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Imagine the first productions of Shakespeare’s plays: what did the original audiences have in their pockets? What did they wear to the theatre? What sort of refreshments were available at the Globe? Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era In Twenty Objects, by Neil MacGregor, head of the British Museum and author of the similarly fascinating A History of the World in 100 Objects, looks closely at the material culture of London, circa 1600, and focusing variously on a fork, a cap, a goblet, and other relics, fleshes out the politics, economics, and social habits that informed the Bard and his dramas. Available in hardcover, $15.98.

Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s a question humans have puzzled over since the beginning of time. One approach is to try to imagine nothing. In his very readable and often exciting Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, Jim Holt (also the author of a book on joking) looks at the existential mystery from many angles, delving into ancient metaphysics and forward into theorized multi-verses. In between he considers religion, philosophy, and science, and interviews today’s leading thinkers to see if we’re getting any closer to an answer, or just finding new ways to ask the question. Available in paperback, $7.98.

It’s possible to get so used to a system that it seems as if it’s just always been that way, naturally. But even the most engrained ways of conducting daily life are mostly products of human thought and effort, and they could have turned out other than they have. In her detailed The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism, the award-winning historian Joyce Appleby reminds us that capitalism is not a historical inevitability but the result of many factors. Similarly, it’s not a purely economic phenomenon but largely a cultural one. Her history looks back to the Dutch and traces the effects of agricultural innovations through Britain, Britain’s colonies, and beyond as capitalism took hold globally. Available in paperback, $7.98.

Please call us at 202-364-1919 or stop by the store to shop for these and other discounted titles.

- Laurie Greer