Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month.
1. Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History by Jaipreet Virdi (May 1)
Through lyrical history and personal memoir, Hearing Happiness raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. Taking us from the 1860s up to the present, Virdi combs archives and museums in order to understand the long history of curious cures: hearing trumpets, violet-ray apparatuses, pneumomassages, electrotherapy machines, airplane diving, bloodletting, skull hammering, and many more. Hundreds of procedures and products have promised grand miracles but always failed to deliver—a legacy that is still present in contemporary biomedicine.
2. Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos (May 5)
Since the release of her first, career-defining solo album Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been one of the music industry’s most enduring and ingenious artists. From her unnerving depiction of sexual assault in “Me and a Gun” to her post-9/11 album Scarlet’s Walk to her latest album Native Invader, her work has never shied away from intermingling the personal with the political.
3. Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup (May 5)
Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up?
4. Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea by Sarah Besky (May 12)
What is the role of quality in contemporary capitalism? How is a product as ordinary as a bag of tea judged for its quality? In her innovative study, Sarah Besky addresses these questions by going inside an Indian auction house where experts taste and appraise mass-market black tea, one of the world’s most recognized commodities. Pairing rich historical data with ethnographic research among agronomists, professional tea tasters and traders, and tea plantation workers, Besky shows how the meaning of quality has been subjected to nearly constant experimentation and debate throughout the history of the tea industry.
5. The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch by Miles Harvey (May 12)
In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. In the wake of the murder of the sect’s leader, Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor, and persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to an island in Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.
6. Sunny Days: Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and the Children’s Television Revolution by David Kamp (May 12)
In 1970, on a soundstage on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a group of men, women, and Muppets of various ages and colors worked doggedly to finish the first season of a children’s TV program that was not yet assured a second season: Sesame Street. They were conducting an experiment to see if television could be used to better prepare disadvantaged preschoolers for kindergarten. What they didn’t know then was that they were starting a cultural revolution that would affect all American kids.
7. We Had No Rules by Corrine Manning (May 12)
A young teenager runs from her family’s conservative home to her sister’s NY apartment to learn a very different set of rules. A woman grieves the loss of a sister, a “gay divorce,” and the pain of unacknowledged abuse with the help of a lone wallaby on a farm in Washington State. A professor of women’s and gender studies revels in academic and sexual power but risks losing custody of the family dog.
8. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (May 12)
Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms–and our relationships with them–are changing our understanding of how life works.
9. The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World’s Favorite Insect by Wendy Williams (May 12)
Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year from Canada to Mexico. Other species have learned how to fool ants into taking care of them. Butterflies’ scales are inspiring researchers to create new life-saving medical technology. Williams takes readers to butterfly habitats across the globe and introduces us to not only various species, but to the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying them.
10. The Equivalents: The Untold Story of the Five Friends Who Started a Personal, Political, and Artistic Revolution by Maggie Doherty (May 19)
In 1960, at the height of an era that expected women to focus solely on raising families, Radcliffe College announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, offering fellowships to women with a Ph.D. or “the equivalent” in artistic success. Acclaimed writer and Harvard lecturer Maggie Doherty introduces us to five brilliant friends–poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Marianna Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen–who came together at the Institute and would go on to make history. Drawing from their notebooks, letters, lecture recordings, journals, and finished works, Doherty weaves from these women’s own voices a moving narrative of friendship, ambition, activism, and art.