Celebrate National Grammar Day with Frank Cioffi’s One Day in the Life of the English Language

Grammar: It’s the difference between knowing your stuff and knowing you’re stuff. Some even say it saves lives (see below). If you haven’t noticed, today is National Grammar Day (March 4), so here at Princeton University Press we are celebrating good grammar, proper punctuation, and clear communication with Frank L. Cioffi’s anti-textbook handbook, One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook.

Cioffi’s chatty and charming reference doesn’t just lay out the “rules,” but also makes a convincing case for why good grammar and usage matter. Cioffi argues that Standard Written English (also known as “formal English”) is vital for success in professions where exactness and clarity carry great importance, and he also proposes that correct English can foster a more honest, ethical, and functional culture of communication.

The book draws on some three hundred real-world sentences printed in eleven newspapers and six weekly magazines and published on a single, typical day (December 29, 2008). Cioffi emphasizes that English usage is continually evolving and he debunks some of the most popular grammar “rules.” Is it acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? It is. Can you start a sentence with a conjunction? You can. Is it “correct” to use split infinitives. Sure.

What do you think? Does “formal” English still matter in the post-Twitter world?

commas-save-lives

Check out the introduction and let us know.

We’ve also been tweeting out #NationalGrammarDay #protips from the book today.

Happy National Grammar Day!

Photo via Brett Jordan / Flickr

#NewBooks

Books released during the week of March 2, 2015

New Hardcovers

bookjacket In-Your-Face Politics:
The Consequences of Uncivil Media

Diana C. Mutz

“With ample humor and sufficient exposition for a lay audience, she conducts and analyzes a series of experiments carefully crafted to study how extreme close-ups and uncivil behavior in political TV affect the public discourse. . . . An approachable yet scientifically rigorous look at what passes for political discourse in America.”–Kirkus

 

bookjacket On Elizabeth Bishop
Colm Tóibín

“Novelist Tóibín (Nora Webster) gives an intimate and engaging look at Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry and its influence on his own work. . . . Tóibín is also present in the book, and his relationship to Bishop’s work and admiration of her style gives the book much of its power. Whether one is familiar with Bishop’s life and work or is looking to Tóibín to learn more, this book will appeal to many readers.”–Publishers Weekly starred review

 

bookjacket Pagans and Philosophers:
The Problem of Paganism from Augustine to Leibniz

John Marenbon

“In this book, John Marenbon exhibits remarkable erudition and a formidable command of the relevant texts, both scholastic and literary. He is adept at setting out complex issues in a clear way, and his book incorporates much little-known and fascinating material in the history of ideas.”–Anthony Kenny, author of A New History of Western Philosophy

 

bookjacket Pleasure and Piety:
The Art of Joachim Wtewael

James Clifton, Liesbeth M. Helmus & Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
With contributions by Stijn Alsteens & Anne W. Lowenthal

“The definitive study of one of the period’s most significant artists.”–H. Rodney Nevitt Jr., University of Houston

 

bookjacket Still Lives:
Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master

Maria H. Loh

“This ambitious and complex book opens up the study of the Italian Renaissance with renewed theoretical and scholarly vigor. Maria Loh paints a vivid portrait of the messy politics of studio culture and the new pictorial economies resulting from the printing press.”–Todd Olson, University of California, Berkeley

 

bookjacket “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”:
A History of the Armenian Genocide

Ronald Grigor Suny

“[A] deeply researched, fair-minded study. . . . Suny creates a compelling narrative of vengeance and terror.”–Kirkus, starred review

 

bookjacket Watchdogs on the Hill:
The Decline of Congressional Oversight of U.S. Foreign Relations

Linda L. Fowler

“Examining the evolution and deterioration of oversight on the Senate side of the Capitol, this thorough and theoretically grounded work offers systematic insight into the national security watchdog that doesn’t always bark. Fowler’s call to ‘renew foreign policy oversight’ will be deeply interesting to scholars, practitioners, and citizens alike.”–Christopher J. Deering, George Washington University

 

bookjacket White Backlash:
Immigration, Race, and American Politics

Marisa Abrajano & Zoltan L. Hajnal

White Backlash is one of the best books I have read in the last half century. Based on rigorous analyses of multiple data sets and presented in remarkably clear prose, the book advances a compelling and original argument that will change the way we talk about immigration and electoral politics. I highly recommend this important work to anyone seeking an understanding of the current and growing racial divide in U.S. politics.”–Willliam Julius Wilson, author of More than Just Race

 

bookjacket Analytical Psychology in Exile:
The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann

C. G. Jung & Erich Neumann
Edited and introduced by Martin Liebscher
Translated by Heather McCartney

“Erich Neumann’s place in the history of analytical psychology may finally find the positive reassessment it deserves via this collection of his correspondence with Carl Jung….Perhaps most importantly, these letters allow us to see a mutually enriching exchange of ideas that formed a significant, though under appreciated, passage of intellectual history. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the theoretical origins of psychoanalysis.” –Publishers Weekly

 

bookjacket  The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 14:
The Berlin Years: Writings & Correspondence, April 1923–May 1925 (English Translation Supplement)

Documentary edition
Albert Einstein
Edited by Diana Kormos Buchwald, József Illy, Ze’ev Rosenkranz, Tilman Sauer & Osik Moses
Translated by Ann M. Hentschel & Jennifer Nollar James
Klaus Hentschel, consultant

In almost one hundred writings and more than one thousand letters included in this volume, Einstein is revealed yet again as the consummate puzzler of myriad scientific problems as well as the invested participant in social and political engagements.

