What We Are Reading Today: Painting by Numbers by Diana Seave Greenwald

What We Are Reading Today: Painting by Numbers by Diana Seave Greenwald
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Updated 20 February 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Painting by Numbers by Diana Seave Greenwald

What We Are Reading Today: Painting by Numbers by Diana Seave Greenwald

Painting by Numbers presents a groundbreaking blend of art historical and social scientific methods to chart, for the first time, the sheer scale of 19th-century artistic production.
With new quantitative evidence for more than 500,000 works of art, Diana Seave Greenwald provides fresh insights into the 19th century, and the extent to which art historians have focused on a limited — and potentially biased — sample of artwork from that time.
She addresses long-standing questions about the effects of industrialization, gender, and empire on the art world, and she models more expansive approaches for studying art history in the age of the digital humanities, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
Examining art in France, the US, and the UK, Greenwald features datasets created from indices and exhibition catalogs that — to date — have been used primarily as finding aids.
From this body of information, she reveals the importance of access to the countryside for painters showing images of nature at the Paris Salon, the ways in which time-consuming domestic responsibilities pushed women artists in the US to work in lower-prestige genres.


What We Are Reading Today: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

What We Are Reading Today: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Updated 08 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

What We Are Reading Today: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

In his latest novel, “Klara and the Sun,” Kazuo Ishiguro turns his focus to artificial intelligence. 

In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ishiguro insists he is an optimist about technology. “I’m not one of these people who thinks it’s going to come and destroy us,” he said in a recent interview in December about his latest work, his lockdown reading list, and his fears about the future.

As with many of his previous works, the book doesn’t fit neatly into one genre but has elements of science fiction and also works as a coming-of-age tale. 

The story follows Klara, an intelligent robot known as an “artificial friend,” who joins a human family in a dystopian America in a deeply disturbing novel about human cloning.  

What he fears, Ishiguro explained, is the devastating injustice that may result if society isn’t careful with scientific progress as he rattled off a list of promising breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and genetics. 

“We’ve all got to start to think and worry about these questions,” he said, “because at the moment, they’re in the hands of very, very few people.”


What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life
Updated 07 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

What We Are Reading Today: Trees of Life

Author: Max Adams

Our planet is home to some 3 trillion trees — roughly four hundred for every person on Earth. In Trees of Life, Max Adams selects, from 60,000 extant species, 80 remarkable trees through which to celebrate the richness of humanity’s relationship with trees, woods, and forests.
In a sequence of informative and beautifully illustrated portraits, divided between six thematic sections, Adams investigates the trees that human cultures have found most useful across the world and ages.
In a section titled Supertrees, Adams considers trees that have played a pivotal role in maintaining natural and social communities, while a final section, Trees for the Planet, looks at a group of trees so valuable to humanity that they must be protected at all costs from loss.
From the apple to the oak, the logwood to the breadfruit, and the paper mulberry to the Dahurian larch, these are trees that offer not merely shelter, timber, and fuel but also drugs, foods, and fibers. Trees of Life presents a plethora of fascinating stories about them, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.


What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun
Updated 06 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

What We Are Reading Today: Fears of a Setting Sun

Author: Dennis C. Rasmussen

Americans seldom deify their Founding Fathers any longer, but they do still tend to venerate the Constitution and the republican government that the founders created. Strikingly, the founders themselves were far less confident in what they had wrought, particularly by the end of their lives.
In fact, most of them — including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson — came to deem America’s constitutional experiment an utter failure that was unlikely to last beyond their own generation. Fears of a Setting Sun is the first book to tell the fascinating and too-little-known story of the founders’ disillusionment, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
As much as Americans today may worry about their country’s future, Rasmussen reveals, the founders faced even graver problems and harbored even deeper misgivings.
A vividly written account of a chapter of American history that has received too little attention, Fears of a Setting Sun will change the way that you look at the American founding, the Constitution, and indeed the United States itself.


What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla
Updated 04 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

What We Are Reading Today: The Invisible Gorilla

AUTHORS: Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.

Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. We spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.

 The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects.


Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 
Updated 03 March 2021

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

DUBAI: US-Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa’s book “Against the Loveless World” is among the finalists for the 2020 Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, organizers announced this week. 

Susan Abulhawa is a US-Palestinian writer. (Supplied)

The political activist’s book begins in the Hawalli neighborhood of Kuwait. It tells the story of a woman who has as many names as she has homes, moving from place to place as a child of exiles and becoming one herself during the Gulf War.

With her mother, brother, and grandmother Sitti Wasfiyeh, Nahr navigates a life through Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, a home she knows so little of, and then an Israeli prison.

With dreams of marriage, of her own children and of freedom, Nahr’s fight to survive a world that is intent on testing her lands her in situations that could break the weak.

In an unthinkably harsh reality, and one that is a continuous experiment in resilience, Abulhawa pushes to the fore themes of identity and adaptability, posing the question: How can an oppressor know roots when they live by unearthing trees?

Read Arab News’ full review of “Against the Loveless World” here.

Abulhawa is competing against author Michele Harper for her book “The Beauty in Breaking” and writer Kiley Reid for her novel “Such a Fun Age.” 

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia museum established its literary award in 1950.

The last two winners for the award in 2019 were British author Edward Posnett and Canadian- American writer Witold Rybczynski for their books “Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects” and “Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City” respectively.