Karen B. Stern

Few direct clues exist to the everyday lives and beliefs of ordinary Jews in antiquity. Prevailing perspectives on ancient Jewish life have been shaped largely by the voices of intellectual and social elites, preserved in the writings of Philo and Josephus and the rabbinic texts of the Mishnah and Talmud. Commissioned art, architecture, and formal inscriptions displayed on tombs and synagogues equally reflect the sensibilities of their influential patrons. The perspectives and sentiments of nonelite Jews, by contrast, have mostly disappeared from the historical record. Focusing on these forgotten Jews of antiquity, Writing on the Wall takes an unprecedented look at the vernacular inscriptions and drawings they left behind and sheds new light on the richness of their quotidian lives.

Just like their neighbors throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, ancient Jews scribbled and drew graffiti everyplace–in and around markets, hippodromes, theaters, pagan temples, open cliffs, sanctuaries, and even inside burial caves and synagogues. Karen Stern reveals what these markings tell us about the men and women who made them, people whose lives, beliefs, and behaviors eluded commemoration in grand literary and architectural works. Making compelling analogies with modern graffiti practices, she documents the overlooked connections between Jews and their neighbors, showing how popular Jewish practices of prayer, mortuary commemoration, commerce, and civic engagement regularly crossed ethnic and religious boundaries.

Illustrated throughout with examples of ancient graffiti, Writing on the Wall provides a tantalizingly intimate glimpse into the cultural worlds of forgotten populations living at the crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, paganism, and earliest Islam.

Karen B. Stern is assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She is the author of Inscribing Devotion and Death: Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Populations of North Africa.

Stanley Corngold

Walter Kaufmann (1921–1980) was a charismatic philosopher, critic, translator, and poet who fled Nazi Germany at the age of eighteen, emigrating alone to the United States. He was astonishingly prolific until his untimely death at age fifty-nine, writing some dozen major books, all marked by breathtaking erudition and a provocative essayistic style. He single-handedly rehabilitated Nietzsche’s reputation after World War II and was enormously influential in introducing postwar American readers to existentialism. Until now, no book has examined his intellectual legacy.

Stanley Corngold provides the first in-depth study of Kaufmann’s thought, covering all his major works. He shows how Kaufmann speaks to many issues that concern us today, such as the good of philosophy, the effects of religion, the persistence of tragedy, and the crisis of the humanities in an age of technology. Few scholars in modern times can match Kaufmann’s range of interests, from philosophy and literature to intellectual history and comparative religion, from psychology and photography to art and architecture. Corngold provides a heartfelt portrait of a man who, to an extraordinary extent, transfigured his personal experience in the pages of his books.

This original study, both appreciative and critical, is the definitive intellectual life of one of the twentieth century’s most engaging yet neglected thinkers. It will introduce Kaufmann to a new generation of readers and serves as a fitting tribute to a scholar’s incomparable libido sciendi, or lust for knowledge.

Stanley Corngold is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at Princeton University. His many books include The Fate of the Self: German Writers and French TheoryComplex Pleasure: Forms of Feeling in German LiteratureLambent Traces: Franz Kafka (Princeton); and Franz Kafka: The Ghosts in the Machine. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Helena Rosenblatt

The Lost History of Liberalism challenges our most basic assumptions about a political creed that has become a rallying cry—and a term of derision—in today’s increasingly divided public square. Taking readers from ancient Rome to today, Helena Rosenblatt traces the evolution of the words “liberal” and “liberalism,” revealing the heated debates that have taken place over their meaning.

In this timely and provocative book, Rosenblatt debunks the popular myth of liberalism as a uniquely Anglo-American tradition centered on individual rights. She shows that it was the French Revolution that gave birth to liberalism and Germans who transformed it. Only in the mid-twentieth century did the concept become widely known in the United States—and then, as now, its meaning was hotly debated. Liberals were originally moralists at heart. They believed in the power of religion to reform society, emphasized the sanctity of the family, and never spoke of rights without speaking of duties. It was only during the Cold War and America’s growing world hegemony that liberalism was refashioned into an American ideology focused so strongly on individual freedoms.

Today, we still can’t seem to agree on liberalism’s meaning. In the United States, a “liberal” is someone who advocates big government, while in France, big government is contrary to “liberalism.” Political debates become befuddled because of semantic and conceptual confusion. The Lost History of Liberalism sets the record straight on a core tenet of today’s political conversation and lays the foundations for a more constructive discussion about the future of liberal democracy.

