bethDuring my recent holiday in Colorado, I attended the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute with a number of Dutch book colleagues. Two keynote addresses were particularly stimulating and I want to recommend the associated books.

Martin Lindstrom, an engaging and respected business analyst and international brand-building advisor, has written the bestseller Buyology and just published his new work Small Data. This book looks at the tiny clues which uncover big trends in a way which Big Data databases cannot hope to match. Lindstrom interviews thousands of people in their homes, looking at those themes and things which evoke emotion in consumers. A vibrant, idiosyncratic and challenging book!

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on “power poses” has inspired tens of millions of viewers who are shown how to use their body language to unlock their own confidence. Her new book Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges shows us the science behind Cuddy’s technique – not “Fake it ‘til you make it” but “Fake it ‘til you become it.” Presence is a manifesto for students and managers facing intimidating challenges, for young girls who need to bolster their self-esteem – in short, for all of us who need to get our minds and bodies working together to promote our ideas. Cuddy shared a personal anecdote with me about a son who spent five minutes every morning striking a power pose with his father and rediscovered for a brief moment the man he had lost to dementia. A fabulous concept, a great read. Watch our website for an announcement of Cuddy’s visit to Amsterdam. We are working on it!! In the meantime, you can watch Cuddy’s Ted Talk here:

The Canadian author Patrick DeWitt, whose Booker short-listed Sisters Brothers brilliantly parodied the traditional Western, plays with the “folk tale noir” in the recently released comic novel Under Majordomo Minor. The puny Lucien Minor, aka Lucy, leaves his Middle European village to seek his fortune in the gothic castle of an absent baron. The story proceeds from one quirky scene of train pickpockets to a party of debauched aristocrats and a shakily satisfying tale of young love. DeWitt writes with marvellous absurdity and strictly on his own terms. Enjoy but expect the unexpected.

Stefan Zweig, a prolific and popular Austrian writer (1882-1942) is perhaps best known now for his autobiography, The World of Yesterday. Penguin has just issued in its Modern Classics series a new translation of Ungeduld des Herzens which originally appeared as Beware of Pity and has been renamed Impatience of the Heart. This is a fabulously dramatic tale of a gallant and naive soldier who, with the best of intentions, lets his pity for a young crippled aristocrat entangle him in a complex relationship in interbellum Europe. Zweig is a master craftsman and a great storyteller.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen recounts the rather unlikely story of spoiled American upper class socialites who head to Scotland, determined to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster – and this in the midst of the WWII U-boat attacks on the High Seas. While the plot is predictable – (the bored young wife, Maddie, learns about real life), Gruen’s skills as an author (Water for Elephants) manifest themselves and this turns out to be a page-turner. Certainly the perfect airplane read!

All American Boys, a compelling and highly acclaimed Young Adult novel by authors Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely, erupts with a shocking incident of police brutality against the young African-American high school student Rashad. Reynolds is the voice of Rashad and Kriely portrays the white teen Quinn who witnesses the attack and wants nothing more than to have life return to normal. This exploration of racism focuses on the role each of us plays in building walls instead of bridges between our communities. See the detailed review by the New York Times. For teachers, read this in parallel with Ralph Ellison’s classic The Invisible Man and Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir of his father, The Beautiful World and his letter to his young son, Between the World and Me.

– Beth Johnson

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Beth’s blog #17