THE ASHTRAY By Errol Morris. (University of Chicago, $30.) In 1972, Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science who invented the idea of “paradigm shifts,” threw an ashtray at Morris, then a graduate student. The two disagreed about the nature of truth and reality. This book is Morris’s attempt to throw that ashtray back. THE MATHEMATICS OF THE BREATH AND THE WAY By Charles Bukowski. (City Lights, paper, $16.95.) The old, drunken lech offers his ideas about writing and the art of trying to live as a writer in a series of collected interviews and essays. THE BOOK OF WHY By Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie. (Basic Books, $32.) Pearl, winner of the 2011 Turing Award (as well as the father of Daniel Pearl), has focused his research on causality. How can we know whether it was rain or a sprinkler that made a sidewalk wet or if a specific drug cured an illness? This book breaks down his scientific theory. LIGHTING THE FIRES OF FREEDOM By Janet Dewart Bell. (The New Press, $25.99.) African-American women were central to the civil rights movement, but seldom get their due. Bell looks to move beyond Rosa Parks to show the fuller panoply by profiling nine largely forgotten women who were also on the front lines. WHEN EINSTEIN WALKED WITH GÖDEL By Jim Holt. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) Does time exist? What is infinity? What is quantum physics? Holt offers a series of previously published essays and sketches of scientific thinkers that answer these questions and other mysteries from the world of physics and math.
In which we ask colleagues at The Times what they’re reading now.
“I’ve been reading, and finding totally astounding, Philip Roth’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, which was published in 2004. Over the past couple years, many readers have remarked on the uncanny prescience of this novel, an alternate history, told through the wide eyes of a 9-year-old Jewish boy, in which Charles Lindbergh, running on an isolationist platform with unmistakable undertones of anti-Semitism, defeats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential campaign, unleashing violent and ugly forces in American society. You can’t read the novel and not see eerie parallels to our current politics. But what I especially loved was just seeing Roth so thoroughly (and, I felt, credibly) manhandle historical facts and bend them to his will. In this time of incessant historical drama, it’s a nice reminder that the individual imagination still has the power to contend with the large-scale forces that shape our world.”
— Jake Silverstein, editor,
The New York Times Magazine