 

bookjacket  Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels:
How Human Values Evolve

Updated edition
Ian Morris
Edited and with an introduction by Stephen Macedo
With commentary by Richard Seaford, Jonathan D. Spence, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Margaret Atwood

“A provocative explanation for the evolution and divergence of ethical values. . . . In the hands of this talented writer and thinker, [the] material becomes an engaging intellectual adventure.”–Kirkus


bookjacket  From Ancient to Modern:
Archaeology and Aesthetics

Edited by Jennifer Y. Chi & Pedro Azara

This beautifully illustrated volume is the accompanying catalog for the exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and focuses on fifty objects from three iconic sites in the ancient Near East: Ur, Diyala, and Kish.


New Paperbacks

bookjacket

Heart Beats:
Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem

Catherine Robson

“It’s tempting to sentimentalize an era in which poetry–memorized, recited poetry–held so prominent a place in the culture. But its once-substantial role turns out to be a mixed and complicated tale, as thoroughly chronicled [by] Catherine Robson.”–Brad Leithauser, NewYorker.com
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Flatland:
A Romance of Many Dimensions

Edwin Abbott Abbott
With an introduction by Thomas Banchoff

“One of the most imaginative, delightful and, yes, touching works of mathematics, this slender 1884 book purports to be the memoir of A. Square, a citizen of an entirely two-dimensional world.”–The Washington Post Book World
bookjacket Extinction:
How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago

Updated edition
Douglas H. Erwin
With a new preface by the author

“Theories and mysteries can be dispelled with good data from the geologic record, and Erwin (a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History) offers an authoritative account of the search for these data and for the cause of the extinction. . . . Extinction provides a great reference for researchers and the interested lay reader alike.”–Andrew M. Bush, Science

 

bookjacket The Confidence Trap:
A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present

Updated edition
David Runciman
With a new afterword by the author

“His rich and refreshing book will be of intense interest to anyone puzzled by the near paralysis that seems to afflict democratic government in a number of countries, not least the United States. Runciman’s account of the workings of the confidence trap-the belief that democracy will always survive-will serve as an antidote to the moods of alarm and triumph by which writers on democracy are regularly seized.” –John Gray, New York Review of Books

 

bookjacket Life on a Young Planet:
The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Updated edition
Andrew H. Knoll
With a new preface by the author

“A fascinating book. . . . The catastrophic surface narrative of this impressive and intriguing book would surely have pleased Stephen Jay Gould; but I think its deterministic subtext would have pleased Charles Darwin still more.”–Matt Cartmill, Times Literary Supplement

 

bookjacket

Mass Flourishing:
How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change

Edmund Phelps

“The book eloquently discusses the culture of innovation, which can refer to both an entrepreneurial mind-set and the cultural achievements during an age of change. . . . The dismal science becomes a little brighter when Mr. Phelps draws the connections between the economic ferment of the industrial age and the art of Beethoven, Verdi and Rodin.”–Edward Glaeser, Wall Street Journal
bookjacket

Political Bubbles:
Financial Crises and the Failure of American Democracy

Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole & Howard Rosenthal

“As pundits debate the causes of the 2008 economic crisis, the authors contend that financial crises have inherently political dimensions. McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal argue persuasively that political bubbles and market bubbles are highly similar, with policy biases contributing to and amplifying market behavior. . . . The authors provide an exhaustive review of structural problems that they believe impede effective government response to new catastrophic economic developments. Their arguments transcend the academic to include historical precedents and specifics on Wall Street machinations.”–Publishers Weekly
bookjacket Thinking About the Presidency:
The Primacy of Power

William G. Howell
With David Milton Brent
With a new preface by the author

Thinking about the Presidency is a relatively brief book which would do well in any survey-level course on executive leadership or the structure of American government. . . . By looking at the presidency through the lens of expanding presidential power, Howell and Brent left this reader asking for more: such as why government works this way or why Congress reacts as it does. That it leaves open those questions indicates that this book is a valuable addition to any graduate-level course.”–Seth Offenbach, Journal of American Studies

 

bookjacket Higher Education in America
Revised edition
Derek Bok

“Magisterial.”–Stanley Fish, New York Times

 

bookjacket

Beyond the Brain:
How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

Louise Barrett

Beyond the Brain is an astonishingly good book, both substantive and fun to read….Barrett re-centers the field on the study of animal cognition. I think this is an excellent decision, and not just because it allows her to tell some great animal stories. The main advantage is not narrative but substantive: her careful reconstruction of the grounds of natural cognition is simply more convincing and more relevant than even the best discussion of artificial intelligence could ever be….Beyond the Brain is full of…interesting and heterodox discussions, and is sure to engage, enrage, and inspire in differential measure depending on the reader’s theoretical proclivities.” –Michael L. Anderson, Journal of Consciousness Studies 
bookjacket

