Archives for April 2013

The hummingbirds are back in New Jersey already!!

ruby throated humminbird

Check out this map at to see when they arrived in your region.

Meantime, enjoy this gorgeous plate from The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds.

Michael Chwe’s Jane Austen, Game Theorist makes a splash

j10031[1]Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at UCLA, has become an overnight sensation thanks to a tremendously popular feature in the New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler. Chwe’s new take on the beloved writer as a strategic analyst has been the talk of twitter this week, with even Chelsea Clinton tweeting that she can’t wait to read the book. Chwe has several exciting appearances coming up that we’ll announce in the coming days. You can enter to win a copy of the book at Goodreads, but while you wait for the winners to be announced on May 10, check out Jane Austen’s letter to Dr. Chwe in Scientific American , and Dr. Chwe’s own clever response.

Also, y
ou can watch the charming book trailer here:




How to Use The Warbler Guide‘s Quick Finders

Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle have created the most innovative and complete guide to warblers available in their forthcoming book The Warbler Guide. We will be posting a series of videos that highlight and explain how to use some of the key features of the book over the coming weeks. In this video, they explain how readers can easily find any warbler featured in the book using the visual and audio Quick Finders printed throughout the book.

Click here to learn more about The Warbler Guide. The book will be available July 2013.

For more tips on how to use The Warbler Guide and how to identify warblers in the field, please see additional videos in this series.

Tesla wins Geek Madness, named Greatest Geek of All Time


GeekWire recently held a Geek Madness. Over several weeks their readers whittled down a field of 32 all-star scientists to name Tesla, the Greatest Geek of All Time.

Tesla entered the competition as the #2 seed in the Math/Science field of competitors, but emerged victorious after vanquishing opponents like Linus Torvalds (ranked 14 on the Technology side), Albert Einstein (1), Charles Darwin (7), and Alexander Graham Bell (15). High praise from a geeky audience and as publishers of Tesla: The Inventor of the Electrical Age, we couldn’t agree more.

Here’s the blow-by-blow from GeekWire:

Tesla led from start-to-finish in the championship match over 14-seed Linus Torvalds, as Mr. Cinderella fell one upset short of what would have been one of the most epic underdog stories in geek history.

But it was Tesla garnering 1,764 of the votes to edge Torvalds, who still managed to do his Linux faithful proud with 1,293 votes to his name.

Read the complete post at GeekWire:


We hope some of these Tesla fans will show up to meet Bernard Carlson and get an autographed copy of Tesla: The Inventor of the Electrical Age.

Here’s the complete list of dates and places:

HP & PUP: Hufflepuff’s PUP Reading List

This week we have a couple of PUP books for any prospective Hogwarts student seeking placement in the Hufflepuff house. Hufflepuffs don’t really get too much attention; their only notable student was Cedric Diggory who was killed by He-Who-Can’t-Be-Named. Yet, Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play making them interested in some of our books about art and overall well-being.

1. No Joke: Making Jewish Humor by Ruth Wisse- This book is a perfect balance of scholarly and funny.

Humor is the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

Wisse broadly traces modern Jewish humor around the world, teasing out its implications as she explores memorable and telling examples from German, Yiddish, English, Russian, and Hebrew. Among other topics, the book looks at how Jewish humor channeled Jewish learning and wordsmanship into new avenues of creativity, brought relief to liberal non-Jews in repressive societies, and enriched popular culture in the United States.

Even as it invites readers to consider the pleasures and profits of Jewish humor, the book asks difficult but fascinating questions: Can the excess and extreme self-ridicule of Jewish humor go too far and backfire in the process? And is “leave ’em laughing” the wisest motto for a people that others have intended to sweep off the stage of history?

2. The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency by John A. Hall- Knowing of Hufflepuffs’ desire for cooperation, they would probably praise this book and recommend it to those at the Ministry of Magic.

Civility is desirable and possible, but can this fragile ideal be guaranteed? The Importance of Being Civil offers the most comprehensive look at the nature and advantages of civility, throughout history and in our world today. Esteemed sociologist John Hall expands our understanding of civility as related to larger social forces–including revolution, imperialism, capitalism, nationalism, and war–and the ways that such elements limit the potential for civility. Combining wide-ranging historical and comparative evidence with social and moral theory, Hall examines how the nature of civility has fluctuated in the last three centuries, how it became lost, and how it was reestablished in the twentieth century following the two world wars. He also considers why civility is currently breaking down and what can be done to mitigate this threat.

Paying particular attention to the importance of individualism, of rules allowing people to create their own identities, Hall offers a composite definition of civility. He focuses on the nature of agreeing to differ over many issues, the significance of fashion and consumption, the benefits of inclusive politics on the nature of identity, the greater ability of the United States in integrating immigrants in comparison to Europe, and the conditions likely to assure peace in international affairs. Hall factors in those who are opposed to civility, and the various methods with which states have destroyed civil and cooperative relations in society.

3. Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What it Means for Our Economic Well-Being by Zoltan Acs- I could see a Hufflepuff doing good magical deeds for others and this book shows the necessity of such deeds as philanthropy.

Philanthropy has long been a distinctive feature of American culture, but its crucial role in the economic well-being of the nation–and the world–has remained largely unexplored. Why Philanthropy Matters takes an in-depth look at philanthropy as an underappreciated force in capitalism, measures its critical influence on the free-market system, and demonstrates how American philanthropy could serve as a model for the productive reinvestment of wealth in other countries. Factoring in philanthropic cycles that help balance the economy, Zoltan Acs offers a richer picture of capitalism, and a more accurate backdrop for considering policies that would promote the capitalist system for the good of all.

Examining the dynamics of American-style capitalism since the eighteenth century, Acs argues that philanthropy achieves three critical outcomes. It deals with the question of what to do with wealth–keep it, tax it, or give it away. It complements government in creating public goods. And, by focusing on education, science, and medicine, philanthropy has a positive effect on economic growth and productivity. Acs describes how individuals such as Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey have used their wealth to establish institutions and promote knowledge, and Acs shows how philanthropy has given an edge to capitalism by promoting vital forces–like university research–necessary for technological innovation, economic equality, and economic security. Philanthropy also serves as a guide for countries with less flexible capitalist institutions, and Acs makes the case for a larger, global philanthropic culture.

4. A Glossary of Chickens: Poems by Gary Whitehead- For some lighter reading, Hufflepuffs would certainly enjoy this collection of poetry.

With skillful rhetoric and tempered lyricism, the poems in A Glossary of Chickens explore, in part, the struggle to understand the world through the symbolism of words. Like the hens of the title poem, Gary J. Whitehead’s lyrics root around in the earth searching for sustenance, cluck rather than crow, and possess a humble majesty.

Confronting subjects such as moral depravity, nature’s indifference, aging, illness, death, the tenacity of spirit, and the possibility of joy, the poems in this collection are accessible and controlled, musical and meditative, imagistic and richly figurative. They are informed by history, literature, and a deep interest in the natural world, touching on a wide range of subjects, from the Civil War and whale ships, to animals and insects. Two poems present biblical narratives, the story of Lot’s wife and an imagining of Noah in his old age. Other poems nod to favorite authors: one poem is in the voice of the character Babo, from Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, while another is a kind of prequel to Emily Dickinson’s “She rose to His Requirement.”

As inventive as they are observant, these memorable lyrics strive for revelation and provide their own revelations.

Now that all four Hogwarts houses have their respective required reading lists, which house do you belong in?

Elizabeth Alexander to deliver the first half of The Toni Morrison Lectures today, 5:30 PM, at Princeton University

Alexander-Poster_web-image[1]Toni Morrison Lectures

“The Idea of Ancestry” in Contemporary Black Art

by Professor Elizabeth Alexander

“A Voice from the Nondead Past”:   Rethinking Lucille Clifton
April 24, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Wallace Hall, Room 300 (Please Note This is a New Location)

The recent posthumous publication of the collected poems of Lucille Clifton, and the acquisition of her archive by Emory University provide the opportunity to consider the work of this great American poet in its full dimension.    This talk will reframe her ouvre and focus specifically on the philosophical underpinnings of poems that speak across the porous scrim between life and death that is a premised understanding of Clifton’s work.


“Don’t Forget to Feed the Loas:” Near Ancestry in Contemporary Black Arts
April 25, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture (Please Note This is a New Location)

This talk will focus on the work of recently-deceased Eritrean-American painter Ficre Ghebreyesus and the painterly language of   “near-ancestry” in his and other black diaspora art.   Developing Etheridge Knight’s phrase “the idea of ancestry,” the talk will also look to the dances of Bill T. Jones and the work of Anna Deavere Smith and other art that speaks to intimate proximity to death and the ancestral imperative in black art.

Click here to watch the lectures via a live webcast through Princeton University’s website. The live webcast will start 10 minutes before the beginning of each lecture.

We will also be hosting a live “tweet-up” for this lecture. Follow the lecture on twitter at

Wildflower Wednesday — Wild Ginger

Week 05 Asarum_canadense


A beetle’s eye view of a wild ginger
plant showing the interesting flower
prostrate on the ground.


Wild ginger – As one might suspect from its common name, wild ginger has been used as substitute for the spice known as ginger, which comes from an entirely unrelated plant. Early colonists were eager to find flavorings to replace those that they knew from home, and the rhizomes of wild ginger filled that need. All one needs to do is scratch the exposed rhizome (an underground stem that is often exposed at the top of the soil) to smell the gingery fragrance. However, research has shown the rhizomes to contain aristolochic acid, a known carcinogen, so this use is no longer recommended.


