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In 2014, award-winning essayist William Deresiewicz roiled the placid ponds of academia with his controversial attack on American elite education in his book Excellent Sheep. Prepare yourself, because he’s back. His wide-ranging, vividly written new book focuses on how big tech and big money—the new economy—are devastating artists and the arts.

In The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech, one of Deresiewicz’s key points—and the object of much of his diatribe—is that it isn’t necessarily a good thing that the internet allows unmediated access to audiences and artists. Sure, there are benefits, but it also “starves professional production [and] fosters the amateur kind.” Big tech has also convinced us that we can all be artists and has given us the tools (but not the talent) to believe it, with questionable results. He writes, “Have you seen your cousin’s improv troupe? Is that the only kind of art you want to have available, not only for the rest of your life but for the rest of the foreseeable future?”

William Deresiewicz’s wide-ranging, vividly written new book focuses on how big tech and big money—the new economy—are devastating artists and the arts.

How and why we may be on the verge of this eventuality—in music, writing, visual arts, film and television—is the thrust of his inquiry. In his research, Deresiewicz interviews roughly 140 artists, most of whom we might call midlevel, midcareer artists, who make up the broad ecosystem from which great work arises, and the very people likely to disappear in a new economy that favors the few. “Bestselling books have gotten bestier; blockbuster movies have gotten bustier,” Deresiewicz pointedly observes.

In the end, he argues that a new economic paradigm has arisen, and artists must respond to it. Some of his recommendations are oddly old school. For one, artists who are now asked to work for free to build an online audience, a following, must demand to be paid. “I cannot think of another field in which people feel guilty about being paid for their work—and even guiltier for wanting to be paid,” he writes. “Arts and artists must be in the market but not of it,” which is of course easier said than done these days.

But Deresiewicz’s most profound recommendations—a breakup of tech monopolies and the end to extreme inequality—are revolutionary and perhaps impossible to achieve. So there is much to think about and even more to argue with in The Death of the Artist. And that is its point.

In 2014, award-winning essayist William Deresiewicz roiled the placid ponds of academia with his controversial attack on American elite education in his book Excellent Sheep. Prepare yourself, because he’s back. His wide-ranging, vividly written new book focuses on how big tech and big money—the new economy—are devastating artists and the arts. In The Death of […]

The economic consequences of pandemics, disasters and recessions during our lifetime will be far-reaching and profound. And as David Dayen explains in his disturbing polemic Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power, they’ll play out against the insidious trend toward concentrated corporate power.

Blending professional rigor with journalistic flair, Dayen, executive editor of the American Prospect, takes readers on a comprehensive tour of the American economy, revealing “the collections of monopolies encircling our every move.” As a consequence, “we toil in this age of monopoly, this age of plutocrats, this age of soaring inequality and broken democracy, this age of middle-class despair and sawed-off ladders to prosperity.”

To drive home that point, Dayen grounds his portrait in vivid illustrations of how a handful of companies have the power to profoundly affect people’s daily lives. One example is the story of Dave and Carolyn Horowitz, of Lenoir City, Tennessee, who, like millions of Americans living in rural areas, lack essential access to broadband internet because the six dominant companies who could provide it refuse to upgrade to high-speed service in areas of low population density. 

Similar stories are repeated across the spectrum of commerce in the United States, from pharmaceutics to journalism to financial services. In each instance, Dayen argues, a small group of companies and individuals have skillfully exploited privileged positions to benefit themselves and harm Americans. He reserves special scorn for revered investor Warren Buffett (America’s “premier monopolist”) and the “greed-stuffed titans” of the private equity industry. 

Dayen concludes with a glimmer of hope that some of the early successes of what’s been called the “New Brandeis” movement (named for the late Supreme Court justice, an avowed foe of monopolies in the early 20th century) will energize a consumer backlash against these concentrations of wealth and power. It’s a fight worth waging, but not one that will be easily won.

The economic consequences of pandemics, disasters and recessions during our lifetime will be far-reaching and profound. And as David Dayen explains in his disturbing polemic Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power, they’ll play out against the insidious trend toward concentrated corporate power. Blending professional rigor with journalistic flair, Dayen, executive editor of the […]

Everyone knows that millions of people lost their homes when the housing bubble burst. Belief in the continued increase in housing prices spurred millions to grab the American dream of homeownership, enticed by wildly lenient mortgages that encouraged them to purchase homes beyond their means. Banks bundled these risky mortgages together and sold them on Wall Street. Everything was great—until it wasn’t.

