New Books on the Bookshelf
Five cool tomes with blurbs on each:
1. “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being,” by Martin Seligman
Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition.
While certainly a part of well-being, happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. Seligman now asks, “What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world?” In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? ‘Well-being’ takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment.
2. “Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics,” by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta
Just in time for the World Cup next week:
A wealth of research in recent decades has seen the economic approach to human behavior extended over many areas previously considered to belong to sociology, political science, law, and other fields. Research has also shown that economics can provide insight into many aspects of sports, including soccer. “Beautiful Game Theory” is the first book that uses soccer to test economic theories and document novel human behavior.
Ignacio Palacios-Huerta illuminates economics through the world’s most popular sport. He offers unique and often startling insights into game theory and microeconomics, covering topics such as mixed strategies, discrimination, incentives, and human preferences. He also looks at finance, experimental economics, behavioral economics, and neuroeconomics. Soccer provides rich data sets and environments that shed light on universal economic principles in interesting and useful ways.
3. “Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War,” by Stephen Platt
A gripping account of China’s nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion, one of the largest civil wars in history. “Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom” brims with unforgettable characters and vivid re-creations of massive and often gruesome battles—a sweeping yet intimate portrait of the conflict that shaped the fate of modern China.
Political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s audacious attempt to describe the political universe in its entirety. Part one came out in 2010, and part two comes out in a few months:
The first of a major two-volume work, “The Origins of Political Order” begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe…drawing on a vast body of knowledge—history, evolutionary biology, archaeology, and economics.
Volume two is finally here, completing the most important work of political thought in at least a generation. Taking up the essential question of how societies develop strong, impersonal, and accountable political institutions, Fukuyama follows the story from the French Revolution to the so-called Arab Spring and the deep dysfunctions of contemporary American politics. He examines the effects of corruption on governance, and why some societies have been successful at rooting it out. He explores the different legacies of colonialism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and offers a clear-eyed account of why some regions have thrived and developed more quickly than others.
Featured Image: “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix.