PUP News of the World


This is Week Two of our brand new series, PUP News of the World. Every week we will be posting a round-up of all of our most exciting national AND international reviews/interviews/events/etc. that took place in the last week.

http://press.princeton.edu/images/k9943.gifTo start, we have one of our top articles of the week! (Drum roll please…) The Guardian posted an article this past week titled “Writers and critics on the best books of 2013″, which includes an impressive resume of experts of literature who recommended some of the books that impressed them the MOST over this entire year. The list just happened to include FOUR of our Princeton University Press titles, including: Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman by Jeremy Adelman, Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985, and Kafka: The Years of Insight and Kafka: The Decisive Years, both written by Reiner Stach and translated by Shelley Frisch.

On top of that, Kafka: The Years of Insight was also included in the Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Gift Guide to Books, saying “[Stach's] resplendent Kafka: The Years of Insight, tracking Kafka’s final eight years, meditates on the limits of the knowable even as it exhibits unparalleled dedication to the Kafka’s life and work.”

Next, Redeeming The Prince: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece by Maurizio Viroli received a glowing review from Michael Ignatieff at The Atlantic. He says that “Maurizio Viroli wants us to grasp that The Prince was not the cynically devious tract it seems, but rather a patriotic appeal for a redeemer politician to arise and save Italy from foreign invaders and its own shortsighted rulers.” Also, Strategy+Business‘ Theodore Kinni reviewed the title this past week, saying “[Viroli] makes a strong argument for rethinking widely held assumptions about The Prince.”

Undiluted Hocus PocusA blog post went up on our site a few days ago about the article written by our own Vickie Kearn (PUP Mathematics Editors) on Wild About Math, in which she defends Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, which some critics have been saying was not actually written by Gardner before he passed away soon after the book’s completion. Wrong! Thanks for the help Vickie. Gardner’s book was also reviewed by this Saturday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, in which writer Jordan Ellenberg states: “For those of us who believe that the sciences and the humanities don’t have to be enemies, Martin Gardner is an inspiring model. Undiluted Hocus-Pocus reveals a man immersed in philosophy, religion and literature, even as he makes a career writing about science.”

Brian Bethune of Maclean’s Magazine said of The Book of Job: A Biography by Mark Larrimore: “Princeton University’s excellent series on the lives—meaning the changing interpretations—of great religious books continues with this study of the knottiest of all Biblical texts, a key work in Western culture’s eternal debate over why bad things happen to good people….[Larrimore] is subtle and superbly thorough as he navigates his way not just through Jewish, Christian and secular readings but also the uncertainties about the text and the misconceptions that have grown up around it.”

What W. H. Auden Can Do for You by Alexander McCall Smith received some attention this week from the Sydney Morning Herald, and from Jones Atwater of January Magazine, who said “For some people The Art of War is a touchstone. A guide to living and to life. For others it is Tao Te Ching or even The Tao of Pooh. In his latest book, number one detective Alexander McCall Smith has an admission to make: his own personal touchstone is Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden…..If you are a fan of Auden’s work, this is a must-read.”  Plus, Barbara Berman at The Rumpus selected this book as one of her holiday books column picks, saying “McCall Smith makes an excellent case for a young generation to get acquainted with the life trajectory of Auden as poet and as struggling human.”

http://press.princeton.edu/images/k10074.gifThe Wall Street Journal recently reviewed Would You Kill the Fat Man? The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong by David Edmonds in their holiday gift books section, saying: “David Edmonds’s vastly more ambitious ‘Would You Kill the Fat Man?’ has the cartoons—and just about everything else you could want in a thoughtful popular treatment of [the trolley problem]. A marvel of economy and learning worn lightly, Mr. Edmonds’s book ranges pleasurably back to Aquinas and forward into the future of robots, who will of course need an ethics just as much as people do.” The title was also an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and Katherine Mangu-Ward reviewed it in Reason, saying: “Edmonds enjoyably traces the ever-expanding sub-genre of trolleyology through debates about language, abortion, cannibals, war, and a complicated love quadrangle involving the novelist Iris Murdoch and the philosopher Philippa Foot, offering insights on ethics, politics, and sex along the way.”

Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maor & Eugen Jost received an early review in Scientific American, in which stated: “Mathematicians sometimes compare well-constructed equations to works of art. To them, patterns in numbers hold a beauty at least equal to that found in any sonnet or sculpture. In this book, Maor, a math historian, teams with Jost, an artist, to reveal some of that mathematical majesty using jewel-like visualizations of classic geometric theorems….The result is a book that stimulates the mind as well as the eye.” The book also received mention from a blog called Lifelong Dewey in which the writer is trying to read a book from every Dewey Decimal Section.

Our theme this week seems to be group reviews as three of our titles were featured in The Observer’s “Books of the Year” column for The Guardian. The first, The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism’s Future by Geoff Mulgan, was called “[A] rare combination of breadth and detail” by Julian Baggini. The second, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, was chosen by Simon Singh, and the third, Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica by T. J. Clark, prompted John Banville to say “Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, by TJ Clark (Princeton), is the best thing in a long time on this still contentious painter. Whether or not you agree with Clark’s take on Picasso, you will not look at his paintings in quite the same way ever again.”

Merry White was interviewed about her book, Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition on Talk Radio Europe this week. (She comes in about 40 minutes in)

The Leaderless Economy: Why the World Economic System Fell Apart and How to Fix It by Peter Temin & David Vines was reviewed by Diane Coyle in The Enlightened Economist blog. Of the book, she says: “I would make all political leaders read this book over the holidays – whether in December or a bit later for Chinese New Year – and hope that it prompts them to make a New Year resolution to show true leadership.”

The Enlightened Economist also reviewed The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present by David Runciman, calling it “superb”.

There was a discussion of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei: Volume Five: The Dissolution translated by David Tod Roy on the BBC World Service’s Weekend program.  Patricia Sieber of Ohio State University was interviewed about the collection, and the discussion starts about 46 minutes in.

In yet another group review, The Financial Times posted their Books of the Year, which included a long list of PUP titles:

Last, but not least, Holland Cotter of The New York Times chose Michael Ann Holly’s The Melancholy Art as one of his holiday art book picks, calling it “enchanting”.

COMING SOON: An interactive map of the world where you can check out all of our reviews from multiple countries and continents, sorted by publication.

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

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


k8967 Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian by A. Douglas Stone
k10054 The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton
Helmreich_NewYork The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich
Sides_TheGamble3 The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election by John Sides & Lynn Vavreck
 k10099 The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism by Robert E. Buswell Jr. & Donald S. Lopez Jr.
 k10093 Maimonides: Life and Thought by Moshe Halbertal
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
McCallSmith_Auden What W. H. Auden Can Do for You by Alexander McCall Smith
Stephenson_WarblerG The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
 k9144 Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History by Thomas Barfield

Fast Facts: A few things you didn’t know about Jewish-Muslim relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraThis is the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. Richly illustrated and beautifully produced, the book features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Part I covers the medieval period; Part II, the early modern period through the nineteenth century, in the Ottoman Empire, Africa, Asia, and Europe; Part III, the twentieth century, including the exile of Jews from the Muslim world, Jews and Muslims in Israel, and Jewish-Muslim politics; and Part IV, intersections between Jewish and Muslim origins, philosophy, scholarship, art, ritual, and beliefs. The main articles address major topics such as the Jews of Arabia at the origin of Islam; special profiles cover important individuals and places; and excerpts from primary sources provide contemporary views on historical events.

Contributors include Mark R. Cohen, Alain Dieckhoff, Michael Laskier, Vera Moreen, Gordon D. Newby, Marina Rustow, Daniel Schroeter, Kirsten Schulze, Mark Tessler, John Tolan, Gilles Veinstein, and many more.


This work, comprised of articles, portraits and spotlights on particular subjects (“Nota Bene”), and excerpts from primary sources (“Counterpoint”), emphasizes a global approach to Jewish-Muslim relations throughout history. It also reveals some facts that might surprise readers. Here are a few examples.

  • In some religious texts written in Arabic from the Jews of Andalusia, God is called “Allah,” and the terms “imam” and “minbar” are used to designate the leader and the pulpit, respectively; one even finds “Qur’an” for “Torah,” even though the latter exists in classical Arabic in the form “tawrat.”


  • Located in Hamadan in the north of Iran, the tomb of Esther (a biblical Jewish heroine who saved her people from a genocide in Persia) is a place of Jewish pilgrimage, but also a holy site for Christians and Muslims. In 2009, it was added to the list of national treasures of the Islamic Republic.


