Staff Pick

Sheehan’s assured debut novel does a lot at once without getting in its own way. At one level it’s a coming-of-age story and the portrait of a friendship between a group of Dubliners in their twenties. There’s plenty of banter, big plans, and misadventures. The characters are personable, their dialogue sharp and funny.  But these guys have been through a lot. Two are orphans who bonded in a series of foster homes. One killed himself, leaving the others to suffer an unpredictable course of survivors’ guilt. Another spent several years in Sarajevo, returning from his stint as a “war tourist” with crippling, and perhaps life-threatening PTSD. After available treatments fail, his friends take him to California for an experimental therapy. The specter of their missing number accompanies them, and the narrative becomes a cross between an American road trip and an Irish ghost story in the vein of The Dirty Dust, with the dead not letting his condition keep him out of the conversation. Along the way Sheehan explores complicated questions of friendship, responsibility, and memory, asking how far we can go to save those we love and how we can live with memories that are painful reminders of all we’ve lost but at the same time all we have left of what we cherished.

Restless Souls Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781632460660
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Ig Publishing - April 10th, 2018

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Staff Pick

The title of Cooke’s breezy and smart book is partly wishful. She starts with myths and mysteries of thirteen creatures—do storks fly to the moon for the winter? Do frogs spontaneously generate? How exactly do vultures locate their fresh meals?—looks at how natural philosophers have imaginatively answered the question, then shows how modern science has definitively come to conclusions. Or not. We still can’t account for an eel’s entire lifecycle, and in many cases human interference has created new questions, such as how we can breed pandas in captivity that will behave like wild pandas, when they only have humans or other human-raised pandas to learn from. Meanwhile, storks, famous for their astonishing 4,000-mile migrations, may be evolving not to migrate due to a combination of man-made dangers along the route and the availability of food at landfills in Europe. Whether recounting facts, legends, or speculation, Cooke is unfailingly fascinating. Standouts among her many Wow! moments: beavers don’t need water to go into a dam-building frenzy, just a recording of the sound of water flowing will set them off. Hippos are closely related to whales and practice an “amphibious communication” both above and below water, one that sounds like the clicks and ticks of whale songs. The coat of a sloth is a mini-ecosystem that supports many varieties of moths, ticks, mites, and beetles and has the “look and smell” of a tree. Cooke herself belongs to the exuberantly hands-on species of zoologist, readily tasting the beaver’s musk, a “natural vanilla,” and applying a hippo’s sun-screen slime like a skin cream. Ultimately, Cooke reminds us that the greatest danger to the truth about animals, and thus to the creatures themselves, isn’t our ignorance but the anthropomorphizing that leads us to see animals in human terms and miss what’s most important about them.

The Truth about Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780465094646
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Basic Books - April 17th, 2018

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Staff Pick

Starting with his definition of a city as both a physical place and a mentality, Sennett is a critic of distinctions. Elucidating the claims of both the ville and the cité, describing the differences between boundaries and borders, defining sociability and sociality, and, most of all, advocating an open city (flexible, porous, resilient democratic) as opposed to a closed one (rigid, controlling, prescribed, authoritarian),  Sennett gives a brilliant survey of what cities have been, are, and might be, all in the service of establishing “an ethics” of these built environments that can perhaps solve some of the problems—inequality, racism—that the social sciences cannot.  Both an urbanist and an urbanite himself, Sennett balances abstractions with the real experiences of people in cities. His book takes us to today’s Shanghai, New York, Barcelona, Medellín, and Berlin, showing how different forms of grid patterns work, observing how people interact with strangers and noting which kinds of strangers are likely to encounter each other. He studies urban modes of empathy and aloofness and gives a quick lesson in proxemics: the science of how people choose to clump. Sennett is as wide-ranging intellectually as he is geographically. From St. Augustine to Google, his reference points include Lucretius and Tocqueville, Kant and Heidegger, nineteenth-century French novels and Teju Cole’s 2011 Open City, along with the more predictable Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford, and Le Corbusier. Like a great city itself, this book is lively, surprising, and teeming with things to notice and think about.

Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780374200336
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - April 10th, 2018

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