Eugenia Cheng: "Beyond Infinity". Mathematician and pianist Eugenia Cheng explores the concept of infinity.
Juergen Osterhammel: "Unfabling the East - The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia"
Alice Gregory: "Nodding Off". The science of sleep and what happens if we don't get enough of it.
Tim Wu: “Anti-Trust’s Most Wanted". Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality”, shows that the antitrust laws of the USA don't protect us against today's monopolies, and specifically targets ten “firms or industries ripe for investigation” by the government (Amazon, Google, Big Pharma, hospitals...)
Jill Lepore: "These Truths". A new history of the USA.
Ronald Inglehart: "Cultural Evolution: People’s Motivations are Changing, and Reshaping the World". An update to his book "The Silent Revolution" (1977) in which he examined people's motivation after World War II.
Henry Greely: "The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction". About the revolution coming from synthetic biology, notably "designer babies".
Soraya Murray: "On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender and Space". Videogames from a visual culture perspective, how they both mirror and are constitutive of larger societal fears, dreams, hopes and even complex struggles for recognition.
Alastair Bonnett: "Beyond the Map - Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias"
Fox Harrell: "Phantasmal Media". An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression: the great expressive power of computational media arises from the construction of phantasms-blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination.
Oliver Bullough: "Moneyland". An overview of the way that rich people can stash money away in invisible manners. Much of this money is stolen by corrupt official in poor countries and deposited in rich countries.
William Vollmann: "Carbon Ideologies". Two colossal volumes that provide a compendium of human-made climate change.
Michael Kinch: "Between Hope and Fear". Vaccinations have saved millions, possibly billions, of lives, but a scary antivaccination movement in Pakistan, in the USA (the same movement that produces the fascist thugs of Fox News and amoral presidents), and in Italy (the five-star movement that recently won national elections) risk sending us back to the dark ages. Until the 19th century, infectious diseases pretty much determined the life expectancy of humans. About 50% of children died before the age of 5. This book tells the story of how scientists figured out how to prepare the immune system against the most common diseases. Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich in Germany, and Louis Pasteur in France, are the real heroes certainly not the ignorant demagogues of our age, the Taliban, the Grillos and Trumps.
David Auerbach: "Bitwise - A Life in Code". Finally a balanced meditation on technology's place in modern society. Not hysterical, not apocalyptic, just informed and competent.
Elizabeth Economy: "The Third Revolution - Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State". She argues that Xi was elected by the Communist Party to regain control of society.
Sulmaan Wasif Khan: "Haunted by Chaos - China's Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping"
Adrienne Mayor: "Gods and Robots". How the Greeks imagined automatons, replicants, and Artificial Intelligence in myths and later designed self-moving devices and robots.
Anne Applebaum: "Red Famine". A story of Stalin's "war" on Ukraine (he caused the famine, then ordered the purges) but also a history of Ukraine over the centuries that puts the country's plight in perspective.
Michael D'Antonio: "The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence". A terrifying biography of Trump's vicepresident.
Timothy Snyder: "The Road to Unfreedom". Snyder explains how Russia revolutionized information warfare.
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: "The Sum of Small Things". A theory of "the aspirational class" that introduces the concepts of "social capital" and "Veblen goods".
David Sanger: "The Perfect Weapon". A survey of cyberwarfare.
Jaron Lanier: "Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now". Perhaps a little too apocalyptic (reminiscent of when parents were telling children not to watch television or not to listen to rock music) but, like all his books, full of important thoughts.
William Polk: "Crusade and Jihad". An interesting take on the Islamic world that almost shifts the discussion from Christians vs Muslims towards North vs South. The North (Britain, Holland, France) colonized, destroyed and killed. The South is taking its revenge.
John Gray: "The Seven Types of Atheism". A philosopher's discussion of atheism.
