Books of Fiction and Nonfiction That Bring the Civil Rights Movement Alive

The Civil Rights Movement spanned decades, and resulted in some of the most society-defining legislature of the past century. Because of the work that activists, lawmakers, and citizens alike put into the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. made great strides in becoming a more equal, fair place to live, for people of all races. In 2018, it’s important to remember the work that’s been done as we evaluate the work we have left to do. On the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which provided equal housing opportunities to all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or national origin, we asked author Elaine Neil Orr to recommend a few books that bring the Civil Rights Movement alive for readers via both fiction and nonfiction. Read on for the books she recommends, and leave us further recommended reading in the comments.

 

The cover of the book Why We Can't WaitWhy We Can’t Wait

Martin Luther King

The seed of this book is King’s essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which King famously observed that members of the KKK aren’t the greatest threat to the Negro’s call for justice but moderate white Americans, who urge “the Negro” to bide his time.

To the question: how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others, King responds: “The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’”

This book and the essay that inspired it are a cornerstone to my sense of justice and to my theology (I grew up the daughter of missionaries in West Africa). Working for justice means mending broken relationships and this is the work of Divine Love.

 

The cover of the book The Autobiography of Malcolm XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X; Alex Haley

I first read this book in paperback almost forty years ago and I still own it. I remember feeling that the narrative was both astonishing and completely understandable. The story of Malcolm’s early life (father’s death, mother’s commitment to a psychiatric hospital) gripped me.  I was still relatively new to the U.S., having grown up a white American in Nigeria. So Malcolm X’s critique of the U.S., his passion, and his spiritual conversion to Islam all rang true for me even though I knew next to nothing about Islam. Somehow I identified with his pilgrimage to Mecca and North Africa, perhaps because I had just been required to leave that continent. I came away from the book admiring Malcolm X as a Black nationalist and as a Pilgrim or Seeker, who was still evolving when he was assassinated.

 

The cover of the book Song Of SolomonSong Of Solomon

Toni Morrison

For me, Morrison’s third novel is a Civil Rights novel though it only refers to Malcolm X glancingly and to Emmett Till briefly. But the novel is an extended metaphor for the struggle. On the one hand, we have the black, middle-class character of Milkman, who fails entirely to understand “the urgency of now” (King), and on the other hand, we have his friend, Guitar, who will use “any means necessary” to right the wrongs of white America.  The evolution of their friendship is a conversation about Black identity, Civil Rights, and justice, but the conversation is playing out not in politics or the pulpit but in their everyday lives. Pilate, the matriarch of Milkman’s family, is the deep mystery at the heart of the novel. “Without leaving the ground, she could fly.” Her character points to the essential relation between self-acceptance and loving the “other.”

 

The cover of the book Hughes: PoemsHughes: Poems

Langston Hughes

While Hughes is connected with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s, his poems cover the twentieth century and have shaped my sense of “the urgency of now.” In a few lines, these poems imprint our minds with Black realities. Essential poems include “Mother to Son,” “Cross,” “Words Like Freedom,” “Jim Crow Car,” “The Negro Dreams of Rivers, and “Always the Same”—which is a rousing critique of race-based exploitation and a call for global justice.  Also, “Tell Me”—which asks the question, “why should it be my dream/ deferred/overlong?”

 

The cover of the book The Blood of Emmett TillThe Blood of Emmett Till

Timothy B. Tyson

The story of Emmett Till and his mother ignited the Civil Rights movement and is the heart of the movement for me. Perhaps because I’m a mother, the terror of that event, the courage of the mother, the mutilated body, carry a weight of Biblical proportion, like a crucifixion.  The story had to go into my current novel. Tyson wrote this book of political history after Carolyn Burns, the white woman in whose name Emmett Till was killed, asked to talk with him. She doesn’t come off very well. What “comes off” is how the white imagination was bent by the history of race in Mississippi, how Chicago and Mississippi were not that far apart. This book is imperative for anyone who wants to know why the movement could not wait.

 

The cover of the book Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

This story in poems about a young girl’s experience of her brownness can be read by young and old readers alike. It includes the girl’s awareness of sit-ins and protests. More than that, it extends the movement into our present. Part of what I love about this book is that the girl loves her early life in South Carolina, where she is surrounded by family and pine trees and porch wings: “In South Carolina, we become The Grandchildren/ Gunnar’s Three Little Ones/ Sister Irby’s Grands/ MaryAnn’s Babies.” I also love her discovery of a composition notebook that she carries around for days before writing in it as if it’s a sacred object (which it is). What is so powerful about this book is that we are seeing in the here and now how brownness shapes a life now: the beauties of brownness and the imperative, still, for justice. We still can’t wait.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

The cover of the bookElaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature and creative writing. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of A Different Sun, two scholarly books, the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and Swimming Between Worlds, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria.

