In The Six-Point Inspection, Zócalo takes a quick look at new books that are changing the way we see our world.
Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution by David Rothenberg
The nutshell: Inspired by the mating habits of the bowerbird-the males create and decorate structures, sometimes even using berries as paint, to attract females-jazz musician and New Jersey Institute of Technology philosopher Rothenberg explores why nature is so beautiful and where humans find beauty. He argues that it doesn’t all boil down to evolution or sexual selection.
Literary lovechild of: Charles Darwin and John Ruskin.
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re big into punctuated equilibrium, and you moonlight as a troubadour.
Cocktail party fodder: Slowed down and played back, the songs of a nightingale sound just like those of a humpback whale.
For optimal benefit: Read this, then head to a museum, then pour yourself a glass of wine and watch Planet Earth.
Snap judgment: A unique argument from an unlikely perspective on a subject (evolution) we read about often.
[sic]: A Memoir by Joshua Cody
The nutshell: Composer Cody was in graduate school in New York when he was diagnosed with cancer. In a stream-of-consciousness style that moves from music to history to anecdote to feeling (sometimes all on one page), he recounts the long and brutal series of medical treatments, terror and depression, sex and drugs, and eventually joy and love (if not healing) that followed.
Literary lovechild of: Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You named your goldfish David Foster Wallace.
Cocktail party fodder: Frank Lloyd Wright and Orson Welles were both born near Milwaukee; Cody was born in Milwaukee.
For optimal benefit: Although this is in part a music memoir, read it in a quiet room-Cody’s voice is loud and frenetic enough.
Snap judgment: Flip to a page, any page. This is a voice you’ll love … or not.
Books: A Living History by Martyn Lyons
The nutshell: With the future of the physical book uncertain, historian Lyons presents a timely, lushly illustrated chronicle of the written word from ancient eras through the present day. (It’s worth noting that publishers don’t come onto the scene until over halfway through!)
Literary lovechild of: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield and Cosmo Kramer’s coffee table book about coffee tables (for the meta aspect).
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: We should say bookshelves, because you have many-and, for symbolic reasons, don’t yet own a Kindle, iPad, or Nook.
Cocktail party fodder: The Koreans invented the first metal moveable type 200 years before Gutenberg.
For optimal benefit: Keep it on your coffee table to taunt you while you stare at your laptop.
Snap judgment: This beautifully made book is something of an argument in itself for the preciousness of books-and the history within it is interesting, too.