By Stuart Mitchner

The most effective art therapy book I know is the Audubon Guide to Wild Flowers. My son must have been eight when he began looking through it, fascinated by the bright images, especially the more exotic flowers. The Audubon became his book of choice at bedtime. It wasn’t long before he wanted to make up his own guide. We found a large bound book of blank pages, gave him crayons and marking pens, and he spent many happy hours following the Audubon model. First he drew his idea of the flower, gave it a name, and then a description like the ones he knew. These were all his own inventions.  more

Bernstein Web 1

By Taylor Smith 

Are you ready to work miracles?

Author and public speaker Gabrielle Bernstein thinks she can help. With May Cause Miracles, Bernstein offers a 40-day guide to creating subtle shifts in one’s life. Bernstein tackles roadblocks like self-image, compassion, fear, forgiveness, and risk taking. Her approach is youthful and fresh. She cites her corresponding iTunes app and web videos, as an additional resource.

Named “a next generation thought leader” by Oprah Winfrey, Bernstein is a New York Times bestselling author and regularly appears on The Dr. Oz Show. She is also the founder of, a social networking site for women to inspire, empower, and connect. more


By Mort Zachter

Sixty years ago this month, the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees to win their first and only World Series. Less than two years later, the Dodgers played their final game in Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles.

For Brooklyn, the loss was immeasurable. The Dodgers were a source of civic pride—a final link to a time, before 1898, when Brooklyn was an independent city. Especially when it came to baseball, Brooklyn had always been cutting-edge, as well as quirky.

In 1862, the first enclosed baseball field ever built, the Union Grounds, opened in Williamsburg. A Brooklyn writer, Henry Chadwick, invented the box score. A Brooklyn pitcher, Candy Cummings, threw the first curve. A Brooklyn player, Dickey Pierce, laid down the first bunt. A Brooklyn manager, Wilbert Robinson, was the first, and probably the only person to try catching a grapefruit dropped from an airplane. And a courageous Brooklyn player, Jackie Robinson, became the first black man to play in the major leagues in the 20th century. more

St John Web 1Part of Urban Agenda New York City’s Social Media Mixer Series: Great Authors to Follow on Twitter

By Taylor Smith

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award. A previous novel, The Singer’s Gun, was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Station Eleven has most recently been licensed as a feature film. Mandel shares her thoughts on her best-selling novel and the seed of her inspiration.

Mandel was watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager when she was struck by the line, “Survival is insufficient,” an elegant expression of something that she believed to be true. Her award-winning novel Station Eleven is based on the premise that “no matter what the circumstances, we always long for something beyond the basics of mere survival.”

Unlike most dystopian fiction, Station Eleven begins more than a decade after an illness has ravaged society. The worst of the pandemic has passed and so with it has gone electricity, the Internet, modern medicine, and the majority of artistic expression. In spite of all this, a group of musicians form a travelling theatrical troupe, performing Shakespeare at small towns that have formed around abandoned gas stations. more

Cookbook web 1By Stuart Mitchner 

First things first, whatever the opposite of “foodie” is, I’m it. While my wife may also make faces at that precious little word, she fits the dictionary definition and then some of “a person who enjoys and cares about food.” Say the name “Yotam Ottolenghi” and her face lights up. Say it to me and I go “Duh?” My wife came of age in Los Angeles eating Mexican food along with other ethnic fare. I grew up in Indiana eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If it were possible to estimate my consumption of PB&J, I might rate a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Until I met my wife, an artichoke was as alien to me as an ottolenghi.


I spent a year in India without eating curry. Not until after the marriage vows did I take the spicy plunge, and now it’s the one thing I can cook without the help of a cookbook. Yet here I am, contemplating Yotam’s latest, Plenty More (Ten Speed Press $35). The subtitle says it’s about Vibrant Vegetable Cooking. If you look through the big full-color world of images between the covers, some 339 pages, the vegetables are nothing if not vibrant. They do everything but dance on the page. You can get drunk just looking at them. In fact, just looking at the one-word chapter titles on the contents page becomes an activity in itself. You get Tossed, Steamed, Blanched, Simmered, Braised, Grilled, Roasted, Fried, Mashed, Cracked, Baked, and Sweetened. Which, now that I think of it, is one way of describing what happened to me in India and on the way there and back. more

A mesmerizing collection of photographs of the world’s most majestic trees

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Knotted and gnarled, solid and strong, every tree tells a story, and in Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, they’re able to do just that. From the United States and Europe to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Beth Moon’s collection of photographs capture the world’ most enchanted trees. The result of her 14-year search for the perfect subjects, Moon’s book provides immensely detailed images of trees in their natural environments. Using her signature platinum printing process, Moon’s photographs offer a depth of tonality that emphasizes the weathered exteriors of these massive beauties. Complete with Moon’s narrative captions that describe the natural and cultural history of each tree, the tomb provides a stunning documentation of how trees can thrive when virtually untouched by civilization. more

Where are the best spots to visit in Napa? Assouline’s gorgeous book answers all your wine-themed questions

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Assouline publishing’s In the Spirit of Napa with text by Jennifer Raiser provides the perfect mental reprieve from this heat wave. The stunning images of the valley’s rolling hills, sprawling vineyards, and impressive estates make you feel as if you’re amidst the dry air of Napa Valley sipping a glass of wine. Better yet, it helps you make your imaginings a reality by providing readers with a trip-planning guide to the region. The book includes surveys of Napa Valley’s local food and wine establishments, while specifying the best places for sightseeing, entertaining, recreation, and more. So, pour yourself a glass of wine and get some inspiration for your next trip to Napa through the stunning images below. more

teNeues publishing shares their appreciation for the Big Apple in their colorful art book

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Whether you’re riding the tube in London or walking the streets of Japan, it’s not uncommon to spot the famous “I ❤ NY” t-shirt that’s available at seemingly every bodega and souvenir shop in NYC. No matter where you’re from, it’s virtually impossible not to fall for the lit up Empire State Building, get overcome by the green space in Central Park, or swoon over the stylish dames on Madison Avenue. Simply put by teNeues September 2015 title, Everyone Loves New York. Edited by the art book specialist, Leslie Jonath, Everyone Loves New York showcases the best of NYC through eclectic and vibrant illustrations created by artists from around the world. more

By Taylor Smith

The wonderful thing about following your favorite writers on Twitter is that they suddenly become relatable. They are people with opinions, a sense of humor, and a life outside of their writing duties. more

Escape to paradise with the fashion guru’s newest book on island living. 

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Caribbean flair collides with British sensibility in India Hicks’ third and newest tome, India Hicks: Island StyleA miscellany of breathtaking personal and professional photographs, design tips, and personal advice, Island Style acts as a bona fide scrapbook of Hicks’ home life. Readers are thrown into the colorful and free-spirited world of her Hibiscus Hill home in the Bahamas where she lives with her designer husband, four children, and fostered Bahamian son. more

Fly high with the 1950’s jet setters in Assouline’s elegant tome

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

The Jet Set of the 1950s conjures up a bygone era of wealth, adventure, and endless amounts of glamour. In Assouline’s book, SWANS: Legends of the Jet Society, we’re taken away from our crammed commercial airplane seats and thrown into the world of private jets and exotic travels.  more

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Any man whose cat alone has their own Twitter account with 46,000 fans deserves to be heard, especially when his name is Karl Lagerfeld. The famed fashion designer known for his enigmatic personality, signature black sunglasses, and endless talent has released his 2016 Fashion Agenda edited by Patrick Mauriès and Jean-Christophe Napias. more

A New Guide Book to Shoes from Assouline

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Esteemed fashion journalist and author, Nancy MacDonell celebrates the history of shoes in The Shoe Book. The latest addition to Assouline’s Anthology Collection, MacDonell’s book explores the styles and fashions of footwear over the centuries. more

Assouline Publishing uncaps the 100-year history of the Coca-Cola bottle in their limited edition book.

