2017 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America have selected the best in the mystery fiction and non fiction genre with the announcement of the 2017 Edgar Award winners.

Best Novel – Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

“On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the tragedy and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the crash heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy: Was it merely dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations–all while the reader draws closer and closer to uncovering the truth.
The fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. “ (GoodReads)

Best First Novel – Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

“When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.
Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.
A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.” (GoodReads)

Best Fact Crime – The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

“Early in the morning of Monday 8 July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie set out from their small, yellow-brick terraced house in East London to watch a cricket match at Lord’s. Their father had gone to sea the previous Friday, the boys told their neighbours, and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning their parents’ valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. But as the sun beat down on the Coombes house, a strange smell began to emanate from the building. When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery they made sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm, and Robert and Nattie were swept up in a criminal trial that echoed the outrageous plots of the ‘penny dreadful’ novels that Robert loved to read. In The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale has uncovered a fascinating true story of murder and morality – it is not just a meticulous examination of a shocking Victorian case, but also a compelling account of its aftermath, and of man’s capacity to overcome the past.” (GoodReads)

Review: The Element by Ken Robinson

The Element is a popular personal development book about finding your element; the intersection of your natural talent and your personal passions.  This book is often included on lists about creativity and while it features the stories of many creative people, it is not actually about creativity.

The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. The Element draws on the stories of a wide range of people, from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons; from Meg Ryan to Gillian Lynne, who choreographed the Broadway productions of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera; and from writer Arianna Huffington to renowned physicist Richard Feynman and others, including business leaders and athletes. It explores the components of this new paradigm: The diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities.
With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and that once we have found our path we can help others to do so as well. The Element shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation by thinking differently about human resources and imagination. It is also an essential strategy for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the challenges of living and succeeding in the twenty-first century.
(GoodReads)

The Element is much more about the education system; the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all system that can’t meet the needs of a varied and diverse society.  Robinson shows us this by collecting the stories of creative and successful people who despite their problems fitting into the education system managed to find success and happiness in finding their element.

The stories are quite interesting.  I especially enjoyed reading the earlier chapters.  The book is very well written and Robinson is an interesting and humorous writer.  Unfortunately, toward the end of the book I began to lose steam because I had different expectations of what this book was about.

It is an interesting and inspiring book, especially so if you’re interested in the education system and changing that system to suit an enlarged definition of intelligence.

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

Review: Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick

I first read Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick a few years back.  It has held pride of place on my writing book shelf because it is one of the most helpful and beautifully written books on writing I’ve read so far.

Writing Well is a guide to expressive creative writing and effective professional prose. The author, a poet, writer, editor and teacher, explains the techniques required for stylish and readable writing. Everyone who wants to improve their writing can benefit from this book, which describes how to: identify topics that inspire you to write, get into the habit of writing regularly, develop ideas, construct effective arguments, choose words for maximum effect, use grammar correctly, structure sentences and paragraphs appropriately, write with integrity. The book is enriched by examples from great modern writers, and includes a variety of exercises and suggestions for writing activities. Mark Tredinnick practises what he preaches, making his book highly enjoyable as well as technically instructive.”  (GoodReads)

In the prologue of The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker writes:

“It’s not just that I welcome advice on the lifelong challenge of perfecting the craft of writing. It’s also that credible guidance on writing must itself be well written, and the best of the manuals are paragons of their own advice.”

Writing Well fits this description and is, indeed, a paragon of its own advice.  I really enjoyed reading it.  Tredinnick provides useful advice and fantastic exercises to get you flexing your writing muscles.  He includes example passages from well known works to illustrate his points and this, too, was wonderful to read in addition to being illustrative.

My favourite chapters were Sentencing, which gave an in depth look at the structure of different types of sentences and when to make use of them; and Poetics, which was about the art of creative writing.

It was a useful and inspiring read.  This book isn’t just for fiction writers, but anyone looking to improve their writing whether you’re focusing on fiction, poetry, or report writing for work.  It’s a book you may well read more than once – I’ve just finished it for a second time.  If, like me, you enjoy reading books about writing improvement this one has got to be on your list.

