PUP News of the World — July 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!


now 7.11

BEAUTIFUL GAME THEORY

It’s finally here. After weeks of World Cup action, all eyes will be on Germany and Argentina on Sunday when the teams face off during the World Cup final. In a piece in the New York Times, John Tierney discusses the role of luck in the past weeks’ soccer match-ups. He writes:

I’ve been watching the World Cup with some frustrated American social scientists. When they see an underdog team triumph with a miraculous rebound or an undeserved penalty kick, they don’t jump up and scream “Goooaaalll!” They just shake their heads and mutter, “Measurement error.”

If you regard a soccer match as an experiment to determine which team is better, then it’s not much of an experiment. It involves hundreds of skillful moves and stratagems, yet each team averages only a dozen shots, and the outcome is decided by several quick and often random events. In most games, no more than three goals are scored, and the typical margin of victory is a single goal.

To a scientist, the measurements are too few to draw a statistically reliable conclusion about which team is more skilled. The score may instead be the result of measurement error, a.k.a. luck.

So what’s luck got to do with it? And what kind of measurements can social scientists apply to the “beautiful game”? Tierney quotes PUP author Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, who discusses why the second team to shoot in penalty shootouts is less likely to win the game by scoring more “GOOOOOAAAAAALS.” Looking to prep for Sunday? Read the full article for more on how much of an impact the pressure of going second can have. Luckily for us fans, the pressure is off. Regardless, we’ll be glued to our TV screens on Sunday.

For more from Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, take a look at his new book, BEAUTIFUL GAME THEORY: How Soccer Can Help Economics. This brilliant and entertaining book illuminates economics through the world’s most popular sport. He offers unique and often startling insights into game theory and microeconomics, covering topics such as mixed strategies, discrimination, incentives, and human preferences. He also looks at finance, experimental economics, behavioral economics, and neuroeconomics. Soccer provides rich data sets and environments that shed light on universal economic principles in interesting and useful ways. Preview the introduction to Beautiful Game Theory here.

MIRROR, MIRROR

From Tour de France near-misses to a viral EDM hit, the art of the selfie has people talking. But behind the Instagram filters and hashtags, is there a lesson about narcissism? PUP author Simon Blackburn discusses narcissism in a recent interview with the Irish Times:

When does self-esteem cross over into narcissism?

Simon Blackburn: “A modest degree of self-esteem is what Milton called a ‘pious and just honouring of ourselves’. It is no more than a decent self-respect. It can actually stand in the way of vanity, which is an undue concern for the admiration of others.

“The road to narcissism, or a fixated self-love, goes via conceit: if the vain person is too concerned with how he stands in the eyes of others, the conceited person has learned to ignore the others and just thrive on his own good opinion of himself. Narcissism is the fatal extreme of this.”

For more on the subject, check out the introduction of Blackburn’s book, MIRROR, MIRROR: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love. A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love–from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch. It considers today’s “me”-related obsessions, such as the “selfie,” plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish–let alone strike a balance–between good and bad forms of self-concern.

PHILOLOGY

Calling all liberal arts graduates! Can you describe what “philology is”? For those who can’t quite recall the definition (don’t worry), we bring you PUP author James Turner, whose new book, PHILOLOGY: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, has your answer. Many today do not recognize the word, but “philology” was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as religion, history, culture, art, archaeology, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. But around 1800, Turner explains, these interlinked philological and antiquarian studies began to fragment into distinct academic fields. These fissures resulted, within a century or so, in the new, independent “disciplines” that we now call the humanities. Yet the separation of these disciplines only obscured, rather than erased, their common features.

Philology is reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, and Tom Shippey says that the book “must be the most wide-ranging work of intellectual history for many years.” More from Shippey on philology below:

Its original meaning, “love of words,” is unhelpful. “Tough love” would be a better description: a critical attitude toward words, their roots and their meanings—one that admits no exceptions. It could well be said that a readiness to scrutinize anything, treating even the Bible “like any other book,” is still one of the distinctive marks of Western civilization, seen in every discipline, from literary criticism to theology, history to anthropology.

The first philologists, back in the pre-Christian era, took that attitude with Homer’s epics, which were already deeply venerated and formed the basis of young men’s education. But “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were centuries old by the time of the great librarians of Alexandria Eratosthenes and Zenodotus. The poems’ texts had been passed on first by word of mouth and then by scribes prone to error or deliberate meddling. The early philologists, then, compared different versions of texts, noted repetitions and struck out dubious lines, such as those added to cover up the non-participation of Athens in the Trojan War.

