The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong

A cultural “biography” of Robert Frost’s beloved poem, arguably the most popular piece of American literature

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . .” One hundred years after its first publication in August 1915, Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget that it is, in fact, a poem. Yet poetry it is, and Frost’s immortal lines remain unbelievably popular. And yet in spite of this devotion, almost everyone gets the poem hopelessly wrong.

David Orr’s The Road Not Taken dives directly into the controversy, illuminating the poem’s enduring greatness while revealing its mystifying contradictions. Widely admired as the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review, Orr is the perfect guide for lay readers and experts alike. Orr offers a lively look at the poem’s cultural influence, its artistic complexity, and its historical journey from the margins of the First World War all the way to its canonical place today as a true masterpiece of American literature.

“The Road Not Taken” seems straightforward: a nameless traveler is faced with a choice: two paths forward, with only one to walk. And everyone remembers the traveler taking “the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” But for a century readers and critics have fought bitterly over what the poem really says. Is it a paean to triumphant self-assertion, where an individual boldly chooses to live outside conformity? Or a biting commentary on human self-deception, where a person chooses between identical roads and yet later romanticizes the decision as life altering?

What Orr artfully reveals is that the poem speaks to both of these impulses, and all the possibilities that lie between them. The poem gives us a portrait of choice without making a decision itself. And in this, “The Road Not Taken” is distinctively American, for the United States is the country of choice in all its ambiguous splendor.

Published for the poem’s centennial–along with a new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Frost’s poems, edited and introduced by Orr himself– The Road Not Taken is a treasure for all readers, a triumph of artistic exploration and cultural investigation that sings with its own unforgettably poetic voice.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments: A Stone Reader

Published at 28.95  Now 9.98

Since 2010, The Stone–the immensely popular, award-winning philosophy series in The New York Times–has revived and reinterpreted age-old inquires to speak to our modern condition. This new collection of essays from the series does for modern ethics what The Stone Reader did for modern philosophy. New York Times editor Peter Catapano and best-selling author and philosopher Simon Critchley have curated an unparalleled collection that illuminates just how imperative ethical thinking is in our day-to-day life.

Like its predecessor, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments explores long-standing ethical and moral issues in light of our most urgent dilemmas. Divided into twelve sections, the book opens with a series of broad arguments on existence, human nature and morality. Indeed, “big” questions of the human condition are explored by some of our best-known and most accomplished living philosophers: What is the meaning of our existence? Should we really “do what we love”? How should we respond to evil? Is pure altruism possible?

Along with these examinations of timeless moral conundrums, readers will find arguments in the more contentious areas of religion and government: Can we have a moral life without God? Does it really matter if God exists? Is patriotism moral? Accessible and provocative, these pieces expose the persistence of the most basic themes and questions of moral and ethical life. Many of the essays stress the crucial importance of directly engaging the most pressing moral dilemmas in modern life. Should we be the last generation, knowing all the harm we’ve done to our planet? Should we embrace our inner carnivores, or swear off all animal products? From gun control and drone warfare to the morals of marriage and reproduction, readers will view familiar debates in new, surprising lights.

The editors have meticulously arranged this book to reflect a wide range of perspectives, voices and rhetorical strategies. By directly addressing some of the most complex and troubling issues we face today–racial discrimination, economic inequality, immigration, citizenship and more–the volume reveals the profound power of ethics in shaping our perceptions of nearly every aspect of our lives.

A jargon-free, insightful compendium, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments offers a panoramic view of morality and is a critical addition to The Stone Reader that will energize and enliven the world of ethical thought in both the classroom and everyday American life.

Including…

The Meaningfulness of Lives by Todd May * A Life Beyond “Do What You Love” by Gordon Marino * Evolution and our Inner Conflict by Edward O. Wilson * Morals Without God? by Frans de Waal * Does It Matter Whether God Exists? by Gary Gutting * The Moral Hazard of Drones by John Kaag and Sarah Kreps * Can Refugees Have Human Rights? by Omri Boehm * Dear White America by George Yancy * Girlfriend, Mother, Professor? by Carol Hay * The End of “Marriage” by Laurie Shrage * When Vegans Won’t Compromise by Bob Fischer and James McWilliams * Should This Be the Last Generation? by Peter Singer

The 40s: The Story of a Decade

Published at 35.00  Now 9.98

This captivating anthology gathers historic New Yorker pieces from a decade of trauma and upheaval–as well as the years when The New Yorker came of age, with pieces by Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Joseph Mitchell, Vladimir Nabokov, and George Orwell, alongside original reflections on the 1940s by some of today’s finest writers.

In this enthralling book, contributions from the great writers who graced The New Yorker‘s pages are placed in historical context by the magazine’s current writers. Included in this volume are seminal profiles of the decade’s most fascinating figures: Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Here are classics in reporting: John Hersey’s account of the heroism of a young naval lieutenant named John F. Kennedy; Rebecca West’s harrowing visit to a lynching trial in South Carolina; and Joseph Mitchell’s imperishable portrait of New York’s foremost dive bar, McSorley’s. This volume also provides vital, seldom-reprinted criticism, as well as an extraordinary selection of short stories by such writers as Shirley Jackson and John Cheever. Represented too are the great poets of the decade, from William Carlos Williams to Langston Hughes. To complete the panorama, today’s New Yorker staff look back on the decade through contemporary eyes. The 40s: The Story of a Decade is a rich and surprising cultural portrait that evokes the past while keeping it vibrantly present.

Including contributions by W. H. Auden – Elizabeth Bishop – John Cheever – Janet Flanner – John Hersey – Langston Hughes – Shirley Jackson – A. J. Liebling – William Maxwell – Carson McCullers – Joseph Mitchell – Vladimir Nabokov – Ogden Nash – John O’Hara – George Orwell – V. S. Pritchett – Lillian Ross – Stephen Spender – Lionel Trilling – Rebecca West – E. B. White – Williams Carlos Williams – Edmund Wilson

And featuring new perspectives by Joan Acocella – Hilton Als – Dan Chiasson – David Denby – Jill Lepore – Louis Menand – Susan Orlean – George Packer – David Remnick – Alex Ross – Peter Schjeldahl – Zadie Smith – Judith Thurman

Difficult Women

Published at 25.00  Now 7.98

A national bestseller from the “prolific and exceptionally insightful” (Globe and Mail) Roxane Gay, Difficult Women is a collection of stories of rare force that paints a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America.

Difficult Women tells of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and, grown now, must negotiate the elder sister’s marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay gives voice to a chorus of unforgettable women in a scintillating collection reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Anne Enright, and Miranda July.

History of Wolves

Published at 25.00  Now 7.98

Finalist for the Man Booker Award. Finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Winner of the GLCA New Writers Award for Fiction.

Teenage Linda lives with her parents in the austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outsider at school, Linda is drawn to the enigmatic Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is faced with child pornography charges, his arrest deeply affects Linda as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong. And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Linda finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy. But with this new sense of belonging comes expectations and secrets she doesn’t understand and, over the course of a summer, Linda makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. One of the most daring literary debuts of the year and a national bestseller, History of Wolves is an agonizing and gorgeously written novel from an urgent, new voice in American fiction.

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir

Published at 28.99  Now 7.98

From New York Times bestselling author Amy Tan, a memoir on her life as a writer, her childhood, and the symbiotic relationship between fiction and emotional memory

In Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels.

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia–the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother–and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.

Tree of Smoke

Published at 18.00  Now 7.98

From the author of “Jesus’ Son” comes this long-awaited follow-up–a National Book Award-winning tale of two American families swept up in the secrets and lies of the Vietnam war.

Tree of Smoke is the story of William “Skip” Sands, CIA–engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong–and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In the words of Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, Tree of Smoke is “bound to become one of the classic works of literature produced by that tragic and uncannily familiar war.”

Euphoria

Published 16.00 / Now 7.98

A New York Times Bestseller, Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize, Winner of the 2014 New England Book Award for Fiction, and A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

Euphoria is Lily King’s nationally bestselling breakout novel of three young, gifted anthropologists of the ’30’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is “dazzling … suspenseful … brilliant…an exhilarating novel.”– Boston Globe

Euphoria is a meticulously researched homage to Mead’s restless mind and a considered portrait of Western anthropology in its primitivist heyday. It’s also a taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace–a love triangle in extremis…The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic…and King’s signal achievement may be to have created satisfying drama out of a quest for interpretive insight…King is brilliant on the moral contradictions that propelled anthropological encounters with remote tribes…In King’s exquisite book, desire–for knowledge, fame, another person–is only fleetingly rewarded.”–Emily Eakin, New York Times Book Review (cover review)

Joni: The Anthology

Published at 26.00. Now 9.98

“Nearly 50 years’ worth of critical efforts to solve Mitchell’s mysteries have now been rounded up in Barney Hoskyns’s Joni: The Anthology….what comes through most consistently is a possessive impulse, a desire to really know an artist whose fierce privacy has often seemed at odds with the impression of intimacy conveyed by her music.” —The Atlantic

Nine Grammys. More than ten million albums sold. Named one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time by Rolling Stone. Joni: The Anthology is an essential collection of writings on Joni Mitchell that charts every major moment of the famed troubadour’s extraordinary career, as it happened.

