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The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation

Throughout its history America has been torn in two by debates over ideals and beliefs.  Randall Fuller takes us back to one of those turning points, in 1860, with the story of the influence of Charles Darwin’s just-published On the Origin of Species on five American intellectuals, including Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, the child welfare reformer Charles Loring Brace, and the abolitionist Franklin Sanborn.  
 
Each of these figures seized on the book’s assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery, one that helped provide scientific credibility to the cause of abolition.  Darwin’s depiction of constant struggle and endless competition described America on the brink of civil war.  But some had difficulty aligning the new theory to their religious convictions and their faith in a higher power.  Thoreau, perhaps the most profoundly affected all, absorbed Darwin’s views into his mysterious final work on species migration and the interconnectedness of all living things. 
 
Creating a rich tableau of nineteenth-century American intellectual culture, as well as providing a fascinating biography of perhaps the single most important idea of that time, The Book That Changed America is also an account of issues and concerns still with us today, including racism and the enduring conflict between science and religion.

Presidential Leverage : Presidents, Approval, and the American State

For scholars, pundits, the public, and presidents themselves, presidential approval is an evergreen subject. Its actual impact, however, is often unclear: all too frequently approval is reported in a vacuum, dissociated from the American state writ large. Presidential Leverage reaffirms the importance of this contested metric. By situating approval within the context of public trust in government, Daniel E. Ponder reveals how approval shapes presidential strategies for governing, providing a useful measure of the president's place in the political system. The leverage that presidents derive from public opinion exercises considerable influence on their incentives and opportunities for action. Though it is more tenuous and fragile than the authority they derive from the Constitution or the law, it makes certain kinds of executive action more attractive at a given time. Using a quantitative index of presidential leverage, Ponder examines this contextualized approval from John F. Kennedy's administration through Barack Obama's, showing how it has shaped presidential capacity and autonomy, agenda setting, landmark legislation, and unilateral action. His analysis sheds light not only on the complexities of presidential power, but also on a broad swath of national politics and the American state.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars

During World War Il, when the brand-new minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate jet velocities and plot missile trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women--known as "computers"--who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design and helped bring about America's first ballistic missiles. But they were never interested in developing weapons--their hearts lay in the dream of space exploration. So when JPL became part of a new agency called NASA, the computers worked on the first probes to the moon, Venus, Mars, and beyond. Later, as digital computers largely replaced human ones, JPL was unique in training and retaining its brilliant pool of women. They became the first computer programmers and engineers, and through their efforts, we launched the ships that showed us the contours of our solar system. For the first time, this book tells the stories of these women who charted a course not only for the future of space exploration but also for the prospects of female scientists. Based on extensive research and interviews with the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science, illuminating both where we've been and the far reaches of where we're heading.--Adapted from dust jacket.

Future Proofing the News: Preserving the First Draft of History

News coverage is often described as the first draft of history. From the publication in 1690 of the first American newspaper, Publick Occurrences, to the latest tweet, news has been disseminated to inform its audience about what is going on in the world. But the preservation of news content has had it technological, legal, and organizational challenges. Over the centuries, as new means of finding, producing, and distributing news were developed, the methods used to ensure future generations' access changed, and new challenges for news content preservation arose. This book covers the history of news preservation (or lack thereof), the decisions that helped ensure (or doom) its preservation, and the unique preservation issues created by each new form of media. All but one copy of Publick Occurrences were destroyed by decree. The wood pulp-based newsprint used for later newspapers crumbles to dust. Early microfilm disintegrates to acid, and decades of microfilmed newspapers have already dissolved in their storage drawers. Early radio and television newscasts were rarely captured, and when they were, the technological formats for accessing the tapes have lone been superseded. Sounds and images stored on audio- and videotapes fade and become unreadable. The early years of web publication by news organizations were lost by changes in publishing platforms and a false security that everything on the Internet lives forever. In fifty or a hundred years, what will we be able to retrieve from today's news output? How will we tell the story of this time and place? Will we have better access to news produced in 1816 than news produced in 2016? These are some of the questions Future-Proofing the News aims to answer.

Belle Turnbull: On the Life & Work of an American Master

"In this ninth book in The Unsung Masters Series, the featured writer is Belle Turnbull (1881-1970), the first strong poet to live in and write about the mountains and high mining towns of the Colorado Rockies. Well-known during her life but long out of print, Turnbull's lyrics of sublime alpine wilderness and her narratives about the harsh and dangerous world of hard rock mining offer us a profoundly original vision of the American west that transcends the region"--Provided by Publisher

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

"Still known to millions only as the author of the "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) remains curiously absent from the American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America better than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author behind such classics as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition of Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on "domestic horror" drawn from an era hostile to women. Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, Shirley Jackson, with its exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaged childhood and a troubled marriage to literary critic Stanley Hyman, becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant."-- Provided by publisher.