Monday News: Nonfiction market grows, Broadway after Hamilton, bias, and Jonah Lehrer skims the love pond
The Revival of Print Books Continues – The publishing industry is clearly focused on claiming the victory of print, even though adult nonfiction is driving that growth. So does that mean that people are reading more nonfiction than fiction? What do we make of the fact that adult coloring books are still popular and “dominated sales in the crafts/hobbies and art/architecture areas, where unit sales increased 133% and 51%, respectively”? I feel like we’re soon going to be highlighting the number of gardening print books sold in a year to keep the focus on format rather than content trends. Speaking of which, check out the adult fiction summary:
Adult fiction was the only category in which units declined in the first six months of the year, posting a small drop of 0.4% compared to the same period in 2015. The category suffered from the lack of a big book. The top seller in the segment was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which sold more than 439,000 copies, just about half of what The Girl on the Trainby Paula Hawkins sold in the first six months of 2015 (880,000 copies), and far behind Grey by E.L. James (758,000 copies). – Publishers Weekly
Which Great American Should Be Immortalized With the Next Big Broadway Musical? Now that Hamilton has lost three of its original Broadway stars, and Lin-Manuel Miranda has cut his hair, it’s apparently time for another pop culture history makeover. There are actually some great ideas on this list, from Phyllis Wheatley and Shirley Chisholm to Diane Nash (someone get on the Nash show right now, please), and Mary Edwards Walker reminded me of Candice Proctor’s, Midnight Confessions:
Mary Edwards Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855, making her one of the few female medical doctors of the time. She eschewed conventions of female dress and preferred to wear pants—resulting in one arrest for impersonating a man. She fought constant discrimination to become a commissioned assistant surgeon in the Union army during the Civil War. She became a Union spy and was captured and held by the Confederate army as collateral in a hostage exchange. Then, finally, she received a little recognition for all of her hard work and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson in 1865—only to have it revoked by Congress in 1917. She refused to give it back and wore it proudly to her dying day. She is still the only woman to have ever been awarded a Medal of Honor. – Smithsonian Magazine
We’re All Biased, but That Doesn’t Keep Us from Making Valid Decisions – In which Emily Rosenzweig argues that our ability to simultaneously understand our biases and still perceive an objective truth is valid and beneficial – that our biases do not preclude conclusions that are objectively valid. I actually think her comments on “soft truths” as opposed to a binary true/false condition are the most interesting part of the essay, especially combined with the assertion our biases are often beneficial to us.
Ultimately, I take no issue with the claim that people need to maintain an ‘illusion of objectivity,” meaning the belief that they are seeing themselves and the world as both truly are. Instead I challenge the assumption that awareness that one’s perceptions have been influenced by a biased mental process is at odds with the belief that those perceptions (the products of our biased processes) are objectively true. Outside the context of the self, we are quite practiced at distinguishing between the objectivity of a mental process and the objective truth of a mental product. – Scientific American
Review: Jonah Lehrer’s ‘A Book About Love’ Is Another Unoriginal Sin – Remember Jonah Lehrer? Well, he’s back from media exile with a book about love, and according to Jennifer Senior’s review, it’s “a book about love that has no heart.” It does, according to Senior, have a lot of hackneyed ideas and arguments, and even some squirrely phrasing. Like this: We don’t love our kids despite their demands; we love them because of them. Caregiving makes us care.” Which she notes is reminiscent of this: “It’s not so much that we care for children because we love them as that we love them because we care for them, ” from Alison Gopnik. Lehrer will probably sell a decent number of books based on curiosity, but in the end, maybe he’s just not that deep of a thinker, and so much has been said about love before, that the line between mimesis and plagiarism is a lot fuzzier.
In retrospect — and I am hardly the first person to point this out — the vote to excommunicate Mr. Lehrer was as much about the product he was peddling as the professional transgressions he was committing. It was a referendum on a certain genre of canned, cocktail-party social science, one that traffics in bespoke platitudes for the middlebrow and rehearses the same studies without saying something new.
Apparently, he’s learned nothing. . . .
These may seem like minor offenses. But what they betoken is a larger sort of intellectual dishonesty. If you squint, you’ll see that Mr. Lehrer often rehashes arguments made by others, both in structure and content, when writing parts of his book. Sometimes he credits these people; sometimes he doesn’t. But the point is, he’s relying on their associations and connections. – New York Times