In My Mailbox -- January 27, 2019

Although I've been bed-ridden and not particularly up for reading lately (flu season has hit W&L and it hit HARD), some of my holds from the library came in! I'm psyched for these, and I genuinely enjoy having a time limit, because it keeps me accountable to build time into my schedule.Curiosity books, for me, are ones I borrow from the library rather than buy because I know I'll likely only read them once. Books that satisfy my continual urge to learn more about science, philosophy, or any other discipline I don't regularly study -- books to feed my pretension.If you don't take advantage of being able to check out books from your local library, DO. Go and get a library card. Download some reads on your e-reader or your phone. (It's my favorite life hack for finding time to read, as well as for not supporting Amazon.)Without further ado, here are some reads I'm psyched about.Novel: Beauty: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton | GoodreadsRelease Date: April 8, 2011Publisher: Oxford University Press

Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference. In this Very Short Introduction, the renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores the concept of beauty, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful, and examining how we can compare differing judgments of beauty when it is evident all around us that our tastes vary so widely. Is there a right judgment to be made about beauty? Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more in a Rembrandt than in an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can? Forthright and thought-provoking, and as accessible as it is intellectually rigorous, this introduction to the philosophy of beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater sense of meaning in the beautiful objects that fill our lives.

We read a few out of this "short introduction" series for my history class -- granted, those were about Puritanism and the Protestant Reformation -- and I really enjoyed the plainspoken overview of a topic. I'm really fascinated by the idea of beauty as a whole. What attracts you, how to quantify it, how to speak about it. Because I'm so fascinated by aesthetic, I figured I'd venture into some new nonfiction explanations.Novel: What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund | GoodreadsRelease Date: August 5, 2014Publisher: Vintage

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?The collection of fragmented images on a page - a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so - and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved - or reviled - literary figures.In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf's Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature - he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader - into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.

I used to always see this title when I was a bookseller at Oxford Exchange, and I was always tempted to buy it. As proven by the past seven and a half years, I love to read for plenty of reasons, and I'm fascinated by the science behind it. I feel like I'd derive a lot of comfort from understanding the mechanisms that are in place for it, as well as what cognitive benefits it provides.Novel: How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price | GoodreadsRelease Date: February 13, 2018Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Packed with tested strategies and practical tips, this book is the essential, life-changing guide for everyone who owns a smartphone.Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch before bed? Do you frequently pick it up "just to check," only to look up forty-five minutes later wondering where the time has gone? Do you say you want to spend less time on your phone--but have no idea how to do so without giving it up completely? If so, this book is your solution.Award-winning journalist Catherine Price presents a practical, hands-on plan to break up--and then make up--with your phone. The goal? A long-term relationship that actually feels good. You'll discover how phones and apps are designed to be addictive, and learn how the time we spend on them damages our abilities to focus, think deeply, and form new memories. You'll then make customized changes to your settings, apps, environment, and mindset that will ultimately enable you to take back control of your life.

On a more practical note, I spend a lot of time on my phone. I'm conscious about the role that photo-taking and scrolling through inspirational feeds has in my life. While I think I have a pretty good balance (sharing what makes me happy but not sharing much of my personal life aside from the occasional formal photo), I'd love to be less dependent on the security of my phone. My goal is to automate my Instagram as much as possible, via content planning and consistent photoshoots and all of that. Getting less screen time would be a good thing.Novel: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt | GoodreadsRelease Date: May 10, 2016Publisher: Knopf

From the best-selling author of Traffic, a brilliant and entertaining exploration of our personal tastes--why we like the things we like, and what it says about us.Everyone knows his or her favorite color, the foods we most enjoy, and which season of House of Cards deserves the most stars on Netflix. But what does it really mean when we like something? How do we decide what's good? Is it something biological? What is the role of our personal experiences in shaping our tastes? And how do businesses make use of this information? Comprehensively researched and singularly insightful, You May Also Like delves deep into psychology, marketing, and neuroscience to answer these complex and fascinating questions. From the tangled underpinnings of our food choices, to the dynamics of the pop charts and our playlists, to our nonstop procession of "thumbs" and "likes" and "stars," to our insecurity before unfamiliar works of art, the book explores how we form our preferences--and how they shape us. It explains how difficult it is, even for experts, to pinpoint exactly what makes something good or enjoyable, and how the success of companies such as Netflix, Spotify, and Yelp depends on the complicated task of predicting what we will enjoy. Like Traffic, this book takes us on a fascinating and consistently surprising intellectual journey that helps us better understand how we perceive and appreciate the world around us.

I'm both personally and professionally interested in the idea of "taste" -- curating it, reviewing it, all that jazz. I'm in an advertising class this term, and I'm so curious about how taste functions. Plus, the bit about being overwhelmed is really helpful to read about in this day and age. Always on the hunt to learn more about it.

What books have y'all gotten this week?

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