Archives for June 2011

Author Sheldon Garon on the lesson of “thrift”

Author Sheldon Garon was recently a guest writer on the public radio Marketplace blog, “Makin’ Money,” with a piece entitled How America shortchanges its kids about thrift.

In it Garon explains the curious difference between “thrift” education in America versus Europe. With the exception of a handful of exemplary states, America had historically shown little interest in encouraging students to save.  In recent times student saving programs have become fewer and farther between.  Garon notes that “this is a pity because decades later one encounters New Yorkers or Minnesotans who insist that school programs started them on a lifetime of saving.”

Today, “the U.S. is…behind other nations in permitting pre-college teenagers the freedom to make withdrawals from bank accounts and thereby learn financial responsibility.” Garon suggests that we have a lot to learn from other nations, and the time to start is now.  Read his eye-opening article here, and pick up a copy of Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves to learn more about the practice of saving in America and around the world.

Author David Marquand speaks on “The End of the West”

Author David Marquand spoke in London earlier this month for a Policy Network event on the future of Europe. His talk plays on the subject of his new book, The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe.

Marquand addresses the question of the economic state of Europe, politics during the post-war recovery period, and whether the “Democratic Deficit” exists.

Is the Western world really on the decline?  Check out his interviews, beginning here and carrying over here, then pick up a copy of his book to find out more about what it takes for a country to thrive in the world today.

The fascinating history of the “Beer Archaeologist”

Patrick McGovern is a professor of archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the man responsible for Dogfish Head Brewery‘s acclaimed Ancient Ales, a series of beers created using methods and ingredients that stick as faithfully as possible to brewing recipes used by ancient peoples.

In its article on the “Beer Archaeologist,” the explains the unlikely connection between the worlds of Professor McGovern, pictured left, and Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione, pictured right.  As it turns out, the two men have much in common when it comes to a real passion for the art of brewing.

McGovern’s interest in the alcohol production industry in fact springs directly from his archaeological background.  He accidentally created an entirely new field of study when he analyzed the remnants of an unknown substance found in an ancient Iranian pottery jar and discovered that it was a type of alcohol.  He published an article on his findings, and a new culture was born.  Now in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at Penn, McGovern holds the title of “Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia,” a position that could never have existed not long ago.

In the article McGovern presents some interesting hypotheses about the importance of alcohol in culture and in the history of mankind, similar to those explored in his book Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture.  If you are a beer or wine enthusiast you might already know how ancient people distilled fruit and grain to create alcoholic beverages, but McGovern presents the idea of “wine cultures” in a whole new light.  The article even mentions the “beer before bread” theory that hypothesizes “the desire for drink may have prompted the domestication of key crops, which led to permanent human settlements.”

The article is well worth a read, both for the surprising insights McGovern shares and for the interesting history of the man himself.  Grab yourself a bottle of one of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales (Chateau Jiahu is my favorite, if you can find it) and get to reading.  You’ll be absorbing ancient culture into your body and your mind all at once!

Author Mark Kleiman on America’s incompetent criminal justice system

Author Mark Kleiman is angry.

In his interview with, he explains that “We have 5 percent of the world’s population; we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. If the criminal justice system were a parent, we’d call it abusive and neglectful.”  And the overwhelming number of prisoners is not the only problem: “The worst thing about our criminal justice system is its randomized draconianism. We’re very severe in the way we punish people, but we do so very irregularly and very erratically.”  Add to this the boundless state and government spending on U.S. prisons, the overcrowding and violence in the prisons themselves, and the demonstrated ineffectiveness of our system of punishment, and it’s no wonder why the criminal justice system makes his blood boil.  You might want to get angry, too.

But Kleiman also gives us some hope: he explains why we need to fix these problems, and proposes how we can start to make changes today.  Watch his interview, “Filling Up Prisons without Fighting Crime”, or click here to read the transcript.  And be sure to pick up a copy of When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment to learn even more about this pressing issue.

PUP Author (and U. Penn. President) Amy Gutmann interviewed in the New York Times

Last week the New York Times “Business Day” section interviewed Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Why Deliberative Democracy? (2004) and the forthcoming Spring 2012 book Why Compromise Matters.

In the interview Gutmann shares her personal thoughts on leadership and the factors that contributed to the success she enjoys today.  She speaks of the “combination of courage and farsightedness” she admired in her father, who escaped Nazi Germany, and the ways in which she has applied those principles to her leadership style.  That style nowadays is characterized by an embrace of “wild ideas” and group deliberation combined with a sharp decisiveness when tough decisions need to be made.  Gutmann characterizes herself as “somebody who, since I was little, loved juggling multiple balls, keeping multiple balls in the air,” and the portrait this insightful interview presents certainly seems to confirm her analysis.  Read it to find out more about the remarkable woman running the University of Pennsylvania, and stay on the lookout for her new book, Why Compromise Matters, coming out next Spring!