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8 New Spy Books to Add to Your Reading List This Year

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

The spy novel has come a long way since the heyday of Ian Fleming. John LeCarre’s literary legacy has been the morally complex person who must negotiate a world in which the terms “bad guys and good guys” has lost all meaning. The newest spy novels not only incorporate the bells and whistles of the latest technology, but they also feature complicated human beings who don’t always know if they’re doing the right thing in service to their country.

A recent spate of nonfictional accounts and fiction about spies reveal that “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine recognized that service to one’s country during difficult times tested all who were called. In these accounts, the notion that spying is service to one’s country will be questioned by more than one person. In 2018, writing fiction that surpasses the current nonfiction blockbuster at play in Washington, D.C. is a daunting challenge, and yet, the writers here have found ways to meet it. And, in the nonfiction accounts, the real people who became spies are stories of adventure and heartbreak.

Here are some of our recent favorites.

The cover of the book Who is Vera Kelly?Who is Vera Kelly?

Rosalie Knecht

One thing Vera Kelly is not is a standard-issue spy. During the Cold War, both the United States and the U.S.S.R. expended enormous amounts of money and personnel in search of information that would provide one or the other with an advantage. They also fought for influence among non-aligned groups, which is how Vera Kelly, a former “troubled teen” who is working dead-end jobs in Greenwich Village ends up as a spy in Buenos Aires. She has been sent there to infiltrate a leftist student group and monitor the members’ contact with the Soviets. But when a coup d’etat creates chaos on Argentinian streets and cuts her off from her C.I.A. handlers, Vera must improvise to survive.

Knecht has written a hybrid novel that is both literary in its attention to character and language, and a thriller where Vera’s status as a spy makes her a hunted woman who will have to find a way to survive. This intelligent novel about the quest for secret intelligence is a real treat.

 

The cover of the book Liar's CandleLiar’s Candle

August Thomas

Penny Kessler lands a dream internship working at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. On July 4th, she is part of the happy crowd at the Embassy’s Independence Day celebration. But someone lets off a bomb, killing and injuring many in the crowd. Many of the newspapers covering the story publish an affecting photo of the the after-effects of the bomb, one in which the injured Penny becomes the focus for the world’s rage and sorrow.

The trouble is that the photo makes Penny a target for those who want to use the injured woman as propaganda and those looking for a scapegoat. Even before she has regained consciousness, Penny’s life is taken over by those who want to make her a symbol of American resilience. But as many past heroes have discovered, the celebrated survivor may soon find themselves as the prime suspect, and it’s not long before she has to fight for her life against those who claim that Penny is a terrorist and a spy.

 

The cover of the book The Woman Who Fought an EmpireThe Woman Who Fought an Empire

Gregory J. Wallance

Even today, to speak of what happened in Armenia in 1915 as “genocide” is to provoke the fury of the Turkish government, which has always insisted that the slaughter of 1 million Armenian men, women, and children were military losses, not the result of an ethnic cleansing. But, as Gregory J. Wallance writes in his history, what Sarah Aaronsohn witnessed as a Jew living in the Ottoman Empire convinced her that after the Armenians had been erased, the Ottoman Empire would turn its attention to Jewish settlers in Palestine, also part of the imperial territory.

In order to prevent further Turkish atrocities, Aaronsohn and her Nili ring of spies began offering the British, who were fighting the Turks in battles in Egypt, information from behind Ottoman lines. Wallance paints a portrait of a complex woman who performed heroic work during difficult times. For those looking for a book about espionage that has real human lives at stake, this little-known story is a tremendous read.

 

The cover of the book The DeceiversThe Deceivers

Alex Berenson

Pity the spy novelist writing a thriller set in 2018 America. When the current American administration is under investigation for having allowed Russian actors to influence the latest election and a former KGB agent is now the head of the Russian government, how can fiction top real-life shenanigans? Enter John Wells, the fictional creation of Alex Berenson. Wells is former C.I.A. who is now following the trail that begins with a drug bust in Texas and ends with a plot to take over the White House.

Berenson writes in a style perhaps best described as “hard-boiled.” He uses few adverbs and does not provide long literary descriptions. What he does is to immerse readers in story before they leave the first page, which makes The Deceivers a tough book to put down, especially when the plot that John Wells uncovers will add layers of anxiety to any anxiety readers are already feeling about the current occupants of the White House.

