We have an extraordinary connection to color--we give it meanings, associations, and properties that last millennia and span cultures, continents, and languages. In The World According to Color, James Fox takes seven elemental colors--black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple, and green--and uncovers behind each a root idea, based on visual resemblances and common symbolism throughout history. Through a series of stories and vignettes, the book then traces these meanings to show how they morphed and multiplied and, ultimately, how they reveal a great deal about the societies that produced them: reflecting and shaping their hopes, fears, prejudices, and preoccupations.
Robert Caro gives us a glimpse into his own life and work in these evocatively written, personal pieces. He describes what it was like to interview the mighty Robert Moses and to begin discovering the extent of the political power Moses wielded; the combination of discouragement and exhilaration he felt confronting the vast holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas; his encounters with witnesses, including longtime residents wrenchingly displaced by the construction of Moses' Cross-Bronx Expressway and Lady Bird Johnson acknowledging the beauty and influence of one of LBJ's mistresses. He gratefully remembers how, after years of working in solitude, he found a writers' community at the New York Public Library, and details the ways he goes about planning and composing his books. Taken together, these reminiscences--some previously published, some written expressly for this book--bring into focus the passion, the wry self-deprecation, and the integrity with which this brilliant historian has always approached his work.
Four years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth's legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated "on the basis of sex" to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship. Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers.
For every visibly Autistic person you meet, there are countless "masked" Autistic people who pass as neurotypical. Masking is a common coping mechanism in which Autistic people hide their identifiably Autistic traits in order to fit in with societal norms, adopting a superficial personality at the expense of their mental health. This can include suppressing harmless stims, papering over communication challenges by presenting as unassuming and mild-mannered, and forcing themselves into situations that cause severe anxiety, all so they aren't seen as needy or "odd." In Unmasking Autism, Dr. Devon Price shares his personal experience with masking and blends history, social science research, prescriptions, and personal profiles to tell a story of neurodivergence that has thus far been dominated by those on the outside looking in. For Dr. Price and many others, Autism is a deep source of uniqueness and beauty. Unfortunately, living in a neurotypical world means it can also be a source of incredible alienation and pain. Most masked Autistic individuals struggle for decades before discovering who they truly are. They are also more likely to be marginalized in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and other factors, which contributes to their suffering and invisibility. Dr. Price lays the groundwork for unmasking and offers exercises that encourage self-expression.
Even as climate change dominates the headlines, many of us still think about it in the future tense--we imagine that as global warming gets worse over the coming decades, millions of people will scatter around the world fleeing famine and rising seas. What we often don't realize is that the consequences of climate change are already visible, right here in the United States. In communities across the country, climate disasters are pushing thousands of people away from their homes. A human-centered narrative with national scope, The Great Displacement is "a vivid tour of the new human geography just coming into view" (David Wallace-Wells, New York Times bestselling author of The Uninhabitable Earth). From half-drowned Louisiana to fire-scorched California, from the dried-up cotton fields of Arizona to the soaked watersheds of inland North Carolina, people are moving. In the last few decades, the federal government has moved tens of thousands of families away from flood zones, and tens of thousands more have moved of their own accord in the aftermath of natural disasters. Insurance and mortgage markets are already shifting to reflect mounting climate risk, pricing people out of risky areas. Over the next fifty years, millions of Americans will be caught up in this churn of displacement, forced inland and northward in what will be the largest migration in our country's history. The Great Displacement compassionately tells the stories of those who are already experiencing life on the move, while detailing just how radically climate change will transform our lives--erasing historic towns and villages, pushing people toward new areas, and reshaping the geography of the United States.
Richard Overy sets out in Blood and Ruins to recast the way in which we view the Second World War and its origins and aftermath. As one of Britain's most decorated and respected World War II historians, he argues that this was the "last imperial war," with almost a century-long lead-up of global imperial expansion, which reached its peak in the territorial ambitions of Italy, Germany and Japan in the 1930s and early 1940s, before descending into the largest and costliest war in human history and the end, after 1945, of all territorial empires. Overy also argues for a more global perspective on the war, one that looks broader than the typical focus on military conflict between the Allied and Axis states. Above all, Overy explains the bitter cost for those involved in fighting, and the exceptional level of crime and atrocity that marked the war and its protracted aftermath--which extended far beyond 1945.
