What to Read this Month: January

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savanna to Your Sofa by Jonathan B. Losos. The domestic cat– your cat–has, from its evolutionary origins in Africa, been transformed in comparatively little time into one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet. Jonathan Losos, writing as both a scientist and a cat lover, explores how researchers today are unraveling the secrets of the cat, past and present, using all the tools of modern technology, from GPS tracking (you’d be amazed where those backyard cats roam) and genomics (what is your so-called Siamese cat . . . really?) to forensic archaeology. In addition to solving the mysteries of your cat’s past, it gives us a cat’s-eye view of today’s habitats, including meeting wild cousins around the world whose habits your sweet house cat sometimes eerily parallels. Humans are transforming cats, and they in turn are transforming the world around them. This charming and intelligent book suggests what the future may hold for both Felis catus and Homo sapiens. To learn more, check out this Washington Post review or watch this interesting presentation he did for The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center.


Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer. ASSISTANT WANTED: Notorious, high-ranking villain seeks loyal, levelheaded assistant for unspecified office duties, supporting staff for random mayhem, terror, and other Dark Things In General. Discretion a must. Excellent benefits. With ailing family to support, Evie Sage’s employment status isn’t just important, it’s vital. So when a mishap with Rennedawn’s most infamous Villain results in a job offer—naturally, she says yes. No job is perfect, of course, but even less so when you develop a teeny crush on your terrifying, temperamental, and undeniably hot boss. Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie. But just when she’s getting used to severed heads suspended from the ceiling and the odd squish of an errant eyeball beneath her heel, Evie suspects this dungeon has a huge rat…and not just the literal kind. Because something rotten is growing in the kingdom of Rennedawn, and someone wants to take the Villain—and his entire nefarious empire—out. Now Evie must not only resist drooling over her boss but also figure out exactly who is sabotaging his work…and ensure he makes them pay. After all, a good job is hard to find. If you haven’t already discovered this story on TikTok, you can read a review on Reactor Magazine.


A History of Fake Things on the Internet by Walter J. Scheirer. Computer scientist Walter J. Scheirer takes a deep dive into the origins of fake news, conspiracy theories, reports of the paranormal, and other deviations from reality that have become part of mainstream culture, from image manipulation in the nineteenth-century darkroom to the literary stylings of large language models like ChatGPT. Scheirer investigates the origins of Internet fakes, from early hoaxes that traversed the globe via Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), USENET, and a new messaging technology called email, to today’s hyperrealistic, AI-generated Deepfakes. An expert in machine learning and recognition, Scheirer breaks down the technical advances that made new developments in digital deception possible, and shares behind-the-screens details of early Internet-era pranks that have become touchstones of hacker lore. His story introduces us to the visionaries and mischief-makers who first deployed digital fakery and continue to influence how digital manipulation works–and doesn’t–today: computer hackers, digital artists, media forensics specialists, and AI researchers. Ultimately, Scheirer argues that problems associated with fake content are not intrinsic properties of the content itself, but rather stem from human behavior, demonstrating our capacity for both creativity and destruction. To learn more you can read a review in the Washington Post or in The New Yorker.


The Absent Moon: A Memoir of a Short Childhood and a Long Depression by Luiz Schwarcz (translated by Eric M.B. Becker). A literary sensation in Brazil, Luiz Schwarcz’s brave and tender memoir interrogates his ordeal of bipolar disorder in the context of a family story of murder, dispossession, and silence–the long echo of the Holocaust across generations. When Luiz Schwarcz was a child, he was told little about his grandfather and namesake, Láios–“Luiz” in Hungarian. Only later in life did he learn that his grandfather, a devout Hungarian Jew, had defied his country’s Nazi occupiers by holding secret religious services in his home. After being put on a train to a German death camp with his son André, Láios ordered André to leap from the train to freedom at a rail crossing, while Láios himself was carried on to his death. What Luiz did know was that his father André, who had emigrated to Brazil, was an unhappy and silent man. Young Luiz assumed responsibility for his parents’ comfort, as many children of trauma do, and for a time he seemed to be succeeding: he blossomed into the family prodigy, eventually growing into a groundbreaking literary publisher in São Paulo. He found a home in the family silence–a home that he filled with books and with reading. But then, at a high point of outward success, Luiz was brought low by a devastating mental breakdown. The Absent Moon is the story of his journey to that point and of his journey back from it, as Luiz learned to forge a more honest relationship with his own mind, with his family, and with their shared past. Check out this NYT review or this Forward review for more details.


Investing in the Era of Climate Change by Bruce Usher. A climate catastrophe can be avoided, but only with a rapid and sustained investment in companies and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To the surprise of many, this has already begun. Investors are abandoning fossil-fuel companies and other polluting industries and financing businesses offering climate solutions. Rising risks, evolving social norms, government policies, and technological innovation are all accelerating this movement of capital. Bruce Usher offers an indispensable guide to the risks and opportunities for investors as the world faces climate change. He explores the role that investment plays in reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, detailing how to finance the winners and avoid the losers in a transforming global economy. Usher argues that careful examination of climate solutions will offer investors a new and necessary lens on the future for their own financial benefit and for the greater good. Companies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions will create great wealth, and, more importantly, they will provide a lifeline for humanity. You can find out more in this Publisher’s Weekly review or this Author Talks.

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