FACT: “Around 100 million Americans were contacted at the door or over the phone by various political organizations during the 2008 elections. Millions of volunteers and tens of thousands of paid part-time workers did the contacting. Thousands of full-time staffers organized their efforts. At the surface it looked like nothing new under the sun. Even if the number of contacts made varies over time (and it has increased dramatically from 2000 onward), canvassing voters, by foot or by phone, is a staple of American politics.”

Ground Wars:
Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns

by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Political campaigns today are won or lost in the so-called ground war—the strategic deployment of teams of staffers, volunteers, and paid part-timers who work the phones and canvass block by block, house by house, voter by voter. Ground Wars provides an in-depth ethnographic portrait of two such campaigns, New Jersey Democrat Linda Stender’s and that of Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, who both ran for Congress in 2008.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen examines how American political operatives use “personalized political communication” to engage with the electorate, and weighs the implications of ground war tactics for how we understand political campaigns and what it means to participate in them. He shows how ground wars are waged using resources well beyond those of a given candidate and their staff. These include allied interest groups and civic associations, party-provided technical infrastructures that utilize large databases with detailed individual-level information for targeting voters, and armies of dedicated volunteers and paid part-timers. Nielsen challenges the notion that political communication in America must be tightly scripted, controlled, and conducted by a select coterie of professionals. Yet he also quashes the romantic idea that canvassing is a purer form of grassroots politics. In today’s political ground wars, Nielsen demonstrates, even the most ordinary-seeming volunteer knocking at your door is backed up by high-tech targeting technologies and party expertise.

Ground Wars reveals how personalized political communication is profoundly influencing electoral outcomes and transforming American democracy.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9616.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking Giveaway on Goodreads

How would you like to win a copy of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird? We have a great giveaway happening on Goodreads! Between now and September 14th you can enter to win a free copy of this inspiring book with just the simple click of a button. If you already have a Goodreads account, just click the “Enter to Win” button on our giveaway listing. If you’re not a Goodreads user, you can sign up for a free account here.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical and lively ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren’t a special breed—they just use their minds differently. By using the straightforward and thought-provoking techniques in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself—revealing previously hidden opportunities.

If you’ve already read The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, we’d love to hear from you. You can rate and review the book on the 5 Elements book page on Goodreads.

For more information on The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, please visit http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9810.html. Be sure to check out our Q&A with the authors, some great videos with coauthor Edward Burger, and read the Introduction online.

Don’t forget—you have until September 14th to enter the Goodreads giveaway. Full details are here. Good luck!


FACT: “During his 1992 campaign for president, Bill Clinton called for increasing federal fuel economy standards from about twenty-eight to forty miles per gallon within a mere eight years. Clinton’s election—and that of his running mate, Al Gore, whose best-selling book Earth in the Balance had called the conventional car ‘a moral threat to the security of every nation’—was greatly regretted, therefore, by American automakers. In the previous Congress, they had narrowly managed to block legislation raising mileage standards, which they feared would help their Japanese and European competitors (who fielded fleets of smaller and more efficient cars) at their expense.”

Collaborative Governance:
Private Roles for Public Goals in Turbulent Times

by John D. Donahue & Richard J. Zeckhauser

All too often government lacks the skill, the will, and the wallet to meet its missions. Schools fall short of the mark while roads and bridges fall into disrepair. Health care costs too much and delivers too little. Budgets bleed red ink as the cost of services citizens want outstrips the taxes they are willing to pay. Collaborative Governance is the first book to offer solutions by demonstrating how government at every level can engage the private sector to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and achieve public goals more effectively.

John Donahue and Richard Zeckhauser show how the public sector can harness private expertise to bolster productivity, capture information, and augment resources. The authors explain how private engagement in public missions—rightly structured and skillfully managed—is not so much an alternative to government as the way smart government ought to operate. The key is to carefully and strategically grant discretion to private entities, whether for-profit or nonprofit, in ways that simultaneously motivate and empower them to create public value. Drawing on a host of real-world examples-including charter schools, job training, and the resurrection of New York’s Central Park—they show how, when, and why collaboration works, and also under what circumstances it doesn’t.

Collaborative Governance reveals how the collaborative approach can be used to tap the resourcefulness and entrepreneurship of the private sector, and improvise fresh, flexible solutions to today’s most pressing public challenges.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9401.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.


