What We Are Reading Today: American Kingpin by NicK Bilton

What We Are Reading Today: American Kingpin by NicK Bilton
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Updated 08 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: American Kingpin by NicK Bilton

What We Are Reading Today: American Kingpin by NicK Bilton

Nick Bilton’s American Kingpin tells the unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom — and almost got away with it.

In 2011, a 26-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: The Silk Road, a clandestine website where anyone could trade anything — drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons — free of the government’s watchful eye.

It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new website where anyone — not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers — could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. 

Drawing on exclusive access to key players, the book offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story which might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction, but it’s all too real.


What We Are Reading Today: Jane Austen, Early and Late by Freya Johnston

What We Are Reading Today: Jane Austen, Early and Late by Freya Johnston
Updated 27 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Jane Austen, Early and Late by Freya Johnston

What We Are Reading Today: Jane Austen, Early and Late by Freya Johnston

Jane Austen’s six novels, published toward the end of her short life, represent a body of work that is as brilliant as it is compact. Her earlier writings have routinely been dismissed as mere juvenilia, or stepping stones to mature proficiency and greatness. Austen’s first biographer described them as “childish effusions.” Was he right to do so? Can the novels be definitively separated from the unpublished works? In Jane Austen, Early and Late, Freya Johnston argues that they cannot.

Examining the three manuscript volumes in which Austen collected her earliest writings, Johnston finds that Austen’s regard and affection for them is revealed by her continuing to revisit and revise them throughout her adult life. The teenage works share the milieu and the humour of the novels, while revealing more clearly the sources and influences upon which Austen drew. Johnston upends the conventional narrative, according to which Austen discarded the satire and fantasy of her first writings in favour of the irony and realism of the novels. By demonstrating a stylistic and thematic continuity across the full range of Austen’s work, Johnston asks whether it makes sense to speak of an early and a late Austen at all.


What We Are Reading Today: Birdscapes; Birds in Our by Jeremy Mynott

What We Are Reading Today: Birdscapes; Birds in Our by Jeremy Mynott
Updated 26 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Birdscapes; Birds in Our by Jeremy Mynott

What We Are Reading Today: Birdscapes; Birds in Our by Jeremy Mynott

What draws us to the beauty of a peacock, the flight of an eagle, or the song of a nightingale? Why are birds so significant in our lives and our sense of the world? And what do our ways of thinking about and experiencing birds tell us about ourselves? Birdscapes is a unique meditation on the variety of human responses to birds, from antiquity to today, and from casual observers to the globe-trotting twitchers who sometimes risk life, limb, and marriages simply to add new species to their life lists.

Drawing extensively on literature, history, philosophy, and science, Jeremy Mynott puts his own experiences as a birdwatcher in a rich cultural context. His sources range from the familiar —  Thoreau, Keats, Darwin, and Audubon —  to the unexpected —  Benjamin Franklin, Giacomo Puccini, Oscar Wilde, and Monty Python. Just as unusual are the extensive illustrations, which explore our perceptions and representations of birds through images such as national emblems, women’s hats, professional sports logos, and a Christmas biscuit tin, as well as classics of bird art.

Each chapter takes up a new theme —  from rarity, beauty, and sound to conservation, naming, and symbolism —  and is set in a new place, as Mynott travels from his “home patch” in Suffolk, England, to his “away patch” in New York City’s Central Park, as well as to Russia, Australia, and Greece.


What We Are Reading Today: Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven by Ming-sho Ho

What We Are Reading Today: Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven by Ming-sho Ho
Updated 25 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven by Ming-sho Ho

What We Are Reading Today: Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven by Ming-sho Ho

‘Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven aims to make sense of the origins, processes, and outcomes of the mass protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Ming-sho Ho compares the dynamics of the political movements, from the existing networks of activists that preceded protest, to the perceived threats that ignited the movements, to the government strategies with which they contended, and to the nature of their coordination, according to a review on goodreads.com.  Moreover, he contextualizes these protests in a period of global prominence for student, occupy, and anti-globalization protests and situates them within social movement studies.


What We Are Reading Today: The Thirty-Year Genocide

What We Are Reading Today: The Thirty-Year Genocide
Updated 24 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Thirty-Year Genocide

What We Are Reading Today: The Thirty-Year Genocide

Edited by Benny Morris and Dror Zeevi

The book is a reappraisal of the giant massacres perpetrated by Turkey against their Christian minorities.

Between 1894 and 1924, three waves of violence swept across Anatolia, targeting the region’s Christian minorities. By 1924, the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks had been reduced to two percent. Most historians have treated these waves as distinct, isolated events. The Thirty-Year Genocide is the first account to show that the three were actually part of a single, continuing, and intentional effort to wipe out Anatolia’s Christian population, according to a review on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: Now Comes Good Sailing by Andrew Blauner

What We Are Reading Today: Now Comes Good Sailing by Andrew Blauner
Updated 23 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Now Comes Good Sailing by Andrew Blauner

What We Are Reading Today: Now Comes Good Sailing by Andrew Blauner

The world is never done catching up with Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), the author of Walden, “Civil Disobedience,” and other classics. A prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism, an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology, Thoreau even seems to have anticipated a world of social distancing in his famous experiment at Walden Pond.

In Now Comes Good Sailing, 27 of today’s leading writers offer wide-ranging original pieces exploring how Thoreau has influenced and inspired them—and why he matters more than ever in an age of climate, racial, and technological reckoning.

Here, Lauren Groff retreats from the COVID-19 pandemic to a rural house and writing hut, where, unable to write, she rereads Walden; Pico Iyer describes how Thoreau provided him with an unlikely guidebook to Japan; Gerald Early examines Walden and the Black quest for nature; and there’s much more.