  • In the early centuries of Islam, the development of Arabic was, paradoxically, a major factor in the renaissance of written Hebrew. In order to conform to the purest possible version of classical Quranic Arabic, Muslim scribes had to develop grammar, syntax, and a lexicon. The Jews adopted these disciplines to apply to their study of Hebrew and of biblical texts, and thus invented true Hebrew linguistics.


  •  The idea of “Semitism,” which first appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the field of comparative grammar, was mistakenly brought into the religious and cultural spheres, and then revived in an anti-scientific manner by racial theories in the name of nationalism and colonialism. Today the idea is contested, even within the linguistic context in which it has always resided.


  • The legendary motifs of the origins of Judaism—notably, the power of Solomon over the rebel genies—inspired the Thousand and One Nights, along with other Persian, Indian, and Arab stories.


  • It was under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that the Jews were allowed to develop the space in front of the Western Wall (the remains of the Second Temple that the West calls the Wailing Wall), which gradually became a major site of devotion.


  • In 1942, the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef (the future King Mohammed V), received delegations of Jews who came to tell him of their grievances in the face of anti-Semitic laws imposed by the Vichy authorities. The Sultan reaffirmed the right of all of his subjects to sovereign protection, and thereafter invited notable Jews to all of the official ceremonies and to the Feast of the Throne. A “Square of Mohammed V” exists in the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel.


  • In scientific institutions and journals in the Islamic Republic of Iran, works of contemporary Jewish intellectuals are regularly recognized in Iranian studies, Islamic studies, and even in the history of the Qur’an and hadith. These works are translated and studied, and some win official awards.


  • In Israel, where civil marriage and divorce do not exist, Muslim religious tribunals, under some circumstances, are authorized to address questions of family law, and to apply sharia within certain constraints. This situation represents a legacy of the Ottoman millet system, which was formerly applied in Palestine. For their part, Israeli civil tribunals are sometimes called upon, for certain specific matrimonial questions, to apply the laws of sharia.


  • While the Holocaust took place mainly in Christian territories, more than seventy Muslims have been counted as “Righteous Among the Nations.” The Yad Vashem Institute awarded this title, notably, to a Turkish diplomat, to Tatars in the former Soviet Union, and especially to Bosnians and Albanians. For the latter, saving the Jews was based on a traditional code of honor, Besa, which literally signifies “to keep the promise.”


Animal Navigation Fun Facts — Part 3

Think humans are good at navigation? Think again. Compared to some of the mesmerizing navigational abilities of birds and other species, human navigation is actually quite primitive. Here is our third and final part of our facts series about animal navigation from Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation by James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould. Click here to read part 1 and click here to read part 2 of our fun facts series.

Honeybee fact: The sun is a very important navigational tool for bees both in communicating the direction of a food resource and in finding the way home. As vital as the sun is, bees have trouble seeing it. It is hard for them to actually identify the sun in the sky because their visual resolution does not allow them to identify the sun as a unique shape. As a rule of thumb for bees, if a bright spot contains no more than 20% ultraviolet light and is no larger than 15° across, then it is the sun.

Bird fact: In unfamiliar territory, birds must be able to estimate the amount of distance traveled. Early sailors threw logs overboard and counted the number of knots on an attached line that were carried out in 30 or 60 seconds in order to measure speed. Each knot was 50 feet apart and this now corresponds with one nautical mile per hour. Birds come fully equipped with special circuits in their eyes to judge the rate at which the terrain below is moving and they can time how fast they are moving in intervals.

Bonus fact: Birds are migrating and nesting sooner because of climate change. They believe the planet is getting warmer and are betting their lives on it.

Animal Navigation Fun Facts — Part 2

Think humans are good at navigation? Think again. Compared to some of the mesmerizing navigational abilities of birds and other species, human navigation is actually quite primitive. Here is part two of our facts series about animal navigation from Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation by James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould.

Honeybee fact: Bees “dance” to communicate the location of a food source. What are bees actually doing during their dance? Trigonometry of course. They draw accurate maps to food by generating distance and direction components in their dances. When bees waggle while they dance, the direction of their waggling encodes the direction of the food. Pointing up refers to the direction of the sun and then the dancer reveals the relative azimuth of the sun by waggling left or right. Depending on the subspecies of bee, each waggle can correspond to a distance of 5-50 yards.

