Books for the News

Facebook’s A Year of Books drafts The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

March 23, 2015
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Facebook’s A Year of Books drafts The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

In his sixth pick for the social network’s online book club (“A Year of Books”), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently drafted Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a 52-year-old book still considered one of the most often cited academic resources of all time, and one of the crowning gems of twentieth-century scholarly publishing. Following in the footsteps of Pixar founder Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc., as Zuckerberg’s most recent pick, Structure will be the subject of a Facebook thread with open commenting, for the next two weeks, in line with the guidelines advanced by “A Year of Books.” If you’re thinking about reading along, the 50th Anniversary Edition includes a an equally compelling Introduction by Ian Hacking that situates the book’s legacy, both in terms of its contribution to a scientific vernacular (“paradigm shifting”) and its value as a scholarly publication of mass appeal (“paradigm shifting”). Or, in Zuckerberg’s own words: It’s a history of science book that explores the question of whether science and technology make consistent forward progress or whether progress comes in bursts related to other social forces. I tend to think that science is a consistent force for good in the world. I think we’d all be better off if we invested more . . .

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Excerpt: Invisible by Philip Ball

March 16, 2015
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Excerpt: Invisible by Philip Ball

Recipes for Invisibility, an excerpt from Invisible: The Dangerous History of the Unseen  by Philip Ball ***  “Occult Forces” Around 1680 the English writer John Aubrey recorded a spell of invisibility that seems plucked from a (particularly grim) fairy tale. On a Wednesday morning before sunrise, one must bury the severed head of a man who has committed suicide, along with seven black beans. Water the beans for seven days with good brandy, after which a spirit will appear to tend the beans and the buried head. The next day the beans will sprout, and you must persuade a small g irl to pick and shell them. One of these beans, placed in the mouth, will make you invisible. This was tried, Aubrey says, by two Jewish merchants in London, who could’t acquire the head of a suicide victim and so used instead that of a poor cat killed ritualistically. They planted it with the beans in the garden of a gentleman named Wyld Clark, with his permission. Aubrey’s deadpan relish at the bathetic outcome suggests he was sceptical all along– for he explains that Clark’s rooster dug up the beans and ate them without consequence. Despite the risk of such . . .

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The AACM at 50

March 13, 2015
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The AACM at 50

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Inc.(AACM), founded on Chicago’s South Side by musicians Muhal Richard Abrams (pianist/composer), Jodie Christian (pianist), Steve McCall (drummer), and Phil Cohran (composer). A recent piece in the New York Times by Nate Chinen summarizes their achievements, in short: Over the half-century of its existence, the association has been one of this country’s great engines of experimental art, producing work with an irreducible breadth of scope and style. By now the organization’s significance derives not only from the example of its first wave—including Mr. Abrams, still formidable at 84—but also from an influence on countless uncompromising artists, many of whom are not even members of its chapters in Chicago and New York. The AACM’s legend extends beyond their Chicago origins—just as emphatically as it remains intertwined with them. Aiming to “provide an atmosphere conducive to the development of its member artists and to continue the AACM legacy of providing leadership and vision for the development of creative music,” the AACM turned twentieth-century jazz on its head, rolled it sideways, stood it upright again, and then leaned on it with the right combination of grace and pressure. Among the events organized around this anniversary are Free at First . . .

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Blood Runs Green: Your nineteenth-century Chicago true crime novel

March 6, 2015
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Blood Runs Green: Your nineteenth-century Chicago true crime novel

Below follows a well-contextualized teaser, or a clue (depending on your penchant for genre), from Sharon Wheeler’s full-length review of Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago at Inside Higher Ed. Blood Runs Green is that rarer beast—academic research in the guise of a true crime account. But it leaps off the page like the best fictional murder mystery. Mind you, any author presenting these characters to a publisher under the banner of a novel would probably be sent away to rein in their over-fertile imagination. As Gillian O’Brien says: “The story had everything an editor could want: conspiracy, theft, dynamite, betrayal, and murder.” So this is far more than just a racy account of a murder in 1880s Chicago, a city built by the Irish, so the boast goes (by the late 1880s, 17 per cent of its population was Irish or Irish-American). At the book’s core is the story of Irish immigrants in the US, and the fight for Irish independence through the secret republican society Clan na Gael. In England, and running parallel to events in America, is the saga of Charles Stewart Parnell, a British MP and leading figure in the Home Rule movement. Who . . .

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Free e-book for March: Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave

March 2, 2015
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Free e-book for March: Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave

Our free e-book for March is Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave by Simon Goldhill. Read more and download your copy below. *** The Victorian era was the high point of literary tourism. Writers such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Sir Walter Scott became celebrities, and readers trekked far and wide for a glimpse of the places where their heroes wrote and thought, walked and talked. Even Shakespeare was roped in, as Victorian entrepreneurs transformed quiet Stratford-upon-Avon into a combination shrine and tourist trap. Stratford continues to lure the tourists today, as do many other sites of literary pilgrimage throughout Britain. And our modern age could have no better guide to such places than Simon Goldhill. In Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, Goldhill makes a pilgrimage to Sir Walter Scott’s baronial mansion, Wordsworth’s cottage in the Lake District, the Brontë parsonage, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and Freud’s office in Hampstead. Traveling, as much as possible, by methods available to Victorians—and gamely negotiating distractions ranging from broken bicycles to a flock of giggling Japanese schoolgirls—he tries to discern what our forebears were looking for at these sites, as well as what they have to say to the modern mind. What does it matter . . .