 

The cover of the book The Kremlin's CandidateThe Kremlin’s Candidate

Jason Matthews

Film adaptations do not always do justice to complex literary characters and plots. Movie goers who saw Red Sparrow without reading the book upon which it was based missed out on Jason Matthews’ detailed descriptions of how a spy shakes someone who is tailing them, or the labyrinthine structure of Russian security bureaucracy, or the complicated woman that Dominika Egorova is underneath her performed role as spy.

Matthews was in the C.I.A for years, and his knowledge of the myriad little maneuvers and counter-maneuvers that go into an operation is fascinating to readers who may have wondered how the system really works. In this, the third novel in his trilogy, readers once again follow Dominika as she seeks to frustrate President Putin in his plans to assassinate an essential member of America’s intel community.

 

The cover of the book Need to KnowNeed to Know

Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before writing a novel so Need to Know is full of the kinds of verisimilitude that readers of spy thrillers hunger for. With rare exception, other spy novels portray spies as the survivors of busted marriages or for whom the constant exposure to human depravity has made private life near impossible. But Vivian Miller, a counterintelligence analyst, has a perfect home life, one in which she has been successful at dividing her life at work from her husband and four children.

All that changes while she is searching for sleeper agents, those Russian agents who have blended into the American population and are thus able to perform all of their espionage duties without triggering any warning signs. Miller has developed a new computer program that uses data to hone in on these sleeper agents. But one morning, her program reveals that one of these spies sleeps next to her every night in her marital bed. What happens when you come into possession of knowledge that you really didn’t want to know?

 

The cover of the book How to Catch a Russian SpyHow to Catch a Russian Spy

Naveed Jamali and Ellis Henican

Walter Mitty was James Thurber’s invention: a man who imagined himself to be other versions of himself in a vivid fantasy life. When Naveed Jamali was growing up, he imagined himself as the sort of spy whose exploits he watched in television shows.

After college, however, Jamali became what he had imagined. His spy story reads like the best of fictional capers with money deals transacted in Hooters restaurants and other everyday places in American cities. Jamali wasn’t just a spy, however, he became a successful double agent, working with Americans to convince Jamali’s Russian contacts to give up valuable information. Jamali’s true story is a delicious read.

 

The cover of the book A Spy in CanaanA Spy in Canaan

Marc Perrusquia

Many spy stories present romanticized images of the person who is willing to do heroic work for their own country by uncovering information about another country before harm can be done to our own. But a spy among one’s own people is regarded as the worst kind of betrayer: someone who trades secret knowledge to someone else knowing that the information can do harm to us.

But, as Marc Perrusquia shows, some spies can be forced into their actions either through extortion—the threatening of family members, for example—or because they believe that their actions are meant to protect the group they love from people the spy regards as bad actors.

So, what then, to make of the case of photographer Ernest Withers? Withers captured some of the most iconic moments of the Civil Rights movement, photographs that convinced America that the situation had to change in order to be on the moral side of history. And yet, the evidence also suggests that Withers was an informant for the F.B.I, an agency that treated people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. as enemies of the people. What would have convinced Withers that spying on King and his cohorts was the right thing to do? This fascinating book elucidates one of the darkest chapters of American history, when Americans spied on other Americans as they worked for justice.

The Best Dads in Fiction: A 4-Book Literary Guide to Fatherhood

Mark Williams and Bonnie Wright in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ (2011)/Photo by Jaap Buitendijk © 2011 Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.

Parenthood is a common topic in literature for obvious reasons – the abundance of turmoil being chief among them. Fatherhood has specifically been increasingly on my mind as of late. For me, it’s looming – with all the attendant anxiety, hope, misgivings, and doubts that collectively make up this hazy concept of anticipation – just on the horizon. My wife is due with our first child by year’s end, and as is customary in these situations, our little guy will be arriving with no consideration of whether I am prepared or not (apparently kids are funny that way).

Despite receiving many assurances that I will know what to do when this tiny bundle of humanity arrives, I have my doubts. While these waters are undoubtedly well-traveled and well-charted, the journey is nonetheless a daunting one. As is often the case with virtually all other facets of life, literature is a remarkable place to turn for guidance.

With an adventure that feels puzzling, exciting, and terrifying drawing ever closer, I turned to the well-worn pages of a handful of beloved books to puzzle out a possible ideal of fatherhood. Here’s what I found.

