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So much of our country’s history is bound up in the sea. Our relationship to the ocean has defined us in many ways over the years. Even now, our waterways play vital roles in the way our nation operates. But all that time at sea comes with risk; it’s risk that we often forget or dismiss, but it never goes away.

And sometimes, it makes its presence known.

On Oct. 1, 2015, the merchant ship El Faro ran into Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas and sank, killing all 33 of the crew members and leading to months of questions about how something so tragic could have happened … and who should be held responsible.

Author Rachel Slade offers a comprehensive and compelling look at the disaster with her new book “Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro” (Ecco, $27.99). Over the course of nearly 400 pages, Slade brings together hours of research and hundreds of interviews – along with transcripts of voice recordings of El Faro’s final hours – to dive deep beneath the surface of this tragedy, introducing us to many of the people involved and offering a meticulous and thoughtful analysis of it all.

Published in Adventure

There are few bonds as close as those that exist between brothers. And some fraternal bonds transcend even the typical, creating a tight-knit relationship built on an intimacy that no outsider could possibly fully understand.

It’s that latter dynamic that impacts every page of “Like Brothers” (Ballantine, $28) by Mark and Jay Duplass. The Duplass Brothers – patron saints of bootstrap DIY indie filmmaking – have been one of the most fertile and interesting creative partnerships of the 21st century. Their considerable talents in numerous aspects of filmmaking – acting, writing, directing, producing, you name it – helped, of course, but it’s the passion, ambition and determination inherent to their partnership that truly led to their success.

Published in Style

America’s master of transgressive literary satire is back at it again.

Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel – his first in four years – is “Adjustment Day” (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95), a bleak look at the potential future implied by the logical (and not-so-logical) endpoints of our society’s current extremities. Filled with off-puttingly fascinating imagery, Palahniuk combines a belief in the power of the individual man with a nihilistic lack of faith in the judgment of mankind. It’s an anti-Randian treatise born of an extrapolation of Randian viewpoints, a libertarian fever dream of a dystopia populated by easily led men fueled by hatred and ignorance.

“Adjustment Day” also features Palahniuk’s standard well-honed prose and pitch-black humor, along with at least a few moments that’ll turn your stomach even as they force you to consider the heretofore unthinkable.

Published in Buzz

What is it that truly defines athletic genius?

While there’s no doubt that physique and physicality play massive roles in what makes a successful athlete, there’s more to it than that. True sporting greatness springs from not just one’s body, but also that body’s connection with the brain.

In his new book “The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience is Redefining Athletic Genius” (Dutton, $28), Zach Schonbrun attempts to explore that connection; it’s a deep dive into the neuroscience behind movement that attempts to develop an understanding of the body-brain relationship and determining how the relationship impacts those performing at an elite athletic level.

Published in Sports

There are few things that I more eagerly anticipate as a reader than the imminent arrival of the latest installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books. These reimaginings of Shakespeare’s works by contemporary novelists have been among the most consistently innovative and engaging books of the past decade. My loves for both the Bard and for new fiction are sated simultaneously, thanks to Hogarth’s grand plan.

The latest offering – the seventh in the series – is “Macbeth” (Hogarth Shakespeare, $27), a take on the tragedy by Norwegian noir superstar Jo Nesbo and one more in a lengthy line of successes from the series.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:50

Hard-boiled hilarity – ‘Noir’

If you were to put together a short list of the consistently funniest authors currently working, Christopher Moore would be on it. Probably near the top. His books are smart and absurd, packed with dynamic characters and engaging storytelling. He has tackled the Bible and Shakespeare. He’s taken on the worlds of both art and science. Vampires and demons and Death, oh my.

With his latest book “Noir” (William Morrow, $27.99), Moore ventures into some new territory. Well, new in a chronological sense anyway. It’s the story of a guy tending bar in San Francisco during the post-WWII years. He’s just trying to get by when he’s swept up into a weird, wild, wide-ranging plot involving secret societies and flying saucers and mysterious government operatives and poisonous snakes and all sorts of strangeness. Oh, and there’s a dame.

There’s always a dame.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:40

Into the woods – ‘The Overstory’

Everyone has heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees,” but few have stopped and unpacked how bleak the repercussions of that outlook might be.

We view each tree on an individual level, a resource provided by the Earth for us to consume. To our mind, no single tree makes a difference – an attitude that results in rampant overharvesting that ultimately destroys the whole. And to many minds, the forest is far more than sum of its parts.

We can’t see the forest for the trees.

That truth is a foundational underpinning of “The Overstory” (W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95), the newest novel by National Book Award-winning writer Richard Powers. A group of seemingly disparate people are each drawn in their way to nature – to trees. Their paths are very different ones, though they find ways to connect – some thoroughly, others glancingly or tangentially. They are the trees that make up this forest.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:25

To the moon and back - ‘Rocket Men’

It’s remarkable to think that 50 years ago, we sent men to the moon with slide rules and punch-card computers. You’ve probably got something in your pocket right now exponentially more powerful than the combined computing power of NASA in the late 1960s.

But send them we did.

While history most clearly remembers Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon back in July of 1969, he and his crew were just the latest in a long line of astronauts who took many first steps of their own – steps that led to the planting of a flag somewhere not of the Earth.

Robert Kurson’s “Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon” (Random House, $28) tells the story of one such step – the mission undertaken by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders to become the first men ever to travel to the moon. From meticulous research and hours of interviews springs a lively narrative, one that brings the bravery and brainpower of all involved to vivid life.

Published in Tekk

While there can be conflicts between science and religion, there are commonalities as well. Both seek to find ways to make sense of the universe and our place within it, albeit in largely disparate fashion.

Author and physicist Alan Lightman seeks to spend some time searching for potential intersectionality between the two with his latest book, titled “Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine” (Pantheon, $24.95). Best known for the novel “Einstein’s Dreams,” Lightman has built a literary reputation – in both the fictional realm and the non – on finding ways to make lofty ideas relatable and engaging without being simplistic or condescending. This new book continues that trend as Lightman explores his internal contradictions with regards to the notions of logic and faith.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 12:37

‘How to American’ humorous and heartfelt

The United States is a nation of immigrants. And every single one of those immigrants has a different and unique American experience.

Comedian Jimmy O. Yang is probably best known for his role as Jian Yang on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” He’s also an immigrant; he came to this country as a teenager, moving from Hong Kong to Los Angeles with his family at the age of 13. As you can imagine, it was culture shock of a high order.

Yang’s new book “How to American: An Immigrant’s Guide to Disappointing Your Parents” (Da Capo, $27) relates his experience and how he assimilated – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much – into this strange new home.

Published in Buzz
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