Books to Watch | January 4, 2022
January 04, 2022
This week, our choices are:
Correctional by Ravi Shankar, University of Wisconsin Press (DJJS)
The first time Ravi Shankar was arrested, he spoke out against racist policing on National Public Radio and successfully sued the city of New York. The second time, he was incarcerated when his promotion to full professor was finalized. During his ninety-day pretrial confinement at the Hartford Correctional Center—a level 4, high-security urban jail in Connecticut—he met men who shared harrowing and heart-felt stories. The experience taught him about the persistence of structural racism, the limitations of mass media, and the pervasive traumas of twenty-first-century daily life.
Shankar’s bold and complex self-portrait—and portrait of America—challenges us to rethink our complicity in the criminal justice system and mental health policies that perpetuate inequity and harm. Correctional dives into the inner workings of his mind and heart, framing his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the first and only son of South Indian immigrants. Vignettes from his early life set the scene for his spectacular fall and subsequent struggle to come to terms with his own demons. Many of them, it turns out, are also our own.
Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking by Leonard Mlodinow, Pantheon (EPP)
We’ve all been told that thinking rationally is the key to success. But at the cutting edge of science, researchers are discovering that feeling is every bit as important as thinking.
You make hundreds of decisions every day, from what to eat for breakfast to how you should invest, and not one of those decisions would be possible without emotion. It has long been said that thinking and feeling are separate and opposing forces in our behavior. But as Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of Subliminal, tells us, extraordinary advances in psychology and neuroscience have proven that emotions are as critical to our well-being as thinking.
How can you connect better with others? How can you make sense of your frustration, fear, and anxiety? What can you do to live a happier life? The answers lie in understanding your emotions. Journeying from the labs of pioneering scientists to real-world scenarios that have flirted with disaster, Mlodinow shows us how our emotions can help, why they sometimes hurt, and what we can learn in both instances.
Using deep insights into our evolution and biology, Mlodinow gives us the tools to understand our emotions better and to maximize their benefits. Told with his characteristic clarity and fascinating stories, Emotional explores the new science of feelings and offers us an essential guide to making the most of one of nature’s greatest gifts.
How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink by Paco Underhill, Simon & Schuster (DJJS)
An entertaining and timely exploration of how our food—from where it’s grown to how we buy it—is in the midst of a transformation, showing how this is our chance to do better, for us, for our children, and for our planet, from a global expert on consumer behavior.
Our food system—how we produce, process, distribute, and consume food—is broken. But we have the opportunity to do better. Market researcher and bestselling author Paco Underhill sets out to solve these problems and show us where our eating and driving lives are headed in his newest book, How We Eat. Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a Sherlock Holmes for retailers,” Underhill takes an upbeat, hopeful, and characteristically witty approach to how we can change the way we consume. How We Eat reveals the future of food in surprising ways, like how the city is getting country-fied with the rise of farmer’s markets and rooftop farms; how supermarkets are on their way out with their most valuable real estate, their parking lot, for growing their own food and hosting community events; and how marijuana farmers, who have been using artificial light to grow a crop for years, have developed a playbook so mainstream merchants and farmers across the world can grow food in an uncertain future.
Paco Underhill is the expert behind the most prominent brands, consumer habits, and market trends and the author of multiple highly acclaimed books, including Why We Buy. In How We Eat, he shows how food intersects with every major battle we face today, from political and environmental to economic and racial, and invites you to the market to discover more.
Olga Dies Dreaming: A Novel by Xochitl Gonzalez, Flatiron Books (GMC)
A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria
It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers.
Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.
Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.