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
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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: 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.


What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T. Arrington

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T.  Arrington
Updated 22 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T. Arrington

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T.  Arrington

The seventh century BC in ancient Greece is referred to as the Orientalizing period because of the strong presence of Near Eastern elements in art and culture. Conventional narratives argue that goods and knowledge flowed from East to West through cosmopolitan elites. Rejecting this explanation, Athens at the Margins proposes a new narrative of the origins behind the style and its significance, investigating how material culture shaped the ways people and communities thought of themselves.
Athens and the region of Attica belonged to an interconnected Mediterranean, in which people, goods, and ideas moved in unexpected directions. Network thinking provides a way to conceive of this mobility, which generated a style of pottery that was heterogeneous and dynamic. Although the elite had power, they were unable to agree on the norms of conspicuous consumption and status display.