When the housing market slowed down, things spiraled out of control, bringing the stock market to its greatest decline since 1929. Some of the most prestigious banking houses went out of business, while others teetered on the edge of collapse, saved only by billions of tax dollars.

What many people don’t know, though, is how much money was made as the result of the housing crisis. In Homewreckers, Pulitzer Prize finalist Aaron Glantz untangles how a group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund partners (including future Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross) transformed a national crisis into a financial bonanza for themselves. Even more important, however, Glantz demonstrates how their gain came at our country’s cost through decreased homeownership, diminished wealth for low- and middle-income Americans and the destruction of whole communities.

Glantz does an excellent job explaining the financial complexities of the housing crisis and its fallout. But the real strength of his book comes from the personal stories he weaves in to illustrate his points. The stories of Sandra Jolley, Beulah Butler and Shawn Pruett bring home the real pain experienced by American families as a result of the homewreckers’ actions. Yet, the most surprising stories are those of the homewreckers themselves. These men are not sadists. Instead, their actions stem from an insatiable need to acquire more: more money, more homes, more wives. Glantz makes it clear that they are not monsters but mere humans who have done monstrous things—and, if left unchecked, are likely to do them again.

Everyone knows that millions of people lost their homes when the housing bubble burst. Belief in the continued increase in housing prices spurred millions to grab the American dream of homeownership, enticed by wildly lenient mortgages that encouraged them to purchase homes beyond their means. Banks bundled these risky mortgages together and sold them on […]

You've got goals, and we've got the books to help you achieve them. Tackle your resolutions with these 10 books.


The Formula: The Universal Laws of Succes
By Albert-László Barabási

RESOLUTION: Work better, not harder, to reach your goals.
FRESH TAKE: If life were a fair fight, talent plus work ethic is all you’d need to succeed—but we’ve all been passed over for opportunities we’re qualified for. With this data-driven book, Albert-László Barabási explores the universal forces that affect our likelihood of success or failure.
GOOD ADVICE: The differences among top contenders in any category are so tiny that they’re essentially immeasurable—which means wine connoisseurs only know so much, and a nice Pinot can come at any price.


Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection
By Haemin Sunim

RESOLUTION: Practice self-love (beyond just buying bath bombs).
FRESH TAKE: In this gentle, kindhearted guide to inner peace, the Zen Buddhist teacher Haemin Sunim argues that if one begins with self-acceptance, one will have greater empathy for others and an easier time adapting to life’s trials.
GOOD AVICE: When beset with negative emotions, observe your own feelings and then try to trace them back to their roots. You might realize that a bad experience in your past or a subconscious insecurity is influencing your behavior.


How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment—the Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life
By Sophie Hannah

RESOLUTION: Embrace your negative side.
FRESH TAKE: Novelist Sophie Hannah believes that nursing one’s grudges can lead to greater self-knowledge, personal growth and healthier boundaries.
GOOD ADVICE: By using Hannah’s hilarious grudge-grading system, you can channel your angry feelings into a deeper understanding of your own values and set necessary boundaries.


No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work
By Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy

RESOLUTION: Feel great about your work.
FRESH TAKE: Two former tech workers offer a fresh, funny approach to handling workplace relationships. By leaning on emotional intelligence, you, too, can navigate the pitfalls of modern office life. 
GOOD ADVICE: Establish context and trust with colleagues by using “richer communication” channels like voice chat before relying on written, and often misinterpreted, methods like email and instant messages.


Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More
By Elizabeth Emens

RESOLUTION: Overcome invisible labor.
FRESH TAKE: From disputing bills to planning a vacation, Elizabeth Emens introduces readers to the concept of admin, our sometimes onerous daily to-do list. Through relatable anecdotes, she breaks down the types of admin in our lives and offers advice on balancing tasks and relationships.
GOOD ADVICE: Talk with your partner about how to divvy up household duties before moving in together or getting married.


Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age
By Mary Pipher

RESOLUTION: Chart the course for the next phase of your life.
FRESH TAKE: Women face many challenges as they age: misogyny, ageism and physical changes. Yet psychologist Mary Pipher shows that most older women are more content than their younger selves. Pipher offers warm, empathetic guidelines for navigating aging and for recognizing its unexpected gifts. 
GOOD ADVICE: Every life stage is filled with pain and difficulties. The challenges and changes presented by aging are different, but they also present new ways to learn about yourself and cultivate empathy. 


