Spring 2024 Book List
*Deadline to sign up is January 19, 2024
Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech by Brian Merchant ( Technology/Economics)
The most urgent story in modern tech begins not in Silicon Valley but two hundred years ago in rural England, when workers known as the Luddites rose up rather than starve at the hands of factory owners who were using automated machines to erase their livelihoods.
The Luddites organized guerrilla raids to smash those machines—on punishment of death—and won the support of Lord Byron, enraged the Prince Regent, and inspired the birth of science fiction. This all-but-forgotten class struggle brought nineteenth-century England to its knees.
Today, technology imperils millions of jobs, robots are crowding factory floors, and artificial intelligence will soon pervade every aspect of our economy. How will this change the way we live? And what can we do about it?
The answers lie in Blood in the Machine. Brian Merchant intertwines a lucid examination of our current age with the story of the Luddites, showing how automation changed our world—and is shaping our future.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor ( Anatomy/Health and Fitness)
There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat twenty-five thousand times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences.
Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.
Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.
Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell ( Self-Help/Politics/Technology)
In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity, it can seem impossible to escape. But in this inspiring field guide to dropping out of the attention economy, artist and critic Jenny Odell shows us how we can still win back our lives.
Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. And we must actively and continuously choose how we use it. We might not spend it on things that capitalism has deemed important … but once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind’s role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.
Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.
Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo ( African American History/Women in History)
The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.
In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.
Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.
But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.
With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—one that challenges us even now.
True West: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America by Betsy Gaines Quammen ( History/Geography)
From the Northern Rockies to the Southwest deserts, Betsy Gaines Quammen explores how myths shape our identities, heighten polarizations, and fracture our shared understanding of the world around us. As she investigates the origins and effects of myths of the American West, Gaines Quammen travels through small towns and big cities, engaging people and building relationships at every stop. Misperceptions about land, politics, liberty, and self-determination threaten the well-being of people and communities across the country, and Gaines Quammen interrogates it all as she seeks to reconcile the anger and misunderstandings that continue to be fueled by the West’s enduring myths and complex history. Whether sitting down with a militia member seeking to protect his rural Utah town from Antifa or talking with grassroots organizers working across ideological divides, Gaines Quammen brings to life connections and contradictions that shape our politics and our lives far beyond the West.
Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What is Human in a World of Machines by Joy Buolamwini ( Social Aspects of Technology)
To most of us, it seems like recent developments in artificial intelligence emerged out of nowhere to pose unprecedented threats to humankind. But to Dr. Joy Buolamwini, who has been at the forefront of AI research, this moment has been a long time in the making.
After tinkering with robotics as a high school student in Memphis and then developing mobile apps in Zambia as a Fulbright fellow, Buolamwini followed her lifelong passion for computer science, engineering, and art to MIT in 2015. As a graduate student at the “Future Factory,” she did groundbreaking research that exposed widespread racial and gender bias in AI services from tech giants across the world.
Unmasking AI goes beyond the headlines about existential risks produced by Big Tech. It is the remarkable story of how Buolamwini uncovered what she calls “the coded gaze”—the evidence of encoded discrimination and exclusion in tech products—and how she galvanized the movement to prevent AI harms by founding the Algorithmic Justice League. Applying an intersectional lens to both the tech industry and the research sector, she shows how racism, sexism, colorism, and ableism can overlap and render broad swaths of humanity “excoded” and therefore vulnerable in a world rapidly adopting AI tools. Computers, she reminds us, are reflections of both the aspirations and the limitations of the people who create them.
Encouraging experts and non-experts alike to join this fight, Buolamwini writes, “The rising frontier for civil rights will require algorithmic justice. AI should be for the people and by the people, not just the privileged few.”
What Inclusive Instructors Do by Tracie Marcella Addy, Derek Dube, Khadijah A. Mitchell, Mallory SoRelle ( Higher Education)
Inclusive instruction is teaching that recognizes and affirms a student's social identity as an important influence on teaching and learning processes, and that works to create an environment in which students are able to learn from the course, their peers, and the teacher while still being their authentic selves. It works to disrupt traditional notions of who succeeds in the classroom and the systemic inequities inherent in traditional educational practices.―Full-time Academic Professional, Doctorate-granting University, EducationThis book uniquely offers the distilled wisdom of scores of instructors across ranks, disciplines and institution types, whose contributions are organized into a thematic framework that progressively introduces the reader to the key dispositions, principles and practices for creating the inclusive classroom environments (in person and online) that will help their students succeed.
The authors asked the hundreds of instructors whom they surveyed as part of a national study to define what inclusive teaching meant to them and what inclusive teaching approaches they implemented in their courses. The instructors’ voices ring loudly as the authors draw on their responses, building on their experiences and expertise to frame the conversation about what inclusive teachers do. The authors in addition describe their own insights and practices, integrating and discussing current literature relevant to inclusive teaching to ensure a research-supported approach.Inclusive teaching is no longer an option but a vital teaching competency as our classrooms fill with racially diverse, first generation, and low income and working class students who need a sense of belonging and recognition to thrive and contribute to the construction of knowledge.The book unfolds as an informal journey that allows the reader to see into other teachers’ practices.
With questions for reflection embedded throughout the book, the authors provide the reader with an inviting and thoughtful guide to develop their own inclusive teaching practices.By utilizing the concepts and principles in this book readers will be able to take steps to transform their courses into spaces that are equitable and welcoming, and adopt practical strategies to address the various inclusion issues that can arise.The book will also appeal to educational developers and staff who support instructors in their inclusive teaching efforts. It should find a place in reflective workshops, book clubs and learning communities exploring this important topic.
All the Broken Places by John Boyne ( New Fiction)
From the New York Times bestselling author John Boyne, a devastating, beautiful story about a woman who must confront the sins of her own terrible past, and a present in which it is never too late for bravery.
Ninety-one-year-old Gretel Fernsby has lived in the same well-to-do mansion block in London for decades. She lives a quiet, comfortable life, despite her deeply disturbing, dark past. She doesn’t talk about her escape from Nazi Germany at age 12. She doesn’t talk about the grim post-war years in France with her mother. Most of all, she doesn’t talk about her father, who was the commandant of one of the Reich’s most notorious extermination camps.
Then, a new family moves into the apartment below her. In spite of herself, Gretel can’t help but begin a friendship with the little boy, Henry, though his presence brings back memories she would rather forget. One night, she witnesses a disturbing, violent argument between Henry’s beautiful mother and his arrogant father, one that threatens Gretel’s hard-won, self-contained existence.
All The Broken Places moves back and forth in time between Gretel’s girlhood in Germany to present-day London as a woman whose life has been haunted by the past. Now, Gretel faces a similar crossroads to one she encountered long ago. Back then, she denied her own complicity, but now, faced with a chance to interrogate her guilt, grief and remorse, she can choose to save a young boy. If she does, she will be forced to reveal the secrets she has spent a lifetime protecting. This time, she can make a different choice than before—whatever the cost to herself….
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolpho Anaya (Hispanic American Literature & Fiction)
Exquisite prose and wondrous storytelling have helped make Rudolfo Anaya the father of Chicano literature in English. Indeed, Anaya's tales fairly shimmer with the haunting beauty and richness of his culture. The winner of the Pen Center West Award for Fiction for his unforgettable novel Alburquerque, Anaya is perhaps best loved for his classic bestseller, Bless Me, Ultima... Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world...and will nurture the birth of his soul.
The Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods ( New Fiction)
‘The thing about books,’ she said ‘is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.’ On a quiet street in Dublin, a lost bookshop is waiting to be found…
For too long, Opaline, Martha and Henry have been the side characters in their own lives. But when a vanishing bookshop casts its spell, these three unsuspecting strangers will discover that their own stories are every bit as extraordinary as the ones found in the pages of their beloved books. And by unlocking the secrets of the shelves, they find themselves transported to a world of wonder… where nothing is as it seems.
North Woods by Daniel Mason ( Historical Fiction)
Mason’s ambitious, kaleidoscopic novel ushers readers over the threshold of a house in the wilds of western Massachusetts and leaves us there for 300 years and almost 400 pages. One after another, in sections interspersed with letters, poems, song lyrics, diary entries, medical case notes, real estate listings, vintage botanical illustrations and assorted ephemera not normally bound into the pages of a novel, we get to know the inhabitants of the place from colonial times to present day. There’s an apple farmer, an abolitionist and a wealthy manufacturer. A pair of beetles. A landscape painter. A ghost. Their lives (and deaths) briefly intersect, but mostly layer over each other in dazzling decoupage. All the while, the natural world looks on — a long-suffering, occasionally destructive presence. Mason is the consummate genial host, inviting you to stay as long as you like and to make of the place what you will.