PUP News of the World, April 4, 2014

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


k10074Interested in a seemingly simple philosophical quandary? A runaway train is racing toward five men who are tied to the track. Unless the train is stopped, it will inevitably kill all five men. You are standing on a footbridge looking down on the unfolding disaster. However, a fat man, a stranger, is standing next to you: if you push him off the bridge, he will topple onto the line and, although he will die, his chunky body will stop the train, saving five lives. Would you kill the fat man?

The question may seem bizarre. But it’s one variation of a puzzle that has baffled moral philosophers for almost half a century and that more recently has come to preoccupy neuroscientists, psychologists, and other thinkers as well. In Would You Kill the Fat Man?, David Edmonds, coauthor of the best-selling Wittgenstein’s Poker, tells the riveting story of why and how philosophers have struggled with this ethical dilemma, sometimes called the trolley problem. In the process, he provides an entertaining and informative tour through the history of moral philosophy. Most people feel it’s wrong to kill the fat man. But why? After all, in taking one life you could save five. As Edmonds shows, answering the question is far more complex–and important–than it first appears. In fact, how we answer it tells us a great deal about right and wrong.

The New York Review of Books recently reviewed Edmonds’ book.  Reviewer Cass Sunstein said of the book: “[E]legant, lucid, and frequently funny….Edmonds has written an entertaining, clear-headed, and fair-minded book.”

Want to start reading this funny yet complex book? Find Chapter 1 here.


k10120Nothing speaks more of an individual’s interest in a particular field than a life dedicated to its study, and David Roy is the prime example. Roy has been teaching Chinese literature since the 1960’s and after over a decade of work translating, has complete the fifth and final volume in one of the most famous and important novels in Chinese literature. The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei is an anonymous sixteenth-century work that focuses on the domestic life of Hsi-men Ch’ing, a corrupt, upwardly mobile merchant in a provincial town, who maintains a harem of six wives and concubines. The novel, known primarily for its erotic realism, is also a landmark in the development of the narrative art form–not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context.

With the possible exception of The Tale of Genji (ca. 1010) and Don Quixote (1605, 1615), there is no earlier work of prose fiction of equal sophistication in world literature. Although its importance in the history of Chinese narrative has long been recognized, the technical virtuosity of the author, which is more reminiscent of the Dickens of Bleak House, the Joyce of Ulysses, or the Nabokov of Lolita than anything in earlier Chinese fiction, has not yet received adequate recognition. This is partly because all of the existing European translations are either abridged or based on an inferior recension of the text. This complete and annotated translation aims to faithfully represent and elucidate all the rhetorical features of the original in its most authentic form and thereby enable the Western reader to appreciate this Chinese masterpiece at its true worth.

With a project as compelling and committed as translating The Plum in the Golden Vase, it is helpful to better understand the man who has made it all possible. Author David Roy was recently interviewed by the South China Morning Post. Check out the interview here.

Start reading from this historic work with Chapter 1 of the final volume here.


k10185Interested in a bit of ancient history? 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed tells of marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?

In this major new account of the causes of this “First Dark Ages,” Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.

A review of 1177 B.C. was recently featured in The New York Post.

“In his new book, archaeologist Eric H. Cline introduces us to a past world with eerie resonance for modern times….However stark a bellwether this represents for us, we can at least take comfort in knowing that should our society collapse, chances are good that something fascinating will emerge in its place.“—Larry Getlen, The New York Post

Author Eric Cline was also interviewed for Newstalk Radio’s Moncrieff Show in Ireland. Listen to the interview below.


son also risesLast week, we took a look at The Son Also Rises, an in depth explanation of just how much ancestry does affect our social status.  In the book, author Gregory Clark uses a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–to reveal that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies.

The Son Also Rises has since been reviewed in the Literary Review by Eric Kaufmann.

“Who should you marry if you want to win at the game of life? Gregory Clark, […]  offers some answers in his fascinating new book, The Son Also Rises.” -Eric Kaufmann, Literary Review

Want to start reading The Son Also Rises? Find the Introduction to the book here.

PUP News of the World, March 28, 2014

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


untranslatablesHow many times do we search for the perfect word for what we are trying to express? Sometimes, this goal is made entirely unattainable by linguistic differences between languages. In Dictionary of Untranslatables, Barbara Cassin compiles an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another. Drawn from more than a dozen languages, terms such as Dasein (German), pravda (Russian), saudade (Portuguese), and stato (Italian) are thoroughly examined in all their cross-linguistic and cross-cultural complexities. Spanning the classical, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, these are terms that influence thinking across the humanities. The entries, written by more than 150 distinguished scholars, describe the origins and meanings of each term, the history and context of its usage, its translations into other languages, and its use in notable texts.

Dictionary of Untranslatables was recently reviewed by the South China Morning Post where it received a five star review. The book has also been featured in Dublin Review of Books, as well as in Independent.

“[G]reat success….By preserving the specificity of words in their source languages, but then proceeding though so many near-synonyms in other tongues, the Dictionary bridges this ideological divide, providing a different way of understanding what it is to be in, and between, languages.”—Tom Bunstead, Independent

Check out this innovative new book today! Read the Preface and Introduction here.


strategicWith China a steadily rising world power, there are many theories as to the future of U.S.-China relations discussed; some theories end in extreme conflict, and others in strong cooperation and interdependence.  In Strategic Reassurance and Resolve, James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon stake out a third, less deterministic position. They argue that there are powerful domestic and international factors, especially in the military and security realms, which could well push the bilateral relationship toward an arms race and confrontation, even though both sides will be far worse off if such a future comes to pass. They contend that this pessimistic scenario can be confidently avoided only if China and the United States adopt deliberate policies designed to address the security dilemma that besets the relationship between a rising and an established power. The authors propose a set of policy proposals to achieve a sustainable, relatively cooperative relationship between the two nations, based on the concept of providing mutual strategic reassurance in such key areas as nuclear weapons and missile defense, space and cyber operations, and military basing and deployments, while also demonstrating strategic resolve to protect vital national interests, including, in the case of the United States, its commitments to regional allies.

Strategic Reassurance and Resolve was reviewed in Publishers Weekly, which said,

 “[T]he points Steinberg and O’Hanlon make deserve the attention of all readers interested in the connection between U.S. and China going forward.”― Publishers Weekly

With subject matter related to the future of our country and its foreign relations, this book is a must read for anyone interested in international politics and the U.S. relationship with China.


son also rises We like to take pride in the “American Dream” and accomplishing goals our family, and ancestors before them, have never accomplished. But how much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies. Challenging popular assumptions about mobility and revealing the deeply entrenched force of inherited advantage, The Son Also Rises is sure to prompt intense debate for years to come.

Author Gregory Clark recently had an interview with Marketplace found here.The Son Also Rises was also featured in The Globe & Mail, where it was referred to as “Deeply challenging….” by reviewer Margaret Wente.

Get your hands on a copy of this intriguing book now and start reading the Introduction here.


fragile by design Economic crises seem to be a more and more regular occurrence, but how does politics effect the severity and frequency of these economic problems? Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

Fragile by Design was recently reviewed in the Financial Times, where it was praised for offering necessary explanation of the way the economy operates in relation to politics.

“ One reason why economists did not see the financial crisis coming is that the models most macro and financial economists deal in are free of politics. Fragile by Design offers a much-needed supplement.”-Martin Sandbu, Financial Times

Want to better understand the complex relationship between economics and politics? Begin reading Chapter 1 of Fragile by Design here.


dollar trap Speaking of economic crises, the importance  of the U.S. dollar has been called into question in recent years. How is it that a currency which seems to fluctuate so frequently is still an international standard in many regards.  The near collapse of the U.S. financial system in 2008-2009, political paralysis that has blocked effective policymaking, and emerging competitors such as the Chinese renminbi have heightened speculation about the dollar’s looming displacement as the main reserve currency. The Dollar Trap powerfully argues, the financial crisis, a dysfunctional international monetary system, and U.S. policies have paradoxically strengthened the dollar’s importance.

Eswar Prasad examines how the dollar came to have a central role in the world economy and demonstrates that it will remain the cornerstone of global finance for the foreseeable future. Marshaling a range of arguments and data, and drawing on the latest research, Prasad shows why it will be difficult to dislodge the dollar-centric system. With vast amounts of foreign financial capital locked up in dollar assets, including U.S. government securities, other countries now have a strong incentive to prevent a dollar crash.

The Dollar Trap author Eswar Prasad recently wrote an op-ed piece for the International New York Times further discussing the state of the U.S. dollar today and its persisting power.

Begin reading the Preface and Chapter 1 of The Dollar Trap now to learn more about where the U.S. dollar currently stands and how it has come to its current significance.