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I’ve read a few different books about creativity within the last 2 years written by different types of creatives.  I’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert who is a writer, the artist Austin Kleon’s two books Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work, and most recently The Crossroads of Should and Must by artist Elle Luna.

I’ve enjoyed all of these books and while you might be wondering how many books about creativity you can read before it gets monotonous I’ve noted that every creative has their own way of conjuring creativity and has had different experiences within their various creative fields.the-creative-habit-by-twyla-tharp

“Creativity is not a gift from the gods, says Twyla Tharp, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life: In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative. In The Creative Habit, Tharp takes the lessons she has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career and shares them with you, whatever creative impulses you follow — whether you are a painter, composer, writer, director, choreographer, or, for that matter, a businessperson working on a deal, a chef developing a new dish, a mother wanting her child to see the world anew. When Tharp is at a creative dead end, she relies on a lifetime of exercises to help her get out of the rut, and The Creative Habit contains more than thirty of them to ease the fears of anyone facing a blank beginning and to open the mind to new possibilities.” (GoodReads)

Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is about her approach to creativity as a choreographer.  You don’t have to be interested in dance to enjoy this book because it is firmly centred on her creativity method.  I enjoyed reading the book.  She is smart and interesting and naturally this makes for good reading.  Her approach is completely different from what I’ve previously read.

Her advice is very practical and comes with exercises.  While I didn’t feel the exercise sections were really necessary after reading her chapters, she goes into detail and some of you may well find these sections helpful.  If you’re interested in creativity you will probably enjoy this.

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

Review: The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran

The Dhammapada is a collection of the sayings of the Buddha in verse form.  It is one of the most widely read of the Buddhist scriptures and the most essential.  There are many translations but I chose Easwaran’s because of a recommendation – the source of which I can’t for the life of me remember.

“As irrigators guide water to their fields,
as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve
wood, the wise shape their lives.”
145

The Dhammapada is an easy and enjoyable read.  It is full of simple wisdom some of which may seem likeThe Dhammapada Eknath Easwaran common sense but is lovely to be reminded of from the Buddha’s unique perspective.  He has a very simple and down to earth way of delivering essential truths which is the essence of his teachings.

“…the Dhammapada seems more like a field guide. This is is lore picked up by someone who knows every step of the way through these strange lands. He can’t take us there, he explains, but he can show us the way: tell us what to look for, warn about missteps, advise us about detours, tell us what to avoid. Most important, he urges us that it is our destiny as human beings to make this journey ourselves. Everything else is secondary.”
Eknath Easwaran, The Foreword

The Dhammapada is described as a handbook to the teachings of the Buddha but it is Easwaran’s informative introduction on Buddhism and the text that give an extra insight to the seemingly simple words of the Buddha.  I enjoyed reading his introduction and it serves as a great starting point not only for this text but for Buddhism on a whole.

If, like me, you’ve never read any Buddhist texts (or much about Buddhist teachings) this short book of verse is a great place to start, particularly Easwaran’s translation.  The opening verse of the Dhammapada is a profound reminder that our lives are shaped by our minds and we become what we think:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those
whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows
them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
2

It happened that earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, then some weeks later Easwaran’s Dhammapada, followed by The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which in retrospect could not have been better planned.  I didn’t read them back to back but each prepared me for the next and I think I was able to take a great deal more from each one’s message for having read them in this order.  Obviously you don’t need to read them like this but if you’re interested I enjoyed this reading order.

I enjoyed and recommend reading The Dhammapada.  A wide variety of translations exist but I found Eknath Easwaran’s Introduction a highlight of reading this book.  He has also done translations of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita which I hope to get to at some point also.

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

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Review: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I have found that I’ve read many books at just the time I needed them, no matter whether they were fiction or non fiction, and on occasion the order in which I’ve read some books has been just right that it helped me fully digest or appreciate the books that came later.

This is true of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for me.  I’m sure by now everyone has heard of this book.  It has been translated into over 30 languages and even Oprah sings its praises.  I’ve been meaning to read it for ages but honestly if I’d read it before now (no pun intended) I’m not sure I would have got the message.  Earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse which led me on internet travels of Buddhist thought and I’m currently reading Eknath Easwaran’s translation of The Dhammapada whose introduction was very interesting reading.  Both those books got me into the right frame of mind for The Power of Now.

