December 12, 2023
December 12, 2023
Finding the right book at the right time can transform your life or your organization. We help you discover your next great read by showcasing four recently released titles each week.
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:
Jasmine’s pick: A Brain for Innovation: The Neuroscience of Imagination and Abstract Thinking by Min W. Jung, Columbia University Press
What sets humans apart from other animals? Perhaps more than anything else, it is the capacity for innovation. The accumulation of discoveries throughout history, big and small, has enabled us to build global civilizations and gain power to shape our environment. But what makes humans as a species so innovative?
Min W. Jung offers a new understanding of the neural basis of innovation in terms of humans’ exceptional capacity for imagination and high-level abstraction. He provides an engaging account of recent advances in neuroscience that have shed light on the neural underpinnings of these profoundly important abilities. Jung examines key discoveries concerning the hippocampus and neural circuits that have demystified the processes underlying imagination and abstract thinking. He also considers how these capacities might have evolved as well as possible futures for intelligence.
Bringing together disparate findings in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and artificial intelligence, A Brain for Innovation develops a unified perspective on the mechanisms of imagination, abstract thought, and creativity. Presenting cutting-edge neuroscientific research in a way that is accessible to readers without a background in the subject, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the biological basis of one of the most fundamental aspects of human nature.
Gabbi’s pick: The Complications: On Going Insane in America by Emmett Rensin, HarperOne
The Complications is an intimate portrait of what it’s like to live with schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type as well as a biting, revelatory critique of America’s mental health culture. Emmett Rensin has written and edited articles for major national media outlets, and taught writing and literature at prestigious schools. But he has also lost jobs and friends, been hospitalized and institutionalized, and cycled through a daunting combination of medications. With scorching honesty, he reflects on his messy, fragile attempt to live his life, his periods of grace, and his near misses with disaster and death.
Going beyond the usual peans against “stigma” and for “understanding”, Rensin confronts the dysfunction in current mental health narratives, contrasting what he calls high culture mental illness “high culture”—in which we affirm the prevalence of anxiety and encourage regular therapy, insisting that the “mentally ill” aren’t dangerous or even weird—with even progressive society’s inability to contend with people with more severe forms of mental illness: those people we pass on the street talking to themselves, those caught in a loop between hospitals and prisons, or even those who we cannot tolerate in our own schools, offices, and lives, including himself.
With raw honesty, Rensin invites us into every aspect of his life, from what it’s like see four different psychiatrists in one year and the nature of psychotic breaks to a harrowing diary that logs exactly what happens when he stops taking his medication and the unexpected kinship he discovers with an incarcerated spree killer with schizophrenia. Going beyond pure memoir, he reflects on the uncertain “science” of diagnosis, the nature of art about and by the insane, political activism, and the history of madness, from the asylum to the academy.
A compelling, often devastating, blend of memoir, cultural commentary, and history, The Complications elevates the conversation around mental illness and challenges us to reexamine what we think we know about what is to go insane.
Sally’s pick: Radicals and Rogues: The Women Who Made New York Modern by Lottie Whalen, Reaktion Books
This is the story of a group of women whose experiments in art and life set the tone for the rise of New York as the twentieth-century capital of modern culture. Across the 1910s and ’20s, through provocative creative acts, shocking fashion, political activism, and dynamic social networks, these women reimagined modern life and fought for the chance to realize their visions. Taking the reader on a journey through the city’s salons and bohemian hangouts, Radicals and Rogues celebrates the tastemakers, collectors, curators, artists, and poets at the forefront of the early avant-garde scene. Focusing on these trailblazers at the center of artistic innovation—including Beatrice Wood, Mina Loy, the Stettheimer sisters, Clara Tice, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Marguerite Zorach, and Louise Arensberg—Lottie Whalen offers a lively new history of remarkable women in early twentieth-century New York City.
Dylan’s pick: The Return of Inflation: Money and Capital in the 21st Century by Paul Mattick, Reaktion Books
The last year has seen the return of inflation as a preoccupation of political decision-makers, economists, and the general public. After two decades of wondering why inflation was so low, despite vast economic stimulus, economists were surprised by the recent surge in price increases. Despite disagreement about what exactly is happening in the economy, there is unanimity in one belief: slowing growth to control inflation. To focus on inflation’s return, Paul Mattick looks at both the past and present, placing current events in the context of capitalism’s history. Exploring the nature of money itself, he provides a concise, jargon-free understanding of recent inflation as well as official efforts to control it, illuminating the state of our contemporary economy.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
"Lisa Jewell's psychological thriller None of This is True. The story follows Alix Summer, a podcast host who meets Josie Fair at a restaurant while celebrating their shared 45th birthday. Josie proposes they create a podcast about her changing her life, and despite Alix's podcast being about women who have already changed their lives, she agrees. Josie's story is unsettling but intoxicating, and even as Alix realizes Josie is an unreliable narrator of her own life at best, she feels a sort of social and moral obligation not to cut this woman loose, just in case her story is true. Havoc is soon visited upon everyone involved, and you, the reader, begin to realize that you are listening to the making of a true crime podcast."
—Sally Haldorson, Managing Director