PUP News of the World: April 11, 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!


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DELPHI

Our first stop in this week’s News of the World takes us around the world from our Princeton and Oxford offices. It also takes us back a bit — we’re talking a jump back to A.D.

The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the “omphalos”–the “center” or “navel”–of the ancient world for more than 1000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi’s oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods in gold, ivory, bronze, marble, and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions. This book provides the first comprehensive narrative history of this extraordinary sanctuary and city, from its founding to its modern rediscovery, to show more clearly than ever before why Delphi was one of the most important places in the ancient world for so long.

Michael Scott’s richly illustrated Delphi covers the whole history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship with a wide variety of religious practices, to the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies.

Delphi was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

“Judicious, measured and thorough…Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains—and what we can only wish was still to be seen.”   – Brendan Boyle

Read Delphi‘s prologue and Chapter One here.

 FRAGILE BY DESIGN

The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840. In contrast, the United States’ northern neighbors in Canada haven’t had one. How can that be?

PUP’s Fragile by Design examines the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Authors 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.

This title was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review:

“Brilliant….[I]f you are looking for a rich history of banking over the last couple of centuries and the role played by politics in that evolution, there is no better study. It deserves to become a classic.”   — Liaquat Ahamed

Fragile by Design was also mentioned in another New York Times Book Review article. Read Chapter One of the book here.

 

  THE GREAT ESCAPE

The inequality debate has gained new momentum in the US in recent months. However, PUP author Angus Deaton takes this conversation to a broader level as he discusses the remarkable story of how, starting 250 years ago, some parts of the world began to experience sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today’s hugely unequal world.

The world is a better place than it used to be. People are wealthier and healthier, and live longer lives. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many have left gaping inequalities between people and between nations. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and he addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts–including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions–that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape.

Deaton’s recent book, The Great Escape, was reviewed this week by Bill Gates on his blog, Gates Notes:

“If you want to learn about why human welfare overall has gone up so much over time, you should read The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality”     – Bill Gates

 Check out the video below, and preview the introduction here

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TAMBORA

When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years.

Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

Tambora is reviewed in the Asian Review of Books. Wood also contributes a piece to The Conversation. Check out Chapter One here.

THE SOUL OF THE WORLD

We are excited to report that a PUP book was listed as the fourth best-selling book at the Oxford Literary Festival. Robert Scruton’s The Soul of the World defends the experience of the sacred against today’s fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive–and to understand what we are–is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things.

Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life–and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?

View Chapter One 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.”

 

PUP News of the World, February 21, 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!


Even though this winter may feel like an eternity, we can still begin preparing for all the fun activities spring has to offer, like bird watching. Rare Birds of North America is the first comprehensive illustrated guide to the vagrant birds that occur throughout the United States and Canada. Featuring 275 stunning color plates, this book covers 262 species originating from three very different regions–the Old World, the New World tropics, and the world’s oceans. It explains the causes of avian vagrancy and breaks down patterns of occurrence by region and season, enabling readers to see where, when, and why each species occurs in North America. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, taxonomy, age, sex, distribution, and status. This week, Parade ran a review of Rare Birds of North America. Want to preview the book? You can view a sample entry.


History is a tricky business. With so much happening all over the world every day, it becomes very easy to unintentionally downplay or overlook important events and natural disasters. One perfect example was the volcanic explosion on the island of Tambora in the East Indies. As volcanic explosions typically go, the explosion greatly  affected the environment and the lives of the island’s residents.  Gillen D’Arcy Wood, professor of English at the University of Illinois, does this disaster a great service by giving it the attention it deserves in his new book, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World.

Publishers Weekly’s recent starred review of Tambora said:

“The greatest volcanic eruption of modern times occurred in 1815 on the small island of Tambora in the East Indies. It spawned the most extreme weather in thousands of years. In what contemporaries described as the “year without a summer,” its immense ash cloud encircled and cooled the Earth. While historians have mostly ignored the decades of worldwide misery, starvation, and disease that followed, Wood (The Shock of the Real), professor of English at the University of Illinois, remedies this oversight, combining a scientific introduction to volcanism with a vivid account of the eruption’s cultural, political, and economic impact that persisted throughout the century.”

Interested in Tambora?  You can start reading the introduction here.

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The current state of the economy is always making news. People want to know how their country is surviving and thriving economically. In discussion of the economy, GDP almost always comes into play, but what is the real significance of this economic term.  Diane Coyle’s GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History traces the history of this artificial, abstract, complex, but exceedingly important statistic from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century precursors through its invention in the 1940s and its postwar golden age, and then through the Great Crash up to today. The reader learns why this standard measure of the size of a country’s economy was invented, how it has changed over the decades, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The book explains why even small changes in GDP can decide elections, influence major political decisions, and determine whether countries can keep borrowing or be thrown into recession. The book ends by making the case that GDP was a good measure for the twentieth century but is increasingly inappropriate for a twenty-first-century economy driven by innovation, services, and intangible goods.  Dianne Coyle recently wrote an articles for Foreign Affairs and VoxEU in which she explains the practical, or not so practical side of the GDP and elaborates on themes from GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. You can also read the introduction here.


Just as the economy as a whole is a critical portion of the news cycle, so are the banking systems that play a part in the economy. But 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. 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.

Influential economics blogger Arnold Kling recently reviewed Fragile by Design on his Askblog. Kling critiqued the content of the book from an economics perspective, but ultimately sang its praises with “Everyone, regardless of ideology, should read the book. It offers a lot of food for thought.”  In the review, Kling also referenced attending Russ Roberts’ Econtalk  live interview with the authors, Calomiris and Haber. Kling recommends, “You might look forward to listening–the authors are very articulate and they speak colorfully.”  You can listen to the Econtalk Live podcast here.

Charles W. Calomiris, along with colleague Allen H. Meltzer, recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal entitled “How Dodd-Frank Doubles Down on ‘Too Big to Fail”, in which he elaborates on a specific act which attempts to undo some of the damage from the 2008 financial crisis. Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.  Howard Davies of Times Higher Education also recently reviewed Fragile by Design, saying “Calomiris and Haber offer a thoughtful counter-argument to the current received wisdom.” You can find the full Times Higher Education review here.    Interested in reading more? Get a head start on Fragile by Design with Chapter 1 found here.

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Also recently reviewed for Times Higher Education was Charles L. Adler’s Wizards, Aliens and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction.  From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas–for instance, could Mr. Weasley’s flying car in the Harry Potter books really exist? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? Wizards, Aliens, and Starships delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy–such as time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle–and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena.  You can find the Times Higher Education review here and begin reading Chapter 1 of Wizards, Aliens and Starships here.


In last week’s PUP News of the World, we featured Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959 – 2002 which is the first collection of Williams’s popular essays and reviews, many of which appeared in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. In these pieces, Williams writes about a broad range of subjects, from philosophy and political philosophy to religion, science, the humanities, economics, socialism, feminism, and pornography.  Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959 – 2002 has since been reviewed in the Telegraph by Roger Scruton.

Scruton’s review says, “This rigorous collection of essays and reviews reveals the brilliant and critical mind of Bernard Williams … In these reviews and essays Williams achieves something that philosophy always promises but seldom delivers: a view from the perspective of reason, on a cultural landscape where reason is only one of the landmarks.

Read the Foreword to this wonderful collection now.

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