September Books: Curious Minds, In the Black Fantastic, A World in a Shell, and more

Explore some of our most anticipated new releases for September

New books this month: a genre-breaking exploration of curiosity and connection; an illustrated ode to Black culture and art; and an investigation of snails and what they can tell us about extinction. Explore these and a selection of our other new and soon-to-be-published titles below.


Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control by Vili Lehdonvirta

Cover of Cloud Empires

The early Internet was a lawless place, populated by scam artists who made buying or selling anything online risky business. Then Amazon, eBay, Upwork, and Apple established secure digital platforms for selling physical goods, crowdsourcing labor, and downloading apps. These tech giants have gone on to rule the Internet like autocrats. How did this happen? How did users and workers become the hapless subjects of online economic empires? The Internet was supposed to liberate us from powerful institutions. In Cloud Empires, digital economy expert Vili Lehdonvirta explores the rise of the platform economy into statelike dominance over our lives and proposes a new way forward.

“If you are interested in the future that the tech sector is constructing for us, you must read this brilliant and utterly absorbing book.” —Juliet Schor, Boston College

You might also like Buy Now: How Amazon Branded Convenience and Normalized Monopoly by Emily West


In the Black Fantastic by Ekow Eshun

Cover of In the Black Fantastic

A richly illustrated exploration of Black culture at its most wildly imaginative and artistically ambitious, In the Black Fantastic assembles art and imagery from across the African diaspora. Embracing the mythic and the speculative, it recycles and reconfigures elements of fable, folklore, science fiction, spiritual traditions, ceremonial pageantry, and the legacies of Afrofuturism. In works that span photography, painting, sculpture, cinema, graphic arts, music and architecture—and including contributions from Kameelah L. Martin and Michelle D. Commander—In the Black Fantastic shows how speculative fictions in Black art and culture are boldly reimagining perspectives on race, gender and identity.

“Visually stunning, intellectually cohesive. Ekow Eshun’s exhilarating exhibition shows black art on the move and creating fresh idioms.” — Financial Times

You might also like A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See by Tina M. Campt


Drugs and the FDA: Safety, Efficacy, and the Public’s Trust by Mikkael A. Sekeres

Cover of Drugs and the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of COVID-19 vaccines and the controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm made headlines, but few of us know much about how the agency does its work. Why is the FDA the ultimate US authority on a drug’s safety and efficacy? In Drugs and the FDA, Mikkael Sekeres—a leading oncologist and former chair of the FDA’s cancer drug advisory committee—tells the story of how the FDA became the most trusted regulatory agency in the world. It took a series of tragedies and health crises, as well as patient advocacy, for the government to take responsibility for ensuring the efficacy and safety of drugs and medical devices.

“In this fast-paced and suspenseful book, Sekeres provides an insider’s view of one of the biggest drug controversies of our time, expertly weaving the history of the FDA with the decisions it makes today.” —Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

You might also like When Blood Breaks Down: Life Lessons from Leukemia by Mikkael A. Sekeres


Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration by Thomas H. Davenport and Steven M. Miller

Cover of Working with AI

This book breaks through both the hype and the doom-and-gloom surrounding automation and the deployment of artificial intelligence-enabled—“smart”—systems at work. Management and technology experts Thomas Davenport and Steven Miller show that, contrary to widespread predictions, prescriptions, and denunciations, AI is not primarily a job destroyer. Rather, AI changes the way we work—by taking over some tasks but not entire jobs, freeing people to do other, more important and more challenging work. By offering detailed, real-world case studies of AI-augmented jobs in settings that range from finance to the factory floor, Davenport and Miller also show that AI in the workplace is not the stuff of futuristic speculation. It is happening now to many companies and workers.

“No matter what you thought you knew about AI in the workplace, this book will change your mind.” —David Autor, MIT

You might also like The Future of Competitive Strategy: Unleashing the Power of Data and Digital Ecosystems by Mohan Subramaniam


The Exquisite Machine: The New Science of the Heart by Sian E. Harding

Cover of The Exquisite Machine

Your heart is a miracle in motion, a marvel of construction unsurpassed by any human-made creation. It beats 100,000 times every day—if you were to live to 100, that would be more than 3 billion beats across your lifespan. Despite decades of effort in labs all over the world, we have not yet been able to replicate the heart’s perfect engineering. But, as Sian Harding shows us in The Exquisite Machine, new scientific developments are opening up the mysteries of the heart and relieving how a deeper understanding of this vital organ can help us make better decisions about our health. This explosion of new science—ultrafast imaging, gene editing, stem cells, artificial intelligence, and advanced sub-light microscopy—has crucial, real-world consequences for individual health and well-being.

“How the heart works, how it fails and what can be done about it. A remarkable read from a world renowned researcher.” —Stephen Westaby, author of the Sunday Times best sellers Fragile Lives and The Knife’s Edge

You might also like Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health by Alessio Fasano and Susie Flaherty


Robot Ethics by Mark Coeckelbergh

Cover of Robot Ethics

Does a robot have moral agency? Can it be held responsible for its actions? Do humans owe robots anything? Will robots take our jobs? These are some of the ethical and moral quandaries that we should address now, as robots and other intelligent devices become more widely used and more technically sophisticated. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, philosopher Mark Coeckelbergh does just that. He considers a variety of robotics technologies and applications—from robotic companions to military drones—and identifies the ethical implications of their use. Questions of robot ethics, he argues, are not just about robots but are, crucially, about humans as well.

You might also like Machine Learning by Ethem Alpaydın


Curious Minds: The Power of Connection by Perry Zurn and Dani S. Bassett

Cover of Curious Minds

Curious about something? Google it. Look at it. Ask a question. But is curiosity simply information seeking? According to this exhilarating, genre-bending book, what’s left out of the conventional understanding of curiosity are the wandering tracks, the weaving concepts, the knitting of ideas, and the thatching of knowledge systems—the networks, the relations between ideas and between people. Curiosity, say Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett, is a practice of connection: it connects ideas into networks of knowledge, and it connects knowers themselves, both to the knowledge they seek and to each other.

“This bold new theory for curiosity has enormous implications for building a more curious, creative, and equitable society.” —Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO, Character Lab

You might also like Out of Touch: How to Survive an Intimacy Famine by Michelle Drouin


A World in a Shell: Snail Stories for a Time of Extinctions by Thom van Dooren

Cover of A World in a Shell

In this time of extinctions, the humble snail rarely gets a mention. And yet snails are disappearing faster than any other species. In A World in a Shell, Thom van Dooren offers a collection of snail stories from Hawai’i—once home to more than 750 species of land snails, almost two-thirds of which are now gone. Following snail trails through forests, laboratories, museums, and even a military training facility, and meeting with scientists and Native Hawaiians, van Dooren explores ongoing processes of ecological and cultural loss as they are woven through with possibilities for hope, care, mourning, and resilience.

“Attentive, elegiac… Eschewing more obvious fauna, A World in a Shell makes a strong case for overcoming ‘geographical and taxonomic biases,’ noting that every species lost is a tragedy.” —Foreword Reviews

You might also like Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery: The Illustrated Edition by Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe


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