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.

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.”