Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One - Kevin Jackson

Was there something in the water? Had sufficient time passed since the Great War for reflection? Did the muses all wake up? 1922 began with Joyce’s Ulysses and closed with The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. It was a year in which literature, art, and culture itself changed forever. Context is everything, and by taking us through significant encounters among luminaries such as Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, Freud, Einstein, Hitchcock, Yeats, Evelyn Waugh, Anna Akhmatova, Proust, Hitler, Churchill, and Louis Armstrong (to name a few of the players in this landmark year), Kevin Jackson makes history delicious and very real in his Constellation of Genius (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30). Mimicking the frenzied minutiae that defines the modernist era, Jackson reveals every letter, train ride, news story, and high tea so that we might pick up, examine, and reflect that maybe something was in the water, and thank our god, Dada, or radical politics that it was.

A History of the World in 12 Maps - Jerry Brotton

In his masterful survey of worlds and world views, the Renaissance scholar Jerry Brotton focuses on some of the most influential cartographic works of all times and places to tell A History of the World in 12 Maps (Viking, $40). Identifying pivotal moments when priorities shifted and crystallized, Brotton discusses Ptolemy’s enduring significance, looks at the rich science and art of 11th-century Islamic maps, presents 15th-century China’s neo-Confucian nonary (3x3) grids, explains Mercator’s—and later—projections of spherical models onto flat planes, and follows the Cassinis’ six-decade-long struggle to map France as a modern nation-state. The stories, personalities, and ideas are vivid, as are the repercussions so many maps have had, such as the violence unleashed by the 1947 line drawn between India and Pakistan. Knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, Brotton shows how maps have inspired and aided many a quest, whether for wealth, land, or power, even as map-makers themselves continue to pursue the elusive goal of objectivity.

A History of the World in 12 Maps By Jerry Brotton Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143126027
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - October 28th, 2014

The Great Big Book of Horrible Things - Matthew White

This is exactly what it claims to be – a great big book of massacres, genocides, famines and every other man-made calamity to befall civilization since 480 BCE. No event makes the cut if the death toll isn’t reliably estimated at 300 000 or more. White doesn’t take sides, doesn’t differentiate between types of death, and his numbers are middle of the road. One of the categories in the summary chapter headings is “another damn”, as in “another damn Mongol invasion”, for example. Refreshingly, the book is global in scope, and the author’s breadth of knowledge and storytelling skills make it an entertaining, at times even funny, read. Any attempt to face our violent past must begin with the truth and this is what White has made a valiant attempt to give us, although I guarantee you’ll want to quibble.
The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities By Matthew White Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393081923
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 7th, 2011