 

The cover of the book To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Atticus Finch

Perhaps the pinnacle of literary fatherhood, Atticus Finch represents an ideal that may be unattainable, but is none the less worth striving for. Deeply kind with an unerring moral compass, Atticus gave his children a sense of the world as it was, and more importantly, as it should be. He did not hide Scout and Jem from the darkness of the society in which they were raised. Rather, he gave them a light to cut through that darkness with an eye toward a better tomorrow. It was a mark of not only love, but a deep respect for his children and their ability to understand the nuances of the world around them to hopefully leave it better than they found it. In the words of Atticus Finch, “I wanted you to see what real courage is. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

 

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

J.K. Rowling

Arthur Weasley

Arthur Weasley is one of my favorite literary fathers. The Weasley children were exasperated and beguiled by their father’s exploits. His unbridled love for the world around him, and for muggles, gave his children an understanding, whether they realized or not, of how to find joy in even the most simple life experiences. He was a father, a protector, a co-conspirator, a mentor, and a friend, likely to join in his children’s hijinks while also providing words of fatherly wisdom. Arthur was a man who loved life – its myriad and minute joys. Whether it’s his excitement in learning his sons absconded with his flying car, or a paternal aside with Harry to assure that he will be safe and taken of, Arthur Weasley is evidence of the delight and wonder that can be found in parenting.

 

13496A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin

Ned Stark

Quality fathers are not in particular abundance within the borders of Westeros. Ned Stark is a notable and appreciated exception. Though Ned was far too honorable and just to thrive in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, his noble qualities made him a tremendous father and influence on the lives of not only the Stark children, but Jon Snow and even Theon Greyjoy. Indeed, his acceptance of both Jon and Theon are markers of his caring, stern, paternalistic nature. Similar to Atticus Finch, Ned understood the harsh realities of the lives his children would lead, and he did his best to prepare them for what was to come. More than anything else, Ned sought to instill in his children a sense of responsibility. While certainly an extreme and severe example, when Ned requires his sons to witness him executing a deserter of the Night’s Watch, he modeled for his children that while there are consequences for one’s actions, responsibility must also be taken for one’s decisions. It was a harsh lesson, but an essential one.

 

The cover of the book The Book ThiefThe Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Hans Huberman

When I think of the things that I would want for a child, much of it can be boiled to down to two traits – curiosity and wonder. They are things that are so easy to take for granted – but if happiness and contentment are the destination, curiosity and wonder may just be the path. Hans Huberman, or Papa as he is affectionately known to young Liesel in The Book Thief, helps Liesel to discover the world around through her growing desire and curiosity to read.  More importantly, it’s a journey he happily takes alongside her, guiding where he can but also encouraging her independence and inquisitiveness with his own. His kindness, patience, and exhilaration for the world around them – difficult and harrowing as it may be – proved a powerful example well worth emulating.

Travel Back in Time: 8 Illuminating History Books to Read Right Now

With everything that’s currently going on in the world, sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back (way back, in this case) and try to understand the world in which we live by learning about the past.

The list of eight books below are illuminating reads, packed with detailed information about significant historical events and figures that had lasting impacts on society. Spanning authors Ron Chernow, Kenneth Whyte, Robert Dallek, and more, these books are truly remarkable. So take a break from the present, and immerse yourself in these exceptional true stories of bygone days.

 

The cover of the book GrantGrant

Ron Chernow

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton, dazzles again with his biography of one of our most compelling generals and presidents: Ulysses S. Grant. Chernow’s evocative portrait of Grant showcases the highs and lows he experienced throughout his life, and provides readers with a deeper understanding of one our most underappreciated presidents. Grant is a masterful combination of research and style – it exposes the true story behind a Midwesterner that became extraordinary.

 

The cover of the book HooverHoover

Kenneth Whyte

This captivating biography documents the life of Herbert Hoover – one of the most remarkable Americans of the twentieth century. The text provides readers with an in-depth look at his life, his presidency, and his fight against the Great Depression that rocked this nation. Hoover’s vast successes and failures made him one of the most significant men in American history, and for the very first time, his momentous life is captured in a book for all to see.

 

The cover of the book The Three Lives of James MadisonThe Three Lives of James Madison

Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman examines the Founding Father who transformed the United States in his “three lives” as a revolutionary thinker, a partisan political strategist, and as president. Madison was ahead of his time – he predicted that foreign threats would negatively affect civil liberties, he feared growing economic inequality, and believed that government by the people demanded resistance to wealth. Madison recognized the importance of the opinions of others, and thought of the media as a safeguard to liberty. His achievements and his struggles continue to impact the United States today.

 

The cover of the book Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New OrleansAndrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans

Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager

During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson was ordered to assemble a coalition of frontier militiamen, French-speaking Louisianans, Cherokee and Choctaw Indians, freed slaves, and even some pirates. And on top of that, he had to defeat the most powerful military force in the world in the complex terrain of the Louisiana bayous. Basically, Jackson needed a miracle. Kilmeade and Yaeger make history come alive with this mesmerizing page-turner. Readers will have a whole new understanding of this great American general, and a renewed appreciation for the brave men who fought so that our country could become what it is today.

