See TIME's picks for our favorite titles from the front half of the year
It’s turning into a big year for readers. Though highly-anticipated releases from authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Harper Lee remain on the horizon, 2015 has already produced enough great books to topple a nightstand.
To help you sort through the year’s offerings or choose which titles to add to your summer reading list, TIME has ranked the best books of 2015 (so far). The picks span genre and form — including a darkly enchanting collection of short stories, a delightful novel featuring a dysfunctional bride-to-be and a singing memoir chronicling both grief and, yes, taming a hawk. Happy reading!
Atkinson covers four generations of the Todd family that was at the center of her novel, Life After Life. The narrative jumps throughout the 20th century around the story of Teddy Todd, a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II who struggles with his postwar survival.
When disaster dooms the planet, people across the world unite to send a coalition into outer space and ensure the survival of their species. After 5,000 years, seven races of humans stem from the survivors, and they attempt to return to a changed earth.
Lily Wilder, a promiscuous lawyer in New York, prepares to marry her archaeologist fiancé, Will. The novel follows her difficulties embracing monogamy in both theory and practice, told with the inflection of Lily’s humor.
Each of these nine stories takes place in a seemingly normal setting, such as a hotel or at a birthday party, into which dark elements of the fantastic and supernatural subtly intrude.
A collection of tales from virtuoso storyteller Neil Gaiman, ranging from horror to science fiction to fairy tales to verse. They include “adventure story,” Gaiman’s rumination on death, and “a calendar of tales,” short takes inspired by his replies to fan tweets.
An experienced falconer, Macdonald resolves to train a vicious predator, the goshawk, as a means to cope with the death of her father. This stunning memoir explores the deep strange bond she forms with her bird.
The Story of Alice charts the curious, controversial friendship between Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (more commonly known as Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he created Alice in Wonderland. The book also explores how and why Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, have had such lasting cultural resonance.
Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen’s passionate, opinionated, deeply reported exploration of the long road that led the Tsarnaev brothers to commit the Boston Marathon bombing. She traces the family’s history from Chechnya to a precarious Boston-area immigrant demi-monde, asking urgent questions and avoiding simple answers.
Inspired by diaries from her childhood, Heidi Julavits chronicles her daily life in this diary-form memoir that is simultaneously about small details and big ideas.
Journalist Stephen Witt writes a lucid, mordantly funny account of the rise of digital music piracy, starting with the story of a worker in a North Carolina CD-pressing plant who personally leaked more than 2,000 albums over eight years.
It comes out early Wednesday morning+ READ ARTICLE
Microsoft is rolling out Windows 10 beginning at 12 a.m. ET Wednesday morning. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest Windows operating system before installing it.
Microsoft’s personal digital assistant will feel familiar to anyone who regularly gives commands to Siri or Google Now, with one essential difference: Cortana will be baked into your desktop. As a result, Cortana can conduct a single search across your hard drive, as well as the cloud and the web, bundling the results into a single pop-up menu.
Ready to make the move to Windows 10? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to installing it. As with all major upgrades, remember to back up your machine first. It’s also a good idea to check if your computer can handle the new software.
When Microsoft’s Windows 10 launches Wednesday, a lucky few users will be greeted at the login screen by a cartoon eyeball that appears to want to lock eyes with its owner. Do so, and it will activate a 3-D face scan that signs in users in seconds, no password required. The Windows team calls this snappy new login feature “Hello.”
Windows 10 has a screen sensing feature called “Continuum,” which morphs your device’s layout according to how you’re using it. Got a touchscreen? Windows 10 strips away the tiny menus and fattens up the buttons. A PC? Back they go for easy clicking. The seamless switch from tablet to desktop suddenly makes those 2-in-1 tablet PCs — like Microsoft’s own Surface lineup — a far more enticing proposition.
Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software, out Wednesday, is effectively a sneak attack on Google, packing a new desktop search bar that can field just about any question under the sun. And it’s powered in part by Microsoft’s own Bing search engine, meaning the move could help Microsoft gain even more of the search market share against its foremost rival.
