News of the World, February 28, 2014


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.