From album reviews, incisive commentary, and candid conversations, Joni: The Anthology includes, among other things, a review of Mitchell’s first-ever show at LA’s Troubadour in June of 1968, a 1978 interview by musician Ben Sidran on jazz great Charles Mingus, a personal reminiscence by Ellen Sander, a confidant of the Los Angeles singer-songwriter community, and a long “director’s cut” version of editor Barney Hoskyns’ 1994 MOJO interview. A time capsule of an icon, the anthology spans the entirety of Joni’s career between 1967-2007, as well as thoughtful commentary on her early years.

In collecting materials long unavailable, rare, or otherwise difficult to find, Joni: The Anthology illuminates the evolution of modern rock journalism while providing an invaluable and accessible guide to appreciating the highs–and the lows–of a twentieth century legend.

“Once I crossed the border, I began to write and my voice changed. I no longer was imitative of the folk style. My voice was then my real voice and with a slight folk influence, but from the first album it was no longer folk music. It was just a girl with a guitar that made it look that way.”–Joni Mitchell, 1994

The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion

Published at 19.99  Now 7.98

In The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, and subject of the hit documentary The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life.

Joan Didion lived a life in the public and private eye with her late husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she met while the two were working in New York City when Didion was at Vogue and Dunne was writing for Time. They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and co-wrote screenplays and adaptations together.

Didion is well-known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and non-fiction. Some of her most-notable work includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Run River, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a National Book Award winner and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. It dealt with the grief surrounding Didion after the loss of her husband and daughter. Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento through to her adult life as a writer interviewing those who know and knew her personally, while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great.

The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans, and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.

The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan

Published at 27.99  Now 7.98

Acclaimed biographer Patricia Bosworth recalls her emotional coming of age in 1950s New York in this profound and powerful memoir, a story of family, marriage, tragedy, Broadway, and art, featuring a rich cast of well-known literary and theatrical figures from the period.

From Bosworth–acclaimed biographer of Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brando, and Jane Fonda–comes a series of vivid confessions about her remarkable journey into womanhood. This deeply-felt memoir is the story of a woman who defied repressive 1950s conventions while being shaped by the notable men in her life.

Born into privilege in San Francisco as the children of famous attorney Bartley Crum and novelist Gertrude, Patricia and her brother Bart Jr. lead charmed lives until their father’s career is ruined when he defends the Hollywood Ten. The family moves to New York, suffering greater tragedy when Bart Jr. kills himself. However, his loving spirit continues to influence Patricia as she fights to succeed as an actress and writer.

Married and divorced from an abusive husband before she’s twenty, she joins the famed Actors Studio. She takes classes with Lee Strasberg alongside Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and others; she works on Broadway opposite Paul Muni, Helen Hayes, and Elaine Stritch; Gore Vidal and Elia Kazan become her mentors. Her anecdotes of theatre’s Golden Age have never been told before. At the zenith of her career, about to film The Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn, Patricia faces a decision that changes her forever.

The Men in My Life is about survival, achieving your goals, and learning to love. It’s also the story of America’s most culturally pivotal era, told through the lens of one insider’s extraordinary life.

David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work: An Illustrated Exploration Across Two Centuries in the Pacific Northwest

Published at 27.95 Now 9.98

During a meteoric career that spanned from 1825 to 1834, David Douglas made the first systematic collections of flora and fauna over many parts of the greater Pacific Northwest. Despite his early death, colleagues in Great Britain attached the Douglas name to more than 80 different species, including the iconic timber tree of the region. David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work is a colorfully illustrated collection of essays that examines various aspects of Douglas’s career, demonstrating the connections between his work in the Pacific Northwest of the 19th century and the place we know today. From the Columbia River’s perilous bar to luminous blooms of mountain wildflowers; from ever-changing frontiers of technology to the quiet seasonal rhythms of tribal families gathering roots, these essays collapse time to shed light on people and landscapes.

This volume is the companion book to a major museum exhibit about Douglas’s Pacific Northwest travels that will open at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane in September 2012.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Published at 28.00 Now 9.98

An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.

Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect–the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan–and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy.

Without Buchanan’s ideas and Koch’s money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Published at 30.00 Now 7.98

How did we get here? In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today–this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through–is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries–from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials–our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies–every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand Donald Trump and the culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book.