What We Are Reading Today: Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation

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Updated 13 May 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation

Author: Anton Howes

From its beginnings in a coffee house in the mid-18th century, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce has tried to improve British life in every way imaginable.
It has sought to influence how Britons work, how they are educated, the music they listen to, the food they eat, the items in their homes, and even how they remember their own history. Arts and Minds is the remarkable story of an institution unlike any other—a society for the improvement of everything and anything.
Drawing on exclusive access to a wealth of rare papers and artifacts from the Society’s own archives, Anton Howes shows how this vibrant and singularly ambitious organization has evolved and adapted, constantly having to reinvent itself to keep in step with changing times.
 The Society has served as a platform for Victorian utilitarian reformers, purchased and restored an entire village, encouraged the planting of more than 60 million trees, and sought technological alternatives to child labor. But this is more than just a story about unusual public initiatives.


What We Are Reading Today: The Cubans by Anthony DePalma

Updated 31 May 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Cubans by Anthony DePalma

The Cubans from Anthony DePalma, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times,  is a must-read for anyone interested in Latin America, say critics.

“In his thoroughly researched and reported book, replete with human detail and probing insight, DePalma renders a Cuba few tourists will ever see,” said Marie Arana in a review for  The New York Times.

DePalma burrows deep into one enclave of Havana, the historic borough of Guanabacoa, some three miles southeast of the capital.

“Lying across the famous harbor from the city center, Guanabacoa is close enough to have ties to Havana’s businesses, politics and culture,” he writes.

“Yet it operates at its own speed, with its own idiosyncrasies and an overriding sense, as one Cuban told me, of ‘geographic fatalism’ that comes from being so close to the capital, yet so very hard to reach from there.”

The book sadly leaves scant hope that anything will change in Cuba in the foreseeable future, but is testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Cuban people.