It’s not the easiest self help book to get through.  At first I wasn’t really comfortable with the question answer style of certain parts as I prefer a narrative style but you do get used to it.  You may or may not be familiar with some of the ideas that form the basis for Tolle’s message.  Your familiarity with or exposure to some of the concepts in the book could potentially affect how you feel about it.  Stick with it, read slowly, let it percolate.

I do think it is an important book for us all to read at some point.  It’s a short book but best read slowly.  There is a lot to take away from The Power of Now but the most basic message as you may have guessed is related to time.  There is no time but Now.  The past is but memories and the future is imagination, the only thing you need to concern yourself with is now.  This is quite liberating if, like me, you often find yourself worrying about a future that doesn’t exist yet and a set of problems that may never exist.

The more time that passes since finishing it the more I realise about its implications for my life.  I’m sure that no matter what you’re going through; good, bad, or meh, there’s something for you in this book that will help you.  If you’ve already read this book I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

 

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Review: The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick is a broad but short book on all social media platforms.  This book covers a lot quickly.  It is the Fast and Furious of social media guides.the art of social media guy kawasaki peg fitzpatrick

This book is for everyone one from bloggers to social media managers because it introduces you to all the ways you can use social media to your advantage.  The personal blogger learns how to effectively share content across a range of platforms and will provide you with details of ideal image sizes and strategy for each platform.  It is a great intro for those of us still deciding which platforms are best for our needs.

For the social media manager of a large company this book will jump start your engine and give you plenty of ways to go beyond sharing of content to driving marketing campaigns and accompanying events on social media platforms.  This book definitely has a lot for those looking for a more aggressive social media strategy across multiple platforms.

I think it is a great book for all who use social media.  It really opens your eyes to multitude of ways you can reach people.  It is definitely a must read for all who work in the area.  It may not teach you everything – it is a short book after all – but it will inspire you.  At the very least you will be totally blown away by the Peg Your Post section.

My personal strategy is to stick to a few platforms that I particularly enjoy using rather than try to spread myself across them all but even so I learned a great deal from this book.  I highly recommend it for those looking to up their social media game.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners

In my part of the world the Pulitzer Prizes were announced at 9pm last night but no matter the time zone people all over were ready and waiting to hear the news of the 100th anniversary Pulitzer Prize winners.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

What a year for Viet Thanh Nguyen who we just saw shortlisted for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award and now a Pulitzer win.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen“A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.  It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.” (GoodReads)

 

The Pulitzer Prize for Non Fiction:  Black Flags by Joby Warrick

black flags by joby warrick“Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick reveals how the strain of militant Islam now raising its banner across Iraq and Syria spread from a remote Jordanian prison with the unwitting aid of American military intervention.  When he succeeded his father in 1999, King Abdullah of Jordan released a batch of political prisoners in the hopes of smoothing his transition to power. Little did he know that among those released was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man who would go on to become a terrorist mastermind too dangerous even for al-Qaeda and give rise to an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East.  Zarqawi began by directing hotel bombings and assassinations in Jordan from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion of that country in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, the CIA inadvertently created a monster. Like-minded radicals saw him as a hero resisting the infidel occupiers and rallied to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings continued for years until Jordanian intelligence provided the Americans with the crucial intelligence needed to eliminate Zarqawi in a 2006 airstrike.  But his movement endured, first called al-Qaeda in Iraq, then renamed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seeking refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. And as the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi’s dream of a sweeping, ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate.  Drawing on unique access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Joby Warrick weaves together heart-pounding, moment-by-moment operational details with overarching historical perspectives to reveal the long trajectory of today’s most dangerous Islamic extremist threat.”  (GoodReads)

 

 

 

 

Review: The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I sat down and read this book cover to cover in an hour.  It is a fabulous, thought-provoking, and inspiring book filled with drawings, word art, and great advice.  In the way it is written and designed it gets you thinking practically and creatively.  I found it part inspiration and part workbook which was very helpful.The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna Review

The GoodReads blurb: “Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire. And it was her own personal journey that inspired Elle Luna to write a brief online manifesto that, in a few short months, has touched hundreds of thousands of people who’ve read it or heard Elle speak on the topic. Now Ms. Luna expands her ideas into an inspirational, highly visual gift book for every recent graduate, every artist, every seeker, every career changer.  The Crossroads of Should and Must has a universal message—we get to choose the path between Should and Must. And it gives every reader permission to embrace this message. It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. The difference between going to work and becoming one with your work. Why knowing what you want is often the hardest part. It gives eye-opening techniques for reconnecting with one’s inner voice, like writing your own obituary (talk about putting life in perspective). It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space, and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories of and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap. It explains the importance of mistakes, of “unlearning,” of solitude, of keeping moving, of following a soul path.  Presented in four chapters—The Crossroads, The Origin of Should, Must, and The Return—inspired by the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell, The Crossroads of Should and Must guides us from the small moment, discovering our Must, to the big moment—actually doing something about it, and returning to share our new gifts with the world.”

As the title suggests this book is great for people seeking their life calling and for people who are at a crossroad in their life and not sure what to do next.  This short book will guide you through sorting through the basic questions you need to answer to get to the root of you and begin to formulate small actions you can take to move forward.  Luna’s idea isn’t about making a decision and making an overnight transformation.  It is about the process or journey to your ‘Must’ which is far more achievable and sustainable for us all.

I loved the quotes throughout and I especially liked the questions Luna asks you to ask yourself and the suggestions she gives for what you can do.  I made a few notes along the way and brainstormed my answers to the questions she poses in the book.  Reading this book was a great exercise in working out my direction.  This isn’t a book about abandoning your job to pursue your passion without a plan.  This is about helping you work out how you can live your passion and pay your bills.  But at the same time it proposes that you not be afraid of a path which has no easy answers or no set guidelines.

For no other reason than to know yourself better I recommend this book; from its questions which get you to examine your Shoulds so you can know your prison, its prompt for you to define your must-have money vs. your nice-to-have money, to creating your ‘what-are-you-so-afraid-of’ list, you are bound to learn something about where you’re at and where to next.

A lovely book to boost your life and creativity for anybody and everybody.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

This is the first book I have read about social media of any kind and I’m happy (and relieved) it was a good reading experience.  I suppose I was expecting a lot of jargon and details I wouldn’t understand let alone make use of.  The Tao of Twitter is a short and very useful book for everyone using Twitter, beginner or advanced user.  Whether you use Twitter for yourself, your blog, or for an organisation you will benefit from reading this book.the tao of twitter

If you’ve ever wondered what Twitter is all about and how to make the best use of it The Tao of Twitter has the very simple answers.  A lot of the information was reinforcement for me of a strategy I already use but there was also a great deal of clarification and ways to expand.

The most important takeaway for me as a blogger was to remember that Twitter isn’t a place where you can just broadcast your blog posts etc. it’s about connecting with people.  Getting the most out of Twitter involves following the 3 Taos of Twitter; connections, content, and helpfulness.

Schaefer is engaging and light in his explanations and there are many examples of real life stories of how Twitter works to help you get to grips with the power of Twitter and how to harness it for your own needs.  I highly recommend this book to Twitter users.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

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Review: Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi

I could not have started the year off with a better book.  Super Brain is an incredible book, part neuro science, part self help book, it was the perfect combination of fact and guidance.  On the cover it says: “Unleashing the explosive power of your mind to maximise health, happiness, and spiritual well being.”  It is this and so much more.super brain chopra tanzi

Two pioneers in health–Dr Deepak Chopra and Prof Rudolph E. Tanzi, one of the world’s foremost experts on the causes of Alzheimer’s–share a bold new understanding of the brain and a prescriptive plan for how we can use it to achieve physical, mental and spiritual well-being. (GoodReads)

Super Brain describes eloquently and backed up by scientific fact how the brain works and then shows us how we train it sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.  Super Brain explains how this training can result in either the brain using us or us using it as is supposed to be.  It provides guidance on how you can retrain your brain for maximum health, happiness, and spiritual well being.

In each chapter the authors talk about an area or function of the brain and also deal with a specific problem that many of us face in society.  For example the book explains and offers guidance on memory loss, depression, overweight, anxiety, personal crisis, self-healing, maximum longevity, among others.  And even if you don’t deal with any of these in your life the book is so well written and interesting that you will enjoy it for the simple fact that we all have a brain and it’s wonderful to better understand it and our particular nervous system because they are the vehicle through which we experience life.

The beautiful message of this book for me is that you have control over your brain and therefore your experience of life.  My favourite line in the book comes from pg 167:

“…every thought is an instruction…”

I enjoyed and highly recommend this book.  It was a fantastic read and I’ll be reading the follow up Super Genes later in the year.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

I finished Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon a few days ago and I enjoyed it so much that I just went right to the next one, Show Your Work.  Both have been very helpful to me personally and I’m sure if you are creating anything at all you’ll find this book, Show Your Work, very beneficial.  There may be some things that you already know but Kleon has a great way of putting things so that you’ll feel reaffirmed in your strategy.share your work austin kleon

“In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed readers how to unlock their creativity by stealing from the community of other movers and shakers. Now, in an even more forward-thinking and necessary book, he shows how to take that critical next step on a creative journey getting known. Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time networking. It s not self-promotion, it s self-discovery let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes, stories, and examples, Show Your Work! offers ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave, productive. In chapters such as You Don t Have to Be a Genius; Share Something Small Every Day; and Stick Around, Kleon creates a user s manual for embracing the communal nature of creativity what he calls the ecology of talent. From broader life lessons about work (you can t find your voice if you don t use it) to the etiquette of sharing and the dangers of oversharing to the practicalities of Internet life (build a good domain name; give credit when credit is due), it s an inspiring manifesto for succeeding as any kind of artist or entrepreneur in the digital age.” (GoodReads)

I really enjoy Kleon’s voice and he has a great sense of humour which makes for great reading.  This book really expands on a point (the main takeaway for me) that he touched on in Steal Like An Artist“Share the dots but don’t connect.”  In other words, share your process, share snippets of how you do what you do.  Don’t give everything away but don’t just share the end product.  Share your process, inspire others, teach others, create a conversation, and thereby connect more deeply with people.  The internet has changed the game and connecting with people by letting them into your world is the best way to get people to care about what you do/create.

I highly recommend this concise book.  There’s great advice and I’m sure you’ll be left feeling inspired or recharged.  I think Steal Like An Artist and Share Your Work are best read together in that order and at 200 pages combined you’ll be through them in no time.  I know I’ll be going back to these books because there were such great quotes throughout and the advice really is great.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

Review: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

This is another book about creativity and how to get on living a life in the creative industry.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as it is concise, very cool, and full of good advice structured under 10 main points.  It’s really a quick and easy read.  It has lovely drawings and really great quotes.  I jotted down a few notes while reading this.  Kleon has a great writing voice too so all in all a must read for anyway working in any creative field or anyone who pursues creative endeavours of all kinds.  It’s actually a book for us all because we’re all creative in some way and this little book will help you get back into it or dive deeper into it.

https://lilolia.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/review-steal-like-an-artist-by-austin-kleon/

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. (GoodReads)

I especially liked that there’s a recommended reading list at the end.  I love further reading lists!  I particularly liked this line in the book: “…you are a mashup of what you choose to let into your life…”  This book left me feeling full of energy to pursue my projects with zest and joy and I’m sure it’ll do the same for you if you have a creative project or hobby.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know of Elizabeth Gilbert from her Eat, Pray, Love success.  The cover of her latest book Big Magic completely drew me in and then the “Creative Living Beyond Fear” subtitle really spoke to me too.  big magic elizabeth gilbert

I consider myself a creative person (but really we all are) and I always have my hand in some kind of creative pursuit but since I am a self taught creative (my tertiary education is in the social sciences) there tends to be a bit of fear or anxiety surrounding my freedom to create without feeling like a complete fraud.  Just like when I began this blog years ago I felt I had no right to do so because I knew nothing about the world of blogging.  But it has turned out to be a wonderful creative outlet.

If you recognise yourself then this book is for you.  It is just as much for anyone working professionally in the creative arts as anyone enjoying working on creative arts in a non professional way.  I really enjoyed this book and it is chock full of great lines that you will no doubt see as affirmation style images on Pinterest.  It is inspiring and realistic.  More importantly it is a guide to just how we should be treating our creativity to enjoy it more fully as well as foster it.

This is not about being successful in the creative arts; this book is about creative living for the sheer love of it.  No doubt there will be those that dislike this book but I am not one of them.  I have a number of creative passions that I love working on and this book has given me the boost to keep on keeping on.  My biggest take away from this book is a personal one.  Your creativity (and ability) is no less legitimate than the next person’s regardless of education or any other external factor.  Your experience is unique so get stuck in.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s a quick read and if you’re intrigued by it go ahead and read it.  If you’ve read it what did you think?

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

Review: Langford’s Basic Photography by Michael Langford

Langford’s Basic Photography was first published in 1977 and continues to be updated with the most recent 9th edition published in 2010.  This photography book comes highly recommended and is the prescribed textbook for some courses.  Michael langford's basic photographyLangford is a well accomplished and respected photographer and teacher.

“Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands as Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK.” (GoodReads blurb)

You would then, given the above, expect this book to be extraordinary and while I will say that it is in fact well written and jam packed with technical details, it was not the book I needed.  This book is much more for the absolute beginner.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in film photography and film processing since this book covers those areas in great technical detail.  I, however, am in love with digital photography and the digital darkroom.  Sadly, digital is covered only fleetingly.

I enjoyed the first chapter, What Is Photography, because of the theory element and the references to notable professional photographers and their works.  The two chapters on the technicalities of light and lighting were also useful to me.  I particularly liked that each chapter had a summary and project section at the end.  All in all, though, the book isn’t for me.  Too much of a focus on film photography and not enough of a challenge to keep me going.  I think there are better books out there for the beginning digital photographer who has chosen the self study route like myself.

The Langford’s Advanced Photography book is the next step after this one and I’ll still have a look at that one to see what it covers because there truly is a great deal of detail in Langford’s style so I’m hoping my disenchantment with this Basic one is purely a matter of mismatched level.

 

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

TBR Chronicles #06

This week the 2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist was released.  This is my most anticipated lit prize of the year and you can be sure that the longlist will have a few gems on it.  This year I’ve picked two books from the list that I expect to be really good.

The Fishermen by chigozie obioma

The first is The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma.  This novel stood out for me because of what Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries and Man Booker Prize winner, said about it: “Awesome in the true sense of the word…Few novels deserve to be called ‘mythic,’ but Chigozie Obioma’s The Fisherman is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut.”  I’m sold.  If that’s not enough for you then how about the New York Times saying: “Obioma truly is the heir to ­Achebe.”  I must read this book! (GoodReads)

The Chimes by anna smaill

The second novel I chose from the MB longlist is The Chimes by Anna Smaill.  This novel is set in “a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.  In the absence of both memory and writing is music.”  Yes, please!  The rest of the longlist will no doubt be taken apart by my fellow book bloggers so I’ll wait to hear what you all have to say before I pick anything else. (GoodReads)

VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography by david duchemin

New to my TBR is Visionmongers by David duChemin.  This book comes highly recommended for those who want to take their photography into a more commercial direction.  duChemin is said to be very readable; with a writing style that is both informative and enjoyable to read.  Looking forward to this.  (GoodReads)

This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking john brockman

I recently became aware of the books of John Brockman, publisher of edge.org, who poses a question to some of the greatest and most influential minds of our time and their answers become the subject matter of his books.  The truth is I want to read them all.  Check them out on GoodReads and you’ll see what I mean – interesting stuff!  The book that makes this list is This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Brockman.  The question Brockman poses for this book is “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” with contributions from Daniel Kahneman, Jonah Lehrer, Richard Dawkins, Aubrey De Grey, Steven Pinker, Daniel C. Dennett, Matt Ridley, and Brian Eno to name but a few. (GoodReads)

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything ken robinson

The last addition to my TBR this month is The Element by Ken Robinson.  An oldie (originally published in 2000) but apparently a goodie for those looking to read into creativity and self-fulfillment.  This book is about finding the point where your natural talent and personal passion intersects – finding your element.  (GoodReads)

What are your thoughts?  Have you read any of these?  I’d love to hear about it – you might save me some time.

