Journalism & Publishing
Far & Away: Reporting from the
Brink of Change; Seven Continents,
By Andrew Solomon.
Apr. 2016. 576p. Scribner, $29 (9781501134357); e-book
As a Columbia University professor, president of PEN American Center, contributor
to several national publications, and National Book Award–winning author, Solomon
(Far from the Tree, 2012)
wears many hats, but this
time around he’s sporting
a well-worn travel-writer’s
helmet. This collection of
his previously published essays is greater than the sum
of its parts. It sparkles with
insights great and small on
the countries and people that he’s had the
privilege to meet over the last quarter century. From Brazil to Cambodia to the outer
reaches of Mongolia and more, Solomon
exceeds the norm of writing about faraway
places. There are no hotel recommendations
here, no must-see shimmering fountains
or architecturally significant monuments.
Instead, he describes the architectural significance of the ger (tent) that is home to a
nomadic Mongolian herder and the shimmering eyes of youngsters as they ask pithy
questions about what life is like in the U.S.
In every case, in every place, Solomon takes
the time to talk to the people who inhabit
the distant reaches of our planet. Although
his perceptions are keen, what he delivers
best and with enchanting clarity are their
truths, fears, regrets, and hopes. Readers will
most certainly be inspired to book a flight,
finishing this book en route to some faraway
place. —Donna Chavez
Philosophy & Psychology
It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again:
Discovering Creativity and Meaning at
Midlife and Beyond.
By Julia Cameron and Emma Lively.
May 2016. 304p. Tarcher, paper, $17 (9780399174216).
Creativity guru Cameron of The Artist’s Way
(1992) fame, whose most recent book is The
Creative Life (2010), adds to her impressive
output— 30 books about art, spirituality, and
prayer, as well as fiction, plays, and poetry—
and stands as living proof that a lifelong quest
for expressing one’s self can be rewarding.
Cameron, with coauthor Lively, addresses
adults well into life here, suggesting ways to re-
ignite one’s senses in order to embark on life’s
“second acts.” She begins with one principle:
“Creativity is the natural order of life.” For
best results, she reemphasizes her well-known
discipline of writing “Morning Pages” and de-
lineates 12 redevelopments of our emotions
and circumstances: of wonder by recalling
childhood experiences, of freedom with the
increased independence of retirement, of con-
nection with people we actively choose, and,
most importantly, of faith. Organized into a
12-week program designed to help individu-
als define and re-create their lives in middle
age and beyond, Cameron’s guide offers useful
assigned tasks (warning: these include fill-in
writing exercises), making this a must-read
for all hoping to enhance their creativity in all
aspects of life. — Whitney Scott
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the
Mystery and Art of Living.
By Krista Tippett.
Apr. 2016. 384p. Penguin, $28 (9781594206801). 240.
Tippett, recipient of the National Humanities Medal and the host of the acclaimed
NPR radio show On Being (originally called
Speaking of Faith), is used to taking on the big
questions and discussing them with some of
the most influential voices in religion, philosophy, and science. This book focuses on turning
elements of various spiritual traditions—love,
compassion, forgiveness, among them—
into actions. In turn, these actions are defined by words, each of which heads a
chapter: flesh, love, faith, hope, and words.
Pieces of Tippett’s conversations about faith
feature Reza Aslan, congressman and civil
rights activist John Lewis, and author Eve
Ensler, among many others, with heart-lifting poetry and the author's musings
infusing each chapter. These conversations—
and Tippett’s writing throughout—make for
deep and thought-provoking reading. This
is not another make-your-life-better how-to
manual, of which there are far too many, but
there are occasions where Tippett’s rarefied
language obscures rather than enlightens.
Nevertheless, those willing to take the time
to walk with Tippett and her fellow conversationalists will find much to ponder here.
October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the
Day That Changed the World.
By Martin E. Marty.
May 2016. 128p. Paraclete, $19.99 (9781612616568).
The date that entitles this brief quincen-tennial prologue may not be immediately
recognizable, but it was momentous. On
it, Martin Luther posted 95 theses about
Christian faith on the door of a church
in Wittenberg, Saxony, and launched the
Protestant Reformation. While directly
prompted by the selling of indulgences,
whereby the buyer reduced suffering for
sins, the document was fundamentally about
salvation through Christ. Luther asserted
that salvation was effected by God’s grace
alone, approached by faith alone. Faith was
manifested by repentance: “the whole life
of believers should be penitence,” says the
first thesis. Marty, the dean of American
Lutheran church historians, argues that,
eventually, Luther’s stance, from the beginning acknowledged by the Catholic Church
as essentially correct (disagreement’s in the
details), became the means of reunifying
Christianity through ecumenism, a movement that became explicit and official with
the Second Vatican Council of 1962–65.
This volume is small but weighty and a solid
addition for all modern Christianity collections. —Ray Olson
The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise
of Nerd Culture.
By Glen Weldon.
June 2016. 308p. Simon & Schuster, $26
Weldon, a critic for NPR, offers possibly
the most erudite and well-researched fanboy
manifesto ever. On one level, he takes readers
on a meticulous, nearly moment-by-moment
tour of Batman’s history, from his 1939 inception through various comics, TV, video
game, and cinematic reinventions, lauding
the 1970s O’Neil-Adams comics and Batman:
The Animated Series as the most deeply resonant interpretations. Concurrently, he tracks
the evolution of the fan body that fetishizes
the character’s narrative, thus also presenting
a cogent look at the birth and development
of an entire subculture. Psychological insights
into Batman and his following abound, but,
slowly, Weldon’s method of rebuking the
nerd set on their hardline My-Batman-Is-the-Best attitude springs leaks as he fervently
tears down or exalts certain interpretations
with a resounding “no, my Batman is the
best.” While his opinions call his analytical
approach into question, they do nothing to
detract from enjoying his interpretation. Ostensibly written with non-nerds in mind, this
will, nevertheless, have huge appeal for members of the very group it attempts to dissect.
Includes a truly spectacular, comprehensive
bibliography. —Jesse Karp
YA: Batman has many teen fans, and
they’ll be delighted with this, all the more
so if they are tuned into the idiosyncratic
community that follows the character and
those like him. JK.
Getting to Green: Saving Nature; A
By Frederic C. Rich.
Apr. 2016. 288p. Norton, $26.95 (9780393292473).
Whether liberal or conservative, anyone
with a view on the environment will feel