Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You won't want to miss these new bestsellers!

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder

Christian Rudder, one of the founders of the online dating site OkCupid, got himself into a tangle a few weeks ago when he announced in a blog post, “We Experiment on Human Beings!” OkCupid had wanted to find out if its assertion of compatibility influenced how compatible couples could be. “To test this, we took pairs of bad matches . . . and told them they were exceptionally good for each other,” Rudder wrote. (He neglected to say that people have been doing this to friends and relatives for centuries.)

Rudder has written a book on the subject, called “Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).” In it, he doesn’t wring or clap his hands over the big-data phenomenon (see N.S.A., Google ads, that sneaky Fitbit) so much as plunge them into big data and attempt to pull strange creatures from the murky depths.

But back to that argument: If the Internet is one giant experiment, are we all just lab rats? “I prefer the analogy of a glass-bottomed boat,” Rudder said. He derived the word “dataclysm” from the Greek word kataklysmos, for the Great Flood. He’d like for this current inundation, like Noah’s, to be thought of not just as an agent of destruction, “an unprecedented deluge,” but as a means of renewal, one that will wash away our old limited understanding of how people actually think and behave. The power of suggestion is strong. Dinner and a movie?

Elvis and Ginger: Elvis Presley's Fiancee and Last Love Finally Tells Her Story by Ginger Alden

The King’s final fiancee breaks her long silence.

The author’s account is resolutely chronological, beginning with her father’s encounters with Presley in the U.S. Army (encounters not involved in his daughter’s later relationship) and moving forward to the King’s demise on Aug. 16, 1977, when she found him toppled over on the bathroom floor—the author does not go into much detail regarding his death. A couple of decades younger that Presley, Alden was swooped into the Presleys’ odd life at Graceland. 

After the King’s death, the others gradually elbowed Alden away, and he did not mention her in his will. A rosy aura glows throughout this misty memoir of love and loss.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz

Books like this one, volumes that probe the sick soul of American higher education, come and go, more than a few of them hitting the long tail of the best-seller lists…Excellent Sheep is likely to make more of a lasting mark than many of these books, for three reasons. One, Mr. Deresiewicz spent 24 years in the Ivy League…He brings the gory details. Two, the author is a striker, to put it in soccer terms. He's a vivid writer, a literary critic whose headers tend to land in the back corner of the net. Three, his indictment arrives on wheels: He takes aim at just about the entirety of upper-middle-class life in America…Excellent Sheep is the sort of book that, by its nature, floats better questions than answers. It reminds you that, as Emerson said, sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.

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