You’d have to be fairly clueless about the current political moment not to feel a shiver of recognition watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the new dystopian drama on Hulu.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel, the show debuted Wednesday after weeks of politically fueled anticipation. The timing is apt. The action takes place in Gilead, a fictional future America that has been taken over by a fundamentalist group of men who systematically strip away women’s rights.
That description might remind viewers of President Donald Trump’s first Monday in office when, surrounded by other men, he signed off on the global gag rule ― an anti-abortion order that restricts women’s reproductive rights around the world. Or, perhaps it also brings to mind Vice President Mike Pence, who chooses not to socialize alone with women who are not his wife.
Even Trump fanatics saw the connection, calling the show anti-Trump propaganda.
But there’s plenty of reason to believe American women are not headed toward the extreme fate faced by their fictional counterparts, whose highest purpose is to serve their husbands and bear children ― and if they can’t do the latter, so-called handmaids are forced to serve as surrogates.
That’s not us. The resistance in the U.S. is very much alive and well. And in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, it’s been remarkably effective. Indeed, just last week ― under pressure from activists energized by the election ― Fox News was forced to oust longtime star news host Bill O’Reilly, who was under fire for sexually harassing women.
Other executives at the network seem to be headed for the chopping block, as well. It’s a sign that even at one of the most conservative, pro-Trump companies in the country, women are finally being heard.
Paradoxically, O’Reilly’s ouster seemed to be made possible by Trump’s election. Putting a man in office who’d been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women didn’t scare anyone into silence ― it sparked a massive wave of outrage, energy and activism.
So much so that Trump’s first nominee for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration after decades-old domestic violence allegations resurfaced.
The day after the inauguration, millions of women took to the streets in dozens of major cities around the world wearing pink pussy hats and decrying the patriarchy. The marches were largely peaceful.
There’s more: The first shot at Obamacare repeal ― which would have left so many women without health care ― didn’t work. His anti-immigration orders have been stopped by the courts, with the help of a huge number of female immigration lawyers, as New York magazine noted.
Emily’s List, the nonprofit progressive group that helps women run for office, says it has seen an “unprecedented” level in interest since November.
What is happening now in the United States is actually real progress for women.
It’s easy to forget that up until the 1990s, it was still legal for a husband to rape his wife. Until the 1970s, a woman accusing someone of raping her wasn’t considered a reliable witness in court (a situation eerily recalled in a terrible courtroom scene in a later episode of the Hulu show). And we haven’t even noted how women’s rights are curtailed around the world.
Of course, there’s no doubt that putting a misogynist in the Oval Office is an enormous setback. There’s not a single woman in Trump’s inner circle, aside from his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and a spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, who’s been recently silenced. Only 23 percent of his White House staff is female.
Despite progress, women in the U.S. still have a frighteningly long way to go.
The overwhelming majority of married women in this country still take their husband’s names, some without questioning why. And only recently, a Republican state representative from Oklahoma referred to women as “hosts” for fetuses.
More troubling? A majority of white women voters went for Trump, an echo of “Handmaid’s Tale,” too. In the book, elite white women ― the wives of the new political leaders ― seem to be true believers in the new world. Internalized sexism is a modern-day plague.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” came out in 1985, a perfect comment for those times, when Reagan-era conservatives were working feverishly to restore “traditional” values, i.e., restricting women’s reproductive rights, demonizing single mothers (particularly ones of color) and generally making it harder for women to choose to work outside the home. The Hulu show got the green light before Trump’s candidacy turned real.
Atwood, for her part, based the book on real historical examples.
“One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the nightmare of history,” Atwood explained in the New York Times this year. She explains that she’s grounded the book and its setting in 17th century puritanical American values (remember those witch trials).
One of Atwood’s favorite signs at the Toronto women’s march read “I can’t believe I’m still holding this fucking sign,” the 77-year-old author told The New Yorker.
When asked whether her book is a prediction for our future, Atwood offers hope and a warning.
“No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities,” she writes. “Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.”
Progress does not happen in a straight line. Setbacks are inevitable. What’s critical is what comes next.
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“The Circle” commits a terrible movie crime: It botches its own premise, coming up hollow and spineless.
There’s no use trying to be more measured. The big-screen adaptation of Dave Eggers’ best-selling 2013 novel about a surveillance-happy internet corporation betrays stories that tackle techno-panic in our increasingly digital world. Eggers’ book is a pulpy page-turner that updates elements of 1984 and Brave New World, even if its execution isn’t as immersive or clever. In movie form, almost everything gets lost in translation. The tone isn’t alarming enough to be a thriller, nor is it witty enough to be a satire, offering no effective commentary about the breadth of our electronic footprints.
No movie should be required to preach a message, but what’s the point in depicting the ills of technology without offering a point of view? We’re talking about a genre that has always been rife with sociopolitical subtext. Think of “Minority Report,” the Philip K. Dick adaptation that asks complicated questions about free will by depicting a police state that uses technology to apprehend criminals. Take the arguable hallmark of science fiction, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and its layered story about a sentient computer that nearly robs astronauts’ ability to control their spacecraft. Even more aligned with “The Circle” are “WALL-E,” “Her” and the Season 3 opener of “Black Mirror,” three deft futuristic chronicles of tech’s effects on human communication.
It’s especially a bummer because “The Circle” does operate on a timely, intriguing premise. But Eggers and James Ponsoldt’s screenplay is such a tonal and thematic mess that the entire endeavor becomes a waste.
In it, Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, an office drone whose best friend gets her an interview at a hip internet company called The Circle. Virtuosic chieftain Eamon Bailey, a Steve Jobs type played by Tom Hanks, wants to make the digital sphere more connected ― devices linked, social media inescapable, everyone’s whereabouts publicly tracked at all times. Bailey’s motto is “Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better.” It’s a near-totalitarian nightmare, but you wouldn’t quite know that from the movie, which reduces descriptions of The Cicle’s intents to stiff monologues and exchanges characters for what might as well be cardboard cutouts.
As Mae continues to work there, she becomes more and more of a convert. She joins the company’s prestigious upper ranks and watches her popularity rise in real time. That, in and of itself, is a huge concept. It invokes our addiction to social media’s instant gratification, as well as the obvious ways that enterprises like Google and Facebook are tracking our online data. But “The Circle” only poses questions ― it rarely answers them. The novel has access to characters’ interior lives. Without them, the movie is powerless. As Mae learns more about The Circle’s inner workings, the movie’s tone hardly aligns with the story’s implications. We never fully understand the Circle overlords’ motivations, and Watson’s plodding performance ensures we never fully understand Mae either.
Usually I think movies without redeeming values aren’t worth the word count. But this is different, not only because it’s an adaptation of a popular novel, but because Hollywood studios can only greenlight so many parables about our cyber destiny. That cinematic trend has its roots in the 1990s, when the internet seemed unknowable. “The Net” and “Hackers” jump-started the mini-genre in 1995, using enigmatic paranoia to fuel their narratives. Given how much more we know about the internet now, for “The Circle” to remain so toothless means Hollywood has wasted an opportunity to tell a relevant story.
The movie’s third act finds Mae “going transparent,” which means she wears a miniature camera that turns her existence into an all-day live feed. Those who’ve read the book know this results in a character’s tragic death, an episode that rattles Mae and leaves her questioning The Circle’s conscience. In the film, her fallout is so ham-fisted and her retaliation is so broad that any inklings of a thesis statement are expunged.
What went wrong in this adaptation? Hard to say, especially considering James Ponsoldt is known as a director to watch thanks to “The Spectacular Now” and “The End of the Tour.” He and the cast have given few interviews to promote the movie, and the marketing campaign has seemed relatively muted, even though “The Circle” is opening on more than 3,000 screens, a sum commonly reserved for blockbusters. The film’s highest-profile moment was its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, a whole two days before it opens theatrically. That’s not a sign of faith on a studio’s part. Maybe one day we’ll know why such a promising endeavor resulted in such a disastrous product. For now, carry on with your digital activities. “The Circle” might as well convince us there’s nothing to fret.
You can be highbrow. You can be lowbrow. But can you ever just be brow? Welcome to Middlebrow, a weekly examination of pop culture. Read more here.
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Learn what’s private online (not much)–and what to do about it!
Nowadays, it can be difficult to complete ordinary activities without placing your personal data online, but having your data online puts you at risk for theft, embarrassment, and all manner of trouble. In this book, Joe Kissell helps you to develop a sensible online privacy strategy, customized for your needs. Whether you have a Mac or PC, iOS or Android device, set-top box, cell phone, or some other network-enabled gadget, you’ll find practical advice that ordinary people need to handle common privacy needs (secret agents should look elsewhere).
You’ll learn how to enhance the privacy of your Internet connection, Web browsing, email messages, online chatting, social media interactions, and file sharing, as well as your mobile phone or tablet, and Internet of Things devices like webcams and thermostats. Parents will find important reminders about protecting a child’s privacy. The book also includes Joe’s carefully researched VPN recommendations.
The book is packed with sidebars that help you get a handle on current topics in online privacy, including international travel, quantum computing, why you should beware of VPN reviews online, two-factor authentication, privacy and your ISP, understanding Gmail ads, and more.
You’ll receive savvy advice about:
Why worry? Learn who wants your private data, and why they want it. Even if you don’t believe you have anything to hide, you almost certainly do, in the right context. Would you give just anyone your financial records or medical history? Didn’t think so.
Set your privacy meter: Develop your own personal privacy rules–everyone has different privacy buttons, and it’s important to figure out which matter to you.
