10 books like The Sensational Past

By Carolyn Purnell,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Sensational Past. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Soundscape of Modernity

By Emily Thompson,

Book cover of The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933

What is noise? Is it about loud music? Train sounds? Well, what makes certain sounds noise depends on the context. In the late-nineteenth-century United States, for example, the sound of the locomotive, which may sound like noise to many people, was heard as a symbol of modernity and technological advancement. Thompson’s book explores such change in the nature of sound and the culture of listening with the rise of new technology in the United States during the first few decades of the twentieth century, from the street and the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building to Radio City in New York.

The Soundscape of Modernity

By Emily Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Soundscape of Modernity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of aural culture in early-twentieth-century America, Emily Thompson charts dramatic transformations in what people heard and how they listened. What they heard was a new kind of sound that was the product of modern technology. They listened as newly critical consumers of aural commodities. By examining the technologies that produced this sound, as well as the culture that enthusiastically consumed it, Thompson recovers a lost dimension of the Machine Age and deepens our understanding of the experience of change that characterized the era.Reverberation equations, sound meters, microphones, and acoustical tiles were deployed in places as varied as…


Selling Sounds

By David Suisman,

Book cover of Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

Why do certain tunes become popular and others fail? What is music that sells? In Selling Sounds, Suisman explains how the music industry has shaped the culture of listening to music and how they capitalized on it, creating an entirely new music culture in the early-twentieth-century United States. This emergence of the music industry and culture involved not just the creation of novel sounds by a genius musician, but rather commercial, technological, and cultural changes, which are still with us today. 

Selling Sounds

By David Suisman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Selling Sounds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Tin Pan Alley to grand opera, player-pianos to phonograph records, David Suisman's "Selling Sounds" explores the rise of music as big business and the creation of a radically new musical culture. Around the turn of the twentieth century, music entrepreneurs laid the foundation for today's vast industry, with new products, technologies, and commercial strategies to incorporate music into the daily rhythm of modern life. Popular songs filled the air with a new kind of musical pleasure, phonographs brought opera into the parlor, and celebrity performers like Enrico Caruso captivated the imagination of consumers from coast to coast. "Selling Sounds"…


Smellosophy

By A. S. Barwich,

Book cover of Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind

I like the smell of rain. But I can’t explain what it actually smells like. Afterall, olfactory sensation is the “mute sense”—the one without words. To describe a certain smell, you are most likely using a metaphor like rosy smell or vanilla-like smell. Not only does smell have few words to describe it, but it is also a sensation with still a lot unknown. Barwich’s Smellosophy is a fascinating combination of science, philosophy, and history to explore the importance of this mysterious sensation in our society. While digging into philosophical and historical questions to explore how people in the past thought about the perception of smell, Barwich also interviews neuroscientists, perfumers, and chemists to explore how the modern science, as well as industry, is trying to figure out what the nose tells the brain and how the brain understands it.

Smellosophy

By A. S. Barwich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smellosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An NRC Handelsblad Book of the Year

"Offers rich discussions of olfactory perception, the conscious and subconscious impacts of smell on behavior and emotion."
-Science

Decades of cognition research have shown that external stimuli "spark" neural patterns in particular regions of the brain. We think of the brain as a space we can map: here it responds to faces, there it perceives a sensation. But the sense of smell-only recently attracting broader attention in neuroscience-doesn't work this way. So what does the nose tell the brain, and how does the brain understand it?

A. S. Barwich turned to experts in…


Smell Detectives

By Melanie A. Kiechle,

Book cover of Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America

Kiechle’s Smell Detective shows how smell, the mute sense, has been in fact quite “talkative.” By going back to the nineteenth-century United States, the book discusses how cities back then smelled and how people living there reacted to it. Olfaction is actually a critical source of knowledge. Smell can tell you a lot about your surrounding environment and other people. It also gives historians clues to understand how people lived in the past. Moreover, smell, like other senses, is not a simply subjective, biological phenomenon. Sensations we experience change over time—imagine smell and sounds on the street today and hundred years ago. It is also cultural and political, too. How people understand certain sensations is a historical product—a certain “bad” small was racialized and associated with a lower class, for example. This book is an excellent way to “sniff” out the history of the senses.

Smell Detectives

By Melanie A. Kiechle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smell Detectives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives follows the nineteenth-century Americans who used their noses to make sense of the sanitary challenges caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors.

Medical theories in the nineteenth century assumed that foul odors caused disease and that…


At Home With The Marquis De Sade

By Francine Du Plessix Gray,

Book cover of At Home With The Marquis De Sade

The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) is one of those characters that you loathe, but cannot help but find fascinating. By all standards, this deviant aristocrat was a gentleman in name only. Yet his remarkable life (32 years of it spent in prison) and amoral philosophizing provide the grist for a great biography under the pen of Gray. Readers will find many of de Sade’s horrific exploits here, yet this book also explores his relationship with the two most important women in his life: his beloved wife, who indulged him for decades, and his hated mother-in-law, whom he envisioned flaying alive before throwing her “into a vat of vinegar.” To a large degree, Marquis’s life and philosophy were an intentionally extreme version of the Enlightenment’s emancipation of the individual. A great window into the dark side of the Enlightenment.

At Home With The Marquis De Sade

By Francine Du Plessix Gray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At Home With The Marquis De Sade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson

By Darren Staloff,

Book cover of Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding

This book is not as acclaimed as the others on this list, but it is a hidden gem. Staloff deftly weaves together the lives and ideas of three of the most notable founders, and the ways in which they were influenced by their Enlightenment forebears. Precisely because the book is relatively little-known, I recommend it all the time to colleagues and students.

Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson

By Darren Staloff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where The Ideas for which We Stand came from.

In this incisively drawn book, Darren Staloff forcefully reminds us that America owes its guiding political traditions to three Founding Fathers whose lives embodied the collision of Europe's grand Enlightenment project with the birth of the nation.

Alexander Hamilton, the worldly New Yorker; John Adams, the curmudgeonly Yankee; Thomas Jefferson, the visionary Virginia squire—each governed their public lives by Enlightenment principles, and for each their relationship to the politics of Enlightenment was transformed by the struggle for American independence. Repeated humiliation on America's battlefields banished Hamilton's youthful idealism, leaving him a…


Enlightenment Now

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

I also wake up every morning, check the news and think that the world is falling apart. Because evolution in our dangerous pre-history often resulted in the survival of those who worried most. That is why we have to check the data and the long-term trends to correct for our exaggerated sense of drama, to understand where we are – in the period of time with the most wealth, best health, most literacy, and least poverty. There are other great books from rational optimists, like Matt Ridley, Hans Rosling, and Charles Kenny, but Steven Pinker’s is the one that covers most areas, and does it in a convincing and impassioned way. It is a wonderful book and one you should have on the bedside table, if only for a quick glance every time you get the impression the world is falling apart.

Enlightenment Now

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Enlightenment Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR

"My new favorite book of all time." --Bill Gates

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. By the author of the new book, Rationality.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third…


Enlightenment

By Roy Porter,

Book cover of Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World

The late Roy Porter wanted to show that England did not lag behind Scotland in promoting Enlightenment, and assembled a huge quantity of material to show not just the theoretical but also the practical effects of Enlightenment. Ranging widely, he dwells on practical projects like the building of roads and canals, on the beginnings of industry (e.g. Wedgwood’s pottery factory at Etruria), and on reform of the criminal law. A distinguished historian of science, he says much about medical experiments, scientific research, and the increasingly humane treatment of mental disorders.

Enlightenment

By Roy Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enlightenment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is almost impossible to encapsulate briefly the range and variety contained in Roy Porter's major new book. For generations the focus for those wishing to understand the roots of the modern world has been France on the eve of the Revolution. Porter certainly acknowledges France's importance, but makes an overwhelming, fascinating case for considering Britain the "true" home of modernity - a country driven by an exuberance, diversity and power of invention comparable only to 20th-century America. Porter immerses the reader in a society which, recovering from the horrors of the Civil War and decisively reinvigorated by the revolution…


Dark Side of the Light

By Louis Sala-Molins,

Book cover of Dark Side of the Light: Slavery and the French Enlightenment

The philosopher and polemicist Sala-Molins fired a bow shot across Enlightenment scholarship with this book in 1992. In an era when most French scholars of the Enlightenment continued to study (and valorize) the figureheads of the era, Sala-Molins attributed the supposed silence of the philosophes regarding the horrors of chattel slavery to deep-seated racism. More polemically he called out individual thinkers such as Voltaire and Montesquieu, the latter of whom Sala-Molins memorably called a négrier or slave trader. Peu importe or little does it matter that the book itself is rife with historical inaccuracies. The Dark Side of the Light was and is a powerful cri de coeur directed at scholars of the eighteenth century, a plea for them to look more carefully at the legacies – good and bad – that we now associate with the Enlightenment. 

Dark Side of the Light

By Louis Sala-Molins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dark Side of the Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau and Montesquieu are best known for their humanist theories and liberating influence on Western civilization. But as renowned French intellectual Louis Sala-Molins shows, Enlightenment discourses and scholars were also complicit in the Atlantic slave trade, becoming instruments of oppression and inequality.

Translated into English for the first time, Dark Side of the Light scrutinizes Condorcet's Reflections on Negro Slavery and the works of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Diderot side by side with the Code Noir (the royal document that codified the rules of French Caribbean slavery) in order to uncover attempts to uphold the humanist project…


Light in Germany

By T.J. Reed,

Book cover of Light in Germany: Scenes from an Unknown Enlightenment

For centuries German historians underplayed the Enlightenment, treating it as an unwelcome foreign import. Writing with the zeal almost of a missionary, Reed shows that Germany participated fully in the Enlightenment, and that the great luminaries of the German classical age, Goethe and Schiller, continued its endeavours in individual and sometimes idiosyncratic ways. He also offers a unique introduction to the philosophy of Kant, showing how it developed in the specific milieu of Prussia under the Enlightened despot Frederick the Great, and drawing attention also to his pioneering work as a theoretical scientist: Kant was the first person to suggest that the nebulae visible beyond the Milky Way might be separate galaxies.

Light in Germany

By T.J. Reed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light in Germany as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Germany's political and cultural past, from ancient times through World War II, has dimmed the legacy of its Enlightenment, which these days is far outshone by those of France and Scotland. In this book, T. J. Reed clears the dust away from eighteenth-century Germany, bringing the likes of Kant, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Gotthold Lessing into a coherent and focused beam that shines within European intellectual history and reasserts the important role of Germany's Enlightenment. Reed looks closely at the arguments, achievements, conflicts, and controversies of these major thinkers and how their development of a lucid and active liberal thinking…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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