Resolve to Read 2018: A Book of Social Science

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot Read Harder 2018 Challenge
Category: Read A Book of Social Science

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So, first and foremost, what the heck is “social science,” you might ask.  And that would be an entirely valid question.  Very broadly speaking, the social science tell us about the world beyond our immediate experience–they explain how humans interact, the communities and network they form, the governments and laws they establish (and what happens to people who break those laws), and the cultures that evolve from those societies.  Social sciences can also tell us about how people express their ideas and emotions, the significance of the games they play, and their familial interactions.   Specifically, the social sciences involve the fields of history, language, sociology, criminology, anthropology, education, economics, politics, international affairs, social work…and more!

So, in terms of picking a “social science” book, you’re going to be a bit spoiled for choice.  But in this post, we hope to introduce you to some books that combine fields, use the tools of social scientists to shed unique light on some aspects of the world around us, or that are so delightfully quirky in their research or approach that they will leave you gasping and eager for more!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers: Mary Roach is a master of cross-disciplinary research work.  Her focus is so often on the stuff that grosses us out–but also fascinates us in a uniquely human way (check out her book on the human alimentary canal if you don’t believe me!) .  For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings.  This book is the history of the use of the human body; as tools of learning for medical students, as test subjects in car crash analyses, and as test subjects in studies about decay.  As gruesome at it might sound, Roach’s history/science/economic/industrial mash-up is told with a wonderful sense of humor and a light touch that makes this book as compelling as it is educational.

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time: David Edmonds and John Eidinow are a sensational writing duo who revel in the stories you thought you knew well.  In this book, they use the historic competition between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky to analyze the fraught nature of the Cold War, the role of espionage in those tensions, the history of chess itself, and the complex, occasionally downright bizarre behavior of both Fischer and Spassky, before, during, and after the match.  The final section is a review of Fischer’s FBI file, which reveals some even more intriguing information about the players in this incredible drama.  This is a book that will appeal to history buffs, fans of international relations and politics, and chess aficionados–as well as those who just love realize that the truth really is stranger than fiction.

The  Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates: Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in Baltimore within a few years of each other. One Wes Moore grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader.  But when he learned about the other Wes Moore, who was serving a life sentence in prison, he began an investigation into what really differentiated the two of them.  This book is part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and an in-depth study of the class, familial, personal, and institutional issues that separated the two Wes Moores.  This isn’t an easy-to-read book, but it’s a vitally important one that questions much about the economic, legal, and social strictures at play in our world today.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s study of cancer is a stunning, powerful, and utterly humane look at cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.  A cellular biologist by training, Mukherjee is able to explain the scientific ins-and-outs of cancer–but he never loses his human understanding of what cancer does to people, to families, and to those who are tasked with treating it.  In addition to dealing with the history of cancer treatment, from ancient history to the first recipient of radiation in the 19th century, and also offers a glimpse to the treatment of cancer in the future, providing plenty of food for thought for humanists and scientists alike.

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