Read - Want to Read: Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott (Yale University Press)
Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today’s states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family—all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction. Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the “barbarians” who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.
Recommended by Dan Allosso while we were reading The Dawn of Everything.
Read - Want to Read: Wild Songs, Sweet Songs: The Albanian Epic in the Collections of Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord by Nicola Scaldaferri (ed.) (Harvard University Press)
In the 1930s, Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord, two pioneering scholars of oral poetry, conducted adventurous fieldwork in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and northern Albania, collecting singularly important examples of Albanian epic song. Wild Songs, Sweet Songs presents these materials, which have not previously been published, for the first time.
Bookmarked The Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies Companions (2 book series) by Robert L Boss, Sarah B. Boss, eds. (JESociety Press)

The Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies Companions are products of JESociety's "Miscellanies Project." Essays were contributed by an international body of scholars hailing from East Asia, Australia, Europe, the UK, and North America. The contributions canvas the wide range of topics contained in Edwards' "Miscellanies."

"The Miscellanies Project" and the Companions are part of the "Visual Edwards Project" created by Robert L. Boss. A unique contribution to Jonathan Edwards studies, "Visual Edwards" is a software project that maps Edwards' writings, volumes 1-26 of the Yale critical edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and provides a new view of America's theologian. "Visual Edwards" is, as it were, an advanced computational material which can be stretched, bent, and zoomed to direct the scholar to areas of interest. As a cartographic tool, it grants the reader visual access to Edwards in his own words.

A team-oriented project to visually unlock Edwards' notebooks, and map intricate connections in his thought, "The Miscellanies Project" and the print Companions are first steps toward the Himalayan task of visualizing Jonathan Edwards -- an ongoing project seemingly without end. To echo Edwards' sentiment in "Types," "there is room for persons to be learning more and more ... to the end of the world without discovering all."

Liked a tweet by Dr. Matthew Everhard (Twitter)
Requesting my copy now…
Read - Want to Read: Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker (Allen Lane )
In the twenty-first century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding - and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that discovered vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures and conspiracy theorizing? In Rationality, Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply an irrational species - cavemen out of time fatally cursed with biases, fallacies and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives and set the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he explains, we think in ways that suit the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we have built up over millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, causal inference, and decision-making under uncertainty. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book - until now. Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress. Brimming with insight and humour, Rationality will enlighten, inspire and empower.
Bookmarked Media and the Mind: Art, Science and Notebooks as Paper Machines, 1700-1830 by Matthew Daniel EddyMatthew Daniel Eddy (University of Chicago Press)
I can’t wait to read Media and the Mind: Art, Science and Notebooks as Paper Machines, 1700-1830 (University of Chicago Press, 2022)!

I see some bits on annotation hiding in here that may be of interest to Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia.

Matthew Daniel Eddy, if you need some additional eyeballs on it prior to publication, I’m happy to mark it up in exchange for the early look.
Bookmarked An Excerpt From The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Penguin)
Science fiction is often described, and even defined, as extrapolative. The science fiction writer is supposed to take a trend or phenomenon of the here-and-now, purify and intensify it for dramatic effect, and extend it into the future. “If this goes on, this is what will happen.” A prediction is made. Method and results much resemble those of a scientist who feeds large doses of a purified and concentrated food additive to mice, in order to predict what may happen to people who eat it in small quantities for a long time. The outcome seems almost inevitably to be cancer. So does the outcome of extrapolation. Strictly extrapolative works of science fiction generally arrive about where the Club of Rome arrives: somewhere between the gradual extinction of human liberty and the total extinction of terrestrial life.
Suggested Annotated Reading from the I Annotate 2021 Keynote: Courtney McClellan
Bookmarked 7 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Annotation (library.educause.edu)
Collaborative annotation tools expand the concept of social bookmarking by allowing users not only to share bookmarks but also to digitally annotate w
Interesting looking article that was referenced at I Annotate 2021 today.
Bookmarked Jenea Cohn's Writing by Jenea CohnJenea Cohn (Jenae Cohn)
Writing I explore emergent questions about how technology impacts the ways that we read, write, and communicate, particularly in higher education. How do we read deeply in digital spaces? Reading on a screen is a different experience than reading off of paper. But is it necessarily worse, more distr...

