January books: Melancholy Wedgwood, R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life, The Monster Leviathan, and more

 Explore some of our most anticipated new releases for January

This month: an experimental biography of the ceramics entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood; a new translation of Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R., which famously coined the term “robot;” a visionary proposal for a mythic and strange architecture—or anarchitecture—through which we can imagine other and better worlds; and more. Explore these books and a selection of our other new and soon-to-be-released titles below.

Melancholy Wedgwood by Iris Moon

Melancholy Wedgwood traces the multiple strands in the life of the ceramic entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) to propose an alternative view of eighteenth-century England’s tenuous relationship to our own lives and times, amid the ruins of late-capitalist modernity. Through intimate vignettes and essays, and in writing at turns funny, sharp, and pensive, Iris Moon chips away at the mythic image of Wedgwood as singular genius, business titan, and benevolent abolitionist, revealing an amorphous, fragile, and perhaps even shattered life. In the process the book goes so far as to dismantle certain entrenched social and economic assumptions, not least that the foundational myths of capitalism might not be quite so rosy after all, and instead induce a feeling that could only be characterized as blue.

You might also like Sandfuture by Justin Beal

R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life by Karel Čapek

R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life offers a new, highly faithful translation by Štěpán Šimek of Czech novelist, playwright, and critic Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, as well as twenty essays from contemporary writers on the 1920 play. R.U.R. is perhaps best known for first coining the term “robot” (in Czech, robota means serfdom or arduous drudgery). The twenty essays in this new English edition, beautifully edited by Jitka Čejková, are selected from Robot 100, an edited collection in Czech with perspectives from 100 contemporary voices that was published in 2020 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the play.

“This indispensable volume offers a new English translation of Čapek’s influential play, restoring its original structure, as the accompanying array of essays provide valuable context and interpretation. Čapek’s prescient meditation on human-android relations is timely and necessary.” —Mark Kingwell, University of Toronto; author of Singular Creatures

You might also like The Phantom Scientist by Robin Cousin

The Monster Leviathan: Anarchitecture by Aaron Betsky

Lurking under the surface of our modern world lies an unseen architecture—or anarchitecture. It is a possible architecture, an analogous architecture, an architecture of anarchy, which haunts in the form of monsters that are humans and machines and cities all at once; or takes the form of explosions, veils, queer, playful spaces, or visions from artwork and video games. In The Monster Leviathan, Aaron Betsky traces anarchitecture through texts, design, and art of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, and suggests that these ephemeral evocations are concrete proposals in and of themselves. Neither working models nor suggestions for new forms, they are scenes just believable enough to convince us they exist, or just fantastical enough to open our eyes.

You might also like Architectures of Spatial Justice by Dana Cuff

Categories We Live By: How We Classify Everyone and Everything by Gregory L. Murphy

The minute we are born—sometimes even before—we are categorized. From there, classifications dog our every step: to school, work, the doctor’s office, and even the grave. Despite the vast diversity and individuality in every life, we seek patterns, organization, and control. In Categories We Live By, Gregory L. Murphy considers the categories we create to manage life’s sprawling diversity. Analyzing everything from bureaucracy’s innumerable categorizations to the minutiae of language, this book reveals how these categories are imposed on us and how that imposition affects our everyday lives.

“This wonderful book will be of interest to anyone who cares about how we make sense of the physical and social worlds we live in.” —Paul Bloom, University of Toronto and Yale University; author of Psych: The Story of the Human Mind

You might also like The Hidden Powers of Ritual: The Journey of a Lifetime by Bradd Shore

Emergency Money: Notgeld in the Image Economy of the German Inflation, 1914–1923 by Tom Wilkinson

Emergency Money is the first art historical study of Germany’s emergency money, Notgeld. Issued during World War I and the tumultuous interwar period, these wildly artful banknotes featured landscapes, folk figures, scenes of violence and humor, and even inflation itself in the form of figures staring into empty purses or animals defecating coins. Until now, art historians have paid Notgeld scant attention, but Wilkinson looks closely at these amusing, often disturbing, artifacts and their grim associations to cast new light on the Weimar Republic’s visual culture, as well as the larger relationship between art and money.

You might also like Picture-Work: How Libraries, Museums, and Stock Agencies Launched a New Image Economy by Diana Kamin

Playful Wearables: Understanding the Design Space of Wearables for Games and Related Experiences by Oğuz Buruk, Ella Dagan, Katherine Isbister, Elena Márquez Segura and Theresa Jean Tanenbaum

This pioneering introduction to the world of wearable technology takes readers beyond the practical realm (think Fitbits, Apple watches, and smart glasses) to consider another important side of the technology—the playful. Playful Wearables offers an engaging account of what “playful wearables” are, why they matter, how they work, how they’re made, and what their future might hold. The book’s authors—Oğuz Buruk, Ella Dagan, Katherine Isbister, Elena Márquez Segura, and Theresa Jean Tanenbaum—draw on decades of experience in design, development, and research to offer real-world examples, exercises, and implications, showing how this kind of wearable tech can introduce an invaluable element of play into our everyday lives.

Playful Wearables is a blueprint for building the technology we actually want: its case studies, design exercises, and thoughtful frameworks are good reminders that our technologies can be more imaginative, inclusive, personable, and—most of all—fun.” —Madeline Gannon, founder and principal researcher, ATONATON

You might also like The Stuff Games are Made Of by Pippin Barr

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