To tell someone how to find your house, you can direct them to go left then right, or you can say “head east for half a mile.” These two options are available to English speakers, that is. For Australian aboriginal speakers of Guuga  Yimithirr, only the latter mode is possible, as their language lacks an “egocentric” vocabulary of “left, “right,” “in front of,” and “behind.” In his fascinating trip THROUGH THE LANGUAGE GLASS (Metropolitan, $28), Guy Deutscher, author of The Unfolding of Language, investigates how language shapes, expands, and constrains human world views—or doesn’t. Does speaking a language that genders objects reflect a greater sensitivity to essential male and female traits than one, like English, in which all objects are “it”? Do speakers of languages that combine nouns and verbs see the world differently from those who need two words to describe an object in action? To address questions of individual languages and universal experience, Deutscher focuses on colors. “Why is the sky blue?” might seem to be a basic, formative question, but for linguists the first inquiry is “where is the ‘blue’?” Blue—or just “blue”—is absent from Homer’s epics, rich in descriptions and other colors though they are.

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312610494
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - August 30th, 2011

The provocative H.L. Mencken has long been considered the most controversial and influential of journalists, and now we can fully appreciate his work with two slipcased, handsomely produced volumes from the Library of America. PREJUDICES: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Library of America, $70) contains all six series of Mencken’s iconoclastic writing on American culture. Mencken’s critical eye ranged from the local to the national, and he wrote just as unsparingly about politics and famous court cases as he did in his book reviews and his celebratory writings on Baltimore. As we’ve come to expect, the Library of America outdoes itself with an impressive selection of notes, an exhaustive chronology, and an excerpt from Mencken’s later memoir in which he reflects on the public and intellectual reception of his “Prejudices.”

H. L. Mencken: Prejudices: The Complete Series: A Library of America Boxed Set Cover Image
ISBN: 9781598530766
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Library of America - September 2nd, 2010

Sometimes a reader feels so close to certain books, it’s as if he or she knows the author intimately. Elizabeth Hawes became fascinated with Camus when she read his work in college. Forty years later, he was still on her mind and she set out to track him down. Camus: A Romance (Grove Press, $14) is a combination memoir/travelogue, biography/literary essay. We get the voices of both Hawes and Camus as Hawes chronicles her expeditions to the places where Camus lived, recounts her meetings with his surviving friends and family, and presents her research on the reception and legacy of his writing.

Camus, A Romance Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802144881
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Grove Press - June 8th, 2010