Saturday, August 23, 2014

Some of the New Non-fiction On Our Shelves
At first, it seemed like a small story. The royal editor of the News of the World was caught listening to the voicemail messages of staff at Buckingham Palace. He and a private investigator were jailed, and the case was closed. But Nick Davies, special correspondent for The Guardian, knew that it didn’t add up. He began to investigate, and ended up exposing a world of crime and cover-up, of fear and favor—the long shadow of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Hack Attack is the mesmerizing story of how Davies and a small group of lawyers and politicians took on one of the most powerful men in the world—and beat him. It exposes the inner workings of the ruthless machine that was the News of the World, and of the private investigators who hacked phones, listened to live calls, sent Trojan horse emails, bribed the police, and committed burglaries to dig up tabloid scoops. Above all, it is a study of the private lives of the power elite. It paints an intimate portrait of the social network that gave Murdoch privileged access to government, and allowed him and his lieutenants to intimidate anyone who stood up to them. Spanning the course of the investigation from Davies’s contact with his first source in early 2008 to the resolution of the criminal trial in June 2014, this is the definitive record of one of the major scandals of our time, written by the journalist who was there every step of the way.
Lacy Johnson bangs on the glass doors of a sleepy local police station in the middle of the night. Her feet are bare; her body is bruised and bloody; U-bolts dangle from her wrists. She has escaped, but not unscathed. 

The Other Side is the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship; the events leading to Johnson's kidnapping, rape, and imprisonment; her dramatic escape; and her hard-fought struggle to recover. At once thrilling, terrifying, harrowing, and hopeful, The Other Side offers more than just a true crime record. In language both stark and poetic, Johnson weaves together a richly personal narrative with police and FBI reports, psychological records, and neurological experiments, delivering a raw and unforgettable story of trauma and transformation.
In the 1990s, researchers identified a brain cell they dubbed a mirror neuron. First observed in macaque monkeys, these neurons reside in the motor cortex yet respond equally to executing a movement and observing someone else execute a similar movement. Hailed as the basis for understanding the actions of others, these neurons soon appeared in scientific studies of everything from language to autism. A profound shift in our understanding of the human mind was underway or so we thought.

In The Myth of Mirror Neurons, neuroscientist Gregory Hickok asks: What if the foundational claim is wrong? Focusing on the first key experiments, Hickok uncovers a pair of tenuous and codependent assumptions that smoothed over anomalies and obscured important evidence. He then draws on recent studies to question the conventional understanding of mirror neuron activity and offer a new direction for future research into the brain s deepest mysteries: language, communication, and cognition.
This maritime history "from below" exposes the history-making power of common sailors, slaves, pirates, and other outlaws at sea in the era of the tall ship.

In Outlaws of the Atlantic, award-winning historian Marcus Rediker turns maritime history upside down. He explores the dramatic world of maritime adventure, not from the perspective of admirals, merchants, and nation-states but from the viewpoint of commoners—sailors, slaves, indentured servants, pirates, and other outlaws from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Bringing together their seafaring experiences for the first time, Outlaws of the Atlantic is an unexpected and compelling peoples’ history of the “age of sail.”

With his signature bottom-up approach and insight, Rediker reveals how the “motley”—that is, multiethnic—crews were a driving force behind the American Revolution; that pirates, enslaved Africans, and other outlaws worked together to subvert capitalism; and that, in the era of the tall ship, outlaws challenged authority from below deck.

By bringing these marginal seafaring characters into the limelight, Rediker shows how maritime actors have shaped history that many have long regarded as national and landed. And by casting these rebels by sea as cosmopolitan workers of the world, he reminds us that to understand the rise of capitalism, globalization, and the formation of race and class, we must look to the sea.
Why do some things pass under the radar of our attention, but other things capture our interest? Why do some religions catch on and others fade away? What makes a story, a movie, or a book riveting? Why do some people keep watching the news even though it makes them anxious?

The past 20 years have seen a remarkable flourishing of scientific research into exactly these kinds of questions. Professor Jim Davies’ fascinating and highly accessible book, Riveted, reveals the evolutionary underpinnings of why we find things compelling, from art to religion and from sports to superstition.

Compelling things fit our minds like keys in the ignition, turning us on and keeping us running, and yet we are often unaware of what makes these “keys” fit. What we like and don’t like is almost always determined by subconscious forces, and when we try to consciously predict our own preferences we’re often wrong. In one study of speed dating, people were asked what kinds of partners they found attractive. When the results came back, the participants’ answers before the exercise had no correlation with who they actually found attractive in person!

We are beginning to understand just how much the brain makes our decisions for us: we are rewarded with a rush of pleasure when we detect patterns, as the brain thinks we’ve discovered something significant; the mind urges us to linger on the news channel or rubberneck an accident in case it might pick up important survival information; it even pushes us to pick up People magazine in order to find out about changes in the social structure.

Drawing on work from philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, psychology, economics, computer science, and biology, Davies offers a comprehensive explanation to show that in spite of the differences between the many things that we find compelling, they have similar effects on our minds and brains.
The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist's "rookie season" as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases--hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex--that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation--performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy's two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America's most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies--and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like "CSI" and "Law & Order" to reveal the secret story of the real morgue.
A groundbreaking manifesto for people searching for the kind of insight on leading, thinking, and living that elite schools should be--but aren't--providing.

As a professor at Yale, Bill Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation's brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively, and how to find a sense of purpose.

Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to "practical" subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways. Deresiewicz explains how college should be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success, so they can forge their own path. He addresses parents, students, educators, and anyone who's interested in the direction of American society, featuring quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and clearly presenting solutions.
Everyone agrees that a great teacher can have an enormous impact. Yet we still don't know what, precisely, makes a teacher great. Is it a matter of natural-born charisma? Or does exceptional teaching require something more?

Building a Better Teacher introduces a new generation of educators exploring the intricate science underlying their art. A former principal studies the country's star teachers and discovers a set of common techniques that help children pay attention. Two math teachers videotape a year of lessons and develop an approach that has nine-year-olds writing sophisticated mathematical proofs. A former high school teacher works with a top English instructor to pinpoint the key interactions a teacher must foster to initiate a rich classroom discussion. Through their stories, and the hilarious and heartbreaking theater that unfolds in the classroom every day, Elizabeth Green takes us on a journey into the heart of a profession that impacts every child in America.

What happens in the classroom of a great teacher? Opening with a moment-by-moment portrait of an everyday math lesson a drama of urgent decisions and artful maneuvers Building a Better Teacher demonstrates the unexpected complexity of teaching. Green focuses on the questions that really matter: How do we prepare teachers and what should they know before they enter the classroom? How does one get young minds to reason, conjecture, prove, and understand? What are the keys to good discipline? Incorporating new research from cognitive psychologists and education specialists as well as intrepid classroom entrepreneurs, Green provides a new way for parents to judge what their children need in the classroom and considers how to scale good ideas. Ultimately, Green discovers that good teaching is a skill. A skill that can be taught.

A provocative and hopeful book, Building a Better Teacher shows that legendary teachers are more than inspiring; they are perhaps the greatest craftspeople of all.

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