FACT: “From the Middle Bronze Age, when they first became relatively common, swords were a standard accouterment in well-outfitted men’s graves; graves, in other words, that contained other special kinds of objects, such as feasting vessels, wheeled vehicles, and gold ornaments. A sword can thus be seen as a standard part of the elite man’s outfit from the middle of the second millennium BC until the seventh and eighth centuries AD, when the practice of outfitting graves with goods gradually declined in much of Europe. Swords almost never occur in otherwise ‘poor’ graves, and it is unusual to find a wealthy man’s grave that does not have a sword (or, during the sixth and early fifth centuries BC, a dagger).”

How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times
by Peter S. Wells

The peoples who inhabited Europe during the two millennia before the Roman conquests had established urban centers, large-scale production of goods such as pottery and iron tools, a money economy, and elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Yet as Peter Wells argues here, the visual world of these late prehistoric communities was profoundly different from those of ancient Rome’s literate civilization and today’s industrialized societies. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Wells reconstructs how the peoples of pre-Roman Europe saw the world and their place in it. He sheds new light on how they communicated their thoughts, feelings, and visual perceptions through the everyday tools they shaped, the pottery and metal ornaments they decorated, and the arrangements of objects they made in their ritual places—and how these forms and patterns in turn shaped their experience.

How Ancient Europeans Saw the World offers a completely new approach to the study of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe, and represents a major challenge to existing views about prehistoric cultures. The book demonstrates why we cannot interpret the structures that Europe’s pre-Roman inhabitants built in the landscape, the ways they arranged their settlements and burial sites, or the complex patterning of their art on the basis of what these things look like to us. Rather, we must view these objects and visual patterns as they were meant to be seen by the ancient peoples who fashioned them.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9831.pdf


FACT: “Typically the party of a sitting president in midterm elections can count on dropping about twenty-five seats in the House of Representatives. On Election Day 1934, however, the Democrats made dramatic gains, winning twenty-three additional seats in the House and nineteen in the Senate. Included among the victorious were another ten leftward-leaning representatives, seven from the Wisconsin Progressive Party and three from the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party. On the front page of the New York Times, Arthur Krock called the congressional results ‘the most overwhelming victory in the history of modern politics’ for a sitting president.”

When Movements Matter:
The Townsend Plan and the Rise of Social Security

by Edwin Amenta

When Movements Matter accounts for the origins of Social Security as we know it. The book tells the overlooked story of the Townsend Plan—a political organization that sought to alleviate poverty and end the Great Depression through a government-provided retirement stipend of $200 a month for every American over the age of sixty.

Both the Townsend Plan, which organized two million older Americans into Townsend clubs, and the wider pension movement failed to win the generous and universal senior citizens’ pensions their advocates demanded. But the movement provided the political impetus behind old-age policy in its formative years and pushed America down the track of creating an old-age welfare state.

Drawing on a wealth of primary evidence, historical detail, and arresting images, Edwin Amenta traces the ups and downs of the Townsend Plan and its elderly leader Dr. Francis E. Townsend in the struggle to remake old age. In the process, Amenta advances a new theory of when social movements are influential.

The book challenges the conventional wisdom that U.S. old-age policy was a result mainly of the Depression or farsighted bureaucrats. It also debunks the current view that America immediately embraced Social Security when it was adopted in 1935. And it sheds new light on how social movements that fail to achieve their primary goals can still influence social policy and the way people relate to politics.

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i8325.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

We’re back with another giveaway! This will be our last giveaway during the month of August so we want to make it extra special for our readers. We have 3 copies of the new book, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird to give away—1 copy to a Facebook winner, 1 copy to a Google+ winner, and 1 copy to a Twitter winner! All you have to do is like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, or follow us on Twitter to be entered to win.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren’t a special breed—they just use their minds differently. By using the straightforward and thought-provoking techniques in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself—revealing previously hidden opportunities.

The book offers real-life stories, explicit action items, and concrete methods that allow you to attain a deeper understanding of any issue, exploit the power of failure as a step toward success, develop a habit of creating probing questions, see the world of ideas as an ever-flowing stream of thought, and embrace the uplifting reality that we are all capable of change. No matter who you are, the practical mind-sets introduced in the book will empower you to realize any goal in a more creative, intelligent, and effective manner. Filled with engaging examples that unlock truths about thinking in every walk of life, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking is written for all who want to reach their fullest potential—including students, parents, teachers, businesspeople, professionals, athletes, artists, leaders, and lifelong learners.

Whenever you are stuck, need a new idea, or want to learn and grow, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking will inspire and guide you on your way.

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9810.pdf, and a Q&A with the authors here: http://press.princeton.edu/releases/m9810.html

The random draw for this book with be Friday 8/10 at 11 am EST. If you like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, and/or follow us on Twitter, you’re automatically entered to win! Good luck!


