PUP News of the World, April 25, 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!


k10195Can you fathom a natural disaster that caused years of disastrous climate change after its occurrence? The year following Mount Tambora’s 1815 eruption became known as the “Year without a Summer,” when weather anomalies in Europe and New England ruined crops, displaced millions, and spawned chaos and disease. In the book Tambora, for the first time, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s full global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, set the stage for Ireland’s Great Famine, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, inspired by Tambora’s terrifying storms, embodied the fears and misery of global humanity during this transformative period, the most recent sustained climate crisis the world has faced.

Bringing the history of this planetary emergency grippingly to life, Tambora sheds light on the fragile interdependence of climate and human societies, and the threat a new era of extreme global weather poses to us all.

Tambora was recently named one of Publishers Weekly’s “PW Picks: Books of the Week, April 21, 2014.”  Check out the list here and start reading the Introduction to Tambora here!


k10192Looking for a book about the difficult role our government plays in society?  Check out Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better by Peter H. Schuck.  From healthcare to workplace conduct, the federal government is taking on ever more responsibility for managing our lives. At the same time, Americans have never been more disaffected with Washington, seeing it as an intrusive, incompetent, wasteful giant. The most alarming consequence of ineffective policies, in addition to unrealized social goals, is the growing threat to the government’s democratic legitimacy. Understanding why government fails so often–and how it might become more effective–is an urgent responsibility of citizenship. In this book, lawyer and political scientist Peter Schuck provides a wide range of examples and an enormous body of evidence to explain why so many domestic policies go awry–and how to right the foundering ship of state.

An urgent call for reform, Why Government Fails So Often is essential reading for anyone curious about why government is in such disrepute and how it can do better.

Author Peter H. Schuck recently wrote op-ed pieces for the Los Angeles Times and for Slate, in which he elaborates on campaign donation restraint issues and historical government programs that have been extremely effective.  And if you’re interested in beginning Why Government Fails So Often, you can start reading Chapter 1 here.


k10055Why do democracies keep lurching from success to failure? The current financial crisis is just the latest example of how things continue to go wrong, just when it looked like they were going right. In this wide-ranging, original, and compelling book, David Runciman tells the story of modern democracy through the history of moments of crisis, from the First World War to the economic crash of 2008.

The Confidence Trap by David Runciman shows that democracies are good at recovering from emergencies but bad at avoiding them. The lesson democracies tend to learn from their mistakes is that they can survive them–and that no crisis is as bad as it seems. Breeding complacency rather than wisdom, crises lead to the dangerous belief that democracies can muddle through anything–a confidence trap that may lead to a crisis that is just too big to escape, if it hasn’t already. The most serious challenges confronting democracy today are debt, the war on terror, the rise of China, and climate change. If democracy is to survive them, it must figure out a way to break the confidence trap.

The Times Literary Supplement recently reviewed The Confidence Trap which can be found here.

“Runciman’s book abounds with fresh insights, arresting paradoxes, and new ways of posing old problems. It is part intellectual history, an absorbing study of the modern debate on democracy through the contrasting perspectives of key public intellectuals, such as Walter Lippmann, George F. Kennan, Francis Fukuyama and Friedrich Hayek, and part analysis of the problem of political leadership in democracies, explored through the decisions taken by leaders, particularly US presidents, and the constraints under which they operate.”- The Times Literary Supplement

Does the Confidence Trap sound appealing? Start reading the Introduction here.


We are all familiar with the flood of year end lists ranking top books, innovators, movies, and so on. But seeing as we a few months out from that January rush, it seems like a great time for a mid-year round up list. On April 23, 2014, Prospect Magazine posted a ranking of the world’s leading thinkers of 2014, according to its readers.  Although the entire list contains 50 top thinkers, a few of our authors were highlighted amongst the top ten.

Coming in at number one on this list is Amartya Sen, author of An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions. Sen is praised for his economic prowess and incredible achievements, including a 1998 Nobel Prize and over 100 honorary degrees. He is also currently a professor at Harvard University.

At number two, we have Raghuram Rajan who is currently the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.  He is known for successfully predicting the 2008 financial crisis and has also authored Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy.

And at number six on the list, we have Kaushik Basu, the Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank.  Basu has authored many books, his most significant being Beyond the Invisible Hand: Groundwork for a New Economics in which he promotes the consideration of culture and custom in the practice of economics.

With a list full of scholars and world changers, check out Prospect Magazine’s “World Thinkers 2014” list here.Capture