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non-fiction

So Harry says, "You don't like me anymore. Why not?" And he says, "Because you've got so terribly pretentious." And Harry says, "Pretentious, moi?" - Fawlty Towers⁠ ⁠ What is pretentiousness? Why do we despise it? And more controversially: why is it vital to a thriving culture? In this brilliant, passionate essay, Dan Fox argues that it has always been an essential mechanism of the arts, from the most wildly successful pop music and fashion through to the most recondite avenues of literature and the visual arts. Pretentiousness: Why it Matters unpacks the uses and abuses of the term, tracing its connections to theatre, politics and class. From method acting to vogueing balls in Harlem, from Brian Eno to normcore, Fox draws on a wide range of references in advocating critical imagination and open-mindedness over knee-jerk accusations of elitism or simple fear of the new and the different. Drawing on his own experiences growing up and working at the more radical edges of the arts, this book is a timely defence of pretentiousness as a necessity for innovation and diversity in our culture.⁠ ⁠...

Digitalisation has come under suspicion through the rise of surveillance, manipulation, and fake news. ⁠At the same time, it also offers opportunities for renewing our democracy. In their pamphlet "Power to the People", Georg Diez and Emanuel Heisenberg argue for a different approach to the new technologies. They describe how identity, autonomy and co-determination can be achieved by digital means, for example through citizens' meetings and new forms of voting. Using Barcelona as an example, they show how problems such as gentrification and climate change can be controlled with a completely new data policy. Technology, if we think of it in terms of a digital civil society instead as of the devil, could enable a new form of power and emancipation that grows from below: a digital democratic revolution. Maybe.⁠ Even though the title might suggest otherwise, this book is in German only.⁠ Buy...

Eighteen international writers respond to the open-ended period of social distancing, closures, and illness caused by Covid-19. Meditating on notions of distance and closeness, sameness and alterity, extinguishing and kindling, Tools for Extinction considers how a common pause might give rise to new modes of domesticity and shift experiences of time. What gestures and actions are we willing to perform to make ourselves, and each other, feel at ease – or at work? What tools and objects are useful, or unprecedentedly useless, to us in the process? And as our species’ trademark proclivity for projecting ourselves into the future is disrupted, might we come to see the buildings, animals, and plants around us in a new light? The anthology takes its name from Steven Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, a 1960s counterculture compendium of product reviews, essays, and articles on the themes of self-sufficiency, ecology, and alternative education. By giving “access to tools”, a new social order and a more sustainable Earth was imagined. Buy...

Die BRD existiert nicht. Angela Merkel ist Hitlers Tochter. Und Chemtrails sollen uns vergiften. Es ist leicht in der ganzen post-truth Debatte auf die USA zu zeigen und belächelnd den Kopf zu schütteln, wenn mal wieder eine abstruse Verschwörungstheorie auftaucht. Das wir aber gar nicht bis über den Ozean schauen müssen um das Gruseln zu bekommen, zeigen Christian Alt und Christian Schiffer.⁠ Auf ihrer Reise durch ein paranoides Land (es ist tatsächlich Deutschland) treffen sie Verschwörungstheoretiker, Aussteiger und Opfer. Sie decken die psychologischen Mechanismen auf, die zu Verschwörungstheorien führen, erklären, warum das Internet nur zum Teil Schuld hat und tragen 23 goldene Regeln zusammen, mit denen wir den Wahnsinn endlich aufhalten können. Ein aufklärerisches Manifest und ein furioser Road Trip – auf dem sie dann aber einen großen Fehler machen: Sie erfinden eine eigene Verschwörungstheorie. Buy ...

Even though it feels kind of weird that a book about bookstores around the world is inspired by our little shop, it's also kind of cool ; )⁠ And while we still can't believe that we've been in business for more than ten years and perhaps played our part in giving independent publishing a voice, we really want to thank this rich world of print for being part of it and for surprising and inspiring us every day a new. With digital media alone, we would all quickly drown in our own bubble of algorithmic repetition.⁠ But fortunately there are tons of publications that deal with subculture, explore unpopular topics, show visual diversity, make people think, and push the boundaries of print. And fortunately there are independent publishers who are bold and courageous. And fortunately there are independent bookstores that dig through the thousands and thousands of new publications and pick out the unparalleled highlights to bring them to you. And fortunately there are you, too, who are hungry to be surprised and stimulated and astonished and inspired and enthralled.⁠ Happy to be part of this! Buy...

