What Would Charles Dickens Think About Christmas Today?

Christmas Carol

Christopher Plummer and Dan Stevens in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)/Photo by Kerry Brown © Garlands Films DAC

Having written a number of books that do their best to re-create the personae of some of history’s larger-than-life figures – George Washington, Andrew Carnegie, and William Mulholland among them – I am often asked to speculate on how these giants might behave if thrust into a contemporary setting. It is always pure fancy, wondering if Carnegie might have sound business advice for Donald Trump, for instance, but then again the very reason for examining history in the first place is that we just might learn something from a considered look in the rear-view mirror.

I was asked recently to theorize about what Charles Dickens might think of what Christmas has become today, given the reach of his slender but ubiquitous novel of 1843, A Christmas Carol. That oft-mimicked book has been referred to as the one most widely read, after the Holy Bible, and is inarguably the novel most often adapted into film and stage play. It is hard to imagine Christmas without a reference to Scrooge or Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are surely the most widely known literary spirits outside of Shakespeare.

Quite frankly, I suspect Dickens would be appalled at the neo-bacchanalian overtones that now color the two-month-long “Christmas season.” He lived long enough to witness the profound effect of his “little book” upon what was a second-tier holiday at the time of its printing, but even at the time of his passing in 1870, there was nothing like the frenzy of advertising and emphasis on gift-giving, dress-up, and party-going that begins in the United States on November 1, give or take. While Dickens was a great holiday booster and eager celebrant in his own right, his intent in writing A Christmas Carol had almost nothing to do with the practice of gift giving; the novel is, at its heart, all about the possibility of spiritual redemption. Dickens’s “experiment,” if you will, was to examine the circumstances under which the most hardhearted individual might be forced into a plausible shifting of shape.

There are very few references to gift-giving in A Christmas Carol. Of course a revivified Scrooge sends a prize turkey to the Cratchit family and promises clerk Bob a raise, and there is a moment during one of the spirit visits where a father arrives on Christmas Eve with presents for the household’s children, but the unrelenting business of the novel is the search for the key to Scrooge’s heart and a change in his behavior toward others.

With all this in mind, one might wonder if Dickens would change anything about his classic in order that it speak more forcefully to the modern world. I suspect that Dickens would probably want to try, for even in his own day he was convinced that he could outdo Carol – and, in fact, wrote four follow-up Christmas tales, none of which are widely known today. While his themes remain basically intact, he was never able to replicate a character as captivating as Scrooge, nor a plot as focused, inventive, and convincing.

Few writers labor under the misconception that their works have the power to “change the world,” and I doubt that Dickens would find himself at fault for the fact that Ignorance and Want (touchingly portrayed by waifs in A Christmas Carol) have not yet been stamped out in our twenty-first century. But I do think that he would be highly gratified to discover that his book has not only survived but, for all intents and purposes, become the secular counterpart to the story upon which the very concept of Christmas is based.

That the book endures so powerfully one-hundred-seventy-five years after its writing is proof of Dickens’s success. Even in a coldly rational modern world that has witnessed atrocities unimaginable in Dickens’s day, families gather annually to read or to watch A Christmas Carol and are inevitably persuaded that it is possible for the human heart to prevail, for charity to contradict greed, that love connects us all, and that such connection can triumph even over death. Whole philosophies and systems of religion endeavor to achieve as much.

Editor’s Note:

Les Standiford is the author of the critically acclaimed Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, Washington BurningThe Man Who Invented Christmas, and more. Recipient of the Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, he is Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami. Here, he shares his thoughts on how Charles Dickens would view today’s Christmas.


8 Fictional Families We’d Love to Spend the Holidays With

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) © Warner Bros. Studios

There’s nothing quite like a holiday dinner to bring a family together. I was fortunate to grow up in a huge, boisterous clan (I have enough aunts, uncles, and first cousins to populate a small town), so holiday dinners were always a comically chaotic affair filled with way too much food and plenty of laughs.

In thinking about the brouhaha that so often accompanied the holiday meals of my childhood and adolescence, I realized how much I miss the experience. As a result, I couldn’t resist thinking about the fictional families that would be particularly intriguing to spend the holidays with. From the classic and the heartwarming, to the sure-to-be-delightfully-raucous, these are a few of the fictional families we’d love to visit for the holidays.