Avian Architecture praised in the New York Times

Last week the New York Times ran an article on Peter Goodfellow’s Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build, and the public response has been positively overwhelming!  Yesterday the article was at number 11 on the NYT online list of most emailed articles.  Here is what some fans have had to say:

Star Tribune author Jim Williams, the “WingNut” columnist, writes: “I read “Avian Architecture” cover to cover without putting it down. I’m fascinated by nests, being built, in use, or abandoned at season’s end. Goodfellow now has me actively looking for nest constructions I haven’t seen…”

From the blog No Charge Bookbunch: “…a book review about Avian Architecture caught my interest in the New York Times today…the author’s scientific explanation of Australian bowerbirds’ nests gave a good model to emulate…”

The design-oriented blog zee. writes “I love books that make you look at the world a little differently…I never thought of birds as builders and engineers (no offense, birds), but they clearly are, in their own right,” while notcot, a blog of “ideas+aesthetics+amusement” was taken with this photo of a hanging nest:

The blog Co.Design also praises both the imagery and content of Goodfellow’s book.  “This isn’t a lavish coffee-table book — information is privileged over visuals — but there’s plenty to marvel at… Our favorites are the examples of biomimicry — instances of us mirroring nature in our own architecture. But most of the nests are remarkable feats – especially when you consider that they’re built with the assistance of a single tool — a beak — which, as Goodfellow writes, is a little like “trying to make a ham and cheese sandwich with one hand behind your back.”” (That would be very tricky!)

Whether you are a bird nest enthusiast, architecture fan, or just enjoy beautiful and inspiring images, Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build is well worth picking up!

Birds of New Jersey — one birder remembers a lifetime of change in The Garden State

Click over to read Rosyfinch Ramblings review of Birds of New Jersey by Bill Boyle, Jr. The book prompted the blog reviewer to revisit her first birding checklist and also stirred many memories of the changes in environment and bird populations that have occurred in her lifetime. This is definitely worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few quick excerpts to whet the palette:

In the early 1940s it seemed that every suburban home had Wood Thrushes nesting in their foundation plantings. In springtime, colorful warblers and other neotropical migrants adorned the leafless trees and shrubs. Peregrine Falcons (then called “Duck Hawks”) nested in aeries high on the Palisades along the Hudson River. I looked forward to perusing Boyle’s book with a Rip Van Winkle mind-set, ready to be surprised by the changes in the number and distribution of New Jersey’s birds over more than a half century. I was not disappointed.

Paging through this book, my attention was naturally drawn to those old, familiar species of my childhood. How have they fared? Have some of the less common birds changed in abundance? Have new species invaded my old turf? It was a relief to find that Wood Thrushes remain abundant. Of course, House Finches and Cattle Egrets were unknown to me in the 1940s, and I was aware of how they invaded New Jersey by the 1970s, but from Boyle I learned that numbers of both species have since plummeted. Bacterial conjunctivitis caused a 50% drop in House Finch populations in the late 1990s, though they are still widely distributed in the state. The number of breeding Cattle Egrets peaked in the 1980s, but now the breeding population has nearly disappeared from New Jersey.

And perhaps most shocking to a new birder like me who can now count several Red-bellied Woodpeckers on her checklist:

I never saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker during the 1940s and 1950s, though it expanded its range in the 1960s and 1970s, and now the species is common and widespread in New Jersey.

Dispatch from PUP Europe

[Blog ed note: In what we hope will become a semi-regular feature, Al Bertrand, Publishing Director of our UK headquarters, will share news from abroad. Here is his first installment.]

On Thursday night, Caroline Priday and I attended the TLS Summer Party in London. Rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of the London literary scene, we bumped into PUP authors Simon Goldhill, John Fuller and Katherine Bucknell, as well as European Advisory Board member Andrew McNeillie. If that were not enough excitement for the evening, I got home just in time to hear Emma Rothschild on BBC Radio 3 Nightwaves talking about The Inner Life of Empires.

This capped a good week, which began on Monday with a terrific foreign rights deal as Korean Economics Daily and Business Publications acquired the Korean rights for Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis’s A Cooperative Species. Monday also saw PUP Board of Trustees member Josh Katz give a wonderful overview of his field of historical linguistics at All Souls College in Oxford.

Other highlights this week were glowing reviews of Andrei Codrescu’s The Poetry Lesson and David Mattingly’s Imperialism, Power and Identity in the TLS, a thoughtful and engaging review of Yan Xuetong’s Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power in the Economist, and the posting of a video of David Marquand’s appearance at the Policy Network in London.

Best wishes from PUP Europe

Avian Architecture author Peter Goodfellow describes nests from his garden and Africa

Author Codrescu considers the “whitewashing” of the Arabian Nights stories

The Arabian Nights stories may be far more controversial than you ever imagined.

In an interview on WPR, author Andrei Codrescu and Professor Reza Aslan talk about the interesting origins of the Arabian Nights stories.  According to Aslan, the story of 1001 Nights were originally translated into the English language in the Victorian era to serve as sex manuals for repressed British men, much in the way that the Kama Sutra is considered by some today.  His article of the Arabian Nights stories as “Islamic Erotica” appeared in Playboy Magazine.  (Excerpts from that article can be found here.)

Codrescu notes that the Arabian Nights stories are interesting because their original author is unknown.  As such they have been revised and rewritten by generations of authors and editors, changing the message (and degree of eroticism) of the tales.  Codrescu also insists that the oral nature of the stories play an important role in their seductive effect.  They are by definition never ending–Sheherezade depends on her skill as a story teller to stay alive–and thus are written (or spoken) to continually arouse curiosity and interest in the reader (or listener).

Both experts agree that the fantastic and exotic nature of the stories are what have drawn centuries of readers to the Arabian Nights stories. Even the Disney classic Aladdin was derived from one of Sheherezade’s many tales. The interview explores the stories’ connections to everything from historical figures who may have inspired the characters in 1001 Nights to the current “erotic” events that fascinate the public today (Congressman Weiner, for example). Take a listen to this educational and entertaining interview here, and check out Codrescu’s take on the famous story in Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is for all the art lovers out there!

Kissing Architecture by Sylvia Lavin is the first book in a cutting-edge new series, POINT: Essays on Architecture. Kissing Architecture explores the mutual attraction between architecture and other forms of contemporary art. In this fresh, insightful, and beautifully illustrated book, renowned architectural critic and scholar Sylvia Lavin develops the concept of “kissing” to describe the growing intimacy between architecture and new types of art—particularly multimedia installations that take place in and on the surfaces of buildings—and to capture the sensual charge that is being designed and built into architectural surfaces and interior spaces today.

“In the most sober assessment I can offer, I find Sylvia Lavin’s Kissing Architecture to rank among the most original writings in contemporary art discourse I have ever read. Utterly disarming, it is wondrous, brilliant, innocent, naughty, trite, hilarious, fresh, weightless, and profound. Simply put, I am mad for it.”—Jeffrey M. Kipnis, Ohio State University

The random draw for this book with be Friday 7/1 at 11 am EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!


For centuries the swallow’s arrival has heralded summer for people all over
Europe. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists discovered where the
bird disappeared to in winter. Even now that we know the truth about migration,
it still seems barely conceivable that such a fragile-looking creature can complete
an annual 20,000-km (12,400-mile) round-trip to South Africa and back. -Mike Unwin, from The Atlas of Birds

The Atlas of Birds:
Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation

by Mike Unwin

The Atlas of Birds captures the breathtaking diversity of birds, and illuminates their conservation status around the world. Full-color maps show where birds are found, both by country and terrain, and reveal how an astounding variety of behavioral adaptations—from flight and feeding to nest building and song—have enabled them to thrive in virtually every habitat on Earth. Maps of individual journeys and global flyways chart the amazing phenomenon of bird migration, while bird classification is explained using maps for each order and many key families.

The maps are supported by an authoritative text that uses the very latest data and case studies from BirdLife International. Packed with sumptuous photos, original diagrams, and imaginative graphics that bring the numbers to life, this book is a stunning and timely insight into perhaps the most colorful and intriguing group of organisms on our planet.

•    The premier illustrated atlas of bird diversity, behavior, and conservation
•    Features full-color maps, photos, and diagrams
•    Covers bird evolution, classification, and behavior
•    Describes the complex relationship between birds and their habitats
•    Explores the impact of human activities on species survival
•    Illustrates where and why birds are most under threat—and how to protect them

Mike Unwin is a natural history writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in leading publications such as Birds, Bird Watching, and Birdwatch. His many books include the RSPB Guide to Birdwatching and Southern African Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide.

We invite you to check out samples from the book at:

Available in paperback.