The Invention of Nature

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World
by Andrea Wulf

Q 143 .H9 W85 2015

“The acclaimed author of Founding Gardeners reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world – and in the process created modern environmentalism.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769 – 1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. In North America, his name still graces four counties, thirteen towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax-infected Siberia or translating his research into best-selling publications that changed science and thinking. Among Humboldt’s most revolutionary ideas was a radical vision of nature, that it is a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone.

Now Andrew Wulf brings the man and his achievements back into focus: his daring expeditions and investigation of wild environments around the world and his discoveries of similarities between climate and vegetation zones on different continents. She also discusses his prediction of human-induced climate change, his remarkable ability to fashion poetic narrative out of scientific observation, and his relationships wit iconic figures such as Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Wulf examines how Humboldt’s writings inspired other naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe, and she makes the compelling case that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of natural preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s Walden.

With this brilliantly researched and compellingly written book, Andrea Wulf shows the myriad fundamental ways in which Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world, and she champions a renewed interest in this vital and lost player in environmental history and science.”
– publisher description

The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments

The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments
edited and introduced by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley

B 805 .S76 2016

“Once solely the province of ivory-tower professors and college classrooms, contemporary philosophy was finally emancipated from its academic closet in 2010, when The Stone launched in The New York Times. First appearing as an online series, the column quickly attracted millions of readers through its accessible examination of universal topics like the nature of science, consciousness and morality, while also probing more contemporary issues such as the morality of drones, gun control and the gender divide.

Now collected for the first time in this handsomely designed volume, The Stone Reader presents 133 meaningful and influential essays from the series, placing nearly the entirety of modern philosophical discourse at a reader’s grasp. The book, divided into four broad sections – Philosophy, Science, Religion and Morals, and Society – opens with a series of questions about the scope, history and identity of philosophy: What are the practical uses of philosophy? Does the discipline, begun in the West in ancient Greece with Socrates, favor men and exclude women? Does the history and study of philosophy betray a racial bias against non-white thinkers, or geographical bias toward the West?

These questions and others form a foundation for readers as the book moves to the second section, Science, where some of our most urgent contemporary philosophical debates are taking place. Will artificial intelligence compromise our morality? Does neuroscience undermine our free will? Is there a legitimate place for the humanities in a world where science and technology appear to rule? Should the evidence for global warming change the way we live, or die?

In the book’s third section, Religion and Morals, we find philosophy where it is often at its best, sharpest and most disturbing – working through the arguments provoked by competing moral theories in the face of real-life issues and rigorously addressing familiar ethical dilemmas in a new light. Can we have a true moral life without belief in God? What are the dangers of moral relativism?

In its final part, Society, The Stone Reader returns to its origins as a forum to encourage philosophers who are willing to engage closely, critically and analytically with the affairs of the day, including economic inequality, technology and racial discrimination. In directly confronting events like the September 11 attacks, the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Sandy Hook School massacre, the essays here reveal the power of philosophy to help shape our viewpoints on nearly every issue we face today.

With an introduction by Peter Catapano that details the column’s founding and distinct editorial process at The New York Times, and prefatory notes to each section by Simon Critchley, The Stone Reader promises to become not only an intellectual landmark but also a confirmation that philosophy is, indeed, for everyone.”
– publisher description

Design: The Definitive Visual History

Design: The Definitive Visual History by DK Publishing

NK 1175 .D476 2015

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

“With these words, pioneer of design William Morris summed up his philosophy. This dedication to creating works that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing – and that were intended to be used by everyone – laid the foundations of modern design.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the utensils of everyday life were mostly handmade, traditional objects with one purpose in mind – doing their job. Beautiful, lavishly crafted artifacts were the preserve of a wealthy minority, and were usually one of a kind. This changed in the 19th century with the modernization of manufacturing techniques and the arrival of mass production. Suddenly there was a new generation of products, matched by an emerging middle class eager to own affordable goods that worked well, improved their quality of life, and most importantly, were pleasing to look at. Modern design was born.

This book traces the evolution of design from its roots to the present day, from early chairs, pottery, and homewares to cars, graphics, computers, and more. It presents key figures, manufacturers, and objects, illustrating how and why different styles emerged and became popular; it also provides an insight into design movements, showing how each one began, and explaining its distinct philosophy and visual style, from the Arts and Crafts movement to postmodernism and beyond.

Featuring expert analysis, stunning photography, and a huge range of objects both everyday and extraordinary, this book explains what makes truly great design and reveals the hidden story behind the objects all around us.”
– publisher description

My Life on the Road

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

HQ 1413 .S675 A3 2015

“Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. When she was a young girl, her father would pack the family in the car every fall and drive across country searching for adventure and trying to make a living. The seeds were planted: Gloria realized that growing up didn’t have to mean settling down. And so began a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change and revolution.

My Life on the Road is the moving, funny, and profound story of Gloria’s growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for equality – and the story of how surprising encounters on the road shaped both. From her first experience of social activism among women in India to her work as a journalist in the 1960s; from the whirlwind of political campaigns to the founding of Ms. magazine; from the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference to her travels through Indian Country – a lifetime spent on the road allowed Gloria to listen and connect deeply with people, to understand that context is everything, and to become part of a movement that would change the world.

In prose that is revealing and rich, Gloria reminds us that living in an open, observant, and “on the road” state of mind can make a difference in how we learn, what we do, and how we understand each other.”
– publisher description

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Rise of America’s 1960s Counterculture by Robert C. Cottrell

E 169.12 .C68 2015

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Rise of America’s 1960s Counterculture offers a unique examination of the cultural flowering that enveloped the United States during that early postwar decade. Robert C. Cottrell provides an enthralling view of the counterculture, beginning with an examination of American bohemia, the Lyrical Left of the pre-WWII era, and the hipsters. He delves into the Beats, before analyzing the counterculture that emerged on both the East and the West coasts, but soon cropped up in the American heartland as well. Cottrell delivers something of a collective biography, through an exploration of the antics of seminal countercultural figures Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey. Cottrell also presents fascinating chapters covering “the magic elixir of sex,” rock ‘n’ roll, the underground press, Haight-Ashbury, the literature that garnered the attention of many in the counterculture, Monterey Pop, the Summer of Love, the Death of Hippie, the March on the Pentagon, communes, Yippies, Weatherman, Woodstock, the Manson family, the women’s movement, and the decade’s legacies.”
– publisher description

Vitamania

Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection by Catherine Price

QP 771 .P76 2015

“Most of us know nothing about vitamins. What’s more, what we think we know is harming both our personal nutrition and our national health. By focusing on vitamins at the expense of everything else, we’ve become blind to the bigger picture: despite our belief that vitamins are an absolute good – and the more of them, the better – vitamins are actually small and surprisingly mysterious pieces of a much larger nutritional puzzle. In Vitamania, award-winning journalist Catherine Price offers a lucid and lively journey through our cherished yet misguided beliefs about vitamins, and reveals a straightforward, blessedly anxiety-free path to enjoyable eating and good health.

When vitamins were discovered a mere century ago, they changed the destiny of the human species by preventing and curing many terrifying diseases. Yet it wasn’t long before vitamins spread from labs of scientists into the realm of food marketers and began to take on a life of their own. By the end of the Second World War, vitamins were available in forms never before seen in nature – vitamin gum, vitamin doughnuts, even vitamin beer – and their success showed food manufacturers that adding synthetic vitamins to otherwise nutritionally empty products could convince consumers that they were healthy. The era of “vitamania,” as one 1940s journalism called it, had begun.

Though we’ve gained much from our embrace of vitamins, what we’ve lost is a crucial sense of perspective. Vitamins may be essential to our lives, but they are not the only important substances in food. By buying into a century of hype and advertising, we have accepted the false idea that particular dietary chemicals can be used as shortcuts to health – whether they be antioxidants or omega-3s or, yes, vitamins. And it’s our vitamin-inspired desire for effortless shortcuts that created today’s dietary supplement industry, a veritable Wild West of overpromising “miracle” substances that can be legally sold without any proof that they are effective or safe.

For the countless individuals seeking to maximize their health and who consider vitamins to be the keys to well-being, Price’s Vitamania will be a game-changing look into the roots of America’s ongoing nutritional confusion. Her travels to vitamin manufacturers and food laboratories and military testing kitchens – along with her deep dive into the history of nutritional science – provide a witty and dynamic narrative arc that binds Vitamania together. The result is a page-turning exploration of the history, science, hype, and future of nutrition. And her ultimate message is both inspiring and straight-forward: given all that we don’t know about vitamins and nutrition, the best way to decide what to eat is to stop obsessing and simply embrace this uncertainty head-on.

By exposing our extraordinary psychological relationship with vitamins and challenging us to question our beliefs, Vitamania won’t just change the way we think about vitamins. It will change the way we think about food.”
– publisher description

The Comedians

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff

PS 430 .N46 2015

“Jokes change from one generation to another, but the experience of the stand-up comedian transcends the ages: the striving and struggles, the tragedy and triumph. From the Marx Brothers to Milton Berle, George Carlin to Eddie Murphy, Conan O’Brien to Louis C.K. – comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff presents a century of fascinating rebels, forgotten stars, and characters on the precipice of fame in this essential history of American comedy.

Starting with the vaudeville circuit at the turn of the last century, Nesteroff introduces the first stand-up comedian – an emcee who abandoned physical shtick for straight jokes. After the repeal of Prohibition, Mafia-run supper clubs replaced speakeasies, and mobsters replaced vaudeville impresarios as the comedian’s primary employer. In the 1950s, the late night television talk show brought stand-up to a wide public, while Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, and Jonathan Winters attacked conformity and staged a comedy rebellion in coffeehouses.

From comedy’s part in the Civil Rights movement and the social upheaval of the late 1960s, to the first comedy clubs of the 1970s and the cocaine-fueled comedy boom on the 1980s, The Comedians culminates with a new era of media-driven celebrity in the twenty-first century. Based on two hundred original interviews and extensive archival research, The Comedians is a sharply written and highly entertaining look at one hundred years of comedy, and a valuable exploration of the way comedians have reflected, shaped, and changed American culture along the way.”
– publisher description