May books: Crowded Out, The Chinese Computer, Fifty Years of Dungeons & Dragons, and more

Explore some of our most anticipated new releases for May 2024

This month: the fascinating story of how the Chinese language revolutionized the world of computing; an eye-opening investigation into charitable crowdfunding for healthcare in the United States; a collection of essays that explores and celebrates Dungeons & Dragons’ legacy; and more. Explore these books and a selection of our other new and soon-to-be-released titles below.

The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information Age by Thomas S. Mullaney

A standard QWERTY keyboard has a few dozen keys. How can Chinese—a language with tens of thousands of characters and no alphabet—be input on such a device? In The Chinese Computer, Thomas S. Mullaney sets out to resolve this paradox, and in doing so, discovers that the key to this seemingly impossible riddle has given rise to a new epoch in the history of writing—a form of writing he calls “hypography.” Based on fifteen years of research, this pathbreaking history of the Chinese language charts the beginnings of electronic Chinese technology in the wake of World War II up through to its many iterations in the present day.

You might also like The Archived Web: Doing History in the Digital Age by Niels Brügger

Crowded Out: The True Costs of Crowdfunding Healthcare by Nora Kenworthy

Over the past decade, charitable crowdfunding has exploded in popularity across the globe. Sites such as GoFundMe, which now boasts a “global community of over 100 million” users, have transformed the ways we seek and offer help. When faced with crises—especially medical ones—Americans are turning to online platforms that promise to connect them to the charity of the crowd. What does this new phenomenon reveal about the changing ways we seek and provide healthcare? In Crowded Out, Nora Kenworthy examines how charitable crowdfunding so quickly overtook public life, where it is taking us, and who gets left behind by this new platformed economy.

You might also like Rebel Health: A Field Guide to the Patient-Led Revolution in Medical Care by Susannah Fox

Designed for Success: Better Living and Self-Improvement with Midcentury Instructional Records by Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder

For the midcentury Americans who wished to better their golf game through hypnosis, teach their parakeet to talk, or achieve sexual harmony in their marriage, the answers lay no further than the record player. In Designed for Success, Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder shed light on these endearingly earnest albums that contributed to a powerful American vision of personal success. Rescued from charity shops, record store cast-off bins, or forgotten boxes in attics and basements, these educational records reveal the American consumers’ rich but sometimes surprising relationship to advertising, self-help, identity construction, and even aspects of transcendentalist thought.

You might also like Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance by Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder

Fifty Years of Dungeons & Dragons edited by Premeet Sidhu, Marcus Carter and José P. Zagal

In 2024, the enormously influential tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons—also known as D&D—celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. To mark the occasion, editors Premeet Sidhu, Marcus Carter, and José Zagal have assembled an edited collection that celebrates and reflects on important parts of the game’s past, present, and future. Each chapter in Fifty Years of Dungeons & Dragons explores why the nondigital game is more popular than ever—with sales increasing 33 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite worldwide lockdowns—and offers readers the opportunity to critically reflect on their own experiences, perceptions, and play of D&D.

You might also like Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground: A Guide to Tabletop Roleplaying Games from D&D to Mothership by Stu Horvath

Prior Art: Patents and the Nature of Invention in Architecture by Peter H. Christensen

Although patents existed in Renaissance Italy and even in Confucian thought, it was not until the middle third of the nineteenth century that architects embraced the practice of patenting in significant numbers. Patents could ensure, as they did for architects’ engineering brethren, the economic and cultural benefits afforded by exclusive intellectual property rights. But patent culture was never directly translatable to the field of architecture, which tended to negotiate issues of technological innovation in the context of the more abstract issues of artistic influence and formal expression. In Prior Art, scholar Peter Christensen offers the first full-scale monographic treatment of this complex relationship between art and invention.

You might also like Architecture and Abstraction by Pier Vittorio Aureli

Seeing Red: Nintendo’s Virtual Boy by José P. Zagal and Benj Edwards

With glowing red stereoscopic 3D graphics, the Virtual Boy cast a prophetic hue: Shortly after its release in 1995, Nintendo’s balance sheet for the product was “in the red” as well. Of all the innovative long shots the game industry has witnessed over the years, perhaps the most infamous and least understood was the Virtual Boy. Why the Virtual Boy failed, and where it succeeded, are questions that video game experts José Zagal and Benj Edwards explore in Seeing Red, but even more interesting to the authors is what the platform actually was: what it promised, how it worked, and where it fit into the story of gaming.

You might also like Run and Jump: The Meaning of the 2D Platformer by Peter D McDonald

Sex and the Planet: What Opt-In Reproduction Could Do for the Globe by Margaret Pabst Battin

What would the world be like if all pregnancy was intended, not unintended as it is nearly half the time now? Considerably better, Margaret Pabst Battin suggests in Sex and the Planet, a provocative thought experiment with far-reaching real-world implications. Many of the world’s most vexing and seemingly intractable issues begin with sex—when sperm meets egg, as Battin puts it—abortion, adolescent pregnancy, high-risk pregnancy, sexual violence, population growth and decline. Rethinking reproductive rights and exposing our many mistaken assumptions about sex, Sex and the Planet offers an optimistic picture of how we might solve these problems—by drastically curtailing unintended pregnancies using currently available methods.

You might also like Contraception: A Concise History by Donna J. Drucker

Transforming School Food Politics around the World edited by Jennifer E. Gaddis and Sarah A. Robert

School food programs are about more than just feeding kids. They are a form of community care and a policy tool for advancing education, health, justice, food sovereignty, and sustainability. Transforming School Food Politics around the World illustrates how everyday people from a diverse range of global contexts have successfully challenged and changed programs that fall short of these ideals. Editors Jennifer Gaddis and Sarah A. Robert highlight the importance of global and local struggles to argue that the transformative potential of school food hinges on valuing the gendered labor that goes into caring for, feeding, and educating children.

You might also like Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries by Rebecca T. de Souza

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