Tony Dokoupil

"Damp Squid" Book And The 2 Billion Word Database

The best part of "Damp Squid," a series of lexicographic essays by Jeremy Butterfield, isn't the oddball title but the computer that inspired it. The Oxford English Corpus, a database of more than 2 billion words culled from a range of global sources, works like a magic cauldron: it allows researchers to see how any word in circulation is actually being used. "Damp squib," for instance, is British slang for a firework that doesn't fire, or a party that fizzles.

A Walk to Remember

For author Geoff Nicholson, walking is a source of "self-medication," a tonic that beats back depression and helps him write. The happy result is "The Lost Art of Walking," a rambling man's survey of the oddities and intrigues of putting one foot before the other.

Books: A History of Jokes

"Stop me if you've heard this," Jim Holt's new history and philosophy of jokes, isn't a topnotch book. It jumps around, from Palamedes to Sarah Silverman, and the closest it comes to a big idea is that jokes "come and go." But there are at least 10 pages (28–38) that everyone should read.

The Best Brand? No Brand.

"I'm not much of a consumer." It's a refrain that New York Times columnist Rob Walker heard a lot while researching "Buying In," his fascinating new book about the dialogue between who we are and what we buy.

Pitchforks For Change

In his new book, "The Uprising," author and populist gadfly David Sirota argues that a "fist-pounding, primal screaming" revolt is brewing in America—and it's about to boil over.

Television News: Absolution for Couch Potatoes

The knock on television news has long been that it emphasizes style over substance. But style, it turns out, may have some serious substance of its own. In their forthcoming book, "Image Bite Politics," Indiana researchers Erik Bucy and Maria Grabe offer absolution for couch potatoes, defending the flickering tube as a source of valuable political information.

Fast Chat: Alpha Dogs of London

In "Alpha Dogs," London Times editor James Harding investigates the Americanization of global politics and points to a culprit: the Sawyer Miller Group. Throughout the 1970s and '80s, the U.S. firm packaged and sold foreign politicians like consumer goods.

Sawyer Miller: The Starbucks of Global Politics

For Western democracies, the U.S. presidential race is more than a source of spectacle—it's a preview of a key American export: campaign tactics. "Elections have become as similar as Starbucks," writes London Times editor James Harding, whose stinging new book, "Alpha Dogs," traces the international campaign playbook back to the Sawyer Miller Group, a U.S. firm launched in the 1970s that married Madison Avenue with Pennsylvania Avenue, selling candidates like consumer goods in an "electronic...

The Experts Get Their Revenge

The Internet is known for giving power to the people. Sites like YouTube and Wikipedia collect the creations of amateurs and kick pros to the curb. But now some of the same entrepreneurs who funded the user-generated revolution are paying professionals to edit and produce online content.

Too at Home in the Stacks

It's a core value of public libraries that their doors are open to everyone. But patience is running thin with one group: the homeless. With nowhere else to go, society's down-and-out flock to libraries for clean restrooms, comfortable chairs and a safe haven.

He's Up in Arm

Starting PointIn spring 2003, climber Aron Ralston, then 27, was pinned for four days against a rock wall in Utah's isolated Blue John Canyon when an 800-pound boulder crushed his right hand.