New Releases | May 16, 2023
May 16, 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:
Gabbi’s pick: Avidly Reads Screen Time by Phillip Maciak, NYU Press
In the early 1990s, the phrase “screen time” emerged to scare parents about the dangers of too much TV for kids. Screen time was something to fret over, police, and judge in a low-grade moral panic. Now, “screen time” has become a metric not only for good parenting, but for our adult lives as well. There’s even an app for it! In the streaming era—and with streaming made nearly ubiquitous during COVID-19—almost every aspect of our day is mediated by these bright surfaces. Whether it was ever the real villain in the first place, or merely a convenient proxy for unaddressed familial, social, and institutional failures, screen time is now all the time.
Avidly Reads Screen Time is a funny, insightful work of cultural criticism and history about how we define screens, and how they now define us. From Mad Men to iCarly, Vine to FaceTime, binge-watching to doom-scrolling, Phillip Maciak leads us on a sometimes heartwarming, sometimes harrowing tour of the media that brings us together and tears us apart.
Jasmine’s pick: Banana Ball: The Unbelievably True Story of the Savannah Bananas by Jesse Cole with Don Yaeger, Dutton
2.8 million TikTok followers. 610k Instagram followers. Not only are these numbers more than any MAJOR-league team’s, it is all organic and all because of one thing: the Bananas make baseball fun.
They throw out a first banana rather than a ball. Their first-base coach does Thriller dance moves between innings. Players run into the crowd to hand out roses. The team sings Stand by Me after every game. The $20 ticket is food all-inclusive! And they hold exhibition games where the rules are bananas: if a fan catches a foul ball it’s an out, and players go to bat on stilts, or wearing a banana uniform. They have two cheer squads: the “dancing Nanas” (age 70+) and the Man-ananas, all Dad Bods. They have a 20k+ waiting list for tickets (every game is sold out). And they put on their show with a cast of 110 (the Harlem Globetrotters use 30).
Jesse Cole is their beating heart. Growing up with divorced parents, he clung to playing catch with his dad every night, an 8-year-old with dreams of pitching at Fenway. His dad helped him become a college star (when he pitched at Fenway!) and a pro-prospect before injury derailed Jesse’s hopes of ever playing professionally. But now he’s involved with professional baseball in ways he never could have imagined: he met the love of his life at a game, he calls his dad from the outfield after each Bananas game, and now he hopes to bring the Bananas to fill Fenway Park in 3 years—his next big goal. This is his story, of baseball, love, leadership, and going just a bit bananas for all.
Sally’s pick: A Matter of Appearance: A Memoir by Emily Wells, Seven Stories Press
Emily Wells, a former ballerina, spent her childhood dancing through intense, whole-body pain she assumed was normal for someone used to pushing her body to its limits. For years, no doctor could tell Wells what was wrong with her, or they told her it was “all in her head.” It was only in college that she learned the name for the illness she had been suffering from all her life: Behcet’s Disease, a rare congenital disorder causing blood vessel inflammation throughout the body, arthritis, and swelling of the brain.
In A Matter of Appearance, Wells, now a professor of creative writing at UC Irvine, traces her journey as she tries to understand and define this specific and personal pain, internally and externally. She draws on the critical works of Freud, Sontag, and others to explore the intersection between gender, pain, and language, tracing a line from the “hysteria patients” documented at the Salpêtrière Hospital in nineteenth-century Paris through to the contemporary New Age healers of Los Angeles and beyond. At the crux of this is the dilemma of how to express in words an experience that is both private and public, subjective, and quantifiable.
A work of crystalline beauty and razorlike insight, A Matter of Appearance introduces a much needed millennial voice to the literature of illness.
Dylan’s pick: Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson, PublicAffairs
A thousand years of history and contemporary evidence make one thing clear. Progress depends on the choices we make about technology. New ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of an elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity.
The wealth generated by technological improvements in agriculture during the European Middle Ages was captured by the nobility and used to build grand cathedrals while peasants remained on the edge of starvation. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for working people. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence undermine jobs and democracy through excessive automation, massive data collection, and intrusive surveillance.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Power and Progress demonstrates that the path of technology was once—and may again be—brought under control. The tremendous computing advances of the last half century can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders.
With their breakthrough economic theory and manifesto for a better society, Acemoglu and Johnson provide the vision needed to reshape how we innovate and who really gains from technological advances.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
"Just started Brighter than the Sun, about a young girl in a San Diego high school living in Tijuana, MX. Sol has dual citizenship, so she is the only one able to get a job part-time in the US to make money to help her family out after her mother's passing away. Quite a deeply important sophomore novel by Daniel Aleman (Indivisible). Serious issues, complex relationships, and a little bit of humor. From trying to fit in and 'be normal' to immigration laws to how we treat others makes this novel a must-read. Relevant, stirring, and relatable."
—Roy Normington, Senior Customer Service Specialist