The Chairs are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work, and Play in the City by Mischa Glouberman and Sheila Heti
Misha Glouberman is basically a raconteur and this book is essentially composed of blog-length riffs about an incredibly wide variety of topics. Not a lot of writers can get away with a format like this, but this book is largely successful at doing what the author tries to do in classes and in life: Sparking ideas and then letting them wander off on their own in unexpected ways.
Still, while many parts of the book work as very short essays, some of them feel incomplete. For example, in a piece about neighborhood activism and negotiation, Glouberman relates how he got to know his neighbors, organize them, and bring up their mutual concerns with a city councilor, who helped build a win-win solution for their dispute with a nearby bar/restaurant.
But in the process of talking very convincingly about the importance of win-win “mutual gains” negotiation strategies, the nature of city governance, and zoning, he mentions the conflicts of gentrification and the dangers of overlooking people who live in the parts of the city where you go to play. And then he drops it and moves on to the next subject. So, the one restaurant got a patio if it promised to cut off the late-night DJ, but your blue-collar neighborhood is still full of drunk, belligerent, noisy yuppies on weekends? How is that a win-win?
Still, even while it falls short of completeness, The Chairs are Where the People Go is thought-provoking, and that’s what Glouberman is aiming for.
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horowitz
Now, at the war’s 150th anniversary, Tony Horwitz has a beautifully-researched biography of Brown, his time, and his movement. This book is not as lighthearted or amusing as Horwitz’ study of civil war buffs and re-enactors, “Confederates in the Attic,” but he’s still a fascinating and engaging writer.