 

The cover of the book Martin LutherMartin Luther

Eric Metaxas

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes a compelling biography of one of the most inspiring men in modern history, Martin Luther. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s Ninety-five These ignited outrage that would change everything he knew about the world. Eric Metaxas examines this revolutionary man, whose unwavering faith defied the power structure of Western Christianity, and propelled society into the future. Luther’s monumental faith and courage gave birth to the ideals of liberty, equality, and individualism that continue to influence us today.

 

The cover of the book Franklin D. RooseveltFranklin D. Roosevelt

Robert Dallek

Considering the current state of our nation, there is no better time to dive into Robert Dallek’s Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life. Roosevelt was a man of compromise – he sought to unite a divided country, and succeeded to do so by exhibiting a great sense of humanity. Roosevelt became a champion of the poor, and won an unprecedented four presidential terms, transforming an isolationist country into an international superpower. This gripping biography contains valuable lessons for leaders around the world.

 

The cover of the book The Written WorldThe Written World

Martin Puchner

What would this world be without literature? Not very much. Literature has shaped civilization from the beginning of time, and in this groundbreaking book, Martin Puchner takes readers on a trip around the globe, travelling through to showcase the great stories that have created the world we know today. This is the story of how literature changed everything, in sixteen acts – from Alexander the Great and the Iliad to Harry Potter.

 

The cover of the book Prince CharlesPrince Charles

Sally Bedell Smith

Sally Bedell Smith examines the British royal family once again in this extraordinary biography. This time, her subject is Prince Charles – the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This fascinating book required years of research, and includes hundreds of interviews with those who know Prince Charles the best. With never-before-seen details and intimate discoveries, Smith reveals that Prince Charles is more complex and compelling than we previously thought.

A Purr-fect Selection: 15 Best Books for Cat Lovers to Read Right Meow

Photo by Nirzar Pangarkar on Unsplash

Cats, and the people who love them, sometimes get a bad rap. Cats have, on many occasions, been deemed soulless, selfish creatures, which, though partly true, is an insult to all the cuddly, attention-seeking kittens out there. There’s a negative connotation associated with being cat obsessed, especially if you’re a woman – I mean, all cat owners are old, alone, and bitter, right? (Wrong.)

The list of books below are purr-fect for all cat lovers everywhere, and maybe even more importantly, for the people who claim to hate cats. The titles span fiction and non-fiction, so all kitty ground is covered. All cat enthusiasts will find great joy between the pages of these fifteen books, and cat skeptics will surely have a change of heart – so whichever type of person you may be, pick up at least one of these books, and celebrate the cats in our world, fictitious and real alike.

 

The cover of the book Cat StoriesCat Stories

edited by Diana Secker Tesdell

With stories from P.G. Wodehouse, Doris Lessing, Damon Runyon, Steven Millhauser, and more, this fascinating collection contains two centuries worth of literature devoted to the fascinating feline. These charming stories offer cat lovers a many-faceted tribute to the mysterious furry friends that have won their affection.

 

The cover of the book CatopolisCatopolis

Martin H. Greenberg

The seventeen stories in this collection are set in a cat-dominated world that is hidden from humans. Catopolis follows the intriguing stories of several fearless cats – a Seer who seeks to defeat a dictatorial tomcat, a cat burglar desperate for treasure, a royal cat heir, and a black cat with mystical powers, looking to wage a war against evil. This book is ideal for anyone looking to escape the human world and immerse themselves in something more feline.

 

The cover of the book The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov; A Newly Revised Translation by Richard Pevear and LarissaVolokhonsky

The Master and Margarita is unparalleled by any other piece of literature fifty years after its publication. Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical, yet devastating, satire of Soviet life takes place in contemporary Moscow and ancient Jerusalem, and is filled with lively characters. The book features Behemoth, an enormous black cat who speaks, walks on two legs, can transform into a human for brief periods of time, and has an affinity for chess, vodka, pistols. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s rule, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, symbolizing artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.

 

The cover of the book Total Cat MojoTotal Cat Mojo

Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD

Jackson Galaxy, star of the hit Animal Planet show “My Cat from Hell,” demonstrates how to rehabilitate cats with behavioral issues in this easy to follow guide. He explains that understanding Cat Mojo – the confidence that cats exhibit when they are at ease in their environment and in touch with their natural instincts – will eliminate problems. Jackson Galaxy seeks to help his clients harness their cat’s mojo, and understand their cats better. This book addresses the head-to-toe physical and emotional needs of cats – whether related to grooming, nutrition, play, or stress-free trips to the vet.