 

 

 

 

News of the World, March 7, 2014

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


While the unrest in Ukraine continues, experts on Russia are dusting off their interview materials. PUP author Angela Stent has seen her schedule fill up as Americans look for answers to the questions surrounding the status of Crimea and the relationship between the US and Russia. Stent is quoted in a recent New York Times article, where Jason Horowitz addresses the shortage of experts and scholars well-versed in all things Russia. Many in the field see the focus on other areas of the world, including Asia and the Middle East, as the reason for a drop-off in the US’s attention to Russia. Stent says:

When we’ve all retired, 10, 20 years down the road, I don’t know how many people will be left with this area of expertise. And we can’t assume that our relationship with Russia won’t suddenly command a lot of attention. Because as we can see, it does.

Stent’s recently-published book, The Limits of Partnership, reflects the unique perspective of an insider who is also recognized as a leading expert on this troubled relationship. Stent vividly describes how Clinton and Bush sought inroads with Russia and staked much on their personal ties to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin–only to leave office with relations at a low point–and how Barack Obama managed to restore ties only to see them undermined by a Putin regime resentful of American dominance and determined to restore Russia’s great power status. The book calls for a fundamental reassessment of the principles and practices that drive U.S.-Russian relations, and offers a path forward to meet the urgent challenges facing both countries.

Check out POLITICO’s Bookshelf blog list, which highlights The Limits of Partnership and other titles essential to understanding tomorrow’s headlines. To preview the book for yourself, read the introduction here.

Stent was recently interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s Newsroom, as well as on WBUR’s “On Point.”  View this interview on PBS Newshour:

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Decision time is almost here. For high school seniors applying to colleges and universities, the nervous email checks and trips to the mailbox are almost over. So for students and parents waiting on those last few coveted acceptance letters, have you ever wondered what makes up your odds? Besides SATs and GPAs, is there another way to predict which students will be accepted to which colleges? Gregory Clark has your answer. In his new book, The Son Also Rises, Clark explains why many common ideas about social mobility are incorrect. Clark studied the frequency of admission to Oxford and Cambridge, looking back to as early as 1170 (no online applications then, right?), and he found that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries.

Using this novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

The Son Also Rises was reviewed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, featured on the WSJ.com’s Japan RealTime blog, and mentioned in both the Sunday Times and the Financial Times. You can check out one of the many intriguing graphs from the book on Slate‘s Moneybox blog.

Looking for a break from re-reading the Times Higher Education‘s recent ranking of the world’s most reputable universities? (Shout out to our very own taking number seven. Go Princeton!) Check out the introduction here.

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Why are banking systems unstable in so many countries–but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. The banking systems of Mexico and Brazil have not only been crisis prone but have provided miniscule amounts of credit to business enterprises and households.

 

Analyzing the political and banking history of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil through several centuries, the new book by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber, Fragile by Design, demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.

 

Check out this recent interview, where Calomiris discusses with Prospect‘s Jonathan Derbyshire why “there’s no way to get politics out of the banking system.” Calomiris was also interviewed on CNBC, and he gave a presentation to the RSA, which you can view below. Fragile by Design was mentioned in the Evening Standard. Chapter One is available to view here.

 

Intrigued when you stumble upon an undeveloped disposable camera from circa 1998? We can do you one better — we’re talking 1870. Errol Fuller’s Lost Animals is a unique photographic record of extinction, presented by a world authority on vanished animals. Covering 28 extinct species, Lost Animals includes familiar examples like the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, and one of the last Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, photographed as it peers quizzically at the hat of one of the biologists who has just ringed it. But the book includes rare images as well, many never before published. Collected together here for the first time, these photographs provide a tangible link to animals that have now vanished forever, in a book that brings the past to life while delivering a warning for the future.

The book was recently featured in the Washington Post, where Nancy Szokan says:

Errol Fuller’s new book is a visual lament. Lost Animals is a handsome but sad record of animals that existed for millennia–long enough for photography to be invented–but have now disappeared from the face of the Earth. The images are accompanied by short, evocative texts about the creatures and the naturalists who recorded their existence.

Interested in a preview of the photos? The New York Times‘ 6th Floor blog recently ran an online slideshow of the photos. The writers there remark:

Erroll Fuller’s Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record is a sad and moving collection of passenger pigeons, heath hens, Tasmanian tigers and other vanished animals….[A] blurry glimpse is still a worthy glimpse when it comes to seeing a number of species in their last moments.”