New books

You can find the complete list of new acquisitions on the New books page. The list includes all English-language books bought by the Library in the last two month (and published in the last five years), the books are grouped according to theme and title.

Here you can read selected book recommendations from the list of the new books.

Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age

Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age / Sherry Turkle
New York: Penguin, 2015. 436 p.

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.
Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.
We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.
The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.
But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.
Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.
The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

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Moral disengagement

Moral disengagement  / Albert Bandura
New York: Worth, 2016. 542 p.

How do otherwise considerate human beings do cruel things and still live in peace with themselves? Drawing on his agentic theory, Dr. Bandura provides a definitive exposition of the psychosocial mechanism by which people selectively disengage their moral self-sanctions from their harmful conduct. They do so by sanctifying their harmful behavior as serving worthy causes; they absolve themselves of blame for the harm they cause by displacement and diffusion of responsibility; they minimize or deny the harmful effects of their actions; and they dehumanize those they maltreat and blame them for bringing the suffering on themselves. Dr. Bandura’s theory of moral disengagement is uniquely broad in scope. Theories of morality focus almost exclusively at the individual level. He insightfully extends the disengagement of morality to the social-system level through which wide-spread inhumanities are perpetrated. In so doing, he offers enlightening new perspectives on some of the most provocative issues of our time, addressing:

Moral disengagement in all aspects of the death penalty—from public policy debates, to jury decisions, to the processes of execution

The social and moral justifications of major industries—including gun manufacturers, the entertainment industry, tobacco companies, and the world of "too big to fail" finance Moral disengagement in terrorism, and how terrorists rationalize the use of violence as a means of social change

Climate change denial, and the strenuous efforts by some to dispute the overwhelming scientific consensus affirming theimpact of human behavior on the environment.

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Uncreative writing

Uncreative writing / Kenneth Goldsmith
New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2011. 260 p.

Can techniques traditionally thought to be outside the scope of literature, including word processing, databasing, identity ciphering, and intensive programming, inspire the reinvention of writing? The Internet and the digital environment present writers with new challenges and opportunities to reconceive creativity, authorship, and their relationship to language. Confronted with an unprecedented amount of texts and language, writers have the opportunity to move beyond the creation of new texts and manage, parse, appropriate, and reconstruct those that already exist. In addition to explaining his concept of uncreative writing, which is also the name of his popular course at the University of Pennsylvania, Goldsmith reads the work of writers who have taken up this challenge. Examining a wide range of texts and techniques, including the use of Google searches to create poetry, the appropriation of courtroom testimony, and the possibility of robo-poetics, Goldsmith joins this recent work to practices that date back to the early twentieth century. Writers and artists such as Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Andy Warhol embodied an ethos in which the construction or conception of a text was just as important as the resultant text itself. By extending this tradition into the digital realm, uncreative writing offers new ways of thinking about identity and the making of meaning.

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The precariat: The new dangerous class

The precariat: The new dangerous class / Guy Standing
London: Bloomsbury, 2016. 336 p.

Described by Noam Chomsky as 'a very important book', Guy Standing's The Precariat has achieved cult status as the first account of this emerging class of people, facing lives of insecurity, moving in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their lives.

Guy Standing warns that the rapid growth of the precariat is producing instabilities in society. It is a dangerous class because it is internally divided, leading to the villainisation of migrants and other vulnerable groups. And, lacking agency, its members may be susceptible to the siren calls of political extremism. He argues for a new politics, in which redistribution and income security are reconfigured and in which the fears and aspirations of the precariat are made central to a progressive strategy.

Since first publication of this book in 2011, the precariat has become an ever more significant global phenomenon, highly visible in the Occupy movement and in protest movements around the world. In a new preface Guy Standing discusses such developments - are they indicative of the emergence of a new collective spirit, or do they simply reveal the growing size and growing anger of this new class?

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The dark net: Inside the digital underworld / Jamie Bartlett

The dark net: Inside the digital underworld / Jamie Bartlett
London: Heinemann, 2014. 303 p.

Beyond the familiar online world that most of us inhabit – a world of Google, Hotmail, Facebook and Amazon – lies a vast and often hidden network of sites, communities and cultures where freedom is pushed to its limits, and where people can be anyone, or do anything, they want. A world that is as creative and complex as it is dangerous and disturbing. A world that is much closer than you think.
The dark net is an underworld that stretches from popular social media sites to the most secretive corners of the encrypted web. It is a world that frequently appears in newspaper headlines, but one that is little understood, and rarely explored. The Dark Net is a revelatory examination of the internet today, and of its most innovative and dangerous subcultures: trolls and pornographers, drug dealers and hackers, political extremists and computer scientists, Bitcoin programmers and self-harmers, libertarians and vigilantes. Based on extensive first-hand experience, exclusive interviews and shocking documentary evidence, The Dark Net offers a startling glimpse of human nature under the conditions of freedom and anonymity, and shines a light on an enigmatic and ever-changing world.

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The organized mind

The organized mind : Thinking straight in the age of information overload / Daniel J. Levitin
New York: Plume Book, 2015. 496 p.

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details.

The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more - and faster - decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.

But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel—and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.

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Lives of the laureates

Lives of the laureates: Twenty-three Nobel economists/ ed. by Roger W. Spencer and David A. Macpherson
Cambridge, US: MIT Press, 2014. 427 p.

 

Lives of the Laureates offers readers an informal history of modern economic thought as told through autobiographical essays by twenty-three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The essays not only provide unique insights into major economic ideas of our time but also shed light on the processes of intellectual discovery and creativity. This fifth edition adds five recent Nobel laureates to its list of contributors: Vernon L. Smith (2002), Clive W. J. Granger (2003), Edward C. Prescott (2004), Thomas C. Schelling (2005) and Edmund S. Phelps (2006). Also included is the editors' revised afterword, "Lessons from the Laureates."

Lives of the Laureates grows out of a continuing lecture series at Trinity University in San Antonio, which invites Nobelists from American universities to describe their evolution as economists in personal as well as technical terms. Each laureate achieves the goal of clarity without sacrificing inherently difficult content: Kenneth Arrow makes grasping the essentials of his "impossibility theorem" painless; Lawrence Klein clearly presents what goes into econometric "model building"; George Stigler masterfully describes his "information theory"; and so on. These lectures demonstrate the richness and diversity of contemporary economic thought. The reader will find that paths cross in unexpected ways -- that disparate thinkers were often influenced by the same teachers--and that luck as well as hard work plays a role in the process of scientific discovery.

 

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The great escape

The great escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality / Angus Deaton
Princeton, US: Princeton Univ. Press, 2013. 360 p.

 

The world is a better place than it used to be. People are healthier, wealthier, and live longer. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many has left gaping inequalities between people and nations. Deaton tells the remarkable story of how, beginning 250 years ago, some parts of the world experienced sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today's disproportionately unequal world. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

 

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Hubris: Why economists failed to predict the crisis and how to avoid the next one

Hubris: Why economists failed to predict the crisis and how to avoid the next one / Meghnad Desai
New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2015. 287 p.

 

The failure of economists to anticipate the global financial crisis and mitigate the impact of the ensuing recession has spurred a public outcry. Economists are under fire, but questions concerning exactly how to redeem the discipline remain unanswered. In this provocative book, renowned economist Meghnad Desai investigates the evolution of economics and maps its trajectory against the occurrence of major political events to provide a definitive answer.
Desai underscores the contribution of hubris to economists’ calamitous lack of foresight, and he makes a persuasive case for the profession to re-engage with the history of economic thought. He dismisses the notion that one over-arching paradigm can resolve all economic eventualities while urging that an array of already-available theories and approaches be considered anew for the insights they may provide toward preventing future economic catastrophes. With an accessible style and keen common sense, Desai offers a fresh perspective on some of the most important economic issues of our time.

 

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Wikipedia U: Knowledge, authority, and liberal education in the digital age

Wikipedia U: Knowledge, authority, and liberal education in the digital age / Thomas Leitch

Baltimore: Hopkins Univ. Press, 2014. 164 p.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been a lightning rod for debates about knowledge and traditional authority. It has come under particular scrutiny from publishers of print encyclopedias and college professors, who are skeptical about whether a crowd-sourced encyclopedia―in which most entries are subject to potentially endless reviewing and editing by anonymous collaborators whose credentials cannot be established―can ever truly be accurate or authoritative.
In Wikipedia U, Thomas Leitch argues that the assumptions these critics make about accuracy and authority are themselves open to debate. After all, academics are expected both to consult the latest research and to return to the earliest sources in their field, each of which has its own authority. And when teachers encourage students to master information so that they can question it independently, their ultimate goal is to create a new generation of thinkers and makers whose authority will ultimately supplant their own.
Wikipedia U offers vital new lessons about the nature of authority and the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0. Leitch regards Wikipedia as an ideal instrument for probing the central assumptions behind liberal education, making it more than merely, as one of its severest critics has charged, "the encyclopedia game, played online."

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