The Monkey Is the Messenger: Meditation and What Your Busy Mind Is Trying to Tell You
By Ralph De La Rosa

RESOLUTION: Finally get into mindfulness and meditation.
FRESH TAKE: Everyone knows we should be meditating, but what if your thoughts just won’t shut up? Ralph De La Rosa draws on Buddhism, neuroscience and psychology to posit that instead of growing increasingly frustrated with these intrusive thoughts, we should accept them as a part of ourselves and use them as a tool to understand ourselves better. 
GOOD ADVICE: Try not to allow circumstances to dictate your emotions. Instead, accept circumstances and view them as an opportunity for growth and learning. 


Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol
By Ruby Warrington

RESOLUTION: Be more mindful of your alcohol intake.
FRESH TAKE: Going without alcohol may sound like an extreme lifestyle change and, frankly, a really dull one. But Ruby Warrington is here to tell you, nonjudgmentally, that cutting out alcohol doesn’t mean you’ll become boring, and it can lead to a happier life, filled with better sleep, health and relationships. 
GOOD ADVICE: If you’re worried about all the fun you’ll miss out on while sober, remind yourself of the phenomenon known as “euphoric recall,” in which an experience is misremembered in a far more positive light than the reality. That epic bachelor party five years ago? It perhaps wasn’t as epic as you remember—but the hangover you’re forgetting no doubt was.


Craftfulness: Mend Yourself by Making Things
By Rosemary Davidson & Arzu Tahsin

RESULTION: Pick up a creative hobby.
FRESH TAKE: Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin have crafted (sorry) a well-researched guide to the meditative, restorative and mood-lifting effects of working with your hands on a craft or creative pursuit. Filled with advice on how to let go of the pressure of Pinterest perfection, how to make time for crafting in your busy schedule and even a couple of quick beginner projects to get you started, this book is as warm as the scarf you’ll be knitting.
GOOD ADVICE: For too long, we’ve all been focused on the finished product of our artistic pursuits, which can often lead us to abandon less than perfect-looking projects. But there’s joy to be found in the process of making and mending, regardless of our perceived abilities.


If You Ask Me: Essential Advice from Eleanor Roosevelt
Edited by Mary Jo Binker

RESOLUTION: Sail through life with presidential aplomb.
FRESH TAKE: In 1941, the outspoken first lady Eleanor Roosevelt started an advice column. For 20 years, she doled out clever, pithy advice on love, etiquette and issues like gender and race equality. These lovely columns, collected and annotated by Mary Jo Binker, provide sound advice as well as a look into the life and thinking of a legendary first lady.
GOOD ADVICE: Roosevelt was adamant about gender equality in her personal life, writing that she thinks “people are happier in marriage when neither is the boss” and that all relationships are best built on “unselfishness and flexibility.” 

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

You've got goals, and we've got the books to help you achieve them. Tackle your resolutions with these 10 books.

What Alissa Quart calls “the failing middle class vortex” is indeed a powerful force, growing stronger every day, as she knows from personal as well as professional experience. When her daughter was born, mounting day care and hospital costs forced Quart and her husband, both freelance writers in New York City, to adjust their lives. Now, as executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Quart spends her days investigating social and economic inequalities.

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America provides an in-depth look at two things people all too often shy away from discussing: money and class. The term standard of living, Quart notes, is used less and less, perhaps because “the notion that a relatively high quality of life should include small pleasures and comforts has faded.”

Quart introduces readers to a variety of people and families being squeezed, whom she calls the Middle Precariat—a “just making-it group,” who “believed that their training or background would ensure that they would be properly, comfortably middle-class,” but whose assumptions turned out to be wrong.

There are teachers driving Uber, grading papers between rides; adjunct professors drowning in debt, whom Quart calls “the hyper-educated poor”; and immigrant nannies caring for wealthy families while their own children are left behind in their home country.

“Each story was like a tiny detail in a giant oil painting that allowed me to understand the whole picture in a different way,” Quart writes. She backs up these anecdotes with clear, sharp analysis, noting that a systemic problem is the undervaluation of caring professions such as teachers, day care workers and parents. She also points to a variety of solutions, including better, cheaper day care, a universal child allowance, public pre-K and universal basic income.

Like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Squeezed is a thoughtful, enlightening and painful analysis of the ever-growing divide in the American economy.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

What Alissa Quart calls “the failing middle class vortex” is indeed a powerful force, growing stronger every day, as she knows from personal as well as professional experience. When her daughter was born, mounting day care and hospital costs forced Quart and her husband, both freelance writers in New York City, to adjust their lives. Now, as executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Quart spends her days investigating social and economic inequalities.

Got goals for 2018? Yeah, we thought so. For gentle motivation, practical guidance and fresh ideas on how to make this the best year yet, check out the inspiring books below.

