New Releases | April 18, 2023
April 18, 2023
Excellent new books are brought into the world every single week. Here at Porchlight, we track them all and elevate four new releases we are excited about as they hit bookstore shelves on Tuesday morning.
The books are chosen by Porchlight's Managing Director, Sally Haldorson, and the marketing team: Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros, and Jasmine Gonzalez. (Book descriptions are provided by the publisher unless otherwise noted.) This week, our choices are:
Dylan's pick: The Cult of Creativity: A Surprisingly Recent History by Samuel Weil Franklin, University of Chicago Press
Creativity is one of American society’s signature values. Schools claim to foster it, businesses say they thrive on it, and countless cities say it’s what makes them unique. But the idea that there is such a thing as “creativity”—and that it can be cultivated—is surprisingly recent, entering our everyday speech in the 1950s. As Samuel W. Franklin reveals, postwar Americans created creativity, through campaigns to define and harness the power of the individual to meet the demands of American capitalism and life under the Cold War. Creativity was championed by a cluster of professionals—psychologists, engineers, and advertising people—as a cure for the conformity and alienation they feared was stifling American ingenuity. It was touted as a force of individualism and the human spirit, a new middle-class aspiration that suited the needs of corporate America and the spirit of anticommunism.
Amid increasingly rigid systems, creativity took on an air of romance; it was a more democratic quality than genius, but more rarified than mere intelligence. The term eluded clear definition, allowing all sorts of people and institutions to claim it as a solution to their problems, from corporate dullness to urban decline. Today, when creativity is constantly sought after, quantified, and maximized, Franklin’s eye-opening history of the concept helps us to see what it really is, and whom it really serves.
Sally's pick: Meta-Leadership: How to See What Others Don’t and Make Great Decisions by Constance Dierickx, Page Two
Despite what you may think, all top leaders make mistakes, simply because they are human. In fact, the more senior and successful they are, the more susceptible they are to making errors—because as confidence increases, hubris often does as well. But, as Constance Dierickx demonstrates, this doesn’t have to be your fate.
In Meta-Leadership, Dierickx draws on a vast body of research from psychology and business to show how great leaders can improve their judgment for stronger, more profitable results. Incorporating leading-edge data and research on the science of thinking, emotional regulation, and behavior, Meta Leadership offers fascinating stories, incisive insights, and useful takeaways for better leadership and better outcomes.
Discover how to use a dose of uncertainty to counterbalance overconfidence in split-second decisions; show courage without being reckless in a crisis; demonstrate that different situations call for different types of action; and more. You’ll also learn how to be a better judge of other people to lead more effectively. And just imagine what a 20-percent improvement in decisions on investments could be worth.
Whether you are at the start of your leadership journey or have held a senior leadership role for years, Meta-Leadership will arm you with knowledge and insights to achieve the highest results from yourself and your team.
Jasmine's pick: The Privilege of Play: A History of Hobby Games, Race, and Geek Culture by Aaron Trammell, NYU Press
Geek culture has never been more mainstream than it is now, with the ever-increasing popularity of events like Comic Con, transmedia franchising of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, market dominance of video and computer games, and the resurgence of board games such as Settlers of Catan and role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Yet even while the comic book and hobby shops where the above are consumed today are seeing an influx of BIPOC gamers, they remain overwhelmingly white, male, and heterosexual.
The Privilege of Play contends that in order to understand geek identity’s exclusionary tendencies, we need to know the history of the overwhelmingly white communities of tabletop gaming hobbyists that preceded it. It begins by looking at how the privileged networks of model railroad hobbyists in the early twentieth century laid a cultural foundation for the scenes that would grow up around war games, role-playing games, and board games in the decades ahead. These early networks of hobbyists were able to thrive because of how their leisure interests and professional ambitions overlapped. Yet despite the personal and professional strides made by individuals in these networks, the networks themselves remained cloistered and homogeneous—the secret playgrounds of white men.
Aaron Trammell catalogs how gaming clubs composed of lonely white men living in segregated suburbia in the sixties, seventies and eighties developed strong networks through hobbyist publications and eventually broke into the mainstream. He shows us how early hobbyists considered themselves outsiders, and how the denial of white male privilege they established continues to define the socio-technical space of geek culture today. By considering the historical role of hobbyists in the development of computer technology, game design, and popular media, The Privilege of Play charts a path toward understanding the deeply rooted structural obstacles that have stymied a more inclusive community. The Privilege of Play concludes by considering how digital technology has created the conditions for a new and more diverse generation of geeks to take center stage.
Gabbi's pick: Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington, Seal Press
In an era of falling births, it’s often said that millennials invented the idea of not having kids. But history is full of women without children: some who chose childless lives, others who wanted children but never had them, and still others—the vast majority, then and now—who fell somewhere in between. Modern women considering how and if children fit into their lives are products of their political, ecological, and cultural moment. But history also tells them that they are not alone.
Drawing on deep research and her own experience as a woman without children, historian Peggy O’Donnell Heffington shows that many of the reasons women are not having children today are ones they share with women in the past: a lack of support, their jobs or finances, environmental concerns, infertility, and the desire to live different kinds of lives. Understanding this history—how normal it has always been to not have children, and how hard society has worked to make it seem abnormal—is key, she writes, to rebuilding kinship between mothers and non-mothers, and to building a better world for us all.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
"America the Beautiful? One Woman in a Borrowed Prius on the Road Most Traveled by Blyth Roberson covers all of my favorite themes: car travel, national parks of varying degrees of popularity, lesser-known histories of well-known places, and the experiences of a woman being warned that she’s gonna get murdered if she goes anywhere alone. All of these handled with humor, humility, and thoughtfulness.
Reading it really makes me want to go on a road trip…and/or write a memoir. Definitely excited to see her at Boswell in April."
—Gabbi Cisneros, Creative Director