Manage your Internet connection: Understand privacy risks, prevent snoops by securing your Wi-Fi network, and take key precautions to keep your data from leaking out. Also find advice on using a VPN, plus why you should never believe a VPN review that you read on the Internet–even if it seems like it was written by Joe!
Browse and search the Web: Learn what is revealed about you when you use the Web. Avoid bogus Web sites, connect securely where possible, control your cookies and history, block ads, browse and search anonymously, and find out who is tracking you. Also, take steps to protect passwords and credit card data.
Send and receive email: Find out how your email could be intercepted, consider when you want email to be extra private (such as when communicating with a lawyer), find out why Joe doesn’t recommend email encryption as a solution to ordinary privacy needs (but find pointers for how to get started if you want to try it–or just encrypt an attachment, which is easier), get tips for sending email anonymously, and read ideas for alternatives to email.
Talk and chat online: Consider to what extent any phone call, text message, or online chat is private, and find tips for enhancing privacy when using these channels.
Watch your social media sharing: Understand the risks and benefits of sharing personal information online, tweak your settings, and consider common-sense precautions.
Share files: What if you want to share (or collaborate on) a contract, form, or other document that contains confidential information? Find out about the best ways to share files via file server, email attachment, cloud-based file sharing service, peer-to-peer file sharing, or private cloud.
Check your electronics: All sorts of gizmos can connect to the Internet these days, so everything from a nannycam to smart light bulbs should be considered in your online privacy strategy.
Think mobile: Ponder topics like SIM card encryption keys, supercookies, location reporting, photo storage, and more as you decide how to handle privacy for a mobile phone or tablet.
“Indie Bookstores are Back,” The New York Times proclaimed early last year. “People Are Still Buying Books At Indie Bookstores,” Forbes announced a few months later, somewhat incredulously. A quick piece from The New York Post on the “indie-bookstore boomlet” this month seems to seal the deal: independent bookshops are definitely not dying.
Those who tolled the death knell too early are probably just as happy as everyone else. No one wants to see a neighborhood bookshop suffer. Who can resist the pungent smell of old novels, the shadowy intimacy of packed aisles, or the incredibly satisfying feel of a heavy tote bag filled with staff picks? If anything, we’re buying more books than we can actually read, which is hardly a problem for the brick-and-mortar booksellers still threatened by behemoths like Amazon.
If the mere mention of book odor makes you want to sprint into the shop around the corner, your timing couldn’t be better. April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day, and in honor of the occasion, we asked people across the HuffPost newsroom to nominate a few stores they’ve grown to love over the years. After days of waxing poetic, we came up with a mega-list of incredible indie bookstores that are alive, well and deserving of your patronage on this most holy of literary holidays.
Behold, 50 of the best indie bookstores in America:
”One of the most unique bookstores in the Midwest, John K. King is one of the hidden jewels of Detroit. The shelves are filled with books you can’t find anywhere else. The bookstore holds around 1 million books in stock.” ― Philip Lewis, Front Page Editor
“Taylor Books is a beloved spot on a quaint street in West Virginia’s capital city that offers a good read, beautiful art, a solid cup of coffee and a quiet place to enjoy it all. Taylor doesn’t just have a great selection of books ― the store hosts live musicians, holds book signings with notable authors and even serves as a place for creative types, like creative writing and improv groups, to meet. I love that they make sure to feature authors, artists and publications based in and around West Virginia and work to promote other arts-related businesses in the community.” ― Paige Lavender, Senior Politics Editor
”A great bookstore for a great college town, Literati sits right in the middle of Ann Arbor’s downtown shopping district. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour ― or two or three ― browsing the staff recommendations, which are reliably excellent.” ― Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent
“I worked at The Strand when I first moved to New York City and it truly embodies so much about what makes this global city so amazing. Not only have numerous influential creatives worked here at some point in their careers, but the space itself is a defining part of the history of New York City. The last remaining staple of the historic ‘Book Row’ ― a massive area of 48 different bookstores dating back to the late 1800s ― The Strand is now the second-biggest used bookstore in the entire country. Go get lost in the literal miles of books while you discover some of the rich history of the store itself.” ― James Michael Nichols, Deputy Queer Voices Editor
”When I was going to college in St. Louis, Left Bank Books was a short bike ride from my apartment. The shop has incredible new and used book selections, ingeniously themed reading groups, impressive author events, and just a generally inclusive vibe that makes it seem like a neighborhood spot for anyone and everyone.” ― Katherine Brooks, Senior Arts & Culture Editor
“Old Tampa Book Company is this little store in downtown that usually gets overlooked, but the second you step in it’s the best place you’ve ever been. All the shelves are filled to the brim and you can find so many out-of-print or unique editions of books. And the entire place just smells like books ― overwhelmingly so.” ― Doha Madani, Associate Trends Reporter
”Women & Children First is the kind of indie bookstore that belies an easy, convenient characterization. Sure, it’s a feminist bookstore with a name eerily similar to a certain Portlandia sketch. But it’s not some caricature. This place has a real heart and cares about their neighborhood and city, hosting regular community events spotlighting both emerging local and established international names. And their handwritten book recommendations throughout the store have never led me astray. It’s the real deal.” ― Joseph Erbentraut, Senior Reporter
