Best Books of The Years

Best Books of The Years

Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind

Oral Tradition and the InternetThe Center for Studies in Oral Tradition is pleased to announce the publication of the late John Miles Foley’s book,Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind (Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2012). A web-based version examines the title terms’ homologies through 116 entries, more precisely, nodes, that harness the medium’s relational power for exploration. In the spirit of the author’s commitment to the radical democratizing of knowledge, art, and ideas, the Website is available to all free of charge at

Since any characterization of the project’s contents here would be otiose, I turn to my main point: I invite you sincerely to participate with the Pathways Project. A fundamental objective of the Pathways Project is to encourage an ongoing dialogue in which the project “is to serve as a heuristic, as a way into some of the most important media challenges of our time. It does not pretend […] to do anything more (or, for that matter, less)” (Oral Tradition and the Internet, xii).

Just as a successful oral tradition relies upon co-creation, “the network licenses (and requires) your ongoing participation” (ibid. 21). The Pathways Project extends an open invitation to join the conversation by pointing your browser to becoming a contributor. As Professor Foley noted, “the virtual world […] works by engaging networks that must always remain under construction and open to individual, emergent navigating” (ibid. 249).

Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Co.

My Heart Is an Idiot

My Heart Is an Idiot

by Davy Rothbart

Hardcover, 307 pages

Davy Rothbart, known best for Found magazine and its spinoffs, is an inveterate wanderer, a nostalgic dreamer, a collector of characters, a bit of a hustler and most of all, a great storyteller. All these elements come into play in this new collection of essays, and though the situations are varied, they often hinge on Rothbart falling in love at a moment’s notice. Whether he’s wandering Buffalo with a new centenarian friend, or hanging out with a gang of abandoned bus passengers in the wake of Sept. 11, or seeking revenge on a literary scammer who puts together fake conferences, you can see the angle and the dream come together to become a larger but distinctly crazed truth. And when Rothbart hits it out of the park, like the story of a guy he befriended who was doing a life sentence for killing one of his friends, you think, “What is this anyway?” It’s a sometimes entertaining, occasionally shocking slab of humanity, that’s what it is — and worth every page.

City of Women

City of Women

by David R. Gillham

Hardcover, 392 pages

What did the women of Berlin do while their men were fighting the war? This interesting perspective fuels David Gillham’s debut novel, which takes place in Berlin during World War II. The women’s activities and beliefs were as diverse as the men’s. Some mirrored their husband’s commitment and rank, seeing their duty as serving the Gestapo. Others chose to aid the resistance. Others just wanted to enjoy the freedom to do as they wished without the watchful eyes of their husbands. Some of the women discovered the world of illicit sex and the black market, and found themselves keeping dangerous secrets.

Gillham’s telescopic focus on just a few of these women not only clarifies the issues confronting all German citizens at the time, but also the humanity and inhumanity of the decisions they made. As the novel unfolds, the author forces the reader to wonder what each character truly believes and whom to trust. In the end, betrayal and survival confuse moral choices.

The Art Forger

The Art Forger

by B.A. Shapiro

Hardcover, 360 pages

In 1990, two men disguised as police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole 13 works of art with an estimated total worth of $300 million. None has been recovered. This art heist is the centerpiece of Shapiro’s novel. Fact and fiction are woven together in a story that exposes the dark underground of the art world, including the skill and larceny involved in creating a copy of a painting. A fine line is drawn between just copying a painting to create a reproduction, and forging one with the intent to sell it as the original.

When a young struggling artist is asked to make a “copy” of one of the museum’s iconic stolen paintings in exchange for a show at a prestigious gallery, she knows she’s making a deal with the devil. What she doesn’t know is which painting is the original, which is forged, and where the stolen piece is hiding. To further complicate things, family feuds emerge, passions flare, and ego and talent run rampant. By mixing art, history and complex characters, The Art Forger produces a thrilling canvas.

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