Dani Rodrik: "Straight Talk on Trade". Rodrik wrote "Has Globalization Gone too far?" in 1997, and all the nationalist movements (Trump, Brexit, Italian Five-star Movement, etc) proved that his concern was correct. In 1997 he was worried that "international economic integration does not contribute to domestic social disintegration". The new book shows that free trade doesn't necessarily benefit developing countries: China is the prime example of a country that started a successful economic program at a time when it was NOT part of the global trade system. Rodrik thinks that China benefits from not being part of it.
Francois Bougon: "Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping". The author simply read Xi's talks and took them literally.
Jess Melvin: "The Army and the Indonesian Genocide". A detailed account of how the Western powers helped the Indonedian army commit genocide in the name of fighting the communists (the Indonesian Communist Party was the third largest in the world in 1965).
Judea Pearl: "The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect". Pearl recently declared: "All the impressive achievements of deep learning amount to just curve fitting". Deep learning is good at discovering associations. It is, basically, statistics on steroids. The real challenge is to replace its "reasoning by association" with causal reasoning
Oliver Bullough: "Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How to Take It Back"
Daniel Ellsberg's "The Doomsday Machine". Revisiting US thinking during the Cold War. Ghastly to say the least. It is impressive how the public has been consistently misled by past presidents, and how big business de facto steered US foreign policy.
Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt: "How Democracies Die". Certainly not a masterpiece, but i had to pick at least one book about trump, and Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" is the worst one. This one has at least some interesting discussion about how authoritarian leaders got elected democratically and then proceeded to change the rules to stay in power forever. All democratically done. Democracy is vulnerable not to coups but to... itself.
Joerg Ruepke: "Pantheon". A comprehensive history of Roman religion.
Abbas Amanat: "Iran". A 1,000-page history of Iran's since 1501.
Mark Galeotti: "The Vory - Russia's Super Mafia". A comprehensive guide to the intersection of crime and politics in Putin's Russia.
Wang Bing's documentary “Dead Souls”. Not a book, but this eight-hour documentary (that took ten years to complete) is the best we have about Mao’s prison camps of the 1950s and 1960s, where millions worked, starved and died.
Using quantum sensors in diamond, Ronald Walsworth of Harvard University increased the spectral resolution of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy by 100-fold in microscopic volumes, a fact that will enable NMR analysis at the scale of the single biological cell.
Edward Boyden's "implosion fabrication", a method to shrink objects to nanoscale using a laser.
Mikhail Eremets' team at the Max Planck Institute in Germany discovered a material, lanthanum hydride (LaH10), that can become a superconductor at –23 degrees, a new record for "high temperature" superconductivity
Gregoire Courtine's spinal implant at EPFL in Switzerland helps three paralyzed men walk again
The Japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft (that was traveling since 2014) landed two rovers on the surface of the 162173 Ryugu asteroid, the first time that humans put a rover on an asteroid
A team of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore that includes mathematician Cristian Tomasetti and cancer geneticist Bert Vogelstein is trying a blood test that can identify 16 kinds of cancer. It looks for the mutated DNA and proteins associated with cancer.
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 7 - Marin Alsop conducts the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Alex Mincek: Torrent - Three of his own compositions
George Tsontakis: Anasa, True Colors, Unforgettable - Albany Symphony Orchestra
Heroes of the year:
Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the "Hirak Rif/ Rif Movement" in Morocco
Sayragul Sauytbay, a Chinese national and an ethnic Kazakh, detained after she entered Kazakhstan illegally to join her husband, whose court testimony in Kazakhstan has exposed the reeducation camps for Uygurs in China's northwestern Xinjiang Province
Asia Bibi, a Christian woman arrested ten years ago for anti-Islamic blasphemy in Pakistan (a radical Islamic "republic"), released from jail but now threatened by mobs of fanatical Muslims that are tolerated by the Pakistani government
Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser, a Saudi journalist who disappeared and was possibly tortured to death in prison
Morocco's protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, sentenced to 20 years in prison
Christopher Steele, author of the dossier that revealed the Russian plot of overthrow US democracy and intall a puppet as US president (Donald Trump)
"The World is a lot Poorer without You": a tribute to the great minds we lost in 2018...