Archives for October 2011

Don’t let humor become anemic!

Emrys Westacott is doing his darnedest to make sure this doesn’t happen, extolling The Virtues of Our Vices in his Q&A with the  Holy Post Blog of Canada’s National Post.

Anyone know a good tasteless zombie joke I can throw in here for Halloween?


FACT: “The largest bird known to have lived: The Giant Moa (Diornis maximus) of New Zealand, a wingless ratite that stood as high as 13 feet with neck extended and weighed over 500 pounds, is the tallest known bird, while the Elephant Bird of Madagascar (Aepyornis titan), which stood a mere 9-10 feet tall but probably weighed over 950 pounds, is the heaviest known.”

The Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife
by Christopher W. Leahy
Illustrations by Gordon Morrison

The quintessential A-Z guide, this is a book that anyone interested in birds will want to have close at hand. First published more than twenty years ago, this highly respected reference volume has been fully revised and updated. It captures the fundamental details as well as the immense fascination of North American bird life in a style that is authoritative, yet fresh, witty, and eminently readable.

Both a practical handbook for amateurs and a handy reference for seasoned birders, it provides accounts of the basic elements of birdlife, as well as a wealth of easy-to-access information on such subjects as bird physiology and anatomy, terms and jargon, name definitions and etymology, and ornithological groupings.

Readers will discover everything from the color of a dipper’s eggs (glossy, white, and unmarked) to the number of species of woodpeckers in the world (216). They will also find more than one hundred of the best-known and most colorful colloquial names for birds, alphabetized and briefly defined. Collective nouns relating to birdlife—for example, “an exaltation of larks”—are included in the “Nouns of Assemblage” section. Biographical sketches of persons responsible for describing or naming a significant number of North American species are also included, as well as handsome and accurate illustrations by Gordon Morrison. And for those who want to go beyond reading about their favorite birds and take to the great outdoors, the book offers still more useful information: descriptive entries on a selection of the best-known birdwatching spots of North America.

“A thousand-page A-to-Z guide to all things avian. Leahy clearly loves birds, and this affectionate yet scholarly work offers everything from terse definitions and simple descriptions to thoughtful and authoritative essays. . . . There is much here that will engage every level of birder.”—American Scientist

“This is a reference book for the ages that transcends mere North American use. . . . The entries are informative, easily assimilated, and also written with spirit, humor, and charm as well as authority.”—Henry T. Armistead, Bird Watcher’s Digest

Want to learn more? Be sure to check out PUP’s newest Facebook page—Princeton Birds and Natural History. We’ll be featuring all of our great books, apps, and more on the page, along with some giveaways! There’s one going on right now—2 lucky winners will be selected Monday! Click here for details:

David Alan Grier: new president of the IEEE Computer Society

David Alan Grier, author of When Computers Were Human, a book which tells the story of a no-so-distant time in which “computers” were actually people, has been elected by the IEEE Computer Society membership as the 2013 President.

With nearly 85,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals.  The largest of the 39 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Computer Society is dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology, and is known globally for its computing standards activities.

Grier’s book was recently praised in the Atlantic Monthly:

When Computers Were Human is a detailed and fascinating look at a world I had not even known existed. After reading these accounts of ingenuity, determination, and true creative breakthrough, readers will look at today’s computer-based society in an entirely different way.

–James Fallows

Get them hooked on birds young — so they buy books later!

Well, at least that’s what a self-serving bird book publicist might say.

A friend forwarded an announcement for the new My Bird World app for iPad. It costs 4.99 and features interactive games that help children (or even novice adult birders) learn basic information about hummingbirds, American goldfinches, sandpipers, and 21 other birds. The app was created using data, photos, and sounds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which is the leading birding research facility in the States so you know the content is spot-on. I downloaded it last night and managed to unlock two birds by matching trivia and speed-feeding the right foods to the right birds.

My Bird World is a fun way to engage younger birders and the perfect gateway into the world of birding (and hopefully to the broader natural world, too). For kids intrigued by the game, the perfect next step will be a good identification guide that is also built around the way kids learn. The Crossley ID Guide with its layered photo plates appeals to younger readers comfortable in a photo-shopped world and provides them with just enough information to spur their own observations of unlabeled birds in the book. At the events I’ve attended with Richard Crossley, children are almost universally interested in this book — drawn to its highly visual layout and the “Where’s Waldo”-esque tiny birds in the background.

So a thumb’s up for My Bird World and its attempt to get a younger audience engaged in bird watching.


Yale sociolgoist Charles Perrow on how technology can nudge climate change politics in the Bloomberg View

Yale university sociologist and three-time Princeton University Press author Charles Perrow published a thought-provoking op-ed in the Bloomberg View.  Check out some of his popular books ORGANIZING AMERICA: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism, THE NEXT CATASTROPHE: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters, and his classic work NORMAL ACCIDENTS: Living with High Risk Technologies.

