The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

The Reviews Are in: Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House Is “A Great Gatsby for our time”

Sir Salman Rushdie has won every top literary prize and even received a Queen’s Knighthood for his “services to literature.” Simultaneously timely and timeless, his fiction walks the delicate line of critiquing the present without feeling fleeting.

When it was announced that The Golden House would be an expansive critique of the Trump era, critics were eager to watch Rushdie do what he does best. A month after its publication, here’s what they’re saying: 


  1. “Rushdie puts his finger on the nationwide identity crisis in this novel of race, reinvention and the different bubbles of US life.”—The Guardian


  1. “A Great Gatsby for our time.”—Kirkus (starred review) 


  1. “Ambitious and rewarding.”—Publishers Weekly 


  1. “A recognizably Rushdie novel in its playfulness, its verbal jousting, its audacious bravado, its unapologetic erudition, and its sheer, dazzling brilliance.”—Boston Globe 


  1. “It begins as a clever metaphor, veers almost into self-destructive excess before becoming something not only true, but profound and moving … The Golden House is a fairy tale for our time.”—Toronto Star


The Lavin Agency is a premiere speakers bureau, with a roster of incredible talent such as Salman Rushdie, Naomi Klein and Peter Mansbridge. Contact us for information on how to book.


In a Historic Sweep, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Wins Eight Emmys, Including Outstanding Drama Series

With eight history-making Emmy wins, Margaret Atwood received the biggest standing ovation of the night for The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu adaptation of her dystopian classic. 

Set in a totalitarian society where a small population of women are enslaved due to their much-coveted fertility, the story imagined by Atwood more than 30 years ago feels freshly relevant. Within television’s most prestigious prize night, The Handmaid’s Tale swept the categories, taking oustanding lead actress, outstanding writing, as well as a landmark victory best dramatic direction. Most impressively, it won the coveted Outstanding Drama Series trophy, which Atwood herself went up onstage to collect. 


“The handmaids have escaped,” said Atwood. “They’re out there, and they’re coming to you again in season two!”


The Lavin Agency is a premiere speakers bureau. To book Margaret Atwood, or another creative speaker, such as Angie Thomas or Salman Rushdie, visit our authors page.

Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace Netflix Adaptation Is Led by an All-Star (and All-Female) Team

After the success of The Handmaid’s Tale—Hulu’s most watched show ever, nabbing 13 Emmy nominations—Netflix is adapting another Margaret Atwood novel: the Giller-winning, Booker-shortlisted murder mystery Alias Grace, written, produced and directed by women. 

Every episode is directed by indie icon Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho) and written and produced by Academy Award nominee Sarah Polley (Away from Her, Take This Waltz). Inspired by an infamous 1843 crime, the novel tells the dark and distinctively feminist tale of Grace Marks, a poor, young maid who is accused of murdering her employer and his mistress. All six episodes will be out November 3, and Atwood announced at TIFF this year that the series gave her “real nightmares.”


The Lavin Agency is a premier speakers bureau. Contact us today to book Margaret Atwood, or another creative speaker.

“Truth is whatever you say it is. And that’s terrifying”: Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House Is Out

Set against the bizarre, surreal, and often frightening backdrop of current American culture and politics, Sir Salman Rushdie’s latest novel The Golden House thrillingly speaks to a world where objective truth is the crumbling social foundation that we’re only now on the brink of.

René, the narrator of Salman Rushdie’s “complex and witty fable” (The Guardian) lives across the street from Nero Golden—the patriarch of a family that moves to a grand and gated apartment in New York City just as Barack Obama is elected president. The book tracks the family members, named for gods and kings, through Obama’s two terms, up to the present day. Rushdie brings us to the moment when a recognizable comic book villain named the Joker begins his campaign to be leader of the free world. 

The Golden House shows that Rushdie is still a profoundly necessary voice in contemporary literature.”,”attribution”:”The Globe & Mail“,”type”:”bodyPullquote”,”lockup”:”left”}' data-id=”” data-type=”bodyPullquote”>

“…[A] superb new novel… The Golden House shows that Rushdie is still a profoundly necessary voice in contemporary literature.”

The Globe & Mail

Rushdie’s novels, like the Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children, are known and beloved for their magic twists of narrative, social commentary, and political satire. The Golden House “marks Salman Rushdie’s triumphant and exciting return to realism,” says the publisher. “The result is a modern epic of love and terrorism, loss and reinvention—a powerful, timely story told with the daring and panache that make Salman Rushdie a force of light in our dark new age.”


In a recent interview with The Globe & Mail, Rushdie explained that “the novel is about human beings in a time of insanity.” Whatever the time or place, Rushdie’s humanity comes through, in his books as well as in his live speaking events. 


The Golden House is out today from Penguin Random House. Sir Rushdie will also be at the Toronto Reference Library on the 21st of September as part of the Appel Salon Programming

Just Released, Teju Cole’s Blind Spot Has Already Been Named One of TIME’s Best Books of 2017 So Far

“The author annotates his own photography with short essays that read like prose poetry,” says TIME, which placed TEJU COLE’s Blind Spot alongside Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply on its Best of 2017 So Far list. That’s one way to describe the book. Former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy describes it another way: “It’s a book about human culture.” (New York Times Book Review)

The New York Times“,”type”:”bodyPullquote”,”lockup”:”left”}' data-id=”” data-type=”bodyPullquote”>

“The point here is not the exotic but its opposite: mysteries of the ordinary, attained in patiently awaited, brief flashes. In other words, this is a book about human culture.”

— Robert Pinsky, The New York Times

Blind Spot seems to probe the same lofty question that Teju Cole’s abundantly praised debut novel, Open City did. That is, what can we know about the world? And a comprehensive Guardian profile released to celebrate the launch of Blind Spot assures us Cole’s up to the task of answering it.  “He’s a writer for our times. Prodigious, wide-ranging, and supremely confident in his reach.”


In the profile, Cole speaks to his ambitions for the book, which is made up of 150 photos from around the world and paired with his lyrical prose: “I want every single page to be in opposition to that reductive, simplistic, unanalytic view of the world,” he says. “This is a time for protest and activism for sure, but it is also a time for subtlety, ambiguity and complexity.” Born in the United States but raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Cole’s eye will always carry that elusive distinction. He is both inside and outside at once; belonging and not belonging; capable of extracting the kinds of uncommon insights on the ordinary or overlooked that can transform how you think.


To book speaker Teju Cole for your next event, contact the Lavin Agency today

How Does a 30-Year-Old Novel Become a Runaway Bestseller and Hit TV Show? Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Rides Again

Wherever you look these days, swaths of red seem to be marking the pages of every major publication, from The New York Times to Teen Vogue. Why? That vibrant crimson is the visceral memory cue for Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, and it means anything but “stop,” as its current climb to the top of the bestseller list proves. 

Called a “buoyant doomsayer” in The New Yorker’s expansive profile (“The Prophet of Dystopia”), Atwood’s writings—from poetry, to essays, to fiction, have always been engaged with the world around her. And in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, the world has doubled back to engage with it, full force. “The timing could not be more fortuitous,” writes the New Yorker, “Though many people may wish that it were less so. In a photograph taken the day after the Inauguration, at the Women’s March on Washington, a protester held a sign bearing a slogan that spoke to the moment: ‘MAKE MARGARET ATWOOD FICTION AGAIN’.”


New York Times Book Review“,”type”:”bodyPullquote”,”lockup”:”left”}' data-id=”” data-type=”bodyPullquote”>

“No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.”

— Margaret Atwood, New York Times Book Review

Told from the perspective of Offred, a woman forced into serving as a reproduction vessel in the newly theocratic nation of Gilead, The Handmaid’s Tale is dystopia born of historical precedents. As Atwood reflected upon in The New York Times Book Review, “If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the ‘nightmare’ of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.”  


Reality and creative speculation co-mingle to new effect in Hulu’s striking series, starring Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss and Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley, and premieres on Wednesday, April 26. In another in-depth Times feature, Katrina Onstad noted that “The Handmaid’s Tale has been a film, a play, an opera, a ballet, and — soon — a graphic novel. The book has never been out of print, but Ms. Atwood said that she noticed a drop in interest in the early 1990s, around the time a film adaptation by Harold Pinter, starring Natasha Richardson, was released to a tepid reception. ‘Right after the Iron Curtain came down, people were saying: It’s the end of history — tra la la! All is well! At those times, dystopia is less chord striking because it seems less possible,’ Ms. Atwood said.”


History begins again, then, as interest in The Handmaid’s Tale continues to grow. And while audiences renewed attraction to the dystopic might seem like a bad omen, the resilience of this story proves that the appetite for truth in art is as buoyant as the doomsayer herself. 

  • 5 1024


To book Margaret Atwood for your event, contact the Lavin Agency today. 

Two Lavin Speakers Named to Time’s Top 10 Nonfiction — Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures & Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things

Time’s Top 10 lists for 2016 are out, and the Nonfiction Books category features two Lavin speakers: Margot Lee Shetterly for her true-but-untold space-race history Hidden Figures and Teju Cole for his remarkable essay collection Known and Strange Things.

Shetterly’s Hidden Figures chronicles the black women mathematicians who made crucial, behind-the-scenes calculations in the 1950s and 60s to launch Americans into space. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and soon to be a blockbuster motion picture (coming this Christmas) starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.


Known and Strange Things, Cole’s third book, is a sprawling collection of essays that runs the gamut from James Baldwin to Shakespeare, from a nautical disaster in Bangladesh to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. “On every level of engagement and critique,” writes Claudia Rankine of The New York Times,  “Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey.”


