Tag: Books

Monty Python’s Michael Palin Explains Why He’s Obsessed with a Mysterious Boat

Left image: ‘Erebus’ and the ‘Terror’ in New Zealand, by John Wilson Carmichael. Right image: Michael Palin. Photo by Dave Benett/WireImage “I kind of get recognized as ‘the traveler,’” Michael Palin says as he discusses the origins of his new book, Erebus. It’s a recognition that’s well earned. The former member of […]

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George R.R. Martin Is Hiding in a Cabin So He Can Finally Finish the Next ‘GoT’ Book

George R.R. Martin keeps himself pretty goddamn busy. The guy’s penned dozens of books over the past few decades and single-handedly spawned one of the biggest TV franchises of all time. He currently has his hands in HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series, a new sci-fi show based on […]

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Stranger in the Village: James Baldwin’s Prophetic Insight into Race and Reality, with a Shimmering Introduction by Gwendolyn Brooks

“We made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over,” James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) wrote as he contemplated freedom and how we imprison ourselves in 1960. Twenty-six years later, in the last spring of his life, Baldwin — by then one of the world’s most formidable forces of […]

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How to Weigh Your Options and Decide Wisely: Benjamin Franklin’s Pioneering Pros and Cons Framework

When the 29-year-old Charles Darwin made his endearing list of the pros and cons of marriage, he was applying a now common decision-making technique pioneered half a century earlier by another revolutionary mind on the other side of the Atlantic: America’s polymathic Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706–April 17, 1790). Not since the Stoics […]

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The Puzzle We Call Being: Walt Whitman on Listening to the Song of Existence, Animated

“Every atom in creation may be said to be acquainted with and married to every other,” the great naturalist John Muir wrote as he contemplated the interconnectedness of the universe not long after Walt Whitman issued his timeless, exquisite reminder that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” And yet, Muir recognized, […]

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Wordsworth on Genius and the Creative Responsibility of Elevating Taste

What is genius — what is its nature and its proof? For Beethoven, genius was based on a foundation of talent, but required additional “freshness and wildness of imagination, a raging ambition, an unusual gift for learning and growing, a depth and breadth of thought and spirit.” “Genius gives birth, talent delivers,” Kerouac proclaimed in […]

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Perspective in the Age of Opinion: Timely Wisdom from a Century Ago

I have worried, and continue to worry, that we have relinquished the reflective telescopic perspective for the reactionary microscopic perspective. When we surrender the grandest, often unanswerable questions to the false certitudes of the smallest, we lose something essential of our humanity. When we aim the spears of those certitudes at one another, more interested […]

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Dawn: A Vintage Watercolor Serenade to the World Becoming Conscious of Itself

“In the name of daybreak / and the eyelids of morning / and the wayfaring moon / and the night when it departs,” Diane Ackerman wrote in her wondrous poem-prayer for presence. There is a singular and deeply assuring beauty to the prayerful optimism that daybreak brings. On the darkest of days, the knowledge that […]

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Margaret Fuller on What Makes a Great Leader: Timeless Political Wisdom from the Founding Mother of American Feminism

At six, Margaret Fuller (May 23, 1810–July 19, 1850) was reading in Latin. At twelve, she was conversing with her father in philosophy and pure mathematics. By fifteen, she had mastered French, Italian, and Greek, and was reading two or three lectures in philosophy every morning for mental discipline. In her short life, Fuller — […]

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Elizabeth Gilbert Reads “The Early Hours” by Adam Zagajewski

“The most regretful people on earth,” Mary Oliver wrote in her beautiful reflection on the central commitment of the creative life, “are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” There is something lovely about this notion of […]

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Figuring

I have composed a book. It only took twelve years of Brain Pickings and the most beautiful, difficult, disorienting experience of my personal life. Figuring explores the complexities, varieties, and contradictions of love, and the human search for truth, meaning, and transcendence, through the interwoven lives of several historical figures across four centuries — beginning […]

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How to Be a Good Creature: Naturalist Sy Montgomery on What 13 Animals Taught Her About Otherness, Love, and the Heart of Our Humanity

“To be a good human being,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum observed, “is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control” — to have, that is, a willingness to regard with an openhearted curiosity what is other than ourselves and therefore strange, discomfiting, difficult to fathom […]

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Truth, Justice, and Public Good: Simone Weil on Political Manipulation, the Dangers of “For” and “Against,” and How to Save Thinking from Opinion

At the age of nineteen, Simone Weil (February 3, 1909–August 24, 1943) placed first in France’s competitive exam for certification in “General Philosophy and Logic”; Simone de Beauvoir placed second. In her short life, Weil went on to become one of the most penetrating and far-seeing minds of her era. Albert Camus lauded her as […]

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