Archives for April 2011

Fred Appel on The Lives of Great Religious Books Series

Fred Appel, editor of the new religious series, The Lives of Great Religious Books, wrote a piece for The Front Table this week:

“Lives of Great Religious Books” was born in the faculty lounge of the NYU Law School in the early spring of 2005, in a conversation over tea with the eminent Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit. I had come to NYU to meet with Margalit, then a visiting scholar in the Law School, to ask him about his current research and writing, and talk more generally about trends in the humanities. This is one of the great privileges and joys of being an acquisitions editor at a distinguished scholarly publishing house: being able to engage smart and imaginative people in conversation on topics that preoccupy them. After talking about his own work – including a book he had begun that we eventually published in 2009 – the topic of conversation turned for some reason to memoirs. Margalit was of the opinion that too many were being published – or more precisely, that too few were worth reading. Then he tossed his head back and said dreamily, “you know what I’d like to read? A biography of an important book – the story of its reception across time. That’s the sort of memoir we need more of.”

Read on…

Fred Appel is Senior Editor at Princeton University Press. The Lives of Great Religious Books is being launched this spring with the release of the following three titles: Augustine’s Confessions: A Biography, by Garry Wills; The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography, by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography, by Martin E. Marty.


Thoreau on books:
Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

Thoreau on love:
What is the singing of birds, or any natural sound, compared with the voice of one we love?

Thoreau on life and death:
Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as a dog does his master’s chaise. Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.

Few writers are more quotable than Henry David Thoreau. The Quotable Thoreau, the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of Thoreau quotations ever assembled, gathers more than 2,000 memorable passages from this iconoclastic American author, social reformer, environmentalist, and self-reliant thinker. Including Thoreau’s thoughts on topics ranging from sex to solitude, manners to miracles, government to God, life to death, and everything in between, the book captures Thoreau’s profundity as well as his humor (“If misery loves company, misery has company enough”). Drawing primarily on The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, published by Princeton University Press, The Quotable Thoreau is thematically arranged, fully indexed, richly illustrated, and thoroughly documented. For the student of Thoreau, it will be invaluable. For those who think they know Thoreau, it will be a revelation. And for the reader seeking sheer pleasure, it will be a joy.

The Quotable Thoreau
Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer
We invite you to read the introduction online:

Also available:
Henry David Thoreau
Edited by J. Lyndon Shanley
With a new introduction by John Updike

Cape Cod
Henry David Thoreau
Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer
With a new introduction by Robert Pinsky

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
Henry David Thoreau
Edited by Carl F. Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Hall Witherell
With a new introduction by John McPhee

The Higher Law:
Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform

Henry David Thoreau
Edited by Wendell Glick
With an introduction by Howard Zinn

The Maine Woods
Henry David Thoreau
Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer
With a new introduction by Paul Theroux

For Hawk Lovers

Have you checked out the live #hawkcam of a red-tailed hawk? Everyone is waiting for the eggs to hatch.
The New York Times brings you coverage from the 12th-floor window ledge of Bobst Library.

You can also check out the The Franklin Institute’s Hawk Nest where the third chick has hatched:

For more information about hawks, check out these two books:
Hawks at a Distance:
Identification of Migrant Raptors

Jerry Liguori
With a foreword by Pete Dunne

Hawks from Every Angle:
How to Identify Raptors In Flight

Jerry Liguori
Foreword by David A. Sibley

Mathematics Awareness Month — Unraveling Complex Systems, a note from math editor Vickie Kearn

April is Mathematics Awareness Month. Just in case you didn’t know this, here is a little history. It was started in 1986 as Mathematics Awareness Week with a proclamation by Ronald Reagan. Each year the celebration has grown in scope and in 1999 Mathematics Awareness Week became Mathematics Awareness Month. There are all kinds of activities, including workshops, competitions, seminars, exhibits, and festivals that focus on increasing the public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. Each year there is a different theme and this year the focus is on Unraveling Complex Systems.

Complex systems are everywhere. Examples that will be familiar to you include power grids, the internet, financial markets, environmental ecosystems, our bodies, transportation systems, etc. Mathematics helps us to understand these systems, enhance their reliability, and improve their performance.

The official website for Mathematics Awareness Month is at and it is a wonderful place to find out all about complex systems. You can learn about disease transmission, the economic impact of catastrophic events and the effect of a blackout on an electric grid.