Well-meaning Americans cleaned up George Washington’s spelling and vulgar idioms; philological historians put them back again. Noah Webster’s 1828 “American Dictionary” piously traced etymologies back to the biblical language Aramaic: After Webster’s death a German philologist removed them. J.M. Kemble swallowed Suhm hook, line and sinker in his first 1833 edition of “Beowulf” but repudiated his mistake in a panic only four years later.

Check out the full review in the Wall Street Journal. The book was also reviewed in Books & Culture, where Timothy Laren writes:

“Sell all the books you have which purport to explain the nature of the academic disciplines and buy James Turner’s Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities. If you want to understand higher education in its current configuration of departments, divisions, and professional associations, I can commend no better book….Mind-invigoratingly entertaining.”

PUP News of the World

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Welcome to the next edition of our brand new series, PUP News of the World! Every week we will be posting a round-up of all of our most exciting national and international 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!


THE BEST OF THE BEST

As we near the end of 2013–where did the year go?–we’ve entered the season of “Best of” lists. Princeton University Press is excited to highlight just some of the most recent titles that have been featured as the best of the past year.

Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig start it off as THE BANKERS’ NEW CLOTHES is included in The WSJ Best Nonfiction of 2013″ roundup. What separates this title from the pack? “In a year of important books about the recent economic crisis, the most important one told us simply how to stop the next one,” says the WSJ. Interested in learning more? Check out chapter one.

Mike Tyson, whose new book was released earlier this fall, pointed to a PUP book as one of his favorites of 2013. THE QUOTABLE KIERKEGAARD, edited by Gordon Marino, is a “collection of awesome quotes from that great Danish philosopher,” Tyson says.

The English translation of THE PLUM IN THE GOLDEN VASE was finally completed when PUP released the fifth volume this fall. Tash Aw names David Tod Roy’s translation as one of his favorites of the year, saying that this last volume “completes the joyous rediscovery of a genuine masterpiece.” See the full entries for both Tyson and Aw here in the Wall Street Journal‘s “12 Months of Reading” article.

For the scientists in the bunch, EINSTEIN AND THE QUANTUM is another 2013 favorite. Science Friday’s Ira Flatow named the book as one of his favorites, and Jennifer Oullette picked it for her list on Cocktail Party Physics. Have that “Einstein curiosity” about this title? Hear more from author A. Douglas Stone on this Physics Central Podcast.

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings selects ITALO CALVINO: Letters as one of her “Best Books on Writing and Creativity 2013.” Popova called the book “an absolute treasure trove in its entirety — the most profound intersection of writing, philosophy, and literary voyeurism since Susan Sontag’s journals and the diary of Anaïs Nin.” PUP is releasing a paperback edition this spring.

To round out our bunch–or should we say batch–we turn to the beloved cookbook by Merry White, which was re-released in a 40th Anniversary Edition this fall. COOKING FOR CROWDS is named one of the Atlantic‘s “Best Food Books of 2013.” Illustrated by the New Yorker‘s Ed Koren, this charming book offers simple, step-by-step instructions for easy cooking and entertaining on a grand scale–from hors d’oeuvres to desserts. Corby Kummer says:

“Not just enormously charming but useful, full of sturdy recipes that can still seem mildly exotic no matter how much we flatter ourselves at the sophistication of our palates….This is more, that is, than an artifact of Brooklyn avant la lettre. It’s full of practical dishes and tricks you’ll call your own, like tossing fresh-roasted almonds in maple syrup to serve on ice cream.”

World News 12-18


THIS WEEK’S REVIEWS

Gurcharan Das discusses the state of India and the issues highlighted in AN UNCERTAIN GLORY in his recent Wall Street Journal review. Listen to this interview with Amartya Sen, who co-authored the book with Jean Dréze.

You can also hear an interview with Francisco Bethencourt, the author of RACISMS, as he spoke to The Forum this week. RACISMS is the first comprehensive history of racism, from the Crusades to the twentieth century.

Did you hear all of the buzz about US President Barack Obama’s selfie? PUP author Simon Blackburn says it could have been worse. Check out his explanation in the Financial Times. His book, MIRROR, MIRROR, will be released this spring.