As many of you know, Diesel booksellers are passionate about books. We are also passionate about other things, including creating a decent workplace where labor is honored and creativity and intelligence encouraged. We have made a brief video reading of Gary Snyder's May Day Toast. Our 30 Poetry Videos, one a day through the month of April, showed our passions in new and exciting ways. We enjoyed making them and judging by your response, you enjoyed listening to and viewing them. (Thanks for all of your emails, letting us know how much you liked them! And for those who missed them click here.) So we've decided to share our passions for other things in the coming months, and for May it's Music! We are creating videos and writing reviews about music we love and music books we recommend. Please check our website and blog for new additions to our passionate recommendations. Hope you enjoy these creative labors!
John & all Dieselfolk
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I bought this book because of the illustration of a bear on the cover. It received some high praise from Günter Grass and takes place in Berlin, a city I had recently visited and loved, so I thought: sure, I'll give this a chance. Schulze's stories are remarkably real, and engulf his likable characters in the very un-fantastic scenarios and interactions of modern day life. He then jumbles events into an almost chaotic order. There are no heroes or villains here, just a kind of awkward hug from a likable, yet insane, stranger. At first, you brace yourself but, having realized you actually enjoy the hug, you are faced with the decision of whether the hugger, in this case Schulze's story, is going to let go first, or if you are. Regardless, you'll want more hugs. -- Jon Stich
Yes, Drive is a business book. But it's a business book you will want to read, that you'll enjoy reading, that will excite you and inspire you to share it with others, because it's all about what motivates us and makes us happy and productive.
It begins with a little-known experiment conducted over seventy years ago by Harry F. Harlow at the University of Wisconsin. In preparation for a series of tests, rhesus monkeys were given puzzles involving basic problem-solving skills. It was widely believed that animals and humans were subject to two basic forces. There was the biological drive for food, water, and sex and the environmental influence of reward and punishment. The monkeys in Harlow's experiment, however, quickly defied both of these drives. Without any prompting, promise of reward or biological gratification, the monkeys began to work on the puzzles and kept on working until they could solve them quickly and easily. There was no explanation for this! Then something even more unexpected happened. The scientists introduced rewards, raisins, for completing the puzzles, expecting the monkeys to do even better. But the monkeys actually performed worse - making more errors and completing their tasks less frequently!
It turns out that when given a purely mechanical task, the promise of a reward acts as an incentive, helping both humans and monkeys to focus on the task at hand. But given a more complex task, requiring creativity or problem-solving skills, the introduction of a system of rewards backfires! (Try telling this to a Wall Street banker.) Not only does it inhibit a creative and appropriate response, it actually sets the stage for a series of undesirable side effects such as lying, cheating, addictive behavior, and short-term thinking - anything to get the reward as quickly and easily as possible.
But conversely - and this is important - these findings also point to the conditions under which we work best; conditions Daniel Pink explains with engaging detail and can be used by anyone, from parents to CEO's, to set the stage for greater inspiration and fulfillment in our working lives. -- Colin Waters
An exquisite book of selected poems is a rare achievement. It often requires the editor to have a life-long closeness to either the work or the author in order to gain the necessary intimacy, breadth and depth. Robert Creeley miraculously achieved this in his Selected Poems of Charles Olson, a daunting, almost impossible task that he finessed with startling clarity. One of California's, America's and the 20th century's most paradigmatic and under-recognized poets is Thom Gunn. A formalist who wrote with vernacular speech and rhythms, he was a documentarian, a contemporary Elizabethan, and a master of the nuances and musics of English. It was a stroke of genius to have San Francisco poet August Kleinzahler edit his selected poems. He condensed from Gunn's six decades of work a selection that stands as a beautiful testament and doorway to Gunn's profoundly heart-probing work. If you have never read Thom Gunn, this is a great introduction. If you are familiar with his work, it is a fresh new book which revivifies his poems in this new arrangement. -- John Evans
Novelist, essayist, and poet Gilbert Sorrentino, who died in 2006, was one of the great under-appreciated American writers of the last century. His work has a consistently pitch-black humor that is particularly Irish in pedigree, placing him in the tradition of writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Flann O'Brien. Many of his books, including this one, combine meticulously experimental prose structures with vivid, all-too-real narratives of the mundanities and small horrors of working-class American life. Sorrentino achieved most of his notoriety from novels he wrote in the 70s (among them Mulligan Stew and Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things), but his later books - such as Gold Fools, a novel written entirely in questions - are my personal favorites, and are, if anything, even more dark and uncompromising than his earlier work. -- John Peck
Alice Waters uses local and organic ingredients with simple preparations that allow the flavors to shine. Here, she has gathered an array of notable chefs to demonstrate techniques that are the building blocks for success in the kitchen. Making a good stock, baking bread, poaching the perfect egg, are essential kitchen skills. Not only is it important to know how to prepare these basics, but it also teaches you a baseline as to how these foods are supposed to taste, smell, and look. Aroma and appearance are equally as important as flavor; let's face it, we judge with our eyes and nose way before we take that first bite. Too, with food being at a trendy high, there are many superfluous gimmicks on the market and selecting the right cooking equipment can be daunting, given there are so many brands and items now available. Alice breaks it down into the basics you should have, and where you take it from there is up to you. My advice: spend a little extra to get quality cookware and knives - it's worth it. -- Cheryl Ryan
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The good folks at New York Review of Books have reprinted the classic story of an innocent bear living in a world run by people. First published in 1946, Frank Tashlin's The Bear That Wasn't features quirky and endearing artwork - not to mention a gorgeous color cover - to illustrate our hero, the bear, as he attempts to convince people that he really is, indeed, a bear. At times silly and heartbreaking, The Bear That Wasn't culminates in a fulfilling personal resolution. This is the perfect book for children to read, for parents to read to children, not to mention animal lovers and/or critics of society to read for themselves, regardless of age! -- Geo Ong