Be sure to pick up a copy of Known and Strange Things, or Hidden Figures, wherever you buy your books. 


Just as captivating on stage as they are in print, Margot Lee Shetterly and Teju Cole are available for speaking engagements. To book them for your organization’s next event, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau.

Blurring the “lines between genius and madness”: Literary Legend Margaret Atwood’s New Book

This week saw the release of Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood’s modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And the reviews are flooding in: A.V. Club calls it “a brilliant retelling,” Paste says it “blurs the lines between genius and madness,” and the Los Angeles Review of Books argues that “Atwood is at her bewitching best in this gripping tale of betrayal and revenge that, incidentally, also displays her deep knowledge of The Tempest.”

In Atwood’s novelized retelling, the famed sorcerer Prospero is reconfigured as disgraced Canadian theatre director Felix: a man seeking revenge on those who ousted him from his prestigious position as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. Now, he’s running theatre courses at a nearby prison (in fact, the book opens with stage directions for the prisoners’ rendition of the actual Tempest in a deliciously meta turn).


Perhaps the most glowing praise comes from Vox, who conclude:


Hag-Seed is a treat. It’s a beautifully constructed adaptation, one that stands on its own but is even richer when read against its source—and can, in turn, enrich its source material. It’s playful and thoughtful, and it singlehandedly makes a good argument for the value of adapting Shakespeare.


No surprise here, given Atwood’s expansive body of work and global reputation as a literary icon. And beyond reviews, the book has generated a flurry of media—here’s Atwood being interviewed by CBC; here she is featured in The Globe and Mail; and for The Guardian, she answers the question on everyone’s mind: why The Tempest?


Grab a copy of Hag-Seed, in stores now. And be sure to also check out the first installment of Atwood’s graphic novel, Angel Catbird. On the horizon: TV adaptations of Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the MaddAddam trilogy. What a year! To hire Margaret Atwood as the keynote speaker of your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

First Look: Margaret Atwood’s New Book, Hag-Seed

The Hogarth Shakespeare Project began in October of last year, and since then, three of the Bard’s classics—The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and The Winter’s Tale—have been repackaged into modern novels by well-known authors. The project’s fourth installment is Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (October 11), a modern (and very Canadian) adaptation of The Tempest, and comes at the tail end of a hectic year wherein the 76-year-old has already written a graphic novel and had two of her books picked up for major television productions.

Hag-Seed centers on Felix Phillips, who, like his Shakespearean alter-ego Prospero, lives in exile. Ousted from his position as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, Felix resides alone in a hillside shack, haunted by memories of his daughter Miranda, who died in infancy. To ease his loneliness, he takes a position teaching theatre at a local prison, where he plots to stage a Tempest that will ensnare his enemies and restore him to his rightful glory.


Atwood has written a fascinating piece in The Guardian explaining her adaptation of The Tempest—her “first choice, by miles.” Here’s how she decided on her modern setting:


The first thing I did when starting this project was to reread the play. Then I read it again. Then I got my hands on all the films of it that I could find, and watched them. Then I read the play again.


Then came the usual episodes of panic and chaos: why had I foolishly agreed to write a book in this series? Why had I chosen The Tempest? Really it was impossible! What was the modern-day equivalent of a magician marooned on an island for 12 years with a now adolescent daughter? You couldn’t write that straight: all the islands are known, there are satellites now, they would have been rescued by a helicopter in no time flat. And what about the flying air spirit? And the Caliban figure?


Calm, calm, I told myself. I read the play again, this time backwards. The last three words Prospero says are “Set me free.” But free from what? In what has he been imprisoned?


I started counting up the prisons and imprisonments in the book. There are a lot of them. In fact, every one of the characters is constrained at some point in the play. This was suggestive. The play is about illusions: magic is the only weapon Prospero has. And it is about vengeance versus mercy, as in so many of Shakespeare’s plays. But it’s also about prisons. So I decided to set my novel in a prison.


Early reviews of Hag-Seed­ are rave. The Scotsman calls it “an absolute triumph,” and a starred review from Publishers Weekly boasts that “Atwood’s canny remix offers multiple pleasures: seeing the inmates’ takes on their characters, watching Felix make use of the limited resources the prison affords (legal and less so), and marveling at the ways she changes, updates, and parallels the play’s magic, grief, vengeance, and showmanship.”


Atwood is unquestionably one of the most celebrated authors of our time. In illuminating talks, she speaks on subjects from literature to social activism, the creative process to technology and art—all with her signature wit and keen sense of past, present, and future.


Interested in booking Margaret Atwood to speak at your next event? Contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.


Margaret Atwood’s Latest? The Stunning Graphic Novel Angel Catbird

Literary icon Margaret Atwood is having one of the busiest years of her career. Two of her classics are being spun into major TV productions (The Handmaid’s Tale by Hulu and Alias Grace by CBC/Netflix), and we’re waiting on her modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, called Hag-Seed, which arrives in October. But the bulk of Atwood-related press these days has been given to Angel Catbird, the author’s debut graphic novel, of which the first volume hit stores last week (Sept 6) from Dark Horse Comics. The first installment has been reviewed by NPR and The Daily Dot, and was the subject of an in-depth feature in Maclean’s.


In Angel Catbird, scientist Strig Feleedus collides with a cat and an owl while transporting a vial of gene-altering chemicals—and emerges as a mashup superhero with characteristics of both creatures. Feleedus soon befriends a legion of half-cats and finds himself battling the evil, world-domination-bent rat-man Dr. Muroid. It’s a classic superhero story with a twist: it doubles as conservation literature. Peppered throughout the book are little-known facts about cats and birds, which were included in partnership with Nature Canada.

“}' data-id=”w927183724259759112” data-type=”html”>


The comic has already vaulted into Amazon’s Top 20 bestselling comics and graphic novels, and the reviews are filing in. Here’s the buzz on Angel Catbird


Angel Catbird is a triumph of genre play, a superhero comic book that looks like a superhero comic book, reads like a superhero comic book, but gleefully capsizes all the usual notions of what a superhero comic book should be.” – NPR


“An eccentric and entertaining combination of a superhero comic (the title character is transformed into an animal that is part cat and part owl in a lab accident) and an appeal to consider the impact of cats on the environment.” – Publishers Weekly

Angel Catbird sits at the intersection of Atwood’s love for superheroes, cats, birds, and mythology.” – Slate

“Full of action, romance, humor, and even a message about making our world safe for cats and birds. It’s also beautifully illustrated by Atwood’s collaborators, artist Johnnie Christmas and colorist Tamra Bonvillain.” – Mental Floss


“A real trip … Half cat, half bird, half pulp adventure and half environmental treatise.” – Polygon


“Channels the storytelling sensibilities of series like Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy, and Pogo. Artist Johnnie Christmas and colorist Tamra Bonvillain bring Atwood’s concept to the page with clean detail and bold energy … and excellent work.” – The A.V. Club


“Beautifully drawn … Very funny.” – Maclean’s


“The latest politically-minded story from legendary novelist Margaret Atwood.” – Wired


“Everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives bringing this beautifully bizarre book to life—and all for a good cause.” – Paste Magazine 

In the past four years, Atwood has written four novels, a short fiction collection, and now Angel Catbird
—a truly prolific and varied output. We’re all excited to see what she comes up with next.


To book Angel Catbird author Margaret Atwood as the keynote speaker at your next event, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.

Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things Gets Glowing Review in NYT

Yesterday (August 9), Teju Cole released his third full-length book, the essay anthology Known and Strange Things, and already it’s being hailed as exceptional. In The New York Times, Claudia Rankine has written an extensive and detailed review, concluding that “On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey.” She’s particularly complimentary of his analysis of photography, calling it a “stunning second section [that] is especially captivating and reveals Cole’s voracious appetite for and love of the visual.”


Known and Strange Things is divided into four sections: “Reading Things,” an ode to the writers who have inspired Cole; “Seeing Things,” an assessment of contemporary photography the world over, placed within a historical framework; “Being There,” of travel, politics, and unforeseen connections; and “Blind Spot,” an epilogue in the form of a personal story.


His previous books (both fiction) are Every Day Is for the Thief, a New York Times book of the year, and Open City, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. 


More praise for Known and Strange Things


“Read as a whole, [Known and Strange Things] shows that Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novels Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City. He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye. His subjects are diverse and disparate …There is such richness in these essays that it is not possible, in this short space, to do justice to all their delights.”
The Guardian


“[A] splendid and wide-ranging new collection of 55 essays with a series of pilgrimages … walking by his side is an adventure, filled with surprising connections and intelligent provocations.”
BBC Culture, “Ten Books to Read in August”


“A striking collection of essays that will leave readers wanting to reimagine our contemporary environment … A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read.”
Kirkus, starred review


“Cole is a literary performance artist, his words meticulously chosen and deployed with elegance and force. To read, see, and travel with him is to be changed by the questions that challenge him.”
Publishers Weekly


To book Teju Cole for a keynote, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

First Look: Teju Cole’s New Book, Known and Strange Things

Author and photographer Teju Cole is perhaps best known for his works of fiction: Every Day Is for the Thief, a New York Times Book of the Year, and Open City, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. But in Known and Strange Things, Cole delivers his first nonfiction effort, an enthralling collection of essays that unpacks contemporary issues—among them, politics, literature, history, and photography—through a refreshing lens that is equal parts historical and modern. With subjects ranging from James Baldwin to Shakespeare to Barack Obama, Known and Strange Things is a curiously varied anthology, but one tied deftly together by Cole’s originality, intelligence, and contagious passion.

Known and Strange Things comprises three distinct sections. “Reading Things” is an ode to writers; the works of W. G. Sebald, Sonali Deraniyagala, and Tomas Tranströmer, among others, grace its pages. “Seeing Things” turns its eye on photographers, from places as diverse as France, Mali, Russia, and South Africa, and on photography itself. Cole’s brilliant dissection of visual art is nothing new—his monthly “On Photography” column in The New York Times Magazine attests to his love and knowledge of the craft. The book’s third section, “Being There,” is one of unforeseen connections. “Unnamed Lake,” one of its chapters, follows Cole during a sleepless night, as his mind strings together seemingly disparate events: the death of the last Tasmanian tiger, a nautical disaster in Bangladesh, the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, a Nazi performance of Beethoven, and a Nigerian military coup. 


In advance reviews, Known and Strange Things has received considerable praise. Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it “A striking collection of essays that will leave readers wanting to reimagine our contemporary environment … A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read.” Publishers Weekly attests that “Cole is a literary performance artist, his words meticulously chosen and deployed with elegance and force. To read, see, and travel with him is to be changed by the questions that challenge him.” And if his first two books are any indication, Known and Strange Things will be well worth a read.


Born in the US and raised in Nigeria, Teju Cole is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and the photography critic for The New York Times Magazine. His novella, Every Day Is for the Thief, has been “widely praised as one of the best fictional depictions of Africa in recent memory” (The New Yorker) and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Telegraph, The Globe and Mail, and NPR. Most recently, he introduced the photography of LaToya Ruby Frazier in the latest issue of Aperture magazine, “Vision & Justice,” dedicated to images that influence the collective consciousness of African American experiences.  

Until Known and Strange Things is released on August 9, here’s the description from the publisher, Penguin Random House:


A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief.


With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today’s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America “developed on pillage.”


Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, Known and Strange Things is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole’s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames.


To hire author Teju Cole as your next keynote speaker, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.


“Calling it a memoir trivializes my reporting”: Suki Kim in The New Republic

Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us is not a memoir. It’s a work of investigative journalism. And in an op-ed for The New Republic, Kim tells us exactly how far she had to go to defend this statement—to silence sexist notions that reduced her to her gender and cast aspersions on her expertise. 

In the book, Kim spends six months undercover at Pyongyang State University of Science and Technology, teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s elite. Recording everything she could by hand, Kim hammered her notes out at night on a laptop, saved them to USB sticks, and methodically covered her tracks. The book, the first of its kind, quickly shot up the ranks of The New York Times bestseller list. But the critics would not relent, calling into question her ethics, motivations, and credentials.


“As an Asian female, I find that people rarely assume I’m an investigative journalist; even after I tell them, they often forget,” Kim says. “As a woman of color entrenched in a profession still dominated by white men, I have been forced to use my writing not to explore topics of my own choosing, or to investigate the world’s complexities, but as a means to legitimize myself.”


Kim is the recipient of a Fulbright Research Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Prize for her first novel, The Interpreter. Her 2015 TED talk (below), based on her experiences in Without You, There Is No Us, received a standing ovation. For the full op-ed, jump over to The New Republic.


This Is What It's Like to Go Undercover in North Korea | Suki Kim | TED Talks


To book a keynote from speaker Suki Kim, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.

From Page to Screen: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale Hits Hulu in 2017

On Friday, Hulu announced that it will be adapting Margaret Atwood’s seminal 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale into a 10-episode series, set to air sometime in 2017. Elisabeth Moss—best known for her role on AMC’s Mad Men—will star as Offred, while Bruce Miller of The 100 fame will direct.

The series has already received a torrent of press: Forbes thinks it's a step in the right direction for the Netflix competitor, Slate praises its timeliness, while The Guardian asks important questions about its director. Atwood will join the show as a consulting producer.

The Handmaid’s Tale is what Atwood calls “speculative fiction”; set in a near-future theocratic dictatorship, it imagines a society in which women are mere property, reduced to purely reproductive roles. Offred is one such woman, a “handmaid” who is forced into the servitude of a high-ranking government official. Winner of the 1985 Governor General’s Award, and the inaugural 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Handmaid’s Tale is an icon of postmodern dystopian fiction.

Margaret Atwood has been a formidable literary force for more than 45 years. Twice winner of the prestigious Governor General’s Award, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Companion of the Order of Canada (its highest honour), she continues to innovate with each new work. And as a speaker, she can talk about nearly anything—literature, politics, creativity, artistry, social activism—with wit, wisdom, and vigour.

To book a keynote from legendary author Margaret Atwood, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

“Everything’s Exciting”: Margaret Atwood on Storytelling, Technology, & Innovation

In the midst of receiving excellent reviews of her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood narrates this charmingly animated video feature in anticipation of the Future of Storytelling Summit, held in New York City next week. In it she explains how innovative technologies impact the ways in which we consume, and understand, narrative—from the Gutenberg Press to Wattpad, the popular story-sharing site (for which she wrote
“The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home,” a story with British author Naomi Alderman). “I’ve always been interested in the interaction between content and how it was presented,” she says. “I walk around in a state of wonder every day. Everything’s exciting.”

After hypothesizing on the enduring value of print—“it’s neurologically a different reading experience”—Atwood affirms the intrinsic importance of narrative to our lives, regardless of the medium. “Storytelling is part of being human,” she states. “You can’t separate it from being a human being … How you tell a story, how many pieces you tell a story in … all of these things are old. It’s just that we think of new ways to distribute them.”

Atwood speaks on a wide range of issues relating to literature, social activism, political engagement, the creative process, the artist’s role in society, technology and art, and, of course, her own accomplished body of work.To book Margaret Atwood as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau

“We Need Fiction”: Salman Rushdie on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Sir Salman Rushdie—one of our most celebrated authors and brilliant provocateurs—appeared last night alongside Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Appearing on NBC to promote Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, his imminent new novel, Rushdie also reveals a few curious anecdotes about writing songs for U2 (!), his friendship with Bono, and dancing with Van Morrison.

“The title, if you do the math, is 1,001 nights,” Rushdie tells Fallon about Two Years. “It’s sort of an Arabian Nights story, transported to New York now. It’s got genies in it—but they attack Manhattan.”

The novel will hit bookstores next week with Penguin Random House, and it’s being described as a “masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. [It’s] satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.”

Near the end of the interview, Fallon prompts Rushdie to comment on his earlier claim: that today, “we need fiction.”

“Before I wrote this [novel],” Rusdie explains, “I was writing a memoir forever and ever. When I finished the memoir—I spent three years writing it, and I was trying really, really hard to tell the truth—I thought, you know what? I’m sick of the truth. I’m going to go to the other extreme.”

To taste “an extract from [the] near beginning,” as Rushdie describes, of this much-anticipated new release, check out “The Duniazát” in The New Yorker, then the brief Q&A with the author in Deborah Treisman’s “This Week in Fiction.”

In his spellbinding lectures, Sir Salman Rushdie speaks about the major themes coursing through his writing, his life and our world: freedom of expression, religion, pop culture, current events at home and abroad, East-West relations, and the role of the artist to shape our understanding of the world. To book Salman Rushdie as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Going Undercover in North Korea: Introducing New Speaker Suki Kim

Suki Kim—the first writer to go undercover in North Korea—is the newest addition to Lavin’s roster of keynote speakers. Kim's recent NYT bestseller Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite is a harrowing and incisive account of her time there in 2011, during the last days of Kim Jong-Il's reign. As an English teacher at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, she got an unprecedented firsthand look at what it’s like to live under the country’s oppressive regime with the future leaders of North Korea. Other journalists may be told they have access to North Korea when they visit, but, as Kim says, it's more than likely that they end up acting, unwittingly, as publicists for the government, “following a script of the regime, seeing what the regime wants you to see.” The only other information on North Korea comes from the testimonies of defectors who have fled North Korea—but, as Kim points out, defectors are mostly from “the bottom rung of their society,” and the validity of their accounts of North Korean society can be questionable. 

Working under the guise of a Christian missionary, Kim spent her days at PUST locked in what she calls the school’s “prison disguised as a campus,” recording everything she experienced on USB sticks in secret. Her talks delve deep into the realities of her day-to-day life in North Korea and the psychology of the elite who were born, bred, educated in the land of the Great Leader—drawing from her experiences to reveal what it’s like to live in a world where everything is controlled, closely monitored, and centered on a single controlling figurehead. Kim had unprecedented access to a side of North Korean culture most foreigners never get to see, and her insights about the country’s culture, day-to-day mechanics of real life and its psychological effects on its citizens are as urgent as they are unsettling.

Suki Kim speaks about her time in North Korea. To book Suki Kim as a speaker for your next event, contact the Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau. 

First Look: Salman Rushdie’s New Book, Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights

Sir Salman Rushdie's new book is Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: a novel that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. The cover image for the book was released today, in advance of its September 2015 publication.

Rushdie is also the author of The Satanic VersesThe Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, and The Enchantress of Florence. For his masterwork of magic realism, Midnight's Children, he won the presitigious Booker Prize, and later, the Best of the Booker. An eclectic writer and noted public intellectual, Rushdie has won many of the world's top literary prizes, published a heralded collection of essays, Step Across the Line, written a book on The Wizard of Oz, and served for two years as president of The PEN American Center, the world's oldest human rights organization.

