All posts tagged: new book

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

This past December, I threw a party to celebrate a major milestone in my life: the 1,000th day of my New York Times crossword-solving streak. My friends, none of them fellow cruciverbalists, poured in wearing their black-and-white best, armed with outsize praise for my presumed intelligence: How smart I must be to complete the Times puzzle every day! Their comments affirmed that the crossword—and particularly the Times one—carries a certain mystique. For 1,000 consecutive days, I had passed this bourgeois aptitude test, proving my linguistic and cultural acumen in my guests’ eyes. Since its invention in 1913, the modern American crossword puzzle has undergone something of a reputational shift, from frivolous distraction to status symbol. In reality, the crossword is many things: a site of play, a cultural forum, a daily pleasure. And, because it traffics in language—the stuff people use to form identity, signal belonging, and ostracize others—it’s also a political entity. The writer and crossword constructor Anna Shechtman knows that casting such a pastime as political might sound ridiculous. As she writes in …

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

This past December, I threw a party to celebrate a major milestone in my life: the 1,000th day of my New York Times crossword-solving streak. My friends, none of them fellow cruciverbalists, poured in wearing their black-and-white best, armed with outsize praise for my presumed intelligence: How smart I must be to complete the Times puzzle every day! Their comments affirmed that the crossword—and particularly the Times one—carries a certain mystique. For 1,000 consecutive days, I had passed this bourgeois aptitude test, proving my linguistic and cultural acumen in my guests’ eyes. Since its invention in 1913, the modern American crossword puzzle has undergone something of a reputational shift, from frivolous distraction to status symbol. In reality, the crossword is many things: a site of play, a cultural forum, a daily pleasure. And, because it traffics in language—the stuff people use to form identity, signal belonging, and ostracize others—it’s also a political entity. The writer and crossword constructor Anna Shechtman knows that casting such a pastime as political might sound ridiculous. As she writes in …

Three Ways to Have Better Fights

Three Ways to Have Better Fights

This is Work in Progress, a newsletter about work, technology, and how to solve some of America’s biggest problems. Sign up here. You’re at home on a work night. Your partner had a brutal day and needs to vent. “My boss was a jerk,” your partner says, “and I feel like none of my colleagues like me.” “I have an idea,” you respond. “Maybe you should organize a happy hour to clear the air.” “You’re not listening. My boss is just a jerk, plain and simple. I’ve tried being nice, and it’s impossible with her. Nobody in the office gets this kind of treatment.” “I hear you. I’m just trying to help. And if you organize that happy hour, you might—” “Stop trying to help me fix the problem and please just listen to me,” your partner says. And now it’s your turn to get upset. Because you are listening, you think. To every word! Isn’t that what good partners do? And somehow, all you’ve done is start a fight. In his new book, Supercommunicators, …

What If Your Best Friend Is Your Soulmate?

What If Your Best Friend Is Your Soulmate?

A lot of the language we use to describe the crucial phases of friendship is borrowed from romantic relationships: friend “crush,” for example, or friend “break up.” A friend can stick around longer than a spouse and be the key to your daily sanity, and still lack a satisfying title. “Best friend”? “Buddy”? “BFF”? All of those fail to convey the weightiness such a relationship deserves. And what if you do “break up” with a best friend? Where do you put your grief? What are the rituals of mourning? In her new book, The Other Significant Others, Rhaina Cohen imagines how life would be different if we centered it on friends. She explains the extremes of friendship—situations in which pairs describe each other as “soulmates” and make major life decisions in tandem. We talk with Cohen about the lost history of friendship and why she cringes when couples at the altar describe each other as their “best friend.” Listen to the conversation here: Subscribe here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Google Podcasts | …

No One Is Prepared for a New Era of Global Migration

No One Is Prepared for a New Era of Global Migration

On the evening of September 8, 2020, the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos erupted in flames. The inferno was exacerbated by the camp’s close quarters and shoddy construction. As Lauren Markham writes in her new book, A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging, the fire sent thousands of refugees from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq fleeing “to an empty stretch of road with no reliable food or water or medical care or bathrooms.” No one seemed to know how it started; it could easily have been an accident. But soon after, Greek authorities accused six young Afghan camp residents of setting the fire, and arrested them. (Markham writes that while reporting on the incident, she could find no “real evidence” that they were guilty.) Markham’s book is about the contemporary migration crisis. As of 2022, some 100 million people around the world have fled war, persecution, and instability in their home countries for uncertain futures in others. She could have written an excellent book based on the …