“Dickson Street Bookshop is located just a short, lovely walk from the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, so it’s a huge draw for college students and bibliophiles alike. Its towering, overstocked bookshelves wind in and out of rooms, almost as if they go on for miles. As an undergraduate, I needed a copy of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death Of A Salesman’ for a theater class I was taking that semester, and the shop owner knew exactly which room, which shelf and which precise stack of books was home to the one I needed, leading me right to it. I still have the tattered, out-of-print copy to this day.” ― Brittany Nims, RYOT Studio Editor
“If there’s a list of great wonders of the literary world, Powell’s sits at the top. They call it ‘Powell City of Books’ for a reason ― it occupies a full city block and supposedly contains more than a million volumes.” ― Jonathan Cohn
”Farley’s is nestled on the Delaware River in the historic and queer enclave of New Hope, Pennsylvania. There’s always an angelic cat that greets you (and every good independent bookstore should have that). It feels like a quintessential Americana place that could’ve easily been in a scene in ‘Hocus Pocus’ or something.” ― Melissa Radzimski, Social Media Editor
“I never miss a chance to visit the Book Barn when I’m up in Connecticut. I could spend hours perusing the shop’s collection, which is actually spread out over four small locations in the coastal town of Niantic, which is worthy of exploring in its own right. Every visit is an adventure!” ― Curtis Wong, Senior Queer Voices Editor
”Part bookstore, part art collective and sculpture, this shop has a solid selection of indie new stuff plus an extensive user collection that is worth checking out. A beautiful place.” ― Robb Monn, Head of Engineering
”It’s everything you could want in a bookstore. A staff that knows their stuff? Check. A kids section that feels like a secret hideaway? Check. Coffee, cookies, and booze upstairs? Check. A secondhand books section so you can splurge? CHECK.” ― Chloe Angyal, Senior Front Page Editor
“This little bookstore is tucked away on a side street in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore, and it’s so great. The staff is super knowledgeable, and they have a great selection of books for all different ages. Back when Harry Potter books were still coming out, The Children’s Bookstore would host a huge celebration leading up to the midnight release. They’d close off the street and have tons of activities for all of the dressed-up wizards and witches. You could get your book there at midnight, or they had a delivery service that would drop books off to the houses in the neighborhood (starting at midnight). It’s a great bookstore and community.” ― Hollis Miller, Associate Voices Social Editor
”I love reading staff recommendations, and this enormous bookstore had way more than I could skim in one visit. There’s a comfy coffee shop inside, so it’s the perfect zen stop, whether you’re working in the city or visiting from out of town. Grab a book, relax and people-watch.” ― Katherine Brooks
“Independently owned and operated, I’ve frequented the place since I was a kid and continued to do so until I moved to Louisiana last year. When I was a kid, I liked going there every week to get my favorite comics. As I got older, they were a great resource for old books ― especially rare and hard-to-find books. They are great people and always friendly. They also do a lot of things for kids in the community, such as hosting games, having folks dress up as superheroes and hosting a free comic book day.” ― David Lohr, Senior Crime Reporter
“A cozy and colorful fixture of one of Americas most colorful small cities. The owner is usually behind the counter, obscured by his curated selection of new releases. His arrangements never fail to compel even this most casual of bookworms to purchase. On your way out, take a peek at first editions and antique copies of many of Americas greatest writers. My wife and I once drove a Penguin Books–branded Mini Cooper across America, visiting indie bookshops all along the way. There is none quite like J Michaels.” ― Isaac Schmidt, Software Engineer
“If there were a car air freshener called ‘Used Bookstore’ they would go to Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc.” ― Marc Janks, Multimedia Platforms Manager
”Iliad Bookshop is a place you can get lost in ― and if you’re a book lover like me, you might suddenly discover that hours have elapsed while you were blissfully exploring that rabbit hole. They specialize in literature and the arts and have an impressive collection of rare books, in particular. If you somehow tire of the endless maze of books, you can take a break to play with the shop cats (yes, literal cats, not just cool people) or chat with the very friendly staff.” ― Antonia Blumberg, Religion Reporter
“You know those bookstores where you can spend a whole afternoon? The Bookmill is like that, but more like days, or weeks ― I’d rent a room there if I could. The 1800s gristmill is home to thousands of used books, thoughtfully organized and sprawled out in room after room designed for wandering and hiding out among the shelves. If you somehow get bored of book buying, you can take a picturesque stroll by the Sawmill River or bring your finds to the Lady Killigrew Cafe, order a local beer and start reading.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz, National Reporter
“Green Apple is the kind of bookstore that reminds you what an otherworldly escape reading is and makes you wonder why you spend so much time watching Netflix. It’s sizable but divided up into smaller rooms and alcoves you’ll want to hole up in for hours. It was named Publisher’s Weekly bookstore of the year in 2014, but it’s remained a humble neighborhood spot exactly as I remember it as a little kid growing up around the corner.” ― Lydia O’Connor, Reporter
“Maxwell’s has a lot of rare academic and scholarly titles as well as other hard-to-find titles. The owners are happy to engage in deep conversations about the books. It’s in a cozy neighborhood in a San Diego suburb and I feel like everyone is stopping by to say, ‘Hi.’” ― David Moye, Reporter
“I used to get lost in this place when I was a nerdy high school kid in Jacksonville. The aisles go on forever, and it’s basically impossible to leave empty-handed. It’s a great place to sell your old books, too. Highly recommended.” ― Kate Palmer, Lifestyle Editorial Director
Check out Chamblin Book Mine here.