Cells to Civilizations:
The Principles of Change That Shape Life

Enrico Coen

“This attempt at a grand theoretical synthesis within biology explores the transformative powers and creative forces that have brought about the living world from the first cells to the latest developments in cultural and technological evolution…[Coen's] eloquently written book offers a programmatic synthesis and an empirically grounded proposal for a theory of biology….Cells to Civilizations will stimulate many productive discussions about the origins and development of life in all its complexities.” -Manfred D. Laubichler, Science
bookjacket

An Uncertain Glory:
India and its Contradictions

Jean Drèze & Amartya Sen

“It’s an urgent, passionate, political work that makes the case that India cannot move forward without investing significantly–as every other major industrialized country has already done–in public services….This book is…a heartfelt plea to rethink what progress in a poor country ought to look like.” –Jyoti Thottam, New York Times Book Review

CLIMATE SHOCK authors on TheAtlantic.com: Will camels roam Canada again?

Climate ShockThe last time concentrations of carbon dioxide were as high as they are today, write Marty Weitzman and Gernot Wagner, authors of Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, camels lived in Canada. That was a bit over 3 million years ago, of course. But how certain does science have to be for the world to act? Wagner and Weitzman had a terrific op-ed appear today on The Atlantic.com where they argue that climate is best thought of as a global-scale risk management problem. Check it out here:

Will Camels Roam Canada Again?

What we know about climate change is bad enough. What we don’t could make it even worse.

Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman

You are cruising down the highway at 65 miles per hour, reading a book in your self-driving car. Your life is in the hands of a machine—an eminently benevolent one. Meanwhile, in the lane next to you, an 18-wheeler using decidedly last-century technology—relying on a fallible human driver—appears to be swerving your way.

Your car’s computer is on the case. Equipped with orders of magnitude more computing power than the Apollo moon lander, it determines with all the confidence it can muster that there’s a greater-than-50-percent chance—it’s “more likely than not”—that the truck is about to hit you.

You may want to look up from your book. More importantly, you want to know with certainty that your onboard computer will hit the brakes, even if there’s a 49-percent chance that doing so will be a false alarm.

If, instead of “more likely than not,” the danger were “likely,” “very likely,” or even “extremely likely,” the answer would be clearer still. Even if there’s a 95-percent probability of a crash, there’s still a 1-in-20 chance that nothing will happen—but no one would gamble their life on those odds. Your car’s computer hopefully will have engaged the anti-lock braking systems already.

A perfect self-driving car doesn’t exist yet, nor has the world solved global warming. But it’s surprising that, by the standards that we’d expect in a car to keep its occupants safe, the governments of the world haven’t stepped on the brakes to avoid planetary-scale global warming disaster—a 100-year-storm hitting New York every other year, frequent and massive droughts, inundated coastal cities. In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that it was “more likely than not” the case that global warming was caused by human activity. By 2001, it had progressed to “likely.” By 2007, it was “very likely.” By 2013, it was “extremely likely.” There’s only one step left in official IPCC lingo: “virtually certain.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic.com here.

 

Calculus predicts more snow for Boston

Are we there yet? And by “there,” we mean spring and all the lovely weather that comes with it. This winter has been a tough one, and as the New York Times says, “this winter has gotten old.”

snow big[Photo Credit: John Talbot]

Our friends in Boston are feeling the winter blues after seven feet of precipitation over three weeks. But how much is still to come? You may not be the betting kind, but for those with shoveling duty, the probability of more winter weather may give you chills.

For this, we turn to mathematician Oscar Fernandez, professor at Wellesley College. Professor Fernandez uses calculus to predict the probability of Boston getting more snow, and the results may surprise you. In an article for the Huffington Post, he writes:

There are still 12 days left in February, and since we’ve already logged the snowiest month since record-keeping began in 1872 (45.5 inches of snow… so far), every Bostonian is thinking the same thing: how much more snow will we get?

We can answer that question with math, but we need to rephrase it just a bit. Here’s the version we’ll work with: what’s the probability that Boston will get at least s more inches of snow this month?

Check out the full article — including the prediction — over at the Huffington Post.

Math has some pretty cool applications, doesn’t it? Try this one: what is the most effective number of hours of sleep? Or — for those who need to work on the good night’s rest routine — how does hot coffee cool? These and other answers can be found through calculus, and Professor Fernandez shows us how in his book, Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us.

This book was named one of American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Books for General Audiences and Young Adults” in 2014. See Chapter One for yourself.

For more from Professor Fernandez, head over to his website, Surrounded by Math.

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/laserstars/.

#NewBooks released February 17, 2015

bookjacket The Locust and the Bee:
Predators and Creators in Capitalism’s Future

Updated edition
Geoff Mulgan
With a new afterword by the author
“Geoff Mulgan’s The Locust and the Bee is an important contribution to this field.” –John Lloyd, Financial Times

The Failure of Islamic Democracy, by John Owen, author of CONFRONTING POLITICAL ISLAM: Six Lessons from the West’s Past — Op-Ed Original

The Failure of Islamic Democracy
By John M. Owen IV

The recent jihadist horrors in France, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria have lured our attention away from political conditions in the Middle East that indirectly helped produce them. In Turkey and Egypt “Islamic democracy” failed in 2014, and that failure will likely have long and deep repercussions for the entire region.

