Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘blog-turned-book’

31 JANUARY, 2012

Paris vs. New York: Minimalist Illustrated Parallels of Culture

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Macaron vs. cupcake, Proust vs. Salinger, bobo vs. hipster, bordeaux vs. cosmo.

For the past two years, graphic designer Vahram Muratyan, a self-described “lover of Paris wandering through New York,” has been chronicling the peculiarities and contradictions of the two cities through “a friendly visual match” of minimalist illustrated parallel portraits. Today, Muratyan joins the finest blog-turned-books with Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities — an absolutely charming collection of these vibrant visual dichotomies and likenesses. From beverages to beards, hands to houses, Muratyan captures the intricacies of cultural difference in a way that blends the minimalist and playful visual whimsy of Noma Bar’s Guess Who? with the side-by-side parallelism of Mark Laita’s Created Equal to deliver something entirely new and entirely delightful.

la romantique

le café

l'obsession

(You might recall the above from the excellent Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language.)

le roman

la barbe

le matin

les mains

la façade

le réalisateur

l'apéro

Many of these gems are available as prints on Society6, one of the best places to find affordable art. A set of postcards is being released shortly.

Images courtesy of Vahram Muratyan / Penguin

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30 DECEMBER, 2011

Forgotten Bookmarks: The Secret Life of Second-Hand Books

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From Paul Rand to Hitler, or what Jane Austen has to do with shopping lists and Valentines.

If you, like me, love marginalia and the secret histories of second-hand books, you’ll find yourself enamored with Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages — the latest addition to the web’s blog-turned-book success stories based on the wonderful site of the same name by used bookstore owner Michael Popek.

It’s happened to all of us: we’re reading a book, something interrupts us, and we grab the closest thing at hand to mark our spot. It could be a train ticket, a letter, an advertisement, a photograph, or a four-leaf clover. Eventually the book finds its way into the world-a library, a flea market, other people’s bookshelves, or to a used bookstore. But what becomes of those forgotten bookmarks? What stories could they tell?”

From actual bookmarks to photographs, ticket stubs, lists, scribbled recipes, children’s drawings, birth certificates, four-leaf-clovers, unsent love letters, and countless other funny, heartbreaking, and odd ephemera, this scrapbook of Popek’s most intriguing finds opens a rare window into the private lives of anonymous strangers through snippets of their life stories.

Captivating, charming, and irresistibly voyeuristic, Forgotten Bookmarks surfaces the intimate relationship we have with books in an entirely new, entirely delightful way.

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01 NOVEMBER, 2011

You Are Not So Smart: A Field Guide to the Brain’s Guile

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The science of why 600 Facebook “friends” are an illusion, or why brand loyalty is a product of the ego.

We spend most of our lives going around believing we are rational, logical beings who make carefully weighted decisions based on objective facts in stable circumstances. Of course, as both a growing body of research and our own retrospective experience demonstrate, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For the past three years, David McRaney’s cheekily titled yet infinitely intelligent You Are Not So Smart has been one of my favorite smart blogs, tirelessly debunking the many ways in which our minds play tricks on us and the false interpretations we have of those trickeries. This month, YANSS joins my favorite blog-turned-book success stories with You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself — an illuminating and just the right magnitude of uncomfortable almanac of some of the most prevalent and enduring lies we tell ourselves.

The original trailer for the book deals with something the psychology of which we’ve previously explored — procrastination:

And this excellent alternative trailer is a straight shot to our favorite brilliant book trailers:

From confirmation bias — our tendency to seek out information, whether or not it’s true, that confirms our existing beliefs, something all the more perilous in the age of the filter bubble — to Dunbar’s Number, our evolution-imposed upper limit of 150 friends, which pulls into question those common multi-hundred Facebook “friendships,” McRaney blends the rigor of his career as a journalist with his remarkable penchant for synthesis, humanizing some of the most important psychology research of the past century and framing it in the context of our daily lives.

Despite his second-person directive narrative, McRaney manages to keep his tone from being preachy or patronizing, instead weaving an implicit “we” into his “you” to encompass all our shared human fallibility.

From the greatest scientist to the most humble artisan, every brain within every body is infested with preconceived notions and patterns of thought that lead it astray without the brain knowing it. So you are in good company. No matter who your idols and mentors are, they too are prone to spurious speculation.” ~ David McRaney

And in the age of Books That Should’ve Stayed Articles, it’s refreshing to see McRaney distill each of these complex phenomena in articulate, lucid narratives just the right length to be stimulating without being tediously prolix.

You Are Not So Smart is positively one of the smartest books to come by this year — no illusion there.

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11 OCTOBER, 2011

Every Page of Moby-Dick, Illustrated

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Illustrated insights on love, hate, God, capitalism, and the rest of life via Herman Melville and found paper.

Since 2009, former high school English teacher and self-taught artist Matt Kish has been drawing every page of the 552-page Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s iconic Moby-Dick, methodically producing one gorgeous, obsessive drawing per day for 552 days using pages from discarded books and a variety of drawing tools, from ballpoint pen to crayon to ink and watercolor. Now, thanks to Tin House Books, Kish’s ingenious project joins our running list of blogs so good they became books: Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page gathers his magnificent lo-fi drawings in a 600-page visual masterpiece of bold, breathtaking full-page illustrations that captivate eye, heart, and mind, inviting you to rediscover the Melville classic in entirely new ways.

I’ve read the book eight or nine times […] Each and every reading has revealed more and more to me and hinted tantalizingly at even greater truths and revelations that I have yet to reach. Friends often question my obsession with the novel, especially since I am not a scholar or even an educator any longer, and the best explanation I have been able to come up with is that, to me, Moby-Dick is a book about everything. God. Love. Hate. Identity. Race. Sex. Humor. Obsession. History. Work. Capitalism […] I see every aspect of life reflected in the bizarre mosaic of this book.” ~ Matt Kish

'...Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel's wards.'

Ballpoint pen on paper, September 17, 2009

'Call me Ishmael'

Colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 5, 2009

'But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive.'

Colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 6, 2009

'Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it - it may be - a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws amid fiery showers of foam'

Ink on watercolor paper, January 22, 2011

'...where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's tossed craft.'

Acrylic paint and ballpoint pen on found paper, August 13, 2009

'I don't know how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping.'

Acrylic paint, colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 19, 2009

''Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam- me, I kill-e!' again growled the cannibal...'

Ink, colored pencil and marker on found paper, August 27, 2009

'Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.'

Acrylic paint on found paper, August 30, 2009

'...and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains...'

Acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, September 30, 2009

'Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight over the wide waters.'

Ink and marker on found paper, October 5, 2009

'...hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling...'

Crayon, ink and marker on found paper, November 24, 2009

'…who has also by the stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think untraditionally and independently…'

Colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, November 12, 2009

''I will have no man in my boat,' said Starbuck, 'who is not afraid of a whale.''

Colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, December 19, 2009

'But it was especially the aspect of the three chief officers of the ship, the mates, which was most forcibly calculated to allay these colorless misgivings, and induce confidence and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage.'

Ink on found paper, December 28, 2009

'Moby Dick bodily burst into view! For not by any calm and indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic fountain in his head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far more wondrous phenomenon of breaching. Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.'

Ink on watercolor paper, January 11, 2011

''Thou Bildad!' roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin. 'Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn.''

Ballpoint pen and ink on found paper, November 16, 2009

Woven of equal parts visual mastery and creative bravery, Moby-Dick in Pictures is a treasure in and of itself, one that not only pays homage to Melville, but also reimagines what it means to embark on a modern-day epic voyage of creative restlessness.

Images courtesy of Matt Kish

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