Archives for February 2014

Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood discuss the Dictionary of Untranslatables [VIDEO]

Earlier this week, close to one hundred humanities lovers gathered for a discussion around the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon with editors Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood, due out this month from Princeton University Press.

Please enjoy this video of the entire event, the first in this season’s Great New Books in the Humanities series co-sponsored by the Humanities Initiative and by the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University:

 

News of the World, February 28, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


The lottery of your lineage — we turn to PUP author Gregory Clark to unravel how your great, great, great-grandparents are affecting your social status today. His op-ed in the New York Times this week discusses how “where we will fall within the social spectrum is largely fated at birth.” In his new book, The Son Also Rises, Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

The Son Also Rises was featured in the Independent, and it was also included in Jim Surowiecki’s column in the New Yorker this week. Surowiecki writes:

The Son Also Rises….suggests that dramatic social mobility has always been the exception rather than the rule. Clark examines a host of societies over the past seven hundred years and finds that the makeup of a given country’s economic élite has remained surprisingly stable.”

Curious to know more? You can listen to an interview with the author, recorded for the Economist. You can also read the introduction here.

World News 2-27

Why did the size of the U.S. economy increase by 3 percent on one day in mid-2013–or Ghana’s balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the U.K. financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008–just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. For more on what these three letters mean, check out Diane Coyle’s new book, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. The book was recently reviewed by Tyler Cowen in the Washington Post. Cowen writes:

If you are going to read only one book on GDP, Diane Coyle’s GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History should be it. More important, you should read a book on GDP, as many of the political debates of our time revolve around this concept.

Check out these additional reviews in the Independent and the American. You can read the book’s introduction here.


Next up we take a trip to the past with Errol Fuller’s Lost Animals, a book that brings back to life some of the animals that we have lost forever. Often black and white or tinted sepia, the remarkable images included in this book have been taken mainly in zoos or wildlife parks, and in some cases depict the last known individual of the species. Lost Animals is a unique photographic record of extinction, presented by a world authority on vanished animals. Richly illustrated throughout, this handsome book features photographs dating from around 1870 to as recently as 2004, the year that witnessed the demise of the Hawaiian Po’ouli. From a mother Thylacine and her pups to birds such as the Heath Hen and the Carolina Parakeet, Errol Fuller tells the story of each animal, explains why it became extinct, and discusses the circumstances surrounding the photography.

This week, Lost Animals was featured in the Boston Globe. Chris Wright says:

The photographs are often grainy, or poorly framed, or badly lit. But this fact, oddly, is also part of the book’s power—the everyday nature of these snapshots somehow hammers home the enormity of the subject matter.

You can read endorsements for this new PUP title on the book’s webpage.


PUP author S. Frederick Starr has a message for US officials focused on relations with the Muslim world: you may do well to look elsewhere. In this week’s International New York Times, Starr speaks about the importance of relations with Central Asia. He writes:

For more than a decade, the United States has been reaching out to the Muslim world, courting Islamic moderates even as it wages war with religious extremists. Washington’s efforts have been concentrated mostly on the Middle East, with little success. The Americans might do better to focus on another region that has an equal claim to being Islam’s true heartland — the new nations along the old Silk Road through Central Asia.

Read the entire The New York Times op-ed here.

S. Frederick Starr’s new book, Lost Enlightenment, tells the fascinating but largely unknown story of Central Asia’s medieval enlightenment through the eventful lives and astonishing accomplishments of its greatest minds–remarkable figures who built a bridge to the modern world. Because nearly all of these figures wrote in Arabic, they were long assumed to have been Arabs. In fact, they were from Central Asia–drawn from the Persianate and Turkic peoples of a region that today extends from Kazakhstan southward through Afghanistan, and from the easternmost province of Iran through Xinjiang, China. Lost Enlightenment chronicles this forgotten age of achievement, seeks to explain its rise, and explores the competing theories about the cause of its eventual demise. Informed by the latest scholarship yet written in a lively and accessible style, this is a book that will surprise general readers and specialists alike. You can preview Chapter 1 here.