From northwest Africa to South Asia, majorities of Muslims routinely tell pollsters that they believe their country should either adopt literal Sharia, law derived from Islam’s holy texts, or at least follow the principles of those texts. The secularism that authoritarian Muslims imposed on their peoples from the 1920s through the 1970s is simply not popular over this vast region.

At the same time, the late Arab Spring made clear that Middle Eastern Muslims want governments that are accountable to them. The only resolution for most countries in the region, then, is some kind of Islamic democracy.

The very phrase “Islamic democracy” seems incoherent the Western ear, and indeed any Islamic democracy could not be liberal, in the individualist and secularist sense that we mean by that term today.

What, then, is Islamic democracy? Since it took power in 2002, Turkey’s ruling AK (Justice and Development) Party has invited the world to watch it build just such a system (although its leaders insist on the term “conservative democracy”). The early years of AK Party government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looked promising, as the economy grew, negotiations with Kurdish separatists progressed, and Turkey even moved toward membership in the European Union. The AK Party fairly won several elections.

The unraveling began in 2013 with a crackdown on protests, and in 2014 it continued with corruption charges against Erdoğan allies, media censorship, politicization of the judiciary, and arrests of political rivals. Elected President in August after twelve years as Prime Minister, Erdoğan has made clear his determination to expand the powers of that office.

Then there is Egypt. Its stirring 2011 revolution ousted the authoritarian secular regime of Hosni Mubarak, and free elections in 2012 produced an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and an Islamist majority in parliament. Openly admiring of the Turkish model, the new Egypt was poised to exemplify an Arab Islamic democracy.

But in November 2012 Morsi assumed extraordinary powers. Mounting public protests against Morsi’s power grab were followed by his ouster by Egypt’s military in July 2013, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In 2014 al-Sisi ran nearly unopposed for President, and while in office he has suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood and all other dissenters. Egypt appears where it was before 2011, only with a different former army general in charge.

Turkey’s Erdoğan has bested his opponents; Egypt’s Morsi was destroyed by his. But in both countries the experiment with Islamic democracy has failed. Each elected leader confronted powerful elites and large segments of the public who did not trust him to remain a democrat. Relations deteriorated, factions polarized, and both countries are settling into sultanism.

These depressing stories are not only about Turkey and Egypt. They are about the future of Islamic democracy itself. For nearly a century the entire Middle East has been passing through a legitimacy crisis, or a struggle over the best way to order society. The West and other regions have passed through legitimacy crises of their own in past centuries – most recently, the twentieth-century struggle between communism and liberal democracy. Prolonged spasms like these scramble political loyalties and generate unrest, revolution, and foreign interventions.

In the Muslims’ current crisis the original contenders in the struggle were secularism, pioneered by Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic; and Islamism, formulated by thinkers such as the Sunni Hassan al-Banna and the Shia Ruhollah Khomeini. Many Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, journalists, and politicians lately have touted Islamic democracy as a hybrid solution to this long struggle.

Western history shows that long international ideological contests are played out in the policies and performances of real countries. And they end only when a large, influential state that exemplifies one contending ideology manifestly outperforms large states exemplifying the alternative ideologies.

Consider the Cold War, a struggle between the liberal democracy and communism that played out in the competition between the United States and Soviet Union. By the 1980s America’s economic, technological, and military superiority was clear. Societal elites the world over concluded that communism did not work after all. Country after country abandoned state socialism, and liberal democracy enjoyed a period of predominance over much of the globe.

In 2011 and 2012 it appeared that the Middle East was heading for a similar resolution, with Turkey showing the superiority of Islamic democracy, Egypt following its example, and elites in neighboring societies adopting this new hybrid regime as the wave of the future. As 2015 begins, things look nearly the opposite. Tunisia, which recently held fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power, provides some hope. But if history is a good guide, Tunisia is too small and peripheral to be an exemplar or inspire imitation.

We can continue to argue over whether the retreat of Islamic democracy was inevitable or caused by other factors. We can argue over whether Islamic democracy’s time has passed, or not yet arrived. What is clear is that the Middle East’s legitimacy crisis continues, with an end no longer in sight.

John M. Owen IV is Professor of Politics, and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, at the University of Virginia and author of CONFRONTING POLITICAL ISLAM.

#NewBooks released February 9, 2015

bookjacket Eating People Is Wrong, and Other Essays on Famine, Its Past, and Its Future
Cormac Ó Gráda“Cormac Ó Gráda has written a beautiful book about a painful and difficult subject, famines. In these five essays, he shows how combining the skills and common sense of the economist with the subtlety and sensitivity of the historian can produce fascinating and deep insights into a topic that few people today think about but that historians and observers of the developing world cannot ignore.” –Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University

 

 

bookjacket

Making War at Fort Hood:
Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community

Kenneth T. MacLeish

“MacLeish writes eloquently….[T]his portrait of Army life on American turf is a welcome change of pace from the recent surge of battle-focused narratives.” –Publishers Weekly

 

bookjacket

The Medea Hypothesis:
Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

Peter Ward

“Ward holds the Gaia Hypothesis, and the thinking behind it, responsible for encouraging a set of fairy-tale assumptions about the eart, and he’d like his new book, due out this spring, to help uncture them. He hopes not only to shake the philosophical underpinnings of environmentalism, but to reshape our understanding of our relationship with nature, and of life’s ultimate sustainability on this planet and beyond.” –Drake Bennett, Boston Globe