Princeton University Press has two book series devoted to complexity and complex systems. The Princeton Studies in Complexity is edited by Simon Levin (Princeton University) and Steven Strogatz (Cornell University). This series publishes enduring research on complex systems in the natural, physical, and social sciences. A special focus is on complex adaptive systems, in which macroscopic features emerge from the collective dynamics of individual agents. Evolutionary processes, from the life history adaptations of natural populations to the evolution of societies, are of major interest. Recent books in the series include
Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life
John H. Miller & Scott E. Page
Critical Transitions in Nature and Society
Marten Scheffer
Generative Social Science: Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling
Joshua M. Epstein
A complete listing of all the titles in the Princeton Studies in Complexity can be found at

The Primers in Complex Systems series, edited by John Miller (Carnegie Mellon University and the Santa Fe Institute), includes short well-focused, accessible, high quality introductions to key topics in complex systems. Each book serves as a coherent primer on the topic, providing a solid, scientifically accurate introduction to the core elements, including current knowledge, practice, examples, and future frontiers. The primers are accessible to an advanced undergraduate or graduate student, or a non-specialist in the specific area of complex systems covered by the book. Any mathematics should be accessible (or made accessible) to someone who has taken a typical sequence of undergraduate mathematics. The first two books in this series have recently been published. They are Ant Encounters by Deborah Gordon and Diversity and Complexity by Scott Page. You can learn about forthcoming volumes at the series homepage

A sneak peek at Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow

We are publishing Avian Architecture in June. Here, author Peter Goodfellow, reflects on birds as architects which gives us a good opportunity to share some sneak peeks at some page spreads (click on the smaller images below to see larger versions). Enjoy!

This spring I was talking to a lady who said, “Oh, I’m not like you. I really do not like birds!” At the other extreme there are men and women – you may know one – who are fanatical birders, “twitchers” in fact, who must see as many species as possible.

There’s more to the topic of birds than those two points of view. Writers and lovers of wildlife have hit on one quality which birds have which suggests they are not dull or dumb creatures – their ability to be “architects”. One could even say, “We have learned all that skill from the birds, and live like them, as the following examples suggest!”

Take the American Robin Turdus migratorius for example. On arrival in their breeding territory the homely couple build a cup-shaped nest in a bush. It is just big enough to house the growing family. After hatching from four blue eggs the young are tended carefully by both parents. In contrast, the bird world has landed gentry in the impressive presence of Mute Swans Cygnus olor. These large birds build a substantial mound-nest of water weed at the edge of their territory, the lake, which is as jealously guarded by the male against intruders, as any pop-star’s villa surrounded by a wall.

Big societies have their problem inhabitants. Thieves and robbers raid as soon as our backs are turned. Pairs of Eurasian Rooks Corvus frugilegus build high in treetops in a colony of maybe several dozen pairs. Careful observation reveals that the cock birds are repeatedly quick to steal sticks from a neighbour’s nest to build up their own, rather than hunt for new ones.

Many birds are content, like we are, with small families. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris builds a tiny nest for a family of just two. The Common Eider Somateria mollissima , however, lays up to ten eggs in a nest on the ground, wonderfully insulated with its own down (mollissima means most soft), which for centuries has been harvested in northern Europe to make – you’ve guessed it – eiderdowns. The young join other families and are looked after in a crêche by other Eiders known as “aunties”.

Birds such as Purple Martins Progne subis use rented accommodation, large specially made nest boxes for several pairs. The Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla lives with maybe hundreds of others in a sea- cliff condominium. Each pair builds a sturdy nest of weed on a ledge, where they rear their two young.

In modern Human life there are two aspects which birds thought of first. A fine example of the Do-It-Yourself Bird (or Hen-pecked Husband, depending on your point of view) is the Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. The male may build half a dozen nests in spring. He shows his chosen female a nest who just puts the finishing touches to it, lining it with feathers. In complete contrast is one of the leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. She lays four eggs in a scrape in the ground. She then leaves them, and they are incubated by the male, who continues the home duties by rearing the young until they fledge after about three weeks.

Sir John Collings Squire (1884-1958) was born in my home town of Plymouth – the original Plymouth, England! He was an influential literary editor and published poet. In conclusion, I offer here his thoughts about birds and their nests, and hope that you will find birds’ nests as wonderful as he and I believe:

O delicate chain over all the ages stretched,
O dumb tradition from what far darkness fetched:
Each little architect with its one design
Perpetual, fixed and right in stuff and line,
Each little ministrant who knows one thing,
One learned rite to celebrate the spring.
Whatever alters else on sea or shore,
These are unchanging: Man must still explore.

Who Owns Einstein’s Face?

Over at The Atlantic, Edward Tenner writes: “Decades after the genius’ death, the question of who controls his publicity rights continues. Even his prodigious imagination could not predict the media world of the early 21st century.”

This reflection comes on the heels of the news that Evelyn Einstein, granddaughter to Albert Einstein, has recently passed away. Her battle to receive a portion of the licensing fees for her grandfather’s image and name is documented at the philosophy of science portal.

While who owns the rights to license Einstein‘s image, face, and name might be up in the air, the provenance of his writings has been well-documented. His literary estate was gifted to Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Princeton University Press is proud to partner with them on the Einstein Papers Project which is now housed at Caltech.

