Glitches in the Matrix: books that disrupt paradigms

Eren pic

Colleen Eren

An undergraduate student recently remarked to me, “I think I’m going to be coming to you for advisement, you’re a sociologist, and sociologists are people who can see glitches in the Matrix.” For those unacquainted with the cult classic science fiction film he was alluding to, a very brief explanation: the protagonist, a computer hacker named Neo, is awoken to the shocking realization that the world as he experiences it is nothing more than an artifice, a kind of virtual reality fabricated by a sentient computer program to enslave the minds and bodies of humanity. “The Matrix,” then, is the term for that all-encompassing mental construction.
Continue Reading ›

How Books Helped Me Move On

Morris-photo

Theresa Morris

I grew up moving around. We moved at least once every few years, and I hated it. I was always the new kid at school and was thus forced to integrate into the social milieu over and over, try to convince teachers I was smart over and over, and find friends over and over. And, with each move, just when I found my footing in the school, had the attention of teachers, and had established a core group of good friends, we moved again. That describes my life growing up. I went to a total of eleven schools from Kindergarten through 12th grades, an average of almost one a year.
Continue Reading ›

How to Write about China as a Network Nation

IMG_9449.jpg

Yu Hong

In the past seven years, I lived an arduous life of being a researcher and a scholar, working diligently on my book project Networking China. In this intellectual journey, books have been the best companions. A couple of works stood out for helping me identify a dynamic phenomenon that I intend to describe and explain. They are books that created light-bulb moments, shaping my ideas about China as a so-called network nation. Particularly inspiring are media critic Herbert Schiller’s Information and the Crisis Economy and political scientist Edward Steinfeld’s Playing Our Game: Why China’s Rise Doesn’t Threat the West.

Continue Reading ›

Not breathing but panting; or reading to overcome the Overwhelm

Ann Christensen.jpg

Ann Christensen

During a bout with insomnia that went the full 12 rounds a few years ago, I began to read about the science and havoc of stress in the hope of managing mine. I discovered the neuroendocrinology behind stress-triggered cortisol surges that sicken and age us, contributing to depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer, and I learned why our dear shriveling hippocampi, the bosses of memory and learning in our brains, need exercise to outrun the amygdala, where fear and negativity lurk. Brain research is hopeful: “Small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time, as you gradually build new neural structures” (Hanson, Buddha’s Brain 19). Although we academics are as overwhelmed as other professions, it seems our deadlines coincide with preexisting conditions of stress, namely December holidays, and, for those of us with children, grading and conventions often dovetail nicely with Spring school concerts, sports tournaments, and graduations. Because the resources I discuss here helped slow my cortisol careen, I gratefully pass them along.

Continue Reading ›

Books that Made me a Historian

Elly Truitt

Elly Truitt

Long before I even knew what a historian was or did, I was fascinated by stories about the past. My grandparents indulged my endless questions about their lives in the 1920s and 1930s and my parents and older siblings made sure I had an endless supply of diverse reading material at all times. One of those books was a version of “Sleeping Beauty” illustrated in the style of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, the famous fifteenth-century Book of Hours illuminated by the Limbourg brothers. The strange clothes and the rich colors in the book captivated me, as did the idea that people might have lived in castles and spun their own thread.
Continue Reading ›

Capturing notes in words – the books that shaped the music critic

Lloyd Sachs at Grimey's.jpg

Lloyd Sachs at Grimey’s, Nashville, TN

Being that I’ve spent a good portion of my life writing about music, particularly jazz and rock, you would think I’d be able to cite any number of music books that influenced or inspired me – that convinced me it was not impossible to capture notes in words, a task Thelonious Monk (allegedly) said was about as easy as dancing about architecture.
Continue Reading ›