Bird fact: Many birds travel at night, and while they are unable to see shapes, they use starlight to help them navigate. They memorize star patterns, particularly the poles, and update their celestial snapshot depending on which constellations are visible during the season. When it’s overcast, birds resort to using their secondary magnetic compass and navigate by following magnetic fields.

Bonus fact: Even plankton have navigational abilities. Zooplankton, the organism that nearly all fish feed on, migrate down daily and up at night to follow their prey—phytoplankton.

We’ll be back next Monday for the third and final part to our animal navigation facts series.

Animal Navigation Fun Facts — Part 1

Think humans are good at navigation? Think again. Compared to some of the mesmerizing navigational abilities of birds and other species, human navigation is actually quite primitive. Each Monday for the next few weeks we will be posting facts about animal navigation from Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation by James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould.

Bird Fact: Many birds are able to navigate back to their nests after a few preliminary first flights. James and Carol Gould explain, “Taken to a new home after just one or two brief outings and confined for up to several years, pigeons will nevertheless generally return to their natal loft at the first opportunity.” Could any of you make your way home as a toddler? It turns out that many creatures can cover thousands of miles in mental maps using landmarks, and not just those they see but those that they hear. For example, birds use the noise of the winds passing over the Rocky Mountains as an auditory landmark.

Bonus fact: Ants can navigate the Sahara desert by measuring their visual flow. They count their footsteps and make it back to their homes despite the uniform appearance of their surroundings and their small size.

Check back next Monday for some cool facts about honeybees.

Dana Mackenzie – Four Way Interview

Dana Mackenzie – Four Way Interview

Dana Mackenzie is the author of The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be (Wiley), among other books. He is a frequent contributor to Science, Discover, and New Scientist. He has a PhD in mathematics from Princeton and was a mathematics professor for thirteen years before becoming a full time writer. His latest book is The Universe in Zero Words.

Why maths?

To me, mathematics is the most universal language. It is a subject with a continuous unbroken tradition from the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, and Egyptians to the present day – a longer tradition than any other science and virtually any other human endeavor. It is an enabling subject, in the sense that every other science depends on it to some extent, and generally speaking the more modern a science becomes, the more explicitly it incorporates mathematical reasoning and ideas.

Most importantly and most personally for me, I love mathematics because there is no other field I know of where truth and beauty are so closely intertwined. They are related in the other sciences as well, but I still feel feel that scientific truths are to some extent contingent and occasionally a result of happenstance. Our knowledge is based upon imperfect data and our imperfect interpretations thereof. In
mathematics, by contrast, nothing is ever true by accident. A mathematical theorem, once proven correctly, can never be falsified. (It can only become irrelevant, and even then it often returns to relevance when you least expect it.) The best theorems, and the best proofs, are almost always the ones with the greatest beauty and economy of ideas.

Why this book?

My purpose in writing this book is to demystify mathematics, and in particular to demystify equations.

For many people, an equation is a forbidding and scary thing. It looks like some kind of mystical incantation filled with secrets they are not privy to. And yet for scientists, and especially for mathematicians, it is exactly the opposite. Words are too imprecise and clumsy to express the fine details of a mathematical idea; an equation is often the only way to do it. This is why I called the book The Universe in Zero Words - because by opening yourself up to equations (which typically have zero words), you open yourself to seeing the universe more clearly.

To compare words to equations, imagine comparing a painting of Earth to a Google map. No matter how well executed, the painting is rough and inaccurate. When you zoom in on it, you don’t see any new geographic details. By contrast, the farther you zoom into a Google map, the more interesting details you see. It is the same way with an equation. This book is an attempt to help the reader through that process, to see the ”Google Maps” version of mathematics rather than the caricature version that popular culture presents us.

I also wrote this book because I wanted to write a mathematics book! My first book (The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be) was about a subject that I had no special training in when I began the project. It was a great way to exercise and develop my journalistic muscles. For my second book, I wanted to write about something that I already knew a lot about. This allowed me to write from a much more personal point of view, rather than the dispassionate view of the journalist or historian.

What’s next?

