What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell
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Updated 05 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Bomber Mafia is an exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war.

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?

In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, “Was it worth it?”

Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the bombing of Tokyo. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.


What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift
Updated 06 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape — the US interstate system changed the face of our country. 

Earl Swift’s The Big Roads charts the creation of these essential American highways. From the turn-of-the-century car racing entrepreneur who spurred the citizen-led “Good Roads” movement, to the handful of driven engineers who conceived of the interstates and how they would work to the protests that erupted across the nation when highways reached the cities and found people unwilling to be uprooted in the name of progress, Swift follows a winding, fascinating route through twentieth-century American life. 

How did we get from dirt tracks to expressways in less than a century? Through decades of politics, activism, and marvels of engineering, we recognize in our highways the wanderlust, grand scale, and conflicting notions of citizenship and progress that define America.


What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
Updated 03 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino’s masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book’s central character. He imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures through which two readers pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.

In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. 

The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another — an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age. 


What We Are Reading Today: Crying in H Mart

What We Are Reading Today: Crying in H Mart
Updated 03 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Crying in H Mart

What We Are Reading Today: Crying in H Mart

Author: Michelle Zauner

While Michelle Zauner may be best known by her musical project, Japanese Breakfast, she writes with an equivalent passion.
Crying in H Mart revolves around Zauner’s mother, Chongmi, and her deterioration and death from cancer.
The memoir goes on to depict Zauner’s fraught relationship with her mother, especially when it comes to appearance and disposition.
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian American child at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
Crying in H Mart “is the quiet, haunting, beautiful story of what and who we take for granted, and the little moments we never appreciate until they’re gone,” a critic commented on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth

What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth
Updated 02 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth

What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth

This is a revelatory revisionist biography of Alexander Graham Bell — renowned inventor of the telephone and hated enemy of the deaf community.

Bell has long been a polarizing figure, admired as the brilliant inventor of the telephone and other extraordinary devices, but also despised as the leading exponent of oralism, the movement that pressured deaf people to learn speech and, more important, not to learn sign language. 

The Invention of Miracles “tells the dual stories of Bell’s remarkable, world-changing invention and his dangerous ethnocide of deaf culture and language. It also charts the rise of deaf activism and tells the triumphant tale of a community reclaiming a once-forbidden language,” said a review on goodreads.com.

It also charts the rise of deaf activism and tells the triumphant tale of a community reclaiming a once-forbidden language.

“Inspired by her mixed hearing/Deaf family, author Katie Booth has researched this story for over a decade, poring over Bell’s papers, Library of Congress archives, and the records of deaf schools around America,” the review added.


What We Are Reading Today: The Free World

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World
Updated 01 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World

Author: Louis Menand

In his follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Metaphysical Club, Louis Menand offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the postwar years.
The Free World “is a sweeping survey that looks at how and why perceptions about the US, both domestically and internationally, changed so completely during these years,” said a review on goodreads.com.
“This is a smart, fascinating and serious book of intellectual history. Menand is a sprightly and clear writer,” it added.
David Oshinsky said in a review for The New York Times: “The evenhanded approach of Menand is like a breath of fresh air. The Free World sparkles. Fully original, beautifully written, it covers the interchange of arts and ideas between the United States and Europe in the decades following World War II.”
Oshinsky added: “Menand is no cheerleader; his assessment of America’s failures can be withering. But his larger point, backed by a mountain of research and reams of thoughtful commentary, is that American culture ascended in this era for the right reasons.”