Expert with ITMO University’s Center for Science Communication; specialist in higher education management; translator.
Three Lesser-Known Books on Popular Science
We often associate popular science literature with hard science, while not paying enough attention to the communication of humanities' knowledge. So, for today’s selection, we’ve picked three great books on society, social bonds, and literature.
1. Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity by Zygmunt Bauman and Leonidas Donskis
Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and philosopher Leonidas Donskis analyze human indifference to things happening in the modern world, something they call a "form of moral blindness". The authors discourse upon the nature of evil in the 21st century, the risks of neglecting privacy, where the indifference to the suffering of others leads us, whether "The Decline of the West" will ever take place, why conspiracy theories emerge, and what the media has to do with it. The book is great for everyone who likes to contemplate on the issues of the deeper changes in society, and their consequences.
What’s more, the authors make references to a multitude of interesting authors and their works — from Alain-René Lesage to Michel Houellebecq.
2. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman
This splendid book focuses on humans as social beings. The author argues that social bonds have a greater effect on us, and are more essential than it might seem. This is substantiated by data from various experiments and functional MRI studies.
An important part of the book is dedicated to "social pain" and its comparison with physical pain, which is also substantiated with experiments. Social pain is as real and as painful. Emotional violence can lead to the same catastrophic consequences as physical violence, but for whatever reason, isn’t given serious enough consideration. The author will persuade you to see these things differently.
3. What Bestsellers Tell Us. The Workings of a Book World by Galina Yuzefovich
This work by critic Galina Yuzefovich on bestsellers is a collection of her essays on literature, which focus on why some books become more than books but cultural phenomena. Why do millions of people (literally) adore Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Katniss Everdeen or The Twilight Saga? Why do we read what we read? How crime fiction works, and why a poor translation can make a great book unpopular with readers?
What exactly is the Nobel Prize in Literature and why do we often get puzzled with the choice of Swedish academics? How readers' preferences and habits change with generations, and why is it totally normal?
I really like Galina Yuzefovich for her ironic and very reasonable attitude towards her work. My favorite rhetoric about literature comes from this book: "Reading is yet another (and a very efficient!) way to milk the universe for a bit more pleasure than we’re meant to get".
The book also gives lots of recommendations, so you’ll get a lot of options of what to read afterwards.