The odd maroon and white flowers of wild ginger lie on the ground, hidden under the heart-shaped fuzzy leaves. They attract few insect visitors, and thus are usually self-pollinated, but the primary method of propagation is vegetatively by the spreading rhizomes. Thus, the plants in a colony of wild ginger are genetically identical and form a clone. Gardeners are fond of wild ginger for use as a ground cover in a shade garden.


Exploring Fungi’s Kingdom

Some things just don’t get enough credit. The fungi kingdom is a sometimes forgotten but extremely important kingdom within our world. Why are organisms that are so small so important? Jens Peterson, author of The Kingdom of Fungi answers this question and more in BBC The Forum’s latest interview. Check out the interview here.

The fungi realm has been called the “hidden kingdom,” a mysterious world populated by microscopic spores, gigantic mushrooms and toadstools, and a host of other multicellular organisms ranging widely in color, size, and shape. The Kingdom of Fungi provides an intimate look at the world’s astonishing variety of fungi species, from cup fungi and lichens to truffles and tooth fungi, clubs and corals, and jelly fungi and puffballs. This beautifully illustrated book features more than 800 stunning color photographs as well as a concise text that describes the biology and ecology of fungi, fungal morphology, where fungi grow, and human interactions with and uses of fungi.

The Kingdom of Fungi is a feast for the senses, and the ideal reference for naturalists, researchers, and anyone interested in fungi.

  • Reveals fungal life as never seen before
  • Features more than 800 stunning color photos
  • Describes fungal biology, morphology, distribution, and uses
  • A must-have reference book for naturalists and researchers

PUP Authors Win Big

A few of PUP authors have recently won awards for their work on the respective books from various assoications. Here is a round-up of recent award winning authors and books- congratulations!

1. Christina L. Davis  author of Why Adjudicate? Enforcing Trade Rules in the WTO  and Judith G. Kelley author of Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Often Fails


Co-Winners of the 2013 Chadwick F. Alger Prize from the International Studies Association


The Chadwick F. Alger Prize recognizes the best book published in the previous calendar year on the subject of international organization and multilateralism. The Award Committee is particularly interested in works dealing with how international organizations interact with nongovernmental organizations and other local civil society actors, as reflected in many of the writings of Chadwick F. Alger.”

2. Christopher P. Loss author of Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century 

Winner of the 2013 AERA Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association

“The AERA Council established this award for the best book-length publication in educational research and development. To be considered for the Award, a book must be concerned with the improvement of the educational process through research or scholarly inquiry, must have a research base, and must have a copyright date of the past two years in the year in which the award is to be given.


3. Donna R. Gabaccia author of Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

Winner of the 2013 Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society

“The Theodore Saloutos Award is presented for the book judged best on any aspect of the immigration history of the United States. ‘Immigration history’ is defined as the history of the movement of peoples from other countries to the United States, of the repatriation movements of immigrants, and of the consequences of these migrations, both for the United States and the countries of origin.”

Delbanco to Deliver Fribolin Lecture

Mark your calendars! Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What it Is, Was, and Should Be will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture on Friday, May 3, at Keuka College in New York. The event is free and open to the public. Read more about the event below.

Andrew Delbanco to deliver Fribolin Lecture

Dr. Andrew Delbanco, recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal, will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture Friday, May 3, at Keuka College.

r. Andrew Delbanco, recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal, will deliver the 25th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture Friday, May 3, at Keuka College.

One of the highlights of May Day Weekend, Delbanco will discuss “What is College For?” at 6:30 p.m. in Norton Chapel. It is free and open to the public.

The lecture series carries the names of Geneva resident Carl Fribolin, an emeritus member of the College’s Board of Trustees and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2004, and his late wife.

Delbanco is Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He was awarded the 2011 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama “for his writing that spans the literature of Melville and Emerson to contemporary issues in higher education.”

In 2001, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and named by Time Magazine as “America’s Best Social Critic.” In 2003, he was named New York State Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities. In 2006, he received the “Great Teacher Award” from the Society of Columbia Graduates.

Delbanco is the author of many books, including, most recently, College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be, and The Abolitionist Imagination. Melville: His World and Work was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography, and appeared on “best books” lists in the Washington Post, Independent (London), Dallas Morning News, and TLS. It was awarded the Lionel Trilling Award by Columbia University.

Delbanco’s essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books, New Republic, New York Times Magazine, and other journals. His topics range from American literary and religious history to contemporary issues in higher education.

