Teller Report

Best Books: Non-fiction of February 2021

1/29/2021, 3:23:48 PM

Why is a German researcher laughed at in Africa? How does Silicon Valley think? And what can we learn about corona from the plague? Answers to these questions are provided by new books recommended by experts.


The list of recommendations with the greatest circulation in the German-speaking area appears here every month.

The media partners are LITERARISCHE WELT, “NZZ” and Radio Austria 1. Experts select ten non-fiction books (no specialist books) from the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and economics.

Particularly worth reading in February:

1. Heike Behrend:

Incarnation of a monkey


An autobiography of ethnographic research.

Matthes & Seitz, 278 p., 25 €.


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Ethnologists want to examine foreign cultures neutrally.

That can't go well at all.

Not just because field researchers are always part of their research.

But because the people they observe themselves have an agenda.

That is what the life story of the German researcher Heike Behrend shows in this impressive book.

2. Aleida Assmann:


The reinvention of the nation.

Why we fear them and why we need them.

CH Beck, 334 pp., € 18.


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For a long time, intellectuals suspected anything national.

That created a void, says the cultural scientist Aleida Assmann.

She wants to rehabilitate the concept of the nation among the left.

She also has ideas for the national anthem.

3. Adrian Daub:

What Valley calls thinking.

About the ideology of the tech industry.

Translated by Stephan Gebauer.

Suhrkamp, ​​159 pp., € 16.


Adrian Daub teaches literary studies at Stanford, so he knows the tech industry up close.

In this book he asks about central ideas that shape Silicon Valley.

A lot of counterculture from the 1960s resonates in concepts such as disruption, communication and failure, according to his thesis.

4. Norbert Bolz:

The avant-garde of fear.

Matthes & Seitz, 191 pp., 14 €.


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On Twitter, the “truth in one sentence” aphorisms of the retired media scientist have long been a currency of their own.

In this little book he thinks about the panic before the climate catastrophe and the mobilization against it.

Is the climate protest movement an expression of a new (German) fear religion?

5. Bettina Stangneth:


Sex culture.

Rowohlt, 288 pp., € 22.


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Bettina Stangneth knows why we have such a hard time talking about sex.

The crux of the matter is that we understand sex as animal-bestial.

And the philosopher also explains why a special type of sex could finally be accepted as normal.

6. Tobias Roth:

World of the renaissance.

Galiani, 640 p., € 89.


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A magnificent volume about the fascinating epoch with which the modern age began.

With which ideas, rituals and customs, this reader unfolds.

From the narrator Boccaccio to the power advisor Macchiavelli to the courtier Castiglione, from the heretic monk Savonarola to the rebellious courtesan.

7. Ute Frevert:

Powerful feelings.

From A for fear to Z for affection.

German history since 1900. S. Fischer, 496 S., 28 €.


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In 20 chapters, the historian throws the spotlight on the particular moods of the Germans, from the German Empire to the present day, from “honor” to “joy” to “fear” and from “hate” to “pride” and “shame” to “anger”.

The book sees itself as an in-depth reader for a worldwide touring exhibition of the Goethe Institute.

8. Volker Reinhardt:

The power of the plague.

How the great plague changed the world.

CH Beck, 256 pages, € 24.


Buy "The Power of the Plague" online now

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The great plague of around 1348 was one of the most decisive events in European history.

Volker Reinhardt reconstructs the course of the epidemic from its beginnings in Asia to its temporary extinction in Europe, illuminates the different conditions in selected cities and asks how the survivors coped with the great death politically, economically, religiously and artistically.

All similarities with current pandemics are purely coincidental.

9. Alexander Demandt:


History and present.

Propylaea, 656 p., € 28.


Buy "Limits" online now

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The topic of borders has not only been virulent since the refugee crisis in 2015, it has accompanied humanity.

Even early high cultures knew linguistic, cultural and ethnic spaces that had to be protected.

This world history of the drawing of boundaries draws an arc to the present.

10. Ille Gebeshuber:

A brief history of the future.

And how we continue to write it.

Herder, 240 p., € 22.


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Ille C. Gebeshuber is Professor of Physics at the Vienna University of Technology.

Her thesis: If the past was dominated by belief and the present by knowledge, belief and knowledge could merge in the future.

A highly topical book in times of alternative facts.

The extra recommendation of the month

It comes from Prof. Dr.

Volker Perthes (Science and Politics Foundation): He recommends:

Sönke Neitzel:

German warriors.

From the Empire to the Berlin Republic - a military story


Propylaea, 816 pp., € 35.

“Neitzel deals historically and sociologically with the specifics, the constants and the changes in the culture of the German military from the German Empire to the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht to the Bundeswehr, and particularly asks how the combat troops see themselves.

In this way he also provides an answer to the question of where the traditions of the Bundeswehr actually lie. "(Volker Perthes)

The jury of the non-fiction books of the month

Tobias Becker, “Spiegel”;

Kirstin Breitenfellner, “Falter”, Vienna;

Manon Bischoff, “Spectrum of Science”;

Eike Gebhardt, Berlin;

Daniel Haufler, Berlin;

Prof. Jochen Hörisch, University of Mannheim;

Günter Kaindlstorfer, Vienna;

Otto Kallscheuer, Sassari, Italy;

Petra Kammann, “FeuilletonFrankfurt”;

Jörg-Dieter Kogel, Bremen;

Wilhelm Krull, The New Institute, Hamburg;

Marianna Lieder, freelance critic, Berlin;

Prof. Herfried Münkler, Humboldt University;

Marc Reichwein, WORLD;

Thomas Ribi, "Neue Zürcher Zeitung";

Prof. Sandra Richter, German Literature Archive Marbach;

Wolfgang Ritschl, ORF;

Florian Rötzer, "Telepolis";

Norbert Seitz, Berlin;

Anne-Catherine Simon, “Die Presse”, Vienna;

Prof. Philipp Theisohn, University of Zurich;

Andreas Wang, Berlin;

Michael Wiederstein, getAbstract, Lucerne;

Harro Zimmermann, Bremen;

Stefan Doubt, Switzerland