 

The cover of the book Distillery CatsDistillery Cats

Brad Thomas Parsons

Distillery Cats tells the astonishing tales of cats in distilleries throughout history, from being handy forms of pest control to being current brand ambassadors. Cat-enthusiast and author Brad Thomas Parsons shares the stories of 30 of the world’s most adorable and lovable distillery cats in this book. Through the pages, there are “interviews” with the animals, fifteen cocktail recipes, a hand-drawn portrait of each cat, and even trading cards with stats like “super-power” and “mice killed.” Distillery Cats is a must-have for cat lovers and cocktail lovers everywhere.

 

The cover of the book Men & CatsMen & Cats

Marie-Eva Gatuingt and Alice Chaygneaud

This stunning photograph collection combines two of the world’s best things: hot men and cute kittens. With inspiration drawn from the trendy French Tumblr ‘Des Hommes et des Chatons,’ Men & Cats presents an original collection of 50 pairs of sexy men and adorable cats. Each heart-stopping match features one handsome hunk posing alongside a cat in a similar pose or with a similar expression. I mean, what’s there not to love?

 

The cover of the book The Cat Lover's Quotation BookThe Cat Lover’s Quotation Book

Jo Brielyn

Filled with delightful quotes and humorous one-liners, The Cat Lover’s Quotation Book connects readers with their furry feline friends by drawing on the joys that come from owning a cat (or them owning you). This book speaks to the cat lover in all of us, letting readers share in the many wonderful experiences that cat ownership brings.

 

The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

This pleasant read tells the life story of a housecat named Foudini. It begins with the tale of his orphaned kittenhood, and his rescue from a damp city basement. We then follow Foudini as he meets Warm and Pest, his people, and watch as he goes on adventures beyond his wildest dreams. Heartwarming, witty, and humorous, The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat is an unforgettable book about an unforgettable cat that should be on every cat lovers bookshelf.

 

The cover of the book Of Cats and MenOf Cats and Men

Sam Kalda

This book profiles some of the most remarkable cat-loving men throughout history, and documents how their cats have contributed to their genius discoveries. To name a few: Nikola Tesla’s interest in electricity sparked after seeing a static charge from a cat’s fur, Sir Isaac Newton invented the first cat door, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill both had beloved cats, and William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol wrote books inspired by their feline friends. Beautifully illustrated, Of Cats and Men recognizes thirty vital historical figures who all have something in common: an infinite love of cats.

 

The cover of the book A Tale of Two KittiesA Tale of Two Kitties

Sofie Kelly

Owen and Hercules, the two magical cats that star in this bestselling series, have supernatural powers that have aided librarian Kathleen Paulson in solving cold cases. This time around, an affair that happened twenty years ago leads to murder. The police set their sights on Kathleen’s good friend Simon, who doesn’t have much of an alibi. Kathleen must work quickly to prove that Simon is innocent, and will need to trust in the help of her feline detective friends.

 

The cover of the book Cats in ParisCats in Paris

Won-Sun Jang

This beautifully illustrated adult coloring book takes readers on a journey through Paris to explore the city’s most cat-famous spots, including Montmartre and Shakespeare and Co. Say bonjour to the cats of Paris that hang around in the streets and alleyways, and use your imagination to bring each page to life. Featuring several different breeds, this lovely coloring book will spark creativity in all kinds of cat people.

 

The cover of the book Pet SemataryPet Sematary

Stephen King

The Creeds are the ideal family. They’ve got it all – a physician father, a beautiful mother, a charming daughter, an adorable son, and a loving pet cat named Church. When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true… and then Church suffers a fatal accident. Church’s death is only the beginning of the great darkness that is coming for the Creed family, and soon enough, they are going to learn that death is not the worst thing that could happen.

 

The cover of the book I Could Pee on This, TooI Could Pee on This, Too

Francesco Marciuliano

I Could Pee on This, Too is quickly climbing to the top of the must-have books for cat owners! It explores the feline mind through poetry written from cats’ perspectives, such as “Welcome New Cat,” “Sleeping My Life Away,” and “You Also Live Here.” This book answers the age old question: What is my cat really thinking? Any cat lover who’s longed to understand the complex mind of their furry friend will be obsessed with this hilarious collection.

 

The cover of the book The Cat EncyclopediaThe Cat Encyclopedia

DK Publishing

More than 86 million Americans own at least one cat (trumping dog owners by over 10 million), making cats America’s favorite pets. The Cat Encyclopedia outlines everything you would ever need to know about cats, and features a variety of adorable photographs of breeds from around the world. A celebration of cats in art and culture, The Cat Encyclopedia is packed with information on the characteristics, origins, and behaviors of each type of cat, and care advice for all ages of cat.