Delbanco has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a member of the inaugural class of fellows at the New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Explaining Why They are ‘The Chosen Few’

The Jewish people went from being agrarian and illiterate in 70 CE to literate and money-savy urbanites in 1492. How did they do it? Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein argue in their book The Chosen Few that it was due to educational reform. Read this new essay by the authors on PBS Newshour as they explain further Jewish success.

The Chosen Few: A New Explanation of Jewish Success

Imagine a dinner conversation in a New York or Milan or Tel Aviv restaurant in which three people–an Israeli, an American, and a European — ask to each other: “Why are so many Jews urban dwellers rather than farmers? Why are Jews primarily engaged in trade, commerce, entrepreneurial activities, finance, law, medicine, and scholarship? And why have the Jewish people experienced one of the longest and most scattered diasporas in history, along with a steep demographic decline?”

Most likely, the standard answers they would suggest would be along these lines: “The Jews are not farmers because their ancestors were prohibited from owning land in the Middle Ages.” “They became moneylenders, bankers, and financiers because during the medieval period Christians were banned from lending money at interest, so the Jews filled in that role.” “The Jewish population dispersed worldwide and declined in numbers as a result of endless massacres.”

Imagine now that two economists (us) seated at a nearby table, after listening to this conversation, tell the three people who are having this lively debate: “Are you sure that your explanations are correct? You should read this new book, ours, “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History,” and you would learn that when one looks over the 15 centuries spanning from 70 C.E. to 1492, these oft-given answers that you are suggesting seem at odds with the historical facts. This book provides you with a novel explanation of why the Jews are the people they are today — a comparatively small population of economically successful and intellectually prominent individuals.”

Suppose you are like one of the three people in the story above and you wonder why you should follow the advice of the two economists. There are many books that have studied the history of the Jewish people and have addressed those fascinating questions. What’s really special about this one?

Read the rest of this compelling article at The Newshour website:

[Read more…]

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Today is believed to be the day of William Shakespeare’s birth (and death!). Born in 1564, Shakespeare occupies a universal position as one of the greatest literary figures of all time. In celebration of all of his contributions to drama, poetry, literary history and more, we’ve compiled a reading list of our best books on Shakespeare’s life and works. Today, let’s celebrate the man who enriched language and our imaginations, and think of him as we read his own words,  “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V).

Lectures on Shakespearek9557
W. H. Auden, Edited by Arthur Kirsch
Here’s Chapter 1
Reflecting the twentieth-century poet’s lifelong engagement with the crowning masterpieces of English literature, these lectures add immeasurably to both our understanding of Auden and our appreciation of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom
C. L. Barber, With a new foreword by Stephen Greenblatt
Check out Chapter 1
Revealing the interplay between social custom and dramatic form, the book shows how the Elizabethan antithesis between everyday and holiday comes to life in the comedies’ combination of seriousness and levity.

Shakespeare’s Brain: Reading with Cognitive Theoryk7024
Mary Thomas Crane
Here’s the Introduction
Crane reveals in Shakespeare’s texts a web of structures and categories through which meaning is created. The approach yields fresh insights into a wide range of his plays, including The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and The Tempest.

Hamlet in Purgatory
Stephen Greenblatt
Winner of 2002 Erasmus Institute Book Prize
One of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2001
Read Chapter 1
This book constitutes an extraordinary feat that could have been accomplished by only Stephen Greenblatt. It is at once a deeply satisfying reading of medieval religion, an innovative interpretation of the apparitions that trouble Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, and an exploration of how a culture can be inhabited by its own spectral leftovers.

Shakespeare and Elizabeth: The Meeting of Two Mythsk8633
Helen Hackett
Read the Introduction
Did William Shakespeare ever meet Queen Elizabeth I? There is no evidence of such a meeting, yet for three centuries writers and artists have been provoked and inspired to imagine it. This is the first book to explore the rich history of invented encounters between the poet and the Queen, and examines how and why the mythology of these two charismatic and enduring cultural icons has been intertwined in British and American culture.

Johann Gottfried Herder, Translated and edited by Gregory Moore
Here’s Chapter 1
One of the most important and original works in the history of literary criticism, this passionate essay pioneered a new, historicist approach to cultural artifacts by arguing that they should be judged not by their conformity to a set of conventions imported from another time and place, but by the effectiveness of their response to their own historical and cultural context.

k9582Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost
Margaret Litvin
Read the Introduction
Documenting how global sources and models helped nurture a distinct Arab Hamlet tradition, this book represents a new approach to the study of international Shakespeare appropriation.

Double Vision: Moral Philosophy and Shakespearean Drama
Tzachi Zamir
Here’s Chapter 1
Developing an account of literature’s relation to knowledge, morality, and rhetoric, and advancing philosophical-literary readings of Richard III, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, and King Lear, Zamir shows how his approach can open up familiar texts in surprising and rewarding ways.