The cover of the book A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

The Cratchits

Why not start with the quintessential Christmas family? The family at the heart of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale was lovable enough to help melt the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge – the most curmudgeonly of curmudgeons. And who can resist a roaring fire, roasting chestnuts, and that massive Christmas goose?

The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J.K. Rowling

The Weasleys

This one is obvious, right? For one, there would be magic – that should be reason enough in and of itself. For another, we’re talking about one of the most delightfully quirky and loving families in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. There’s also the after-dinner quidditch game to look forward to, and I’m sure you could even toss a garden gnome or two.

The cover of the book To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

The Finchs

Sitting in the dining room with Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch would be a very interesting way to spend a holiday meal. You’d have the precocious charm of Scout and the timeless wisdom of Atticus. Really, what could be better than that?

The cover of the book A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin

The Starks

Winters in Westeros may be notoriously unpleasant, but we can imagine holiday meals with the full Stark clan to be an interesting affair. Given that the Starks are one of the great houses of Westeros, they most likely put out a truly epic spread. Beyond that, there would probably be plenty of Stark children hijinks, and we can imagine Ned would have a good story or two to tell.

The cover of the book Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

The Bennets

While this meal would surely a particularly impressive to-do, sitting down to dine with the Bennets would be an experience in itself. The dinner conversation alone would make this a worthy holiday experience.

The cover of the book Little Women

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

The Marchs

It really can’t get much more classically idyllic than a holiday with the March family. Imagine a roaring fire in a quaint New England cottage, a freshly cut tree, and perhaps even a holiday themed play written by Jo for the family to perform. Sounds pretty great, right?

The cover of the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fannie Flagg

The Threadgoodes

First of all, the food for this one would be great – although it might be prudent to pass on the barbecue – but, fried green tomatoes are one of the best things ever. When you factor in the quirky charm of Idgie Threadgoode, this is not likely a holiday meal you’d soon forget.

The cover of the book Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can

Lauren Graham

The Gilmores

We generally try to stick strictly to literary world when contemplating these sorts of lists, but in this case I’m going to argue that books were most certainly a big part of “The Gilmore Girls”, so let’s roll with it. There would be epic and wonderfully witty dinner conversation, and a lovely stroll around Star’s Hollow. As long as Luke is doing the cooking, everything with the actual meal should be fine.

12 Audiobooks to Get You Through the Crazy Holiday Season


The holidays are just around the corner, and while that can mean many things, for many of us it likely means a long road trip, or two. No matter the length, road trips (particularly in holiday traffic) can be an excruciating endeavor.

Snacks, a less-than-judicious amount of caffeine, comfy clothes, and a good audiobook can make all the difference. They can turn a miserable car ride into something not only tolerable, but enjoyable.

To help you manage pesky holiday excursions, we’ve curated a list of twelve of our favorite audiobooks. There are books here for the whole family to enjoy, as well as more grown-up fare.  Let’s have a look.

The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J.K. Rowling, Read by Jim Dale

If you haven’t experienced Jim Dale’s truly delightful narration of the Harry Potter series, this is the perfect time to check it out. Dale is one of best audiobook readers in the business, and Harry Potter might just be his masterpiece. More importantly, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is perfect for the whole family.

The cover of the book Life


Keith Richards, Read by Johnny Depp

What could possibly be better than Keith Richards’ insightful and candid memoir read by Johnny Depp? The answer, of course, is not much. Depp’s languid, playful, wry reading of Mr. Richards’ various hijinks is the perfect distraction for a long car ride. This one may not be for the kiddos, though.

The cover of the book Matilda


Roald Dahl, Read by Kate Winslet

Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s best-known and most charming creations. The spunky magic-tinged tale is a perfect example of Dahl’s wonderfully absurd prose style, and more importantly, it’s excellent for kids – and adults who are kids at heart. Kate Winslet’s narration is just icing on the cake.

The cover of the book The Martian

The Martian

Andy Weir, Read by R.C. Bray

If you want a read to make a car-ride fly by, Andy Weir’s best-selling thriller is just the ticket.  The instant-classic tale of a astronaut stranded on Mars following a botched expedition is exhilarating, tense, and darkly humorous. This one is guaranteed to make that trip seem mercilessly short, and beyond some PG-13 language, this another solid family read. Weir’s latest, a futuristic heist set on a colony on the Moon titled Artemis, is also well worth a listen.

The cover of the book The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman

There’s nothing quite like listening to a writer read their own work, and Neil Gaiman is among the best. This 2009 Newberry Award winner is as captivating for adults as it is for children, and features Gaiman’s trademark magic-tinged, subversively gothic style. The Graveyard Book centers on an orphan raised by ghosts in a cemetery following the murder of his parents.

The cover of the book Hogfather


Terry Pratchett, Read by Nigel Planer

What would the holidays be without a Christmas tale? If you’re in the market for something catering a bit more toward grown-ups, Terry Pratchett’s deliriously comical skewering of Father Christmas is just the ticket. In Pratchett’s Discworld, the Hogfather is a scary Santa Claus-like figure who delivers gifts on Hogswatchnight.

The cover of the book A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens, Read by Tim Curry

If you prefer something both classic and more kid-friendly, look no further than Tim Curry’s brilliant reading of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is an obvious holiday staple, and Curry’s voice is a perfect match for Dickens’ linguistic flourishes.

The cover of the book Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty, Read by Caroline Lee

Big Little Lies may begin as a light satire of suburban parenting, but things heat up quickly. Filled with compelling, well-drawn characters and sharp-tongued wit, Big Little Lies is the sort of book that might just make you wish that car ride was a tad longer.

The cover of the book The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

William Goldman, Read by Rob Reiner

If you’ve only experienced the cinematic adaptation of The Princess Bride, do yourself a favor and pick up this audiobook. While the movie is a classic, the novel’s wry observations of Floran culture and self-aware, tongue-in-cheek really are a delight.

The cover of the book Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type

Tom Hanks, Read by Tom Hanks

You can add great writer and unsurprisingly great narrator to the list of things that make Tom Hanks generally awesome. This collection of short stories, all based – to a certain extent – on Hank’s well-known love of typewriters, run the gamut from poignant and heartwarming to downright hilarious. And Hanks’ amiable reading brings the whole thing to another level.

The cover of the book A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle, Read by Hope Davis

A Wrinkle in Time is brilliantly drawn classic that has endured as a favorite for adults and children alike. It’s also incredibly thought-provoking and a sure conversation starter, particularly if you’re listening with children. With a highly anticipated adaptation on the way from Ava Duvernay, and starring the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, now’s a perfect time to give this one a look.

The cover of the book And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie, Read by Dan Stevens

If you’re anything like me, nothing beats a good mystery for a road trip.  When it comes to mysteries, Agatha Christie is in a class all her own. While any of her classics will get the job done, And Then There Were None is simply one of her bests and most complex.

Speaking of books that were made into movies…

The 12 Best Stephen King Adaptations, Ranked

King Films

Movie posters from Stephen King adaptations

Stephen King might likely be our most adapted living American author. His “writer” credit at IMDB is sitting at a staggering 242 credits. Given the renewed interest in all things Stephen King of late, driven in part by the runaway box office success of “It,” it’s a safe bet that more King-inspired projects are on the not-too-distant horizon. The bounty and overall quality of Stephen King adaptations that have made their way to screens large and small lately make now the perfect time to count down our picks for the twelve best. Though the reputation of King adaptations overall can be a bit lacking, there were quite a few gems – “Christine” (1983), “Salem’s Lot” (1979), “11.22.63” (2016) – that had to be cut. When the figurative dust settled, here are the twelve we’re committing to. Have at it.

12. “Creepshow” (1982)
This 1982 collaboration between Stephen King and legendary director George Romero is a love letter to the classic EC-style horror anthology comics (titles like House of Secrets, Haunt of Fear, and Tales from the Crypt), from the framing narrative right down to the camera angles. It’s over the top and plays like a B-movie – and that’s the point. “Creepshow” was King’s first and arguably his best foray into screenwriting and featured largely original material. However, two of the vignettes (“Weeds” and “The Crate”) were based on short stories by King.