 

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No Joke:
Making Jewish Humo
r
Ruth R. Wisse

“[S]ubtle and provocative…” –Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review

 

bookjacket One Day in the Life of the English Language:
A Microcosmic Usage Handbook

Frank L. Cioffi

One Day in the Life of the English Language is a welcome departure from the vast majority of grammar handbooks. Cioffi suggests that instead of memorizing tons of rules about sentence structure, students should internalize how sentences work–and with the motivation he gives, students have the incentive to want to write well. I truly love this book.” –Elizabethada A. Wright, University of Minnesota

 

bookjacket Partial Differential Equations:
An Introduction to Theory and Applications

Michael Shearer & Rachel Levy

“The writing style of this book is accessible, clear, and student friendly. It is approachable, with plenty of motivation for new students, and integrates nonlinear PDEs throughout. Shearer and Levy are familiar with contemporary research in applied PDEs and have made an excellent section of topics to introduce the field.” –John K. Hunter, University of California, Davis

 

bookjacket A Pocket Guide to Sharks of the World
David A. Ebert, Sarah Fowler & Marc Dando

 

 

Q&A with Robyn Muncy, author of Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America

Princeton University Press sits down with Robyn Muncy, author of Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America, to talk about how the book was created.

 

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Why did you write Relentless Reformer?

RM: I wrote the biography of Josephine Roche because from the moment I first encountered her, she knocked my historical socks off. She was at every turn doing things that flew in the face of historians’ expectations. She was a vice cop in the 1910s, a pro-labor coal mine owner in the 1920s, a gubernatorial candidate in the early 1930s, and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the New Deal government. As the second-highest ranking woman in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, she started the conversation that Americans are still having about the federal role in health care. This was a woman to be reckoned with—and yet historians knew virtually nothing of her. Having “discovered” her, I had to tell her story.

As it turned out, Roche’s life also illuminated many of the grand themes of twentieth-century U.S. history. She helps us understand how women could have taken great strides toward equality with men and yet remained unequal. She helps us understand how, during the post-World War II era, Americans achieved the greatest level of economic equality in all of U.S. history. She helps us understand the values, perspectives, hopes, and dreams that connected the early twentieth century with the 1960s. Not bad for a single life.

Describe your writing process.

RM: My writing process is chaotic and inefficient, jubilant and suspenseful. The reason is that I figure out what I think about an issue or event through the writing process itself. I envy writers who can order their thoughts and complete their analyses before putting a metaphorical pen to paper. I, unfortunately, have to propel that pen over page after page to come up with my analysis in the first place. Although messier than I’d prefer, my process is also wondrous because it produces revelations every day. As I write, connections among events and trends come into view; reasons for behavior emerge; and big ruptures take me by surprise. As I wrote about Roche’s experiences in the 1940s, for instance, I wondered what I would think by the end: would she be the same sort of progressive in 1950 as in 1940, or would the war and subsequent anti-communist crusade transform her—and her progressive cohort—into something new, something I had to concede was dramatically different from the progressive she had been for so many decades previous? I just didn’t know what I’d think until I’d written my way through that tumultuous period of Roche’s life.

What was the biggest challenge involved with bringing this book to life?

RM: The biggest challenge in writing this book was keeping it short enough that someone might actually read it. Roche’s life is so rich and interesting, her thinking and writing so moving that I wanted to share everything I learned about her and everything that her life had taught me.

Especially hard to excise were dramatic, suggestive, or poignant scenes from Roche’s life. I considered laying out, for instance, evidence of a possible romance between Roche and her first political mentor, juvenile court judge Benjamin Lindsey. In the end, the evidence was thin enough that I decided it might seem more like historical gossip than anything else, but including it was very tempting. I also longed to narrate the hair-raising story of a pregnant teenager in Roche’s case load at Denver’s juvenile court, from whose parents Roche had to beg for consent to a caesarian section when their daughter went into convulsions during labor. The begging spanned a long, harrowing day and ultimately involved the parents’ neighbors, clergy, and physicians. Baby and mother were saved in the end, but the story vividly embodied the tensions among familial rights, state power, and individual freedom. Many an episode like these wound up on the cutting room floor.

How did you come up with the jacket?

RM: The design of the book jacket is a brilliant pun, for which I thank the ingenious designer, Chris Ferrante. As the book was going to press, Princeton asked me to share ideas for the cover. I responded that the cover should feature a photo of Roche, of course, and that I wanted her associated with POWER. I honestly put the word “power” all in caps. Since she was a coal magnate, I suggested, maybe we could include a coal tipple on the cover, or, because she was a Treasury official, maybe a shot of the colossal and classical Treasury Building in D.C. Either of these would associate Roche with a kind of power—corporate or governmental. Beyond that, I mused that I liked a New Deal aesthetic, which would place Roche in the decade of her greatest visibility and influence.

Chris took all of these ideas to heart. He super-imposed Roche’s image on the red, white, and blue design of a New Deal poster that had originally advertised the Rural Electrification Administration, that is, a poster that had promoted electrical power. Roche was thus associated with POWER, for sure, and with the New Deal as well. It was the perfect design.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

RM: Most obviously, Relentless Reformer restores Josephine Roche to history and explains how such an important woman, who was a political celebrity in the 1930s, could have been lost to history thereafter. Because of this, I consider the book an act of gender justice.

