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Hot and Hearty Bowls

Since that horrible little groundhog said winter will be lingering for several more weeks, why not weather that time over a bowl brimming with hot, decadent flavors?

Bill Gates: Man With a Plan for Climate Change

For more than a decade, Bill Gates has directed much of his focus toward the most important issue humanity faces: climate change. Of course, it’s a subject with no shortage of relevant literature, but few people in the world have a more prominent platform—not to mention the intelligence and resources—to tackle it than Gates. In his latest book, pointedly and appropriately titled How To Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need (Knopf, Feb. 16), the tech pioneer and philanthropist delivers what our starred review calls “a supremely authoritative and accessible plan for how we can avoid a climate catastrophe.” Gates answered our questions via email.

Developing a Mind for Winter

As a Texan transplant to the Northeast, I struggle with the cold and dark of winter. This year, with the ongoing pandemic, I'm dreading the icy isolation more than ever, and turning to books for comfort and distraction.

Swimming, Scones and (Reliably) Sweet Endings

During this turbulent year, I've been tempted to revive a reading habit I dropped long ago: flipping to the end of a book before I start it, to make sure everything will turn out all right. (My mother used to scold me about this practice, but I've caught her doing it, too.) Fortunately, some of my favorite feel-good authors provide stories where I know the characters will get their happy ending, without me having to sneak-read the last page.

Christian Robinson: The Book I Wish I Had as a Child

As a child, I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment about having an incarcerated mother. I didn't know that I was living in the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and that my experience was far from uncommon.

Disasters: Imaginary & Otherwise

Some of the books I've been thinking about lately seem unsettlingly well-matched to our strange times. Consider Yun Ko-Eun's The Disaster Tourist (Counterpoint, translated by Lizzie Buehler). Yona Kim is a program manager for a Korean travel company that specializes in "surveying disaster zones and molding them into travel destinations…. Learning about misfortune was what Yona did." Even as I read this novel last summer, I was past wondering who might book such a trip (see Chernobyl tours). Ironically, thousands of people had just been rescued from Covid-laced cruise ships worldwide.

Poetry as Touchstone

Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, told the New York Times, "Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for." Her poem "The Hill We Climb" (coming in March from Viking, $15.99) evoked the pain and loss leading up to this milestone Black History month, along with hope for the future. "Quiet isn't always peace," she wrote.

All Animals A-Board

Animal books, like counting books and abecedaries, are part of the bedrock of children's literature. The following board books excellently showcase animals to teach about opposites, family and, well, the animals themselves.

'Hell of a Year, Isn't It?'

"Hell of a year, isn't it--Mr. Frost, Ted [Roethke], & now Louis [MacNiece], whom I loved. Keep well, be good, the devil roams." This sentence, also appropriate for 2020, opens a letter in 1963 to Robert Lowell that is included in The Selected Letters of John Berryman, edited by Philip Coleman & Calista McRae (Belknap Press). Sylvia Plath and William Carlos Williams also died in '63. Hell of a year indeed.

The Paris Library

"I can't think of a more perfect novel to recommend to book lovers than The Paris Library! Not only does it bring to life the true story of the heroic librarians of the American Library in Nazi-occupied Paris, its interwoven narrative of a bereft teenager in 1980s Montana who finds a kindred spirit in her mysterious, reclusive, and book-loving French neighbor is a feat of extraordinary storytelling. The Paris Library is a testament to the everlasting power of literature and literary places to bring people together and be a home for everyone, even during our darkest, most hopeless, and divided times." --Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA

Art to Enjoy at Home

One thing I didn't realize how much I'd miss in this year of staying home and staying alone as much as possible is art. I used to visit museums frequently, but circumstances have made that difficult. Sure, there's a lot of art on the Internet, but the screen creates a distance that tends to diminish scope and color and overall effect. So, I have grown to appreciate the visually arresting power of art books, and tend to pore over them, engrossed by color and image, as well as the context provided by expert editorial contributors. These don't have to be massive, expensive monographs to be enjoyable, either.

Beyond Hidden Figures: Women in STEM

The female mathematicians of NASA, many of them Black, made vital contributions to the U.S. space program. Margot Lee Shetterly gave their stories a huge boost in her blockbuster book, Hidden Figures (Morrow, $17.99), which inspired a hit film. But women have been making standout contributions in STEM fields for decades, and their stories take both fictional and nonfictional forms.

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