While biological research is continually making new discoveries into how much we know about animals, there is one aspect in which scientists scrupulously avoid speculation: animals’ minds. In Being a Beast, Charles Foster attempts to rectify this disparity by immersing himself in the “neuro-alchemy” of wild creatures. Not only does he study the latest veterinary neurological research, he tries to live like them too. In a tradition of ersatz, immersive experimentation also seen in the works of Bill Bryson and A.J. Jacobs, he models his behavior to live as a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer and a swift.
Foster’s experiences are variously uncomfortable, degrading, bizarre and sublime. While his scientific method would not hold up under much scrutiny, the objective of his writing is more ontological. Foster attempts to position himself counterpoint to humanity’s historical position as a “conqueror” of nature. He uses nature to escape — sloughing off modernity in an attempt to define and describe wildness and autonomy. His research is doomed to failure, and he begins the book by acknowledging that the challenges he sets for himself are impossible, but there is insight to be found in his quixotic experiment. Foster’s doctorate in medical law and ethics, plus his qualifications as a veterinarian, help to back his credibility even when his experiences and arguments verge on the esoteric.
Does sexism still exist? Sure, men and women are different. We always will be, biologically speaking. At first glance, women can surely do all of the things that men do in society. We can work, we can vote, we don’t “have to” be mothers and housewives. What more could we want? Where is the sexism? It’s there, and though it may have improved since the days of our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we still need feminism. Widely acclaimed feminist writer Jessica Valenti reintroduces sexism in a different light and gives feminism a fresh approach in her newest book, Sex Object.
Sex Object is a memoir written in an organic, rather than chronological, structure. Valenti recounts the moments where sexism has affected her at all different ages and areas of her life, from the time she was in high school and her teacher asked her out, to her 20s when countless men would expose themselves to her on the subway, to the emails and responses she has gotten on her website, Feministing.com.
Valenti’s writing is realistic, raw and emotionally empowering. All women have all been where she has been, sexualized and objectified by men, but we don’t often think to call it “wrong” so much as “annoying.” Valenti’s message is not just that sexism is bad or that we should use feminism to fight it. It’s that sexism is so prevalent, so normalized every day, that we need feminism in order to recognize it. Valenti’s book is a great read for a new generation of feminists who understand that our responsibility is not to be victims, but to be voices. We do not necessarily need to fight, but we need to be aware.
The first thing I do after watching a really inspiring TED Talk? Search BCPL’s catalog to see if the speaker has written a book. Fortunately, TED presenters are a prolific literary bunch.
TED, whose slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading,” was founded in 1984 and became an annual conference series in 1990. First emphasizing technology, entertainment and design, TED now includes talks on a broad range of subjects, including the academic, scientific and cultural. Talks are now limited to 18 minutes and over 2,400 have been posted online since 2006.
Recently published books by popular presenters include Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, which explores the question of why some people succeed while others fail, and Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, about successful men and women who have rejected conformity and flourished in diverse industries.
If you’ve ever dreamed about presenting your own TED Talk — or would just like some tips for improving your public speaking — TED President Chris Anderson reveals behind-the-scenes details in his new book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Also be sure to check out Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by public speaking coach Carmine Gallo who promises more dynamic presentations — and more confident presenters.
TED’s 20 most popular talks of all time can be found online and include such authors as Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy and Simon Sinek.