New Books Network

Gregory Cochran, “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” (Basic, 2009)
First, the conventional wisdom. Because Homo sapiens are a young species and haven’t had time to genetically differentiate, we modern humans are all basically genetically identical. Because Homo sapiens figured out ways to use culture to overcome natural selection, human genetic evolution ceased ages ago. Because Homo sapiens are genetically... Read More
Kees Boterbloem, “The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys: A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2008)
When we speak of the “Age of Discovery,” we usually mean the later fifteenth and sixteenth century. You know, Columbus, Magellan and all that. But the “Age of Discovery” continued well into the seventeenth century as Europeans continued to travel the globe in search of riches, fame and adventure. And... Read More
Simon Morrison, “The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” (Oxford UP, 2009)
In the Soviet Union, artists lived lives that were at once charmed and cursed. Though relatively poor, the USSR poured resources into the arts. The Party created a large, well-funded cultural elite of which only two things were expected. First, that they practice their art. Second–and here’s the rub–that they... Read More
Carl Bon Tempo, “Americans at the Gates: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War” (Princeton UP, 2008)
My Midwestern high school was pretty typical. There were freaks, geeks, jocks, drama-types. Some were white. And some were black. All were recognizably “American.” The only unusual thing about Wichita Southeast was the presence of a reasonably large number of Vietnamese. That’s right, Vietnamese. We didn’t know what to think... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917” (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers’ weep. Fathers’ sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It’s a good story, and some of it’s even true. The reality, of course, was... Read More
Samuel Kassow, “Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive” (Indiana UP, 2007)
Scholars argue about whether the Holocaust was unprecedented. It’s a difficult question. On the one hand, slaughters litter the pages of history. On the other hand, none of them seem quite as calculated, systematic and horribly efficient as the Nazi murder of the Jews and other “Untermenchen.” One thing, however,... Read More
Matthew Goodman, “The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York” (Basic Books, 2008)
The modern newspaper is not as old as you think. Until the early nineteenth century, they were thin and expensive. It was only with the advent of the penny press circa 1830 that the truly mass broadsheet was born. Yet selling a paper for a cent was not a straight-forward... Read More