Good Strong Coffee

“The more you use, the more you get back.”

Sunday 1.1.2017 New York Times Digest


1. What Do We Know?

“Wisdom sometimes depends on seeing how much knowledge doesn’t know and how much every day is shaped by unexpectedness.”

2. Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It

“Unswerving adherence to free, private markets will not solve the problems faced by our education system.”

3. Feminism Lost. Now What?

“In the end, it’s hard to argue that this election over all was a vote for the subordination of women. But it’s a warning that feminism, as it has been defined, did not inspire enough people in enough places around the country.”

4. Try a New Year’s Revolution

“Diets can monopolize your energy, take up your time and do a number on your self-esteem. They turn your attention inward, on changing your body, not the world. And they have a well-documented propensity to fail, no matter the level of dedication or resolve of the dieter.”

5. Hipsters Broke My Gaydar

“In cities, trendy young people — queer and straight, male, female and non-binary — are blending together, look-wise. That’s because mainstream style is now hipster style. But here’s the thing: Hipster style is just queer style, particularly queer women’s style.”

6. If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama

“If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.”

7. A Month Without Sugar

“Our national sugar habit is the driving force behind the diabetes and obesity epidemics and may be a contributing factor to cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

8. What Nutmeg Can Tell Us About Nafta

“Was there ever an unglobalized world?”

9. How to Become a ‘Superager’

“Work hard at something.”

10. Adam Driver Takes the Wheel

“I’m basking in nothing.”

11. Bernard-Henri Lévy: By the Book

“It’s strange, these great writers whose reputation looms so large that it eclipses their works and gives you the feeling of having read them in the distant past. When chance puts one of those works in your hands, you’re dazzled, as if you were reading the first words of a very young and very talented writer.”

12. A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism

“Once in office American presidents are often ‘susceptible to a utopian temptation.’ They adopt a language that he describes as ‘American civil religion,’ wrapping adventurism in a gauzy, semireligious haze. Democracy becomes an export.”

13. Thinking in the Deep: Inside the Mind of an Octopus

“This is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien.”

14. Gathering Storm: A History of the Complicated U.S.-China Relationship Since 1776

“Two and a half centuries of entanglement between America and China are about to reach their denouement.”

15. Multimediated Lives: An Erudite Tour of Digital Culture

“The book’s principal weakness may be its overarching conceit that we have all somehow become four-dimensional human beings. By this Scott seems to be referring to the many ways in which always-on connectivity, mobile technologies and various databases containing scattered bits of personal information have scrambled our relationship with the world.”

16. For Better or Worse: New Books Forecast the Next Technologies

“Futurism in the time of Donald Trump feels fraught. After all, the techno-optimists completely missed the signs of an impending revolution in their backyards: the spread of fake news enabled by social networks; the megaphonic power of Trump’s Twitter feed; the rise of the so-called alt-right, a racist, neo-fascist clique that festered on 4chan and Reddit before emerging as a viable political movement. As a result, we fawned over self-driving cars and next-generation artificial intelligence while questions about the politics of all this new technology — the emotional backlash from manufacturing workers losing their jobs to automation, the interference of foreign hackers in American elections, the ability of partisan opportunists to flood Facebook with propaganda — went mostly unanswered.”

17. Finding Inspiration for Art in the Betrayal of Privacy

“Many artists — all of us, really — were so captivated by the initial promise of the internet, they were blinded to its potential problems.”

18. Letter of Recommendation: Not Breathing

“One of free diving’s central concerns, for example, is keeping your heart rate as low as possible and relaxing deeply, all the better to embrace the essential emptiness inside.”

19. How Jukin Media Built a Viral-Video Empire

“If you’ve seen a funny clip on a late-night show, or ‘Good Morning America,’ or the 11-o’-clock news, there are pretty good odds Jukin dug it up.”

20. The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing

“U.S.C. is huge, one of the five largest private schools in the country, and some of its most popular concentrations include finance, accounting, management and marketing — which is to say, the undergraduates, when faced with questions about what kind of world they want to build and what their role could be, might not think of their professors, if they even knew them, as having much guidance to offer. So Campolo suspected that some students would want to talk to him. He emailed his list, offering office hours at a picnic table on campus. Over the next week, about 15 students sought him out.”

Sunday 12.25.2016 New York Times Digest


1. The Year in Pictures 2016

“It was a year to be confounded, shocked, humbled.”

2. When Art Conservation Means Repairing TVs, Not Canvases

“Very few people know how to work with those materials now.”

3. Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court

“His job gives him a platform. You will excuse him if he has a few things to say.”

4. Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful

“On the surface, Hollywood is a land of loose morals, where materialism rules, sex and drugs are celebrated on screen (and off), and power players can have a distant relationship with the truth. But movie studios and their partners have quietly — very quietly, sometimes to the degree of a black ops endeavor — been building deep connections to Christian filmgoers who dwell elsewhere on the spectrum of politics and social values. In doing so, they have tapped churches, military groups, right-leaning bloggers and, particularly, a fraternity of marketing specialists who cut their teeth on overtly religious movies but now put their influence behind mainstream works like Frozen, The Conjuring, Sully and Hidden Figures.”

5. Growth, Not Forced Equality, Saves the Poor

“Enforcing the Voting Rights Act matters. Restraining police violence matters. Equalizing possession of Rolexes does not.”

6. With Streaming, Musicians and Fans Find Room to Experiment and Explore

“Something unexpected happened near the top of the album charts this year: Pop stars were acting like artists. That is to say, they weren’t desperately chasing the broadest possible audience with the most surefire formulas; they weren’t calculating what would fit radio formats best. Instead, some of them grew eccentric and adventurous, impulsive and experimental, instinctive and personal — at times, bordering on avant-garde. And they found that listeners were willing to pay attention.”

7. Apple Music: Platform? Promoter? Both.

“Since its debut in the summer of 2015, however, Apple Music has separated itself from Spotify, the industry’s streaming leader, by trying to become a one-stop shop for major artists — part platform and part promoter.”

8. Make Room for the Hygge Hordes

“Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah, like a football cheer in a Scandinavian accent) is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people. But no strangers, as the Danes, apparently, are rather shy.”

9. Smaller Bathrooms on Planes Pose Challenges for Passengers

“The continuing installation of smaller and reconfigured bathrooms, which began in late 2013, has led to complaints about safety issues, say travelers and flight crew, who are concerned about restricted access for the physically disabled, as well as ease of use for other passengers.”

10. Charles Johnson: By the Book

“I’ve long argued that literature has an epistemological mission, can be the site for philosophical agency, and that the aim of great literature is the liberation of our perception.”

11. Lessons on How to Live, in 26 Books

“He argues that books save lives — literally. Theodore Roosevelt was once protected from an assassin’s bullet by a thick manuscript in his overcoat pocket. But also less literally: Reading Lolita in Tehran, one of Schwalbe’s picks, is about how books gave a group of women a sliver of light in a dark, oppressive society.”

12. The Year in Reading

“In this season of giving, we asked some notably avid readers — who also happen to be poets, musicians, diplomats, filmmakers, novelists, actors and artists — to share the books that accompanied them through 2016.”

13. What’s the Best Book, New or Old, You Read This Year?

“In The Fall Of Language in the Age of English, Minae Mizumura shows, better than anyone ever has, how English is wrecking other languages — reducing even great literary languages, including Japanese and French, to local dialects — and makes a vigorous case for the superiority of the written over the spoken word.”

14. Colson Whitehead on David Bowie

“Pick the right tool for the job, and then start over again next time. What can glam or folk accomplish here but not there, funk pull off this year, and a synthesizer the next? Why be the same artist album to album, book to book, movie to movie — if you did it once, why would you want to do it again?”

