In an enchanting new memoir, Pat Conroy attributes his life-long literary preoccupations to his mother’s having read to him all 1,000 pages of Gone with the  Wind when he was five and to a high-school English teacher’s infectious passion for great literature. These defining experiences launched him on the path so personally and appealingly described in MY READING LIFE (Nan A. Talese, $25). Despite the fact that I have never been a great fan of Conroy’s fiction, I was so completely absorbed by his accounts of the teachers, writers, and books that he has absorbed into his life’s blood that I read this book straight through to the end, pausing occasionally to reread sections like his tribute to War and Peace, a novel that so awed him he’s read it three times.

My Reading Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385533577
Availability: Backordered
Published: Nan A. Talese - November 2nd, 2010

To tell someone how to find your house, you can direct them to go left then right, or you can say “head east for half a mile.” These two options are available to English speakers, that is. For Australian aboriginal speakers of Guuga  Yimithirr, only the latter mode is possible, as their language lacks an “egocentric” vocabulary of “left, “right,” “in front of,” and “behind.” In his fascinating trip THROUGH THE LANGUAGE GLASS (Metropolitan, $28), Guy Deutscher, author of The Unfolding of Language, investigates how language shapes, expands, and constrains human world views—or doesn’t. Does speaking a language that genders objects reflect a greater sensitivity to essential male and female traits than one, like English, in which all objects are “it”? Do speakers of languages that combine nouns and verbs see the world differently from those who need two words to describe an object in action? To address questions of individual languages and universal experience, Deutscher focuses on colors. “Why is the sky blue?” might seem to be a basic, formative question, but for linguists the first inquiry is “where is the ‘blue’?” Blue—or just “blue”—is absent from Homer’s epics, rich in descriptions and other colors though they are.

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312610494
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - August 30th, 2011

The provocative H.L. Mencken has long been considered the most controversial and influential of journalists, and now we can fully appreciate his work with two slipcased, handsomely produced volumes from the Library of America. PREJUDICES: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Library of America, $70) contains all six series of Mencken’s iconoclastic writing on American culture. Mencken’s critical eye ranged from the local to the national, and he wrote just as unsparingly about politics and famous court cases as he did in his book reviews and his celebratory writings on Baltimore. As we’ve come to expect, the Library of America outdoes itself with an impressive selection of notes, an exhaustive chronology, and an excerpt from Mencken’s later memoir in which he reflects on the public and intellectual reception of his “Prejudices.”

H. L. Mencken: Prejudices: The Complete Series: A Library of America Boxed Set Cover Image
ISBN: 9781598530766
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Library of America - September 2nd, 2010