Content Section

How to Hide a Famine

Stephen Shaver/AFP/Getty

At the height of the Great Famine, China hosted the World Championships of ping pong and managed to hide the deaths of nearly 44 million even with the eyes of the world on them.

The preparations had been thorough. In 1961, they had to be. In the last throes of the greatest famine on record, China was about to host its first ever World Championships. There would be journalists arriving alongside the athletes and officials. Somehow, China had to make sure the fact that up to 44 million people had died in the last three years remained an internal secret. And the sport chosen to cover such devastation was ping pong.One man had ensured that the Chinese were hosting the Championships at their time of need, even helping arrange the journalists’ visas.

Hoover's Legacy

They’ve Always Been Watching You

Jewel Samad/AFP

How ‘The Burglary,’ a new history of the FBI and government snooping, undermines President Obama’s legitimacy in the war on terror.

“History repeats itself,” Marx famously wrote, “first as tragedy, second as farce.”Such a formulation gives history way too much credit. Sure, the past is constantly generating its own sequels and spinoffs, but the progression is less often from Napoleon Bonaparte to Napoleon III or even from Danton to Caussidière (as Marx would have it). No, it’s more like going from M*A*S*H to After-MASH  or Josie and the Pussycats to Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.


How Michael Connelly Writes

Ulf Andersen/Getty

He blacks out his office and drinks gallons of tea—how the creator, Michael Connelly, of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller writes a book a year.

I understand that you’re a big Raymond Chandler fan. Which book is your favorite and why?It’s The Little Sister. What has inspired me for going on 40 years is chapter 13. In that chapter Philip Marlowe, frustrated by the events of the day and the case he’s on, takes a ride around Los Angeles. He ruminates a bit on what is going on in his case, but the chapter has little to do with plot, and everything to do with the interplay of character and place.


Hot Reads

This week, from the 1964 World’s Fair to people on the edge to saving the world.

Tomorrow-Landedited by Joseph TirellaA little more than a week before the 1964-65 World’s Fair was set to open its gates in Queens, The New York Journal-American ran a front page story charging that the mural Andy Warhol had created for the fair—a mural commissioned by architect Phillip Johnson—depicted, quite literally, the city’s worst face—or rather, faces. Warhol’s painting featured 22 images of the city’s 13 Most Wanted Criminals, “resplendent in all their scars, cauliflower ears, and other appurtenances of their trade.

Speed Read

Juiciest Bits From Bob Gates

Pool photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari

In his eagerly anticipated memoir ‘Duty,’ former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pulls no punches about President Obama, a threat from David Petraeus, and Nancy Pelosi’s bad side.

Famous for the decisions he made in two wars as well as for serving two presidents of opposing parties, Robert Gates’s memoir Duty leaves little room for misunderstanding how he saw people or events during his time as secretary of defense. Here are some of the juiciest bits from the memoir.He Wasn’t Awed by ObamaWhether it was his age (his nickname in the Obama administration became Yoda) or that he was a remnant of the Bush administration, Gates writes that he initially felt somewhat out of place.


What We Might Become

David Levenson/Getty

We’re not quite there yet, but imagine an America even more unequal where the rich and the rest live walled off from each other. Stefan Beck on Chang-rae Lee’s vision of where American could be going.

A significant majority of Americans—67 percent, per Bloomberg—believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. It is a little surprising, given the NSA surveillance scandal, the fiasco, and persistent long-term unemployment that anyone is still optimistic or naive enough to argue otherwise. But then, there are wrong directions and there are wrong directions. When one’s anxieties threaten to get out of hand, nothing lends a welcome bit of perspective and peace of mind like a well-crafted and frightening dystopia.

Unremarried Widow

In War, What Remains

Artis Henderson

Before he died, he wrote me a letter that I would find among the boot blousers and carabiners and thumbed-through magazines that the military shipped home.