15. Quiet Places

“After the deaths of these 10 notable people, The New York Times photographed their private spaces — as they left them.”

16. John Jeremiah Sullivan on Prince

“There’s a temptation to try a thing about ‘the meaning of Prince,’ i.e., one of those half-true, crypto-competitive think pieces we tend to trot out (we including I) at times like this. When an artist you love disappears, everyone else’s ideas about that person can seem grotesque and stupid, and even if right, right for the wrong reasons.”

17. Greg Howard on Muhammad Ali

The answer, of course, is a guy who thinks himself a hero. The one constant in Ali’s life — from the 12-year-old boxer passing out fliers for his own fights to the man who withdrew from public life as Parkinson’s took hold — was his unyielding, nigh-oblivious self-belief.

18. Andy Warhol on Bill Cunningham

“Ran into Bill Cunningham on his bike, I just wish I could do what he does, just go everywhere and take pictures all day.”

Last Christmas

Sunday 12.18.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

“The institutional safeguards protecting our democracy may be less effective than we think. A well-designed constitution is not enough to ensure a stable democracy — a lesson many Latin American independence leaders learned when they borrowed the American constitutional model in the early 19th century, only to see their countries plunge into chaos.”

2. In Turkey’s Home of St. Nick, Far From North Pole, All Is Not Jolly

“The man who would capture the imaginations of children the world over got his start as a fourth-century bishop in what is now Turkey, centuries before the Ottomans invaded these lands and established a towering Islamic empire. His name was St. Nicholas, and his church is now a museum. Born a rich man’s son, he took his inheritance and gave to the poor, in anonymous gifts that some here say were dropped down the chimneys of homes.”

3. Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless.

“Early next year, the government plans to randomly select roughly 2,000 unemployed people — from white-collar coders to blue-collar construction workers. It will give them benefits automatically, absent bureaucratic hassle and minus penalties for amassing extra income.”

4. Whistle-Blowers Spur Companies to Change Their Ways

“Financial shenanigans at companies decrease markedly in the years after truth tellers come forward with information about wrongdoing inside their operations.”

5. Want to Get Rid of Obamacare? Be Careful What You Wish For

“The amount of effort people will expend to resist being stripped of something they already possess is significantly larger than the effort they will devote to acquiring something they don’t already have.”

6. The Tent Cities of San Francisco

“There are now tents on sidewalks above which people pay $4,500 a month for one-bedroom apartments.”

7. White Resentment on the Night Shift at Walmart

“Working-class whites aren’t losing out because other groups are taking limited resources. They, along with the minority workers who the Economic Policy Institute says constitute about 40 percent of the working class, are facing uncertainty because of structural economic change.”

8. Are Americans Experiencing Collective Trauma?

“The concept of collective trauma was rooted in the thought of Émile Durkheim, a turn-of-the-20th-century French sociologist and an architect of the field. Durkheim argued that norms, values and rituals were the linchpins of social order; they provided the basis for solidarity and social cohesion. Collective trauma occurs when an unexpected event severs the ties that bind community members to one another.”

9. My Family Was Interned. Now They’re With Trump.

“A rapid assimilation into American culture defined how my family responded to their years in confinement. While they were Americans on paper even before the war, afterward, they were willing to make any sacrifice to prove it. For my relatives who were interned, that assimilation, and love for this country, found a new expression in supporting Mr. Trump.”

10. One Way Not to Be Like Trump

“Moderation … is out of step with the times, which are characterized by populist anger and widespread anxiety, by cross-partisan animosity and dogmatic certainty. Those with whom we have political disagreements are not only wrong; they are often judged to be evil and irredeemable.”

11. 9 Ways to Improve Your Love Life

“If a man uses a sandwich for his online dating headshot, steer clear.”

12. The Message of Thomas Friedman’s New Book: It’s Going to Be O.K.

“First, Friedman wants to explain why the world is the way it is — why so many things seem to be spinning out of control, especially for the Minnesota white middle class he grew up in. And then he wants to reassure us that it is basically going to be O.K. In general the explanation is more convincing than the reassurance. But as a guide for perplexed Westerners, this book is very hard to beat.”

13. From Michael Lewis, the Story of Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About the Way We Think

“The human species is fantastically complex and often doesn’t know what it is doing.”

14. Steven Johnson: By the Book

“My books have so many different disciplines and historical periods woven through them that by definition I have to read a million different books and articles when I am in research mode, or actively writing. The main thing I try to avoid reading is my own prose. When you’re in the middle of writing a book, it’s so easy to procrastinate by going back and rereading the chapter you’re working on before you actually start typing out new words. And if you do that, by the time you’re actually done with the first draft, you’ve read many passages dozens of times, which means you’re completely sick of them and can’t tell what’s working and what’s not working, because it all just seems flat and obvious by that point, like a pop song you’ve played too many times. So I just try to power through, and then read it all at the end with fresh eyes.”

15. Working Less, Resting More

“His central thesis is that rest not only makes us more productive and more creative, but also makes our lives ‘richer and more fulfilling.’ But not all rest is created equal — it’s not just about not-working. The most productive kind of rest, according to Pang, is also active and deliberate.”

16. The Conquerers: A New 19th-Century History Focuses on American Imperialism

“Hahn argues that America developed into a nation precisely because of its obsession with owning space; that is, it sought to become a continental empire, which meant acquiring land and resources, almost at any cost, and dominating sovereign peoples both at home and abroad.”

17. Who’s Responsible When Extremists Get a Platform?

“Somewhere between media and social media — between familiar ideas about politics and the news and the ones that underpin the world we live in today — platforms changed from responsibilities into abdications of responsibility. Claiming to provide a platform, in Silicon Valley, doesn’t demand defense. It is the defense. Platforms don’t cause problems; people do.”

18. What the West Can Learn From Japan About the Cultural Value of Work

“Work is good, but meaningful work is better. I wonder whether our shiny new Western world of work — post-manufacturing, un-unionized, gig-based, insecure — offers as much sense of meaning as work once did, or as it still seems to in Japan.”

19. How to Arm Wrestle

“You need a thick wrist and a big hand and a long forearm.”

20. Is It Possible to Make a Less Allergenic Peanut?

“Rather than changing people, they say, we should change the peanut.”

21. The Great A.I. Awakening

“What is at stake is not just one more piecemeal innovation but control over what very well could represent an entirely new computational platform: pervasive, ambient artificial intelligence.”

Sunday 12.11.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Tourists Gone Wild

“Freedom from constraint is at the core of travel’s appeal; no wonder it’s always getting out of hand.”

2. An Alt-Right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas

“Fewer pointed hoods, more khaki pants.”

3. Libraries Become Unexpected Sites of Hate Crimes

“There has been a spate of hate crimes targeting libraries, their books or patrons, the authorities say — offenses they had rarely seen before.”

4. ‘I’m Prejudiced,’ He Said. Then We Kept Talking.

“Garry makes me believe that even though a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan won the majority of white support, people can change. He told me he now notices his own stereotypes and is eager to replace them with something more generous and true about his fellow Americans.”

5. The Roots of Implicit Bias

“Implicit bias is grounded in a basic human tendency to divide the social world into groups. In other words, what may appear as an example of tacit racism may actually be a manifestation of a broader propensity to think in terms of ‘us versus them’ — a prejudice that can apply, say, to fans of a different sports team. This doesn’t make the effects of implicit bias any less worrisome, but it does mean people should be less defensive about it.”

6. In Chicago, Bodies Pile Up at Intersection of ‘Depression and Rage’

“In places like this, cycles reinforce themselves: Poverty and joblessness breed an underground economy that leads to jail and makes it harder to get jobs. Struggling, emptying schools result in the closings of the very institutions that hold communities together. Segregation throws up obstacles to economic investment. And people and programs with good intentions come and go, thwarting hopes, reinforcing frustrations while never quite addressing the underlying problems, anyway. Into it all comes a lethal mix of readily available guns, a growing number of splintering gangs and groups, and a sense among some here that the punishment for carrying a weapon on these streets will never be larger than the risk of not carrying one.”

7. The American Dream, Quantified at Last

“For babies born in 1980 — today’s 36-year-olds — the index of the American dream has fallen to 50 percent: Only half of them make as much money as their parents did.”

8. It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way.

“Back in January, Mr. Trump told Field & Stream magazine that he opposed divesting such holdings because ‘I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do.’ That particular resolve, if it holds firm, deserves our approval and support. Public lands under federal management, including not just national monuments but also national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges and other entities, deliver enormous value, of several sorts, to the communal and individual lives of Americans.”

9. My Headphones, My Self

“The latest round of headphones popularity may be an expression of our disaffected times, coming during a season when people holding different views on matters political and cultural struggle to open their mouths without triggering an argument.”

10. The ‘H-Bomb’ Fizzles: The Harvard Brand Takes a Hit

“The rose-garden perfume of privilege — as charged a word as can be found on campuses these days — emanating from anyone with a Harvard diploma receives more censure now than ever, whether that privilege came in the form of significant parental help in gaining admission or was acquired at the school and now opens endless doors.”

11. Dating With a Disability

“Dating is an emotionally risky proposition for everyone, but it is particularly challenging for people with disabilities. People who rely on wheelchairs or who have another form of physical impairment often begin to date much later in life, and the rate of marriage is lower.”

12. Soak, Steam, Spritz: It’s All Self-Care

“What is the difference between self-care and simply pampering?”

13. Neither War Nor Peace: A New Look at the Aftermath of World War I

“Even stable societies buckled.”

14. In Defense of the Analog

“He works through his topics chapter by chapter — ‘The Revenge of Paper,’ ‘The Revenge of Film,’ ‘The Revenge of Retail’ — with scene-setting and friendly interviews with various innovators. One of his more substantial chapters looks at the cyber-utopian impulse that’s led public school districts to purchase laptops and related technology; these kids, he argues, mostly just need good teaching. And his ardor for analog models does not turn entirely on nostalgia: He argues that the older system created more jobs, and filled human needs — for a sensory, tactile experience, for example — that the new ones don’t.”

15. Looking to the Future of Our Humans-First World

“A dramatic high point comes when Biello recounts how a man living in the United States (him) fares as an Anthropocenic Homo sapiens, which is either really impressive or really distressing, depending on your scruples: ‘The average American uses 90 kilograms of stuff each day, day in and day out. We consume 25 percent of the world’s energy despite being 5 percent of the world’s population. We lust for the latest gadget, which hides away minerals wrested from beneath the Congo, among other places, deep in its innards.’”

16. Life in Obamacare’s Dead Zone

“The residents with the lowest incomes in those 19 states were now caught between two nonoptions: They made too much to qualify for Medicaid, or didn’t qualify at all, but they also made too little for publicly subsidized insurance on the exchanges, their income not high enough to trigger the refundable tax credits and cost-sharing that could make the possibility remotely affordable to someone making just a few dollars above the federal poverty level.”

Sunday 12.4.2016 New York Times Digest


1. The End of the Anglo-American Order

“Brexit Britain and Trump’s America are linked in their desire to pull down the pillars of Pax Americana and European unification.”

2. Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin

“Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites.”

3. Modern World Tugs at an Indonesian Tribe Clinging to Its Ancient Ways

“The Mentawai tribe, which today numbers around 60,000, is a rare Indonesian culture that was not influenced by Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim currents over the last two millenniums. Instead, their traditions and beliefs strongly resemble those of the original Austronesian settlers who came to this vast archipelago from Taiwan around 4,000 years ago. If the tribe’s culture disappears, one of the last links to Indonesia’s early human inhabitants will go with it.”

