We’re just going to start off this week’s newsletter with an invocation to come get a copy of Patrick Ness’s And The Ocean Was Our Sky. Not just because it’s a gorgeously designed book (which it is), but because it’s about Moby Dick, from the perspective of the whales. As they dive down to the ocean to chase Ahab’s ship.
Yes, you read that right. DOWN to the ocean. It’s that sort of book. And that’s how we’d like to roll into this fall, thank you very much. Rather, how we’d like to dive down into the fall. Flipping the script. Turning tables. Inverting the paradigms. Making new things.
Welcome to the school year, dear readers. Are your houses quieter this week? More time to read? Good, because we’ve got books for you. Oh, yes, we have all the books.
And to get things started, we have the fourteenth installment in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, Depth of Winter. This one is a change of pace for Johnson in that Longmire isn’t in his familiar Absaroka County, but rather, he’s gallivanting around Mexico, looking for a man who has a score to settle. Oh, yes, this is a grudge match sort of thriller, and while it lacks some of the familiar secondary characters, it makes up for it with a tense game of cat-and-mouse. For those who are lamenting the conclusion of the Netflix series, here’s a fix that might last you through the winter.
And speaking of getting your fix, Stephen King knows two things: how to scare the poop out of us, and how much he hates flying. Somewhere in there, an idea was born, and the result is Flight or Fright, an anthology of stories co-edited by King and Bev Vincent. Flight or Fright has a number of classics from folks like Arthur Conan Doyle, Ambrose Bierce, Richard Matheson, Roald Dahl, Dan Simmons, and Ray Bradbury, as well as new stories from Joe Hill and King, himself. We dare you to read this one on the plane.
Okay, okay. Deep breaths. Take a moment or two. Here’s a paper bag. No, wait. Here’s something better.
We’re kind of taken with The School of Life and their “library” of books on important topics. Like Calm. And there’s one on Small Pleasures. And one called On Being Nice. And, yes, there are sixty zillion books coming out about how we’ve coddled ourselves into oblivion, how the current administration is the dumpster fire’s dumpster fire, and how climate change is going to boil us all like frogs, but we don’t have to read those books all the time. You should alternate with something—dare we suggest?—calming.
On a related note, Maxwell King’s biography of Fred Rogers is out this week. Speaking of being nice and all.
All right. That public service announcement aside, here’s a set for the non-fiction technology reader in your life.
First, we have Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, which is written by Ken Kocienda, who was there for about a decade and a half, doing, uh, creative design stuff. If you’re curious how Apple rewired our brains during the last decade, this book will probably scratch that itch.
And if you’d like a more human angle, we have Small Fry, a memoir written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who was also there during that aforementioned Golden Age, but her perspective was slightly different, being, you know, Jobs’s daughter and all. It’s a frank and, frankly, captivating read about the private side of a man who was so driven to elevate humanity that he might have forgotten part of that himself.
And speaking of introspection, Mary Beard is back this week with How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization. At first glance, we feared Beard (whose SPQR is a fabulous history of Rome) was going to tackle one of those big questions that was going to take a million words or so to get past the preamble, but we are delighted to discover the narrow range of Beard’s focus in this disarming and charming exploration of how art has influenced our view of who and what we are.
And speaking of influencing the who and what, we also have Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Harari, who is no stranger to tackling the big questions, eases off a bit with 21 Lessons, but with no less a critical eye toward what comes next. Over the course of his lessons—which are more topics for discussion than they are dry lectures about how we’ve mucked things up—Harari seeks to broach topics that we should be addressing as we rattle our way into a future that doesn’t have jetpacks or flying cars.
And speaking of Harari, his previous book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is out in paperback this week. Plan your heavy lifting accordingly.
And we're just going to put this one here and let its subtitle do all the work.
And speaking of interesting commentary on our times, here’s Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, a new book about football by Mark Leibovich. In Big Game, Leibovich recounts his four years spent in our very own “cultural hunger games,” and while he’s got a wicked sense of humor about what he’s witnessing (Leibovich is a national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine), he does put forward some wry observations about our obsession with something that hasn’t changed much since the days of gladiatorial combat.
And finally, Beatrice Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White have re-united for another multi-period novel. In The Glass Ocean, they’re taking a ride on the Lusitania during her final Atlantic Crossing, and while we know how that crossing ends (badly), Williams, Willig, and White are determined to tell us a story that has us sniffling and gasping and sighing with their delightful abilities to craft an emotionally satisfying historical story.