Imaginary Cities - Darran Anderson

Staff Pick

Anderson's marvelous book starts where Western civilization started, in Plato's cave. But unlike the Ancient, Anderson stays there. He celebrates the shadows, and in so doing, charts the many roads not quite taken. His inspired book is a brilliant, unrelenting survey of cities in legend, in films, in ruins, in novels, in ideology, in the sky, in the future, and beyond. It has an itinerary, if not an explicit argument, and Anderson probes each vision for its implicit definition of humanity and its solutions to problems of how to live, and especially how to live together. His comments are brief, but incisive, and often as irresistible as aphorisms. (“The idea of the city as a state of mind must factor in that minds and cities are by no means stable things.”) Thrilling as these comments are (nowhere else would King Kong and his ilk be characterized as “fervent architectural critics”), much of the book is descriptive, and perhaps the most amazing feat Anderson performs in this prodigious collection of places glimpsed by few and actually seen by fewer, is to bring each to vivid life using only the imagery of words. This fantasia of an essay, as it goes from Marco Polo’s half-remembered/half-invented East to the various Utopias of More, Francis Bacon, Campanella, and Léonidov, from the lost lands of Atlantis, Uruk, and Ji to Gaudí’s unrealized buildings for the site later occupied by the Twin Towers, from the visions of Italian Futurists to space-age Googie architecture—and more!—is truly a map of the imagination, that most teeming, sprawling, revelatory city of all.

Imaginary Cities: A Tour of Dream Cities, Nightmare Cities, and Everywhere in Between By Darran Anderson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226470306
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Chicago Press - April 6th, 2017

No One Cares About Crazy People - Ron Powers

Staff Pick

Passionate, shocking, and personal, this social history of mental illness from Bedlam to the Community Mental Health Act to NIMH by a Pulitzer-winning journalist is part narrative history and part memoir. Powers’s motivation in writing it was twofold. “Something happened to my sons and I want to know what and why,” he says, that “something” being schizophrenia. When he heard an aide to Scott Walker make the statement he took for his title, he had to speak out. The first shock is how little we know about what causes the brain to run amuck. “Definitive truth on any area of mental health is as elusive as a cure,” Powers says. What we do have are observations, such as the concurrent rise of mental illness with the growth of cities, anecdotal evidence linking stress, overcrowding, and noise to mental illness, and the onset of many symptoms in late adolescence. And there are statistics: some 90% of suicides are committed by those with a mental illness and two-thirds of American children with lifelong mental illness receive no treatment at all. Today, Powers notes, the mentally ill and the homeless—often the same—are demonized in ways “not seen since the dark ages.” He blames this on deinstitutionalization, which has really been re-institutionalization, as “jails have become the country’s largest de facto mental institutions,” and on the false hope (and hype) of psychotropic drugs, which seem to promise a cure but in fact barely control symptoms. Powers’s report on Big Pharma is scathing, as is his detailed analysis of decades of social policies that have mainly exacerbated the suffering and alienation of the mentally ill. What can help? He cites a promising Vermont model that focuses on self-sufficiency, rehabilitation, and community re-integration. But as his own family’s harrowing story shows, much, much needs to be done.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives - Gary Younge

Staff Pick

A seasoned journalist in the U.K., Gary Younge decided to see how many children in America were killed by gunfire over the course one calendar day, November 23rd 2013. Heartbreaking and infuriating all at once, we are allowed inside the lives of parents who have lost their children too early in life. Each story not only looks at the prevalence of gun culture in America, but also examines how our society writ-large either helps us or fails us, by researching the life circumstances of the ten children who died on that random day.  This book is a good choice for anyone who questions whether and how gun control measures can reduce gun violence, and what the social realities are at the heart of this contentious issue.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives By Gary Younge Cover Image
ISBN: 9781568589756
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Bold Type Books - October 4th, 2016