4. The Array of Conflicts of Interest Facing the Trump Presidency

“Donald J. Trump’s global business empire will create an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest for a United States president, experts in legal ethics say.”

5. At Liberty University, All Sins Are Forgiven on the Altar of Football

“Athletic leaders (that would be McCaw) and football coaches learned of accusations of gang and date rape and decided not to report that violence; they met with the alleged victims, and their parents, and still did nothing.”

6. Inner Peace in the Palm of Your Hand, for a Price

“What Headspace is selling is deceptively simple. By instructing people to focus on their breathing and let go of thoughts and emotions, Mr. Puddicombe gently coaxes users back to fuller engagement with the present moment. In modern parlance, it is mindfulness — a quick, secularized adaptation of Buddhist teachings that have been distilled for a modern, Western audience. A 10-day course on the app is free. Annual subscriptions cost about $100.”

7. What the Alt-Right Really Means

“But most of all there is sex. The alt-right has a lot of young men in it, young men whose ideology can be assumed to confront them with obstacles to meeting people and dating. Sex-cynicism and race-pessimism, of course, often travel in tandem.”

8. Mother Nature Is Brought to You By…

“The spread of advertising to natural settings is just a taste of what’s coming. Over the next decade, prepare for a new wave of efforts to reach some of the last remaining bastions of peace, quiet and individual focus — like schools, libraries, churches and even our homes.”

9. Can I Go to Great Books Camp?

“A small but growing number of young conservatives see themselves not only as engaged citizens, but as guardians of an ancient intellectual tradition.”

10. States’ Rights for the Left

“Since the 1930s, progressives have unapologetically embraced Hamiltonian big government. But in rediscovering the virtues of Jeffersonian small government, Democrats and liberals are returning to a tradition of ‘progressive federalism’ that they favored before the New Deal and the Great Society.”

11. Why Blue States Are the Real ‘Tea Party’

“The urban states are subsidizing the rural states, and yet somehow in return, the rural states get more power at the voting booth.”

12. Cashing In on Climate Change

“For many, the perceived gap between socially responsible investing and good business has narrowed almost to the point of convergence.”

13. I Am a Dangerous Professor

“The list is not simply designed to get others to spy on us, to out us, but to install forms of psychological self-policing to eliminate thoughts, pedagogical approaches and theoretical orientations that it defines as subversive.”

14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Talks Beauty, Femininity and Feminism

“But I do remember that when I moved to the U.S. — and I think maybe there are different standards for people who are supposed to be particularly intellectual or particularly creative — I very quickly realized that if you want to seem as a serious writer, you can’t possibly look like a person who looks in the mirror.”

15. David Foster Wallace’s Peaceful Prairie

“The meditative spaces and down-to-earth people of the Midwest were central to Wallace’s writing, as he pushed back the ironic for the heartfelt. And he didn’t produce brilliant work in spite of the more conventional folks surrounding him in Illinois; as his essays and books like The Pale King reveal, he was inspired by the Midwest’s sincerity to go beyond America’s cultural snark for truth about its contemporary life, which he found rushed, overstimulated and lonely. At home in Illinois, this tormented genius, wild maximalist and yet somehow earnest moralist of a writer said he felt ‘unalone and unstressed.’”

16. What Explains Our Obsession With Ancient Egypt?

“Largely self-nourishing, Egyptomania was often detached from its original sources, and the stream of dime novels and films about mummies and their curses have, according to scholars, more to do with Western guilt over imperialism than with the supernatural. Even the artifacts exhumed from Tutankhamen’s tomb with great fanfare beginning in 1922 did not, in fact, add much to our knowledge of ancient Egypt.”

17. Examining the Artists of the Revolutionary Era

“The visual record of the Revolution commemorates eminent founders, not ordinary participants, and the signing of documents rather than the quarrels that accompanied their composition. It is, however, the only visual record we have.”

