Notable New Nonfiction: January 2017
Here are some highlights from the new nonfiction titles added to the catalog recently.
Find more reading suggestions at Books & More.
How to be Bored by Eva Hoffman
Lethargic inactivity can be debilitating and depressing, but in the modern world the pendulum has swung far in the other direction. We live in a hyperactive, over-stimulated age. Uninterrupted activity can seem exciting, but it can also leave us emotionally disorientated and mentally depleted. How can we recover a sense of balance and a richness in our lives? In How to Be Bored, Eva Hoffman argues for the need to cultivate curiosity and self-knowledge and to relish moments of unplugged idleness and non-virtual contact with others. Drawing on psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and a wide range of literature, she emphasizes the need to understand our own preferences and purposes and to replenish our inner resources. This book aims to make readers more vigorously engaged in their lives and to restore a sense of depth and meaning to their experiences.
Why Won't You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Goldhor Lerner
Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers compelling stories and solid theory that bring home how much the simple apology matters and what is required for healing when the hurt we’ve inflicted (or received) is far from simple. Readers will learn how to craft a deeply meaningful “I’m sorry” and avoid apologies that only deepen the original injury. She also addresses the compelling needs of the injured party—the one who has been hurt by someone who won’t apologize, tell the truth, or feel remorse. Lerner explains what drives both the non-apologizer and the over-apologizer, as well as why the people who do the worst things are the least able to own up. She helps the injured person resist pressure to forgive too easily and challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind. With her trademark humor and wit, Lerner offers a joyful and sanity-saving guide to setting things right.
Letters to a Young Muslim by Oam Saif Ghobash
In a series of personal letters to his sons, Ambassador Omar Saif Ghobash offers a short and highly readable manifesto that tackles our current global crisis with the training of an experienced diplomat and the personal responsibility of a father. Today’s young Muslims will be tomorrow’s leaders, and yet too many are vulnerable to extremist propaganda that seems omnipresent in our technological age. The burning question, Ghobash argues, is how moderate Muslims can unite to find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world. What does it mean to be a good Muslim? What is the concept of a good life? And is it acceptable to stand up and openly condemn those who take the Islamic faith and twist it to suit their own misguided political agendas? In taking a hard look at these seemingly simple questions, Ghobash encourages his sons to face issues others insist are not relevant, not applicable, or may even be Islamophobic. These letters serve as a clear-eyed inspiration for the next generation of Muslims to understand how to be faithful to their religion and still navigate through the complexities of today’s world.
Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality by James Kwak
“Economism”—an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of Economics 101, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits for self-serving ends. To illuminate the fallacies of economism, James Kwak offers a primer on supply and demand, market equilibrium, and social welfare: the underpinnings of most popular economic arguments. Then he focuses on the people who packaged economism into sound bites they then repeated until they took on the aura of truth. He shows us how issues of the moment in contemporary American society—labor markets, taxes, finance, health care, macroeconomic management, among others—are shaped by economism, demonstrating in each case with clarity and elan how, because of its failure to reflect the complexities of our world, it has had a deleterious influence on policies that affect hundreds of millions of Americans.
Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca by John McWhorter
It has now been almost fifty years since linguistic experts have been studying Black English as a legitimate speech variety, arguing to the public that it is different from Standard English, not a degradation of it. Yet false assumptions and controversies still swirl around what it means to speak and sound "Black." In his first book devoted solely to the form, structure, and development of Black English, John McWhorter clearly explains its fundamentals and rich history, while carefully examining the cultural, educational, and political issues that have undermined recognition of this transformative, empowering dialect. Talking Back, Talking Black takes us on a fascinating tour of a nuanced and complex language that has moved beyond America's borders to become a dynamic force for today's youth culture around the world.
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski
Did you know you can unveil the secrets of our universe using your toaster? Have you ever wondered how water travels from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown, how ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice, or why milk, when added to tea, looks like billowing storm clouds? In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski answers the “whys” behind everyday life and shows the surprisingly simple ways to test the properties that govern our universe. By linking ordinary objects and occurrences—like popcorn popping, coffee stains, or refrigerator magnets—to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative new medical testing, she gives us the tools to alter the way we see the world.
Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records by Adam Tanner
Hidden from consumers, patient medical data has become a multibillion-dollar worldwide trade between our health-care providers, drug companies, and a complex web of middlemen. This great medical-data bazaar sells copies of our prescriptions, hospital records, insurance claims, blood-test results, and more, stripped of names but still containing identifiers such as year of birth, gender, and doctor’s name. As computing grows ever more sophisticated, these patient dossiers are increasingly vulnerable to re-identification, which could make them a target for identity thieves or hackers. How can we best balance the promise big data offers to advance medicine and improve lives, while preserving the rights and interests of every patients. We, the patients, deserve a say in this discussion. After all, it’s our data.
Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life by Nato Thompson
In Culture as Weapon, acclaimed curator and critic Nato Thompson reveals how institutions use art and culture to mystify and manipulate us, ensure profits, constrain dissent--and shows us that there are alternatives. An eye-opening account of the way advertising, media, and politics work today, Culture as Weapon offers a radically new way of looking at our world.
Finishing School: The Happu Ending to that Writing Project You Can't Seem to get Done by Cary Tennis
Untold millions of writing projects--begun with hope and a little bit of hubris--lay abandoned in desk drawers, dated files on computer desktops, and the far reaches of the mind. Too often, writers get tangled in self-abuse--their self-doubt, shame, yearning for perfection, and even arrogance get in the way. In Finishing School, Tennis and Morton help writers overcome these emotional blocks and break down daunting projects into manageable pieces.
Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia by Lisa Dickey
Lisa Dickey traveled across the whole of Russia three times—in 1995, 2005 and 2015—making friends in eleven different cities, then coming back again and again to see how their lives had changed. Like the acclaimed British documentary series Seven Up!, she traces the ups and downs of ordinary people’s lives, in the process painting a deeply nuanced portrait of modern Russia.
True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire by Stephen Kinzer
Revealing a piece of forgotten history, Stephen Kinzer transports us to the dawn of the twentieth century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the nation. The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Not since the Revolution have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world grows from this one. It all starts here.
A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin's War with the West by Luke Harding
On November 1, 2006, journalist and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London. He died twenty-two days later. The cause of death? Polonium--a rare, lethal, and highly radioactive substance. Here Luke Harding unspools a real-life political assassination story--complete with KGB, CIA, MI6, and Russian mobsters. He shows how Litvinenko's murder foreshadowed the killings of other Kremlin critics, from Washington, DC, to Moscow, and how these are tied to Russia's current misadventures in Ukraine and Syria. In doing so, he becomes a target himself and unearths a chain of corruption and death leading straight to Vladimir Putin. From his investigations of the downing of flight MH17 to the Panama Papers, Harding sheds a terrifying light on Russia's fracturing relationship with the West.