This particularly fruitful and important venture has resulted in 12 volumes (and counting) of Einstein’s collected papers! To peruse the volumes, visit this site.

The Novel and the Sea – Second Runner-Up, 2011 Harry Levin Prize

Congratulations to Margaret Cohen, author of The Novel and the Sea, as the Second Runner-Up, for the 2011 Harry Levin Prize offered by the American Comparative Literature Association. The Harry Levin and René Wellek Prizes, are “this country’s most prestigious book awards in the discipline of comparative literature.”

According to the ACLA website: “Those books eligible for the Harry Levin Prize emphasize literary history or criticism as opposed to theory; in the spirit of comparative literature, they are engaged with more than one national literature or with issues of literary study in general.”

The Novel and the Sea recounts the novel’s rise, told from the perspective of the ship’s deck and the allure of the oceans in the modern cultural imagination. Margaret Cohen moors the novel to overseas exploration and work at sea, framing its emergence as a transatlantic history, steeped in the adventures and risks of the maritime frontier. Margaret Cohen teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. She is also the author of Profane Illumination and The Sentimental Education of the Novel.

Read The Novel and the Sea‘s Introduction.

Library Journal Best Reference 2010

The Library Journal recently announced the winners of Best Reference 2010 in Print, Electronic, and Free Reference Resources.

The Winners Included:

Gregory Paul’s The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs in the Sciences category.
“Though not every expert agrees on the taxonomy of dinosaur species, there is consensus that these animals first appeared in the Mesozoic Age 220 million years ago and disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous, 65.4 million years ago. Paul, a leading dinosaur illustrator and researcher who served as a consultant for the movie Jurassic Park, discusses 735 species, 130 with color life studies including scenic views and 450 with skeletal, skull, head, and muscle drawings. The species accounts are preceded by sections on dinosaur history, biology, and extinction.”

Preview some sample pages, here.

Silvio Pons & Robert Service’s A Dictionary of 20th-Century Communism in the Law & Politics category.
“Leading international historians Pons (eastern European history, Univ. of Rome Tor Vergata) and Service (Russian history, Oxford Univ.) and an international cast of 160 scholars have crafted 400 entries on the important figures, events, organizations, institutions, and societies of 20th-century communism, from Lenin and Gorbachev to events like the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua to places like the forced labor camps immortalized in Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. This translation from the original 2006 Italian edition will be welcomed by students of recent world history.”

Check out some sample entries, here.

TV Ontario’s Steve Paikin Interviews Patricia Churchland on Neuromorality

You can watch this video on the TV Ontario web site for The Agenda with Steve Paikin here:

Learn more about Dr. Churchland’s book Braintrust and read a sample chapter here:

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress by Peter Singer. What is ethics? Where do moral standards come from? The Expanding CircleIn his classic study The Expanding Circle, Peter Singer argues that altruism began as a genetically based drive to protect one’s kin and community members but has developed into a consciously chosen ethic with an expanding circle of moral concern. Drawing on philosophy and evolutionary psychology, he demonstrates that human ethics cannot be explained by biology alone. Rather, it is our capacity for reasoning that makes moral progress possible. In a new afterword, Singer takes stock of his argument in light of recent research on the evolution of morality.

“Singer’s theory of the expanding circle remains an enormously insightful concept, which reconciles the existence of human nature with political and moral progress. It was also way ahead of its time. . . . It’s wonderful to see this insightful book made available to a new generation of readers and scholars.”–Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought

If you’ve LIKED US on our Facebook Page you are automatically entered in this Friday’s random draw.

The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress by Peter Singer

The solution to our Rio parrot quiz

Eagle-eyed readers will have discerned that the bird labeled “C” in the image below is the Spix’s Macaw. For comparison purposes, here is Blu from the animated film Rio.

So, how do we know C is the Spix’s Macaw? Here are some hints taken from Parrots of the World by Joseph Forshaw with illustrations by Frank Knight.

Hint 1: Unmistakable; Spix’s Macaw is the only small blue macaw.

Hint 2: The forehead, cheeks, and earcoverts of a Spix’s Macaw are grayish blue.

Hint 3: The Spix’s Macaw’s bare lores are dark gray to its eye-ring.

Have another look at the paintings:

Want to learn more about Parrots? Check out Parrots of the World.

Can you ID the parrot from Rio?

The main character in the animated film Rio is based on a real life endangered species of parrot: the Spix’s Macaw. This species of parrot is extinct in the wild and survives only in captivity. In appearance, it is relatively close to two other types of macaw: Lear’s Macaw and Hyacinth Macaw. Here is a promotional still of Blu, the hero of Rio.

Now for some detective work. Here is a parrot line up from Parrots of the World by Joseph Forshaw with illustrations by Frank Knight. Can you pick out the Spix’s Macaw?

Post your guesses below! Solution to this puzzle will be posted at the end of the week.