The fall 2010 sales conferences have ended. There are hundreds of new titles on the way, about which much more to come.
The range of subjects on offer is dazzling, but these are not mainly books insisting on the right answers. They are books about asking the right questions. (Indeed, six of the new titles on the Harvard list are phrased as questions.) In a season when it seems as if every voice in public life is shrieking with certainty, I don’t remember a better assortment of books on how to acknowledge, honor, and use uncertainty.
Here’s a little quiz to whet your appetite. (answers below)
1) A brilliant legal philosopher warns that the world of values needs saving. What from?
2) Which of Jane Austen’s books was most popular in her lifetime, was her personal favorite, and is most widely read today?
3) A prize-winning historian says it’s not the right-left divide we have to worry about, but the growing chasm between the what and the what?
4) How many Facebook friends do you really need (and probably actually have)?
5) What does a leading political thinker call “one of the most pernicious myths of the modern era?”
6) What did Shelley describe as “profuse strains of unpremeditated art?”
7) “Complexity is not the problem.” So what is the problem?
8) What may finally save newspaper journalism?
9) What do Helen Mirren, Jane Tennison, Zane, Kara Walker and the Toxic Titties have in common?
10) With what country was Sigmund Freud obsessed?
11) What is the only animal that points?
12) Who is the most important (but largely unknown to English speaking audiences) poet writing in Arabic today?
13) What important speech will register an anniversary on Jan 17 1961?
14) What was the most effective civic propaganda spectacle of the thirties?
15) Who was the greatest actress who ever lived?
1) Science! (Ronald Dworkin/Justice for Hedgehogs/Harvard January 2011)
2) Pride and Prejudice (An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks/Harvard October 2010)
3) The private obsession with individual desires vs. tending to our social obligations. (Daniel T. Rodgers/Age of Fracture/Harvard January 2011)
4) Around 150. (Robin Dunbar/How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Harvard/November 2010)
5) The free market as a model for everything. (Bernard E. Harcourt/The Illusion of Free Markets/Harvard/January 2011)
6) Bird song. (John Bevis/AAAAW to ZZZZZD: The Words of Birds/ MIT September 2010)
7) Poor design. (Donald A. Norman/Living with Complexity/ MIT October 2010)
8) Video games! (Ian Bogost et al/Newsgames/MIT October 2010)
9) They are aggressive women, and they are celebrated by contemporary culture. (Maud Lavin/Push Comes to Shove/ MIT September 2010)
10) Mexico. (Ruben Gallo/Freud’s Mexico/MIT September 2010)
11) Humans. (Raymond Tallis/Michelangelo’s Finger/ Yale September 2010)
12) Adonis. (No, not that one!) (Adonis/Selected Poems/ Yale Margellos October 2010)
13) Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the alarming, creeping power of the “military industrial complex” (James Ledbetter/Unwarranted Influence/ Yale January 2011)
14) The World’s Fairs in Chicago, San Diego, Dallas, Cleveland, New York and San Francisco. (Robert W. Rydell et al/Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the Thirties/ Yale October 2010)
15) Sarah Bernhardt! (Robert Gottlieb/Sarah:The Life of Sarah Bernhardt/Yale September 2010)