The cover of the book The Green Mile

11. “The Green Mile” (1999)
Based on the 1996 serial novel of the same name, “The Green Mile” was written and directed by Frank Darabont, a director who seems to have a particularly steady hand with Stephen King adaptations. The film, which received an Academy Award nomination for best picture, featured the talents of Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of John Coffey, a man with supernatural gifts wrongfully convicted of murder.


The cover of the book Dolores Claiborne

10. “Dolores Claiborne” (1995)
Featuring a predictably brilliant performance from Kathy Bates in the title role, “Dolores Claiborne,” based on the novel of the same name, is an example of the breadth of Stephen King’s talent. This Taylor Hackford-directed adaptation eschews King’s normal horror trappings for a patient, affecting thriller that takes its times as it moves toward its shattering climax.


The cover of the book Mr. Mercedes

9. “Mr. Mercedes” (2017)
“Mr. Mercedes” got off to a great start over its first four episodes. I had the opportunity to screen the remaining six episodes and can thankfully say it proved a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s Edgar Award-winning 2014 mystery novel. Anchored by a talented cast – particularly series leads Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway – “Mr. Mercedes” is nearly as quick-witted and engrossing as its source material.


The cover of the book The Dead Zone

8. “The Dead Zone” (1983)
“The Dead Zone” is one of the most underrated of Stephen King’s adaptations and Christopher Walken’s performance as Johnny Smith, a teacher who gains the ability to glimpse the future after awaking from a coma, is one of the actor’s best. Thanks in large part to David Cronenberg’s masterful direction, “The Dead Zone” is a taut and powerful thriller that holds up remarkably well.


The cover of the book Gerald's Game

7. “Gerald’s Game” (2017)
Gerald’s Game has long been thought of as one of the more difficult Stephen King tales to bring to the screen. Its premise – a woman is handcuffed to a bed and stranded alone in a cabin after a bit of bondage gone bad – doesn’t necessarily lend itself to cinematic treatment. Fortunately, the talented direction and writing of Mike Flanagan and what may be a career best performance from the underrated Carla Gugino make this one of the finest Stephen King adaptations in recent memory.

The cover of the book It

6. “It” (2017)
The most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling novel is shattering box office records and with good reason. It is one of Stephen King’s most iconic novels and the culmination of much of his early writing. While this adaptation, which will unfold in two parts, takes more than a few liberties with the underlying narrative including updating the time period, director Andy Muschietti manages to faithfully capture the spirit and tone of the book. To quote myself: “The result is a film that couches its scares in a sepia-toned haze of summer breaks, adolescent friendships, and the secret places of childhood. This more than anything else is the key to why ‘It’ largely works.”

The cover of the book Different Seasons

5. “Stand By Me” (1986)
There’s often a hint of autobiography in Stephen King’s work; it’s clear he draws heavily on his own experiences, whether working in a textile mill or being a writer or just plain, old childhood. It is that autobiographical note that lends “Stand By Me” its potent authenticity and magic. Based on a King novella called The Body and directed by Rob Reiner, “Stand by Me” is ostensibly a coming-of-age tale; it is also a poignant examination of friendship and the bittersweet loss that often accompanies growing up. The Body was featured in King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons.

The cover of the book Misery

4. “Misery” (1990)
Kathy Bates took home an Oscar for her iconic turn as Annie Wilkes. Bates proved absolutely captivating in her ability to switch from adulation to savagery to overwhelming depression in the space of a moment. Thanks to her performance, her chemistry with James Caan, and the steady direction of Rob Reiner – who clearly knows a thing or two about adapting Stephen King – “Misery” is a taut, economical thriller that more than does justice to the source material.


The cover of the book The Shining

3. “The Shining” (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s novel – the author’s first hardback bestseller – is a masterful descent into pure madness anchored by an unforgettable performance from Jack Nicholson. The film hums with tension and unease. While it may be a stark departure from Stephen King’s novel, everything from Nicholson’s performance to the hotel’s bizarre geography and the unrelenting sense of dread that settles over the entire proceeding simply works.

