02/03/17 10:56am
This book dispenses common sense money advice for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

This book dispenses common sense money advice (like “don’t raid their piggy banks!”) for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

Last year when I was complaining about the cost of getting my car towed, my young son said, “Don’t worry! I can pay for it. I’ve got a cash register full of money!” I quizzically watched as he pulled out his Learning Resources toy register hidden under a pile of stuffed animals and old Lego pieces. Although we bought that toy for him in hopes of teaching him about the value of money and learning about interest through imaginary play, he had actually just assumed this was real money collecting dust in his bedroom. Epic fail.

Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), a new book by Beth Kobliner (author of New York Times Bestseller Get A Financial Life) is here to hold parents hands as they wade into uncharted conversations about cash with their kids. Beyond just receiving early entry to Stern Business School, financial talks can prevent spoiled behavior, build charitable leanings and set kids up for secure futures. Kobliner divides the book into chapters ranging from “Insurance”, “Giving Back” and “Saving for College” and further divides her chapters into age ranges. Talking to your preschooler about investing will look different than with your teenager, but from the start you can build some pretty strong scaffolding for the importance of financial security. (more…)

01/27/17 12:04pm

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I should be upfront and tell you that I was predisposed to fall in love with Paul Auster’s hefty new novel, 4 3 2 1.

Sitting on my desk when the 860-page review copy arrived in the mail was a stack of books that included Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and Candide, both of which have recently seemed worth a revisit to me, and both of which figure prominently in the novel. Twice in the past I’ve interviewed Auster, who is a kind and engaging sort of writer, rather than a prickly and defensive one, despite his intense, sort of smoldering author’s photos and the intractability for which his work is known. 4 3 2 1 is a love song to New York, which is really the strongest character in the book, other than our quadruplicate protagonist, Archie Ferguson. I recently moved from New York after nearly 15 years, to Brattleboro, a small town in Vermont, which, oddly, also has a cameo in the weighty tome.

Those were my circumstances, which you should understand before you go out and get yourself involved with this book, because I fell for it hard, but for personal reasons, which I suppose is why we fall hard for anything.

All this is about me, the reader, and shouldn’t I get myself out of the way and let the text speak for itself? Remember, this is Paul Auster, a fiction writer who has long grappled with, in ways both playful and portentous, where the author ends and the character begins and how much of the content of the page is determined by the individual act of reading it. It feels fitting to insert myself, and the connections and coincidences, another Auster obsession, that contributed to  my love for this book.

The premise is goes like this: 4 3 2 1 charts the life and education of Archibald Ferguson, born March 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., one month after Auster himself was born, in the same spot. March mirrors the calendar of February in non-leap years–if February 3, 1947 was a Monday, which it was, March 3 is also a Monday, so it’s an even deeper doubling. From that single child, four distinct narrative arcs develop and the first couple hundred pages move forward at breakneck speed as you struggle to differentiate between the hopes and dreams of four similar, but distinct small boys, and four similar but distinct New Jersey homesteads.

Auster is not gentle with us, and the novel brims with a parent’s anxiety for their child. Ferguson, as he is largely known throughout, though various nicknames and pen names emerge as all four grow older, falls out of trees, gets into car accidents, experiences loss and in fact dies, more than once. (more…)

01/25/17 11:05am

A utopian world where parenting is a communal activity sounds great, but what's the catch?

As I sit here writing this, my son is home with strep throat. I haven’t left the house in two days, and I’m inundated with having to care for, entertain and feed my little one, while also meeting work deadlines. What I wouldn’t give for another set of hands? Or how about 20 extra sets of hands?

This is the premise of Kevin Wilson’s new novel, Perfect Little World, the story of an utopian experiment that promises its participants a return on the “it takes a village” philosophy. This is not Wilson’s first foray into unusually structured kinship groups–his 2011 novel The Family Fang, which became a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman, chronicled two adult children visiting the eccentric parents who had turned their childhood into performance art. 

Perfect Little World stars, Izzy Poole, a pregnant teenager who is offered a spot in The Infinite Family Project, an experiment of child and family development. Her newborn son will join nine other babies of the same age to live for 10 years in the ultimate environment. All their needs will be attended to, housing, food, and clothing will all be provided. The children are promised the best of everything: educational toys, healthy meals and enriching environments. The adults won’t be forgotten either. Scholarships for college or job training will be granted, and any hobby or interest will be funded. All expenses to be taken care of by an elderly eccentric billionaire who has a vested interest in studying and redefining the family. (more…)

12/19/16 10:43am
No, soup won't save Syrian, but it may humanize the conflict.

No, soup won’t save Syria, but it may humanize the conflict.

Chances are there will either be some travel, some time off, or both in your life this week. Here are a few articles and books, a novel even, to sink your teeth into.

Aljazeera published this explainer on Syria’s civil war last week and it’s incredibly helpful if you’re trying get your head around what’s going on there, who the players are and why this has become such an intractable and bloody conflict.

• No, a cookbook won’t rebuild Syria, but Soup for Syria is a project that both raises money for Syrian refugees and humanizes the war, reminding us that Syria is a place with a culture, a place where people live, where they cook and eat and go to work and have families.

• Ivanka Trump has played a protean role in her father’s campaign and pre-presidency, at once an arm charm who normalizes and balances his bluster, and an alleged policy shaper, pushing for paid maternity leave (though not for fathers, gay couples, adoptive parents or anyone else not fitting the gender normative nuclear family mold). A very smart Elle editorial argues that she is no friend to women who are not as privileged as she is–so basically no friend to women at all.

• At the grocery store this weekend my two-year-old waved and said hello to the Obamas on the cover of a magazine, which was equal parts adorable and heartbreaking. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “My President Was Black” on the history and meaning of the Obama administration in The Atlantic to really feel all the feelings and appreciate our 44th President.

• Finally, lose yourself in Americanah the wonderful, wide ranging novel from Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We included it in a favorite books of 2013 round-up a few years ago and I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and it’s big hearted, funny and addictive, while also concerning itself with race, class and immigration. This is a sweet little bit of escapism that will also expand your worldview.

12/12/16 1:06pm

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This week’s Action Trumps Hate, writing a letter to the Electoral College, may not be for everyone. You may not have a connection to someone in a state where these letters have the most sway. You may not believe that a letter writing campaign will make any difference when electors cast their votes on Monday, Dec. 19. That’s okay, we’re playing the long game here and there is always plenty to do.

Here’s my #actiontrumpshate reading list for the week:

12/07/16 2:38pm
Emma Straub was one of the first Brooklyn residents we including in our "Five Questions, One Drawing" series a few years ago. Illustration: Steven Weinberg

Emma Straub was one of the first Brooklyn residents we including in our “Five Questions, One Drawing” series a few years ago. Illustration: Steven Weinberg

Well Brooklyn, what are your plans for the week? Oh right, I guess that’s actually our job, to help you figure out the best way to spend the next seven days. This time of year is always tough–it’s dark when you get out of work, the holidays require a good amount of organization, energy and cash, and it just seems so appealing to cozy up to a book and forget the outside world exists.

Maybe I’m just feeling that way because of the news that Brooklyn author Emma Straub is planning on opening a bookstore somewhere in the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Heights area, to keep independent book selling alive in the wake of BookCourt’s closing at the end of the year. Straub herself, not to mention her juicy novels, is a delight and I can’t wait to do next year’s holiday shopping at her sure-to-be bright and cheerful store. Somewhat related, The New York Times asked writers around the world to name their favorite bookstores and the list is like a nerd’s dream vacation planner.

Not that you asked, but the two books that have been keeping me on the couch lately are Zadie Smith’s wonderful new novel Swing Time and Eight Flavors, The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman, filled with the fascinating history of ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to make the cut. (Curry powder? What?) Like every other white, liberal American, I also have Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance on hold at the library, but that’s a whole other story.

Truly though, there are a lot of ways to enjoy the week ahead that are not in your apartment and we’ve compiled our top picks here. Get out there and have some fun.  (more…)

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12/06/16 9:46am
Bruce Springsteen (GabboT/Wikimedia Commons); Nina Simone (By Kroon, Ron / Anefo/Wikimedia Commons); Brian Wilson (Takahiro Kyono/Wikimedia Commons); Johnny Marr (Jon Shard)

Bruce Springsteen (GabboT/Wikimedia Commons); Nina Simone (Kroon, Ron/Anefo/Wikimedia Commons); Brian Wilson (Takahiro Kyono/Wikimedia Commons); Johnny Marr (Jon Shard)

Maybe it’s the popularity of memoir, maybe it’s the passage of time, but the past few years have produced a bumper crop of books written by and about musicians. This year is no exception as several legends, including a Boss, a Beach Boy and a Smith, have released long-awaited memoirs. Even if you’re not into rockers dishing the dirt about drugs, sex, horrible band mates and other personal demons, there are some fine books on music history and criticism for the more cerebral-minded among us. There’s a little something for every serious fan of rock and roll, pop, soul and dance–it makes holiday shopping at your local book store almost too easy.

Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen

What else needs to be said? It’s the Boss in his own words.This memoir, which runs over 500 pages, has been compared to Springsteen’s epic concerts—an incredibly detailed, earnest and satisfying affair that you never want to end.