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Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

An absolutely great book all introverts should read.  This book is written in such a way that extroverts will enjoy it too and even understand themselves a bit better.  I found this book personally very self-affirming and it gave me hope and power.  Cain describes the world of an introvert, the different kinds of introverts, and how we live in a world geared towards extroverts.  Since one third of all people are introverts, this book is for everyone wanting to understand andQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking bring out the best in introverts who bring a lot to the table with a different kind of power than the one that is generally accepted.

Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.  In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”

The biggest take away from this book for me (besides the immense self-affirmation) is that introverts and extroverts are like yin and yang.  They are opposites but belong together.  The best teams are not made up of one or the other but a mixture of both.  We support and uplift one another if both are catered for living and working environments.  Cain talks about the world as celebrating an extroverted way of being which I completely agree with.  This book will bring to light all the advantages of quiet power and why introverts are the way they are and how they get stuff done.  Reading this book was like being in an interesting conversation with a well spoken and knowledgable person who understands the world of introverts intimately and who makes reference to interesting case studies and research along the way.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to introverts, parents and spouses of introverts, and anyone who manages people in the working environment.  In general, this is a book for everyone though because we will all find ourselves understanding the people around us a little better for having read it.

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

10 Top Books about Our Minds

Every now and then I love a good Non Fiction book and I seem to enjoy the books about our minds and how they work the most.  I’ve put together a list of 10 top picks to read about our minds from what I’ve read and what I want to read.  I’d love to hear what you thought of any of these books and share any other recommendations you may have.  All blurbs are from GoodReads.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I thoroughly enjoyed Blink as many have and I can’t recommned it highly enough.

“Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant–in the blink of an eye–that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?”  (GoodReads)

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Another of Gladwell’s books which I found incredibly interesting.  Definitely a must read.

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.  Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children’s television, direct mail, and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful high-tech company, and one of the world’s greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.”  (GoodReads)

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

I loved this book!  Shocking and insightful, it’ll have you looking at the world a bit differently.

“They say one out of every hundred people is a psychopath. You probably passed one on the street today. These are people who have no empathy, who are manipulative, deceitful, charming, seductive, and delusional. The Psychopath Test is the New York Times bestselling exploration of their world and the madness industry.  When Jon Ronson is drawn into an elaborate hoax played on some of the world’s top scientists, his investigation leads him, unexpectedly, to psychopaths. He meets an influential psychologist who is convinced that many important business leaders and politicians are in fact high-flying, high-functioning psychopaths, and teaches Ronson how to spot them. Armed with these new abilities, Ronson meets a patient inside an asylum for the criminally insane who insists that he’s sane, a mere run-of-the-mill troubled youth, not a psychopath—a claim that might be only manipulation, and a sign of his psychopathy. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud, and with a legendary CEO who took joy in shutting down factories and firing people. He delves into the fascinating history of psychopathy diagnosis and treatments, from LSD-fueled days-long naked therapy sessions in prisons to attempts to understand serial killers.”  (GoodReads)

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I’ve just finished this book and I found it personally extremely helpful and self-affirming.

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.  Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.”  (GoodReads)

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

How the Mind Works

“In this extraordinary bestseller, Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, does for the rest of the mind what he did for language in his 1994 book, The Language Instinct. He explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. And he does it with the wit that prompted Mark Ridley to write in the New York Times Book Review, “No other science writer makes me laugh so much. . . . [Pinker] deserves the superlatives that are lavished on him.” The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates some unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection, and challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, and that nature is good and modern society corrupting.”  (GoodReads)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

“In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.  Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.  At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.”  (GoodReads)

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman

Thinking, Fast and Slow

“In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.  Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking.”  (GoodReads)