The cover of the book Carrie

2. “Carrie” (1976)
With superb and Oscar nominated performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie and Margaret White, as well as the skillful direction of Brian De Palma, “Carrie” remains one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel. De Palma wisely stripped King’s novel, already one of his leaner works, to its essence and this tale of a bullied and ostracized teenage girl builds with remarkable tension toward its shocking conclusion.

1. “Shawshank Redemption” (1994)
Choosing the top spot here was no easy task; indeed, I could quite possibly make a solid argument for any of the top five to claim this spot. However, at the end of the day Frank Darabont – I told you that name would come up again – captured lightning in a bottle with this adaptation of the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. From the director’s near-flawless direction to the performances of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (not to mention Freeman’s iconic narration) and Thomas Newman’s rarely mentioned pitch-perfect score, everything comes together for a deeply satisfying and moving cinematic experience. The short story is featured alongside The Body in the collection Different Seasons.

Topping the Charts: The 15 Best Music Books to Read Now


Photo © Shutterstock

When I was ten years old, I picked up my first musical instrument – the clarinet. And (excuse me while I boast) I was really, really good. From there, I learned to play all variations of woodwind, from the saxophone (alto, tenor, and bari) to bass clarinet and the oboe. I’ll never forget what it felt like to play for the very first time, or the epiphanous moment when I realized I can read notes on a page and translate them into a song. I played in marching band, jazz band, classical band, pits for musicals – you name it, I’ve done it. (I was the epitome of a band geek growing up.) And when I stopped hiding behind a music stand and started to sing, it was the most freeing thing in the entire world.

If you’ve performed before, you know that there’s nothing quite like being in front of an audience. But even those that don’t play can do something powerful: listen. Listen and appreciate the magical melodies and harmonies, and let them mean something to you. Interpretation is what music is all about.

Music is a universal language, and one that is simultaneously beautiful and extraordinary. It transcends boundaries, breaks down walls, and stops time in its tracks, if only for a few minutes. It may not solve problems, but it certainly helps bring people together. The list of books below are a mix of fiction and nonfiction, showcasing musicians and their experiences around the world, the instruments that make it possible, and the emotion that binds it all together.

The cover of the book Swing Time

Swing Time

Zadie Smith

New York Times bestseller, this compelling story captures the essence of a faded childhood friendship between two girls, Tracey and Aimee, who dream of being dancers. Tracey has real talent while Aimee has ideas, and as a result, the two friends diverge on their paths as they enter adulthood. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life. Aimee travels the world as an assistant to a famous singer, eventually moving to Africa with charitable aspirations. Zadie Smith’s Swing Time takes readers on an unforgettable journey from London to West Africa, where inequality and injustice soar high, and music is a saving grace to all.

The cover of the book Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations

Mike Love with James S. Hirsch

Ever wonder what it was like to be a Beach Boy? In this memoir, Mike Love – founder of The Beach Boys, and the group’s lead singer and lyricist – shares it all. Known as one of the most popular bands in American history, The Beach Boys have a story that needs to be told. From their California roots to their international fame in the 1960s, the band has defied time and continues to be well-known throughout the world by many generations. Love shares his experiences with his readers, holding nothing back as he divulges both the diabolical and the divine aspects of being a Beach Boy.

The cover of the book Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet

Phil Collins

Phil Collins, known for being the drummer and frontman of Genesis prior to a thriving solo career, has sold millions of records over the course of decades, making him a huge icon in the music industry. In this memoir, he documents the highs and lows of his musical journey, from the songs and shows, the hits and the misses, his dynamic love life, reaching the top of the charts, and retiring in 2007. Not Dead Yet is an inside look at Phil Collins – the man many know and love, and also the man not many know at all.

The cover of the book What Is It All but Luminous

What Is It All but Luminous

Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, one half of the extremely famous Simon and Garfunkel, writes about his life before, during, and after topping the pop charts. In What Is It All But Luminous, we travel through his life with him as he recalls his early childhood, meeting Paul Simon in school, beginning the band, and traveling on the road for countless tours. He treks through the highs and lows of his career, and touches on personal life events that aren’t known to most of the public. Garfunkel paints a very real portrait of his lifelong friendship with Simon, shedding new light on the relationship that became one of the most successful music groups of all time.