Not Dead Yet
by Phil Collins

The self-deprecating title is a reference to Collins’ reemergence after a period of semi-retirement that had people questioning whether he gave up music for good. The accomplished Genesis drummer and popular solo act chronicles his amazing career and some of the rough patches he’s gone through. Collins even owns up to the infamous incident in which he faxed a divorce to his second wife.

Testimony
by Robbie Robertson

The driving force behind the Band through his songwriting, Robertson offers his take on being part of that iconic group, from their early years backing both Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, to their final hurrah with The Last Waltz in 1976. (more…)

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11/15/16 11:48am
You'll want to add at least one of these to your most-used cookbooks shelf.

You’ll want to add at least one of these to your most-used cookbooks shelf.

The holidays are upon us. We’ve already started spotting Friendsgiving photos on Instagram and Facebook and Thanksgiving is next week. Whether you’re looking for a dish to wow your family with, planning a dinner party, or just storing away recipes for the January hibernation, you’ll find something wonderful in one of these new cookbooks.

Dinner at the Long Table, by Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn

No restaurateur has shaped the Brooklyn dining scene quite like Andrew Tarlow. When he opened Diner on New Year’s Eve 1998, on a stretch of Broadway in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, it was one of the only places to eat in the area. The restaurant quickly became a neighborhood anchor, and the restaurants he’s opened since then have all served a similar purpose: to bring people together over food.

Dinner at the Long Table is (unsurprisingly) concerned with that same idea. The recipes in the cookbook, co-written with Anna Dunn, are collected into meals for different occasions. This is not a book organized by season or course. Instead, the celebration (with food as the star!) takes center stage–lunch for eight, a birthday dinner for 15, a Harvest Moon supper.

The recipes are wild: not in that they are untameable, but rather they feature the seasonal ingredients you’ve come to associate with the new Brooklyn cuisine: beets, tomatoes, fennel and herbs appear frequently. There is a Mediterranean streak running through it, too, with plenty of tapenade and green gazpacho. (more…)

10/20/16 12:07pm

win_feminism_reductress“Should I be planning a funeral for my sense of humor?” I wondered during the second presidential debate, as Donald Trump loomed behind Hillary Clinton and then threatened to have her jailed. I should have been laughing at my friend’s Jaws jokes, but instead I climbed underneath the bar, hugging my wine and wishing for Xanax. Before I started sitting shiva for my laughter, however, I remembered that amid the steady stream of alt-right memes and clips of Trump telling Billy Bush exactly where he likes to grab women, the internet also provides escapes from the political melee swirling around us. Reductress is one of the best ports in the storm.

Billing itself as “the first and only satirical women’s website,” Reductress, which launched in 2013, applies its simultaneously absurdist and biting humor to the conflicting streams of advice thrown at women on a regular basis. It’s that balance that makes the site worth returning to. Plenty of writers are as precise and cutting, and others just as wacky and absurd, but it’s the blend that makes Reductress stand out. Their targets include not only the mainstream women’s magazines (parodies of which are low-hanging fruit at this point), but the personal essay industrial complex, make-up blogs, and corporate attempts to cash in on feminism. The articles have an Onion-like sensibility (“Danielle Doesn’t Usually Post on Facebook, But This Is Important“), but with a keen ability to mock the tone and format of so much of women’s media (“I’m Not a Basic Bitch. I’m a Boring Woman.“).  Other must-reads include make-up tips from clowns (“foundation, foundation, foundation”), and my current favorite: “100 Acts of Self Care That Still Won’t Be Enough to Get You Through The Election.

After three years of eliciting laughs, groans, and knowing sighs from their readers, founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo are gifting readers with Reductress’s first book, How To Win at Feminism: A Guide to Having it All (And Then Some), out next week on Oct. 25, with a launch party at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO that evening. Editors Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo told me that they’d been interested in writing a book from the beginning, but feminism’s ever-increasing mainstream acceptance (or co-option) was the inspiration for chapters like “How to do more with 33 cents less” and “The nine circles of hell for women who don’t help other women.”

I chatted with founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo over email about the book, the site, and staying both funny and sane even when current events are making it harder than ever. (more…)

10/11/16 1:38pm

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Kate Bush. Prince. Madonna. Morrissey. Britney Spears. Lady Gaga. Adam Lambert. Beyoncé. They all, in varying degrees, owe their fame, success and fashion sensibility to glam rock.

Defined by a combination of camp, excess, satire and irony, glam, or glitter rock was just as revolutionary as punk or hip-hop.  If that made you raise your eyebrows, here are three reasons why: 1) glam rock, especially in the 70s, had a theatrical and bombastic quality that merged avant garde art and mainstream pop; 2) it pushed the theatricality of music forward, hinging on each artist’s ability to shock and mesmerize audiences through outrageous costumes, makeup and stage props; and 3) it challenged perceptions about sexuality and gender roles. (more…)