciplines, world-leading musicologist Michael Spitzer renders a global history of music on the widest possible canvas, looking at music in our everyday lives; music in world history; and music in evolution, from insects to apes, humans to AI. Through this journey we begin to understand how music is central to the distinctly human experiences of cognition, feeling and even biology, both widening and closing the evolutionary gaps between ourselves and animals in surprising ways.
The Musical Human boldly puts the case that music is the most important thing we ever did; it is a fundamental part of what makes us human.
April 01, 2021 12:15 PM PDT
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together—in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Rose Szabo's thrilling debut is a dark fantasy novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls. This exquisitely terrifying and beautiful tale will sink its teeth into you and never let go.
March 30, 2021 12:38 PM PDT
Today our guest is Steven Hall, author of The Raw Sharks Texts a seminal and amazing book that was released almost 14 years ago and published in pretty much every language in the world. It won the Somerset Maugham Award and should be a movie soon. Steven has written for Granta and Lonely Planet and build tons of video games.
But today we will be talking about Maxwell’s Demon, Steven’s new book which is being released on April 6th in the US by Grove.
Thomas Quinn is having a hard time. A failed novelist, he's stuck writing short stories and audio scripts for other people's characters. His wife, Imogen, is working on a remote island halfway around the world, and talking to her over the webcam isn't the same. The bills are piling up, the dirty dishes are stacking in the sink, and the whole world seems to be hurtling towards entropic collapse. Then he gets a voicemail from his father, who has been dead for seven years.
Thomas's relationship with Stanley Quinn--a world-famous writer and erstwhile absent father--was always shaky, not least because Stanley always seemed to prefer his enigmatic assistant and prot g Andrew Black to his own son. Yet after Black published his first book, Cupid's Engine, which went on to sell over a million copies, he disappeared completely. Now strange things are happening to Thomas, and he can't help but wonder if Black is tugging at the seams of his world behind the scenes.
Absurdly brilliant, wildly entertaining, and utterly mind-bending, Maxwell's Demon triumphantly excavates the ways we construct meaning in a world where chaotic collapse looms closer every day.
March 10, 2021 12:50 PM PST
He walks the stars embedded in the virtual dome of night and, when he tires of a world, throws a small black stone over his shoulder - and entire societies blink out of existence. The work is necessary, or so he insists. But the Planetbreaker's son has his own ideas. Meanwhile, in 'The Strange Case Of,' Mamatas gleefully blinks sentimental, shopworn ideas out of easy acceptance. 'The Twin Dragons of Sentimentality and Didacticism' explores the dangers and pleasures of Animal Rescue. But listen. That 'Ring, Ring, Ring' (and so forth) you hear is the dreaded ouija phone connecting the living with the dead. And it's for you. Of course we include our predictably unpredictable, outrageously rageous Outspoken Interview with Mamatas. Also for you.
March 05, 2021 10:53 AM PST
Out of Nowhere Into Nothing is a collection of sublime meditations on the unbelievable, the coincidental, and the apparitional; the ghosts—literal and figurative—that drive our deepest impulses, disturb our most precious memories, and haunt the passages of our daily lives. Often containing reflections on the art of storytelling, Caryl Pagel’s essays blend memoir, research, and reflection, and are driven by a desire to observe connections between the visual and the invisible. The narrator of Pagel’s essays explores each enigma or encounter (a football coach’s faked death, the faces of women walking, historical accounts of hallucinations, a city’s public celebration gone wrong) as an intellectual detective ascending a labyrinthine tower of clues in pursuit of a solution to an unreachable problem: always curious, and with a sense of profound wonder.
Out of Nowhere Into Nothing is a sprawling, highly associative consideration of the ways in which the observed material world recalls us to larger narrative and aesthetic truths. Interspersed with documentary-style photographs, Pagel’s first collection of prose is a radiant, obsessive investigation into the mysteries at the center of our seemingly mundane lives.
March 05, 2021 09:37 AM PST
An energetic, witty collection of stories where the supernatural meets the anomalies of everyday life--deception, infidelity, lost cats, cute memes, amateur pornography, and more.
A woman answers a Craigslist ad (to write erotic diaries for money). A woman walks onto a tennis court (from her home at the bottom of the ocean). A woman goes to the supermarket and meets a friend's husband (who happens to be an immortal demon). A woman goes for a run (and accidentally time travels).
Cosmogony takes accounts of so-called normal life and mines them for inconsistencies, deceptions, and delights. Incorporating a virtuosic range of styles and genres (Wikipedia entry, phone call, physics equation, encounters with the supernatural), these stories reveal how the narratives we tell ourselves and believe are inevitably constructed, offering a glimpse of the structures that underlie and apparently determine human existence.
February 25, 2021 11:59 AM PST
From the internationally bestselling author of Sarah's Key comes Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness, a riveting and emotionally intense novel, set in a near future Paris, where a woman confronts past betrayal and present mystery
Author Clarissa Katsef is struggling to write her next book. She’s just snagged a brand new artist residency in an ultra-modern apartment, with a view of all of Paris, a dream for any novelist in search of tranquility. But since moving in, she has had the feeling of being watched. Is there reason to be paranoid? Or is her distraction and discomfort the result of her husband’s recent shocking betrayal? Or is that her beloved Paris lies altered outside her windows? A city that will never be quite the same, a city with a scar at its center?
Stuck inside, in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, Clarissa enlists her beloved granddaughter in her investigation of the mysterious, high tech building even as she finds herself drawn back into the orbit of her first husband who is still the one who knows her most intimately, who shares the past grief that she has never quite let go.
Staying true to her favorite themes—the imprint of the place, the weight of secrets—de Rosnay weaves an intrigue of thrilling suspense and emotional power.
February 24, 2021 10:50 AM PST
Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion—on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.
February 24, 2021 01:35 PM PST
Land of Big numbers is ten short stories and as you know I love short stories.
The characters are from China and their stories may not be happy or necessarily fulfilling ones but they vibrate with a meaning that is uplifting in an unusual kind of way. People striving, people, hoping, people on their way to somewhere.
They may not get there but they have journeys that are courageous, hopeful and sometimes even silly.
It is always a surprise when you realize that tales of those from thousands of miles away are tales of us as well. I have found in MY journeys that people are pretty much the same everywhere. It is the governments that suck.
February 05, 2021 09:47 AM PST
Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.
When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.
Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.
January 27, 2021 12:05 PM PST
The only numbers in this book are the page numbers.
Math Without Numbers is a vivid, conversational, and wholly original guide to the three main branches of abstract math—topology, analysis, and algebra—which turn out to be surprisingly easy to grasp. This book upends the conventional approach to math, inviting you to think creatively about shape and dimension, the infinite and infinitesimal, symmetries, proofs, and how these concepts all fit together. What awaits readers is a freewheeling tour of the inimitable joys and unsolved mysteries of this curiously powerful subject.
Like the classic math allegory Flatland, first published over a century ago, or Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach forty years ago, there has never been a math book quite like Math Without Numbers. So many popularizations of math have dwelt on numbers like pi or zero or infinity. This book goes well beyond to questions such as: How many shapes are there? Is anything bigger than infinity? And is math even true? Milo Beckman shows why math is mostly just pattern recognition and how it keeps on surprising us with unexpected, useful connections to the real world.
The ambitions of this book take a special kind of author. An inventive, original thinker pursuing his calling with jubilant passion. A prodigy. Milo Beckman completed the graduate-level course sequence in mathematics at age sixteen, when he was a sophomore at Harvard; while writing this book, he was studying the philosophical foundations of physics at Columbia under Brian Greene, among others.Hello and thanks
January 25, 2021 06:47 PM PST
Harmony, North Carolina is a typical town—full of saints and sinners you can’t tell apart...
Its history echoes with lynchings and shootings; mob violence and vigilante justice. But those are just whispers of a past lost to time. The summer of 2000 was different. Iggy in the Baptist church. Gasoline and a match. Twenty-five people dead. This, Harmony couldn’t forget.
Told in a kaleidoscope of timelines and voices, Michael Bible examines every dimension of a tragic but all-too-American story in The Ancient Hours. The victims, witnesses, perpetrators, and condemned comingle and evolve as the passage of time works its way through their lives. What emerges is a fable of the American South in the highest tradition: soaring, tragic, and eternally striving for redemption.
January 12, 2021 02:27 PM PST
Dip below the ocean’s surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulid worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom―the Metazoa―they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies, but also our minds.
In his acclaimed 2016 book, Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explored the mind of the octopus―the closest thing to an intelligent alien on Earth. In Metazoa, Godfrey-Smith expands his inquiry to animals at large, investigating the evolution of subjective experience with the assistance of far-flung species. As he delves into what it feels like to perceive and interact with the world as other life-forms do, Godfrey-Smith shows that the appearance of the animal body well over half a billion years ago was a profound innovation that set life upon a new path. In accessible, riveting prose, he charts the ways that subsequent evolutionary developments―eyes that track, for example, and bodies that move through and manipulate the environment―shaped the subjective lives of animals. Following the evolutionary paths of a glass sponge, soft coral, banded shrimp, octopus, and fish, then moving onto land and the world of insects, birds, and primates like ourselves, Metazoa gathers their stories together in a way that bridges the gap between mind and matter, addressing one of the most vexing philosophical problems: that of consciousness.
Combining vivid animal encounters with philosophical reflections and the latest news from biology, Metazoa reveals that even in our high-tech, AI-driven times, there is no understanding our minds without understanding nerves, muscles, and active bodies. The story that results is as rich and vibrant as life itself.
January 04, 2021 03:01 PM PST
In the Land of the Cyclops is Karl Ove Knausgaard's first collection of essays to be published in English. In these wide-ranging pieces, Knausgaard reflects openly on Ingmar Bergman's notebooks, Anselm Kiefer, the Northern Lights, Madame Bovary, Rembrandt, and the role of an editor with penetrating intelligence. Accompanied by color reproductions throughout, these essays illuminate Cindy Sherman's shadowlands, the sublime mystery of Sally Mann's vision, and the serious play of Francesca Woodman. These essays capture Knausgaard's remarkable ability to mediate between the personal and the universal, between life and art. Each piece glimmers with Knausgaard's candor and his longing to authentically see, understand, and experience the world.