Ten essays to celebrate World Book Day

Non-fiction accounts for a significant 28.9% of book sales in Spain (according to 2021 data). Biographies, social and cultural issues, together with self-help and personal development books, are the main trends in the market. On the occasion of Day of the bookwe gleaned from the vast offer to select some relevant titles published in recent months.

United States of Amazon (Alec MacGillis)

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Or how the company Jeff Bezos founded has redefined the American economy United States of Amazonof the journalist Alec MacGillis, reflects the impact of the electronic commerce giant in the last two decades throughout the country: from Austin (Texas) to Seattle (Washington), passing through Youngstown (Ohio) and the US capital, Washington. The result is a bleak portrait of the world’s leading economy, besieged by the concentration of wealth in a few cities, and the impoverishment and isolation of the rest. And one key takeaway: Amid the huge success and growing position of power of Amazon, whose sales soared 40% during the pandemic, consumers “would need to think more carefully and know what the consequences of that click are.”

mothers, fathers and others (Siri Hustved)

Memories and feminism overlap in a collection of essays by Siri Hustvedtwhich aim to show how many experiences that we take for granted and that define us as human beings are not as inalterable as we think, especially family or gender relationships, abuses of power or the influence of the environment on who we are, delving into her own personal memory, in her formative years and in her experience as a writer.

In addition to her own family, Hustved uses the biographies of Jane Austen, Emily Brontë or Louise Bourgeois, to analyze the experience of motherhood in a culture shaped by misogyny and fantasies of paternal authority.

Philosophy and consolation of music (Ramon Andres)

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The Navarrese essayist, thinker and poet Ramon Andreshe won National Essay Award 2021 with Philosophy and consolation of music (Editorial Acantilado) which, according to the jury, shows that “hearing and intellect are inseparable and shows the sacred relationship between philosophy and music” and beinga fluently written encyclopedic work that underlines the humanistic reverberation of music from the pre-Socratics to the Enlightenment.

the whole life (Alma Guillermoprieto)

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A collection of reports anthologized by the Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, Princess of Asturias Award 2018. the whole life (Editorial Debate) collects thirteen texts published in the 21st century. Six were written by women. They all came to light after two events that marked their beginning: the holocaust of the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001 or the appearance of social networks.

In the words of the Mexican: “The world is now one, united by terror. But also, obviously, by climate change and pandemics, migration and our consequent cosmopolitanism, the abolition of distances in the virtual universe, the Zoom, and an obsession with traveling that was already seen coming in the last century but that today acquires fever symptoms. You have to know the world before it ends. “

against cinephilia (Vincent Monroy)

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A short film buff and anti-broadcast essay in equal parts. In Against cinephilia (Intellectual key), Vicente Monroy, based on his emotional experience with the cinema, eruditely unravels the history of the passion for cinema, demystifying it and also seeking a worthy outlet for it.

From Orson Welles to Martin Scorsese, through the Cahiers du Cinema or Serge Daney, but also dialoguing with the history of philosophy and literature, Monroy manages to build in these pages an elegant synthesis of the deepest ideas and controversies that have occurred about cinema and its historical meaning.

The decadent society (Ross Douthat)

The decadent society (Ross Douthat).

The decadent society (Ross Douthat).

Ross Douthat, cultural journalist from The New York Times, suggests that perhaps the essential feature of contemporary Western societies is already decadence, in the sense that their progress has been stalled by political paralysis, cultural exhaustion and demographic decline creating a kind of ‘sustainable decline’.

“In this scenario we fear catastrophe, but in a certain way we also yearn for it, because the alternative is to accept that we are constantly decadent,” Douhtat analyzes in a book that does not seek to confront the optimists or please the pessimists.

About Ronchamp (Rafael Monero)

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How does Rafael Moneo understand architecture? Nobody better than himself to explain it in About Ronchamp (Cliff publisher). The architect analyzes the chapel of Our Lady of the Heights, in the French Franche-Comte, Le Corbusier’s project inaugurated in 1955 that turned 20th-century religious architecture on its head, and where light plays an important symbolic role.

Through the admiration that this building provokes in him, Moneo reveals his own architectural imagery and a whole panorama of contemporary spiritual architecture.

chromorama (Riccardo Falcinelli)

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The stories and examples he collects chromorama (Editorial Taurus) reveal to us to what extent color is a filter with which we contemplate reality. And also an illusion that shapes us. Falcinelli goes through images from painting, literature, cinema, comics and everyday objects to point out, for example, that talking about flat colors or considering blue a cold color are very recent inventions. Although it seems a physical reality, our relationship with colors is essentially cultural: “We may not realize it, but even when we are in front of a Renaissance painting, we have in mind the yellow of the Simpsons. Who knows the color of television no longer can see the world with the eyes of the past”

the human swarm (Mark W. Moffett)

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“The seemingly trivial act of walking into a cafe full of strangers, and being left completely indifferent by this circumstance, is one of the least appreciated achievements of our species, but one that separates humanity from most vertebrates that form societies.” the biologist Mark W. Moffett unites psychology, sociology and anthropology to discuss how human societies arise and disappear. In the line of sapiens Y Guns, germs and steel, the human swarm is a revealing investigation into how human beings have come to develop extremely complex civilizations.

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the viral (Jorge Carrion)

The viral (Jorge Carrión)

The viral (Jorge Carrión)

the viral (Galaxia Gutemberg) is a text in the form of a diary that tells us about culture, digital identities, communication and lies. Spurred by the appearance of the pandemic, the viral was one of the first texts to raise many of its derived questions: Did the 21st century begin with the fall of the Twin Towers in New York or with the entry of a virus into the body of a man in Wuhan? Are Netflix, Zoom or Amazon Pandemic Multinationals? How can the transformation of science fiction into everyday reality be represented? the viral is a historical reconstruction of the first months of the coronavirus, a fragmentary essay on digital virality, the memory of a quarantined library, and an experiment in cultural criticism.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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