‘Inquiry’ Quarantine Book Recommendations!

Written by on April 18, 2020

WICN Inquiry host Mark Lynch is sharing 3 Book Recommendations a Week For Everyone Who Has Sheltered in Place a Bit Too Long. We hope these help keep you occupied and entertained!

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.

1) *Still* unhappy with the way Game of Thrones ended? DOUGLAS L. HOWARD holds the academic chair of the English Department on the Ammerman Campus at Suffolk County Community College. DAVID BIANCULLI is a writer and radio host, who has been a TV critic since 1975. Together they have edited a collection of serious essays about the last episodes of some of the most beloved TV shows: TELEVISION FINALES: FROM HOWDY DOODY TO GIRLS. This is a book that will start a hundred arguments.

2) Have you ever worried that if you should die home and alone, your pet dog or cat would eat you? Gruesome thought, yes, but we are all thinking such thoughts nowadays. Writer and mortician CAITLIN DOUGHTY’s new book answers this and many other questions that people, especially children, have asked about what happens when they go on the “long goodbye”: WILL MY CAT EAT MY EYEBALLS? BIG QUESTIONS FROM TINY MORTALS ABOUT DEATH. Not for the squeamish, but fascinating, well-researched, and fun none the less.

3) Is there a theory of jerks? Because that would explain a lot. Is the United States a conscious entity? Could you accidentally become a zombie robot? How would you know? These are just a few of the wild ideas that are considered in the new book by ERIC SCHWITZGEBEL, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. His new book redefines philosophy and makes the subject fun and deeply fascinating: A THEORY OF JERKS: AND OTHER PHILOSOPHICAL MISADVENTURES.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.

“I’ve been on my computer for so long, I think I’m falling in love with it.”

We all have been spending an inordinate amount of time on our phones and computers. Here are three books about how technology is affecting us:

1) Are we losing our ability to feel empathy the more we become enthralled to our portable tech? Are Facebook and Twitter creating a nation of the emotionally handicapped? Can this same tech also help us to restore our emotional health? KAITLIN UGOLIK PHILLIPS has written an important new book that addresses this concern: THE FUTURE OF FEELING: BUILDING EMPATHY IN A TECH-OBSESSED WORLD.

2) LUKE FERNANDEZ is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Co-director of the Tech Outreach Center at Weber State University, and SUSAN J. MATT, Presidential Distinguished Professor of History at Weber State University. Their new book BORED. LONELY. ANGRY. STUPID: CHANGING FEELINGS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, FROM THE TELEGRAPH TO TWITTER shows that we have always felt conflicted about new technology, even the telegraph.

3) If you want to really get freaked out about tech and humanity, read this book: SUSAN SCHNEIDER is the NASA Baruch Blumberg Chair at the Library of Congress and the director of the AI, Mind and Society Group at the University of Connecticut. Her new book is ARTIFICIAL YOU: AI AND THE FUTURE OF YOUR MIND and asks questions like: Can we create a super-intelligent machine that has consciousness? What are the dangers of creating a machine consciousness? Should we want to transfer our mind into a machine?
If you watch WESTWORLD, you will find this book alarming.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.


“This week, I want to read something that will take me far away from this bat-crazy world. Well, how about the moon, for starters?”

1) *That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for
mankind.* Artist and writer JONATHAN FETTER-VORM’s new graphic history is about the Apollo 11 moon landing as well as a concise history of how cultures around the world have thought about the moon, the history of astronomy, rocketry, and the politics of the space race. It’s a history like no other that you have read: MOONBOUND: APOLLO 11 AND THE DREAM OF SPACEFLIGHT.

2) Is the moon not far enough away from earth for you? Well, how about traveling beyond the end of everything? BRIAN GREENE is a professor of physics and mathematics and director of Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Physics. His new book is a mind-expanding trip from the Big Bang through till after the end of time and proton decay, evaporating Black Holes, and the disintegration of everything: UNTIL THE END OF TIME: MIND, MATTER, AND OUR SEARCH FOR MEANING IN AN EVOLVING UNIVERSE.

3) If the above book is still not far enough away from your earthly concerns, maybe you need to travel inwards instead. MIKE JAY has written extensively on scientific and medical history. His new book is a cultural, social, and scientific history of mescaline. “No mind-altering substance
has been described more thoroughly and from such a variety of perspectives.” Jay’s book is MESCALINE: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.


1) Think your house is really clean? Think again.

ROB DUNN is a professor in the department of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. Like so many biologists and ecologists, he originally conducted his research in far-flung rainforests until he discovered that there is another wild ecology that exists in our own homes. Come to find out, our cellars, water heaters, and showerheads contain an entire ecology of teeny creatures. Even the ISS and MIR orbiting earth contain jungles of microorganisms. Learn all about the living worlds in your own homes in Dunn’s book: NEVER HOME ALONE: FROM MICROBES TO MILLIPEDES, CAMEL CRICKETS, AND HONEY BEES, THE NATURAL HISTORY OF WHERE WE LIVE.

2) When your buttered toast falls on the kitchen floor, do you really have 5 seconds before it gets contaminated?

Can you pick up “something” from a menu? Is there a hidden danger to beer pong? These are just a few serious questions answered by PAUL DAWSON, Professor at Clemson University and BRIAN SHELDON, Professor Emeritus in food Microbiology at North Carolina State University. They and their students have carefully designed scientific experiments to test some of the most often cited food myths. The book that is the summary of their findings is one of the best books on science for a popular audience published: DID YOU JUST EAT THAT? TWO SCIENTISTS EXPLORE DOUBLE-DIPPING, THE FIVE-SECOND RULE, AND FOOD MYTHS IN THE LAB.

3) Maybe we should try to understand the world of the microbe.

This is a complex world we typically cannot see, but in fact, these microbes communicate, cooperate, and compete, sometimes in a matter of femtoseconds. It’s a complex ecology we rarely get to see. SCOTT CHIMELESKI is a photographer and a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and ROBERTO KOLTER is a Professor at Harvard Medical School and Co-Director of Harvard’s Microbial Sciences Initiative. Together they have written one of the most surprising, beautiful and fun books on the biological sciences: LIFE AT THE EDGE OF SIGHT: A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION OF THE MICROBIAL WORLD.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.


WICN broadcasts some of the finest music shows on the dial. Not just jazz, but folk, blues, soul, rock, and much more. Here are four books about that very large topic: MUSIC.

1) Critic, scholar, performer, writer, and music historian TED GIOIA’s new book is a history of music like no other. MUSIC: A SUBVERSIVE HISTORY tells the often hidden evolution of music from ancient Egypt, Assyria, and Greece to Burning Man, MP3s, and electronic dance music. It’s a tale filled with sex, violence, magic, ecstasy, and rebellion against the authoritarian powers that always tried to control what music was proper. 

 2) JAMES BOYLE is the Williams Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School. With Jennifer Jenkins and Keith Aoki, he has written a very unique and fun treatise on the history of music and copyright laws. Not just a book, but a wild and wonderful book-length comic! Read it and learn about the evolution of the corporate control of music: THEFT: A HISTORY OF MUSIC.

3) PROFESSOR DANIEL J. LEVITIN runs the LABORATORY FOR MUSIC PERCEPTION, COGNITION, AND EXPERTISE at McGill University. His latest wild and fascinating book is THE WORLD IN SIX SONGS: HOW THE MUSICAL BRAIN CREATED HUMAN NATURE. It is Professor Levitin’s belief that music and song may have come before human language, and that song passes down information in human society. Levitin believes that there are 6 kinds of songs that do this: songs of FRIENDSHIP, JOY, COMFORT, KNOWLEDGE, RELIGION, and LOVE. This is a book about how the musical brain made human society possible, why music is the perfect mnemonic tool, and why listening to “Boulder to Birmingham” by Emmylou Harris makes me cry.

4) What’s the oldest song in the world? Did Ben Franklin invent a musical instrument that drove people mad? What are the actual lyrics to the classic rock song “Louie Louie”? All these fascinating stories are in writer and documentary filmmaker RICK BEYER’S latest rollicking compendium THE GREATEST MUSIC STORIES NEVER TOLD: 100 TALES FROM MUSIC HISTORY TO ASTONISH, BEWILDER AND STUPEFY. Read it and find out where to find the largest human-made dog in the world and other wild tales.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.

I often get the request: “Can you recommend something really weird to read?” I get it. After living for weeks under strict restrictions, you are ready to read something a little “odd” and out of the ordinary. Well, I have a long list of such books. Here are just three:

1) Tired of mac and cheese? We all assume that cannibalism is bad. But it is a common phenomenon, at least in the rest of the animal kingdom. And though eating each other is taboo, it certainly appears in many of our myths, fairytales, and films. Then there was the Donner Party… BILL SCHUTT is a professor of biology at LIU Post and a research associate in residence at the American Museum of Natural History. His new book is not for the faint of heart: CANNIBALISM: A PERFECTLY NATURAL HISTORY

2) You see them every day, but have you ever thought deeply about their design? If you drink coffee or hot tea from a store, then you have seen coffee lids. These everyday objects have an entire design taxonomy and evolution. LOUISE HARPMAN, architect, educator, irrational optimist; and SCOTT SPECHT, architect, developer and researcher, have produced a surprisingly fascinating and beautiful book about COFFEE LIDS: (1) PEEL, (2) PINCH, (3) PUCKER, (4) PUNCTURE. It’s all about controlling spillage. Yes, an entire book, profusely illustrated, about coffee lids.

3) See the 1966 novel by John Barth. THOMAS THWAITES is a designer in London, where he ponders technology, science, and futures research. One day he realized he was tired of all the worry and stress of human life and decided to try to become a goat. Not just dress like a goat, but become a goat physically, eating grass and gamboling over alpine meadows. What happened next is told in his new book GOATMAN: HOW I TOOK A HOLIDAY FROM BEING HUMAN. The story is even weirder than you think. Lots of color photographs, too.

If you purchase these books, please consider using Amazon Smile and designating WICN Public Radio as the charitable beneficiary.
Thank you.

Itching to get outside? Here are three fine books on natural history that might also encourage you to stay inside:

1) Do you suffer from ophidiophobia? Many people fear snakes and try to kill them on sight. And of all the snake species here in America, the most feared is the rattlesnake. TED LEVIN is a writer and wildlife biologist. His new book is AMERICA’S SNAKE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TIMBER RATTLESNAKE. It is an intimate and loving look at the complex life of this rattlesnake of the northeast and explores why their populations around the area are so endangered. Read this and find out why this species is so special and deserving of protection. Seriously!

2) If you think the beach is safe, think again: Around the world, our oceans and seas are experiencing a bizarre and frightening phenomenon: jellyfish blooms. The appearance of many thousands of jellyfish prevents fishing, gums up ships, and creates a general panic because of their painful sting. So, why are these apocalyptic congregations appearing now? LISA-ANN GERSHWIN has a great job title. She is the director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services. Her book is STUNG! ON JELLYFISH BLOOMS AND THE FUTURE OF THE OCEAN.

3) Chinese Death Wasps? Pish Posh! Have you ever been stung by a yellow jacket or honey bee? Why do wasp stings hurt so much? Here is a book all about the biology, ecology, and biochemistry of stinging insects. JUSTIN O. SCHMIDT is a biologist at Southwestern Biological Institute and is affiliated with the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona. His new book, THE STING OF THE WILD, recounts his wild adventures collecting, and sometimes getting stung by, some of the most painfully venomous insects in the world.

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