In Morocco, the only acceptable sexual activity is between a woman and her husband. Where all forms of extra-marital sex, homosexuality and prostitution are not only socially frowned upon but also punishable by law, women appear to have two options: be a virgin or be a wife.⁠ The first work of non-fiction in English from the prize-winning and internationally bestselling author Leila Slimani gives voice to young Moroccan women who are grappling with a conservative Arab culture that at once condemns and commodifies sex. By telling their intimate stories, by breaking taboos, by letting us into their thoughts and struggles, these women do not just break the silence, they also show that their lives and their lust matters. Which makes this book political and a vibrant appeal for the universal freedom to be, to love and to desire. ⁠ Buy...

Nowadays humans spend most of their time indoors (and that not only since Covid-19), disconnected from nature. Even though scientific evidence suggests that nature sits at the heart of our psychological wellbeing, we move more and more away from it. Journalist Lucy Jones investigates what happens with our minds as we loose our Eden.⁠ Travelling from forest schools in East London, to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Poland's primeval woodlands, Californian laboratories to eco-therapists' couches, Jones explores how and why connecting with the living world can so drastically affect our health.⁠ Delicately observed and rigorously researched, this book makes us understand that we should not only protect and integrate nature into our life for nature's but also for our own sake. Losing Eden is a moving and inspiring call for rewilding our lives to save our mind and bodies.⁠ Buy...

Exceptional situations require exceptional books! Well, at least they can help us to endure these times. As we are thrown back on the minimum of what our lives are made of right now, John Maeda’s book 'The Laws of Simplicity' is such a book. Whether for business, technology, or life in general the graphic designer and professor in MIT’s Media Lab succeeds to break down the principles of simplicity into 10 essential components. By following the doctrine that good design should be equated with sanity, he outlines different methods (even here, he keeps it mesmerising simple by summarising them in acronyms) to offer a framework on how to keep it as simple as possible without lacking complexity, and hence functionality or even meaning. While Law 9 'Failure' is described as „Some things can never be made simple” luckily the 2nd Law 'Organize' comes into play as “The home is usually the first battleground that comes to mind when facing the daily challenge of managing complexity.” Buy...

When the New Yorker staff writer, Lillian Ross, met ‚le petite Truffaut‘, the French cinéaste, author, critic and pioneering film director of La Nouvelle Vague the fifth time in 1976, his English was surprisingly “terrific!”. Truffaut who seemed throughout resistant to pick up any English word far into his career, announced proudly that he had taken an intensive language course - which was basically reading the newspaper and watching the Watergate hearings on TV. Overwhelmed by the charming pronunciation Ross transcribed most of what he had to say phonetically for the magazine section 'Talk of Town': “To ze best of my recollection at zis point in time.” He could read books in English. “I read ‚Ze final Days,‘” he told us. “Extraordinaire!“ I also read 'I remember Eet Well,’ by Vincente Minelli. But cannot read ze novels in English. Ze vocabulaire! Ver-ee difficult!” The beautifully written texts by Lilian Ross, shifting between interview and portrait, give you a very personal, touching sight of this extraordinary filmmaker. During these five encounters, they talk about his latest movies, but also how he spends his vacation (mostly he sits by the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, not going into the pool, not playing tennis, just sitting there or, visiting his long-time friend Jean Renoir from time to time), life in general, while he regularly updates the incredible number of movies he has seen (by the time they caught up in 1976 Truffaut had watched 5450 movies from the age of 11 years!). This small pocket book of grand journalism leaves you with only one desire: that this should never end! Also you probably will have difficulties to decide who to love more: Lillian Ross or François Truffaut? Frankly, maybe it doesn't really have to end, find more of the Film Desk Books here. Buy...

"Saving the planet begins at breakfast" states the subtitle of "We are the Weather", the latest book of Jonathan Safran Foer. And while we chew on our Sunday brunch, we might initially take a defensive state - Really? Now Foer tells us that even our most favorite Sunday habit is a threat to life? - But stay calm, this book is not about food and eating habits. On the other hand it is also not meant to calm you. So we take that back.⁠ In the first part of the book, titled "The Unbelievable", Foer tells shortly historical turning points and personal stories, which all lead to the suspicion that the human mind is unable to emotionally engage with something that is terrifying by the facts but invisible in every day life and therefor not shaking our emotions. Like the climate crisis. "Our alarm systems are not built for conceptual threats." Which seems one of the reasons why we know about climate change and the threat it is to human life but are unable to take actions. And even though Foer just concluded that we are somehow immune to the devastating facts, he presents us with them nonetheless - through bullet-point lists. Arranged in small size bites and still far from being easily digestible.⁠ ⁠But instead of now presenting us with tools or action plans, what one might expect, to overcome our paralysis, we will read impressions and anecdotes of what means "Home" followed by a inner monologue titled "Dispute with the soul". And latest now it dawns us. What the hard facts are unable to do, Foer is trying (and succeeds at) - he emotionally shake us.⁠ ⁠ May that be the wake up call we all needed to finally take the steps necessary to safe our biotope, our home.⁠ Buy ...