The Books Briefing: What Adults Forget About Reading

The Books Briefing: What Adults Forget About Reading

This is an edition of the Books Briefing, our editors’ weekly guide to the best in books. Sign up for it here. When you’re a parent who loves to read—or as the case is for me, happily, makes his living from reading—the first time you see your child become obsessed with an author is a genuine thrill. For both of my daughters, that author was Raina Telgemeier. The graphic novelist, best known for her trio of memoirs about her anxious preteen years, Smile, Sisters, and Guts, is referred to in my house simply as “Raina.” Apparently we’re not alone, as Jordan Kisner’s profile this week makes clear. Telgemeier is beloved for the way she captures an essential part of growing up: the fear that you and you alone are strange. My daughters read her books again and again, sometimes finishing and then flipping right back to the first page. We have multiple copies of most of them, now completely tattered. Their intense love of these titles reminds me of a powerful aspect of reading—one that …

America’s Immigration Reckoning Has Arrived

America’s Immigration Reckoning Has Arrived

In the summer of 2014, I joined a group of journalists in an organized visit to a Border Patrol warehouse in Nogales, Arizona. My daughter had just turned 5 the day before. As I walked out the door, I remember using my hands to smooth out the wrinkles on her school uniform as tenderly as if I were waking her up from sleep. I remember writing my daily note to her in our shared language—Eu te amo—with an extra dose of guilt; leaving her in her father’s care was always safe and convenient, but never easy. That goodbye would have hurt so much more if I knew what I was about to witness. With concrete floors and fluorescent lights that stayed on day and night, the 120,000-square-foot warehouse was no place for children. And yet there they were, hundreds of them, lying close together under space blankets, in makeshift holding pens marked off by mesh-wire fences more than eight feet tall. In the article I wrote about the visit, I noted the contrasting reactions between …

The Books Briefing: The Human Face of American Decline

The Books Briefing: The Human Face of American Decline

This is an edition of the Books Briefing, our editors’ weekly guide to the best in books. Sign up for it here. Alex Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here, published in 1991, helped define an entire genre of writing. Its immersive story of two brothers growing up in a housing project in Chicago was also the story of an American underclass contending daily with violence, drug abuse, and poverty. Kotlowitz allowed his subjects’ lives to unfold as if they were in a realist novel. He was attuned to character and narrative and the smallest, most intimate detail. In the decades since, many other authors have pursued Kotlowitz’s approach to depicting social issues from the ground up. Kotlowitz himself wrote for us this week about a new book, Benjamin Herold’s Disillusioned, which tells another largely ignored tale about the slow death of the suburbs. Once the emblem of the American dream, the resources and infrastructure of many outer-ring communities have now been depleted, leaving their newer residents—mostly Black and brown families—“with the waste and debris of …

The Key to Unlocking Prison Reform

The Key to Unlocking Prison Reform

From the standpoint of many on the left, former President Donald Trump did exactly two good things in office. He supported Operation Warp Speed, which facilitated the development and production of the first COVID-19 vaccines. And in 2018, he signed the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal-justice bill that shortened federal prison terms, gave judges more latitude in sentencing, and provided educational programming to ease prisoners’ eventual return to the outside world. The best account of how Democrats and Republicans improbably joined forces in the lead-up to this effort to reduce mass incarceration comes from the political scientists David Dagan and Steven Teles. On the left, progressives managed to persuade centrist Democrats that Clinton-era tough-on-crime policies, such as lengthy prison terms for drug crimes and mandatory life sentences for repeat violent offenders, had done more harm than good. Meanwhile, on the right, a group of savvy conservative activists, some moved by Christian notions of forgiveness, reframed mass incarceration as an example of wasteful government spending. With crime hovering around a 50-year low, a vanishingly rare …

Who’s Afraid of Women’s Pleasure?

Who’s Afraid of Women’s Pleasure?

The Disappearance of Shere Hite, a recent documentary about the pioneering feminist researcher, opens with footage of Hite speaking on a 1976 television show about the findings in her new book. Among other things, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, which quickly became a best seller, challenged the widely believed myth that “women should orgasm from intercourse itself, that is, from thrusting,” as Hite explains. But before she can finish her statement—before she can even hint at what many women do need to orgasm—the interviewer has to pause their discussion to chastise the crew members laughing behind the camera. The Hite Report – A Nationwide Study Of Female Sexuality By Shere Hite Nearly half a century later, the impact of Hite’s study is undeniable. It’s no longer quite so taboo to note that many women can’t climax from “thrusting” alone, and an entire cottage industry now promises to help women get there via meditation, physical therapy, psychological counseling, spiritual healing—or, of course, one of the many luxury vibrators on the market. Considered …