“This is everything a modern bookstore should be. It has something for everyone. Best Part: They have mystery books wrapped up so you can have a blind date with a book.” ― Marc Janks
“Every author who’s done a tour knows about Books and Books, because it’s practically a South Florida institution. Worth visiting for the architecture alone, but it’s the reading that will keep you coming back.” ― Jonathan Cohn
”This is one of the finest book stores I’ve ever been to, made even more incredible due to its location, completely off the beaten path on the Wisconsin peninsula. The owner is a retired professor and collector of rare books. This is a place you go to find books you’ve never seen before.” ― Andy McDonald, Comedy Editor
“It literally has tunnels of books from floor to ceiling — it’s like a maze. Books are piled up on the floor, you can hit dead ends and you can spend hours in it. I didn’t know bookstores like this still existed. Whenever I’m in the area I always stop in and walk around for a bit.” ― Samantha Tomaszewski, Associate Social Media Editor
“In upstate New York, nestled in the quaint town of Saugerties, lies Inquiring Minds Bookstore. During a recent weekend stay in the area, I stumbled upon this cozy independent shop, filled to the brim with both new and used books. There’s a coffee shop inside, and you can get lost wandering around and browsing the journals, CDs and toys, which are also for sale. Inquiring Minds has a sister shop in New Paltz, New York.” ― Lauren Moraski, Entertainment Editorial Director
”The most solid new bookstore for fiction and art books. Great staff picks and great staff. I’ve found many gems here that I’d never have known existed.” ― Rob Monn, Head of Engineering
“This is my favorite bookstore in the city ― it’s really well-organized and I love all of the recommendations from the staff. They also have a great magazine section, and they even have a little cafe where you can grab a coffee and read your newest purchase.” ― Hollis Miller, Voices Associate Social Media Editor
“Growing up on Long Island surrounded by lacrosse bros and meatheads, Book Revue served as an oasis of art and literature. Big-name authors came to town for talks there. The 17,500-square-foot space is flanked by book shelves in nearly every possible space, a café with Korean candies and decent loose-leaf tea and a used book section where I bought my first W.H. Auden book for just $1. It’s always amazed me that, even as the record stores and other shops I loved folded, this place remained open. Thank God for that.” ― Alexander Kaufman, Business & Environment Reporter
“I usually force whichever family member I’m visiting on Long Island to make a stop at Book Revue, located in the picturesque, walkable downtown of Huntington. The store is expansive enough to easily kill an hour or two browsing, and they have a nice selection of inexpensive literary remainders — useful for anyone wishing to build up their classics library. With ample readings and events, they’re a good resource for the bookish who don’t want to travel all the way into Manhattan.” ― Jillian Capewell, Entertainment News Editor
”It’s a super-friendly atmosphere with welcoming staff, and carries a diverse range of novels and nonfiction. It’s also has a vast children’s section. It frequently holds readings and Q&As with authors and hosts a variety of book clubs focussing on different genres and writers.” ― Will Tooke, Producer
“Tucked between pricey boutiques and wine shops, this tiny gem of a bookstore was a saving grace for me growing up in a small Napa Valley town when I was too young to enjoy the tasting rooms and vineyard tours the region is famous for. I’d spend hours in this little shop (roughly the size of a small bedroom), picking up dozens of used novels (better for my babysitting-fund budget) while always eyeing the new titles with envy. I still make a point of dropping in when I’m home for a visit, particularly to check out the latest additions to the well-curated cooking section or ask for a recommendation. And if they don’t have a book in the shop, the owner will happily order it for you. I’ll forever be grateful for when she pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix for me and let me pick it up before the store opened for the day.” ― Mollie Reilly, Deputy Politics Editor
“As a high school kid in Overland Park, Kansas, Prospero’s was an oasis. Its basement smells like centuries-old book pulp ― it’s where I found one of the strangest used Cold War history books I’ve ever read and will never get rid of. On the main floor, you can find more precariously stacked books, plus work from students at the Kansas City Art Institute, or see performances from local musicians and poets. It’s much more than a bookstore, as it should be.” ― Katherine Brooks
“A short drive outside of Detroit, Book Beat was one of my favorite destinations as a kid. From the inconspicuous storefront ― they’re located in an outdated suburban strip mall ― you’d never guess that inside it’s warm and lively, with thousands of books are crammed into every inch of available space, stacked up to the ceiling. Friendly staff members are always happy to help you locate a title in the piles, or recommend a book you didn’t know you wanted. They carry a wide range of subjects, but their children’s book collection is truly unbeatable.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz
”Karma (with locations in NYC and Amagansett) is both a gallery and a bookseller. They boast a beautiful collection of contemporary art books, many of which they publish themselves.” ― Willa Frej, Reporter
”This teeny, tiny bookstore is housed in a building that was constructed in 1840. William Faulkner lived there in the early 20th century — hence the name — and wrote his first novel Soldiers Play. The space is as charming and mythic as any bookstore lover would hope, with low-slung chandeliers and books lining the walls, ‘Beauty and the Beast’-style. It has a great selection of New Orleans-centric books, from history to cookbooks, for people from out of town.” ― Priscilla Frank, Arts & Culture Writer
“So intimate, so cozy and so friendly. I don’t know how they get by selling books for $2.50, but I try to always check out their selection first before I go anywhere else. And Book Thug gets new books every day, so there’s always something to discover.” ― Allison Fox, Lifestyle Trends Editor
”You won’t find the children’s books tucked away in a corner here. It’s the entire store. Linden Tree has a friendly and helpful staff, great selection and plenty of in-store events.” ― Ed Mazza, Reporter
”Half Price Books might be a chain, but it’s family-owned, and, more importantly to some readers, it lives up to its name. Like any used bookstore, visiting comes with the wonder of discovery, a sensation absent from, say, shopping on Amazon. But the flagship store in Dallas is essentially a vast warehouse of books, and getting lost in its aisles is half the fun.” ― Maddie Crum, Books & Culture Writer
“Finding refuge in stacks of books from the humidity of Florida and losing track of time was a common occurrence for me at Haslam’s, a massive new and used bookstore established in 1933. I’d take short vacations to St. Petersburg while studying in university to visit friends and wander through the expansive bookshelves, read excerpts on the back of book covers and then flip through pages upon pages of poetry, fiction, memoirs and essays. The science collection in Haslam’s is astounding, and this bookstore helped nurture my love of science out of the classroom. It has an unassuming facade but, as with most good bookstores, once you step inside you are transported into another place and time, lost in your own thoughts, to a place just waiting to be explored.” ― Madeline Wahl, Associate Editor
“In its annual collection of book review and book reviewer data, VIDA has shown that gender parity still hasn’t been achieved when it comes to literature. Women are less likely to get reviewed in several major outlets than men, and they’re less likely to win awards, too. Which is why the concept of the simply named BookWoman is so great. The store showcases women writers, and particularly women writers working in Austin — and it hosts intersectional reading events, too.” ― Maddie Crum
”I’ve approached the staff at Off the Beaten Path with as little info as: ‘I’m looking for a really good book. Like, really, really good.’ And I always walk out with something I can’t put down and that I insist pretty much every friend and family member read. The people who work here are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about books and will keep pulling titles until they find something you’re excited to sit down with. They support local authors, and the ‘staff picks’ are the best way to find out about little-known writers and remember why you should go back and read the classics from high school. And the coffee … OMG, amazing.” ― Eleanor Goldberg, Impact Editor
“Housing Works, a smallish yet well-stocked two-story shop in Manhattan, is more than a bookstore. The organization takes seriously its role as an advocacy group for people with HIV/AIDS, and raises funds through events to that end. This alone makes it a worthwhile place to buy books, but the spot itself is charming, too, with winding stairways and high ceilings and timely author readings.” ― Maddie Crum
“Stone Soup is a tiny used bookstore that sits at the top of a creaking staircase in an almost comically narrow building in Camden, Maine’s downtown area. Inside, it feels like the kind of place where the protagonist of a children’s movie would find a long-lost book that unlocked a portal to some sort of fairy tale world. It’s packed with books, most of them well-loved, extremely affordable paperbacks, lining every available inch of wall space and occupying numerous other shelves and piles throughout the store. Every time I’ve been there, one of the owners has been there behind the desk reading, and is exactly the kind of of older gentleman you’d hope to presiding over a charming secondhand bookstore.” ― Hilary Hanson, Reporter
“I stopped into Parnassus Books during a trip to Nashville a few years ago, and, like many of the city’s other small businesses I visited with friends, it felt like a place that really serves the local readers, both in terms of book recommendations and community space. Fun fact: The store is co-owned by author Ann Patchett.” ― Katherine Brooks
“Source Booksellers opened just a few years ago, but it’s thriving, with tons of readings and events ― probably because owner Janet Jones has been collecting and selling books since 1989. Her compact but extensively curated selection of nonfiction books ― with great titles on local subjects, history, culture, art and spirituality, are chosen with an eye toward educating people and enhancing their lives.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz
“An independent bookstore in an airport? Yup. You’ll find 2nd Edition in the terminal at Raleigh-Durham International, past security near the gates. They sell only previously used books, but they have a wide selection (and many are barely used). They’ll even ship to your destination if you want.” ― Jonathon Cohn
“As a college student in Providence, I had the opportunity to explore some great local spots, and Books on the Square was a true highlight. Located in Wayland Square, it’s welcoming neighborhood shop with a cozy atmosphere and loyal customer base. The staff is very friendly and they often host events and speakers.” — Caroline Bologna, Parents Editor
”No roundup of indie bookstores would be complete without mentioning Politics & Prose, the D.C. institution that, beyond selling books, hosts open mics, nerdy trivia, teach-ins and conversations with politicians, authors, filmmakers and more. When I first visited D.C., I knew enough to add this shop to my itinerary, squeezing it in between tourist spots. And it was worth it.” ― Katherine Brooks
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In the aftermath of last year’s presidential election ― which turned out differently than most media outlets predicted ― the questions on a lot of minds seemed to be “How?” and “Why?”
Today, William Gibson ― the American-Canadian science fiction novelist behind the 1984 cyberpunk classic Neuromancer, in which he coined the term “cyberspace” ― is exploring another question in his forthcoming novel: What if?
What if instead of electing President Donald Trump, whose first 100 days in office have in many ways chipped away at the constitutional value of free expression, Hillary Clinton had won instead?
Gibson applied this question to a book he was already working on before last year’s results came in. In an interview with The New York Times, he explained why he didn’t alter his plot after Trump’s victory. “It was immediately obvious to me that there had been some fundamental shift and I would have to rebuild the whole thing,” he said.
The result is a book ― titled Agency and due out in January 2018 ― set on two different timelines: in present-day San Fransisco, but with Clinton as president, and in London 200 years from now, after 80 percent of the human population has been killed off. Those still alive are trying to communicate with 2017, in an attempt to change the past.
Gibson is celebrated for his ability to synthesize what’s happening around him ― especially technological developments ― and take a good guess at what may happen in the near future.
In a 2014 interview with HuffPost about his last novel, The Peripheral, he said, “A shaming crowd, on Twitter, for instance, can feel like something out of Orwell,” predicting, perhaps knowingly, that the platform lends itself to manipulative speech and “very pure crowd dynamics.”
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It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
“Well-paced, brimming with drama, and utterly vital. (Fiction. 14-18)” Sugiura debuts with an angst-y coming-of-age narrative set at the intersections of identity, family, and first love. Read full book review.
Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan
“A clever spin on a weighty classic. (Fiction. 14-adult)” Tom Grendel battles unruly neighbors and honors family history, all with an eye on the girl next door, in this witty debut novel and homage to Beowulf. Read full book review.
Looking for Group by Rory Harrison
“This book is a triumph, allowing honesty, excitement, humor, and heart to step over gender and sexuality constraints and tell a beautiful story. (Fiction. 13-adult)” When two teen gamers meet IRL, they go on a quest to get to know each other. Read full book review.
That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
“Populated by complicated characters who are so well described readers will feel they might bump into them on the street, Karim’s second novel delivers on its title’s promise. (Fiction. 14-adult)” It’s the end of high school, and Shabnam Qureshi has lost her best friend and has no summer job, but the summer quickly becomes unforgettable when she finds herself falling in love. Read full book review.
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
“Intelligent and thoughtful, a highly relevant far-off speculative adventure. (Science-fiction. 12 & up)” A teen soldier teams up with an enemy android to end an interplanetary war. Read full book review.
The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
“Both epic and intimate, a semi–old-fashioned alternative to the wave of inexplicably lethal superheroines and their smoldering love triangles. (Adventure. 14-adult)” Marital and martial matters collide when brides and spies become ensnared in a treasonous plot. Read full book review.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
“Another ripping yarn from a brilliant author. (Historical fiction. 13-adult)” Wein’s fans will revel in the return of Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the co-narrator of Code Name Verity (2012). Read full book review.
The Takedown by Corrie Wang
“A thought-provoking, entertaining read, Wang’s debut illustrates a future that is easily conceivable. (Science fiction. 14-18)” A fresh take on a tired high school trope. Read full book review.
