HT Picks: The Most Interesting Books of the Week
Lessons for the 21st century, how Facebook is messing up, and Rajasthani miniatures - all that on this week’s HT Picks
21 LESSONS FOR THE 21st CENTURY BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI
345pp, $16.99; Penguin Random House
Sapiens questioned the past; Homo Deus imagined the future; 21 Lessons explores the present.
How do we confront the perils of climate change, nuclear war and unchecked technology? Can we resist the epidemic of fake news or the menace of terrorism? What should we teach future generations? Yuval Noah Harari turns his mind to the most urgent questions facing every human being.
Written in his clear and invigorating style, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a reflection on the meaning of life today. It serves as an essential aid to self-knowledge and survival at a crucial moment for Homo Sapiens – right now. *
ANTISOCIAL MEDIA; HOW FACEBOOK DISCONNECTS US AND UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY BY SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN
276pp, Rs 495; Oxford University Press
If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Of course, none of that was part of the plan.
In Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It’s an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. And it’s an indictment of how “social media’ has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Trump’s election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Myanmar and the Philippines.
Facebook grew out of an ideological commitment to data-driven decision making and logical thinking. Its culture is explicitly tolerant of difference and dissent. Both its market orientation and its labor force are global. It preaches the power of connectivity to change lives for the better. Indeed, no company better represents the dream of a fully connected planet “sharing” words, ideas, and images, and no company has better leveraged those ideas into wealth and influence. Yet no company has contributed more to the global collapse of basic tenets of deliberation and democracy. Both authoritative and trenchant, Antisocial Media shows how Facebook’s mission went so wrong.*
RAJASTHANI MINIATURES; THE MAGIC OF STROKES AND COLOURS BY DR DALJEET
392pp, Rs 4000; Niyogi Books
A large bulk of Indian miniature paintings comes from Rajasthan. These miniatures are endowed with warm colours, primitive vigour, directness of expression and all that corresponds to the unique land of Rajasthan. They encompass its fun and festivities, the charming women and heroic men who fought with valour, loved with great zeal and warmth, celebrated each moment of life and died like great heroes. The major schools of miniatures of Rajasthan are Mewar, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Jaipur, Alwar, Bundi, Kotah, Kishangarh and Nathdwara.
The Rajasthani painter saw hardly any contradiction in combining romance with religion, or the mundane with the transcendental. Rajasthani Miniatures; The Magic of Strokes and Colours presents, through a detailed narrative and exquisite photographs, a glimpse into this art that has spanned several millennia. It traces the stylistic sources of Rajasthani miniatures, discovering elements that go beyond geography and time to reveal Rajasthani art’s generic growth. The miniatures have varying styles, belong to different schools and have been painted under many succeeding patrons with different tastes and preferences.
This book reflects the uniqueness of Rajasthani art, where shades and strokes come together in what almost appears as a divine interplay to create magic. *
*All copy from book flap.
First Published: Jul 27, 2018 21:08:34