My husband was killed in Iraq in the fall of 2006 at a time when the war made less and less sense. He died quickly but brutally in a helicopter crash outside Balad.In the week after his death, a casualty assistance officer sat at my kitchen table and asked if I would like to be notified if the military found partial remains, the pieces of my husband's body that might be recovered from the crash site after his funeral. Outside a late-autumn storm was building and the air in the room was damp.

Don't Shave

How to Be Cameron Diaz

Dave M. Benett/Getty

Cameron Diaz loves your body—especially your butt. In her first attempt at a published work, titled The Body Book, she explains why you 'ladies' should too.

In Cameron Diaz’s first attempt at a published work, The Body Book, the 41-year-old abandons her Charlie’s Angel-face to play the all-knowing, flawlessly-fit stepmom we never knew we wanted. Full of girl-power shout-outs like “Hello, Lady! and “Hey, GIRL!”, the book reads like a 400-page endorphin-induced love letter, but it’s more than that with a panel of experts who explain “the law of hunger, the science of strength, and other ways to love your amazing body.


Imagining the Internet in 1929

The Daily Beast

How José Ortega y Gasset's ‘The Revolt of the Masses’ helps us understand everything from YouTube to ‘Duck Dynasty.’

I first read José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses more than thirty years ago. I still remember how disappointed I was by this cantankerous book. I’d read other works by Ortega (1883-1955), and been impressed by the Spanish philosopher’s intelligence and insight. But this 1929 study of the modern world, his most famous book, struck me as hopelessly nostalgic and elitist.Yet I recently read The Revolt of the Masses again, and with a completely different response.


Fail Fast, Fail Often

Christof Stache/Getty

There’s something to notice about successful people: they act quickly, even if they may fail.

[Ed’s note: This piece is excerpted from Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win by Ryan Babineaux, PhD., and John Krumboltz, PhD., with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin. Copyright 2013 Ryan Babineaux, PhD., and John Krumboltz, PhD]In the book Art and Fear, the artists Ted Orland and David Waylon share a story about a ceramics teacher who tried an experiment with his class.The teacher divided the students into two groups. Those sitting on the left side of the studio were to be graded solely on the quantity of their work, while those on the right, solely on the quality.

Read This, Skip That

Can Great Lit Change Your Life?


Stop beating yourself over not reading the “right” books. Fiction is about two things: curiosity and pleasure.

I am a bad reader. I don’t mean that I don’t know how to read or that I don’t understand what I have read. And I’m about average when it comes to speed (no, I’ve never taken an Evelyn Woods course, but I once took their test and that’s what it said: I was smack in the middle of the pack).No, by bad reader, I mean someone who doesn’t finish books he doesn’t like, rereads old favorites at the expense of discovering something new, doesn’t worry about being broadminded, and prefers detective stories to Hemingway or Mary McCarthy.

New Rules

How to Stick to Resolutions

Kentaroo Tryman/Getty

It’s simple: decide not to decide. Here is how behavioral economics can help shape your habits and how you can make your New Year’s Resolution stick for good.

Many of us don’t need to come up with original New Year’s resolutions—we can simply use our list from last year. Most lists include a resolution to be “healthier”—exercise more, eat less, spend fewer hours on the couch—a commitment most individuals tend to follow religiously during the first couple of weeks of January, less so toward the end of the month, and eventually not at all when it comes time for that  “what the heck” dinner.Understanding WHY we fail can help us construct a plan that will actually increase our chances of sticking with these resolutions.

Numbers, Numbers

Don't Believe the Hype on Big Data

Jonathan Gayman/Getty

A new book heralds the promise that big data will reveal more and more about how we live our lives and what we think, but is it really that useful?

In 1996, the artist Karen Reimer alphabetized the entire text of a romance novel and published the results as the book Legendary, Lexical, Loquacious Love. By listing every instance of each word in the original novel, she allowed the frequencies of words to tell a subversive story about the entire genre of the romance novel. The word “beautiful” appears 29 times, and “breasts” occupies one-third of a page. “Her” fills eight pages, while “his” fills only two and a half.


The Week’s Best Reads

From the man who miraculously survived falling overboard to the crazy micro-genres Netflix uses to suggest movies, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

A Speck in the Sea Paul Tough, The New York Times Magazine John Aldridge fell overboard in the middle of the night, 40 miles from shore, and the Coast Guard was looking in the wrong place. How did he survive?How Netflix Reverse-Engineered Hollywood Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic To understand how people look for movies, the video service created 76,897 micro-genres. We took the genre descriptions, broke them down to their key words… and built our own new-genre generator.

Just Think

Transform Your Sad Life

Alexandre Normand/Getty

It’s a new year, and once again Americans will stuff their heads with mindless optimism and pathological hope. Try reading these books instead to find real wisdom about life.

As the New Year dawns, let’s admit that the American psyche is a dilapidated maze of funhouse mirrors that leads nowhere. It should not shock even the most credulous patriot that many people who spend their internal lives within this maze of narcissism and dysfunction have major problems. One in five Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The New York Times recently reported that suicide rates are rising so rapidly and steadily that more Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents.

Get Excited

The New Year’s Big Culture Moments

Gabriela Hasbun/Redux

There’s a lot to be stoked about in pop culture this year. From ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ to ‘Inherent Vice’ and ‘Divergent,’ here’s what we can’t wait for.

2014 Winter Olympics—Feb. 7-23 The XXII Winter Olympics—the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympic Games—will take place in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7-23. And, with a price tag estimated at $51 billion (and climbing), it’s supposed to be the most expensive Olympics ever. There are a total of 15 sports in the games, including skiing, bobsleigh, and figure skating, and the event will be broadcast on NBC in the U.S. It’s also not without controversy. U.


The Person of the Year

Alexey Kudenko/RIA Novosti, via Getty

Time magazine picked the pope, but look to China and you’ll see a new leader playing for big stakes at home.

In the league of major global power players nobody has had a stronger year than Xi Jinping, the stocky, 60-year-old boss of the world’s rising superpower. Since becoming head of the monopoly Communist Party 13 months ago, he has established himself as China’s strongest leader since Deng Xiaoping and aims to carve out a historical role for himself to equal the man who set the world’s most heavily populated country on its rise to become the world’s second largest economy.

Those Were the Days

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1913


It was a magnificent year—a year of innovation and triumph. Perhaps the best year of our lives. Charles Emmerson reflects on the year passed and what 1914 has in store for us all.

Dear Reader,That time of year is now upon us when old Father Time seems to slow his pace a little and a reflective cast of mind steals over us all. Even the scribblers of The Daily Beast are allowed a day or two away from their ink-wells, from the tap-tap-tap of the telegraph and from the daily avalanche of events with which the news reporter of the twentieth century must contend.Either fondly or with curses, it is a time to look back at a year grown familiar to us now.

Don't Miss

The Year's Best Hot Reads

Ed Andrieski/AP

From a collection of Iranian short stories to a tale of a self-style prophet's post-frontier standoff in Alaska, here are the books you might have missed in 2013.

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli TaraghiBorn in Tehran in 1939, Goli Taraghi was a teenager during Iran’s 1953 coup and a grown woman during the 1979 revolution. Both upheavals feature prominently in her writing, but the stories collected in The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons are hardly polemical. Political tumult instead merely provides the backdrop of the transformations of her characters, young and old. The adolescent girls of “Flowers of Shiraz” can hardly comprehend the change underway in their country: In the run-up to Mossadeq’s ouster, they ride their bikes through the city, meeting for ice cream, flirting with boys, and racing through the hills, despite the protests on the streets.

Your Move

How to Lead Better


Empires rise and fall, leaders fail and succeed, but the art of strategy is forever. James Warren on the ultimate history to Western strategy and what it teaches us about our history.

Strategy: A History, is an ambitious and sprawling book by a British military historian who has written widely, and very well, about nuclear and cold war strategy, the Falklands War, and contemporary military affairs, among other subjects. Sir Lawrence Freedman prefaces his more than 700-page investigation of a vast and important topic with a telling aphorism from an unexpected corner: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.

How I Write