By Taylor Smith 

Each year, thousands of new movies are produced and released, and only a few are nominated for Academy Awards. Many of these chosen films actually began as books, plays, and short stories. Here is a collection of seven written works that have gone on to become beloved Oscar-winning films.  more

How to clean up your home and work space once and for all

By Taylor Smith 

Organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has sold over two million copies for good reason. 

In her native Japan, Kondo says that tidiness and simplicity are a matter of everyday living. She cleverly applies these feng shui principles to cleaning house, simultaneously challenging long-held beliefs in cleaning little-by-little every day, storing things for a different season, and/or discarding one item for every new item brought into your home.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

My only problem with “Black History Month” is in the way “history” implicitly detracts from the ongoing immediacy of the African American experience. “Lives” in my title can be read both as a reference to the lives of people and to the force that lives in the present, which happens when we listen to Charlie Parker or Billie Holiday, read James Baldwin or Frederick Douglass, admire a painting by Jacob Lawrence or a photograph by Gordon Parks, or go online to watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s stirring speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention.

The good news is that millions of people have been reading Obama’s memoir, Becoming (Crown $32.50), and David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon and Schuster $37.50).

Blight’s landmark biography begins with President Barack Obama’s September 24, 2016 dedication speech at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in which he delivered “a clear-eyed view” of the “tragic and triumphant” experience of “black Americans in the United States.” After referring to “the infinite depths of Shakespeare and scripture” in black history, Obama paid tribute to “the fight for our freedom … a lifetime of struggle and progress and enlightenment … etched in Frederick Douglass’s mighty leonine gaze.” more

By Taylor Smith

It’s the start of 2019 which means one thing — you’re probably assessing your New Year’s resolutions. While a gym membership and a trip to Whole Foods may help you to exercise and eat better, real change begins with a fresh perspective and more all-encompassing lifestyle habits. Here are a just a few books that might help guide the way to a new and improved you. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Amsterdam was the first stop on my first trip to Europe and the first time in my life that I’d walked into a museum on a whim, on my own, casually, without thinking of it as a prescribed learning experience. Every painting was by the same artist. At 19, I knew about Van Gogh of course. I’d seen Kirk Douglas in Lust for Life. But here was the reality, vividly, wildly, uncontainedly there in the gobs, clusters, and swirls of paint everywhere I looked, and no one else was around, no crowds to contend with; somehow some way I’d lucked out and had the place to myself, just me and Van Gogh. I could almost hear him breathing, smell the smoke from his pipe, as if he were working as I watched, no brush, I imagined him squeezing the paint between his fingers and then slapping it on. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I’d landed all by myself on the shore of a new world of art.

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By Stuart Mitchner

As someone who grew up in Bloomington, “the Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana,” I know something about fall colors. Even for a kid with limited aesthetic awareness, there was no ignoring the splendor of the leaves. I walked to school splashing through puddles of gold and red, and since bonfires were allowed in those days, the air always had a hazy, mysterious quality. Whenever I think back to that time of year, I’m in seventh grade and we’ve moved from graduate student barracks on the outskirts of town to a large two-story house five blocks from the University campus. Suddenly my parents had a veritable mansion to furnish with enough space for a grand piano, sofas, easy chairs, coffee tables — this after four years in the equivalent of a four-room cabin with a pot-bellied stove in the living room.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

I never had to deal with the college search process. The Indiana University campus was five blocks away, and since my father was on the faculty, the cost was minimal. I’ve never regretted staying at home. Besides making some lifelong friends, I wrote a novel, having figured out a plot in a sophomore geology class taught by a man whose amusingly morbid mannerisms influenced my depiction of a predatory professor at a fictional Eastern college. So even though I didn’t go away to school myself, my main character did, and came home to Indiana disillusioned about love and life. When the book was published the summer before my senior year, several reviewers gave me credit for at least not imitating J.D. Salinger, while others took the patronizing tone of the notice in the New York Times snidely titled “College Capers.” The Saturday Review quoted Picasso to the effect that “it takes a very long time to become young.”

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The Making of the Teresa Caffé Cookbook

By Anne Levin 

Food photography by Guy Ambrosino

Food styling by Paul Grimes

Whenever Raoul Momo or any of his four siblings go to Chile to visit their mother, Teresa, she asks them the same question: “What do you want to eat when you get here?”

For Momo, who with brothers Carlo and Anthony run Princeton restaurants Mediterra, Eno Terra, and their mother’s namesake, Teresa Caffé, along with Terra Momo Bread Company, it is probably Risotto Milanese with Ossobuco. “Oh my God,” he says, practically salivating at the thought. “But whatever she makes, it’s delicious. When we were growing up, she was cooking all the time. It was just part of our childhood.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

The freshest, most appealing baseball books of the summer look to be I’m Keith Hernandez (Little Brown $28) and The Comic Book Story of Baseball (Ten Speed Press $18.99), with words by Alex Irvine, and graphics by Marvel artists Tomm Coker and C.P. Smith.

I grew up in post-war southern Indiana loving baseball. The nearest major league team was the Cincinnati Reds. About 250 miles to the north were Chicago and the Cubs and White Sox. St. Louis and the Cardinals were about the same distance to the west. I still remember Cubs broadcaster Bert Wilson exulting, “It’s a beau-t-iful day for a ballgame!” But I was never a Cubs fan, nor did the Reds ever mean much to me. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Samuel Johnson had it right when he said, “It is better to live rich than to die rich.”

Although I’m well past retirement age, I’d never given it much thought until I sat down to write this article. If you’ve been writing since you were 10 and intend to keep on doing so, whether or not you do it for a living, retiring simply isn’t an option. While I appreciate the virtues of planning ahead, “saving for a rainy day,” and so forth, the whole idea is alien to my sense of what makes life worth living.  more

By Stuart Mitchner 

In Hillary Clinton’s What Happened (Simon and Schuster $30), published less than a year after her shocking defeat, she says of women: “We’re not the ones up there behind the podium rallying crowds…. It’s discordant to tune into a political rally and hear a woman’s voice booming (‘screaming,’ ‘screeching’) forth. Even the simple fact of a woman standing up and speaking to a crowd is relatively new.”  more

First Lady Michelle Obama tours the Mirror Room in the Italian Pavilion with Mrs. Agnese Landini at the Milan Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy, June 18, 2015. Mrs. Obama led the presidential delegation to the expo, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

By Anne Levin // Photos Courtesy of Amanda Lucidon from Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer (Ten Speed Press). 

This past November, photographer Amanda Lucidon spoke at Princeton Public Library about her new book Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer. The large crowd that turned out was no surprise. Princeton is a very blue town in a blue state, and the evening promised a bit of nostalgia for those who miss the days when Barack and Michelle Obama, Malia, Sasha, and their dogs were in the White House. more

By Stuart Mitchner 

Summer camps in literature are not easy to track down. One that comes immediately to mind is J.D. Salinger’s Camp Hapworth, from which 7-year-old Seymour Glass pens the longest summer camp letter ever written. The last work by Salinger released for public consumption, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which runs between pages 32-113 in the June 19, 1965 New Yorker, offers a unique — which is to say Salingeresque — view of camp life at Hapworth Lake in Maine. Then there’s Humbert Humbert’s favorite camper, Dolores Haze. Readers of Vladimir Nabokov’s landmark 1955 novel Lolita and viewers of the 1962 Stanley Kubrick film may recall Lo’s eventful stay at all-girl Camp Q in the Adirondacks, where she is deflowered by the camp mistress’s son Charlie, the only male on the scene.   more

By Stuart Mitchner

Among the holiday season’s crop of new books, most of which are immense, amply-illustrated volumes destined for display, some of this year’s stand-outs feature interesting women, whether photographers like Mary Caperton Morton (Aerial Geology), painters (Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900), or women of the Old West like Calamity Jane (The Calamitous Life of Martha Jane Cannary), or superstars like Wonder Woman (The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen) and culinary legend Alice Waters, whose modest-sized, compulsively readable best-selling memoir is more suited to bedside than coffee tables. more

By Stuart Mitchner

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous line, “The very rich are different from you and me,” in his story “The Rich Boy,” inspired Ernest Hemingway’s sarcastic retort in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro, “Yes, they have more money.”

In The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us (Delphinium $25.95), novelist Alison Lurie begins by stating “A building is an inanimate object, but it is not an inarticulate one. Even the simplest house always makes a statement, one expressed in brick and stone and plaster, in wood and metal and glass, rather than in words—but no less loud and obvious.” more

By Doug Wallack

Quoted in the December 1963 Life article in which she famously coined the “Camelot” epithet for her late husband’s presidency, Jacqueline Kennedy says, “Once, the more I read of history, the more bitter I got. For a while I thought history was something that bitter old men wrote. But then I realized history made Jack what he was.” She goes on to outline a vision of a young John F. Kennedy for whom history was a great repository of heroes and role models—a catalyst for his own idealism. more

“The best, most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken”

By Stuart Mitchner 

Sorting out his first impressions of Walt Whitman in a letter from November 1856, Henry David Thoreau admits feeling “much interested and provoked“: “Though peculiar and rough in his exterior,…he is essentially a gentleman. I am still somewhat in a quandary about him…He told us that he loved to ride up and down Broadway all day on an omnibus, sitting beside the driver, listening to the roar of the carts, and sometimes gesticulating and declaiming Homer at the top of his voice.” more

Princeton’s new poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith. Princeton University, Office of Communications, photography by Denise Applewhite.

By Stuart Mitchner 

If you don’t count nursery rhymes, songs, and “The Night Before Christmas,” the first time poetry happened to me was at the end of the Classic Comic of Moby Dick. Each issue closed with “Highlights in the Life” of the author. Herman Melville’s ended with four couplets from a poem “published during the Civil War” that “best expresses our bewilderment of today.” I had no idea what was meant by “bewilderment.” I was 6. The Second World War was still going on. A red, white, and blue banner at the bottom of the page contained a Buy United States War Savings Bonds stamp. The lines that struck and stayed with me were these: “Can no final good be wrought?/ Over and over, again and again,/Must the fight for the Right be fought?” I had only a vague sense of the meaning beyond its being patriotic; what resonated, and still does, was the infectious play of rhyme and rhythm, especially the way it rocks the last line.  more

By Wendy Plump

Photographs Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton

Unusually, there is a great deal to envy in this community that has seen so much struggle through the centuries. Who would not want to grow up in a world embraced by a few boundary streets where everyone knows you and will make sure you are well looked after? Buying penny candy on Leigh Avenue. Fishing in Stony Brook. Being shushed into your home at 9 p.m. by elders who don’t want you to come to trouble. It seems a kind of sanctuary.

On the other hand, it is a place that embraced slavery, a northern Jim Crow town—“spiritually located in Dixie,” as Paul Robeson has said—where some of the earliest residents were bought and traded and some of the latest were barred from restaurants and stores because they were black. more

Tracy K. Smith, the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Princeton University Professor in the Humanities and a professor of creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts, has been named the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2017-18.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment today. Ms. Smith will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library of Congress’s annual literary season with a reading of her work at the Coolidge Auditorium. more