Short takes on more books by Northeastern authors.

US BEFORE ME: ETHICS AND SOCIAL CAPITAL FOR GLOBAL WELL-BEING
(PALGRAVE MACMILLAN; 2012) By Patricia Illingworth, associate professor of philosophy

The individualism hailed in Western culture may be undermining our collective well-being. Illingworth—an authority on global justice and ethics—makes an argument for using the concept of “social capital” to inform our actions. Defined as “social networks, and norms of reciprocity and trust,” social capital can be the glue to unite diverse people. This thoughtful work advocates leading a life that’s more mindful of our fellow human beings and the greater good.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: HOW TO IMPROVE OUR GOVERNMENT, OUR BUSINESSES, AND OUR LIVES (CHARLES WEBSTER PUBLISHERS; 2012) By Harlan D. Platt, professor of finance

From federal laws to corporate decision making, the brief stories in Platt’s 10th book demonstrate how unfortunate results can stem from good intentions. Platt also argues that government is responsible for the greatest number and most far-reaching unintended consequences. He proposes that governments adopt a “first do no harm” rule and undertake careful analysis before passing new legislation or regulations. Informative and highly readable, Unintended Consequences is a timely study.

THE ARTS OF THE PRIMA DONNA IN THE LONG NINETEENTH CENTURY (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS; 2012) Edited by Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss, associate professor of music history

This work explores and celebrates opera’s history through the divas who played tragic heroines on the lyric stage. The prima donna’s impact—both inside and outside the opera house—is studied from various angles by a group of leading authorities. Opera expert Poriss’ standout essay about charity performed by prima donnas sheds light on how the singers used philanthropy to enhance their image and better position themselves in society. This collection of current perspectives on female opera singers will appeal to opera fans and scholars alike.