Admin

Full disclosure: I love puzzles.

Specifically, I love crossword puzzles. As a bit of a word nerd, I love the process of working my way through a crossword, bringing together bits of trivia and deft wordplay to steadily fill in that black and white grid. I am a cruciverbalist at heart.

But puzzling is far more than just crossword puzzles. The world is filled with different sorts of puzzles – riddles and ciphers, cryptics and jigsaws and Rubik’s Cubes, chess problems and Sudoku grids – all with enthusiastic fans devoting their free time to discerning solutions.

A.J Jacobs loves puzzles too. So much so, in fact that he has written a whole book about them and the people who love them.

“The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life” (Crown, $28) is a fascinating journey through the puzzling world, a look at the many different varieties of puzzle and the people whose lives are shaped by them. All of it viewed through the eyes of one very dedicated – and very talented – chronicler.

Jacobs connects with iconic figures from the puzzling realm. He travels the globe, meeting legendary puzzlemakers and competing against some of the most gifted solvers in the world. And he digs into what it means to solve a puzzle, why we as humans are so fascinated with pushing ourselves toward difficult solutions, deriving pleasure from the intellectual pain.

Published in Style

Few American athletic endeavors are as aware of their own history as baseball. No professional sport is as devoted to the past as baseball, a pastime that spans a century-and-a-half at this point; this is a game that draws direct connections between the players of today and the stars of yesteryear.

Of course, this means that there is a wealth of writing about the game past. Biographies and memoirs, books laden with legends and statistics. As a lover of the game, I dig them all, but I’ve always had a particular affinity for oral histories, the books where the players of bygone times offer up the stories from their mind’s eye. Memories of how the game once was from the men who once played it.

Peter Golenbock’s new book “Whispers of the Gods: Tales from Baseball’s Golden Age, Told by the Men Who Played It” (Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95) compiles a wide assortment of these memories as dictated by the men who were there. Players remembering their time on the field during the tumultuous and triumphant stretch from the 1940s to the ‘60s – acknowledged by many to be the titular Golden Age of the sport.

Published in Sports

I’m a sucker for a sweet treat. Always have been. And if it’s something that was created with both skill and love? So much the better.

Perhaps no one in the larger cultural sphere is as currently celebrated for that brand of combined creative prowess than Christina Tosi, perhaps the most famous American pastry chef out there. She’s a two-time James Beard Award winner, the founder and owner of the legendary Milk Bar and author of numerous cookbooks. She also hosts the Netflix series “Bake Squad” and has appeared on numerous other television programs as a guest, judge and/or host.

And now, she’s written a memoir of sorts.

Tosi’s new book is “Dessert Can Save the World: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes for a Stubbornly Joyful Existence” (Harmony, $26). In it, she offers up her own story, one that saw plenty of pitfalls and setbacks as she made her way to the top of the baking world. And yet, her relentless optimism shines through on every page, a joie de vivre in which she fervently expresses her belief that, yes, dessert can indeed change the world.

Interspersed throughout her charming and compelling life’s journey are recipes drawn from particularly salient moments in that journey. Sure, this is a memoir, an account of her personal story, but here’s the thing – that story would not be complete without sharing at least a few of the delectable desserts she made along the way.

Published in Style

He’s the winningest Division I men’s basketball coach in NCAA history. He’s won multiple national titles and been to even more Final Fours. He’s been in charge of USA Basketball and led the national team to gold medals more than once. He is an iconic figure, one of the titans of the game’s last half-century.

You know who he is … even if you might not know how to spell his name.

Ian O’Connor’s “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski” (Mariner Books, $28) purports to be the definitive biography of the man who is arguably the definitive figure in college basketball in the past 50 years. From his early days growing up in Chicago to his time as West Point – first as a player, then as a coach – to his ascension to the top job at Duke, where he turned a decent ACC team into one of the greatest college basketball programs ever.

O’Connor dives deep, digging through extant sources as well as conducting his own interviews with scores upon scores of people with close connections to Coach K. The result is a fascinating portrait of sporting greatness, a long look at a man who ascended to the heights of his profession. A man who, for all his flaws, would prove to be a beloved figure in the history of his sport.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 08 February 2022 15:33

I love ‘The Nineties’

Chuck Klosterman is arguably the preeminent writer of pop culture commentary of the past 20 years. I say “arguably” only for the sake of others – to my mind, it’s him and then everyone else. No one else has come close to putting together his combination of wry observation, pop expertise, humor and sheer flat-out writing ability.

So to say that I was enthusiastic to get my hands on a book where Klosterman deconstructs the 1990s – the decade where I too came of age with regard to cultural understanding – would be an undersell. My expectations were sky high – so high that I wondered if I had put the bar out of reach.

My concerns were utterly unfounded.

In “The Nineties” (Penguin Press, $28), Klosterman turns loose his considerable powers on a singular decade, one that marked a significant turning point in the direction our culture has taken. It is a thoughtful and engaging trip down the Gen-X rabbit hole, exploring a variety of impactful moments and events of that timeframe both in terms of what happened and – most importantly – the differences between that reality and our memories of it.

Despite what you may think, this is not a nostalgic book. In so many ways, the fog of nostalgia clouds our perspective on the past. Klosterman not only steers clear of that impulse, he pushes in a direction that is more straightforwardly analytical. This is a book that explores what happened and the subsequent consequences, and along the way, he breaks down the difference between the truth of the moment and the fictionalized stories we tell ourselves.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 08 February 2022 15:28

The madness in ‘The Method’

Everyone has a sense of what a good performance looks like. Sure, there’s some room for individual interpretation there, but whether we’re watching a movie or a play or a TV show, we have a certain baseline understanding of what “good” is.

But how does the performer get there?

Isaac Butler’s new book “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act” (Bloomsbury, $30) is the story of one celebrated, well … method … of doing just that. From its origins in the Russian theatre scene in the early part of the 1900s to its gradual-then-rapid ascent to the apex of American acting, the Method spent decades as one of the preeminent schools of thought regarding performance.

This book treats the Method almost biographically, walking the reader through its embryonic stages with Stanislavski and the Moscow Art Theatre through the acolytes crossing the Atlantic and delivering it to America to the splintering and development of assorted variations on the theme, all of them falling under the umbrella of “the Method.” It is, for intents and purposes, a biography of the Method. Not of those who created it or those who learned it, but of the Method itself.

Some of the greatest actors in American history – stage and screen alike – were students of the Method, though not all learned precisely the same method from the prominent and iconoclastic instructors that brought it to life in the middle of the century. Still, there’s no disputing the impact that the philosophy (however you choose to define it) had – and continues to have – on the acting world.

Published in Style

What does it mean to be a good person?

That’s a question that people have been asking themselves since we’ve been capable of asking ourselves questions. There’s a fluidity that comes with moral judgments, a shift of perspective from individual to individual. “Good” means different things to different people, and yet … is it possible that there’s a right answer? Some of our most brilliant thinkers have devoted years of their lives in an effort to figure it out.

And now we can add Michael Schur to the list.

Schur – a television writer/producer responsible for some of the most beloved sitcoms of the past 20 years – has written his first book, titled “How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question” (Simon & Schuster, $28.99). In it, he delves into the sometimes-thorny realm of moral philosophy – a subject that he explored to great effect in his excellent show “The Good Place” – and finds ways to connect the abstraction of thought with the concrete reality of existing in the world.

The result is a wryly funny book that is also packed with wisdom, a primer of sorts with regard to the semantics of being a good person. Each chapter is headed by a question that addresses moral behavior; these questions are explored and often (but not always) fully answered thanks to Schur’s wit and his willingness to mix it up with some admittedly challenging thinkers, all with the help of some dense philosophical tomes and a few modern-day experts to help guide him along the way.

Published in Style

Sports biographies tend to be a mixed bag. Sometimes, you get flowery hagiographies, other times, straight-up hit pieces. It all comes down to a confluence of circumstances – the author, the subject and the audience – and how they come together.

Take a figure like Kobe Bryant. Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant’s career featured plenty of controversies – his Colorado rape trial foremost among them – and he was in many ways a love him or loathe him figure, both in the context of his sport and in the greater celebrity sphere. Add to that his tragic and too-soon passing in a helicopter crash in early 2020 and his legacy only grows more complicated.

How do you tell this story?

With “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), longtime Philadelphia basketball writer Mike Sielski takes an altogether different tactic. This isn’t the story of Kobe’s life in the league, the tale of his successes and failures. No, this is an origin story. “The Rise” isn’t about Kobe the NBA baller, but rather, it’s about the journey that got him there.

Published in Sports

One of the things that the pandemic has taken from us is our ability to travel freely. It has kept us close to home in so many ways, leaving us to remember wistfully past journeys to other places.

But what if you could see the world … without leaving the comfort of your favorite reading nook?

That’s what David Damrosch offers with “Around the World in 80 Books” (Penguin Press, $30). The decorated comparative literature professor has assembled a selection of works that originated all over the globe. Some of these books are ancient classics, others are more contemporary offerings, but through each one, Damrosch takes the reader a new more steps on this Phileas Fogg-inspired journey around the world.

It’s a thoughtful work of nonfiction, one that is unafraid of its own intelligence while also never deigning to condescend to its reader. That’s not an easy balance to strike, especially when one considers the massive range of the canon Damrosch has assembled.

It’s worth noting too that you don’t actually have to have read all the books discussed within. In truth, unless you yourself are a scholar of comparative literature, the odds are pretty good that you have not – as I said, it is a vast array of wildly disparate work. But thanks to Damrosch’s insightful breakdowns, the context is clear even if you yourself have never consumed the actual text.

Published in Buzz
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:38

Turn the page: 2021's Recommended Reads

Reviewing books is one of the best parts of my job. As part of that job, I’ve read dozens of books over the course of the past year. I freely admit that I tend to seek out works that I know will resonate for me – and hence usually enjoy the books I review – but even with that degree of curation, there’s no denying that there are always some that particularly stand out.

This is not your traditional “best of” list – not my style. Instead, consider this a collection of recommendations. These are suggestions; I enjoyed them, so I thought that you might as well. I’ve also included selections from my writings about these books (please note that the full reviews are available on our website). Bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list – there are literally hundreds more great books that came out this year, exceptional works that I simply never got a chance to read.

I’m not arrogant enough to call these the best books of the year – it’s all subjective and this is just one man’s opinion. What I can say is that every one of these works captured my imagination and my attention … and perhaps one or more of them will do the same for you.

And now, without further ado, here are my recommended reads from 2021, divided into fiction and nonfiction and listed in alphabetical order.

Published in Cover Story
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 11

Advertisements

The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine