Jeremy’s Choice – February 2018

Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces Diversity and Free Expression in Education
by John Palfrey. Foreword by Alberto Ibargüen (MIT Press) $19.95

Safe spaces, trigger warnings, microagressions, the disinvitation of speakers, demands to rename campus landmarks—debate over these issues began in lecture halls and on college quads but ended up on op-ed pages in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, on cable news, and on social media. Some of these critiques had merit, but others took a series of cheap shots at “crybullies” who needed to be coddled and protected from the real world. Few questioned the assumption that colleges must choose between free expression and diversity. In Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces, John Palfrey argues that the essential democratic values of diversity and free expression can, and should, coexist on campus.

Ryan’s Choice – February 2018

Communism for Kids By Bini Adamczak Trans. Jacob Blumenfeld & Sophie Lewis
(MIT Press) $12.95

This book uses a satirically whimsical method to educate the masses about an alternative, and often misunderstood, political ideology. Despite the title, this book is not meant for children. Much like Pixar films that insert jokes only adults will understand, Adamczak offers some humor in her plea to consider the flaws in our currently accepted form of financial governance.

John’s Choice – February 2018

Portraits of Resilience By Daniel Jackson. Foreword by David A. Karp
(MIT Press) $34.94

More than 15 million Americans grapple with depression in a given year, and 40 million are affected by anxiety disorders. And yet these people are often invisible, hidden, unacknowledged. At once a photo essay and a compendium of life stories, Portraits of Resilience brings us face to face with twenty-two extraordinary individuals, celebrating the wisdom they have gained on the frontline of a contemporary battle.

No one is immune to depression or anxiety; all of these narrators achieved success as students, faculty, or staff in the demanding world of MIT.  The pressures of a competitive and high-pressure environment will be familiar to many. And the mysterious and overwhelming grip of depression will be recognized by those who have suffered from it. But the search for purpose and meaning that pervades these stories is relevant to everyone. These wise people give us not only solace and reassurance as we face our own challenges, but also the inspiration that challenges can be overcome—and that happiness, while elusive, can eventually be found.

Jake’s Choice – February 2018

(Un) Precendented Pyongyang by Dongwoo Yim  (Actar Publishers) $39.95
School of Architecture and Urban Design and a graduate in Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, provides a developmental, historical narrative for Pyongyang’s postwar reconstruction. Yim’s historical narrative for Pyongyang’s postwar reconstruction is unparalleled in its typological breakdown of the city’s urban built environment and expansion, and furthermore, in its models for future development resisting, or acquiescing to, market-oriented “blue investment.” This book is apt for those interested in learning about the relatively young architectural history of a nation whose own history is often dehumanized and elided by western media.

Steph’s Choice – February 2018

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science by Eric R Kandel
                                                                                     (Columbia University Press) $29.95

In a well written, engaging, and approachable style Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel compares how neuroscientists have used the practice of reductionism to help resolve how the components of the brain and visual pathways communicate in order to interpret visual input, while artists have used it to experiment with line, perspective, and color to create visually powerful yet simplified images which challenge us to understand what we see and our aesthetic responses to it.  Using clear examples from art and neurobiological research in learning and memory along with well-illustrated brain drawings and full-color art images, Kandel describes how artists, particularly those from the New York School, such as  Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, etc.,  either consciously or unconsciously used reductionism to make their transition from figurative art to abstract expressionism. And he explains some of the scientific reasons why abstract art can have such a powerful impact on human visual perception.

Abraham’s Choice – February, 2018

Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, and Justice
by Martha Nussbaum.      (Oxford University Press) $24.95
The idea of forgiveness, like that of vengeance, belongs to the realm of magical thinking, because it relies on a belief in cosmic balance that does not actually exist. So argues Martha Nussbaum in this unsettling book, which joins Wendy Brown’s exposure of market rationality in common sense (Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, 2015) and Yascha Mounk’s critique of responsibilization (The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice and the Welfare State, 2017) as a best surprise among recent interventions in our not-dogma-free moral imaginary.

New Event Series

This month the MIT Press Bookstore is launching an exciting new series of events, authors@mit. The series features authors and experts on the cutting edge of topics that we all need to know more about, among them: young people and new media, business innovation, life in a digitally defined world, the intersection of science and art, the future of technology, the nature of knowledge, and more. While most of the events will be at the Press Bookstore, some will take place at other area venues, in collaboration with the Boston Book Festival, the Cambridge Public Library, Le Laboratoire, local restaurants, and other partners.

According to Amy Brand, Director of the MIT Press, “The MIT Press Bookstore has long been a cornerstone in the intellectual life of the Institute and in the expanding innovation district surrounding MIT. With our recent move to the Mass. Ave. side of campus and with our expanded facility, we’re really thrilled to have the opportunity to offer the community a completely new kind of author series explicitly designed to promote public engagement with science, technology and design broadly defined, featuring short informal talks with audience and panel discussion.” 

The series will include one or two events per month and will begin on February 28th with a talk by Northeastern University Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Faculty Associate with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s Meryl Alper, in conversation with Jennifer Light, Department Head and Professor of Science, Technology and Society Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. They’ll be discussing Alper’s new MIT Press book, Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality at 6:00 pm at the MIT Press Bookstore’s new location at 301 Massachusetts Avenue.  Upcoming talks include MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito in discussion with Robert Langer about Ito’s book Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future; MIT’s Peter Temin discussing his timely new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy; and later this spring, Susan Maycock and Charles Sullivan, from the Cambridge Historical Commission, will discuss their recent book, Building Old Cambridge: Architecture and Development.  

Please join us and become part of a community of engaged, critical, and forward-looking thinkers. For more information and sign up for news about upcoming events here.