 

The cover of the book Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore

Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore centers on fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home on a quest to change his future, and an older man named Nakata, who suffers from post-war injuries and finds himself drawn toward Kafka. Nakata has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats – he has always had a deep connection with them. When Kafka and Nakata cross paths, they both find new meaning and purpose in their lives. Haruki Murakami immerses readers in a magical world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits can leave their bodies. Kafka on the Shore is a remarkable work of fiction from one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

What Books Will We Be Talking About 100 Years from Now?

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

I just spent years burrowing my way through four thousand years of literature, and now, upon emerging from the lower depths of history, I am supposed to predict which recent books will still be talked about a hundred years from now? As if predicting the past wasn’t hard enough.

We pick and choose from the store of literature depending on our changing needs. Take Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, set in New England, which Atwood knew from her student days at Harvard. Published in 1985, this dystopian tale of a theocratic society spoke to fears associated with the rising Christian right and Ronald Reagan. Who knew that it would be relevant thirty years later, in Trump’s America? And that it would be revived by Hulu, garnering the first Emmy for a streaming platform?

New technologies will use striking tales at moments when we’re particularly dumbfounded by the world around us and desperately turn to the past for guidance. I hope that if people still read The Handmaid’s Tale a hundred years from now – and they definitely should – that they do so not because they need this story, but because they can’t believe that people were plagued by such worries in the past.

When I contemplate the future of literature, my thoughts invariably turn to Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad (the title is a metaphor for the ravages of time). Egan’s interlocking tales are engrossing, and she includes intriguing predictions, such as future teenagers rejecting the tattoos of their parents’ generation. Egan also imagines new forms of literature by writing the last section of her novel in PowerPoint. I don’t think we’ll have PowerPoint a hundred years from now – I sure hope it will be gone much sooner than that – but A Visit From the Goon Squad will be, at the very least, a record of how a great novelist imagined the future back in 2010. I think they’ll enjoy it.

We’re living through an unparalleled moment of technological change, and The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization was an attempt to look back and see what had happened at earlier such moments, including the invention of the tablet, of paper, the bound book, and print. Which of our stories will be seized by future technologies? I bet that Harry Potter will be among them.

We’ve now had an entire generation of readers growing up with these stories, reading them, watching them, playing them, living them, breathing them. Soon, this Potter generation will be reading these stories to their children, and why should it stop there? And Potter has been adapting to new technologies with particular agility, not just film but also fan sites and theme parks. If we bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age, future archeologists might dig up Potterworld in Orlando and wonder which stories these underwater ruins were built on. At such a time, Harry Potter will rise from the floods the way The Epic of Gilgamesh arose from the banks of the River Tigris in the nineteenth-century, bringing news from a distant era.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. His bestselling six-volume Norton Anthology of World Literature and HarvardX MOOC (massive open online course) have brought four thousand years of literature to students across the globe. His latest book, The Written World, tells the story of how literature shaped world history. Here, Martin shares what books he thinks will be talked about one hundred years from now.

Get Moving: 11 Best Books on Running to Read This Spring

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Beautiful spring weather is on the way soon (hopefully), so there’s no better time to break out your sneakers and hit the ground running.

The eleven books below will help you to get motivated and get out there, regardless of whether you’re a marathon junkie or just starting out. They’ll guide you on your journey to fitness and shed light on the benefits of running.

The cover of the book Let Your Mind RunLet Your Mind Run

Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton

Deena Kastor was a talented runner from a young age, but her career almost ended after college, when her competitive mindset nearly destroyed her. As she verged on giving up, Deena traveled to Colorado, where legendary coach Joe Vigil had started the first professional distance-running team. It was there that she learned about the power of changing the way you think – when she changed her mind to be more encouraging, kind, and resilient, she was able to run faster than ever before, eventually causing her to earn America’s first Olympic medal in the marathon in twenty years. In this book, Deena shares her amazing story, along with tips for cultivating positivity.

The cover of the book The Pursuit of EnduranceThe Pursuit of Endurance

Jennifer Pharr Davis

In The Pursuit of Endurance, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Jennifer Pharr Davis shares her secret for maximizing endurance, in fitness and in life. Jennifer holds the record for the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail, and in this book, she chronicles her incredible accomplishments while explaining how to take your own perseverance to the next level. The Pursuit of Endurance is an empowering read for everyone, runner or not.