18. Is Rashomon Kurosawa’s Best Film?

“Kurosawa was only 13 when the earthquake occurred, but his older brother, Heigo, insisted they walk through the ruins and view the corpses, ostensibly to overcome fear by staring reality in the face. That older brother exerted a major influence on Kurosawa: A movie buff, he took Akira along to silent film classics, mostly foreign, and even became a benshi: ‘The benshi were there to explain the plot but also to impersonate the characters. Such a narrator, standing at the podium to the left of the stage, made faintly visible by the lectern light, would declaim from the start to the finish of a feature film.’ Heigo was a celebrated benshi, but when sound came in, his profession evaporated. Depressed, he committed double suicide with a waitress.”

19. Why the Legend of Al Capone Still Fascinates

“At the heart of the legend stands the big personality. Al dressed in beautifully tailored lemon-, lime- and lavender-colored suits. He dispensed wads of cash to anyone who caught his fancy. During the Depression, he opened a soup kitchen that served up to 3,000 people a day. For one of Capone’s birthday binges, his men kidnapped the jazz great Fats Waller at gunpoint and made him play for three anxious days before stuffing his pockets with thousand-dollar bills and driving him home.”

20. 45 Pop Music Hits, in the Words of Their Creators

“I once asked the Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora if, after hundreds, perhaps thousands of performances, he ever got tired of playing the band’s much-loved hit ‘Livin’ on a Prayer.’ ‘You ever get tired of getting laid?’ he replied.”

21. The Rise of Glam Rock

“For the four years that Reynolds identifies as glam’s peak, there was a renewed focus on issues of performance, gender fluidity and irony that is still found in countless nooks of pop culture. The genre’s provocateurs won.”

22. Rock Lives: This Season’s Pop Music Biographies and Memoirs

“The book takes its title from a line in the Rolling Stones’ 1971 No. 1 hit ‘Brown Sugar,’ a song about a white slave trader’s sexual fetishization of black women that Hamilton writes is either ‘the most racially offensive composition in the catalog of one of the most racially troublesome bands in rock and roll’ or ‘the most unflinching exploration of racial and musical imagination ever put on record by a white rock and roll band.’ Clearly, this is not a book looking for easy solutions.”

23. Is ‘Empathy’ Really What the Nation Needs?

“What social networks like Facebook really offer is empathy in the aggregate — an illusion of having captured the mood of entire families and friend networks from a safe, neutral distance. Then they turn around and offer advertisers a read on more than a billion users at once.”

24. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Primitive Technology’

“Taken as a whole, the project seems mystifying, impossible. Seeing all the component steps only makes it exponentially more miraculous.”

25. The Pleasure (and Popularity) of Really Short Books

“This short-book renaissance comes at the height of our Age of the Essay. Everyone is reading them, and even more people are writing them. The books’ modesty of scale appears like a rebellion against importance, but they are insistent, even a little pedantic — self-conscious intellectual sallies that bring a dignified brevity to nonfiction. They take themselves seriously, much like a very short man.”

26. Reflections on True Friendship

“Social media is a vehicle of self-promotion, a means of fixing an idea of yourself in the social sphere, without people actually knowing you at all. And that’s a change: The thing about friendship used to be that the ideal was shared entirely by the pair of you, or sometimes by a group, yet it remained local, and that was part of its power.”

27. The Man Who Brought Paris to Dallas

“The store represented something utterly new: an alternate reality at the intersection of commerce and culture, where ordinary women and men learned not what to wear but how to live, a place were they could become, if only for a moment, their best selves.”

28. Can a Corset Be Feminist?

“Is a woman who wears a corset today, whether following the trends of fashion or the further down-market effects of the Kardashians’ ‘waist trainers,’ restricted, or freed? Conforming to a masculine ideal of femininity, or experimenting with her own perception of self and sexuality?”