The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind

“For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist.  The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics. One day we might have a “smart pill” that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a “brain-net”; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe.   Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about “consciousness” and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness.  With Dr. Kaku’s deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, The Future of the Mind is a scientific tour de force–an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience.”  (GoodReads)

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

“From one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today, an investigation into the bias toward optimism that exists on a neural level in our brains and plays a major part in determining how we live our lives.  Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an often irrationally positive outlook on life. In fact, optimism may be crucial to our existence. Tali Sharot’s experiments, research, and findings in cognitive science have contributed to an increased understanding of the biological basis of optimism. In this fascinating exploration, she takes an in-depth, clarifying look at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails; how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ; why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy; how emotions strengthen our ability to recollect; how anticipation and dread affect us; and how our optimistic illusions affect our financial, professional, and emotional decisions. With its cutting-edge science and its wide-ranging and accessible narrative, The Optimism Bias provides us with startling new insight into the workings of the brain.”  (GoodReads)

Sleights of the Mind by Stephen Macknik

Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions

“This book doesn’t just promise to change the way you think about sleight of hand and David Copperfield—it will also change the way you think about the mind.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was A Neuroscientist
“Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, the founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic, have convinced some of the world’s greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain. This book is the result of the authors’ yearlong, world-wide exploration of magic and how its principles apply to our behavior. Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable—a good magician uses your mind’s own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu.  Now magic can reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. For instance, if you’ve ever bought an expensive item you’d sworn you’d never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the “illusion of choice,” a core technique of magic. The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education. Sleights of Mind makes neuroscience fun and accessible by unveiling the key connections between magic and the mind.” 
(GoodReads)

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TBR Chronicles #04

The Complete Photographer

This month I have some books that are a little different from what I would normally select.  This is in part due to my recent refocus in my working world.  I’ve decided to take on new challenges professionally and so the first new addition to my TBR is Tom Ang’s beautiful book The Complete Photographer.  This book is not your average photography book and covers 10 different photography genres accompanied by tutorials and lots of other information.  It also has very cool interviews with acclaimed professional photographers which is a nice addition I think.  I can’t wait to get stuck in! (GoodReads)

Captured in Time: Five Centuries of South African Writing

The second new book on my TBR is a book I happened upon in the ‘on sale’ section of the bookshop.  I hadn’t heard of it before but as soon as I saw it I knew it would be interesting.  It is Captured in Time: Five Centuries of South African Writing by John Clare. This is a book about South African history but not from the perspective of historians.  Instead we glimpse the past through the words of those that not only lived in those times but wrote about them as well.

Here, then, are the words not so much of historians, biographers and journalists but of settlers, explorers, hunters, travellers, missionaries, soldiers and politicians as well as of novelists, playwrights and poets.”

I expect this to be a very insightful read. (GoodReads)

Dust

Next is a book that has been on my mind for a while.  I kept hearing about it and it has received good reviews so I hoping to get to it soon.  Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is set in Kenya and tells the story not only of a family in the wake of the murder of their son and brother but also of the dark past that looms still.  (GoodReads)

The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy

The final addition to my TBR is a book that caught my eye because it appeals greatly to my OCD nature.  It is a book of the photography of Ursus Wehrli entitled The Art of Cleanup: Life Made Neat and Tidy and features photographs in sets of two.  The first shot is of a normal ‘messy’ scene like a bowl of cereal for example and the second shot is of the same bowl of cereal except the elements have been separated and organised so we get to see all the parts that made up the bowl of cereal in an organised and ‘clean’ way.  It is magnificent!  I’m sure I have not done the book justice in my description so please go over and have a look at the wonderful images. (GoodReads)

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2015 Pulitzer Prize Winners

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to Anthony Doerr for his novel All The Light We Cannot See.

All the Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See is a beautiful book which I found an absolute pleasure to read. It was a highlight of my 2014 reading without doubt.  See my review.  Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.  In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

 

The Pulitzer Prize for General Non Fiction went to Elizabeth Kolbert for her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

There’s been a lot of buzz around this book but in case you missed it here’s the blurb from GoodReads:

Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.

To see the rest of the Pulitzer Prize winners head on over to the official pulitzer website.