The cover of the book Otis Redding

Otis Redding

Jonathan Gould

Jonathan Gould’s biography maps out Otis Redding’s life and explores his unparalleled musicianship through groundbreaking research, as never seen before. The portrait of the singer’s background, his upbringing, and his professional career are outlined in this beautiful book with the help of the Redding family. Otis Redding continues to have a strong influence on music today, despite his life being tragically cut short. This book is great for all music lovers out there who want to understand what The King of Soul was really like.

The cover of the book Gone


Min Kym

In her moving memoir, Gone, Min Kym explores each stage of her life with great speculation and transparency. We trek through Min’s life with her as she relives the highs and lows in her story of love, loss, and, of course, music. As a child prodigy, Min’s adolescent experiences strayed far from the norm, and in her writing, she speaks truthfully about what it was like to grow up feeling isolated, with crushing expectations. As an adult, Min found her soulmate: a 1696 Stradivarius. She felt that every painful experience from her past was worth it because she had found her life’s meaning in the sound and feel of this beautiful instrument – and then it was taken from her, and everything changed.

The cover of the book Testimony


Robbie Robertson

This New York Times bestseller tells the story of The Band, a group that changed music history with songs like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up on Cripple Creek.” Robbie Robertson, the guitarist and principal songwriter in The Band, recalls the journey that led him to becoming a rock legend. Robertson writes about being a musician during the the 1960s and early ’70s, a pivotal time for the music world, when rock and roll was on the rise and talent was around every corner, set against the backdrop of a national celebration of love and freedom.

The cover of the book The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald, author of A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, takes a look at the finest albums in jazz and pop history in this timeless book. The album was the primary format of music from the 1940s until the very recent decline of the CD, and because of that, albums will always be a treasured part of music history. Renowned musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, along with many others, are captured forever on vinyl, as a piece of musical history frozen in time for everyone to appreciate.

The cover of the book Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers

Joe Hagan

Sticky Fingers is the first and only biography of Jann Wenner, the founder of the popular Rolling Stone magazine. Wenner’s story is one of love, devotion, and a passion for rock and roll music that led him to create an iconic magazine that became a powerful influence in the music industry. Through documents, letters, and interviews, Joe Hagan successfully captures the complex life of Jann from the late twentieth century to the digital age, and demonstrates how he reinvented youth culture with Rolling Stone.

The cover of the book Maestros and Their Music

Maestros and Their Music

John Mauceri

A band is nothing without fluidity and togetherness, so how exactly does a group of musicians go about finding cohesion in spite of so many moving parts? In the case of classical music, with a conductor. In Maestros and Their Music, John Mauceri – a celebrated conductor with a longstanding international career – provides a beautifully illustrated look inside the art and craft of conducting. Mauceri explains that conducting is a composition of interpretation and intent, and is a vital part of communicating the emotions of a piece of music to the audience.

The cover of the book Play It Loud

Play It Loud

Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna; Foreword by Carlos Santana

Not many people think about a time before electric guitars, given how crucial they are to music today. But they weren’t always around, and the history of the electric guitar is a story worth telling. In Play It Loud, music journalists Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna bring the history of this iconic instrument to life by using twelve guitars as milestones to illustrate the conflict and passion the instruments have inspired. Tolinkski and Perna feature Leo Fender, the man who transformed the guitar into what it is today, along with other key players and builders that made the musical revolution possible with the electric guitar.

The cover of the book Schubert's Winter Journey

Schubert’s Winter Journey

Ian Bostridge

Completed in the last months of young Schubert’s life, Winterreise (Winter Journey) has come to be considered the single greatest piece of music in the history of Lieder (traditional German songs for voice and piano). Schubert’s Winter Journey is composed of twenty-four short songs that tell an emotional story unparalleled by any composition of its kind. Ian Bostridge explores the world’s most famous and challenging song cycle by a looking at the main themes – literary, historical, psychological – that weave through the twenty-four songs that make up this legendary masterpiece.

The cover of the book Absolutely on Music

Absolutely on Music

Haruki Murakami with Seiji Ozawa

International bestselling writer Haruki Murakami joins forces with Seiji Ozawa, revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything about music, and examine some of their favorite performances while Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world. This book is a thoughtful reflection on the nature of both music and writing, and how they connect to create the most wonderful, moving works of art.

The cover of the book The Music Shop

The Music Shop

Rachel Joyce

It’s 1988. In a run-down suburb stands a music shop that is jam-packed with records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has been known to always give his customers exactly the piece of music they need. One day, Ilse Brauchmann walks into the music shop and asks Frank to teach her everything he knows. Frank, used to a life of seclusion, is thrown off by this request and wants to say no – but reluctantly agrees. As the two spend more and more time together, old wounds threaten to reopen as the past resurfaces. This novel showcases two people that must tune in to their inner selves to let go of their emotional baggage, and find healing in music and love.

The cover of the book Good Things Happen Slowly

Good Things Happen Slowly

Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch worked for many years as a prodigious pianist for musical icons in the twentieth century, including Art Farmer and Joe Henderson, and in the 1980s he broke tradition with his transformative compositions that defied boundaries, combining classical, pop, and folk music to create a completely new type of jazz. Good Things Happen Slowly is Fred’s story of being a groundbreaking pianist and being the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz player. Fred takes us through every step of his journey, and tells readers about his two-month-long coma in 2007 that led to the most compelling music of his career.

9 Famous Independent Bookstore Coffee Shop Combinations

Coffee and books

Photo by Aga Putra on Unsplash

Books and coffee make the perfect match. There’s nothing quite like sitting down, sipping on a cup of joe, and reading an immersive book, all while breathing in the intoxicating aromas of crisp pages and freshly ground beans.

This perfect pairing has been realized by many others over the years – bookstore-coffee shop combinations have popped up all over the country, and are extremely popular destinations. Bookstore cafes exist in cities from coast to coast, so everyone has a chance to experience their profound magic. So, what are some of the most popular bookstore coffee shops?

Well, there’s Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Co. and Little Oddfellows Cafe, which was Seattle’s first bookstore cafe. There’s also Powell’s Books and World Cup Coffee and Tea in Portland, Oregon – the largest independent new and used bookstore. And for fellow New Yorkers, there’s the renowned Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, which was featured in the HBO series, “Girls.”

Want to know more? Watch the video below to learn about nine famous independent bookstore coffee shops, and treat yourself to a latte and a new book in one closest to you.



The 10 Best Books to Understand Modern War and Technology


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Where do you see the world in ten years? Twenty? Fifty?

With change around every corner, it’s hard to gauge what will happen. The everlasting development of new technology has altered the nature of the way we live. Our advancements in military technology have made it possible to wipe out entire groups of people with one hasty decision, and our obsession with the internet only continues to grow. With nuclear weapons, crazed leaders, corporate control, and an undying hunger for power, who knows where we’ll land in the coming decades? The future is laced with fear, and everything could dwindle away in dust and ashes if we move in the wrong direction.

With the world around us constantly evolving, we need to be educated and prepared for what comes next. The best way to brace yourself for where we’re to go is to know where we are, and the list of books below can help you do just that. Spanning all topics, from artificial intelligence to nuclear bombs and cyberculture, you’ll be sure to walk away from these reads with more knowledge and understanding than you ever thought possible.

The cover of the book Shooting Ghosts

Shooting Ghosts

Thomas J. Brennan & Finbarr O’Reilly

War takes an emotional toll on those who fight it, and soldiers suffer injuries that go well beyond physical afflictions. This joint memoir, written by a U.S. Marine and a conflict photographer, demonstrates that psychological wounds run deep and can’t be ignored. Readers of Shooting Ghosts will witness an important relationship develop between these two men as they help each other to make peace with their haunting pasts. This book makes known the reverberations that last long after combatants and civilians have returned home, a particularly poignant point as we approach the fifteenth year of continuous battle in the Middle East.

