Over the course of her career, Leslie Jamison has proven her voice to be a vital one in our contemporary landscape, and her new collection of essays, Make It Scream, Make It Burn, (Little, Brown, $28) is no exception. Admirers of Jamison’s past work in The Empathy Exams will be delighted to see her turn her critical eye to a new host of topics. In this collection, Jamison’s subjects range from the online game Second Life, to airport layovers, to a very, very lonely whale—but no matter the subject, she always circles back to the human condition. Jamison handles each of her subjects with care and understanding in Make It Scream, Make it Burn; this is an essay collection that never seeks to place judgments on the strange and surreal, but rather to examine them as necessary parts of our culture.
Judging from the title, the premise of Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing (Melville House, $25.99) might seem straightforward. After all, doing nothing seems easy. Images likely flashed through your mind of a lazy day spent reading a book (this bookseller hopes) while putting off your chores until tomorrow. What Odell proposes, however, is a radical reorientation and reclamation of an important human trait: our ability to pay attention. Odell skillfully peels back the veil on what she calls “the attention economy” to show that while seemingly benign, the ultimate purpose of this economy is the monopolization of our attention for its own gain. In the process, our connection with the physical world is diminished. As fundamentally embodied beings, Odell demonstrates that our greatest chance for happiness occurs when we engage directly with each other and with our surroundings. For this to happen people need time and space to cultivate an awareness of the world around them. They need to be able to, seemingly, “do nothing." Odell’s book is not an angry screed railing against the evils of modern society and media. Ultimately, it is a compassionate and hopeful guide on how we can best care for ourselves, each other, and the planet.
Look back on thirty-five years of Vanity Fair stories about women, written by women, in this collection of profiles, essays, and columns edited by Radhika Jones with David Friend. Vanity Fair’s Women on Women (Penguin Press, $30) illuminates icons from Frida Kahlo to Michelle Obama, Emily Post to Tina Fey. The featured writers—including Maureen Dowd, Leslie Bennetts, Jacqueline Woodson, and more—bring larger-than-life celebrities down to earth, humanizing them with memorable quotes, unexpected anecdotes, and palpable descriptions of the interview sessions. At the same time, the writers adeptly contextualize their subjects, illustrating their reverberating cultural impact. The profiled women made history and became history. As Jones reflects in her introduction, “This is a moment for women’s voices.” Women on Women not only captures women’s voices, but in doing so, clarifies what brought us to this moment. Readers of all ages and genders will savor this trip through time, society, and identity, collecting their own favorite stories along the way.