New and noteworthy – 21 April 2016

Tudor shades of emotional grey, China's 'overquota' generation, pithy philosophy and 1930s London's electric dreams: unmissable scholarly books

April 21, 2016
Hand holding petri dish with world map-shaped bacteria
Source: iStock

Doing Global Science: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise
InterAcademy Partnership
Princeton University Press

Don’t be evil. Or tacitly permit miscommunication, or be lax on plagiarism. Or carry out research in a protected area. Or fail to protect human subjects, or allow conflicts of interest. Clear, sober, well-referenced, inevitably first-principles-restating but enlivened by Sidney Harris’ cartoons, this slim handbook is the work of a blue-chip panel of senior scientists. Sarin gas, Diederik Stapel, stem-cell research, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the L’Aquila earthquake, The Lancet’s travails and many, many acronyms all figure.

Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England
Erin Sullivan
Oxford University Press

Even in the Bard’s time some bloke was doubtless chipping in with “Cheer up, love, it might never happen”, but as this fine first book from a scholar at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute shows, melancholy wasn’t the only shade of grey haunting princes or commoners. Doctors, philosophers, theologists, Robert Burton, John Ford and John Donne wrestled with the fine distinctions to be drawn among grief, despair, sadness and godly sorrow, and which were “dis-ease” and which potentially transformative. Sullivan’s very readable study draws on sources as diverse as moral treatises, mortality records, devotional poetry, letters and ballads.

Selected Exaggerations: Conversations and Interviews 1993-2012
Peter Sloterdijk
Polity Press

Rumpled author of the epic Spheres trilogy and former co-host of Im Glashaus – Das Philosophische Quartett (exactly the kind of gleefully, arm-wavingly, brainy TV programme you’d imagine), German philosopher Sloterdijk is just as good on the other side of an interview, as this non-expert-friendly bumper book of “dialogues and discussions” shows. Ranging from finance to football and Heidegger to Islam, pithiness abounds: “the real Greece is a psycho-political ruin”; “German remorse used to be a brand-name article in the moral markets of the world”; “humans a priori don’t like talking about death, school and their mothers”.

China’s Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy
Kay Ann Johnson
University of Chicago Press

A US scholar of Asian studies dedicates this deeply saddening account to her late research partner Wang Liyao, and to “the hundreds of people who have shared their personal stories with us and, above all, to the 120,000 children who were sent out of China in the wake of the one-child policy and their current and former families”. Whether or not the new two-child rule will help end the misery of China’s birth-planning policy, these accounts of “out-of-plan”, “overquota”, “black”, kidnapped, trafficked and stolen children, and their often despairing and guilt-ridden parents, inform a brief book about an already too-long nightmare.

1930s London: The Modern City
Michael John Law

This was the modern world: the technology-driven decade in which a future was imagined and built. Law’s gorgeous little book pairs gleaming black and white photos with elegant text that is as alert to the human story – from cottaging to suburban cottage nostalgia and from Ken “Snakehips” Johnson to assembly line workers – as it is to all those beautiful, beautiful lines. Ghosts and survivors alike are paid tribute: Lubetkin’s Finsbury Health Centre, the Dollis Hill District Synagogue, Kensal House, the Lawn Road Flats, Cockfosters Tube station, the Philco and Electroflo factories, along with robots, cranes and car crashes – and, always and everywhere and all too rare in this kind of book, the people.

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