FACT: “When the Umayyad kingdom of Córdoba was established in 756, the city was the largest in Europe, with a population of about 100,000 people.”

The Chosen Few:
How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492

by Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein

In 70 CE, the Jews were an agrarian and illiterate people living mostly in the Land of Israel and Mesopotamia. By 1492 the Jewish people had become a small group of literate urbanites specializing in crafts, trade, moneylending, and medicine in hundreds of places across the Old World, from Seville to Mangalore. What caused this radical change? The Chosen Few presents a new answer to this question by applying the lens of economic analysis to the key facts of fifteen formative centuries of Jewish history.

Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein show that, contrary to previous explanations, this transformation was driven not by anti-Jewish persecution and legal restrictions, but rather by changes within Judaism itself after 70 CE–most importantly, the rise of a new norm that required every Jewish male to read and study the Torah and to send his sons to school. Over the next six centuries, those Jews who found the norms of Judaism too costly to obey converted to other religions, making world Jewry shrink. Later, when urbanization and commercial expansion in the newly established Muslim Caliphates increased the demand for occupations in which literacy was an advantage, the Jews found themselves literate in a world of almost universal illiteracy. From then forward, almost all Jews entered crafts and trade, and many of them began moving in search of business opportunities, creating a worldwide Diaspora in the process.

The Chosen Few offers a powerful new explanation of one of the most significant transformations in Jewish history while also providing fresh insights to the growing debate about the social and economic impact of religion.

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9744.pdf


FACT: “In his farewell address of 1797, George Washington warned against the dangerous ‘spirit of Party,’ which he said ‘serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public Administration. It ignites the Community with ill founded Jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot & insurrection.’ Yet in opposing the formation of political parties, Washington was voicing a vain hope. During Washington’s first term as president, his treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, had already formed the Federalist Party and his secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, had founded the opposition Democratic-Republic Party.”

The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American
Political History

Edited by Michael Kazin
Rebecca Edwards & Adam Rothman, associate editors

With 150 accessible articles written by more than 130 leading experts, this essential reference provides authoritative introductions to some of the most important and talked-about topics in American history and politics, from the founding to today. Abridged from the acclaimed Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, this is the only single-volume encyclopedia that provides comprehensive coverage of both the traditional topics of U.S. political history and the broader forces that shape American politics–including economics, religion, social movements, race, class, and gender. Fully indexed and cross-referenced, each entry provides crucial context, expert analysis, informed perspectives, and suggestions for further reading.

Contributors include Dean Baker, Lewis Gould, Alex Keyssar, James Kloppenberg, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Lisa McGirr, Jack Rakove, Nick Salvatore, Stephen Skowronek, Jeremi Suri, Julian Zelizer, and many more.

Entries cover:

—Key political periods, from the founding to today

—Political institutions, major parties, and founding documents

—The broader forces that shape U.S. politics, from economics, religion, and social movements to race, class, and gender

—Ideas, philosophies, and movements

—The political history and influence of geographic regions

We invite you to read the Preface here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/p9518.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

We’re back with another giveaway! We know everyone has their social media preference, so this week we’re giving you up to three ways to win! Like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, and/or follow us on Twitter to be entered to win a copy of How to Win an Election!

How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians
by Quintus Tullius Cicero
Translated and with an introduction by Philip Freeman

How to Win an Election is an ancient Roman guide for campaigning that is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines. In 64 BC when idealist Marcus Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, ran for consul (the highest office in the Republic), his practical brother Quintus decided he needed some no-nonsense advice on running a successful campaign. What follows in his short letter are timeless bits of political wisdom, from the importance of promising everything to everybody and reminding voters about the sexual scandals of your opponents to being a chameleon, putting on a good show for the masses, and constantly surrounding yourself with rabid supporters. Presented here in a lively and colorful new translation, with the Latin text on facing pages, this unashamedly pragmatic primer on the humble art of personal politicking is dead-on (Cicero won)—and as relevant today as when it was written.

A little-known classic in the spirit of Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win an Election is required reading for politicians and everyone who enjoys watching them try to manipulate their way into office.

“Were he alive today, no doubt, Quintus would be making big bucks as a political consultant. . . . Speaking to us from a distance of more than two millenniums, Quintus Cicero’s words are incisive and revelatory: They remind us that, when it comes to that strange beast known as politics, human nature hasn’t changed very much since then. The past, that’s right, isn’t even past.”—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9658.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 8/3 at 11 am EST. If you like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, and/or follow us on Twitter, you’re automatically entered to win! Good luck!