 

News of the world 2-27a

For more than a decade, Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr. have been writing, researching, and compiling the work that resulted in the next book on these week’s list: The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. With more than 5,000 entries totaling over a million words, this is the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in English. It is also the first to cover terms from all of the canonical Buddhist languages and traditions: Sanskrit, Pāli, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Unlike reference works that focus on a single Buddhist language or school, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism bridges the major Buddhist traditions to provide encyclopedic coverage of the most important terms, concepts, texts, authors, deities, schools, monasteries, and geographical sites from across the history of Buddhism.

Buddhadharma reviewed The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, saying:

[T]he dictionary includes an impressive set of reference tools….Much more than a compilation of the philosophies of elite Buddhist figures, the Dictionary deepens our understanding of local traditions and their unique approaches to Buddhist practice, offering glimpses into the many Buddhisms and Buddhist belief systems that have developed over the past two and a half millennia. Both professional and amateur scholars will want to keep The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism within easy reach.

You can view the preface of the dictionary here.

Gillen D’Arcy Wood discusses his new book TAMBORA: The Eruption That Changed the World

Please enjoy Gillen D’Arcy Wood discussing his new book TAMBORA: The Eruption That Changed the World, due out from Princeton University Press in May.

Physics Today interviews Princeton physicist William Bialek on his path-breaking new text book BIOPHYSICS: Searching for Principles

Princeton University professor William Bialek, renowned for his research on the interactions of physics and biology, was interviewed for the February 2014 issue of Physics Toady about his groundbreaking new textbook BIOPHYSICS: Searching for Principles.

A sneak peak:
Physics Today: How does your approach to biophysics compare with others, and how is that approach reflected in the layout of your text?

Bialek: I think most previous textbooks have presented biophysics as a biological science, or perhaps as a cross-disciplinary amalgam. I have taken the view that there is a physics of biological systems and that this is to be understood in the same way that we talk about the physics of solids or the physics of the early universe. So this book tries to present biophysics as a branch of physics.The physics of biological systems is a very broad subject, and I have tried to capture as much of this breadth as I could: from the dynamics of single molecules to the collective behavior of populations of organisms….(continued)

Princeton University Press’s best-selling titles for the past week

These are the best-selling books for the past week.

 

Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles W. Calomiris & Stephen H. Haber
The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark
Rare Birds of North America by Steve Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maor and Eugen Jost
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The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality
by Angus Deaton
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird
The Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance by Eswar S. Prasad
The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

PUP News of the World, February 21, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


Even though this winter may feel like an eternity, we can still begin preparing for all the fun activities spring has to offer, like bird watching. Rare Birds of North America is the first comprehensive illustrated guide to the vagrant birds that occur throughout the United States and Canada. Featuring 275 stunning color plates, this book covers 262 species originating from three very different regions–the Old World, the New World tropics, and the world’s oceans. It explains the causes of avian vagrancy and breaks down patterns of occurrence by region and season, enabling readers to see where, when, and why each species occurs in North America. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, taxonomy, age, sex, distribution, and status. This week, Parade ran a review of Rare Birds of North America. Want to preview the book? You can view a sample entry.


History is a tricky business. With so much happening all over the world every day, it becomes very easy to unintentionally downplay or overlook important events and natural disasters. One perfect example was the volcanic explosion on the island of Tambora in the East Indies. As volcanic explosions typically go, the explosion greatly  affected the environment and the lives of the island’s residents.  Gillen D’Arcy Wood, professor of English at the University of Illinois, does this disaster a great service by giving it the attention it deserves in his new book, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World.

Publishers Weekly’s recent starred review of Tambora said:

“The greatest volcanic eruption of modern times occurred in 1815 on the small island of Tambora in the East Indies. It spawned the most extreme weather in thousands of years. In what contemporaries described as the “year without a summer,” its immense ash cloud encircled and cooled the Earth. While historians have mostly ignored the decades of worldwide misery, starvation, and disease that followed, Wood (The Shock of the Real), professor of English at the University of Illinois, remedies this oversight, combining a scientific introduction to volcanism with a vivid account of the eruption’s cultural, political, and economic impact that persisted throughout the century.”

Interested in Tambora?  You can start reading the introduction here.

