Archives for June 2009

From the “Yeah, We Have a Book on That” files

Over at History News Network, they are running an adapted excerpt from Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s by Gil Troy. The subject of the essay? Michael Jackson, of course!

It is not stretching to credit Michael Jackson as one of the trailblazers for Barack Obama, himself just three years younger than Jackson.

For those of us, like Obama, born toward the end of the baby boom in 1961, Michael Jackson was not just a phenomenon but our phenomenon.

Read the rest at HNN.

Chris Eisgruber praises Doug Kmiec, Ted Olson and Ken Starr over at Politico

Chris Eisgruber, writing over at

Kudos to conservative lawyers Doug Kmiec, Ted Olson and Ken Starr for sticking to their principles about executive branch nominations. When the Republicans held the White House, Kmiec, Olson and Starr argued that Democratic senators had a duty to defer to the president when he nominated judges and executive branch lawyers. Now, with a Democrat in the White House, they have held to that position.

I and other liberals should remember their example — and follow it — the next time a Republican is in the White House.

Learn about The Next Justice

Portfolios of the Poor…. everywhere

We saw huge reviews of Portfolios of the Poor this weekend. Over at The New Yorker, they call the book “invaluable” and the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada describes the research as “refreshingly distinct.”

An interview with Intrepid Liberal Journal‘s Rob Ellman is also making the rounds, appearing at The Daily Kos, The Agonist, Smirking Chimp, and many other sites.

Princeton tops Library Journal’s best-selling Mathematics books

Library Journal published the Top 20 best-selling mathematics books for libraries this week and Princeton has the honor of claiming 6 of those spots including the top 3.The #1 seller according to Library Journal is The Princeton Companion to Mathematics edited by Timothy Gowers, number two is Euler’s Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology by David S. Richeson, and number three is The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry by Glen Van Brummelen.
Also making the list–Plato’s Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics by Jeremy Gray at number 6, Mathematics in Ancient Iraq: A Social History by Eleanor Robson at number 11; and Rational Decisions by Ken Binmore at number 15.

Here is the complete list.

Fall 2009 Catalog online

Our complete Fall 2009 catalog is now available online as a PDF or through a series of web pages.

In the Letter from the Director for this catalog, Peter Dougherty writes:

A great editor once said that good publishing is always about something. At Princeton, what we’re about is meeting the challenge of creating a list with a singular personality, while drawing books from fields as different and divergent as applied mathematics, classics, natural history, and financial economics. We seek to publish a list that, as John Henry Newman described the work of education, “takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has an insight into the influence of all these one on another; without which there is no whole.” We believe our Fall 2009 list meets this challenge with a special flair.

Princeton books have long been distinguished by intellectual originality and thrust, and nowhere on our fall list is this trait better displayed than in Mark Johnston’s Saving God: Religion after Idolatry or Avishai Margalit’s On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, or—from a wholly different part of the scholarly forest—Peter Paret’s The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806.

Princeton books also frequently speak to several different audiences at once, both by bridging separate disciplines and through the kind of writing that makes the best scholarship accessible to general readers. In this catalog, Adrienne Mayor’s The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy offers an exciting story for readers interested in ancient history while also providing intellectual grist for scholars and students of classics and history of science. Similarly, Carlos Eire’s A Very Brief History of Eternity will engage not only readers interested in history and religion, but also philosophers and sociologists, and their students.

Finally, we are especially proud to publish titles that are both timely and timeless. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly will find readers among today’s banking and policy professionals as well as among economists and historians for a long time to come.

The Ninth Justice @ The National Journal

The National Journal has a new online feature–The Ninth Justice–dedicated to the “search to fill the Supreme Court.” Just this morning, they posted an exclusive excerpt from The Next Justice by Chris Eisgruber. Happy reading!

Jonathan Morduch discusses Portfolios of the Poor

Over at, David Lepeska has posted a series of short interviews with Jonathan Morduch, co-author of Portfolios of the Poor. In the first segment (linked to here), Jonathan discusses the research for the book and why it provides greater insight into “what microfinance, or what banking for the poor, could become.”

Challenging the “Barbarians”: Christopher Beckwith Argues that it Might Be a Case of Bad Publicity

Christopher Beckwith has written a new book called EMPIRES OF THE SILK ROAD, the first complete history of Central Eurasia, and discusses the bad rap the Barbarians have historically received in an article recently posted on the History News Network. You can read the whole article here, but I include an intriguing portion of his op-ed:

“The popular Western idea of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and other famous Central Eurasians should be obvious to anyone familiar with the portrayal of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters in the popular movies Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja—they’re Barbarians!

But this is more than just an idea in the popular imagination. Despite many scholars’ addition of scare quotes to the word (“barbarian”) in a nod to political correctness, or their omission of the word entirely from their writings, the traditional view of Central Eurasians it embodies has remained largely unchallenged even among specialists.”

Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth Propose a Way to Save California’s K-12 Public Schools

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth, authors of the new books SCHOOLHOUSES, COURTHOUSES, AND STATEHOUSES, discuss what’s really ailing California public schools, and a new way to think about funding.

Here is a sample of their article:

“The state could decentralize decision-making by stepping back from the myriad prescriptive regulations and by removing the strings on funding. This approach would ensure that money could be spent more productively. For example, the state could use existing stimulus funds to offer early retirement to expensive older teachers, thus reducing the wage bill when the stimulus funds disappear. It could also set up bonus pools for teachers who demonstrate that they are highly effective in the classroom. It could develop its data and analytical capacity so that it had some chance of ending ineffective programs and keeping effective ones. At the same time it could include student performance information in evaluating (and paying) teachers.

These are things that cost little or nothing but that hold some promise of improving the system. They are issues in other states also, but perhaps nowhere are the needs greater for improving the system – as opposed to just balancing the budget. What it takes is a commitment to improving student achievement as opposed to maintaining the ineffective system.”

Read the entire op-ed here.

Recipe of the Month – “Don’t Call It English Rødgrød med Flød”

The recipe of the month is taken from COOKED BOOKS, a cookbook featuring recipes from the staff of Princeton University Press. Enjoy!

Don’t Call It English Rødgrød med Flød

A Danish Diarist’s Seduction

Hanne Winarsky

A traditional dessert from Denmark, this is a cold strawberry and rhubarb soup (and you can
vary it by adding all sorts of sweet summer berries). It’s easy and keeps really well in the fridge for
a few days. Serve as a delicious cold dessert to cool down on hot summer nights!

about 6–8 rhubarb stalks
water, as directed
2 packages frozen, sliced strawberries in syrup
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
3–4 tablespoons cornstarch
heavy cream (or half-and-half), for serving
sugar to taste

Take frozen strawberries out of their packages and put into a bowl on the counter to defrost, partially.

Dice rhubarb into ½-inch pieces. Put into a large pot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot (about 1 cup or so, but it depends on the pot!). Bring to a simmer.

Add the rhubarb and cover; simmer over low heat. Check frequently to make sure water has not evaporated. If it has, add a little more—in very small amounts.

When rhubarb is soft (about 15 minutes or so), add strawberries and defrosted syrup from the strawberry packages. Simmer, still on low heat, until strawberries are heated and softened thoroughly (about 10 more minutes).

In a small bowl, mix 4 tablespoons of cornstarch into 2 tablespoons of water. Stir quickly until you have a smooth mixture with no lumps. Add the cornstarch and water to the simmering rhubarb and strawberry mixture. Stir thoroughly; make sure there are no lumps.

Add sugar to taste (about 3 tablespoons—depending on how much rhubarb you’ve used and how much syrup you’ve added; remember the syrup has sugar in it already). I actually prefer to keep it not super-sweet, since you will sprinkle sugar on top when serving.

Turn heat way down, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 more minutes, until the rhubarb and strawberry mix is about the consistency of tapioca pudding.

Remove from heat and pour into bowl to cool. Refrigerate.

Serve chilled with heavy cream or half-and-half drizzled on top, and sprinkle with sugar.

Cooking time: about 40 minutes.

Serves 6–8.

Serves 4.

Riccardo Rebonato points out the weaknesses of math finance models on Econtalk

Riccardo Rebonato, global head of market risk and global head of quantitative research and quantitative analysis at the Royal Bank of Scotland and author of the prescient PLIGHT OF THE FORTUNE TELLERS: Why We Need to Manage Financial Risk Differently, discussed the weaknesses of mathematical finance models and their over reliance by quants as we’ve witnessed during the economic collapse last week on the very popular blog Econtalk.  Listen to it here. This lively chat provides an insight into the managing of risk by one of the industry’s top players.  

PLIGHT OF THE FORTUNE TELLERS was published in the autumn of 2007, well before the economic downturn.

A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing from PUP Director Peter Dougherty

Over at the Chronicle, they’ve commissioned an article from Princeton University Press director Peter Dougherty on the future of scholarly publishing and he makes several key recommendations for how UPs can not only survive, but thrive and build on our existing strengths and niche markets.

  • Include on our lists more titles from the burgeoning professional disciplines: engineering, law, medicine, architecture, business, the graphic arts, and the information sciences.
  • Become much more purposeful and assertive in publishing books that define whole fields, including important advanced textbooks.
  • Publish more books for worldwide readerships.
  • Work more closely with departments and centers within our host universities to adapt their work — sponsored lecture series, etc. — into books, monograph series, and other such initiatives.

Read the complete article here.