It’s 150 years since Leo Tolstoy put pen to paper and began writing his epic War and Peace. While most people think of him as one of the 19th century’s greatest novelists, few are aware that he was also one of its most radical social and political thinkers. During a long life from 1828 to 1910, Tolstoy gradually rejected the received beliefs of his aristocratic background and embraced a startlingly unconventional worldview that shocked his peers. Tracing his personal transformation offers some wise — and surprising — lessons for how we should approach the art of living today.
Kate DiCamillo has written several wonderful books — among them The Tale of Despereaux, The Magician’s Elephant, Because of Winn-Dixie — all of which would make wonderful gifts. If I had to choose just one, it would be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Ms. DiCamillo is known as a writer for children and has won numerous awards in that field, including the Newbery Medal, but she is a storyteller of such grace and charm that her books provide as much pleasure for adults as for children. Children will never feel that she is writing down to them, and adults will never feel that her writing is too simple, for it is in fact complex in theme and rich in emotion. Few writers have ever made me laugh out loud and, in the same book, moved me to tears, but Ms. DiCamillo does both, book after book.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
While shooting in Portland, Ore., I got the pleasure of discovering Powell’s Books, an enormous old bookstore (which I hope still exists) and stayed there the entire day. I just curled up in a comfy chair and read. They had a cafe in the store that I frequented. What joy.
At Powell’s, we love a good cookbook: the recipes that make you want to head straight for the kitchen, the mouth-watering photos, the advice on how to approach cooking and how to make recipes your own. We treasure cookbooks so much that many of us have shelves and shelves — and in some cases entire bookcases — devoted to them at home. While we’re not about to pare down our collections, we thought it might be interesting to consider what would happen if we had to give up all of those books except for one. What cookbook would get us through meal after meal, day after day? We asked our staff this very question. Here’s what they chose.
“Write as precisely and as lucidly and as richly as you can about what you find truly mysterious and irreducible about human experience, and not obscurely about what will prove to be received opinion or cliché once the reader figures out your stylistic conceit. There’s all the difference in the world between mystery and mystification.”—Paul Harding (via mttbll)