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SEARCHES de Vauhini Vara

From the Pulitzer Prize Finalist author of Immortal King Rao, a collection of essays exploring how technology has become an inextricable part of modern life.

by Vauhini Vara
Pantheon, March 2025
(via Writers House)

When it was released to the public in November 2022, ChatGPT sparked a global commotion. Now, anyone could be a novelist. Brands could generate copy and students could pen essays in mere seconds, all thanks to this frighteningly smart algorithm turned ghostwriter that could crank out pages of text at the drop of a prompt. Had writing just been democratized or destroyed?

It was a question that Vauhini Vara—tech journalist, former New Yorker business editor, and prize-winning author of the novel The Immortal King Rao—had long been grappling with. Her own relationship with ChatGPT began in 2021, when, using a beta version, she decided to use the program to attempt to write an essay about the death, two decades earlier, of her older sister. What resulted from the exercise was both a far more moving experience than she imagined, and an essay unlike any she had ever written—one that soon went viral. In the months that followed, it would be aired on the radio by This American Life; anthologized in The Best American Essays; and adapted for the stage.

In that essay, along with the others in this searing yet playful collection, Vara’s experiments with technology double as critiques of it. From Google search data to Amazon reviews to crowdsourced confessionals from both Vara’s peers and anonymous contributors, the raw material of Searches explores what it means to be alive in a world where human communication is inseparable from technology. Like the programs she explores, Vara’s voice is ever-evolving, at once experimental and deeply familiar to anyone who has experienced both wonderment and fear about our technological future, a future that has come to be seen as inevitable.

Vauhini Vara is the author of This is Salvaged, named a notable book of 2023 by Publisher’s Weekly, The New Yorker and others, and The Immortal King Rao, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She is also a journalist, writing for Wired and others, and an editor, most recently at The New York Times Magazine. She teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Book Project and is the secretary of the mentorship collective Periplus.

MELTDOWN de Duncan Mavin

MELTDOWN charts the incredible inside story of a once venerable Swiss bank that produced a conveyor belt of financial scandals and whose collapse reveals the amorality at the heart of the global banking system.

The Collapse of Credit Suisse
by Duncan Mavin
Pan Macmillan, September 2024
(via Northbank Talent Management)

It’s an international tale that takes us from Mozambique to Australia, from Hong Kong to New York, and of course, inside the hushed, marble corridors of Zurich’s banking elite.

Mavin is uniquely sourced to tell the story of Credit Suisse’s scandal-ridden demise, with dozens of inside-the-room contacts that can spill exclusive details about the bank onto the page. The bank’s collapse has been the biggest shock to the financial system since the financial crisis, sparking a media frenzy. But only Duncan has access to key sources within the bank’s executive suite and inner circle that will bring this critical, rollicking story to life.

Duncan Mavin is a seasoned international financial journalist and author of the critically acclaimed The Pyramid of Lies: Lex Greensill and the Multi-Billion Dollar Scandal. Since 2009, he has been a reporter, editor and now columnist for Dow Jones publications including the Wall Street Journal, based in Hong Kong, London and New York. His writing has also appeared in Barron’s, Financial News and on Bloomberg News. He lives with his wife and three sons in the UK.

GOING NUCLEAR de Tim Gregory

In this provocative, timely and well researched book, nuclear chemist Tim Gregory argues our species’ very survival hinges on whether we choose to unleash the potential of the atom and embrace a nuclear future.

How the Atom Will Save the World
by Tim Gregory
The Bodley Head (Penguin), 2025
(via Northbank Talent Management)

GOING NUCLEAR will be an exploration of the immense power in the centre of the atom, the areas of our world that it touches, and the potential it has to solve the biggest problems our species faces. The book retraces our relationship with nuclear through the Nuclear Revolution of the early 20th century and look towards the Nuclear Renaissance that could — and should — ensue over the coming decades. Gregory argues convincingly that there is no net zero without nuclear power.

By interweaving science, policy and environmentalism, Going Nuclear will explore the potential of the atom not only for nuclear power but also clean energy production, nuclear medicine, nuclear forensics, interplanetary exploration and atomic farming.

Tim Gregory is a a nuclear chemist for the National Nuclear Laboratory in the heart of the British nuclear industry. His academic background is in geology, planetary science, and isotope cosmochemistry, and he holds a PhD in the latter. He is also a speaker, presenter and is the author of Meteorite: How Stones from Outer Space Made our World.

WHAT ARE CHILDREN FOR? d’Anastasia Berg & Rachel Wiseman

Aimed at philosophers and non-philosophers alike, this is a modern argument about the ambivalence towards childbearing and how to overcome it.

Affirming Life in an Age of Ambivalence
by Anastasia Berg & Rachel Wiseman
St. Martin’s Press, June 2024

Becoming a parent, once the expected outcome of adulthood, is increasingly viewed as a potential threat to the most basic goals and aspirations of modern life. We seek self-fulfillment; we want to liberate women to find meaning and self-worth outside the home; and we wish to protect the planet from the ravages of climate change. Weighing the pros and cons of having children, the Millennial and Gen Z generations are finding it increasingly hard to judge in its favor. WHAT ARE CHILDREN FOR? seeks to loosen the grip of the shallow narratives that either lament growing childlessness as a mark of cultural decline, or celebrate it as unambiguous evidence of social progress. Berg and Wiseman explore philosophical and cultural examples of this debate, whether from modernist writers like Virginia Woolf, second-wave feminists in the 1970s, or the current trend of dystopian novels and stories. In the tradition of Jenny Odell and Amia Srinivasan, Berg and Wiseman write with clear logic and passionate prose to offer those struggling the guidance necessary to move beyond their uncertainty. They argue that when we make the individual decision whether or not to have children we confront a profound philosophical question, that of the goodness of life itself. How can we justify perpetuating human life given the catastrophic harm and suffering of which we are always at once both victims and perpetrators? WHAT ARE CHILDREN FOR? concludes that we must embrace the fundamental goodness of human life—not only in theory, but in our everyday lives.

Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman first explored these questions in an essay for The Point on choosing to have children, the rare work of philosophical inquiry to have gone viral; Berg recently discussed her own decision to pursue having a family in the context of the novel coronavirus in a widely read op-ed in the New York Times. Frequent collaborators and close friends, Anastasia Berg is currently based in Cambridge and will start as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University. She is expecting her first child. Rachel Wiseman lives in Chicago, where she is the managing editor of The Point, an award-winning nonfiction literary magazine.

RAPE GIRL de Jamie Hood

A necessarily illuminating text, imagining stranger, more radical models of storytelling. Combining the hybridity of Camen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House with the intensity of Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty, RAPE GIRL promises to do for sexual violence what Citizen did for conversations around race, and become part of a new wave of cultural resistance.

A Study in Nine Parts
by Jamie Hood
Pantheon/Random House, Spring 2024
(via Frances Goldin Literary)

In many ways, RAPE GIRL: A STUDY IN NINE PARTS is the book that essayist, critic, and poet Jamie Hood has been writing her entire life. In the thirty years since her first sexual assault (age six, by the neighbor), it has taken many forms: a chronological, straight memoir of violence; a book-length poem; a manifesto; a novel. In the wake of each subsequent attack (twice as a teenager, several times in graduate school, most recently at a Brooklyn bar), and resultant attempt to narrativize the violence, what became clear was that no single genre was able to capture the entirety of what she was trying to say.
Trauma disorients the very possibility of straightforward narrative, so then why do we expect our tellings of it to be linear and easily digestible? RAPE GIRL asks: what is rape at its core? And beyond: how would an account of rape that acknowledges and incorporates the truth of trauma as an experience shift the conversation?
Told in nine parts—media historical, political, poetic, autofictional, literary critical, and memoiristic—RAPE GIRL reckons with the confessional imperative of survivors and the role of rape narratives in our collective consciousness. Weaving between genres and throughout history, Hood consults Artemesia Gentileschi and other foremothers in revenge and witness, documents a month of walking the exact route that she took to escape an assailant, tangles with the specter of Dick Wolf and
Law & Order, reflects on her own coping mechanisms and childhood in Virginia, probes the specific silence around trans women’s experience of rape, and interrogates what it means to enter a post-#MeToo era of backlash in 2022.

Jamie Hood is a critic, memoirist, and poet, and the author of how to be a good girl (Grieveland 2020). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Baffler, The Nation, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Inquiry, Observer, The Drift, SSENSE, Bookforum, Vogue, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn.