Also of interest...in heresies and provocations
Empathy is typically considered a virtue, but author Paul Bloom “will have none of it,” said Shai Held in The Wall Street Journal. The Yale psychologist’s provocative book argues that putting oneself in another’s shoes distorts moral reasoning, because it causes us to discount the needs of people outside that immediate focus. He prefers a more diffuse compassion, guided by reason. But as any student of modern totalitarianism could tell you, “Reason can also be marshaled for nefarious ends.”
The Big Stick
by Eliot A. Cohen (Basic, $28)
Few public figures have the appetite these days for championing America’s role as the world’s policeman, said Brian Stewart in NationalReview.com. Breaking from current consensus, Eliot Cohen’s “bracing” book argues that a U.S. willing to project military power remains indispensable to maintaining world order. Cohen’s treatise “gives soft power its due.” But unless human nature has changed, peace will never be achieved by goodwill alone, and U.S. policymakers can “ill afford” to think otherwise.
by Lucinda Rosenfeld (Little, Brown, $26)
Self-satisfied urbanites take note: Lucinda Rosenfeld is onto you, said Mary Kay Zuravleff in The Washington Post. In this timely satire, Karen Kipple, a white, Ivy League– educated Brooklynite, imagines herself a paragon of enlightenment because she sends her third-grader to a public school. But Karen never stops worrying about status or finding fault with others, and it can all feel uncomfortably familiar. In fact, every time Karen reveals a new delusion, “I want to shake her—and look in the mirror.”
Are Numbers Real?
by Brian Clegg (St. Martin’s, $29)
The question in this book’s title isn’t hard to answer, said Mike Doherty in Maclean’s. “Of course numbers are real,” author Brian Clegg admits on the very first page. It’s “worth reading on,” though, because Clegg’s real interest is in how math has helped us understand the world, and how lately it’s been used to spin out scientific theories—like string theory—that produce more bewilderment than enlightenment. Quantum theory and relativity count among his favorite topics, but he “covers a lot of ground.”