Helena Rosenblatt is professor of history at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her many books include Liberal Values: Benjamin Constant and the Politics of Religion and Thinking with Rousseau: From Machiavelli to Schmitt. She lives in New York City.

Cass Sunstein

From New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein, a brisk, provocative book that shows what freedom really means—and requires—today

In this pathbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein asks us to rethink freedom. He shows that freedom of choice isn’t nearly enough. To be free, we must also be able to navigate life. People often need something like a GPS device to help them get where they want to go—whether the issue involves health, money, jobs, children, or relationships.

In both rich and poor countries, citizens often have no idea how to get to their desired destination. That is why they are unfree. People also face serious problems of self-control, as many of them make decisions today that can make their lives worse tomorrow. And in some cases, we would be just as happy with other choices, whether a different partner, career, or place to live—which raises the difficult question of which outcome best promotes our well-being.

Accessible and lively, and drawing on perspectives from the humanities, religion, and the arts, as well as social science and the law, On Freedom explores a crucial dimension of the human condition that philosophers and economists have long missed—and shows what it would take to make freedom real.

Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, where he is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy. From 2009 to 2012, he led the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. His many books include the New York Times bestsellers Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler) and The World According to Star Wars. The 2018 recipient of Norway’s Holberg Prize, he lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Twitter @CassSunstein

Cheryl Finley

How an eighteenth-century engraving of a slave ship became a cultural icon of black resistance, identity, and remembrance

One of the most iconic images of slavery is a schematic wood engraving depicting the human cargo hold of a slave ship. First published by British abolitionists in 1788, it exposed this widespread commercial practice for what it really was–shocking, immoral, barbaric, unimaginable. Printed as handbills and broadsides, the image Cheryl Finley has termed the “slave ship icon” was easily reproduced, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was circulating by the tens of thousands around the Atlantic rim. Committed to Memoryprovides the first in-depth look at how this artifact of the fight against slavery became an enduring symbol of black resistance, identity, and remembrance.

Finley traces how the slave ship icon became a powerful tool in the hands of British and American abolitionists, and how its radical potential was rediscovered in the twentieth century by black artists, activists, writers, filmmakers, and curators. Finley offers provocative new insights into the works of Amiri Baraka, Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, and many others. She demonstrates how the icon was transformed into poetry, literature, visual art, sculpture, performance, and film—and became a medium through which diasporic Africans have reasserted their common identity and memorialized their ancestors.

Beautifully illustrated, Committed to Memory features works from around the world, taking readers from the United States and England to West Africa and the Caribbean. It shows how contemporary black artists and their allies have used this iconic eighteenth-century engraving to reflect on the trauma of slavery and come to terms with its legacy.

Cheryl Finley is associate professor of art history at Cornell University. She is the coauthor of Harlem: A Century in Images and the coeditor of Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z.

Andrei Shleifer

How investor expectations move markets and the economy

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 caught markets and regulators by surprise. Although the government rushed to rescue other financial institutions from a similar fate after Lehman, it could not prevent the deepest recession in postwar history. A Crisis of Beliefs makes us rethink the financial crisis and the nature of economic risk. In this authoritative and comprehensive book, two of today’s most insightful economists reveal how our beliefs shape financial markets, lead to expansions of credit and leverage, and expose the economy to major risks.

Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer carefully walk readers through the unraveling of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing meltdown of the US financial system, and then present new evidence to illustrate the destabilizing role played by the beliefs of home buyers, investors, and regulators. Using the latest research in psychology and behavioral economics, they present a new theory of belief formation that explains why the financial crisis came as such a shock to so many people—and how financial and economic instability persist.

A must-read for anyone seeking insights into financial markets, A Crisis of Beliefs shows how even the smartest market participants and regulators did not fully appreciate the extent of economic risk, and offers a new framework for understanding today’s unpredictable financial waters.

Nicola Gennaioli is professor of finance at Bocconi University in Italy. He lives in Milan. Andrei Shleifer is professor of economics at Harvard University. His books include Inefficient Markets: An Introduction to Behavioral Finance and The Grabbing Hand: Government Pathologies and Their Cures. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Paul Tucker

Guiding principles for ensuring that central bankers and other unelected policymakers remain stewards of the common good

Central bankers have emerged from the financial crisis as the third great pillar of unelected power alongside the judiciary and the military. They pull the regulatory and financial levers of our economic well-being, yet unlike democratically elected leaders, their power does not come directly from the people. Unelected Power lays out the principles needed to ensure that central bankers, technocrats, regulators, and other agents of the administrative state remain stewards of the common good and do not become overmighty citizens.

Paul Tucker draws on a wealth of personal experience from his many years in domestic and international policymaking to tackle the big issues raised by unelected power, and enriches his discussion with examples from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union. Blending economics, political theory, and public law, Tucker explores the necessary conditions for delegated but politically insulated power to be legitimate in the eyes of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. He explains why the solution must fit with how real-world government is structured, and why technocrats and their political overseers need incentives to make the system work as intended. Tucker explains how the regulatory state need not be a fourth branch of government free to steer by its own lights, and how central bankers can emulate the best of judicial self-restraint and become models of dispersed power.

Like it or not, unelected power has become a hallmark of modern government. This critically important book shows how to harness it to the people’s purposes.

Paul Tucker is a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and chair of the Systemic Risk Council. For more than thirty years, he was a central banker and regulator at the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements. He lives in London.

Cheryl Finley

How an eighteenth-century engraving of a slave ship became a cultural icon of black resistance, identity, and remembrance

One of the most iconic images of slavery is a schematic wood engraving depicting the human cargo hold of a slave ship. First published by British abolitionists in 1788, it exposed this widespread commercial practice for what it really was–shocking, immoral, barbaric, unimaginable. Printed as handbills and broadsides, the image Cheryl Finley has termed the “slave ship icon” was easily reproduced, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was circulating by the tens of thousands around the Atlantic rim. Committed to Memory provides the first in-depth look at how this artifact of the fight against slavery became an enduring symbol of black resistance, identity, and remembrance.

Finley traces how the slave ship icon became a powerful tool in the hands of British and American abolitionists, and how its radical potential was rediscovered in the twentieth century by black artists, activists, writers, filmmakers, and curators. Finley offers provocative new insights into the works of Amiri Baraka, Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, and many others. She demonstrates how the icon was transformed into poetry, literature, visual art, sculpture, performance, and film—and became a medium through which diasporic Africans have reasserted their common identity and memorialized their ancestors.

Beautifully illustrated, Committed to Memory features works from around the world, taking readers from the United States and England to West Africa and the Caribbean. It shows how contemporary black artists and their allies have used this iconic eighteenth-century engraving to reflect on the trauma of slavery and come to terms with its legacy.

Cheryl Finley is associate professor of art history at Cornell University. She is the coauthor of Harlem: A Century in Images and the coeditor of Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z.

Bill Helmreich

A unique walking guide to Manhattan, from the author of The New York Nobody Knows

Bill Helmreich walked every block of New York City—six-thousand miles in all—to write the award-winning The New York Nobody Knows. Now he has re-walkedmost of Manhattan—721 miles—to write this new, one-of-a-kind walking guide to the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities. Drawing on hundreds of conversations he had with residents during his block-by-block journey, The Manhattan Nobody Knows captures the unique magic and excitement of the island and highlights hundreds of facts, places, and points of interest that you won’t find in any other guide.

The guide covers every one of Manhattan’s thirty-one distinct neighborhoods, from Marble Hill to the Financial District, providing a colorful portrait of each area’s most interesting, unusual, and unfamiliar people, places, and things. Along the way you’ll be introduced to an elderly Inwood man who lives in a cave; a Greenwich Village townhouse where Weathermen terrorists set up a bomb factory; a Harlem apartment building whose residents included W.E.B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall; a tiny community garden attached to the Lincoln Tunnel; a Washington Heights pizza joint that sells some of the biggest slices in town; the story behind the “Birdman” of Washington Square Park; and much, much more. An unforgettably vivid chronicle of today’s Manhattan, the book can also be enjoyed without ever leaving home—but it’s almost guaranteed to inspire you to get out and explore this fascinating metropolis.

  • Covers every one of Manhattan’s neighborhoods, providing a colorful portrait of their most interesting, unusual, and unfamiliar people, places, and things
  • Each neighborhood section features a brief overview and history; a detailed, user-friendly map keyed to the text; and a lively guided walking tour
  • Draws on the author’s 721-mile walk through every Manhattan neighborhood
  • Includes insights from conversations with hundreds of residents

William B. Helmreich is the author of many books, including The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide and The New York Nobody Knows, which won the Guides Association of New York Award for Outstanding Achievement in Book Writing. He is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and at CUNY Graduate Center.

Robyn Creswell

How poetic modernism shaped Arabic intellectual debates in the twentieth century and beyond

City of Beginnings is an exploration of modernism in Arabic poetry, a movement that emerged in Beirut during the 1950s and became the most influential and controversial Arabic literary development of the twentieth century. Robyn Creswell introduces English-language readers to a poetic movement that will be uncannily familiar—and unsettlingly strange. He also provides an intellectual history of Lebanon during the early Cold War, when Beirut became both a battleground for rival ideologies and the most vital artistic site in the Middle East. Arabic modernism was centered on the legendary magazine Shi‘r (“Poetry”), which sought to put Arabic verse on “the map of world literature.” The Beiruti poets—Adonis, Yusuf al-Khal, and Unsi al-Hajj chief among them—translated modernism into Arabic, redefining the very idea of poetry in that literary tradition. City of Beginnings includes analyses of the Arab modernists’ creative encounters with Ezra Pound, Saint-John Perse, and Antonin Artaud, as well as their adaptations of classical literary forms. The book also reveals how the modernists translated concepts of liberal individualism, autonomy, and political freedom into a radical poetics that has shaped Arabic literary and intellectual debate to this day.

Robyn Creswell is assistant professor of comparative literature at Yale University and a former poetry editor at the Paris Review. His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and Harper’s Magazine, among many other publications. He is the translator of Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Tongue of Adam and Sonallah Ibrahim’s “That Smell” and “Notes from Prison.”

Cheryl Finley

How an eighteenth-century engraving of a slave ship became a cultural icon of black resistance, identity, and remembrance

One of the most iconic images of slavery is a schematic wood engraving depicting the human cargo hold of a slave ship. First published by British abolitionists in 1788, it exposed this widespread commercial practice for what it really was–shocking, immoral, barbaric, unimaginable. Printed as handbills and broadsides, the image Cheryl Finley has termed the “slave ship icon” was easily reproduced, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was circulating by the tens of thousands around the Atlantic rim. Committed to Memory provides the first in-depth look at how this artifact of the fight against slavery became an enduring symbol of black resistance, identity, and remembrance.

Finley traces how the slave ship icon became a powerful tool in the hands of British and American abolitionists, and how its radical potential was rediscovered in the twentieth century by black artists, activists, writers, filmmakers, and curators. Finley offers provocative new insights into the works of Amiri Baraka, Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, and many others. She demonstrates how the icon was transformed into poetry, literature, visual art, sculpture, performance, and film—and became a medium through which diasporic Africans have reasserted their common identity and memorialized their ancestors.

Beautifully illustrated, Committed to Memory features works from around the world, taking readers from the United States and England to West Africa and the Caribbean. It shows how contemporary black artists and their allies have used this iconic eighteenth-century engraving to reflect on the trauma of slavery and come to terms with its legacy.

Cheryl Finley is associate professor of art history at Cornell University. She is the coauthor of Harlem: A Century in Images and the coeditor of Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z.

David Hu

Discovering the secrets of animal movement and what they can teach us

Insects walk on water, snakes slither, and fish swim. Animals move with astounding grace, speed, and versatility: how do they do it, and what can we learn from them? In How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls, David Hu takes readers on an accessible, wondrous journey into the world of animal motion. From basement labs at MIT to the rain forests of Panama, Hu shows how animals have adapted and evolved to traverse their environments, taking advantage of physical laws with results that are startling and ingenious. In turn, the latest discoveries about animal mechanics are inspiring scientists to invent robots and devices that move with similar elegance and efficiency.

Hu follows scientists as they investigate a multitude of animal movements, from the undulations of sandfish and the way that dogs shake off water in fractions of a second to the seemingly crash-resistant characteristics of insect flight. Not limiting his exploration to individual organisms, Hu describes the ways animals enact swarm intelligence, such as when army ants cooperate and link their bodies to create bridges that span ravines. He also looks at what scientists learn from nature’s unexpected feats—such as snakes that fly, mosquitoes that survive rainstorms, and dead fish that swim upstream. As researchers better understand such issues as energy, flexibility, and water repellency in animal movement, they are applying this knowledge to the development of cutting-edge technology.

Integrating biology, engineering, physics, and robotics, How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls demystifies the remarkable mechanics behind animal locomotion.

David L. Hu is associate professor of mechanical engineering and biology and adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology. He lives in Atlanta.