Sometimes, lost in all the hype and hoopla are gems that just don’t quite make it into the forefront of the mainstream. We make it our mission to keep our eyes open and be on the hunt for just those kinds of gems. Perhaps it’s an idea, or a thread of meaning, or maybe just something that is boiling under the surface about to explode like a geyser in Yellowstone Park.
Here are a few books, and the idea of a physical book itself is also one of those overlooked genius things that seems to slip past us everyday, and these are just the kind that only the eagle-eyed may have noticed previously. To make it easier they are featured front and center, below, along with descriptions, provided courtesy of the Bookshop, and some links for a variety of options to purchase.
Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus–how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.
Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.
Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number–infinity–to tackle real-world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.
Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age
Antitrust enforcement is one of the most pressing issues facing America today–and Amy Klobuchar, the widely respected senior senator from Minnesota, is leading the charge. This fascinating history of the antitrust movement shows us what led to the present moment and offers achievable solutions to prevent monopolies, promote business competition, and encourage innovation.
In a world where Google reportedly controls 90 percent of the search engine market and Big Pharma’s drug price hikes impact healthcare accessibility, monopolies can hurt consumers and cause marketplace stagnation. Klobuchar–the much-admired former candidate for president of the United States–argues for swift, sweeping reform in economic, legislative, social welfare, and human rights policies, and describes plans, ideas, and legislative proposals designed to strengthen antitrust laws and antitrust enforcement.
Klobuchar writes of the historic and current fights against monopolies in America, from Standard Oil and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to the Progressive Era’s trust-busters; from the breakup of Ma Bell (formerly the world’s biggest company and largest private telephone system) to the pricing monopoly of Big Pharma and the future of the giant tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google.
She begins with the Gilded Age (1870s-1900), when builders of fortunes and rapacious robber barons such as J. P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt were reaping vast fortunes as industrialization swept across the American landscape, with the rich getting vastly richer and the poor, poorer.
She discusses President Theodore Roosevelt, who, during the Progressive Era (1890s-1920), busted the trusts, breaking up monopolies; the Clayton Act of 1914; the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914; and the Celler-Kefauver Act of 1950, which it strengthened the Clayton Act. She explores today’s Big Pharma and its price-gouging; and tech, television, content, and agriculture communities and how a marketplace with few players, or one in which one company dominates distribution, can hurt consumer prices and stifle innovation.
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age
From the man who coined the term net neutrality, author of The Master Switch and The Attention Merchants, comes a warning about the dangers of excessive corporate and industrial concentration for our economic and political future.
We live in an age of extreme corporate concentration, in which global industries are controlled by just a few giant firms — big banks, big pharma, and big tech, just to name a few.
But concern over what Louis Brandeis called the curse of bigness can no longer remain the province of specialist lawyers and economists, for it has spilled over into policy and politics, even threatening democracy itself. History suggests that tolerance of inequality and failing to control excessive corporate power may prompt the rise of populism, nationalism, extremist politicians, and fascist regimes.
In short, as Wu warns, we are in grave danger of repeating the signature errors of the twentieth century. In The Curse of Bigness, Columbia professor Tim Wu tells of how figures like Brandeis and Theodore Roosevelt first confronted the democratic threats posed by the great trusts of the Gilded Age–but the lessons of the Progressive Era were forgotten in the last 40 years. He calls for recovering the lost tenets of the trustbusting age as part of a broader revival of American progressive ideas as we confront the fallout of persistent and extreme economic inequality.
Silent Spring (50th Anniversary Edition)
The classic that launched the environmental movement
Rarely does a single book alter the course of history, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did exactly that.
The outrcrythat followed its publication in 1962 forced the banning of DDT and spurred the revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.
Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement.
This is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century. The introduction, by the acclaimed biographer Linda Lear, tells the story of Carson’s courageous defense of her truths in the face of a ruthless assault form the chemical industry following the publication of Silent Spring and before her untimely death.
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