FACT: “The most enduring tradition of the ancient sports is the Olympic Games, founded by the Greeks in 776 BCE. The ancient Olympics involved 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, the pentathlon, long jump, discus and javelin throwing, forms of athletic competition that have more immediacy for us than any other ancient sports. Ancient Greece was a patchwork of independent city-states and overseas colonies, frequently at war with each other. Each city would organize their own games, but festivals such as the Olympics were ‘Panhellenic’—open to all Greeks. Games were held in honor of specific gods (the Olympics for Zeus, the Pythian Games for Apollo, the Isthmian Games for Poseidon), and the sanctity of the Olympics was indicated by the requirement that all military engagements cease during the games so that soldiers could attend.”

Playbooks and Checkbooks:
An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports

by Stefan Szymanski

What economic rules govern sports? How does the sports business differ from other businesses? Playbooks and Checkbooks takes a fascinating step-by-step look at the fundamental economic relationships shaping modern sports. Focusing on the ways that the sports business does and does not overlap with economics, the book uncovers the core paradox at the heart of the sports industry. Unlike other businesses, the sports industry would not survive if competitors obliterated each other to extinction, financially or otherwise—without rivals there is nothing to sell. Playbooks and Checkbooks examines how this unique economic truth plays out in the sports world, both on and off the field.

Noted economist Stefan Szymanski explains how modern sporting contests have evolved; how sports competitions are organized; and how economics has guided antitrust, monopoly, and cartel issues in the sporting world. Szymanski considers the motivation provided by prize money, uncovers discrepancies in players’ salaries, and shows why the incentive structure for professional athletes encourages them to cheat through performance-enhancing drugs and match fixing. He also explores how changes in media broadcasting allow owners and athletes to play to a global audience, and why governments continue to publicly fund sporting events such as the Olympics, despite almost certain financial loss.

Using economic tools to reveal the complex arrangements of an industry, Playbooks and Checkbooks illuminates the world of sports through economics, and the world of economics through sports.

“Mr. Szymanski, an economics professor at the Cass Business School at City University in London, tackles the apparent paradoxes of the sports business in the head-on style of an N.F.L. linebacker. . . . He displays an impressive global knowledge of sports ranging from basketball and cricket to tennis and rugby, and provides a wealth of revealing financial information as well as entertaining sports trivia.”—Harry Hurt III, New York Times

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8888.pdf


FACT: “The gap between how the rich and poor vote was large in the 1940s, declined to near zero in the 1950s (a period in which there was little difference between the two parties on economic issues), increased during the 1960s and 1970s, and has been wide ever since, with the Republicans typically doing about 20% better among high-income voters than low-income voters. The rich-poor gap in recent decades has been large in elections such as in 1976 (when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter offered relatively moderate economic platforms) as well as in years such as 1984 (when there was a clear distinction between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan).”

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State:
Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

by Andrew Gelman

On the night of the 2000 presidential election, Americans watched on television as polling results divided the nation’s map into red and blue states. Since then the color divide has become symbolic of a culture war that thrives on stereotypes—pickup-driving red-state Republicans who vote based on God, guns, and gays; and elitist blue-state Democrats woefully out of touch with heartland values. With wit and prodigious number crunching, Andrew Gelman debunks these and other political myths.

This expanded edition includes new data and easy-to-read graphics explaining the 2008 election. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of today’s fractured political landscape.

“Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the [idea] . . . of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican.”—Leo Carey, New Yorker

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9030.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

How to Be a Better Birder
by Derek Lovitch

This unique illustrated handbook provides all the essential tools you need to become a better birder. Here Derek Lovitch offers a more effective way to go about identification—he calls it the “Whole Bird and More” approach—that will enable you to identify more birds, more quickly, more of the time. He demonstrates how to use geography and an understanding of habitats, ecology, and even the weather to enrich your birding experience and help you find something out of the ordinary. Lovitch shows how to track nocturnal migrants using radar, collect data for bird conservation, discover exciting rarities, develop patch lists—and much more.

This is the ideal resource for intermediate and advanced birders. Whether you want to build a bigger list or simply learn more about birds, How to Be a Better Birder will take your birding skills to the next level.

  • Explains the “Whole Bird and More” approach to bird identification
  • Demonstrates how to use geography, habitats, ecology, and the weather to be a better birder
  • Shows how to bird at night using radar, collect conservation data, develop patch lists–and more
  • Offers essential tools for intermediate and advanced birders


“The goal of birding, of any hobby, is expertise gratia sua, and the only reason we do it is to do it better. This slender new volume by Derek Lovitch will help almost any birder do just that.”—Rick Wright, American Birding Association blog

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9671.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 7/27 at 11 am EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!