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

To celebrate the iconic Coke bottle’s centennial, Coca-Cola has launched a yearlong campaign featuring art exhibitions, song releases, and the Assouline Publishing book, Kiss The Past Hello: 100 Years of The Coca-Cola Bottle. This limited edition tome uncovers the rich history of the quintessential American drink through a compilation of photographs and paintings inspired by or featuring the famous bottle.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

In his introduction to the 1946 Scribner’s edition of Henry James’s The American Scene, W.H. Auden observes that while travel is the “easiest subject for the journalist” who requires only “a flair for being on the spot where interesting events happen,” it is the most difficult for the artist, “who is deprived of the freedom to invent, free only to select and never to modify or add, which calls for imagination of a very high order.” more

See how architectural photographer, Richard Schulman is capturing the faces behind the world’s most beautiful buildings

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Images by Richard Schulman

Unlike paintings and other forms of art that are produced directly from hand to canvas, architectural designs require an intermediate step: construction. And while we may be left awestruck by the sleek enormity of a skyscraper or the matchless ambiance of a building, we often forget the brilliant architect behind its conception. more

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, more and more minds start to drift towards summer getaways. Urban Agenda Magazine knows the struggle to stay focused as June nears, so we decided to let you momentarily indulge in your daydreaming. With the help of Rizzoli’s Dream Pools: Enchanting Pools of Italy’s Emerald Coast, authors Nico and Giovanni Maria Filigheddu of Filigheddu Construzioni invite you to jump right into some of their most beautifully constructed pools on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda. Featuring twelve of the most “high-profile technical handcrafted solutions” in pool designs, this compilation of breathtaking vistas and turquoise waters transplants you into the heart Italy. Wet your feet with some of the premiere images from their book, now available at


By Anne Levin

Ruth Reichl is sometimes asked the question: If you had a superpower, what would it be? For the author, food writer and editor — formerly the restaurant critic at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times and the editor-in-chief of the late and lamented Gourmet magazine, the answer is a no-brainer: To have a heightened palate.

“I wish I had it, but I so do not,” she said during a telephone interview last week. “Especially in my business, it would be a great asset.” Ms. Reichl will speak this Friday at a sold-out Book Lover’s Luncheon hosted by the Princeton Public Library and the Friends of the Library, at Springdale Golf Club. “The closest I’ve ever seen is Paula Wolfert, whom I traveled with once,” she continued. “She really does have an uncanny ability to pull flavors apart.” more

Charlotte Moss’s lavish new book enlivens your green thumb with stunning photographs of gardens from around the globe.

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

With a reverence for the traditional and a passion for the unexpected, Charlotte Moss brings her unique aesthetic to nature in her new book, Garden Inspirations.  A miscellany of sumptuous photographs, interesting stories, and useful advice, her book is rooted in the garden.

For over 27 years, Moss has been perfecting her East Hampton garden using influences from her international travels.  From France and Italy to England and Spain, Moss sought to document and replicate some of the world’s most divine natural sanctuaries.  As a result, the venerable designer’s artistic eye has been shaded by her wealth of botanical knowledge that she shares in the pages of her book. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Jack Kerouac’s earliest published writing on New York City appeared under the name John Kerouac, a formal touch reflected in the glossy, soft-focus, dust jacket photo and the relatively buttoned-up narrative style of his first novel, The Town and the City (Harcourt Brace 1950). When he celebrates the city as “the one place in all the roundway world where everything is different from anywhere else, simply because it happens in New York,” the only hint of vintage Kerouac is in a term like “roundway.” A long passage meant to suggest the mounting excitement felt by someone coming into Manhattan for the first time depends on generic expository prose about “the vital and dramatic heart” of the place and “the magnitude, the beauty, and the wonder of the great city,” phrases as detached from the spirit of his style as “John” is from the “Kerouac” who wrote On the Roadmore

By Stuart Mitchner

Most of us grow up with an innate sensitivity to architecture and design. This primal design sense no doubt comes to life as soon as your parents hang a pretty mobile above your crib. As you grow up, you’re likely to develop an attachment to familiar objects, as I did, for one example, to the curtains that can be seen in photos of the duplex my parents were renting when I was born. The curtains moved with us from home to home and when we transitioned to a bigger house after I entered seventh grade, I asked that the surviving remnants be hung in my room, even though they were starting to show their age. The colors were warm and cozy, gold and a faded red, with filigree and medallions and knights on horseback; it was the design equivalent of comfort food. It was also a reminder of a happy, secure childhood. more

By Ellen Gilbert

Taking note of an important new resource: Einstein papers go digital

The December 2014 announcement of the launch of the Digital Einstein Papers ( was greeted with huzzas from scientific circles as well as the popular media. “They have been called the Dead Sea Scrolls of physics,” began one article about the project by New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye. They will, he said, enable readers to “dance among Einstein’s love letters, his divorce file, his high school transcript, the notebook in which he worked out his general theory of relativity and letters to his lifelong best friend, Michele Besso, among many other possibilities.” more

By Ellen Gilbert

“I have two words: John McPhee.” The New Yorker editor David Remnick’s (’81) explanation of what Princeton meant to him. 

“Your parents will remember your graduation almost as acutely, and with the same sense of wonder, as they remember the day you entered this world,” observed New Yorker editor David Remnick (’81) in his 2013 Class Day speech at Princeton University. “It’s an incredibly moving thing to see your child go into the word as a whole healthy person,” added the father of three. more

By Ellen Gilbert

“The hunger for narrative has been very strong for me, but also is a necessity for me,” observed Oliver Sacks speaking to an audience at the University of Warwick, where he was Visiting Professor in 2013.

The title of his talk, appropriately enough, was “Narrative and Medicine: The Importance of the Case History,” and Sacks, who has been referred to as “the poet laureate of medicine,” was making the case for the “complete integration of science and story telling.” more

Interview by Kam Williams

Actress and author Brooke Shields is a familiar face within the entertainment industry. Starting her career at just 11 months, Shields went on to star in Pretty Baby (1978), The Blue Lagoon (1980), and Endless Love (1981). She also caused a sensation with her advertising campaign for Calvin Klein. Shields attended Princeton University in 1983, graduating in 1988. Following college, Shields played the title role in Suddenly Susan and appeared on Seinfeld. She has just published her latest memoir There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me, written after the death of her mother, Teri Shields, in 2012. In it, Shields honestly examines her remarkable and often difficult relationship with her mother. Her previous memoir, Down Came the Rain, was a New York Times Bestseller. more

By Stuart Mitchner

I grew up eating breakfast and lunch (and snacks) in the same room as a large three-part folding screen decorated from top to bottom with New Yorker covers. It was the only piece of furniture my parents owned that had no discernible purpose other than to be its own odd, cheery, colorful self. My Medievalist father, who was accustomed to working with illuminated manuscripts, had meticulously assembled and arranged it, making sure everything was precisely aligned. The screen, with all its vivid, amusing imagery reflecting our familial infatuation with New York City was a companiable presence at a time when my diet consisted mostly of open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then and now the ultimate comfort food. more

How Jewish-Americans Forged The American Songbook via Broadway and Tin Pan Alley

By Linda Arntzenius

Illustrations by Jorge Naranjo

“You won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews,” Eric Idle’s clever quip from Monty Python’s Spamalot never fails to elicit laughter from a Broadway audience. It’s long been taken for granted that the Broadway Musical is a particularly Jewish success story. Idle’s observation was expressed decades earlier by none other than Cole Porter, the exemplar of Broadway song composers. Porter, who was not Jewish, was once asked how he would go about writing “American” music. “I’ll write good Jewish tunes,” he said. more

By Stuart Mitchner

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse

In my dissheveled outsider’s view, the fashion world is best approached when it relates to art or cinema or literature, or, as I’ve just learned, when it’s embodied by designers who live up to Matisse’s definition of creative people. After scanning some new fashion-oriented publications appropriate to the holiday season, I’ve found the virtues of curiosity, persistance, independence, a spirit of adventure and a love of play in people like fashion legend Loulou de la Falaise (1948-2011) and Alber Elbaz, the creative director of Lanvin. more

By Stuart Mitchner 

Joyce Carol Oates had been living in Princeton for 25 years when she published The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art (Ecco 2003), one of two works she named when asked to mention books that were “close to her heart.” The author, who will be teaching her last class at Princeton University in the spring semester of 2015, also cited High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories 1966-2006 (Ecco 2006), which contains “my favorite stories of my own up to that time.”

New work published this month includes Lovely, Dark, Deep (Ecco), a collection of short fiction, and Prison Noir (Akashic), the second book she’s edited, after New Jersey Noir, for Akashic’s Noir Series. The Sacrifice, a novel due early in 2015, is set in a “racially troubled” New Jersey city in the late 1980s; she is also working on a memoir to be published in fall 2015. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Every time the “back to school” theme comes up, I think of The Catcher in the Rye, New York City, and the year I went to McBurney School on 63rd Street off Central Park West. I was 16 when I read Holden Caulfield’s story for the first of many times, not knowing that J.D. Salinger had been at McBurney decades before me and that some of Holden’s school experiences and relationships were drawn from his two years there.  more