What We Are Reading Today: Preexisting Conditions: Recounting the Plague

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Updated 24 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Preexisting Conditions: Recounting the Plague

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Author: Samuel Weber

Many are the losses suffered and lives lost during the recent CoVid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, writers around the globe have penned essays and books that make sense of this medical and public health catastrophe.

The philosopher and literary and cultural critic Samuel weber returns to past narratives of plagues and pandemics to reproduce the myriad ways individual and collective, historical and actual, intentional and unintentional forces converge to reveal how cultures and societies deal with their vulnerability and mortality.

 

 

 


Biggest Mideast bookstore in Europe to shut amid price surges

Biggest Mideast bookstore in Europe to shut amid price surges
Updated 06 December 2022

Biggest Mideast bookstore in Europe to shut amid price surges

Biggest Mideast bookstore in Europe to shut amid price surges
  • London’s Al Saqi Books closing after 44 years
  • Shop was founded by three Lebanese expatriates in 1978

LONDON: Europe’s biggest Middle Eastern bookstore is set to close after 44 years of business, The Guardian reported.

Al Saqi Books in London blamed a surge in prices of Arabic-language books as well as the economic effects of Brexit.

The bookstore, established in 1978, sells a wide range of literature covering the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Arabic-language books from all categories.

Al Saqi Books will close on Dec. 31, said director Salwa Gaspard, who opened the shop together with Andre Gaspard and Mai Ghoussoub after leaving Lebanon.

The move was a “difficult decision that had to be made because of recent economic challenges, such as the sharp increases in Arabic-language book prices,” she added.

The shop sourced most of its titles from Lebanon, but the country’s economic crisis has led to a surge in prices and difficulty importing books, Gaspard said.

She added: “Publishers have had to raise them (prices) to stay in business, as paper and shipping have effectively doubled in cost.

“Another factor is the exchange rate, which is no longer favorable to us — we used to pay in US dollars.

“Then, of course, there is the rise in the UK cost of living. The costs associated with operating the bookshop have become too high.

“We used to sell many books to the EU, which is no longer feasible because of duties and such (as a result of Brexit).

“Arabic libraries in the UK — another important part of our business — are buying far fewer books. And we have lost a large part of our customer base as Arab visitors from overseas are not visiting in the same numbers.

“There is a generational issue there, as well: Younger people do not stop by as often as their parents did.”

Despite the closure, Al Saqi Books’ small publishing wings Saqi Books and Dar Al Saqi will stay operational.

In a statement, the bookstore described itself as a “leading light not only for Middle Eastern expatriates, but for visitors from across the region keen to obtain works banned in their own countries.”


What We Are Reading Today: Parasites: The Inside Story

What We Are Reading Today: Parasites: The Inside Story
Updated 05 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Parasites: The Inside Story

What We Are Reading Today: Parasites: The Inside Story

Authors: Scott Lyell Gardner, Judy Diamond, and Gabor R. Racz

This book looks at the weird and wonderful world of parasites, the most abundant form of life on Earth. Parasites come in all forms and sizes and inhabit every free-living organism. Parasitism is now, and always has been, a way to survive under changing environmental conditions.

From arctic oceans to tropical forests, Scott Gardner, Judy Diamond, and Gabor Racz investigate how parasites survive and evolve, and how they influence and provide stability to ecosystems.

Taking readers to the open ranges of Mongolia, the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska, the Andes of Bolivia, and more, the authors examine the impact parasites have on humans and other animals. 

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation:  Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness
Updated 04 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation:  Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

Author: Lee Alan Dugatkin

In a world supposedly governed by ruthless survival of the fittest, why do we see acts of goodness in both animals and humans? This problem plagued Charles Darwin in the 1850s as he developed his theory of evolution through natural selection.

Indeed, Darwin worried that the goodness he observed in nature could be the Achilles heel of his theory.

Ever since then, scientists and other thinkers have engaged in a fierce debate about the origins of goodness that has dragged politics, philosophy, and religion into what remains a major question for evolutionary biology.


What We Are Reading Today: The Future Is Asian

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Updated 03 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Future Is Asian

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Author: Parag Khanna

In the 19th century, the world was Europeanized. In the 20th century, it was Americanized. Now, in the 21st century, the world is being Asianized.
In this book, the writer tries to claim that the “Asian Century” is even bigger than you think. Far greater than just China, the new Asian system taking shape is a multi-civilizational order spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, Turkey to Indonesia — linking 5 billion people through trade, finance, infrastructure, and diplomatic networks that together represent 40 percent of global GDP.

China has taken a lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, but it will not lead it alone. Rather, Asia is rapidly returning to the centuries-old patterns of commerce, conflict, and cultural exchange that thrived long before European colonialism and American dominance.

Asians will determine their own future — and as they collectively assert their interests around the world, they will determine ours as well, according to a review on goodreads.com.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Fit Nation

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Updated 03 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Fit Nation

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Author: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

The author argues that the fight for a more equitable exercise culture will be won only by revolutionizing fitness culture at its core, making it truly inclusive for all bodies in a way it has never been.
In Fit Nation, historian and fitness instructor Natalia Mehlman Petrzela explains why places like US urban public pools are struggling. She traces how the US simultaneously became obsessed with working out and failed to provide necessary resources for it.
Petrzela’s book “continued to haunt me after I put it down,” said Yasmine AlSayyad in a review for The New York Times.
“I was embarrassed by the number of fitness brands that I recognized in it, and I winced at how much money I’ve forked out for them. But I wish I’d come out with a better understanding of how the US compares with other countries in this regard,” said the review.
Petrzela makes several observations about America that could have benefited from more context, AlSayyad added.

“I couldn’t stop wondering: Is workout culture in America more commercial than it is in other countries? And are we any fitter because of it?”