The Freemason’s Daughter by Shelley Sackier
“An intriguing exploration of the intersection of politics, religion, and customs of the period—historical fiction at its best. (Historical fiction. 13-18)” It’s 1714 Great Britain, and a rebellion is brewing. Read full book review.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bold 2015 book exploring race in America is set to make its debut on the Apollo Theater stage.
On Wednesday, the Harlem theater announced Coates’ award-winning Between the World and Me will be adapted into a multimedia performance for the Apollo’s 2017-2018 season. Directed by Apollo Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes with music commissioned by jazz musician Jason Moran, the performance event will present “excerpted selections, read monologue-style by notable guest artists, interspersed with music and visual projection design,” according to a press release.
In an effort to recreate her personal experience of reading the No. 1 New York Times’ best-seller, Forbes told NYT that she wants the special performance to expand on the book’s “solitary experience.”
“The second I put the book down, I wanted to call everyone who had read the book, and who would stay up with me at 3 a.m.,” she said. “The hope is that we’re taking that solitary experience of reading the book and expanding that to a collective experience.”
Forbes added that Coates will provide “creative guidance” and may possibly appear in the production, which is set to debut in April 2018.
Tickets for the Apollo’s 2017–18 season go on sale May 19. For more info, head to the Apollo Theater’s website.
We all know Merriam-Webster rivals Hannah Horvath in being the voice of our generation. The dictionary is also very involved in the Twitterverse, particularly when it comes to politics, subtly throwin’ shade like it ain’t no thang.
So, it makes sense for this to be the latest Merriam-Webster addition: “Sheeple.”
“Sheeple,” a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people,” is defined as “people who are docile, compliant or easily influenced.”
Because, you know, sheep are really chill and can be pretty much herded wherever. It’s similar in sentiment to the word “lemming.”
Merriam-Webster uses the word in a sentence that hits deeply close to home: “Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone — an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.”
But, despite that iPhone realness, the most-known example of the word is likely “Wake up, sheeple!”
“Wake up, sheeple!” is a well-circulated meme that appears to date back to an “xkcd” web comic from 2012. The comic, according to Know Your Meme, is about “a civilization of sheep-people hybrids who are awakened from their underground slumber after a man yells, ‘Wake up, Sheeple!’”
That’s obviously incredibly literal, but “sheeple” has also been used as a politically-charged word ― apparently since the 1940s.
W. R. Anderson, in his column “Round About Radio,” published this line in 1945: “The simple truth is that you can get away with anything, in government. That covers almost all the evils of the time. Once in, nobody, apparently, can turn you out. The People, as ever (I spell it ‘Sheeple’), will stand anything.”
More recently, in 2004, an Urban Dictionary entry gave a usage example stating that sheeple supported the war on terrorism:
Hmm… By adding “sheeple” to the dictionary now, in 2017, could Merriam-Webster be making another kind of statement?
In an effort to quantify the damage done against America’s constitutional belief in free expression, PEN America released a thorough survey of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.
The organization, a nationwide community of novelists, journalists, editors, poets, playwrights and more, chronicled the president’s various statements that undermine the validity of news outlets, his lack of transparency and his choice to defund groups that support artistic expression. The report, titled “Trump the Truth,” explores a total of approximately 60 incidents in which the White House has undermined the press.
The 30-page memo focuses chiefly on how Trump’s administration treats journalists, citing some positive developments ― the administration offers “Skype seats” in its media briefing room for reporters outside of Washington, for example ― but mostly taking the opportunity to hone in on the president’s false indictments of “fake news.”
In the document’s introduction, the organization writes:
[…] what this Administration is doing ― the relentless lies, the constant efforts to chip away at public support for the press and trust in their reporting, the dismissal of peaceful public demonstrations as illegitimate ― is not normal.
PEN America concedes that, of course, all politicians “stretch the truth,” but emphasizes that several of Trump’s lies are in service of more malicious aims. Trump’s repeated assertion that voter fraud is widespread, for example, is unfounded, but could result in greater voting restrictions at the state level.
Similarly, the Trump administration’s unsupported claim that protest participants are paid “professionals” serves to “delegitimize the constitutionally-protected expression of dissenting viewpoints,” PEN writes, “and may feed into efforts by states to roll back protections on the right to peaceful assembly.”
The organization also calls special attention to Trump’s threats to loosen libel laws and the limited access he gives press to the State Department, disallowing cameras at press briefings. Moreover, it points out that his proposal to require travelers entering the U.S. surrender their personal devices ― including passwords and social media accounts ― “could have a widespread chilling effect on speech and would violate travelers’ human rights to privacy and free expression.”
When false and contradictory claims, and attempts to obfuscate the truth, are so constantly present, the effect can begin to feel diffuse. This document enumerates the actions the administration has taken to chip away at trust in the media and others whose role it is to hold the government accountable, bringing each of them back into clear focus.
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