What We Are Reading Today: Rediscovering the Islamic Classics by Ahmed El Shamsy

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Updated 15 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Rediscovering the Islamic Classics by Ahmed El Shamsy

Islamic book culture dates back to late antiquity, when Muslim scholars began to write down their doctrines on parchment, papyrus, and paper and then to compose increasingly elaborate analyses of, and commentaries on, these ideas. Movable type was adopted in the Middle East only in the early 19th century, and it wasn’t until the second half of the century that the first works of classical Islamic religious scholarship were printed there. But from that moment on, Ahmed El Shamsy reveals, the technology of print transformed Islamic scholarship and Arabic literature.

In the first wide-ranging account of the effects of print and the publishing industry on Islamic scholarship, El Shamsy tells the fascinating story of how a small group of editors and intellectuals brought forgotten works of Islamic literature into print and defined what became the classical canon of Islamic thought, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 


What We Are Reading Today: Counting by Eugenia Cheng

Updated 19 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Counting by Eugenia Cheng

The title of Counting contains some revealing wordplay: To count is to tally things up but, also, to count is to matter. 

In this book, political scientist Deborah Stone explores the ways in which these two meanings of “count” are intertwined in society. 

“She argues that our judgments are embedded in the way we count because of the decisions we make about what matters, and that we then use this to make concrete judgments that we claim are based on math when really they’re a result of our preconceived notions,” said Eugenia Cheng in a review for The New York Times. 

“It is a curious experience to agree with the conclusion of a book but not its argument. Stone’s broad message is that we shouldn’t regard numbers as reflecting absolute truths about the world without first considering the methods used to produce those numbers,” said the review. 

“We shouldn’t overstate the power of math and science, but we shouldn’t understate it either,” it added.

Eugenia Cheng writes the Everyday Math column for The Wall Street Journal.