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The current state of the economy is always making news. People want to know how their country is surviving and thriving economically. In discussion of the economy, GDP almost always comes into play, but what is the real significance of this economic term.  Diane Coyle’s GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History traces the history of this artificial, abstract, complex, but exceedingly important statistic from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century precursors through its invention in the 1940s and its postwar golden age, and then through the Great Crash up to today. The reader learns why this standard measure of the size of a country’s economy was invented, how it has changed over the decades, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The book explains why even small changes in GDP can decide elections, influence major political decisions, and determine whether countries can keep borrowing or be thrown into recession. The book ends by making the case that GDP was a good measure for the twentieth century but is increasingly inappropriate for a twenty-first-century economy driven by innovation, services, and intangible goods.  Dianne Coyle recently wrote an articles for Foreign Affairs and VoxEU in which she explains the practical, or not so practical side of the GDP and elaborates on themes from GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. You can also read the introduction here.


Just as the economy as a whole is a critical portion of the news cycle, so are the banking systems that play a part in the economy. But why are banking systems unstable in so many countries–but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

Influential economics blogger Arnold Kling recently reviewed Fragile by Design on his Askblog. Kling critiqued the content of the book from an economics perspective, but ultimately sang its praises with “Everyone, regardless of ideology, should read the book. It offers a lot of food for thought.”  In the review, Kling also referenced attending Russ Roberts’ Econtalk  live interview with the authors, Calomiris and Haber. Kling recommends, “You might look forward to listening–the authors are very articulate and they speak colorfully.”  You can listen to the Econtalk Live podcast here.

Charles W. Calomiris, along with colleague Allen H. Meltzer, recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal entitled “How Dodd-Frank Doubles Down on ‘Too Big to Fail”, in which he elaborates on a specific act which attempts to undo some of the damage from the 2008 financial crisis. Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.  Howard Davies of Times Higher Education also recently reviewed Fragile by Design, saying “Calomiris and Haber offer a thoughtful counter-argument to the current received wisdom.” You can find the full Times Higher Education review here.    Interested in reading more? Get a head start on Fragile by Design with Chapter 1 found here.

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Also recently reviewed for Times Higher Education was Charles L. Adler’s Wizards, Aliens and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction.  From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas–for instance, could Mr. Weasley’s flying car in the Harry Potter books really exist? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? Wizards, Aliens, and Starships delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy–such as time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle–and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena.  You can find the Times Higher Education review here and begin reading Chapter 1 of Wizards, Aliens and Starships here.


In last week’s PUP News of the World, we featured Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959 – 2002 which is the first collection of Williams’s popular essays and reviews, many of which appeared in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. In these pieces, Williams writes about a broad range of subjects, from philosophy and political philosophy to religion, science, the humanities, economics, socialism, feminism, and pornography.  Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959 – 2002 has since been reviewed in the Telegraph by Roger Scruton.

Scruton’s review says, “This rigorous collection of essays and reviews reveals the brilliant and critical mind of Bernard Williams … In these reviews and essays Williams achieves something that philosophy always promises but seldom delivers: a view from the perspective of reason, on a cultural landscape where reason is only one of the landmarks.

Read the Foreword to this wonderful collection now.

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The NSA Report in the New York Review of Books

k10296[1]In the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books, David Cole writes a thoughtful article about two important public documents on government surveillance and the use of technology by the NSA: “Liberty and Security in a Changing World: Report and Recommendations of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” and the “Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court” by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

For those unfamiliar with the scope of the report Liberty and Security in a Changing World, here is Cole’s quick history of the report and the resulting policy changes:

Once American citizens learned that the NSA was collecting and searching records of every phone call they made, what had previously gone unquestioned suddenly prompted substantial soul-searching.

In December, a special panel of constitutional scholars and former national security officials appointed by President Obama issued a 303-page report asserting that the NSA’s surveillance, including but not limited to its metadata program, raised serious legal and policy concerns, and proposing forty-six reforms.



Among other things, the expert panel recommended that the NSA no longer house the phone metadata, but that it be left in private hands, and that the NSA be permitted to access the data only upon specific court orders approving specific searches. On January 17, President Obama gave a major national speech on the subject. While he acknowledged the serious privacy concerns that the NSA’s activities raise, Obama adopted only a few of his expert panel’s recommendations, including the two noted above.

Source: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/mar/06/can-privacy-be-saved/

But is it enough? Unfortunately, Cole’s article makes clear there is more to be done and failure to address these issues could be catastrophic. He concludes, “as both reports eloquently attest, unless we adapt our laws to address the ever-advancing technology that increasingly consumes us, it will consume our privacy, too.”

Princeton University Press is proud to announce that we will publish a paperback edition of “Liberty and Security in a Changing World” in April. Our edition will be the definitive historical document for personal, professional, and library use. The text will be lightly edited for typographical errors but will substantively be completely unchanged. Our hope is that in publishing this report in a traditional book form, we are creating an artifact that is useful and expands the readership of this important document beyond the boundaries of the internet.

For more information about our new book, please click here: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10296.html

Waiting for José wins the 2013 Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association

Shapira_Waiting for JoseHarel Shapira – Waiting for José: The Minutemen’s Pursuit of America

Winner of a 2013 Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association

“Since 1971 the Southwest Book Awards have been presented in recognition of outstanding books about the Southwest published each year in any genre (e.g. fiction, nonfiction, reference) and directed toward any audience (scholarly, popular, children). Original video and audio materials are also considered.”  An awards banquet was held in El Paso on February 22, 2014.

Here is a complete list of the 2013 winners:  http://brla.info/swba13.shtml

About the book: Harel Shapira lived with the Minutemen and patrolled the border with them, seeking neither to condemn nor praise them, but to understand who they are and what they do. Challenging simplistic depictions of these men as right-wing fanatics quick on the trigger, Shapira discovers a group of men who long for community and embrace the principles of civic engagement. Yet these desires and convictions have led them to a troubling place.

Shapira takes you to that place–a stretch of desert in southern Arizona, where he reveals that what draws these men to the border is not simply racism or anti-immigrant sentiments, but a chance to relive a sense of meaning and purpose rooted in an older life of soldiering. They come to the border not only in search of illegal immigrants, but of lost identities and experiences.

Sample the introduction of Waiting for José here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9962.pdf

Princeton University Press’s Best-selling Books for the Past Week

These are the best-selling books for the past week.

 

Rare Birds of North America by Steve Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell
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Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin
by Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomerie
Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maor and Eugen Jost
The Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance by Eswar S. Prasad
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman
What W.H. Auden Can Do for You by Alexander McCall-Smith
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird
On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

“Is Judaism a Religion?” Leora Batnitzky at the Tikvah Center, February 20, 2014

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Join the Tikvah Center as they welcome Leora Batnitzky for a discussion of the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today.

Is Judaism a Religion?

Leora Batnitzky

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 5:30pm EST

The Tikvah Center
165 East 56th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10022

Reserve your seat: http://tikvahfund.org/events/is-judaism-a-religion/

Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews.  In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people.  The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism’s premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a “religion,” emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice.  The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day.  What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion?  What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded?  How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?

Leora Batnitzky is the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University.

Spot the Princeton University Press titles in the PROSE awards rap

Jenny White talks at the House of Commons (video now available)

On 4th February, Jenny White gave a talk in the British House of Commons as part of the Westminster debates held and organized by the Centre for Turkish Studies. The audience was a mix of politicians, scholars, students, and other interested people. The talk was moderated by Dr. Pelin Kadercan, of Reading University. A video of the event is now available to view here.White - Turkey Studies

In her recent book Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, Jenny White argues that the polarization in Turkey isn’t due to an Islamist/secularist split as it is often portrayed, but rather is a result of the rapid transformation of society and consequent insecurity and search for new identities and meanings, particularly among the younger generations, regardless of whether they are secular or pious. The danger to Turkey comes not from Islam, which for many has become a lifestyle and object of choice, rather than an ideology, but from 20th-century habits of political autocracy that mirror familiar patriarchal authoritarian relations in the family that promise protection and stability.

In her talk at the House of Commons, Professor White brought these ideas up to the present, suggesting that the discourse that posits a father state protecting his citizen children from outsiders  aiming (with the help of traitorous insiders) to destroy the integrity and honor of the nation reappeared in the rhetoric and actions of both the prime minister and protesters during the Gezi protests of summer 2013 and in the Turkish government’s response to corruption allegations and other recent events. She explained why this discourse still works to mobilize major elements of the population, while other parts of the population now categorically reject these affiliations and patterns of political and personal relations. Turkey is at a tipping point between these forces.

This spring sees the publication of the paperback of this important book.  Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks will be reissued with a new afterword  in which White analyzes the latest political developments, particularly the mass protests surrounding Gezi Park, their impact on Turkish political culture, and what they mean for the future.

Image credit: Centre for Turkey Studies