Short stories 

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Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF

April Winchell

Villard, $14/paperback

A painting of a horse and the word "shit." A Barbie doll glued to a headband. Better yet, a crocheted penis designed to hold a tube of lip balm. These are just a few of the items peddled by enterprising crafters on the arts and crafts website etsy.com, and each has found its way into the collection of greatest hits gathered in Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF. The regretsy.com blog, which inspired the book, scours etsy.com for the odd, off and hardcore useless items among the stuff that's actually for sale. Take, for instance, a cheese grater that one entrepreneur converted into a clock, then described for potential buyers as "mostly clean." Regretsy blog contributors add their own thoughts about each item, which are actually just as funny as the target objects themselves. Yes, it all might come off as a bit mean, but change your perspective and it's kinda like extra advertising. — Edie Adelstein

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The History of White People

Nell Irvin Painter

W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95/hardcover

Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University prof and author of several books on African-American history, has written an insightful and clearly developed history of how lighter-skinned people came to think of themselves as a "white race." Of course, such a thing doesn't exist. "Race" is an artificial construct based on perceived differences in physical characteristics; humans are all one species. Painter weaves her story of the origins of "whiteness" from myriad threads, showing how the idea developed (the first "white people"— Caucasians — were slaves from the Caucasus, not the superior types that white supremacists envision), how racial theories began, and how those theories and, later, stereotypes were elaborated upon by race-obsessed Americans. This one will burst your preconceptions and make it clear that when it comes to race, we see only what we've been taught to see. — Kel Munger

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Throw Out Fifty Things

Gail Blanke

Hachette Book Group, $13.99/paperback

Gail Blanke is a life coach and former columnist for Real Simple, the consumer magazine known for its handy tips and tricks for improving and organizing readers' lives. In Throw Out Fifty Things, Blanke grabs you by the hand and marches you through a step-by-step process intended to help you clean up and clear out your living space room-by-room. But she's not just attacking those overstuffed coat closets and overflowing paper piles and files; she's also getting to the root of the attitudes — which we all need to ditch as well — that cause us to hoard or hang on too long. As I went through her book saying "so long" to all sorts of physical and mental "crap," I was proud of my work, even though I ended up still a few away from that magic No. 50. Goodbye, oh-so-cute but too-big jeans. Goodbye, novels I enjoyed once, but won't pick up again. Hello, beautiful, wonderful, imperfect me. — Kirsten Akens

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

Piper Kerman

Spiegel & Grau, $25/hardcover

You gotta love a book with a chapter titled "So Bitches Can Hate." But let me explain. This memoir of Piper Kerman's year spent in federal prison for a 10-year-old drug offense delves deeply and sensitively into the harsh world of women in prison. Kerman's anecdotes on jailhouse sisterhood and social codes are fascinating and entertaining. Orange covers not only Kerman's guilt for her crime, but the "unproductive misery" that permeates the modern prison system. Most moving, though, is the way Kerman approaches the other women, honestly and without judgment. She tries to understand their philosophies, including that of one woman awaiting marriage— only so she can flaunt her new husband in front of her jealous neighbors. So bitches can hate. — Edie Adelstein


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