The cover of the book 80/20 Running80/20 Running

Matt Fitzgerald

This hands-on guide offers insight from respected running and fitness expert Matt Fitzgerald on the 80/20 running program, in which you do 80 percent of runs at a lower intensity and just 20 percent at a higher intensity. This program is ideal for runners of all levels to improve their overall performance and stamina. With an in-depth explanation of the science and research behind the practice, 80/20 Running is an informative, life-changing book for expert runners and aspiring runners alike, with training programs for 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon distances.

The cover of the book Finding UltraFinding Ultra

Rich Roll

On the night before his fortieth birthday, Rich Roll took a long, hard look at his life: He was fifty pounds overweight and his health was suffering because of it. He decided that he needed to make a change, immediately. Rich jumped into a new lifestyle, with a plant-based diet and daily training at its center. Rich transformed – in a matter of months – from an out of shape, sedentary man to an extremely fit endurance master. Finding Ultra documents Rich’s inspirational wellness journey, and his remarkable experience with the Ultraman competition, which pits the world’s fittest humans in a 320-mile ordeal of swimming, biking, and running. In the years since Finding Ultra was published, Rich has become one of the world’s most recognized advocates of plant-based living. In this newly revised and updated edition, he shares the practices, tools, and techniques he uses for optimal performance, longevity, and wellness, including diet and nutrition protocols.

The cover of the book Fire on the TrackFire on the Track

Roseanne Montillo

When Betty Robinson assumed the starting position at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, she didn’t know that she was about to become a star. Though it was only her fourth-ever organized track meet, she crossed the finish line as a gold medalist and the fastest woman in the world. But when Betty reached a high point in her life and career, everything came tumbling down. She experienced a brutal plane crash that resulted in injuries so dire that she was almost deemed dead. This book tells Betty’s remarkable story of achievement, loss, and recovery, while also shedding light on the other notable women of Track and Field who made history in the sport.

The cover of the book Born to RunBorn to Run

Christopher McDougall

In this national bestseller, award-winning journalist Christopher McDougall takes an in-depth look at how the Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury; as a runner that’s frequently injured, it was especially intriguing for him. Chris takes his readers on a journey across North America, where ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit to achieve success, and to the Copper Canyons, where America’s best ultra-runners compete against the Tarahumara tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only inspire your body to move, but it will inspire your mind, and remind you that you were born to run.

The cover of the book What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningWhat I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, bestselling author Haruki Murakami takes a close look at how writing and running impact one another in extraordinary ways. This beautiful memoir came about while Haruki was training for a marathon – he decided he wanted to write about his experiences and capture his journey with running, including the moment when he decided to become a writer. Humorous, informative, and philosophical, this book is perfect for all types of readers, athletes and non-athletes alike.

The cover of the book Barefoot RunningBarefoot Running

Michael Sandler with Jessica Lee

Whenever we get ready for a run, we throw on a pair of sneakers without question and head out the door. But, is that really the best practice? Barefoot Running authors Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee argue that running in shoes is high-impact, unstable, and inflexible. The result? Weakened feet, knees, and hips, which leads to common running injuries. Barefoot running is low-impact, forefoot-centric, stable, and beneficial to your body. And with this step-by-step guide, runners everywhere can learn how to overcome injuries, run faster than ever, and rediscover the pure joy of running, all without the burden of shoes.

The cover of the book Running with MindfulnessRunning with Mindfulness

William Pullen

We’ve all heard it before: Moving your body is good for you. But why, exactly? And how can we make the most of it? In this interactive workbook, psychotherapist William Pullen teaches readers how to harness their energy using Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT) to make the most positive change in their lives. Pullen’s approach to mindfulness and fitness will help to transform our outlook on running – it’s a simple, therapeutic method for managing stress, trauma, anxiety, anger, depression, and other conditions.

The cover of the book The Running RevolutionThe Running Revolution

Dr. Nicholas Romanov with Kurt Brungardt

In The Running Revolution, Two-time Olympic coach Dr. Nicholas Romanov and creator of the Pose Method Kurt Brungardt join forces to bring runners an essential guide for going faster and farther. The Running Revolution provides both beginning and experienced runners with everything they need to know about running safely and efficiently. With this book, runners will learn how to improve their performance over their lifetime with a method that is safe, healthy, and foolproof.

The cover of the book Running with the KenyansRunning with the Kenyans

Adharanand Finn

Adharanand Finn uprooted his family and traveled to a small, chaotic town in the Rift Valley of Kenya to uncover the secrets of the fastest people on earth. He longed to understand these long-distance runners, and how they do what they do. Finn ran side by side with Olympic champions, young hopefuls, and barefoot schoolchildren, and met a cast of unforgettable characters. This book documents his amazing experiences, and provides a fresh look at what it means to really run.