The cover of the book Future War

Future War

Robert H. Latiff

Robert H. Latiff devoted his life to researching and developing new combat technologies, making him a leading expert on the place of technology in war and intelligence. He has also calculated the cost of our innovation, weighing the benefits against the consequences. In Future War, Latiff explains the ways in which war has changed, and discusses the new weapons we will use to fight and how the skills of a soldier will continue to adapt. What are the new rules of war? Latiff addresses exactly that.

The cover of the book Almighty


Dan Zak

In his book Almighty, Washington Post reporter Dan Zak examines America’s complex relationship with the nuclear bomb. He takes a look at the arms race and World War II, when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Zak’s book is of particular importance now, as our current world sees nations like Iran and North Korea experimenting with deadly missiles. Zak’s reporting showcases a diverse set of beliefs on the issue of nuclear bombs, featuring points of view from the biophysicist who first exposed atomic energy to the world, the prophet who predicted the creation of Oak Ridge, generations of activists, and Washington bureaucrats and diplomats.

The cover of the book Life 3.0

Life 3.0

Max Tegmark

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change everything about life as we know it, more so than any other technology. The rise of AI can affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and, perhaps most importantly, our sense of humanity. Many books and movies have been centered on the development of AI gone wrong, making the topic all the more frightening. Max Tegmark – an MIT professor who’s helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial – takes an unbiased approach in his book by exposing a variety of viewpoints on the matter, and examines the meaning of life as it is now, and how it’ll change in the future.

The cover of the book The Hacking of the American Mind

The Hacking of the American Mind

Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL

It turns out the American mind isn’t such a happy place. Robert Lustig believes that our culture has been ravaged by addiction and depression, suffering irreparable damage. Neuromarketing has enabled corporate America to brainwash consumers (all of us consumers), creating an endless cycle of desire and consumption. In The Hacking of the American Mind, Lustig reveals why we enter this state of consciousness, and calls to the conversation the big-name corporations that helped create this mess and the members of government who allowed it to happen. But don’t worry too much – Lustig also offers solutions we can all use in our daily lives to pursue happiness.

The cover of the book World Without Mind

World Without Mind

Franklin Foer

World Without Mind traces the history of computer science and exposes the corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. In the book, author Franklin Foer argues that these four companies are a huge threat to our identities and decision-making abilities, with a great impact on intellectual property and privacy. To effectively save our individuality and change the course of the future, we must reclaim our private authority and alter the way that we engage with the corporate world.

The cover of the book The Friendly Orange Glow

The Friendly Orange Glow

Brian Dear

The Friendly Orange Glow documents the astounding, untold story of PLATO: the 1960s computer program that marked the beginning of cyberculture. PLATO engineers made notable hardware breakthroughs with plasma displays and touch screens, and are responsible for countless software innovations including chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, screen savers, multiplayer games, online newspapers, interactive fiction, and emoticons – all things that we couldn’t imagine living without today.

The cover of the book The Four

The Four

Scott Galloway

Surely you’ll recognize the logos hiding on this book cover. They represent the four largest and most powerful corporations in the world today: Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. Almost all of us use services provided by “the Four” on a regular basis, and will continue to do so without question. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself: How did they infiltrate our lives so completely that they’re almost impossible to avoid? How many smaller companies have they crushed to get where they are today? And what will the future bring? Galloway, one of the world’s most celebrated business professors, analyzes the strategies of the Four, and demonstrates how they manipulate us every single day.

The cover of the book Soonish


Kelly and Zach Weinersmith

Renowned cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and well-known researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith join forces in Soonish to give readers a comic glimpse of the future, and the technologies that’ll likely transform our lives – robot swarms, space elevators, and nuclear fusion powered-toasters, to name a few. The Weinersmiths combined their own research with that of the scientists to investigate why these cool technologies are needed, how they would work, and how we can achieve them in the nearish future.

The cover of the book Wired for War

Wired for War

P. W. Singer

Military expert P.W. Singer reveals how science fiction is becoming reality on the battlefield, quickly and constantly modifying how wars are being fought. He looks at the way politics, economics, law, and ethics have changed in conjunction with technological advancements, and combines historical evidence with first-person accounts to prove that when technologies multiply, life on the front lines and at home are altered. We are continuously replacing men with machines, and though taking humans off the battlefield makes wars easier to start, it leads to more complications than ever before.