HT Picks: This week’s most interesting new reads
Our pick of the most interesting books this week includes one on the brain, an examination of life and death in the age of Corona, and a novel on the transition to adulthoodUpdated: Sep 25, 2020, 17:52 IST
LIVEWIRED BY DAVID EAGLEMAN
What does drug withdrawal have in common with a broken heart? Why is the enemy of memory not time, but other memories? How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? Why did many people in the 1980s mistakenly perceive book pages to be slightly red in colour? Why is the world’s best archer armless? Might we someday control a robot with our thoughts, just as we do our fingers and toes? Why do we dream at night, and what does that have to do with the rotation of the planet? The answer to these questions is right behind our eyes. The greatest technology we have ever discovered on this planet is the three-pound organ carried around in the vault of the skull. This book is not simply about what the brain is, but what it does. The magic of the brain is not found in the parts it’s made of, but in the way those parts unceasingly re-weave themselves in an electric, living fabric. Covering decades of research to the present day, Livewired also presents new discoveries from Eagleman’s own laboratory, from synaesthesia to dreaming to wearable neurotech devices that revolutionize how we think about the senses. Livewired explores the leading edge of neuroscience.*
THE COURAGE TO EXIST BY RAMIN JAHANBEGLOO
The coronavirus pandemic is one of those historical moments when our past, present and future seem to collide. Humanity is confronted by an ignominious death — death reduced to a statistic. The fear of dying from an invisible, unknown enemy has changed our modes of thinking, living and being, both public and private, even as lockdowns and State surveillance measures — ostensibly distancing ‘healthy’ society from the impure, ‘unhealthy’ Other — have violated fundamental human rights and liberties.
Humankind is living its kairos, its propitious moment and opportunity to take a decision — one which will impact each one of us. The pandemic has engendered a moral crisis and vacuum. Humanity has no option but to respond to the more violent consequences of the pandemic with a new moral, aesthetic and personal philosophy. To survive this, and future pandemics, we must urgently re-evaluate the basic human values on which our world stands. We must redefine freedom, the value of life and death.
It is the universal human capacity for empathy, hope and compassionate justice that enable the possibility of a common ethical world of meaning and human solidarity. And it is here that a potential future for humanity lies, the author suggests in The Courage to Exist. Only a morality of common humanity — valid for all human beings at all times — can redefine the art of living, in the face of a death that we all fear.*
THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS BY ELENA FERRANTE
Elena Ferrante new novel about the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood is a gripping Neapolitan story. Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.
Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.*
*All text from press releases.