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Love Undetectable: Andrew Sullivan on Why Friendship Is a Greater Gift Than Romantic Love


Reflections on the cornerstone of our flourishing. “A principal fruit of friendship,” Francis Bacon observed, “is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce.” Thoreau would “sometimes awake in the night and think of friendship and its possibilities.” St.

Upside Down Day: Rare and Wonderful Vintage Children’s Book by the Head of NASA’s Public Affairs Office


An ode to those times when everything seems backwards. In 1968, less than a year before the iconic NASA moon landing, a charming children’s book titled Upside Down Day (public library) made its debut.

Why Love Needs Space: Applying the Benjamin Franklin Effect to Romantic Relationships


Empirical evidence for the healthy push-and-pull of love. You may recall the Benjamin Franklin Effect — that odd phenomenon of reverse psychology wherein doing someone a favor makes us like the person more.

Three Delightful Poems About Dogs from E.B. White


A charming celebration from literary history’s premiere champion of the canine. Perhaps due to the occupation’s necessary solitude and the dearth of distracting human company it inherently requires, writers and their pets have always had a special bond.

Susan Sontag on Beauty vs. Interestingness


Defying consumerism and the banality of the beautiful, or why our capacity for astonishment endures. “Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit,” Harvard’s Nancy Etcoff wrote in her fantastic meditation on the psychology of beauty.

Happy Birthday, Nabokov: A BBC Documentary on Lolita and Life


“Though he never returned, Russia never really left him, either.” Vladimir Nabokov (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) is one of the most influential writers in modern history, no doubt in large part due to his strong opinions on literature and the creative process.

Legendary Harvard Psychologist Jerome Bruner on the Art of “Effective Surprise” and the 6 Essential Conditions of Creativity


“Passion, like discriminating taste, grows on its use. You more likely act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action.” One of the greatest preoccupations not only of our culture but of our civilization is the question of what creativity is, dating back to the dawn of recorded thought.

Trying Not to Try: How to Cultivate the Paradoxical Art of Spontaneity Through the Chinese Concept of Wu-Wei


“Our modern conception of human excellence is too often impoverished, cold, and bloodless. Success does not always come from thinking more rigorously or striving harder.” “The best way to get approval is not to need it,” Hugh MacLeod memorably counseled.

How a Smile Saved Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Life: A Soul-Stirring Meditation on the Shared Humanity of Our Universal Language


“Care granted to the sick, welcome offered to the banished, forgiveness itself are worth nothing without a smile enlightening the deed.” Though researchers since Darwin may have spent considerable effort on the science of smiles, at the heart of that simple human expression remains a metaphysical art — one captured nowhere more beautifully and grippingly than in a short account by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, found in Letter to a Hostage (public library) — the same exquisite short memoir he began writing in December of 1940, a little more than two years before he created The Little Prince on American soil, which also gave us his poignant reflection on what the Sahara desert teaches us about the meaning of life.

Mr. Bliss: Tolkien’s Little-Known Children’s Book for His Own Kids, Lovingly Handwritten and Illustrated by the Author Himself


“‘What color?’ said Mr. Binks. ‘Bright yellow,’ said Mr. Bliss, ‘inside and out.’” J.R.R. Tolkien firmly believed that there is no such thing as writing “for children” and yet, unbeknownst to most, he joined the ranks of famous authors of literature for grown-ups who wrote little-known children’s books — including Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein — and actually penned a book specifically for kids.

Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit


A beautiful illustrated celebration of women’s journey toward creative freedom and mobility. Amid a children’s book ecosystem marked by a lamentable lack of ethnic diversity and gobsmacking presence of female protagonists in only 31% of books, here comes Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit (public library) — a heartening antidote from the young artist-storyteller Amrita Das and Tara Books, the remarkable Indian independent publisher who for the past two decades has been giving voice to marginalized storytelling through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on beautiful books based on Indian folk traditions.

I Can Fly: A Heartening Vintage Gem by Ruth Krauss, with Illustrations by Celebrated Disney Artist Mary Blair


Simple verses with a thoughtful message. Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993) is one of the most inspired and imaginative children’s storytellers of the twentieth century.

Posterity Is Stupid: 19-Year-Old Italo Calvino on Living with Integrity and How to Assert Yourself


“Asserting oneself … doesn’t mean asserting a name and a person. It means asserting oneself with all that one has inside, and what he has inside, underneath that pigeon chest, is taking on more and more precise contours.” “A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off,” Italo Calvino observed in one of his 14 definitions of what makes a classic.

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers


“Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.” Kurt Vonnegut was a man of discipline, a champion of literary style, a kind of modern sage and poetic shaman of happiness, and one wise dad.

The Wizard of Oz, Reimagined by Beloved Illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger


An enchanting and original vision for L. Frank Baum’s classic ode to wonderment and joy. As a lover of vintage children’s books, especially ones that have elicited exquisite illustrated reimaginings over the years, I was thrilled to come upon an extraordinary 1996 edition of The Wizard of Oz (public library), illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger — one of the most remarkable, original, and imaginative illustrators of our time, whose soft yet irreverent aesthetic calls to mind the sensitivity of Maurice Sendak, the visual poetics of Sophie Blackall, and the conceptual eeriness of Edward Gorey, and yet is gasp-gorgeous and decidedly distinctive in its own right.

The Science of Humor and the Humor of Science: A Brilliant 1969 Reflection on Laugher as Self-Defense Against Automation


“Our life has become so mechanized and electronified that one needs some kind of an elixir to make it bearable at all.

Fictitious Dishes: Elegant and Imaginative Photographs of Meals from Famous Literature


From James Joyce to Maurice Sendak, by way of weep-worthy jelly and gifted chickens. Food and literature have a long and arduous relationship, from the Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook to Jane Austen reimagined in recipes to Alice B.

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Little-Known Art


From Alice in Wonderland to Times Square, a delicate dance of the imagination. When Zelda Sayre married legendary Jazz Age novelist F.

Why There Was No First Human


“It’s just like how you used to be a baby and now you’re older, but there was no single day when you went to bed young and woke up old.” We live in a culture where 40% of people don’t believe the world is more than 6,000 years old.

Herman Melville on Art


On the mystical mastery of wrestling with the angel. “Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness,” philosopher Alain de Botton assured in Art as Therapy, one of the best art books of 2013.


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