Beyond that, the book offers insight and inspiration to anyone concerned about economic inequality in the twenty-first century as it analyzes a persistent and effective campaign to diminish similar inequalities between the late nineteenth century and the 1970s.

What are you reading right now?

RM: At bedtime, I read novels rather than history, and I have just finished the latest book in Alan Bradley’s mystery series, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. I love Bradley’s 12-year old sleuth, Flavia de Luce, who has a soaring spirit, brilliant wit, and passion for chemistry. She also has a habit of taking to the 1950’s English countryside on her trusty bike, Gladys. It’s hard to resist a detective who names her bike Gladys.

I’m drawn to detective fiction because it is so much like history: the detective begins with some kind of puzzle and must gather clues from the past to piece together a story so compelling that it explains the crime and reveals the culprit. Historians often follow a similar path.

As for history, I am reading a terrific dissertation by Chantel Rodriguez, “Health on the Line: The Politics of Citizenship and the Railroad Bracero Program of World War II.” In it, Rodriguez analyzes the experiences of Mexican guest workers who came to the U.S. to repair railroad tracks during the Second World War. She finds that, because of the health guarantees in the Mexican Constitution of 1917, these guest workers expected railroad companies and the U.S. government to protect their health while they worked in the U.S. Struggles of these workers to achieve what they perceived as their “health rights” sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed, and in both cases, their experiences reveal the complex landscape on which transnational workers still labor. This work edges us toward a new conception of citizenship and raises fresh questions about the trajectory of health rights in the United States.

Read the introduction to Relentless Reformer, here.


 

bookjacket

Relentless Reformer:
Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America

Robyn Muncy

#NewBooks released February 2, 2015

 

bookjacket The Antarctic Dive Guide
Fully Revised and Updated Third edition

Lisa Eareckson Kelley

The Antarctic Dive Guide is the first and only dive guide to the seventh continent, until recently the exclusive realm of scientific and military divers. Today, however, the icy waters of Antarctica have become the extreme destination for recreational divers wishing to explore beyond the conventional and observe the strange marine life that abounds below the surface. This book is packed with information about the history of diving in Antarctica and its wildlife, and features stunning underwater photography.

 

bookjacket The Birth of Politics:
Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter

Melissa Lane

“The political ideas of the ancients still endure–and still propel us into debate and even more vigorous conflict…[T]he author successfully illuminates the political ideas that still perplex and divide us.” –Kirkus Reviews

 

bookjacket Climate Shock:
The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet

Gernot Wagner & Martin L. Weitzman

“A remarkable book on climate change, Climate Shock is deeply insightful, challenging, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and sheer fun to read. It will help you to think clearly and incisively about one of the most important issues of our generation.” –Jeffery Sachs, author of The Price of Civilization

 

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Erased:
Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine

Omer Bartov

“Bartov tells us in Erased…that his tour was prompted by a wish to rediscover the Jewish world his mother had known as a child and to establish how the region’s Jews had died. But as his inquiry proceeds, its focus changed. Instead of adding to the vast corpus of Holocaust literature or celebrating the hayday of Galician Jewry, he has produced a study of collective denial and the means by which embarrassing facts about the past can be expunged from local memory. Bartov’s account of his experiences in the field makes a disturbing story.” –Phillip Longworth, Times Literary Supplement

 

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The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis
Ben S. Bernanke

“Anyone interested in a primer on recent financial history will likely find Bernake’s book to be worthwhile reading.” –Publishers Weekly

 

bookjacket From England to France:
Felony and Exile in the High Middle Ages

William Chester Jordan

“Jordan’s book is a thoroughly humane work of scholarship, chock full of vivid details and engaging stories that not only illustrate the central place of abjuration in High Medieval judicial practices, but also consistently reveal the social and emotional impact on individuals and communities of what was on its face an act of mercy, a mitigation of punishment. Jordan reminds us of the lives behind the laws.” –Adam J. Kosto, Columbia University

 

bookjacket Leaving the Jewish Fold:
Conversion and Radical Assimilation in Modern Jewish History

Todd M. Endelman

“Through his broad-ranging exploration of radical assimilation and conversion away from Judaism in the modern Occident over the past three centuries, Endelman examines a topic that other Jewish historians have ignored. In so doing, Endelman provides a complete portrait of how Jews respond to the challenges first brought on by Emancipation and Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. His magisterial work will richly reward students of Jewish history and multiculturalism, as well as students of modern culture.” –David Ellenson, chancellor, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

 

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On Sacrifice
Moshe Halbertal

“This is a brilliant book.” –Robert A. Segal, Times Higher Education

 

bookjacket The Org:
The Underlying Logic of the Office

Updated edition
Ray Fisman & Tim SullivanWith a new preface by the authors

“Compelling…The Org aims to explain why organizations–be they private companies or government agencies–work the way they do.” –Eduardo Porter, New York Times

 

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Paths Out of Dixie:
The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep South, 1944-1972

