What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Understood Democracy

What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who  Understood Democracy
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Updated 23 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Understood Democracy

What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who  Understood Democracy

Author: Olivier Zunz
In 1831, at the age of twenty-five, Alexis de Tocqueville made his fateful journey to America, where he observed the thrilling reality of a functioning democracy.

From that moment onward, the French aristocrat would dedicate his life as a writer and politician to ending despotism in his country and bringing it into a new age.

In this authoritative and groundbreaking biography, leading Tocqueville expert Olivier Zunz tells the story of a radical thinker who, uniquely charged by the events of his time, both in America and France, used the world as a laboratory for his political ideas.


What We Are Reading Today: Rising Strong

What We Are Reading Today: Rising Strong
Updated 03 July 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Rising Strong

What We Are Reading Today: Rising Strong

Author: Brené Brown 

Living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.

It is the rise from falling that social scientist Brené Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong.

Brown has listened as a range of people —from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents — shared their stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up. She asked herself, what do these people have in common?

The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.

Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate strength.

It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.


What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose
Updated 02 July 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose

Of the more than 49,000 species of spider worldwide, some 4,000 are in North America. Spiders of North America explores more than 500 of the most common and interesting spiders found in this region of the world.

This richly illustrated guide begins with an overview of spiders—what they are exactly, how they can be found, how they develop, and why they are important.

The book features information on all the major spider guilds: Sensing web weavers, sheet web weavers, orb web weavers, space web weavers, ambush hunters, ground active hunters, other active hunters, and spider hunters.


What We Are Reading Today: The Brain in Search of Itself

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Updated 02 July 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Brain in Search of Itself

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Author: Benjamin Ehrlich

Benjamin Ehrlich’s The Brain in Search of Itself is a lovingly crafted biography of the Spanish scientist (and artist, and hypnotist) Santiago Ramon y Cajal who showed us what our brains are made of.
A Spanish national treasure, Cajal is one of the most important scientists of all time, considered the father of modern neuroscience after proving that the brain was not made up of a fully continuous labyrinth of fibers — as was thought during the 19th century — but rather by individual cells that we now call neurons, those “mysterious butterflies of the soul,” in his words, “whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.”
After a decade’s dedication
to this man, Ehrlich has profound sympathy and great insight into the workings of
his mind. This comes across clearly in the deeply researched, well-written and lovingly crafted biography.
But the strength of the book lies less in the writing than in the life of its protagonist, filled with picaresque adventures, said a review in The New York Times.


What We Are Reading Today: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

What We Are Reading Today: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Updated 01 July 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

What We Are Reading Today: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest works of literature. 
The novel, first published as a complete work in 1878, is centered around a love affair between Anna and Vronsky, a Russian military officer, with the book’s characters highlighting the conflict between socially accepted norms and human desire.  
Despite being married to Alexie Karenin, Anna has a scandalous affair with Vronsky and moves to Moscow with him. There they live together as a married couple. 
When he finds out about the affair, Anna’s husband gives her an ultimatum: Leave Vronsky and keep the family’s reputation intact — or never see her son again. 
Tolstoy is still revered as one of history’s greatest authors. 
Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he was a master of realist fiction, and produced plays, essays and short stories. 
His most famous works include “War and Peace,” “Resurrection,” “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” and “The Kingdom of God is Within You.” 
Tolstoy received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909.


What We Are Reading Today: Transfixed by Prehistory

What We Are Reading Today: Transfixed  by Prehistory
Updated 01 July 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Transfixed by Prehistory

What We Are Reading Today: Transfixed  by Prehistory

Author: Maria Stavrinaki

Prehistory is an invention of the late 19th century. In that moment of technological progress and acceleration of production and circulation, three major Western narratives about time took shape.

One after another, these new fields of inquiry delved into the obscure immensity of the past: First, to surmise the age of the Earth; second, to find the point of emergence of human beings; and third, to ponder the age of art.

Maria Stavrinaki considers the inseparability of these accounts of temporality from the disruptive forces of modernity. She asks what a history of modernity and its art would look like if considered through these three interwoven inventions.