It’s been quite a long while since I’ve done a “books I’d like to read” post, that’s for sure. This fall seems to be have a particularly exciting list of books so I thought I’d pull some of them together (as well as some older books) here for all our enjoyment. These are all books I don’t own yet, so they are not part of my towering to-read list. Yet.
I’m on sabbatical this academic year so I am trying to read and review books more diligently, aiming for about one per week. Maybe some of these will appear reviewed on the blog in the not too distant future.
WTF, Evolution?!: A Theory of Unintelligible Design by Mara Grunbaum
Mara Grunbaum is a very smart, very funny science writer who celebrates the best—or, really, the worst—of Evolution’s blunders. Here are more than 100 outlandish mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds, and other creatures whose very existence leaves us shaking our heads and muttering WTF?! Ms. Grunbaum’s especially brilliant stroke is to personify Evolution as a well-meaning but somewhat oblivious experimenter whose conversations with a skeptical narrator are hilarious.
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
In sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.
Bold Scientists: Dispatches from the Battle for Honest Science by Michael Riordon
Michael Riordon asks deep questions of bold scientists who defy the status quo including: an Indigenous biologist who integrates traditional knowledge and a trickster’s wit; an engineering professor who exposes the myths and dangers of fracking; a forensic geneticist who traces children stolen by the military in El Salvador; a sociologist who investigates the lure and threat of mass surveillance; a radical psychologist who confronts psychiatry’s dangerous power; and a young marine biologist who risks her career to defend science and democracy.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.
In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.
Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman
Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the battles over WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that the tricky story of her inside–outside status as Anon confidante, interpreter, and erstwhile mouthpiece forms one of the themes of this witty and entirely engrossing book.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef.
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder
In this daring and original book, Rudder explains how Facebook “likes” can predict, with surprising accuracy, a person’s sexual orientation and even intelligence; how attractive women receive exponentially more interview requests; and why you must have haters to be hot. He charts the rise and fall of America’s most reviled word through Google Search and examines the new dynamics of collaborative rage on Twitter. He shows how people express themselves, both privately and publicly. What is the least Asian thing you can say? Do people bathe more in Vermont or New Jersey? What do black women think about Simon & Garfunkel? (Hint: they don’t think about Simon & Garfunkel.) Rudder also traces human migration over time, showing how groups of people move from certain small towns to the same big cities across the globe. And he grapples with the challenge of maintaining privacy in a world where these explorations are possible.
The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William D. Nordhaus
Bringing together all the important issues surrounding the climate debate, Nordhaus describes the science, economics, and politics involved—and the steps necessary to reduce the perils of global warming. Using language accessible to any concerned citizen and taking care to present different points of view fairly, he discusses the problem from start to finish: from the beginning, where warming originates in our personal energy use, to the end, where societies employ regulations or taxes or subsidies to slow the emissions of gases responsible for climate change.
Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall
Most of us recognize that climate change is real, and yet we do nothing to stop it. What is this psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and the activists of the Texas Tea Party; the world’s leading climate scientists and the people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals. What he discovered is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.
The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
In their new book, Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan provide a vivid record of the events, conflicts, and social movements shaping our society today. They give voice to ordinary people standing up to corporate and government power across the country and around the world. Their writing and daily work at the grassroots public TV/radio news hour Democracy Now!, carried on more than a thousand stations globally and at democracynow.org, casts in stark relief the stories of the silenced majority. These stories are set against the backdrop of the mainstream media’s abject failure, with its small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, attempting to explain the world to us and getting it so wrong.
What else should I be reading?