Designing Motherhood

September Books: Designing Motherhood, The Truth and Other Stories, Sandfuture, and more

Explore a selection of our most anticipated new releases of the month

Our new releases this month cover topics in architecture, social sciences, education, and more—from a collection of science fiction stories by famed author Stanisław Lem, to a critical examination of administrative red tape by Cass Sunstein, to an exploration of the science of running by Mariska van Sprundel. Discover these, and more of our latest books, below. 


Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick

While birth often brings great joy, making babies is a knotty enterprise. The designed objects that surround us when it comes to menstruation, birth control, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood vary as oddly, messily, and dramatically as the stereotypes suggest. This smart, image-rich, fashion-forward, and design-driven book explores more than eighty designs—iconic, conceptual, archaic, titillating, emotionally charged, or just plain strange—that have defined the relationships between people and babies during the past century. Each object tells a story. In striking images and engaging text, Designing Motherhood unfolds the compelling design histories and real-world uses of the objects that shape our reproductive experiences.

“The provocative new book and exhibition series, “Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births,” makes the case that there is a whole world of objects pertaining to women, mothers and pregnant people that have been overlooked from the perspective of form and function, and unstudied in terms of how their designs came to be.” —New York Times Arts

You may also like The Astronomer’s Chair: A Visual and Cultural History by Omar W. Nasim


Cybersecurity by Duane C. Wilson

It seems that everything we touch is connected to the internet, from mobile phones and wearable technology to home appliances and cyber assistants. The more connected our computer systems, the more exposed they are to cyber attacks—attempts to steal data, corrupt software, disrupt operations, and even physically damage hardware and network infrastructures. In this volume of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, cyber security expert Duane Wilson offers an accessible guide to cybersecurity issues for everyday users, describing risks associated with internet use, modern methods of defense against cyber attacks, and general principles for safer internet use.

You may also like AI Assistants by Roberto Pieraccini


Water: A Visual and Scientific History by Jack Challoner

Water is so ubiquitous in our lives that it is easy to take for granted. The average American uses ninety gallons of water a day; nearly every liquid we encounter is mostly water—milk, for example, is 87 percent water. Clouds and ice—water in other forms—affect our climate. Water is the most abundant substance on Earth, and the third-most abundant molecule in the universe. In this lavishly illustrated volume, science writer Jack Challoner tells the story of water, from its origins in the birth of stars to its importance in the living world.

“In his gem-like book, Water, Jack Challoner explores this humble, essential, astonishing liquid through multiple facets—from history to physics to space exploration—and allows every one of them to shine with real fascination.” —Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Poison Squad and The Poisoner’s Handbook

You may also like The Beauty of Chemistry: Art, Wonder, and Science by Philip Ball


The Truth and Other Stories by Stanisław Lem

Of these twelve short stories by science fiction master Stanisław Lem, only three have previously appeared in English, making this the first “new” book of fiction by Lem since the late 1980s. The stories display the full range of Lem’s intense curiosity about scientific ideas as well as his sardonic approach to human nature, presenting as multifarious a collection of mad scientists as any reader could wish for. Many of these stories feature artificial intelligences or artificial life forms, long a Lem preoccupation; some feature quite insane theories of cosmology or evolution. All are thought provoking and scathingly funny.

The Truth and Other Stories makes a giant addition to the Lem shelf. It’s both a terrific entry point for the Lem-curious and an astonishing gift to those Lem fanatics who’d foolishly imagined we’d already read the entirety of this promiscuous, prescient, and centrifugal genius.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of As She Climbed Across the Table

You may also like Dialogues by Stanisław Lem


Running with Robots: The American High School’s Third Century by Greg Toppo and Jim Tracy

What will high school education look like in twenty years? High school students are educated today to take their places in a knowledge economy. But the knowledge economy, based on the assumption that information is a scarce and precious commodity, is giving way to an economy in which information is ubiquitous, digital, and machine-generated. In Running with Robots, Greg Toppo and Jim Tracy show how the technological advances that are already changing the world of work will transform the American high school as well.

“Mixing history with storytelling, prediction with fact, this gem of a book creatively stimulates the reader to think about what an ideal education is going to look like in the years and decades ahead. Every educator will read it with pleasure and come away with new and useful perspectives.” —Stephen M. Kosslyn, President, Active Learning Sciences, and Chief Academic Officer, Foundry College

You may also like The Distributed Classroom by David A. Joyner and Charles Isbell


Sandfuture by Justin Beal

Sandfuture is a book about the life of the architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986), who remains on the margins of history despite the enormous influence of his work on American architecture and society. That Yamasaki’s most famous projects—the Pruitt-Igoe apartments in St. Louis and the original World Trade Center in New York—were both destroyed on national television, thirty years apart, makes his relative obscurity all the more remarkable. From the central thread of Yamasaki’s life, Sandfuture spirals outward to include reflections on a wide range of subjects, from the figure of the architect in literature and film and transformations in the contemporary art market to the perils of sick buildings and the broader social and political implications of how, and for whom, cities are built. The result is at once sophisticated in its understanding of material culture and novelistic in its telling of a good story.

“Employing a montage style of writing, cutting, like a filmmaker, between times, places, and subjects, Sandfuture has a novelistic character that keeps the reader in suspense, creating not just a page-turner but a long overdue, compelling, intelligent, and accessible form of writing in architecture.” —Cynthia Davidson, Editor and Founder, Log

You may also like Paris and the Parasite: Noise, Health, and Politics in the Media City by Macs Smith


Running Smart: How Science Can Improve Your Endurance and Performance by Mariska van Sprundel

Conventional wisdom about running is passed down like folklore (and sometimes contradicts itself): the right kind of shoe prevents injury—or running barefoot, like our prehistoric ancestors, is best; eat a high-fat diet—and also carbo load before a race; running cures depression—but it might be addictive; running can save your life—although it can also destroy your knee cartilage. Often it’s hard to know what to believe. In Running Smart, Mariska van Sprundel, a science journalist and recreational runner who has had her fair share of injuries, sets out to explore the science behind such claims.

“Even if you don’t enjoy running, you’ll be enlightened and entertained by this fast-paced, informative, and comprehensive tour of the science of running and its effects on the body. You might also run farther and faster.” —Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding

You may also like Biofabrication by Ritu Raman


Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It by Cass R. Sunstein

We’ve all had to fight our way through administrative sludge—filling out complicated online forms, mailing in paperwork, standing in line at the motor vehicle registry. This kind of red tape is a nuisance, but, as Cass Sunstein shows in Sludge, it can also impair health, reduce growth, entrench poverty, and exacerbate inequality. Confronted by sludge, people just give up—and lose a promised outcome: a visa, a job, a permit, an educational opportunity, necessary medical help. In this lively and entertaining look at the terribleness of sludge, Sunstein explains what we can do to reduce it.

“Sludge prevents people from accessing things—money, resources—that they are entitled to, but it hurts vulnerable populations even more. Sunstein provides an excellent treatise on how to combat the evil cousin of ‘nudge’!” —Dilip Soma, Canada Research Chair in Behavioral Sciences and Economics, University of Toronto

You may also like Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity by Christopher Ali


Death and Dying by Nicole Piemonte and Shawn Abreu

Death is a natural, inevitable, and deeply human process, and yet Western medicine tends to view it as a medical failure. In their zeal to prevent death, physicians and hospitals often set patients and their families on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory toward medical interventions that may actually increase suffering at the end of life. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series examines the medicalization of death and dying and proposes a different approach—one that acknowledges death’s existential and emotional realities.

You may also like Deconstruction by David J. Gunkel


Born Knowing: Imprinting and the Origins of Knowledge by Giorgio Vallortigara

Why do newborns show a preference for a face (or something that resembles a face) over a nonface-like object? Why do baby chicks prefer a moving object to an inanimate one? Neither baby human nor baby chick has had time to learn to like faces or movement. In Born Knowing, neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara argues that the mind is not a blank slate. Early behavior is biologically predisposed rather than learned, and this instinctive or innate behavior, Vallortigara says, is key to understanding the origins of knowledge.

“This book presents fascinating findings and a creative synthesis at the frontier of the study of nature and nurture. It’s a reassuring sign that this ancient topic, when it breaks free of black-and-white thinking, can show exciting scientific progress.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works

You may also like Living with Robots: What Every Anxious Human Needs to Know by Ruth Aylett and Patricia A. Vargas


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