Robert Mickey

“In this remarkable book, Mickey focuses on Southern politics after the great public reversal of black disenfranchisement–and boldly compares the politics to authoritarianism. He grounds his compelling claims and narratives in an exceptionally confident handling of evidence, resulting in a major milestone in American political science. This vivid and profoundly illuminating book is certain to change views not just of Southern politics, but of the country we have been–and the national democracy we have become.” –Rick Valelly, Swarthmore College

 

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The Price of Rights:
Regulating International Labor Migration

Martin Ruhs

“This book lays down some challenging ideas on how we should think about the rights of migrants and needs to be read by everyone concerned with these issues.” –Don Flynn, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network

 

bookjacket Too Hot to Handle:
A Global History of Sex Education

Jonathan Zimmerman

“Using extensive research backed by an impressive notes section, Zimmerman (Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century, 2009, etc.) untangles the complex history of how and why sex education was first introduced as a specific subject to be taught in schools and its subsequent rise and fall as a teachable course over the past 100 years.” –Kirkus

 

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Would You Kill the Fat Man?
The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong

David Edmonds

“A lucid account of a famous thought experiment in moral philosophy.” –Editors’ Choice, New York Times Book Review

 

Q&A with Michael Harris, author of Mathematics without Apologies

What do pure mathematicians do, and why do they do it? Looking beyond the conventional answers—for the sake of truth, beauty, and practical applications—Michael Harris offers an eclectic panorama of the lives and values and hopes and fears of mathematicians in the twenty-first century, assembling material from a startlingly diverse assortment of scholarly, journalistic, and pop culture sources.

Princeton University Press catches up with Michael Harris, author of Mathematics without Apologies, to talk about the culture of math and what writing has to do with the pace of innovation.

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PUP: What is the book about? 

MH: The preface claims the book is “about how hard it is to write a book about mathematics.” This becomes less self-referential and paradoxical if the sentence is completed: “… without introducing distortions that transform the book into one about certain conventional images of mathematics.” One thing I had to learn when I started trying to explain what it means to be a mathematician was that the point of an  activity like mathematics doesn’t speak for itself through the products of the activity. If you try to find a simple definition of mathematics you’ll see it’s not so easy. As a first approximation we might say that “mathematics is what mathematicians do, plus the stories that are told about that.” The book is then about mathematics in that sense, with an emphasis on the stories, and not only the conventional ones, nor only the stories told by mathematicians.

Why did you write this book?

MH: For a long time I have been hoping to see a book about mathematics, for the non-specialist public, that broke with stereotypes and clichés and a predictable stock of references, and instead reflected the values to which mathematicians refer when we talk to one another. At the same time, I hoped the book, while not being a historical study, would at least acknowledge that these values have a history, and would take seriously the idea that mathematics also belongs to cultural history, by exploring the roots of some of the notions and habits of thought that mathematicians take for granted, using the tools of cultural analysis—but without adopting the elevated tone that is too common in this kind of exercise.

I have written a few book reviews and articles with these hopes in mind, waiting for someone to take the hint. In recent years several mathematicians have made a valiant effort to challenge stereotypes by writing about mathematics as a living activity, and a few writers have examined mathematics through the lens of cultural criticism; but it’s still sadly the case that when mathematicians write the word “culture” the reader can nearly always expect a dose of uplift. Soon enough I realized I would have to write the book myself.

There’s a more selfish reason as well:  I thought it would be prudent to develop a second skill, to prepare for the dire moment when the pace of  new developments in my mathematical specialty began to outstrip my ability to keep up with them, and I would need to find a different way to keep my brain occupied. Writing was the only plausible option. Strangely enough, when I reached the end of the book I found I could still function reasonably well as a mathematician, even though the pace of innovation in my field has suddenly accelerated—but that’s another story.

The text refers to any number of controversies and polemics, historical or contemporary. But you don’t come down clearly in favor of a solid position on anything. Is this a “postmodern” book?

MH: I am certainly opinionated about a great many things, and it is my considered opinion that most of the sharpest controversies—like platonism vs. nominalism, or positions on what Wigner called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”—miss the features that make it really interesting to be a mathematician. To avoid distracting the reader with pointless polemics, I consciously chose to present those features with a minimum of ideological adornment, and to allude to controversies only obliquely. I’m told there’s a risk that some will find it disorienting to read a book about mathematics that doesn’t tell them what to think; but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

What’s with all the endnotes?

MH: Two of the blurbs describe the author as “erudite,” which is a kind thing to write but is unfortunately far from the truth.  It’s amazing how easy the internet has made it to look well-read; it helps to think of asking questions different from the ones that are usually asked. The endnotes and the extensive bibliography are there, in the first place, to convince the reader, that mathematics really does deal intimately with an extraordinarily varied range of experience. I hope in particular that genuine scholars can use this material to expand their sense of what’s relevant in writing about mathematics.

In the second place, the notes are there to convince the reader that I didn’t make things up. But please don’t get the impression that I actually read more than a few pages of most of the references quoted.

The notes are also a convenient hiding place for the author’s true opinions. But what do they matter?

Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?

MH: Each chapter started with a clear-cut theme, though some of them led me in unexpected directions. Chapter 8, for example, was supposed to be an exploration of why it’s so important for mathematics to appear to be serious, and specifically why so much is written about the supposed affinity between mathematics and classical music. The “trickster” theme was supposed to serve as an indirect way of introducing the question of mathematical seriousness. But mathematical “tricks” turned out to have such a rich and unfamiliar history that they tricked themselves into the chapter’s main theme.

Each chapter’s theme evolved as I collected relevant material. Some of the material organized itself into a plausible narrative outline. Then the actual writing began.   The individual paragraphs were easy enough to complete, but assembling them in a coherent order often enough presented an impossible mathematical problem: I need to talk about B before I can explain C, and B is incomprehensible until I talk about A; but it makes no sense to bring up A without having already mentioned C. Resolving this kind of problem is what took up most of the time between when I started writing in early 2011 and when I submitted a completed manuscript three years later. Usually it was only possible in a state of total isolation, which I could only maintain for a few days at most.

At the end I found myself discarding enough material for at least two books the same length. But there’s no reason to write them, because they would say the same thing!

Who do you see as the audience for this book?

MH: Anyone who is willing to take seriously the idea that mathematics deserves respect, not only because it can be used to provide efficient solutions to practical problems (though that is eminently worthy of respect), but also as a living community, a cultural form, an autonomous domain of experience.

Check out the introduction to Mathematics without Apologies here. The book was recently reviewed at Library Journal and Peter Woit’s Not Even Wrong.

Q&A with the authors of The Fascinating World of Graph Theory

The fascinating world of graph theory goes back several centuries and revolves around the study of graphs—mathematical structures showing relations between objects. With applications in biology, computer science, transportation science, and other areas, graph theory encompasses some of the most beautiful formulas in mathematics—and some of its most famous problems. For example, what is the shortest route for a traveling salesman seeking to visit a number of cities in one trip? What is the least number of colors needed to fill in any map so that neighboring regions are always colored differently?

Princeton University Press catches up with Arthur Benjamin, Gary Chartrand, and Ping Zhang, authors of The Fascinating World of Graph Theory, to discuss just what it is that makes graph theory so fascinating.

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PUP: What is graph theory?

AB, GC & PZ: Graph theory is the study of objects, some pairs of which are related in some manner. Since there are no restrictions on what the objects might be and no restrictions on how two objects might be related, applications of graph theory are only limited by one’s imagination.

PUP: Why is graph theory important?

AB, GC & PZ: There are problems and questions that occur in a wide variety of settings that can be visualized with the aid of graphs and which can often be understood more clearly. Understanding the theoretical nature of graph theory can, in many instances, lead us to solutions of these problems and answers to these questions.

PUP: Where do you see graph theory in action in the real world?

AB, GC & PZ: Because graph theory has been shown to be so useful with problems in transportation, communication, chemistry, computer science, decision-making, games and puzzles, among other things, there are few aspects of life where graphs do not enter in.

PUP: Who needs to understand graph theory? And why does understanding the theoretical underpinnings help us?

AB, GC & PZ: Whether it’s mathematics or some other scholarly endeavor, a key element to understanding is not only becoming aware of what others have accomplished but developing a knack of being curious and asking relevant questions. Because graph theory has applications in so many areas, it is an ideal area within mathematics to become familiar with.

PUP: Why did you write this book?

AB, GC & PZ: There have been numerous reports of American students doing poorly in mathematics in recent years. Furthermore, we believe that mathematics has acquired an under-served reputation of being boring and difficult. While gaining a good understanding of any subject requires effort, we know that many aspects of mathematics are interesting. Since we felt it was likely that many people are not familiar with graph theory, we decided to illustrate how interesting and useful mathematics can be by writing a book on graph theory with this goal in mind. While we wanted to include some real mathematics, showing how certain facts can be verified, we primarily wanted to show where mathematics comes from, discussing some of the people responsible for this, and how mathematics can assist us, often in many unexpected and fascinating ways.

Read the preface of The Fascinating World of Graph Theory here!

Andrew Hodges honored with Scripter Award

 

Andrew Hodges, author of ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA

Andrew Hodges, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma

Congratulations to PUP author Andrew Hodges, who along with The Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore, has been awarded the USC Libraries Scripter Award. Hodges’s book, Alan Turing: The Enigma, was used as the basis for the screenplay of the Oscar-nominated film.

Calling bookworms and movie-goers alike — this award has something for all of you. Established in 1988, the USC Libraries Scripter Award is an honor that recognizes the best adaptation of word to film. The award is given to both the author and the screenwriter.

Alan Turing: The Enigma — a New York Times–bestselling biography of the founder of computer science — is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. Capturing both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life, Andrew Hodges tells how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936 — the concept of a universal machine — laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design.

The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing’s leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. Turing’s work on this is depicted in The Imitation Game, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME © 2014 THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME © 2014 The Weinstein Company

At the same time, Alan Turing: The Enigma is the tragic account of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program — all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime. Alan Turing: The Enigma is a gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution.

Check out Chapter 1 of Alan Turing: The Enigma for yourself here.

The other four finalists for the Scripter award included:

  • Gillian Flynn, author and screenwriter of Gone Girl
  • Novelist Thomas Pynchon and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice
  • Jane Hawking, author of Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, and screenwriter Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything
  • Screenwriter Nick Hornby for Wild, adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail