Book covers for “The Allure of Matter,” “The Shortest History of the Soviet Union,” “Emergency,” and “Get It Done”
Fresh ink

A selection of recent books by UChicago faculty members.

The Allure of Matter: Materiality Across Chinese Art

Edited by Orianna Cacchione, Curator of the Smart Museum of Art, and Wei-Cheng Lin, Associate Professor of Art History

The 2020 Smart Museum of Art exhibition The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China showcased contemporary Chinese artists who use unconventional materials in their work: human hair, cigarettes, and plastic, for instance. This collection of 10 essays builds on the show, demonstrating that an innovative approach to materials can be traced back all the way to ancient China. In this tradition, the contributors suggest, artists are apt both to depart from the usual artistic materials and to employ them in unexpected ways.

The Shortest History of the Soviet Union

By Sheila Fitzpatrick, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of Russian History and the College

For Sheila Fitzpatrick, a founder of the field of Soviet history, the story of the Soviet Union stacks irony on top of irony. Lasting slightly longer than the average life expectancy of a Soviet citizen born in 1991, the state—so committed to science and planning—can be said to have begun and ended by historical accident. In The Shortest History of the Soviet Union, Fitzpatrick crystallizes a career’s worth of knowledge into a brisk 256-page read that makes good on the promise of the witty title. Her book arrives at a time when greater understanding of the Soviet Union and what it left behind is especially welcome.

Emergency: Reading the Popol Vuh in a Time of Crisis

By Edgar Garcia, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature

The Popol Vuh, the oral creation story of the Mayan K’iche’ people, dates back to at least 300 BCE. The earliest known written version (now lost), believed to have been penned in the mid-1550s, was transcribed in 1702—amid an era of conversion and colonial distress for the people of Guatemala. Edgar Garcia wrote the essays that comprise Emergency in Chicago during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, a time of global turmoil well suited to reflection on the social, cultural, and political upheaval surrounding the Popol Vuh’s original authors in their own day. In essays such as “Television,” “Demons,” and “The Sun,” Garcia explores two moments of disarray, centuries apart but not unconnected.

Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation

By Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing and IBM Corporation Faculty Scholar at Chicago Booth

For many years behavioral science expert Ayelet Fishbach has designed experimental studies to derive insights about human motivation. What makes us go forward? What gets in our way? How can we inspire ourselves to stay on track toward the goals we most want to achieve? In Get It Done Fishbach draws on her extensive body of research and offers concrete ways to choose the right goals, prioritize them appropriately, and make real progress toward them. More than just a pep talk, the book illuminates the science of motivation with examples from Fishbach’s experiments and translates the findings into strategies for everyday life.