More about Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights:
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.
Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.
Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, where beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.
Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

In his spellbinding lectures, Sir Salman Rushdie speaks about the major themes coursing through his writing, his life and our world: freedom of expression, religion, pop culture, current events at home and abroad, East-West relations, and the role of the artist to shape our understanding of the world. To book Salman Rushdie as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

First Look: Margaret Atwood’s New Book, The Heart Goes Last

A winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid's Tale, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam, among many others. Her new book, The Heart Goes Last, will be published in September 2015. The novel is set in the same near-future universe as her Positron series of short stories, the most recent of which came out in 2013. Publishers Weekly shared this brief description of The Heart Goes Last:

The Heart Goes Last tells the story of Charmaine and Stan, a couple living in their car and surviving almost entirely on tips. Their lives take a drastic turn, however, when they sign up for a 'social experiment' that provides them with jobs and a home. The caveat, though, is that the couple must do a stint in a prison cell every second month, while an 'alternate' pair occupies their house. According to the publisher, Charmaine and Stan become obsessed with their alternates, and 'the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over'.”

Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children's literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She speaks on a wide range of issues relating to literature, social activism, political engagement, the creative process, the artist's role in society, technology and art, and, of course, her own accomplished body of work.

To book Margaret Atwood as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

First Look: Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style Looks at Why Good Writing Matters

Cognitive scientist and bestselling author Steven Pinker returns with a new book this fall, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (September 30, 2014). It's already been hailed as “one of the best [books on writing] to come along in many years” (Kirkus Reviews). In a CBC News feature earlier this year, Pinker advocated for clarity above all: “Bad writing makes the reader feel like a dunce.” Politicians, academics, lawyers, journalists, marketers—anyone who communicates ideas—can benefit from “Pinker’s [profitable and enjoyable] analysis of the ways in which skillfully chosen words engage the mind” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

More about The Sense of Style from Viking Books:

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.

In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.

Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.

Isabel Allende Says Goodbye to Gabriel García Márquez

Isabel Allende is the author of many beloved books, including The House of Spirits, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune (an Oprah pick), and Maya's Notebook. At last week's news of the death of celebrated writer Gabriel García Márquez, Allende released a beautiful statement and tribute to the man she credits as her inspiration.

“Very few books can withstand the implacable test of time, very few authors are remembered, but García Márquez belongs among the classics of universal literature,” she wrote. “I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. In his books I found my own family, my country, the people I have known all my life, the color, the rhythm, and the abundance of my continent. My maestro has died. I will not mourn him because I have not lost him: I will continue to read his words over and over.”

Read the entire tribute in English and Spanish below.

Lavin Speakers Wrote Four of the “50 Defining Books of the Last Five Years”

Flavorwire just posted their list of 50 Books That Define the Past Five Years in Literature—and titles by four Lavin speakers made the cut. Featured alongside several literary heavyweights—including Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen, and Haruki Murakami—these books represent a “very unique and fruitful time for book lovers…[they] show what is great about literature here and now” (Flavorwire). Once again, our speakers prove themselves to be cultural touchstones, standing out as relevant and lasting voices.

Teju Cole, Open City
“It’s hard to believe that Cole only has only published a novella and this novel on the life and times of a Nigerian immigrant student, and not volumes and volumes of his prolific writings for such publications as The New Yorker, Granta, and the New York Times, but a novel this wonderful and fully realized will do (for now).”

Teju Cole's keynote speeches, like his writing, are articulate and grand explorations of the way we live and the connections we make with the people and places around us.

Lev Grossman, The Magicians
“Grossman came up with a formula that seems so simple that it’s shocking somebody didn’t beat him to it: adults like YA, and everybody loves a good fantasy novel, so why not write a YA trilogy that’s geared more towards the 18-plus crowd?  It certainly paid off, and has lots of writers following suit.”

In his talks, Lev Grossman brings a uniquely qualified, humanistic eye to the complex and unprecedented ways in which technology and culture are merging.

Patti Smith, Just Kids

“For those who were already familiar with her legendary body of work, it was hardly surprising that reading Smith’s memoir of her life and times in 1970s New York would turn out to be a magical experience. The joyful shock came when the National Book Award and the broader reading public agreed.”

In her talks, Patti Smith shares her unique insight on what it takes to be an artist—and how you can achieve your passions in life. A natural storyteller, Smith inspires and transforms audiences of all ages.

Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

“Heti is the rare writer who is totally unafraid to take thematic and stylistic risks, and that’s why she’s in a class all her own. This strange and wonderful novel about art, friendship, and women’s lives, which caused so much discussion and controversy upon its release, is sure to be cited as a huge influence for years to come.”

In spirited keynotes, Sheila Heti talks about relationships, art, friendship, urban life, and what it means to dedicate yourself to a craft—and to a truth—that is worth pursuing.

To book Teju Cole, Lev Grossman, Sheila Heti, or Patti Smith for a speaking engagement, contact The Lavin Agency.

The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013 Includes Three Lavin Speakers

We are so pleased to see three books by Lavin speakers appear on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013 list. Selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review, this list, year after year, includes great books by our speakers.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
“The survivors of “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood” await a final showdown, in a trilogy’s concluding entry.”

In her talks, Atwood speaks on a wide range of issues relating to literature, social activism, political engagement, the creative process, the artist's role in society, technology and art, and, of course, her own accomplished body of work.

This Town by Mark Leibovich
“An entertaining and deeply troubling view of Washington.”

In witty—yet seriously insightful—keynotes, Leibovich presents a blistering, stunning, and often hysterically funny examination of Washington, DC: a city transformed by wealth, new media, and celebrity.

The Unwinding by George Packer
“With a nod to John Dos Passos, Packer offers a gripping narrative survey of today’s hard times; the 2013 National Book Award winner for nonfiction.”

In his talks, Packer presents a profoundly moving and utterly original perspective on freedom, politics, economy, collapse, and change.

To book Margaret Atwood, Mark Leibovich, or George Packer for a speaking engagement, contact The Lavin Agency.

Pick Of The Week: Happy City Author & Speaker Charles Montgomery

“We've come to a moment in time where we know how to build cities,” says cities speaker Charles Montgomery, “we've got that down—we can cram people into cities. And yet, we haven't figured out how to live well in cities.” He wants to change that. In this edition of “Picks of the Week,” we're taking a deeper look at the research Montgomery is doing to determine how the design and planning of a city, small changes and big decisions alike, affect how happy its inhabitants are. And, the changes you can make to live a happier life.

     Montgomery has written a book chronicling the evolution of the city and sharing   
     prescriptions for making it better in the future. It is forthcoming next month. It has already
     received a glowing endorsement:
    “A brilliant, entertaining, and vital book. Montgomery deftly leads us from our  
focus on money, cars, and stuff to consider what makes us truly happy.
    Then everything
changes—the way we live, work, and play in humanity's major
    habitat, the city.”
David Suzuki

Here's a summary of the book:

Charles Montgomery’s Happy City will revolutionize the way we think about urban life.
After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks, and condo towers an improvement on the car-dependence of sprawl? The award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness, during an exhilarating journey through some of the world’s most dynamic cities. He meets the visionary mayor who introduced a “sexy” bus to ease status anxiety in Bogotá; the architect who brought the lessons of medieval Tuscan hill towns to modern-day New York City; the activist who turned Paris’s urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have hacked the design of their own streets and neighborhoods. Rich with new insights from psychology, neuroscience, and Montgomery’s own urban experiments, Happy City reveals how our cities can shape our thoughts as well as our behavior. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting cities and our own lives for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city can save the world—and all of us can help build it.

In his talks, Montgomery looks to cities around the world that are doing it right. He points to endless evidence that suggests the green city, the low-carbon city, and the happy city are the same place. Drawing on his own experiments within cities, and using his deep understanding of history, neuroscience, psychology, and cultural studies, Montgomery presents a picture of effective urban planning, of cities flourishing, and of everyone—from governments to corporations to citizens—working together to make it happen. To book Charles Montgomery as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Google Talks: George Packer On The Unwinding Of America’s Social Contract

“We are both more free and less equal than a generation ago,” new speaker George Packer tells the audience at a Google Talk. “We are more inclusive and more stratified.” This shift in American life, the erosion of the “social contract,” is what Packer deems “The Unwinding.” It's also the title of his New York Times bestselling book. In what The Globe and Mail calls a “harrowing and magisterial account of post-2008 America,” that is “Dickensian in the breadth of its scope and depth of its conscience,” Packer's book recounts a dramatic change in American life. He stresses that The Unwinding is not just another policy book, however. Rather, it reads more like a novel, albeit true, that “elegantly reveals the human face of inequality.”

Americans were once given a deal, Packer explains in his talk. That deal was this: Work hard, educate your children, and expect a secure and recognized place in society. Americans once believed that “doing what you're supposed to” entitled them to their fair share of the American Dream. And even though the social contract of the past did indeed harbor injustice, Packer believes it possessed the tools to correct for those flaws over time. “[Now] that social contract has frayed to the breaking point,” Packer laments. Institutions are failing, and despite having more freedom than ever before, people are struggling to keep their heads above water .

Packer acknowledges that he's often seen as someone portraying a pessimistic view of America. While he says he doesn't necessarily have the answers to stitch the country back together again, he does have faith that all is not lost. He sees hope in the characters in his book; that their resilience and dedication to stick things out and hold true to the American Dream makes the future a little bit rosier. 

In this Google Talk, Packer moderated a sweeping discussion about the world in which we live, how we got there, and where we're going. Drawing from his research for The Unwinding, and his other journalistic pursuits, he is able to discuss our current state of affairs in a truly unique way. It is his ability to put a human face on America's problems that makes his work so compelling. As gifted an orator as he is a writer, Packer is a perfect fit for speaking engagements in any industry. Contact The Lavin Agency to book George Packer as a speaker for you event.

Zealot, By Reza Aslan, Debuts In The Top 3 On Amazon’s Bestseller List

Zealot, the new book from bestselling author Reza Aslan, was released today to wide public acclaim. On Amazon, Zealot has already been slotted into the top three of the bestsellers list. Publishers Weekly also chose the book as one of “The Best New Books for the Week.” PW writes that “Aslan offers a compelling argument for a fresh look at the Nazarene, focusing on how Jesus the man evolved into Jesus the Christ.”

“I have been studying the life and time of Jesus of Nazareth for much of the last twenty years,” Aslan writes in this book excerpt, “in an attempt to uncover, as much as possible, the Jesus of history, the Jesus before Christianity.” Several publications have praised Aslan's meticulous and thoroughly researched account of perhaps one of the world's most influential historical figures. Salon, for example, calls Zealot “a vivid, persuasive portrait of the world and societies in which Jesus lived and the role he most likely played in both.” They go on to say it is a “fascinating…portrait of the political and social climate of Jesus’ day,” strengthened by Aslan's “literary talent [and his] scholarly and journalistic chops.”

In Zealot and his other bestsellers (such as No god but God) Aslan applies the expertise he acquired through the completion of three degrees in Religion. In Zealot, in particular, he explores the intersection of culture and religion and how we can gain new insight on this famous figure through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived. Whether in his writing, his lectures, or his media appearances, Aslan seeks to eliminate misconception and uncover truth. He shows us that examining the cultural, social, and political forces that influence us all can help us to move  toward a more holistic view of the world (past and present) and a peaceful understanding of each other.

Bill Gates Puts Jared Diamond’s New Book Atop His Summer Reading List

What's at the top of Bill Gates' summer reading list? The new book by Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies? Gates says he's “excited” to read Diamond's latest work “partly because the subject sounds interesting, but mostly because [he's] a big fan of the author.” He continues: “There aren’t many other writers who go as broad and as deep as he does.” The Microsoft business magnate also encouraged others to join in and read the book with him.

“Like a lot of people, I was blown away by Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel,” Gates also says. “I had never read anything that explained so much about human history.” Gates has become a respected book critic, and a nod of approval from the Microsoft co-founder comes highly regarded. He will be releasing a full review of The World Until Yesterday later this month. Until then, he is optimistic that Diamond's book on modern and traditional society will be as powerful as his other work. (In the video embedded above, Diamond gives a keynote about the material in his book.) “I’m sure it will be a great read,” Gates concludes, “because Diamond has such an interesting and wide-ranging mind.”

Starred Review: Reza Aslan’s Zealot Gets a Rave Review From Kirkus

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, the new book by Reza Aslan, will be released later this month. His newest work has already been getting positive reviews. Recently, Publishers Weekly called the book: “Compulsively readable.” Below is another glowing recommendation, this one a starred review from Kirkus Reviews:

A well-researched, readable biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus of Nazareth is not the same as Jesus Christ. The Gospels are not historical documents, nor even eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life. In fact, most of the incidents in them are pure fiction. Aslan (How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror, 2009, etc.) has made the study of religion his life’s work, and it shows. After explaining the origins and evolution of Islam, the author now turns to Christianity and its unlikely beginnings. The Gospels weren’t written during Jesus’ lifetime, but rather between A.D. 70 and 120, and they certainly weren’t written by the men whose names are attached to them. In fact, every word written about Jesus was written by people who never knew him in life—even though Paul claimed to know Jesus intimately, not as man, but as God. Jesus neither fit the paradigms nor fulfilled scriptural prophecies to meet the requirements of being a messiah. As he described himself, the historic “Jesus…was a Jew, and nothing more.” He was concerned only with Israel and his fellow Jews. For readers who believe that the Bible is the true word of God and its meaning must be taken literally, Aslan’s book will awaken doubt. The ancients did not see a difference between myth and reality, and eyewitness history did not exist; it was all propaganda. The authors of the Gospels were writing for the express purpose of explaining that Jesus wasn’t just another professional wonder worker; one thing set him apart.

Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished? This book will give you the answers in the simplest, most straightforward, comprehensible manner.

Defining The Villain: Chuck Klosterman’s New Book Is Released Today

What defines a true villain? In the words of pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman, a villain is someone who “knows the most but cares the least.” In his newly released book, I Wear The Black Hat, Klosterman forays into the world of villainy using both fictional and flesh-and-blood characters. Coinciding with today's book release, Klosterman was featured in both The National Post and Rolling Stone this week. In his trademark style, he speaks to how pop culture figures (in this case, those who don “Black Hats”) help us “grapple” with the world around us.

“As you mature you find that because your personality is already created, you're kind of using other characters to understand yourself,” he tells Rolling Stone. As you get older, he argues, you start to relate to the actions of those perceived as villainous. He calls this the “Star Wars trajectory.” Fans of George Lucas' trilogy tend to initially relate to Luke Skywalker. Luke is the poster-child for heroism and goodness—right down to his all-white ensemble. (That is, until he “embraces his dark side” and cloaks himself in a black robe.) He's relateable because he is purely good, by everyone's measure. But, the NYT Magazine Ethicist argues, maturation and experience eventually shift your admiration onto Hans Solo. He's mostly good, but he has the “the trappings of bad,” Klosterman relays in The National Post. Eventually, almost unfathomably, we might even relate to Darth Vader.

It's not that we become bad, necessarily, Klosterman says. It's more that we can relate to why a “bad guy” would act the way he does after being exposed to the hardships in the world. In I Wear The Black Hat (which Publishers Weekly calls “intellectually vigorous and entertaining”) Klosterman explains our fascination with the villain. He goes beyond the duality of good and evil, black and white, to help us dissect the complex realm of villainy and explain why the antihereo is so prevalent in pop culture. Whether in his books or his public speeches, Klosterman uses pop culture as a lens to better understand who we are as people and why we act the way we do.

First Review: Reza Aslan’s New book, Zealot, is “Compulsively Readable” (PW)

Reza Aslan's new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is getting rave reviews. The book comes out in July. Publisher's Weekly had this to say:

The person and work of Jesus of Nazareth has been a topic of constant interest since he lived and died some 2,000 years ago. Much speculation about who he was and what he taught has led to confusion and doubt. Aslan, who authored the much acclaimed No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, offers a compelling argument for a fresh look at the Nazarene, focusing on how Jesus the man evolved into Jesus the Christ. Approaching the subject from a purely academic perspective, the author parts an important curtain that has long hidden from view the man Jesus, who “is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ.” Carefully comparing extra-biblical historical records with the New Testament accounts, Aslan develops a convincing and coherent story of how the Christian church, and in particular Paul, reshaped Christianity’s essence, obscuring the very real man who was Jesus of Nazareth. Compulsively readable and written at a popular level, this superb work is highly recommended.

Chuck Klosterman Receives Early Praise For I Wear The Black Hat

Chuck Klosterman's “latest exercise in pop-culture-infused philosophical acrobatics is an exploration of villainy, or rather, 'the presentation of material' on the subject,” Publisher's Weekly writes. The book, titled I Wear The Black Hat, is slated for release in July. The New York Times bestselling author has been getting lots of advanced praise for his newest work. “Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates),” Amazon says. “I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman continues to be the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.” The Ethicist for The New York Times and a sought after speaker on cultural affairs, Klosterman's work shows us the impact that media has on our lives. He shows, time and again, how culture plays a more important role in shaping who we are than we realize.

Here's some more positive buzz the book has gotten thus far:

“Intellectually vigorous and entertaining”Publishers Weekly

“That most of his subjects are from the pop-culture realm, whether Andrew Dice Clay or Chevy Chase or the Eagles, does not diminish the underlying sophistication of Klosterman’s guiding questions… A fine return to form for Klosterman, blending Big Ideas with heavy metal, The Wire, Batman and much more”
— Kirkus

“Very much a product of his generation and as plugged into the popular culture as Mencken was antagonistic to it, Klosterman is in that same direct line of cultural critics as Bierce, Mencken, and more recently, P. J. O’Rourke, and his posture is similarly arch and iconoclastic…[I Wear the Black Hat] will amuse and/or outrage but, either way, it should enlarge his audience” — Booklist

“Astute and funny” USA Today

Teju Cole Wins the 2013 International Literature Prize For Open City

Congratulations are in order for culture speaker Teju Cole: He just won the 2013 International Literature Prize for his book, Open City! He beat out 130 other foreign-language titles for the honor. Both he, and Christine Richter-Nilsson (who translated his work to German) will share the award. Presented to him by Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the award honors both an exceptional book and its first translation into German.

Here's what the jury had to say about Cole's work:

“Cole’s finely honed, rhythmic prose generates a vortex that grips and subsumes the reader. His book captivates through the existential earnestness and truthfulness of the narrator, who records the conflicts of the globalized world without resorting to cultural clichés.”

In Open City, Cole “side-steps all the old clichés on a cool-eyed tour of a wounded New York City,” DW writes. “Cole's calm, precise language references these great literary icons without ever being passé.” Open City has received an overwhelmingly positive response. It won Cole the PEN/Hemingway Award, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named as one of the best books of 2011 by the New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time Magazine. He was also listed as one of New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers by Flavorwire. His speeches, like his writing, are articulate and grand explorations of the way we live and the connections we make with the people and places around us.

From Page To Screen: Salman Rushdie Wins Best Adapted Screenplay Award

Salman Rushdie admitted he originally didn't want to take on the task of adapting Midnight's Children into a screenplay. However, his eventual decision to go forward with the project has paid off—earning him recognition at the Canadian Screen Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. Translating his Booker Prize-winning novel into something made for film was certainly no easy feat. Paring down the canonical novel into a different medium required him to show reckless abandon to the original work, he has noted. “I knew you had to adapt it by not being overly respectful of the text,” he said in an earlier interview, “and the person who can be most disrespectful of the book is me.”

Rushdie also took another departure from novel-writing when he announced he'd signed on to write the pilot for Showtime's proposed new show Next People earlier this year. That isn't to say he's been out of the literary game while taking on these projects, however. He released his memoir, Joseph Anton, to critical acclaim late last year. While he is a master of the written word, Rushdie is just as comfortable on stage. He has a firm grasp on the pressing events of the moment and often incorporates the themes he tackles in his books into his talks. From freedom of expression, to the power of literature, to international relations, he presents a compelling look at the world around us. He uses his own experiences to showcase the artist's role in shaping public understanding—and leaves audiences with an intriguing and sweeping account of the events that shape our modern society.

Free Speech Is The “Liberty Upon Which All Others Depend”: Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie knows the true meaning of the “culture of offendedness” first hand. A world renowned author and popular arts speaker, Rushdie experienced this phenomenon from a series of safe houses after the release of The Satanic Verses—an experience he recently chronicled in his highly praised memoir, Joseph Anton. In a recent talk at Yale University (check out video footage of the event here), Rushdie reiterated the important role of freedom of speech in society and in the arts.

“There is no right not to be offended,” he told the Yale audience. “It doesn’t trump freedom of speech. Read something else. See another movie. Leave the room.” Further, he adds that freedom of speech is the “liberty upon which all other liberties depend.” That doesn't mean that free speech should be malicious, however. In an interview on the Today show earlier this year he explained that the most important difference between hate speech and free speech is intent. There is a very real difference between contributing a serious piece of literature or art, and creating something simply for the purpose of being malicious. In his speeches, he often notes that it is up to the creator (author, musician, artist, etc.) to convey an honest and intriguing understanding of the world around us.

First Look: John Elder Robison’s New Book, Raising Cubby, Is A Hit

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives, the latest book from John Elder Robison, was released to rave reviews earlier this month. A followup to Robison's previous bestselling memoir Look Me In the Eye, his newest work tells the story of a father who's just a little bit different than other people—trying to raise a son who is just a little bit different, himself. Despite growing up with Asperger's Syndrome—during a time when no one knew what Asperger's was—Robison has lead an extremely productive life. He's a bestselling author, autism researcher at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, an adjunct professor at Elms College in Massachusetts, and was recently appointed to the U.S. Government's Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. While he may not have been the 'model father' (and his son, Cubby, wasn't always the 'model' son either) their journey as father and son lead them to incredible things—even if they took a unique path to get there.

In his talks, Robison shares this story, along with his insight on diagnosing children with autism. He also provides practical advice for parents and educators on harnessing the potential of those who have already been diagnosed. Here are some reviews:

“John Elder Robison is one of my autism super heroes because he bravely brings humor and humility to the heart and soul of the taboo and unexpected corners of life lived with autism.  His new book, Raising Cubby, is more than a memoir about a father and son bound by their Asperger syndrome. It’s a story that reminds us how precious and precarious the parent child relationship is and how beautiful our lives can be when we are share that ride together. Raising Cubby is Robison’s best work yet.”Liane Holliday-Willey, coauthor of Pretending To Be Normal: Living with Asperger Syndrome

“Funny and moving…A warmhearted, appealing account by a masterful storyteller.”  — Kirkus Reviews

“Robison's third book starts with a bang–his description of the 'malicious explosion' created by his teenage Cubby that has the boy, who has Asperger's syndrome, looking at 60 years in prison, is as disconcerting as it is captivating….With the ensuing investigation and trial, Cubby and the author are drawn into a crazy world that threatens to tear apart their already delicate lives.”Publishers Weekly
“The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble” —Goodreads

Senses Of The City: Teju Cole On “The Greatest Technologies Of Humanity”

Echoing the themes from his book, Teju Cole told students at Boston College that post-9/11 New York is an “open city.” Not so coincidentally, that's also the title of his critically acclaimed book. A self-proclaimed lover of the city, Cole explores the way that the bustling metropolis operates today after being attacked several years ago. “You’re looking into the sky, and even today, when you see a plane going behind a building, as planes normally do,” he says in the talk, “there’s a brief moment you wonder what’s going on.” There is no obvious threat of another attack, but the city operates under a great pressure that something might again.

These themes are explored in his book through the eyes of its main character Julius—who stumbles around Manhattan to eventually wind up at Ground Zero. During the talk, Cole read passages of his book to the audience to illustrate the impact that city life has on its inhabitants, and how cities have developed into what they are today. As he explains, he sees cities as the “greatest technologies of humanity” as well as being “the incubator of tolerance.” And while most cities tend to develop in grid-formations, he also notes that there can be many variations.

An excellent story teller both in print and in person, Cole delves into the way we live and how the infrastructure around us impacts us as people. Named as one of Flavorwire's 100 Most Important Living Writers residing in New York, and earning a place on many prestigious best-of lists for Open City, Cole's work is accessible to many diverse audiences. Whether in his books or on stage, Cole presents moving insights into the way we live and how we all connect with the spaces around us.

Salman Rushdie: Literature Breaks Down Boundaries

Literature's role in society is far greater than simply being a form of entertainment. As acclaimed author Salman Rushdie told the audience at a recent keynote, great literature erodes boundaries to understanding. And, it connects us to one another. “One of the things literature can do is to encourage a world view,” he told the capacity crowd of over 1,000, “which in turn encourages tolerance and civilization, and sets us up against this other view, an identity defined by hostility, which leads to extremism and bigotry.” That's why, he says at the 10th annual Coe College Contemporary Issues Forum, it is crucial that we don't allow our literary voices to be silenced by censorship.

Rushdie has had his own experience with censorship when he experienced a hostile backlash after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses, 25 years ago. After battling for the right to have his voice heard—and the right to live!—Rushdie has become an advocate for free speech in the arts. Despite spending a portion of his life in hiding, Rushdie has come back stronger than ever. He has to, he explains, because “art goes to the boundaries and pushes outward, even when forces push back.” The stories we tell not only define who we are, but they help us understand the rest of the world around us. Something that art does every day, and something that Rushdie says we must always value.

Rushdie's talks, like his writing, are always sweeping and powerful. They address important themes such as freedom of expression and the role that the artist plays in helping us better understand the world. His work has earned him critical and popular acclaim—and even knighthood for his services to literature. His voice is equally as powerful as his pen, and he possesses an innate ability to capture the attention of his audiences in every presentation he gives.

Chuck Klosterman: “Pop Culture’s The Soundtrack To The World”

Chuck Klosterman drew a standing-room-only crowd to the first reading of his new book earlier this week. Pretty impressive considering the book hasn't even been released! As part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University, he shared sections of the forthcoming I Wear the Black Hat—an insightful and wickedly funny account of the culture of villainy in society. After the reading, he stayed to field questions from the full house of eager listeners.

A pervasive theme of the night revolved around Klosterman's decision to focus on pop culture analysis rather than heftier subject matter. For someone with encyclopedic knowledge of so many different issues, the crowd was curious as to why he chooses to mainly talk about the influence of the media and culture on our lives. In response, Klosterman explained that pop culture is a more influential power than many give it credit for. “People use culture to explain their lives to themselves,” he says, “pop culture is the soundtrack to the world.”

In a feature article on Hazlitt, Klosterman gave readers a peek into his own collection of pop culture artifacts—a massive assortment of books that have influenced him in some way or another. In the interview, he questions whether the selection he displays, and the placement of that selection of books, is an important definition of who he is as a person. This crystallizes what he discusses in his talks as he often explores the way that many of us define ourselves by the media we choose to consume. Pop culture is a vital part of our lives, and Klosterman's unique mix of smarts and wit shows us why it deserves more in-depth analysis.

Teju Cole: Public Spaces Are Like Lungs—They Let The City Breathe

“For me, the point of public space is that it needs to be something that is open to all kinds of people, to all classes,” Teju Cole, author of Open City, says in a recent interview. Making effective use of public spaces is crucial, he adds, given that cities are, by definition, crowded places. There are millions of people living in the same small area and it's important that they feel comfortable in the spaces they share with others. It is in these public spaces that we intersect and interact with the people all around us.

In Open City, which was named as a best book to over 20 prestigous end-of-the-year lists), the main character traipses around the public spaces of Manhattan. He reflects on his life and encounters numerous people that change his perspective while wandering around the city. As Cole says in the interview, public spaces provide a snapshot of what people do when they slow down from their daily hustle-and-bustle. Cole says that one of the most fascinating public spaces in the city is Central Park. The park acts as the “lungs of the city,” because it allows the city to “breathe”. People go there to walk around, go for a run, or just to relax and forget the daily stresses in their lives. Or, like Open City's main character Julius, they deeply reflect on their lives from a new perspective.

Public spaces tend to be the most effective when they are inclusive. When everyone feels that they are welcome there, he says, they function much better. He gives the example of a museum in New York that chose not to ban skateboarding on its front steps as an example. “What's inside the museum is art,” he says. “What's outside is life, and we don't want that to be barren.” Cole was recently named as one of New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers by Flavorwire. His unique style of storytelling is as effective on the page as it is in front of live audiences, where he is able to draw people in and leave them with resonating takeaways.

Breaking Boundaries Between Artists & Fans: Margaret Atwood In Wired

Margaret Atwood is at it again. Her most recent project, Fanado, is reinventing the relationship between artist and fan. And, as Wired aptly puts it, “her writing tools are as forward-looking as her books.” Atwood is one of the rare authors who has earned commercial, critical, and academic success. She is highly engaged with her fans (she's an active Twitter user with well over 300,000 followers) and often discusses the role that literature plays in society in her keynotes and media appearances. With Fanado, artists and fans can connect with each other in an intimate way that may never be possible otherwise.

Currently in beta testing, the project aims to put the audience in touch with their favorite author or performer—and gives the artist a chance to meet some of their fans personally. It is the equivalent of a “promotional tour online”, allowing fans to go backstage at a concert, get a book signed wirelessly, or ask a question in a video chat. The platform makes use of Atwood's LongPen technology that provides a legally-binding method to sign things remotely. Never content to rest on her laurels, Atwood is constantly developing engaging and exciting methods for advancing the creative space. This new project is just one idea in a long line of innovative ventures that include the creation of the popular digital story sharing community Wattpad

Thanks to her tremendous success as an author, Atwood has become a household name. Not only does she have an undeniable talent for crafting stories on the page, but she is equally as captivating in her public lectures. Her views on technology, the creative industry, literature, social activism, and her own accomplished body of work are highly sought after—and widely respected.

I Wear the Black Hat: The New Book From Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman's new book is due out this summer—and he recently tweeted a picture of the cover to add to the anticipation. The book is called I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) and is slated for release this July (you can pre-order it over at Amazon.) It's a collection of essays about the concept of villainy in society. In his typical style, the bestselling author and New York Times Ethicist combines pop culture references with sharp wit to paint a complex picture of the anti-hero, and why we are more obsessed with this concept than we realize. Recently named as one of New York's Most Important Living Writers by Flavorwire, Klosterman provides readers with focused, engaging, and wildly funny discussions about the world we live in. In his talks, he discusses why we define ourselves by the media we consume—and what that media says about us as a society.

Jared Diamond: Traditional Societies Are Multilingual & We Should Be Too

There is a common misconception that the so-called “primitive” societies in the world have little to teach us. But as Jared Diamond explains in a recent interview with NPR, we still have much to learn from the people living in these hunter-gatherer tribes. This is also a major theme in his new book, The World Until Yesterday.

For starters, these traditional cultures often speak far more languages than we do in more “modern” societies. For example, Diamond focused on a group of New Guineans as research subjects for his book. As he explains, “several [of them] spoke from eight to 12 languages, and the champion was a man who spoke 15.” Contrastingly, few of us are even bilingual here in North America, let alone multilingual. According to linguist Dennis Baron, about 18 per cent of Americans are bilingual—and that number is on the decline. The fact is that these cultures are far more linguistically advanced than us; anyone who speaks less than five languages tends to be an anomaly.

Diamond believes that knowing how to speak multiple languages not only advances your worldview, but also has many practical implications for the health of your brain.”Bilingual patients,” Diamond tells NPR, “suffer less cognitive impairment than do monolingual patients with the same degree of brain atrophy: bilingualism offers partial protection against the consequence of brain atrophy.”  Learning new languages, he's found, is one of the best exercises you can do for your brain. As he told us in an exclusive interview here at Lavin (embedded above), the average bilingual person gets 5 times the protection against the effects of brain diseases like Alheizmer's—if they even develop it at all. According to the Pulitzer-Prize winning author and evolutionary biologist, we have much to learn from these tribal societies after all.

Margaret Atwood Discusses The Narrative Arts In The Documentary Bad Writing

If there's anyone equipped to discuss the transition of the written word over time, it's certainly Margaret Atwood. In Bad Writing, a documentary from director Vernon Lott, Atwood joins a group of her literary peers to explore what it means to be a good writer—and how important good writing is to our society. “Narrative arts come with being a human being,” she says in the film. “Art is an evolved adaptation and, particularly the narrative arts, those capabilities and interests evolved in the 80,000 years they spent in the plasticine because they gave us a survival edge—and they still give us a survival edge.” As Atwood explains, indulging in good writing is as much a part of the human condition as eating or sleeping. And, more importantly, it helps us live better lives. The documentary was recently re-released and is screening for free all month.

A giant in the literary world, Atwood has won a plethora of awards including the prestigious Booker Prize. As inspiring in her talks as she is in her writing, she always has refreshing insights to offer on a wide array of topics related to pop culture. Never content to rest on past success and repeat what has made her so successful, the renowned author is constantly pushing the envelope in her work. She speaks about the written word from both a historical and forward-thinking perspective and offers her comparisons of what has changed in the field—and what to anticipate going forward.

Alone In America: Eric Klinenberg On The Positives Of Solo Living [VIDEO]

As Eric Klinenberg explains in his new keynote, Americans in the 1950's thought anyone living alone—who wanted to live alone—was “sick, neurotic, and immoral”. That stigma has largely subsided, as the number of people who choose to delay marriage and long term relationships has risen sharply. 50 per cent of adults today live in single-family households, Klinenberg says. And, as he explains in the keynote and in his new book, Going Solo, this is one of the biggest changes to the demographics of the population since the baby boom.

In his previous book, Heat Wave, Klinenberg touched on the topic of single living when he wrote about the people who died in isolation during a massive heat wave in Chicago. As he says in his speech, he thought that Going Solo would simply be a continuation of that topic—but he says he soon realized that there was much more to why people lived alone than he first anticipated. Contrary to his initial beliefs, the vast majority of those who live alone (about 33 million people in the United States) are middle-aged. The people who were living alone, he found, were not elderly people who had lost a spouse or those left with no choice but solitary life. Rather, Klinenberg found a population of people who wanted to live alone—reaping the benefits that came with solo life.

“Paradoxically, living alone can give us an opportunity to make better and deeper connections,” he says. Those who live on their own have more time to themselves, so they have the ability to get to know themselves and what they want out of life. This, he says, tends to lead to more significant long-term relationships down the road. There are many factors that have attributed to this shift, Klinenberg explains, and they have a tremendous impact on the socio-economic structure of the country. As the nuclear family moves far away from the norm, and single living becomes more commonplace, Klinenberg shares the broad implications that this will have on our society. Whether it's in his books, his columns for major news outlets, or his eye-opening talks, he shares this new way of living—one that brings exciting opportunities and possibilities for all of us.

Teju Cole: “Twitter Is The Real Stream Of Consciousness”

Social media may indeed be more than just an outlet for sharing what you had for lunch, or funny pictures of animals, according to Teju Cole. “Twitter is the real stream of consciousness,” he said at the recent Twitter Fiction Festival. He was chosen to host the event thanks to his creative use of the social media site as a new medium for serial storytelling. In his project Small Fates, Cole embraced digital technology in the creative process by cleverly—and skillfully—using the 140 character word limit to tell compact narratives of life in Lagos, Nigeria. While some may argue that social media sites like Twitter are a threat to traditional literature, Cole treats it instead as a way to revisit the “fait divers,” style of the past in a modern way. He uses the platform to share content, he says, but he does so in a more literary way than most.

In a recent lecture he gave at Teachers College, Columbia University, Cole shared his inspiration for the project with students. “I found myself drawn to the 'small' news,'” Cole says in his talk. “I began to read the metro sections of newspapers.” His tweets do indeed read like short newspaper stories and headlines, and those who are unaware of what Cole's intentions are with his tweets could certainly be confused. As he explains in the talk, his posts may appear out of context because he does not explain any background detail about them. However, he says that the important part is that people read them and learn something new—even if they may be a bit perplexed by them. “The real agenda of these stories,” he tells the audience, “is to open up to the reader an entire world of human experience of which a majority of people are just not aware.”

Recently named as one of New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers by Flavorwire, Cole has a very unique narrative style that draws readers in. He is the author of Every Day is for the Thief, and Open City, and is currently working on a new non-fiction project. His knack for telling an alluring story extends off the page and into his stage presence. Whatever the medium, Cole exposes his audiences to exciting, new ways of telling stories.

Raising Cubby: John Elder Robison’s New Book

John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir Look Me In the Eye, will be adding another book to his impressive bibliography early next year. In March, the new book Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives will hit bookshelves. Growing up with Asberger's Syndrome during a time when no one knew what to make of it, Robison may have seemed a bit unusual—but still succeeded in living an incredible life. Today, he is an author, adjunct professor at Elms College in Massachusetts, was recently appointed to the U.S. Government's Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, and is currently involved in autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

On his website, Robison has this to say on his hopes for the new book: “I hope Raising Cubby will inspire students to see that there are many paths to success, and that oddball traits or interests may in fact lead to our best opportunities. I also hope it will inspire communities to embrace their misfits and understand how much they have to offer.” In the book, he tells the story of a father who is a little bit different raising a son who is just a little bit different, too. And how those differences bring them together and lead them both to extraordinary things.

Here's Amazon's early review of what is sure to be another hit:

The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble. Misfit, truant, delinquent. John Robison was never a model child, and he wasn’t a model dad either. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. When his son, Cubby, asked, “Where did I come from?” John said he’d bought him at the Kid Store and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” He read electrical engineering manuals to Cubby at bedtime. He told Cubby that wizards turned children into stone when they misbehaved.

Still, John got the basics right. He made sure Cubby never drank diesel fuel at the automobile repair shop he owns. And he gave him a life of adventure: By the time Cubby was ten, he’d steered a Coast Guard cutter, driven a freight locomotive, and run an antique Rolls Royce into a fence. The one thing John couldn’t figure out was what to do when school authorities decided that Cubby was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing he had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear. One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring state and federal agents calling. Afterward, with Cubby facing up to sixty years in prison, both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally coming to terms with being “on the spectrum” as both a challenge and a unique gift.

By turns tender, suspenseful, and hilarious, this is more than just the story of raising Cubby. It’s the story of a father and son who grow up together.

“I Dabble In Modernity”: Margaret Atwood On Staying Current [VIDEO]

In a new interview on CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, the always candid Margaret Atwood shares her thoughts on everything from post-modernism, zombies, and the problem with the literature taught in schools today. With over 40 years of experience in the literary world, Atwood shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, and is always thinking ahead to produce innovative new work. “I dabble in modernity,” she says. Perhaps it is that dabbling that gives her an edge—and inspires her to mix old and new mediums together to bring a fresh approach to the art of storytelling. One example of her forward-thinking nature was the decision to release her newest serial novel, The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home, exclusively on her digital story-sharing application, Wattpad.

Now, she's reviving one of her classic works and giving it new life thanks to the help of electronic media. In 1966, Atwood teamed up with Charles Pachter to create the illustrated book, Speeches For Doctor Frankenstein. Originally released in an extremely limited print run of only 15 copies, the book was crafted from handmade paper and was comprised of a combination of Atwood's poetry and Pachter's artwork. Now, over 40 years after its original release, Atwood is re-releasing the silk-screened book as an enhanced e-Book and a digital app.

To conclude the interview, Atwood was asked what she thinks is the most important book that should be taught in schools today. “You always have a problem with the books taught in schools,” she answers, because “parents don't like it when there's sex in them—and swearing—and kids don't like it when they're boring…That's why we usually get 19th century books taught in schools.” One way around this, she says, is to assign an anthology of short stories by a contemporary writer. That way, the stories generally aren't long enough to include inappropriate material, and they're short enough that younger readers won't lose interest. Additionally, a teacher can pick and choose which stories to assign—providing a breadth of subject matter and styles. Never content to rest on her laurels, Atwood constantly pushes the envelope to better connect to readers and remain current in a constantly changing world. While her accomplishments speak for themselves, her grace and charisma add a depth and warmth to her live appearances that make her as well-liked and is she respected.

“A High Point in Canadian Public Life”: Salman Rushdie’s Historic Visit

When Salman Rushdie made a surprise appearance at the Winter Garden Theatre stage in Toronto twenty years ago, it was a “high point in Canadian public life.” At the time, the critically acclaimed author was living in hiding, forced underground because of an infamous fatwa that was issued in response to his book, The Satanic Verses. As reported in the latest edition of Hazlitt, Rushdie's appearance was historic not so much for the “opportunity for the embattled author of The Satanic Verses to enjoy the rare company of his fellow authors, but for an entire country to unite in support of free expression.”

A brilliant provocateur, the author is never afraid to speak his mind and is a dedicated proponent or free speech. When he stepped on stage that day two decades ago, Rushdie would later recount (in his recently released memoir, Joseph Anton) that it felt like he was receiving the “highest of literary honours.” He was joined on stage by fellow authors who supported his struggle to not have his voice silenced, and also read from a short story; reminding the audience that, despite the uproar and the scandal, he was indeed a very gifted writer.

“For a time I used to get really upset about the fact that this book had been attacked by people who had not read it,” Rushdie tells the Canadian audience. “[But] perhaps it’s not very easy to burn a book once you’ve read it.” Like in his writing, his sweeping talks explore prominent and powerful world themes including freedom of expression, religion, pop culture, current events at home and abroad, East-West relations, and the role of the artist to shape our understanding of the world. He is a winner of the prestigious Booker Prize, as well as the Best of the Booker Prize for his novel Midnight's Children, which was recently adapted to film in collaboration with Academy Award-nominated director Deepa Mehta. He is as adept at telling a riveting story on the stage as he is with the pen, and the insights Rushdie present force audiences to take a deeper look at what's going on around them—and become involved with the most important issues facing the world today.

A Celebration: Isabel Allende Day

On November 27, San Jose State University hosted Isabel Allende Day—an event commemorating four-decades worth of accomplishments from one of the most celebrated writers of our time. The event began with a tour of several sketches completed by students at the university, which were inspired by her first novel for young adults, City of Beasts. Next came a stage adaptation of Allende's short story, Tosca. Allende also took to the stage and shared stories of both her inspiration and her hardship, and how the events of her life have influenced her writing and her work with the Isabel Allende Foundation.

As the author of 19 books and several short stories, Allende's work has inspired many. She draws on her harrowing experiences from her time spent in exile after her uncle's assassination in her writing and her speeches. Allende's ability to craft positive lessons about the strength of the human condition in her work earned her the Fulbright Global Citizen award, which was presented to her at the event thanks to her ability to, “[marry] art and activism in literature [in a manner] that resonates worldwide.” She has touched millions of people with her powerful subject matter and even more powerful voice as an internationally requested speaker and award-winning author.

Salman Rushdie: One Of Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers

Foreign Policy has just released their list of 2012's Top 100 Global Thinkers—and four of our speakers have made the list! Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Jonathan Haidt, and Salman Rushdie have landed in this year's group. It's no surprise Rushdie was selected. One of the most influential authors in the world, Rushdie's memoir, Joseph Anton, was released this year to wide critical acclaim. Here's Foreign Policy on Rushdie:

More than two decades before U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East were overrun by rioters angry about a crude anti-Islamic video and more than a decade before the 9/11 attacks, Salman Rushdie received the phone call that changed his life forever when a BBC reporter asked him, “How does it feel to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?”

This year saw the release of Rushdie's astonishingly well-timed memoir, Joseph Anton, which describes his life in hiding after the 1989 fatwa condemning him to death for The Satanic Verses, a book that fundamentalists deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed.

Through it all, Rushdie has continued to make a powerfully personal case for freedom of expression, writing that the fatwa was “a violent attack not on the novel in general, or on free speech per se, but on a particular accumulation of words, and on the intentions and integrity and ability of the writer who had put those words together.”

Rushdie's selection to the list only solidifies what the world over already knows—that he is one of the greatest writers of our time.

New York’s Many Layers: Teju Cole On Writing Open City

“New York wants to convince you that it was born yesterday—and it wasn't,” says Teju Cole in a recent interview on CBC Radio's Writers & Company. The notion of New York City being a, “historical site with many layers,” was part of the inspiration behind his award-winning book, Open City. He explains in the interview that New York City has had a large population for a long time, and with that, a huge number of people have lived and died in the city throughout the course of its history. Some of these people—and the tragic events in their lives—have long since been forgotten, and the bustling metropolis is now often thought of in terms of its sky scrapers and Broadway shows, with the stories of its inhabitants falling to the wayside. In his book, Cole wanted to explore the concept of “forgetting.” “Open City,” for Cole, “then becomes a sort of exploration of the maybe somewhat provocative—but not that unusual—idea that 9/11 was not the first terrible thing to happen in New York.”

The main character in the book wanders around the city documenting what he sees, which Cole expresses in a free-flowing style of prose which he says is representative of an, “extended piece of music.” He also notes that despite now being a resident of the city, growing up in Nigeria gave him the, “foolish bravery of an outsider,” that allowed him to assess New York and its history from a different perspective than a born-and-raised New Yorker could. In his writing, Cole makes visceral connections between people and their surroundings and gives readers new insight into the world around them. As articulate on stage as he is on the page, Cole presents a moving look at society and the way we connect with the places we live.

In Review: High Praise For Salman Rushdie’s Memoir Joseph Anton

A month after its release, Joseph Anton, the memoir from literary legend Salman Rushdie, has been getting rave reviews. Akash Kapur of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that: “In an age of rising intolerance and diminished literary confidence, Joseph Anton—like Salman Rushdie’s own life—strikes a blow for the continued relevance of literature.” Margaret Drabble, from The Guardian, calls the book, “brutally honest and profound….[and] more gripping than any spy story.” 

The book is written about the time Rushdie spent in hiding after a fatwa forced him underground. The title of the book comes from the witness protection name he assumed to safe guard his life. At nearly 700 pages the book is certainly not a light read, but given the subject matter, compression seems a bit unrealistic. However, it was Rushdie's dedication to detail that earned him praise from the Huffington Post's David Finkle, a multiple decade-long reviewer of books. Finkle writes: “It's Rushdie's sometime grace under pressure and sometime who-knows-what-else that make his recollections irresistible, that make his compulsive reminiscing a chilling, valiant endeavor.”

Not only is Rushdie is a master not only of the written word, but the spoken word as well. In his talks he delves deeper into the themes explored in his work; from freedom of expression, to the power of literature, to international relations. Rushdie has a firm grasp on the world around us and uses his gifted storytelling ability to leave a lasting impression on his audiences.

November 27 is Isabel Allende Day!

On November 27, San Jose State University will host Isabel Allende Day—a day of free events, a keynote speech by the acclaimed author, and a commendation from San Jose City Hall. Students at the university will share testimonials, a live theater performance and sketches commemorating the four decade-strong career of one of the most celebrated writers of our time. Allende has written over 17 books, drawing on the harrowing experiences and lessons learned following her exile after the assassination of her uncle, President Salvador Allende of Chile. In her writing, and in her public talks, she speaks passionately about the strength of the human condition. Her work as the founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation, a promoter of empowerment for women and children, a 50 million book-selling author, and a wildly requested speaker are a testament to her ability to touch generations of people. Isabel Allende Day celebrations are free and open to the public, and offer the icon the recognition she rightly deserves.