What We Are Reading Today: Maria Theresa: The Habsburg Empress in Her Time

What We Are Reading Today: Maria Theresa: The Habsburg Empress in Her Time
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Updated 21 January 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Maria Theresa: The Habsburg Empress in Her Time

What We Are Reading Today: Maria Theresa: The Habsburg Empress in Her Time

Author: Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger

Maria Theresa (1717–1780) was once the most powerful woman in Europe.

At the age of 23, she ascended to the throne of the Habsburg Empire, a far-flung realm composed of diverse ethnicities and languages, beset on all sides by enemies and rivals.

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger provides the definitive biography of Maria Theresa, situating this exceptional empress within her time while dispelling the myths surrounding her.

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence, Stollberg-Rilinger examines all facets of 18th-century society, from piety and patronage to sexuality and childcare, ceremonial life at court, diplomacy, and the everyday indignities of warfare.

She challenges the idealized image of Maria Theresa as an enlightened reformer and mother of her lands who embodied both feminine beauty and virile bellicosity, showing how she despised the ideas of the Enlightenment.


What We Are Reading Today: Two Wheels Good

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Updated 28 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Two Wheels Good

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Author: Jody Rosen

Two Wheels Good examines the bicycle’s past and peers into its future, challenging myths and cliches, while uncovering cycling’s connection to colonial conquest and the gentrification of cities.
But the book is also a love letter: A reflection on the sensual and spiritual pleasures of bike riding and an ode to an engineering marvel — a wondrous vehicle whose passenger is also its engine.
In Two Wheels Good, writer and critic Jody Rosen reshapes “our understanding of this ubiquitous machine, an ever-present force in humanity’s life and dreamlife — and a flashpoint in culture wars — for more for than 200 years,” said a review on Goodreads.com.
Combining history, reportage, travelogue, and memoir, Rosen sweeps across centuries and around the globe, unfolding the bicycle’s saga from its invention in 1817 to its present-day renaissance as a “green machine,” an emblem of sustainability in a world afflicted by pandemic and climate change. Rosen is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.
His work has appeared in Slate, New York, The New Yorker, and many other publications.


What We Are Reading Today: The Owl and the Nightingale

What We Are Reading Today: The Owl and the Nightingale
Updated 27 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Owl and the Nightingale

What We Are Reading Today: The Owl and the Nightingale

Author: Simon Armitage

The Owl and the Nightingale, one of the earliest literary works in Middle English, is a lively, anonymous comic poem about two birds who embark on a war of words in a wood, with a nearby poet reporting their argument in rhyming couplets, line by line and blow by blow.

In this engaging and energetic verse translation, Simon Armitage captures the verve and humor of this dramatic tale with all the cut and thrust of the original.

Sounding at times like antagonists in a Twitter feud, the owl and the nightingale quarrel about a host of subjects that still resonate today—including love, marriage, identity, cultural background, class distinctions, and the right to be heard.


New book by leading Japanese calligrapher unveiled at Abu Dhabi Book Fair

New book by leading Japanese calligrapher unveiled at Abu Dhabi Book Fair
Updated 26 May 2022

New book by leading Japanese calligrapher unveiled at Abu Dhabi Book Fair

New book by leading Japanese calligrapher unveiled at Abu Dhabi Book Fair

DUBAI:  Tokyo-born Fuad Kouichi Honda is widely recognized as one of the world’s top Arabic calligraphers and he just launched his new book, “Noor Ala Noor,” during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) 2022, underway until May 29.

The book was released in collaboration with the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, where a collection of Honda’s work is on display.

“The Arab and Japanese culture share common values, aesthetics and artistic practices that have always acted like a bridge of cultural communication between the two civilizations,” said Dr Ali Bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center, which inaugurated the book during a book launch ceremony in the UAE capital.

The book was released in collaboration with the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. Supplied

“Both Japanese and Arabic languages use calligraphy as a medium of artistic expression and allow calligraphers to reinvent existing styles and innovate and create new ways to personalize their creations. Their styles are based on age-old traditions developed ages ago and are passed down through the generations,” he added.

Syed Mohamad Albukhary, Director of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, said: “The Islamic Arts Museum is proud to present this bilingual publication in honour of the works of Japanese calligrapher Fuad Honda. We hope that together we are able to contribute to enhancing the vision of Arabic art and Islamic calligraphy at the international level. Honda’s works of art carry the message of Arabic calligraphy throughout the world.”

The museum is home to thousands of artifacts and archaeological manuscripts from across the Muslim world that have contributed to the development of Islamic arts, particularly the art of Arabic calligraphy and the decoration of Qurans and manuscripts.

Albukhary hopes that the book, authored and translated by Dr Heba Barakat, will help spread Honda’s calligraphy to a wide spectrum of readers and art connoisseurs.

The Japanese Muslim, who teaches at Daito Bunka University, has won numerous awards for his work, including at the International Arabic Calligraphy Competition.

It was topography that inspired Honda to try his hand at calligraphy. 

After graduating in Foreign Studies at Tokyo University, he joined a Japanese company that was working with the Saudi government to survey and make maps of the Arabian Peninsula. He traveled to the Kingdom in 1974 as a translator for the company. Several of the maps the company was using bore Arabic calligraphy and Honda says he fell in love with the art form. He started teaching himself to recreate the work he had seen.


What We Are Reading Today: The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes

What We Are Reading Today: The Currency of Politics:  The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes
Updated 25 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes

What We Are Reading Today: The Currency of Politics:  The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes

 Author: Stefan Eich 

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, critical attention has shifted from the economy to the most fundamental feature of all market economies—money. Yet despite the centrality of political struggles over money, it remains difficult to articulate its democratic possibilities and limits. 

The Currency of Politics takes readers from ancient Greece to today to provide an intellectual history of money, drawing on the insights of key political philosophers to show how money is not just a medium of exchange but also a central institution of political rule.


What We Are Reading Today: Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History

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Updated 24 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History

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Author: Timothy Hampton

Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History tells a new story about the cultural imagination of the West wherein cheerfulness — a momentary uptick in emotional energy, a temporary lightening of spirit — functions as a crucial theme in literary, philosophical, and artistic creations from early modern to contemporary times.  In a conclusion on cheerfulness in pandemic days, Hampton stresses the importance of lightness of mind under the pressure of catastrophe. A history of the emotional life of European and American cultures, a breathtaking exploration of the intersections of culture, literature, and psychology, Cheerfulness challenges the dominant narrative of Western aesthetics as a story of melancholy, mourning, tragedy, and trauma.