Microsoft’s effort to right those wrongs arrives this week with Wednesday’s launch of Windows 10 (the company skipped “Windows 9″). Windows 10 lets users easily restore the old Windows interface, while simultaneously gently nudging people to try the new style, too. I’ve been using a beta version of Windows 10 for some time, and it feels like a solid operating system. Over time, it will probably help Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reach his goal of having 1 billion Windows-powered devices on the market by the next two-to-three years.
Microsoft’s Cortana team says the goal is to strike up a chatty, inoffensive rapport with users, in the hope that users will reward Cortana with their trust and open the kimono on their personal data. That data is critical to Cortana’s success, because if Microsoft wants to outwit the brainiest digital assistants on the market — Apple’s Siri and Google Now — Cortana will first need to take a good, hard look at your browser history, your emails and your web searches. With your permission, of course.
Microsoft has kept that dividing line in mind when designing the next generation of Office apps for Windows 10, which launches this summer. TIME got an early look at the new Windows Phone apps this week, which will be released in preview mode for Windows Phone Insiders by the end of the month. The company hopes the software’s new interfaces will let workers switch seamlessly from desktops to tablets to smartphones without straining their eyes, fingers or thumbs.
App developers whistled and applauded at Microsoft’s bombshell announcement Wednesday that they’ll be able to take code for Android and Apple apps and import it directly into the Windows ecosystem.
Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other.
Microsoft has confirmed it will make Windows 10 available for purchase via a USB stick, replacing the iconic disc packages that have defined the brand’s image for decades.
Everyone from Oprah to Missy Elliot shared condolences online+ READ ARTICLE
It wasn’t long after Whitney Houston’s family confirmed that the late singer’s 22-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, had died, that social media was flooded with condolences.
Brown died on Sunday, nearly six months after she was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Georgia home in late January. The young woman never fully regained consciousness and had been on life-support since the incident.
The only daughter of Houston — who died three years ago from an accidental drowning in a bathtub — and singer Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina had spent much of her life in the limelight. As news of her death spread, everyone from Reverend Al Sharpton to Oprah and Missy Elliot to Ava DuVernay expressed their sadness and offered condolences to the family on Twitter.
But isn't that pretty much everything?
Foreign diplomats are no longer allowed to keep content critical of the North Korean regime or supreme leader Kim Jong Un, according to a new ordinance.
Anything considered slanderous to the Hermit Kingdom or Kim, which could include photographs, movies, literature or files saved on phones or computers, can no longer be kept by foreign embassies or international organizations in the capital Pyongyang, reports UPI.
The U.K. has decried the ban as a violation of international standards of human rights. The ordinance, issued June 26, comes on the heels of a U.K. Foreign Office report on human rights and democracy, which classified North Korea as a “human-rights concern” for reasons including its limits on freedom of expression.
North Korea has a long history of censorship and is considered one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Late last year, U.S. envoy to the U.N. Samantha Power accused Pyongyang of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, apparently in retaliation for the release of the studio’s The Interview, a movie parodying Kim and the regime.
Compared with the general population, diplomats live in relative comfort. But the ban is another in a long list of inconveniences, which includes frequent blackouts due to power shortages.
The 23-year-old Cork native says he's turned down top roles to trend the boards
Jack Gleeson has kept busy in the year since his hated character on Game of Thrones was dramatically killed off.
The Irish star, who played King Joffrey in the HBO drama, has taken a break from the silver screen to found his own theater company and is preparing to debut the off-beat comedy Bears in Space at London’s Soho Theatre.
Gleeson started the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company with friends he met while at university, quashing rumors that the star would retire after his grisly Game of Thrones exit.
“Offers [for blockbuster roles] came in, but I just had a lack of desire to do a big action movie. What I enjoy most is this kind of thing, where I can have fun with my friends,” Gleeson told the London Evening Standard.
His latest production is about the thawing of two cryogenically frozen bears and their subsequent romp through space. The play has been well-received and was deemed a “must-see” by a review in Edinburgh Festivals Magazine.
Bears in Space plays at the Soho Theatre from Aug. 3 to 22.
The latest Republican to enter the crowded 2016 field was set to announce his run for the White House on Tuesday+ READ ARTICLE
The first known reference to apple pie was in 1589
Food is one of the most basic necessities of life, but just because it’s basic doesn’t mean it’s simple. (Yes, even pie.)
Over the years, TIME has occasionally hosted a regular “brief history of” feature, and it often took a look at some of the facts that lie behind what’s on our plates. From the disputed Buffalo wing creation myth to peanut-butter-based health trends of the 19th century, those stories add the flavor of history to items that are already pretty flavorful on their own.
Here are some of our favorites:
The “pye”—as it used to be spelled—is a venerable dish, which can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. But those pastry-based dishes weren’t the desserts we tend to think of today. Instead, they were overwhelmingly savory dishes. And for good reason: the crusts could help the contents of the pie (meat, typically) last a little longer than they would otherwise.
Even apple pies didn’t used to look the way they do now:
There are few things as American as apple pie, as the saying goes, but like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes came from England. These pre-Revolutionary prototypes were made with unsweetened apples and encased in an inedible shell. Yet the apple pie did develop a following, and was first referenced in the year 1589, in Menaphon by poet R. Greene: “Thy breath is like the steeme of apple pies.”
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Pie
Eggnog is centuries old, it turns out:
While culinary historians debate its exact lineage, most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. By the 13th century, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.
But it wasn’t always associated with the end-of-year holiday season. That happened when the drink came to the Americas; even George Washington had his own signature recipe for eggnog, which by his time had begun to be made with rum.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Eggnog
This peculiarly patterned breakfast staple has a surprisingly long and illustrious history. The ancient Greeks used a tool kind of like a waffle iron to make cakes, and the treat came to the New World with some of its earliest European settlers:
Waffles arrived in the U.S. with the Pilgrims, who sampled them in Holland en route to Massachusetts. Thomas Jefferson reportedly brought a waffle iron home from France around 1789, helping spark a fad for waffle parties in the States.
But it wasn’t until the 1930s that a California family combined instant waffle mix, electricity and ingenuity to come up with a way to mass-produce waffles. The eventual result, if you haven’t already guessed, was Eggos.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Waffles
Peanut butter’s origins are a bit mysterious. Contrary to the popular myth that George Washington Carter came up with the idea, there’s evidence that some version of peanut butter was being made at least a couple decades before he published his 1916 text How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption:
Peanut butter’s true inventor is unknown, but Dr. John Harvey Kellogg has as good a claim to the title as anyone. In 1895, the cereal pioneer patented a process for turning raw peanuts into a butter-like vegetarian health food that he fed to clients at his Battle Creek, Mich., sanatorium. The taste caught on, and in a few years, the spread had gone mainstream.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Peanut Butter
Unlike peanut butter, Buffalo wings have a an easily identified origin: Buffalo, N.Y. But what exactly happened to spark its birth is a little blurrier:
There are at least two different versions of the Buffalo wing’s origin, although they contain the same basic facts. The first plate of wings was served in 1964 at a family-owned establishment in Buffalo called the Anchor Bar. The wings were the brainchild of Teressa Bellissimo, who covered them in her own special sauce and served them with a side of blue cheese and celery because that’s what she had available. Except for the occasional naysayer who claims to be the true inventor, these facts are reasonably undisputed. The rest of the story is anybody’s guess.
In one version of the story, the dish was invented merely to get rid of a surplus of chicken wings; in another version, Bellissimo’s son specifically asked for wings.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Buffalo Wings
The American maple-syrup industry can be traced back to the 17th century, when farmers began to tap the trees on their properties for a sweetener that was, at the time, cheaper than sugar:
Early settlers in the U.S. Northeast and Canada learned about sugar maples from Native Americans. Various legends exist to explain the initial discovery. One is that the chief of a tribe threw a tomahawk at a tree, sap ran out and his wife boiled venison in the liquid. Another version holds that Native Americans stumbled on sap running from a broken maple branch.
The old system of making maple syrup—leaving buckets under taps, collecting sap, hauling the buckets to the sugar house to be heated—was eventually widely replaced by a method that used tubes and vacuums rather than buckets and gravity.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Maple Syrup
Salt isn’t technically a food in itself, but it makes so many foods taste so much better that we couldn’t leave it off the list. Plus, its history is one of the longest, most interesting food stories out there, dating all the way back to the days when, as TIME put it in 1982, “animals wore paths to salt licks [and] men followed.” Salt was, eventually, one of the pillars of civilization:
Not only did salt serve to flavor and preserve food, it made a good antiseptic, which is why the Roman word for these salubrious crystals (sal) is a first cousin to Salus, the goddess of health. Of all the roads that led to Rome, one of the busiest was the Via Salaria, the salt route, over which Roman soldiers marched and merchants drove oxcarts full of the precious crystals up the Tiber from the salt pans at Ostia. A soldier’s pay—consisting in part of salt—came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word salary. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Salt
Though the word “barbecue” is misapplied to all manner of grilled meats, it actually refers to a specific process (indirect heat, slow cooking) and comes from a specific tradition:
No one is really sure where the term barbecue originated. The conventional wisdom is that the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. By the 19th century, the culinary technique was well established in the American South, and because pigs were prevalent in the region, pork became the primary meat at barbecues.
Eventually, barbecue separated into several regional styles with their own preferences for meats and flavors.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Barbecue
So, you run out and make or buy all these foods, now that they’re on your mind, but there’s no way you can eat them all right away. Which brings us to leftovers. It’s not as if someone had to “invent” the idea of saving what remains at the end of a meal—after all, in the pre-modern feast-and-famine cycle, saving the fruit of the harvest was a matter of life and death. But that doesn’t mean that the look of leftovers hasn’t changed over the years. Thanks, largely, to refrigeration:
According to Dupont, which later invented the coolant Freon, ice was harvested where it formed naturally — including from New York City’s rivers — and shipped to the South, all in the name of food storage. In the 1840s, a Florida physician named John Gorrie, trying to cool the rooms where patients were suffering from yellow fever, figured out how to make ice using mechanical refrigeration, paving the way for household refrigerators that appeared in American homes en masse in the 1920s and 1930s. It wasn’t a moment too soon. As families struggled to feed their children during the Great Depression, it was unthinkable to throw away leftovers.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Leftovers
Doctors believe early rather than continuous treatment with antiretrovirals is key
The first case of a woman in long-term HIV remission despite not receiving treatment for many years has been documented in France.
The 18-year-old was HIV-positive at birth and given antiretroviral drugs as a child, but her family decided to cease the treatment when she reached the age of 6. Twelve years have passed and today her viral load is too low to be measured. Doctors can’t figure out why the women’s HIV has stalled.
“With this first, highly documented case of this young woman, we provide the proof of concept that long-term remission is possible in children, as in adults,” Dr. Asier Sáez-Cirión, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, told the BBC.
“However, these cases are still very rare,” he said.
Some experts believe that early treatment is the key to future remission, but large-scale studies still need to be conducted to nail down this theory.
Although there is still much to learn, predicting HIV remission has been the subject of studies in the past. Sáez-Cirión previously led a research group of 14 patients who had no sign of the virus re-emerging after coming off antiretroviral drugs. Thirteen years passed and the patients’ viral loads remained low.
Hisao Tanaka, company president and chief executive, resigned on Wednesday
In one of the Japan’s largest ever accounting scandals, investigators found that bosses at tech giant Toshiba had systematically betrayed the trust of the stakeholders by fudging the firm’s accounting for more than seven years, embellishing earnings by $1.2 billion.
The underpinnings of corporate corruption at Toshiba were exposed after an investigation by a former Tokyo prosecutor on Monday, finding top executives wrapped up in a culture of deceit. Toshiba President Hisao Tanaka quit Wednesday over the affair, while his predecessor, Norio Sasaki, is also expected to step down from his current role as vice chairman, reports AFP.
“Toshiba had a corporate culture in which management decisions could not be challenged,” said a summary of the investigator’s report. “Employees were pressured into inappropriate accounting by postponing loss reports or moving certain costs into later years.”
Securities regulators first discovered irregularities on the company’s balance sheet earlier this year, causing Toshiba shares to drop more than 20% since May.
In light of the scandal, the company will have to restate its earnings by 151.8 billion yen ($1.2 billion) for the period between April 2008 and March 2014.
The affair comes only two years after a handful of Olympus executives were accused of orchestrating a $1.7 billion accounting fraud scheme, which left the company to pay a fine of 700 million yen ($5.6 million).