Books for the Braniac

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These books are just right for those on our list with insatiable intellectual appetites. You can find all these and more at Symposium Books this season!

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Spring and Autumn period in 5th century BC. The work, attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to a distinct aspect of warfare and how that applies to military strategy and tactics.  The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asia, and has a profound influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

In The Lagoon, acclaimed biologist Armand Marie Leroi recovers Aristotle’s science. He goes to Lesbos to see the creatures that Aristotle saw, where he saw them, and explores the Philosopher’s deep ideas and inspired guesses – as well as the things that he got wildly wrong. Leroi shows how Aristotle’s science is deeply intertwined with his philosophical system and how modern science even now bears the imprint of its inventor.

Originally conceived as a novel but then transformed into a play by Ayn Rand, Ideal is the story of beautiful but tormented actress Kay Gonda. Accused of murder, she is on the run, and she turns for help to six fans who have written letters to her, each telling her that she represents their ideal—a respectable family man, a far-left activist, a cynical artist, an evangelist, a playboy, and a lost soul. Each reacts to her plight in his own way, their reactions a glimpse into their secret selves and their true values. In the end their responses to her pleas give Kay the answers she has been seeking.

Ideal was written in 1934 as a novel, but Ayn Rand thought the theme of the piece would be better realized as a play and put the novel aside. Now, both versions of Ideal are available for the first time ever to the millions of Ayn Rand fans around the world, giving them a unique opportunity to explore the creative process of Rand as she wrote first a book, then a play, and the differences between the two.

Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists’ story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anti-colonialism, feminism, and gay rights.

Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters–fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships–and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-driven world.

Here for the first time is the complete short fiction of one of the twentieth century’s foremost imaginative geniuses. More than half of Vonnegut’s output was short fiction, and never before has the world had occasion to wrestle with it all together. Organized thematically—”War,” “Women,” “Science,” “Romance,” “Work Ethic versus Fame and Fortune,” “Behavior,” “The Band Director” (those stories featuring Lincoln High’s band director and nice guy George Hemholtz), and “Futuristic”—these ninety-eight stories were written from 1941 to 2007.

During his lifetime Vonnegut published fewer than half of the stories he wrote, his agent telling him in 1958 upon the rejection of a particularly strong story, “Save it for the collection of your works which will be published someday when you become famous. Which may take a little time.”

Selected and introduced by longtime Vonnegut friends and scholars Dan Wakefield and Jerome Klinkowitz, Complete Stories puts Vonnegut’s great wit, humor, humanity, and artistry on full display. An extraordinary literary feast for new readers, Vonnegut fans, and scholars alike.

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