From the Bloomberg View:
Reducing carbon-dioxide emissions is primarily a political problem, rather than a technological one. This fact was well illustrated by the fate of the 2009 climate bill that barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives and never came up for a vote in the Senate.

The House bill was already quite weak, containing many exceptions for agriculture and other industries, subsidies for nuclear power and increasingly long deadlines for action. In the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats from coal-dependent states sealed its fate. Getting past these senators is the key to achieving a major reduction in our emissions.

Technological challenges to reducing emissions exist, too. Most pressing is the need to develop the know-how to capture carbon dioxide on a large scale and store it underground. Such technology could reduce by 90 percent the emissions from coal- fired power stations. Some 500 of these facilities in the U.S. produce 36 percent of our CO2 emissions….(continued at Bloomberg View)

Robert Frank discuss THE DARWIN ECONOMY on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

We were thrilled to see economist and author Robert H. Frank discuss his new book THE DARWIN ECONOMY: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Check out the interview below!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kristen Ghodsee wins the 2011 Davis Center Book Prize

Congratulations to Kristen Ghodsee, whose book Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria has been awarded the 2011 Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Sciences. The prize is awarded annually by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) for “an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography in the previous calendar year.” Ghodsee’s book explores gender roles and reconfigurations in a post-Communist Bulgarian community.

Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe also won the 2011 William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology and the 2010 Heldt Prize.


This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is twice the fun! We’ll be selecting two winners from those of you who have liked our newest Facebook page—Princeton Birds and Natural History.

The first winner will receive a great poster, along with an author-signed copy of The Crossley ID Guide by Richard Crossley.

The second winner will receive a different poster, featuring some more of the beautiful birds found in this book.

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
by Richard Crossley

This stunningly illustrated book from acclaimed birder and photographer Richard Crossley revolutionizes field guide design by providing the first real-life approach to identification. Whether you are a beginner, expert, or anywhere in between, The Crossley ID Guide will vastly improve your ability to identify birds.

Unlike other guides, which provide isolated individual photographs or illustrations, this is the first book to feature large, lifelike scenes for each species. These scenes—640 in all—are composed from more than 10,000 of the author’s images showing birds in a wide range of views—near and far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors, including flight, and in the habitat in which they live. These beautiful compositions show how a bird’s appearance changes with distance, and give equal emphasis to characteristics experts use to identify birds: size, structure and shape, behavior, probability, and color. This is the first book to convey all of these features visually—in a single image—and to reinforce them with accurate, concise text. Each scene provides a wealth of detailed visual information that invites and rewards careful study, but the most important identification features can be grasped instantly by anyone.

By making identification easier, more accurate, and more fun than ever before, The Crossley ID Guide will completely redefine how its users look at birds. Essential for all birders, it also promises to make new birders of many people who have despaired of using traditional guides.

“[Richard Crossley] tries to squeeze in as much reality as he can onto every printed page…. Why put such images in an identification guide? Crossley calls it reality birding. He believes that you can become a better birder by studying the distant birds and comparing them to the larger close-up images. By noticing the similarities between the different images, you will learn to focus on the features that remain constant for a particular species. The rationale is compelling, and I think Crossley’s approach might actually work…. And, in case you were wondering, I love [this book].”—Michael Szpir, American Scientist

“What’s so different about the Crossley ID Guide? Everything. Crossley has designed his guide to reflect the way we see and identify birds. We identify birds by their size, shape, structure, behavior, habitat, and field marks. We [see] birds at close range, at middle and long distances, on the ground, in flight, in trees, and on the water…. If you want to be a better birder you will find the new Crossley ID Guide to be [a] major innovation and a valuable tool.”—Wayne Mones,

The two lucky winners will be selected next Monday, October 31st. Be sure to like the Princeton Birds and Natural History page on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

“The Expanding Circle” on Bloggingheads

Check out a great conversation between Peter Singer and Robert Wright on an episode of Bloggingheads! Starting with the  reissue of Singer’s book The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress, they go on to discuss how moral arguments have evolved, how human reasoning is linked to moral progress, wondering if aliens would share our morality, and the highs and lows of being a philosopher.

Be sure to re-read your copy of The Expanding Circle for more food for thought on morality as universal or relative, tied up with questions about whether morality is biologically or culturally based:

The shift from a point of view that is disinterested between individuals within a group, but not between groups, to a point of view that is fully universal, is a tremendous change — so tremendous, in fact, that it is only just beginning to be accepted on the level of ethical reasoning and is still a long way from acceptance on the level of practice. Nevertheless, it is the direction in which moral thought has been going since ancient times. Is it an accident of history that this should be so, or is it the direction in which our capacity to reason leads us?


John M. Owen IV wins the 2011 Lepgold Prize

Congratulations to Professor John M. Owen IV, whose book The Clash of Ideas in World Politics: Transnational Networks, States, and Regime Change, 1510-2010 has been awarded the 2011 Lepgold Prize from the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University.

The Lepgold Prize honors “exceptional contributions to the study of international relations” in memory of Professor Joseph S. Lepgold, a Georgetown University Government and School of Foreign Service professor who passed away in 2001. The award announcement praises The Clash of Ideas in World Politics for its wide scope in addressing the ideological struggles related to forcible regime promotion:

John Owen examines more than two hundred cases of forcible regime promotion over the past five centuries, offering the first systematic study of this common state practice. He looks at conflicts between Catholicism and Protestantism between 1520 and the 1680s; republicanism and monarchy between 1770 and 1850; and communism, fascism, and liberal democracy from 1917 until the late 1980s. He shows how regime promotion can follow regime unrest in the eventual target state or a war involving a great power, and how this can provoke elites across states to polarize according to ideology. Owen traces how conflicts arise and ultimately fade as one ideology wins favor with more elites in more countries, and he demonstrates how the struggle between secularism and Islamism in Muslim countries today reflects broader transnational trends in world history.



“After Congress ratified the Sixteenth Amendment instituting the income tax in 1913, the Treasury Department created a single category in the tax code for exempting philanthropies, whether originating in big money, mass appeals, or communities. Tax exemption has not only nurtured philanthropy in society, it has entrenched it. Equally important, it encourages an otherwise very diverse group of institutions that have dispersed and/or solicited private funds for the public good to work together, in essence fostering a nonprofit sector of groups with similar interests and privileges.”

Philanthropy in America: A History
by Olivier Zunz

American philanthropy today expands knowledge, champions social movements, defines active citizenship, influences policymaking, and addresses humanitarian crises. How did philanthropy become such a powerful and integral force in American society? Philanthropy in America is the first book to explore in depth the twentieth-century growth of this unique phenomenon. Ranging from the influential large-scale foundations established by tycoons such as John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and the mass mobilization of small donors by the Red Cross and March of Dimes, to the recent social advocacy of individuals like Bill Gates and George Soros, respected historian Olivier Zunz chronicles the tight connections between private giving and public affairs, and shows how this union has enlarged democracy and shaped history.

Zunz looks at the ways in which American philanthropy emerged not as charity work, but as an open and sometimes controversial means to foster independent investigation, problem solving, and the greater good. Andrew Carnegie supported science research and higher education, catapulting these fields to a prominent position on the world stage. In the 1950s, Howard Pew deliberately funded the young Billy Graham to counter liberal philanthropies, prefiguring the culture wars and increased philanthropic support for religious causes. And in the 1960s, the Ford Foundation supported civil rights through education, voter registration drives, and community action programs. Zunz argues that American giving allowed the country to export its ideals abroad after World War II, and he examines the federal tax policies that unified the diverse nonprofit sector.

Demonstrating that America has cultivated and relied on philanthropy more than any other country, Philanthropy in America examines how giving for the betterment of all became embedded in the fabric of the nation’s civic democracy.

“Marshaling his unmatched encyclopedic knowledge, Olivier Zunz has produced a masterful and comprehensive account of the power and influence of American philanthropy. His book places the subject into a larger societal and global framework, and will be of great interest to historians and social scientists working on the dynamics and ethos of modern capitalism, as well as to all individuals involved in the world of foundations and NGOs.”—V.R. Berghahn, Columbia University

“Compelling and beautifully written, this narrative about the development of philanthropy from the nineteenth century through the present day bears the hallmark of rigorous scholarship and authoritative research. Showing how the diversity of givers and giving in America has advanced the nation’s social, cultural, intellectual, and economic life, Zunz demonstrates that big money philanthropy and mass giving have left a uniquely democratic imprint on the country and set an example for philanthropic efforts around the world.”—Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation of New York

We invite you to read the Introduction here:

Popular Lunch ‘n Learn talk becomes a book – In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman

A while back I posted a link to John MacCormick’s Lunch ‘n Learn talk, but it turns out he isn’t the only current PUP author to speak at this popular lunchtime lecture series. Bill Cook, author of the forthcoming book In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman, spoke to Lunch ‘n Learn in December of 2009 about the history and attempts to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem. We are pleased to announce that his book on the same subject will publish in January 2012.

We have a ways to go before the book will be available in bookstores, but in the meantime, enjoy this podcast from Bill’s Lunch ‘n Learn talk.