Hallucinations

By Oliver Sacks (2013)
To many people, hallucinations imply madness, but in fact they are a common part of the human experience. These sensory distortions range from the shimmering zigzags of a visual migraine to powerful visions brought on by fever, injuries, drugs, sensory deprivation, exhaustion, or even grief. Hallucinations doubtless lie behind many mythological traditions, literary inventions, and religious epiphanies. Drawing on his own experiences, a wealth of clinical cases from among his patients, and famous historical examples ranging from Dostoevsky to Lewis Carroll, the legendary neurologist Oliver Sacks investigates the mystery of these sensory deceptions: what they say about the working of our brains, how they have influenced our folklore and culture, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all.

Posted in consciousness, culture, myth, science

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

By Terry Teachout (2013)
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

By Robin Kelley (2010)
Thelonious Monk is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

By Terry Teachout (2010)
Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. Offstage he was witty, introspective, and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshiping fans ever knew. Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous biographers, including hundreds of candid after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

By Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (2014)
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen have spent the past fifteen years working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way. In Thanks for the Feedback, they explain why receiving feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, offering a simple framework and powerful tools to help us take on life’s blizzard of offhand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited input with curiosity and grace. They blend the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hard-headed advice. Thanks for the Feedback is destined to become a classic in the fields of leadership, organizational behavior, and education.

Posted in feedback, psychology

The Gutenberg Revolution: How Printing Changed the Course of History

By John Man (2009)
In 1450, all Europe’s books were handcopied and amounted to only a few thousand. By 1500, they were printed and numbered in their millions. The invention of Johann Gutenberg had caused a revolution: printing by movable type. Born in 1400 in Mainz, Germany, Gutenberg struggled against a background of plague and religious upheaval to bring his remarkable invention to light. His story is full of paradoxes: his ambition was to reunite all Christendom, but his invention shattered it; he aimed to make a fortune, but was cruelly denied the fruits of his life’s work. Yet history remembers him as a visionary; his discovery marks the beginning of the modern world.

Posted in culture, design, history, language, media, printmaking, technology, typography

Talking Jazz

Talking JazzBy Ben Sidran (expanded edition, 1995)
Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, Max Roach, Betty Carter, Jackie McLean, Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis, and Jack DeJohnette—these are just a few of the jazz musicians whose conversations with Ben Sidran are recorded in this volume. In stimulating, personal, and informative discussions, they not only reveal their personalities, but also detail aspects of the performance, technique, business, history, and emotions of jazz.

Posted in biography, interview, jazz, music

Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s

By Pamela Lee (2004)
Despite its pervasiveness, the subject of time and 1960s art has gone largely unexamined in historical accounts of the period. Chronophobia is the first critical attempt to define this obsession and analyze it in relation to art and technology.Lee discusses the chronophobia of art relative to the emergence of the Information Age in postwar culture. The accompanying rapid technological transformations, including the advent of computers and automation processes, produced for many an acute sense of historical unknowing; the seemingly accelerated pace of life began to outstrip any attempts to make sense of the present. Lee sees the attitude of 1960s art to time as a historical prelude to our current fixation on time and speed within digital culture.

Posted in art, culture, history, media, philosophy, technology, theory

Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer

By Liz Lerman (2011)
In this wide-ranging collection of essays and articles, Liz Lerman reflects on her life-long exploration of dance as a vehicle for human insight and understanding of the world around us. Lerman has been described by the Washington Post as “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art.” Here, she combines broad outlooks on culture and society with practical applications and accessible stories. Her expansive scope encompasses the craft, structure, and inspiration that bring theatrical works to life as well as the applications of art in fields as diverse as faith, aging, particle physics, and human rights law. Offering readers a gentle manifesto describing methods that bring a horizontal focus to bear on a hierarchical world, this is the perfect book for anyone curious about the possible role for art in politics, science, community, motherhood, and the media.

Posted in art, autobiography, education

Art Critiques: A Guide

By James Elkins (2011)
This is a guidebook for art students at the college level (BA, BFA, MFA, PhD). “Elkins introduces refreshing commonsense in the tired and tiresome activity of the critique of art works by students. A dissection geared to avoid or delay a future autopsy of the field, the book uses case studies that teach as much about ‘how to’ as they do about ‘how not to.’ A nice and often funny exercise in debunking, Art Critiques: A Guide is also a fascinating analysis of the successes and failures in communication among people.” -Luis Camnitzer

Posted in art, education