Her book Skim, Dive, Surface:Teaching Digital Reading looks particularly interesting.

I’ve just gotten a copy of Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova which came out earlier this week.

Simple white book cover of Remember by Lisa Genova featuring a piece of red string tied into a knotted bow

I’ve thumbed through it quickly and done some targeted searches of the text. From all appearances, it looks like she’s approaching the topic of memory from a neuroscientist’s perspective and talking about broad psychology and culture.

There are a few references to the method of loci and a tangential reference to the phonetic major system in chapter 5. She approaches these briefly with a mention of Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein and his PAO system (without using the word Person-Action-Object), but dismisses all too quickly.

But you would have to do a lot of memorizing before you can actually use these techniques (and others like them) to remember the stuff you’re interested in remembering. If the thought of doing this kind of mental labor sounds exhausting, I’m right there with you. I don’t have the dedication or time. Unless you’re motivated to become an elite memory athlete or your life’s dream is to memorize 111,700 digits of pi, I suspect you don’t, either. Most of us will never want or need to memorize that kind or that amount of information. But many of us would like to be better at memorizing the ten things on our to-do list, our Wi-Fi password, or the six things we need at the grocery store.

Sadly she doesn’t bring up the much easier to use phonetic major system, but blows right by it.

I’ll try to delve into the rest of the text shortly, but I was really hoping for more on the mnemonics front. I mnemonists won’t get much out of it on the techniques front, but might find it useful for an overview of the neuroscience or psychology fronts from Hermann Ebbinghaus onwards.

Read - Want to Read: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark (Knopf Publishing Group)

"Finally, the biography that Sylvia Plath deserves . . . A spectacular achievement." --Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

The highly anticipated new biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art. With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials--including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews--Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s. Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark evokes a culture in transition, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Plath's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a marriage of true minds that would change the course of poetry in English; and much more.

Clark's clear-eyed portraits of Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath's suicide promotes a deeper understanding of her final days, with their outpouring of first-rate poems. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark's meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world over.

Greg O’Dea in “@themeghanodea @rachsyme The latest, by @Plathbiography Heather Clark, is far and away the best Plath biography. It is also a model for all biographies in its critical balance and deep erudition. Even at about 900 pages it reads like a literary dream.” / Twitter ()

Read - Want to Read: Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America by Martha S. Jones (Cambridge University Press)
Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, and black Americans' aspirations were realized. Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.
Read - Want to Read: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
"As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power--which groups have it and which do not."
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people's lives and behavior and the nation's fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people--including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball's Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others--she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.
Read - Want to Read: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Crown Publishing Group)
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency--a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation's highest office. Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune's Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective--the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of "hope and change," and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible. This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama's conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
Read - Want to Read: How to Argue with a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say about Human Difference by Adam Rutherford (Experiment)
Race is not a biological reality.
Racism thrives on our not knowing this.
Racist pseudoscience has become so commonplace that it can be hard to spot. But its toxic effects on society are plain to see--feeding nationalism, fueling hatred, endangering lives, and corroding our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even well-intentioned people repeat stereotypes based on "science," because cutting-edge genetics are hard to grasp--and all too easy to distort. Paradoxically, these misconceptions are multiplying even as scientists make unprecedented discoveries in human genetics--findings that, when accurately understood, are powerful evidence against racism. We've never had clearer answers about who we are and where we come from, but this knowledge is sorely needed in our casual conversations about race.
How to Argue With a Racist emphatically dismantles outdated notions of race by illuminating what modern genetics actually can and can't tell us about human difference. We now know that the racial categories still dividing us do not align with observable genetic differences. In fact, our differences are so minute that, most of all, they serve as evidence of our shared humanity.