In the short term, I am continuing to write a series of booklets for the American Mathematical Society called What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences. The next one in the series, volume 9, should come out early next year, and I am very busy with that and hoping that I can meet my deadline.

In the long term, I expect that at some point I will get to work on another trade book. I love writing the “What’s Happening” series, but I have to admit that it reaches a rather narrow audience. At this point I can only describe the broadest features of what I am looking for in my next mass market book. Having written one book “far from home” (about planetary science) and one “close to home” (about mathematics) I will probably venture “farther from home” again. But I may change that plan if The Universe in Zero Words is a big success, and if there seems to be a big demand for another mathematical book from me. I would also be interested in writing a book that takes place over a shorter time frame, because both of my previous books covered nearly the whole period of recorded history. There is something to be said for the classical unities of time, space, and action (although I would not interpret themtoo literally).

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Mostly the things I have written about most recently and the things I am writing about right now. That would include an article I wrote for Science magazine about robotic flapping birds, and a chapter I wrote for What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences about mathematical algorithms to solve Rubik’s cube. An interesting thing that they had in common was that for the first time I found myself using YouTube as a research tool! There is an absolutely amazing video on YouTube of one of the new robotic birds, designed by a German company called Festo, flying over the audience at a TED conference in Edinburgh. You should look it up if you haven’t seen it. And there are many, many amazing videos on YouTube of “speedcubers” — people who solve Rubik’s cube as quickly as possible. Some use their hands, some use their feet, some do it blindfolded! The current world record for solving Rubik’s cube (by a human) is 5.66 seconds. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even unlock the door to my house in 5.66 seconds!

This interview was first published on 25th May 2012 on Popular Science. For more interviews like this as well as book reviews on popular science and maths titles, please visit www.popularscience.co.uk.


Robert Shiller in the UK


Robert Shiller was in the UK during the first week of May to promote his latest book ‘Finance and the Good Society’.  His appearances ranged from an interview on CNBC Europe Squawk Box to videos for The Guardian and Economia as well as lectures at the Royal Society of Arts and the London School of Economics.

Please follow the links to catch up with any of these appearances.

Princeton in Europe Lecture

Paul Seabright gave a fascinating and typically wide ranging talk “On Lying, Risk Taking and the Euro” for our second annual Princeton University Press
in Europe lecture on 18th April.  The talk, which is open to the public, honours our European Advisory Board.  In the lecture, Seabright argued that many of the factors which led to the Euro crisis were in plain sight from its launch.  The challenge is that in many different ways we are hard wired not to notice.  We tend for example to like to tell a morality tale with good guys and bad guys; we tend not to notice slow creeping crises; and we succumb to the very human desire not to rock the boat. Drawing on a wealth of economic data and the insights of neuroscience and behavioural economics, Seabright’s analysis is both compelling – and chilling.

Please click here to watch the lecture in full. You can also read more about this topic in an article in The Guardian, prompted by the Princeton in Europe Lecture.

Mammals Monday (on a Tuesday)

As we gear up for the holiday season, this  week’s mammal from the popular Mammals of North America App is the Caribou — also known as a reindeer! Caribou are found in Northern sub-polar regions including Canada and parts of Alaska, though they are endangered in certain areas.

Fun facts: The earliest fossil evidence of caribou comes from Germany and has been dated to about 440,000 years ago! Caribou are also the only species of deer where both sexes have antlers.

Check out some of the previous “Mammals Monday” posts:

the chipmunk

the blue whale

Mammals Monday!

This week’s featured mammal from the Mammals of North America app is the Eastern Chipmunk. As the weather gets colder, you might see chipmunks collecting food to store for the winter in their extensive underground burrows — these burrows can be up to 3.5 metres long, and often have multiple entrances.

Fun fact: a chipmunk is a kind of squirrel!

Previous Mammals Monday posts:

The blue whale




Mammals Monday!

Mammals Monday is back! Tune in every week for a screenshot from our exciting new app, Mammals of North America. The app, available for Android and iPhone, is an essential field guide to the land and marine mammals of the USA and Canada.

This week’s featured mammal is the balaenoptera musculus, also known as the Blue Whale. Blue whales are a protected species, and can be found in the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and off the coast of Southern California.

Fun fact: Blue whales can live to be over 80 years old!