On the Bookshelf
We asked past leaders of the AHI Undergraduate Fellows—Dean Ball, Joe Simonson, and Paul Carrier—what they read last year and what’s on their list for 2016. Here’s a sampling of our bookshelves from 2015 and for the year ahead.
October 20, 2015
Transl. Lorin Stein
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Houellebecq’s controversial novel shouldn’t be ignored, even if you have reservations about the plot line (the novel takes place in the near future when Islamists have democratically taken control of France’s government). The new Islamist government of France can easily be interpreted as a literary device in Houellebecq’s fascinating and charming analysis of modernity, Western culture, bourgeoisie values, and masculinity.
May 24, 2015
You might not agree with all of Pope Francis' conslusions. We certainly do not. But Laudato Si, at once profoundly conservative and deeply progressive, is far more than a plea for action against climate change. It is nothing less than a fundamental reconsideration of post-Enlightenment political, economic, and social theory.
January 5, 2016
Little, Brown & Company
The late beloved Charlie Hebdo editor’s posthumous message to a world where pluralism and free expression are under attack from many sides.
July 14, 2015
Spiegel & Grau
Despite the flaws in Between the World and Me, the Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest work should be read if for nothing but its beautiful prose. Coates’ accolades may be overblown, but he remains an important thinker on race in America
Steven Lee Myers
September 29, 2015
A New York Times journalist delves into Vladimir Putin’s mysterious past to write the most comprehensive English-language biography of the Russian president to date. Fans of Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face will appreciate Myers’ additions to Putin scholarship.
December 2, 2014
Winner of the 2015 Bancroft Prize, Beckert’s history of the global cotton trade is also a history of global capitalism.
September 8, 2015
A refreshingly sober look at the issue of inequality within and among nations. Rather than boil such a complex subject down to one simple number—as many popular writers do today—Sowell draws on economics, history, geography, demographics, and other fields to paint a more nuanced picture.
June 2, 2015
A quirky but captivating analysis of the causes and meaning of economic growth. Rather than strictly using economic theory, Hidalgo incorporates network theory, physics, and other disciplines into a book that helps explain phenomena such as inequality, urbanization, and prosperity.
January 18, 2015
Princeton University Press
A biographical, historical, philosophical, and at times, polemical presentation of the art of “pure” mathematics, a field which, the author contends, should be practiced regardless of whether it is practical or “useful.”
October 26, 2015
W. W. Norton & Company
With a chapter devoted to each of Beethoven's symphonies, Lockwood brings nearly unparalleled erudition to one of the most commonly studied bodies of work in the history of music. Look out in particular for Lockwood's extensive citations of Beethoven's manuscripts, which allow the author to trace each symphony from its most primitive sketches through completion.
April 21, 2015
A direct and engaging account of our nation's descent into opiate addiction. It outlines how prescription painkillers became a cash cow for drug companies as their abuse skyrocketed in small towns and second-tier cities across the country, and how heroin, a cheaper alternative, eventually annihilated countless lives in places previously thought immune. A striking narrative of abyss, decay, supply and demand, Dreamland challenges us to figure out how to make people feel their lives are worth living.
March 10, 2015
Simon & Schuster
Putnam's central thesis is that America's primary cultural division is not racial or ethnic, but rather based on class.