What We Are Reading Today: Shock to the System

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Updated 31 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Shock to the System

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Author: Michael K. Miller

How do democracies emerge? Shock to the System presents a novel theory of democratization that focuses on how events like coups, wars, and elections disrupt autocratic regimes and trigger democratic change. Employing the broadest qualitative and quantitative analyses of democratization to date, Michael Miller demonstrates that more than nine in 10 transitions since 1800 occur in one of two ways: Countries democratize following a major violent shock or an established ruling party democratizes through elections and regains power within democracy.
This framework fundamentally reorients theories on democratization by showing that violent upheavals and the preservation of autocrats in power—events typically viewed as antithetical to democracy—are in fact central to its foundation.
Through in-depth examinations of 139 democratic transitions, Miller shows how democratization frequently follows both domestic shocks (coups, civil wars, and assassinations) and international shocks (defeat in war and withdrawal of an autocratic hegemon) due to autocratic insecurity and openings for opposition actors. He also shows how transitions guided by ruling parties spring from their electoral confidence in democracy.


What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre

What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre
Updated 22 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre

What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre

Journalists today are inundated with data about which stories attract the most clicks, likes, comments, and shares. These metrics influence what stories are written, how news is promoted, and even which journalists get hired and fired. Do metrics make journalists more accountable to the public? Or are these data tools the contemporary equivalent of a stopwatch wielded by a factory boss, worsening newsroom working conditions and journalism quality? In All the News That’s Fit to Click, Caitlin Petre takes readers behind the scenes at the New York Times, Gawker, and the prominent news analytics company Chartbeat to explore how performance metrics are transforming the work of journalism.

Petre describes how digital metrics are a powerful but insidious new form of managerial surveillance and discipline. Real-time analytics tools are designed to win the trust and loyalty of wary journalists by mimicking key features of addictive games, including immersive displays, instant feedback.


What We Are Reading Today: Alien Oceans; The Search for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Hand

What We Are Reading Today: Alien Oceans; The Search  for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Hand
Updated 21 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Alien Oceans; The Search for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Hand

What We Are Reading Today: Alien Oceans; The Search  for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Hand

Where is the best place to find life beyond Earth? We often look to Mars as the most promising site in our solar system, but recent scientific missions have revealed that some of the most habitable real estate may actually lie farther away. Beneath the frozen crusts of several of the small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn lurk vast oceans that may have existed for as long as Earth, and together may contain more than 50 times its total volume of liquid water. Could there be organisms living in their depths? Alien Oceans reveals the science behind the thrilling quest to find out.

Kevin Peter Hand is one of today’s leading NASA scientists, and his pioneering research has taken him on expeditions around the world. In this captivating account of scientific discovery, he brings together insights from planetary science, biology, and the adventures of scientists like himself to explain how we know that oceans exist within moons of the outer solar system, like Europa, Titan, and Enceladus.


What We Are Reading Today: The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales by Cristina Mazzon

What We Are Reading Today: The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales by Cristina Mazzon
Updated 21 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales by Cristina Mazzon

What We Are Reading Today: The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales by Cristina Mazzon

The Pomegranates and Other Modern Italian Fairy Tales presents 20 magical stories published between 1875 and 1914, following Italy’s political unification. In those decades of political and social change, folklorists collected fairy tales from many regions of the country while influential writers invented original narratives in standard Italian, drawing on traditional tales in local dialects, and translated others from France.

This collection features a range of these entertaining jewels from such authors as Carlo Collodi, most celebrated for the novel Pinocchio, and Domenico Comparetti, regarded as the Italian Grimm, to Grazia Deledda, the only Italian woman to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature. With one exception, all of these tales are appearing in English for the first time.

The stories in this volume are linked by themes of metamorphosis: A man turns into a lion, a dove, and an ant; a handsome youth emerges from a pig’s body; and three lovely women rise out of the rinds of pomegranates.


What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities
Updated 20 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

Author: Adam Gopnik

A stirring defense of liberalism against the dogmatisms of our time from an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author.
Not since the early twentieth century has liberalism, and liberals, been under such relentless attack, from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and, even worse, in liberal thought.
A Thousand Small Sanities is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition, according to a review on goodreads.com. Taking us from Montaigne to Mill, and from Middlemarch to the civil rights movement, Adam Gopnik argues that liberalism is not a form of centrism, nor simply another word for free markets, nor merely a term denoting a set of rights.
It is something far more ambitious: The search for radical change by humane measures. Gopnik shows us why liberalism is one of the great moral adventures in human history — and why, in an age of autocracy, our lives may depend on its continuation.


What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now
Updated 19 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

Author: James Verini

A searing narrative of the battle of Mosul, Iraq, described by the Pentagon as “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
In this masterpiece of war journalism based on months of frontline reporting, National Magazine Award winner James Verini describes the climactic battle in the struggle against Daesh, says a review on goodreads.com.
Focusing on two brothers from Mosul and their families, a charismatic Iraqi major who marched north from Baghdad to seize the city with his troops, rowdy Kurdish militiamen, and a hard-bitten American sergeant, Verini describes a war for the soul of a country, a war over and for history.
Seeing the battle in a larger, centuries-long sweep, he connects the bloody-minded philosophy of Daesh with the ancient Assyrians who founded Mosul.