FIX YOUR FINANCES
January is the ideal time to size up your fiscal situation. If the prospect of looking at your checking account puts you in a panic, then pick up a copy of Chelsea Fagan’s The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money. This handy manual is packed with concise, clear advice on fundamentals like maintaining a personal budget and building credit. Fagan, a journalist and successful blogger, strikes a breezy, cordial tone on the page. Untangling knotty topics such as investing and retirement planning, she delivers a crash course in economics that’s informative and—yes!—enjoyable.

Featuring invaluable insights from a wide range of financial experts, The Financial Diet also includes economical recipes, tips for getting more mileage out of your wardrobe and smart suggestions for stretching that paycheck. “Saving money isn’t about depriving yourself,” Fagan says. “It’s about deciding you love Future You as much as you love Today You.” With a nifty layout by designer Lauren Ver Hage, this appealing book can help you make 2018 the year of spending—and saving—wisely.

BE YOUR BEST SELF
Does your 2018 to-do list include learning to love yourself? If the answer is yes, then here’s your next need-to-read title: Sarah Knight’s inspiring You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want. An author with attitude (her 2015 book was titled The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck), Knight uses humor and a bold, cut-to-the-chase style to lay out strategies for avoiding what she calls Lowest Common Denominator Living—a follow-the-crowd mindset that smothers individuality.

Knight instead champions learning to identify—and successfully express—your needs and letting go of the expectations of others. And the concept of perfection that permeates our culture? Knight can show you how to tune it out and turn your weaknesses into assets. A self-esteem essential, You Do You will empower you to take risks and take charge of every aspect of your life. Self-love (not to mention like) can’t be achieved overnight, but Knight’s book will get you started.

REFINE YOUR CHARM
French femmes—self-possessed and effortlessly elegant—are the envy of women around the world. What gives them that extra edge? According to bestselling author Jamie Cat Callan, it’s charm, a quality the French appear to have perfected. In Parisian Charm School, Callan shows you how to cultivate the trait through a transformative take on life that includes practical steps for nurturing your own unique appeal.

In chapters enlivened by warm personal anecdotes and inspiring quotes, Callan provides assignments that will nudge you out of your routine and get you engaged with others. She offers instruction in charm-related undertakings, like how to plan a world-class dinner party (and command attention at said fête) and how to flirt effectively (yes, it’s possible to do this without sacrificing your dignity). She also recommends easy wardrobe adjustments with advice on wearing the bold colors you’ve always loved but may have been too much of a wallflower to try. Stepping out of your comfort zone will put you on the path to attaining Parisian allure. “Trust your heart,” Callan counsels. “Say yes. And bring the flowers.” Très charmant!

PICK UP A HABIT
Meditation: It’s one of those polarizing practices that seems to have as many detractors as devotees. ABC News anchor Dan Harris was a longtime doubter of the discipline—until he experienced a panic attack on live TV. In an effort to manage his anxiety, he turned to meditation, and it was a choice that transformed his life. Harris chronicled his conversion experience in his bestselling 2014 memoir, 10% Happier. In his new book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, co-authored with meditation teacher Jeff Warren and journalist Carlye Adler, Harris aims to find out why so many folks are resistant to the ritual. Hopping aboard the 10% Happier tour bus with the free-spirited Warren as his sidekick, Harris tours 18 states and talks to people from all walks of life about what keeps them from taking the meditation plunge. The reasons range from lack of time to boredom with the routine. Harris counters these and other impediments with practical advice on starting—and sticking with—a meditation regimen, and he offers easy techniques for neophytes. Harris’ book will revise your ideas about the ancient exercise and help you feel more focused in the months to come.

CHEAT ON YOUR DIET
Taking a more mindful approach to nutrition is a post-holiday objective many of us set for ourselves. Whether you’re trying to break a serial snacking habit or focus on long-term weight loss, you should take a look at Aaron Carroll’s The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. In this informative, accessible book, Carroll, a doctor and healthcare expert, sifts through the research, advice and straight-up hype surrounding diets to reveal that some of the foods we view as off-limits aren’t as awful as we think.

According to Carroll, we can once again make room on our plates for red meat, eggs, dairy and bread. He discusses these and other controversial culinary categories in the book, stressing the significance of moderation along the way. “More important than what you’re eating is how you’re eating it—especially how often and how much,” he says. The book has plenty of sensible tips for maintaining a healthy diet, such as cooking nutritious dishes at home and making each meal a communal affair. After all, Carroll says, food is meant to be enjoyed. Here’s to a delicious new year!

 

This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Got goals for 2018? Yeah, we thought so. For gentle motivation, practical guidance and fresh ideas on how to make this the best year yet, check out the inspiring books below.

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