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In Praise of Melancholy and How It Enriches Our Capacity for Creativity


How the American obsession with happiness at the expense of sadness robs us of the capacity for a full life.

Great Children’s Books Celebrating Science


Finding magic in reality and our shared stardustness. After my annual omnibus of the year’s finest children’s books, a number of friends have requested recommendations for intelligent and imaginative children’s books celebrating science.

Why Clouds Stay Up in the Sky


The science of how to keep the weight of one hundred elephants in the air. As Georgia O’Keeffe marveled at the beauty of the Southwest sky, which inspired much of her legendary art, she was especially enchanted by the “grey blue clouds … riding all through the holiness of it,” “bunches of clouds,” “different kinds of clouds.” Clouds, indeed, hold immeasurable mesmerism for children, artists, and ordinary grownups alike.

Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd, Why We Conform, and the Power of the Minority


“Truth always rests with the minority … because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion.” “When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her spectacular meditation on happiness and conformity, “you surrender your own integrity [and] become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” And yet conformity is not only a survival strategy for us but also something institutionally indoctrinated in our culture.

Little Red Riding Hood, Reimagined in Unusual Die-Cut Illustrations


“What big eyes you have!” The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm have a long history of reimaginings over the centuries, spanning the full spectrum between the dark and the delightful — from David Hockney’s vintage take to, most recently, artist Andrea Dezsö’s enchanting black-and-white illustrations and Neil Gaiman’s wonderful retelling of Hansel and Gretel.

C.S. Lewis on Why We Read


How great books both change us and make us more ourselves. “A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in her gorgeous contemplation on reading.

November 25, 1963: Leonard Bernstein’s Moving Tribute to JFK and His Timeless Wisdom on the Only True Antidote to Violence


“This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.” On November 22, 1963, John F.

Eating Delancey: A Love Letter to Jewish Food and Its Iconic New York Bastions


A warm celebration of knishes, kasha, lox, and the people and places of which collective memory is woven.

Maria Merian’s Butterflies: The Illustrated Story of How a 17th-Century Woman Forever Changed the Course of Science Through Art


A heartening homage to a courageous woman who fought superstition with science and love. While putting together the annual omnibus of the year’s best children’s books, I was reminded of how woefully rare inspired children’s books about science are in our culture — as rare, perhaps, as are homages to pioneering female scientists and celebrations of the intersection of art and science.

Anne Lamott on Grief, Gratitude, and Grace Amid Havoc


On the grace of redefining ourselves and redefining okayness when life throws us its merciless curveballs.

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World


The euphoria experienced as you begin to fall in love, the pile of books bought but unread, the coffee “threefill,” and other lyrical linguistic delights.

The Best Science Books of 2014


The math of soul mates, the psychology of nothing, the physics of faith, and more illuminating insights on the universe and our place in it.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work


“All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.” Since long before the question of where good ideas come from became the psychologists’ favorite sport, readers, fans, and audiences have been hurling it at authors and artists, much to their frustration.

Artist Francis Bacon’s Conflicted and Creative Life, Illustrated


“It’s all so meaningless, we may as well be extraordinary.” David Lynch has called legendary British artist Francis Bacon (October 28, 1909–April 28, 1992) “the main guy, the number one kinda hero painter.” Like Lynch’s films, Bacon’s paintings compel the way a scene from a nightmare does — a scream piercing the psyche, at once terrifying in its beauty and beautiful in its terror.

The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: Comic Artists Reimagine Beloved Childhood Classics, from Tolstoy’s Fairy Tales to Harry Potter


“One sign of a great work of literature or art is that it can be interpreted multiple ways, that it remains ambiguous, refusing to provide clear-cut answers.” “Tales are powerful instruments and should be wielded skillfully,” artist Andrea Dezsö told me in our conversation about her striking black-and-white illustrations for the little-known original edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The Difference Between the Beautiful and the Sublime, Animated


A 100-second anatomy of astonishment. Britain’s Open University has previously given us some illuminating animated explainers of the history of the English language, the world’s major religions, philosophy’s greatest thought experiments, and the major creative movements in design.

The Humane Art: Virginia Woolf on What Killed Letter Writing and Why We Ought to Keep It Alive


“A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.” “A letter should be regarded not merely as a medium for the communication of intelligence,” advised an 1876 guide to the art of epistolary etiquette, “but also as a work of art.” More than half a century later, and another half century before the dawn of email as we know it today, one of the greatest letter writers of all time turned a concerned eye toward the death of that singular art form.

The Creative Value of Staying Loose: Wisdom from MacArthur Geniuses on the Art of Connected Irreverence


“Cut short of the floundering and you’ve cut short the possible creative outcomes. Cheat on the chaotic stumbling-about, and you’ve robbed yourself of the raw stuff that feeds the imagination.” The history of the term “genius” is as long and convoluted as the term’s modern usage is nebulous and arbitrary.

November 19, 1957: Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize


“I embrace you with all my heart.” Few things are more heartwarming than bearing witness to one human being expressing deep gratitude for the profound, course-altering impact another has played in her or his life.

Happy Birthday, Ted Turner: The Media Pioneer and Philanthropist on Religion, the Meaning of Life, and His 10 “Voluntary Initiatives” in Place of the Commandments


“Our reason for being here is to have a productive, good, long life and to experience the truth that we’re in paradise right now.” For more than half a century, media pioneer and philanthropist Ted Turner (b.


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