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Every student who studied with the Rev. Gary Davis

February 26, 2015
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Every student who studied with the Rev. Gary Davis

The Reverend Gary Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina, on April 30, 1896. He died in Hammonton, New Jersey, on May 5, 1972. In between, he become one of the most protean guitar players of the twentieth century, and his finger-picking style influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Keb’ Mo’ and Blind Boy Fuller. Born partially blind as the sole surviving son to two sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South, by the 1940s, Davis, ordained as a Baptist minister, was playing on Harlem streetcorners and storefronts, making his living as an itinerant, singing gospel preacher. By the beginning of the 1960s folk revival, he had moved in circles that included Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, recorded a series of albums for Prestige Records, and been embraced by a generation of educated, middle-class young people eager for fodder to spur a folk revival. See his performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for further illumination of this cultural congruence. Even before his death in 1970, he was the subject of two documentaries. Davis’s legacy, however, still exists outside a canon that has acknowledged his peers, including Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson—his music, like his troubled life, is the stuff of myth, and as . . .

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2015 PROSE Awards

February 20, 2015
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2015 PROSE Awards

Now in their 39th year, the PROSE Awards honor “the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories,” as determined by a jury of peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals. As is the usual case with this kind of acknowledgement, we are honored and delighted to share several University of Chicago Press books that were singled-out in their respective categories as winners or runners-up for the 2015 PROSE Awards. *** Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile By Megan R. Luke Art History, Honorable Mention *** House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again By Atif Mian and Amir Sufi Economics, Honorable Mention *** American School Reform: What Works, What Fails, and Why By Joseph P. McDonald Winner, Education Practice *** The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools By Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski Winner, Education Theory *** Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters By Martin J. S. Rudwick Honorable Mention, History of STM *** The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition By Pier Paolo . . .

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Excerpt: Renegade Dreams

February 17, 2015
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Excerpt: Renegade Dreams

An excerpt from Laurence Ralph’s Renegade Dreams: Living through Injury in Gangland Chicago *** “Nostalgia, or the Stories a Gang Tells about Itself” At the West Side Juvenile Detention Center, inmates hardly ever look you in the eyes. They almost never notice your face. Walk into a cell block at recreation time, for example, when young gang members are playing spades or sitting in the TV room watching a movie, and their attention quickly shifts to your shoes. They watch you walk to figure out why you came. I imagine what goes through their heads: Navy blue leather boots, reinforced steel toe, at least a size twelve. Must be a guard. That’s an easy one. Then the glass door swings open again. Expensive brown wingtips, creased khakis cover the tongue. A Northwestern law student come to talk about legal rights. Yep. Benjamin Gregory wears old shoes, the kind a young affiliate wouldn’t be caught dead in. Still, the cheap patent leather shines, and, after sitting in the Detention Center’s waiting room for nearly an hour and a half, the squeak of his wingtips is a relief. It’s a muggy day, late in the spring of 2008. “I’ve been coming here . . .

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Excerpt: In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde

February 9, 2015
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Excerpt: In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde

  An excerpt from In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde: An Anthropologist Investigates the Contemporary Art Museum by Matti Bunzl *** “JEFF KOONS <3 CHICAGO” I’m sitting in the conference room on the fifth floor of the MCA, the administrative nerve center which is off limits to the public. It is late January and the temperatures have just plunged to near zero. But the museum staff is bustling with activity. With four months to go until the opening of the big Jeff Koons show, all hands are on deck. And there is a little bit of panic. Deadlines for the exhibit layout and catalogue are looming, and the artist has been hard to pin down. Everyone at the MCA knows why. Koons, who commands a studio that makes Warhol’s Factory look like a little workshop, is in colossal demand. For the MCA, the show has top priority. But for Koons, it is just one among many. In 2008 alone, he will have major exhibits in Berlin, New York, and Paris. The presentation at the Neue Nationalgalerie is pretty straightforward. Less so New York, where Koons is scheduled to take over the roof of the Metropolitan Museum, one of the city’s premiere . . .

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Excerpt: Elaine Conis’s Vaccine Nation

February 4, 2015
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Excerpt: Elaine Conis’s Vaccine Nation

An excerpt from Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization by Elaine Conis (recent pieces featuring the book at the Washington Post and Bloomberg News) *** “Mumps in Wartime” Between 1963 and 1969, the nation‘s flourishing pharmaceutical industry launched several vaccines against measles, a vaccine against mumps, and a vaccine against rubella in rapid succession. The measles vaccine became the focus of the federally sponsored eradication campaign described in the previous chapter; the rubella vaccine prevented birth defects and became entwined with the intensifying abortion politics of the time. Both vaccines overshadowed the debut of the vaccine against mumps, a disease of relatively little concern to most Americans in the late 1960s. Mumps was never an object of public dread, as polio had been, and its vaccine was never anxiously awaited, like the Salk polio vaccine had been. Nor was mumps ever singled out for a high–profile immunization campaign or for eradication, as measles had been. All of which made it quite remarkable that, within a few years of its debut, the mumps vaccine would be administered to millions of American children with little fanfare or resistance. The mumps vaccine first brought to market in 1968 was developed by Maurice Hilleman, . . .

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