Every one of us contains a billion times more atoms than all the grains of sand in the earth's deserts. If you weigh 150 pounds, you've got enough carbon to make 25 pounds of charcoal, enough salt to fill a saltshaker, enough chlorine to disinfect several backyard swimming pools, and enough iron to forge a 3-inch nail. But how did these elements combine to make us human? All matter--everything around us and within us--has an ultimate birthday: the day the universe was born. This informative, eye-opening, and eminently readable book is the story of our atoms' long strange journey from the Big Bang to the creation of stars, through the assembly of Planet Earth, and the formation of life as we know it. It's also the story of the scientists who made groundbreaking discoveries and unearthed extraordinary insights into the composition of life. Behind their unexpected findings were investigations marked by fierce rivalries, obsession, heartbreak, flashes of insight, and flukes of blind luck. Ultimately they've helped us understand the mystery of our existence: how a quadrillion atoms made of particles from the Big Bang now animate each of our cells.
The Sackler name has adorned the walls of many storied institutions--Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, but the source of the family fortune was vague--until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d'Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. It follows the family's early success with Valium to the much more potent OxyContin, marketed with a ruthless technique of co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug's addictiveness. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability.
In the stark expanse of Northern Alberta, a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to write a novel, informed by a series of poignant encounters: a heart-to-heart with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; a meeting with Michael, a closeted man from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe. Woven throughout these conversations are memories of Jack, a cousin caught in the cycle of police violence, drugs, and survival. Jack's life parallels the narrator's own; the possibilities of escape and imprisonment are left to chance with colonialism stacking the odds.
We all think we know the South. Even those who have never lived there can rattle off a list of signifiers: the Civil War, Gone with the Wind, the Ku Klux Klan, plantations, football, Jim Crow, slavery. But the idiosyncrasies, dispositions, and habits of the region are stranger and more complex than much of the country tends to acknowledge. In South to America, Imani Perry shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole. This is the story of a Black woman and native Alabaman returning to the region she has always called home and considering it with fresh eyes. Her journey is full of detours, deep dives, and surprising encounters with places and people. She renders Southerners from all walks of life with sensitivity and honesty, sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life. Weaving together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, unsung heroes, her own ancestors, and her lived experiences, Imani Perry crafts a tapestry unlike any other. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line.
From facial recognition-capable of checking us onto flights or identifying undocumented residents-to automated decision systems that inform everything from who gets loans to who receives bail, each of us moves through a world determined by data-empowered algorithms. But these technologies didn't just appear: they are part of a history that goes back centuries, from the census enshrined in the US Constitution to the birth of eugenics in Victorian Britain to the development of Google search. Expanding on the popular course they created at Columbia University, Chris Wiggins and Matthew L. Jones illuminate the ways in which data has long been used as a tool and a weapon in arguing for what is true, as well as a means of rearranging or defending power. By understanding the trajectory of data-where it has been and where it might yet go-Wiggins and Jones argue that we can understand how to bend it to ends that we collectively choose, with intentionality and purpose.
Hailed as the "first freedom," free speech is the bedrock of democracy. But it is a challenging principle, subject to erosion in times of upheaval. Today, in democracies and authoritarian states around the world, it is on the retreat. In Free Speech, Jacob Mchangama traces the riveting legal, political, and cultural history of this idea. Through captivating stories of free speech's many defenders--from the ancient Athenian orator Demosthenes and the ninth-century freethinker al-Razi to the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells and modern-day digital activists--Mchangama reveals how the free exchange of ideas underlies all intellectual achievement and has enabled the advancement of both freedom and equality worldwide. Yet the desire to restrict speech, too, is a constant, and he explores how even its champions can be led down this path when the rise of new and contrarian voices challenge power and privilege of all stripes. Meticulously researched and deeply humane, Free Speech demonstrates how much we have gained from this principle--and how much we stand to lose without it.