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Home » The Early Word: New Non-Fiction Books for the Week of June 23, 2008

The Early Word: New Non-Fiction Books for the Week of June 23, 2008

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"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." –John Adams (1735 – 1826)

John Adams: revolutionary leader, America's first ambassador to England, first vice president, second president, media darling. The recent and ambitious seven-part TV miniseries — based on the biography by David McCullough — that chronicled Adams’ life and the birth of the United States, was an undeniable hit. As to whether the founding father's philosophy of furthering and narrowing an interdisciplinary education is an admirable goal for anyone, for the Adams family at least — who must be well along into the program 280 years after Adams' death — subjects might be running dry. This week, fortunately, brings with it some history books covering topics from the arcane to the intriguing — all quite fascinating — and all of which add insight to larger fields of sociological, cultural, and scientific study, among others.

In Hidden Codes & Grand Designs: Secret Languages from Ancient Times to Modern Day Pierre Berloquin, one of France’s leading puzzle book authors, takes you on a journey of discovery deep into codes, ciphers, and other secret communication systems. Ingenious methods for encoding secrets have taken fascinating twists and turns throughout history, from the Masons to the Bible, the military signals the Romans flashed from hilltop to hilltop to modern day ATM computer codes. For extra added features, the book contains more than 150 brain-teasing problems for readers to solve for themselves.

At the same time, the historical popularization of evolutionary theory, as discussed in God – or Gorilla: Images of Evolution in the Jazz Age – in the Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context series — may have seemed to many to take the form of a secret communication system needing to be deciphered for public consumption. Presenting a look at both 1920’s popular culture and the role of science, Constance A. Clark‘s shows how biologists and anti-evolutionists deployed schematics, cartoons, photographs, sculptures, and paintings to win the battle for widespread acceptance. Noting that scholars still debate the most appropriate way to teach evolutionary theory, Clark explains how changes in the concept are absorbed into the education system and the general public.

Extra, extra – read all about ‘em! A couple other releases, with “’nuff said” titles, defy description, but for totally different reasons. First up is Michelle Ann Abate’s Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History – a single subject title that's a sure bet not to be represented in your bookcase, or offered as a seminar at too many universities. Then a together-again-for-the-first-time mix-and-match makes Edward Dolnick’s The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century a book you’re at least going to pick up and peruse.

Also, for your consideration:

Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History
by Michelle Ann Abate

Hidden Codes & Grand Designs: Secret Languages from Ancient Times to Modern Day
by Pierre Berloquin

God – or Gorilla: Images of Evolution in the Jazz Age
by Constance Aerson Clark

The Full Burn: On the Set, at the Bar, Behind the Wheel, and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntmen
by Kevin Conley

Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle
by Georgia J. Cowart 

The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
by Edward Dolnick

This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation
Barbara Ehrenreich

The Dancer Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Dancers
by Rose Eichenbaum, Aron Hirt-Manheimer (Editor)

Garner on Writing and Language
by Bryan A. Garner

Delightfulee: The Life and Music of Lee Morgan
by Jeffery S. McMillan, Jeff McMillan

The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
by Michael Meyer

Fleeced: How Washington Insiders, Foreign Lobbyists, Subprime Lenders, Credit Card Companies, Iraq Reconstruction Contractors, and Clinton Cronies Are Picking Our Pockets… and What to Do About It
by Dick Morris, Eileen McGann

Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistence
by Christen Wemmer (Editor), Catherine A. Christen (Editor), Foreword by John Seidensticker

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