What We Are Reading Today: The Scythian Empire

What We Are Reading Today: The Scythian Empire
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Updated 23 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Scythian Empire

What We Are Reading Today: The Scythian Empire

Author: Christopher I. Beckwith 

In the late 8th and early 7th centuries BCE, Scythian warriors conquered and unified most of the vast Eurasian continent, creating an innovative empire that would give birth to the age of philosophy and the Classical age across the ancient world - in the West, the Near East, India, and China.

Mobile horse herders who lived with their cats in wheeled felt tents, the Scythians made stunning contributions to world civilization - from capital cities and strikingly elegant dress to political organization and the world-changing ideas of Buddha, Zoroaster, and Laotzu-Scythians all.

In “The Scythian Empire,” Christopher I. Beckwith presents a major new history of a fascinating but often forgotten empire that changed the course of history.

At its height, the Scythian Empire stretched west from Mongolia and ancient northeast China to northwest Iran and the Danube River, and in Central Asia reached as far south as the Arabian Sea. The Scythians also ruled Media and Chao, crucial frontier states of ancient Iran and China.

By ruling over and marrying the local peoples, the Scythians created new cultures that were creole Scythian in their speech, dress, weaponry, and feudal socio-political structure.


What We Are Reading Today: Ugliness and Judgment

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Photo/Supplied
Updated 04 February 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Ugliness and Judgment

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Author: Timothy Hyde

When buildings are deemed ugly, what are the consequences? In Ugliness and Judgment, Timothy Hyde considers the role of aesthetic judgment — and its concern for ugliness — in architectural debates and their resulting social effects across three centuries of British architectural history. From 18th-century ideas about Stonehenge to Prince Charles’s opinions about the National Gallery, Hyde uncovers a new story of aesthetic judgment, where arguments about architectural ugliness do not pertain solely to buildings or assessments of style, but intrude into other spheres of civil society.
Hyde explores how accidental and willful conditions of ugliness — including the gothic revival Houses of Parliament, the brutalist concrete of the South Bank, and the historicist novelty of Number One Poultry — have been debated in parliamentary committees, courtrooms, and public inquiries. He recounts how architects such as Christopher Wren, John Soane, James Stirling, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe have been summoned by tribunals of aesthetic judgment.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Waco Rising

What We Are Reading Today: Waco Rising
Updated 02 February 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Waco Rising

What We Are Reading Today: Waco Rising

Author: Kevin Cook

Kevin Cook’s “Waco Rising” provides the full story of what happened at Waco, Texas in 1993 when David Koresh and a band of heavily armed evangelical Christians took on the might of the US government.

A two-month siege of their compound ended in a firefight that killed seventy-six, including twenty-five children. 

Cook harnesses never-reported material to reconstruct the FBI’s 51-day siege of the compound in minute-to-minute detail and sheds new light on the Clinton administration’s approval of a lethal assault that ended so many lives and triggered the rise of today’s militia movements while drawing the battle lines for extremists.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie
Updated 02 February 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

In today’s financial markets, trading floors on which brokers buy and sell shares face- to-face have increasingly been replaced by lightning-fast electronic systems that use algorithms to execute astounding volumes of transactions.

“Trading at the Speed of Light” tells the story of this epic transformation.

Donald MacKenzie shows how in the 1990s, in what were then the disreputable margins of the US financial system, a new approach to trading — automated high-frequency trading or HFT— began and then spread throughout the world.


Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
  • Former software engineer gave up his job to pursue his dream in 2012, moving to New York City

DUBAI: Saudi poet, translator and literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali has worn many hats over the course of his career, but the Dubai-based writer — set to speak at a panel at the upcoming Emirates Airline Festival of Literature — started out as a software engineer.

“I wasn’t satisfied being a software engineer who has no time to read books except before sleeping. ‘There are people who read all day and get money for doing that,’ I told myself. By that time, I was aware of the literary scene in the Arab world, had written two poetry collections, translated three titles into Arabic, and had my articles published in newspapers and edited many books. I taught myself everything I needed,” he told Arab News. 

“Then, in 2012, I resigned from my job, applied for a scholarship, and flew to New York City with no clue that I will study publishing. I just went there to be in the center of the world and to have my chance to do something with my life.”

Al-Ali — along with children’s publisher and writer Amal Farah and poet and writer Qasim Saudi — will speak on the panel “How to Market Your Book” at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. If there were a debate on the topic, it would be fair to assume that Al-Ali would advocate for authors sticking to writing and writing well, and nothing else.

When asked if authors should really be worrying about the marketing side of the publishing business, Al-Ali said: “Marketing books is the tool book sellers and book outlets use to sell the ‘products’ they offer, which is the job of neither the publishing house nor the author. Publishing houses should market their authors and brand them. Why do you think a planner that features quotes by Margaret Atwood would sell more than some of her titles? Authors need to know that writing good books and caring for their public image are all that they can do and ought to do.”

Currently working as the managing editor at Sharjah’s Kalimat Group and its fiction imprint, Al-Ali is responsible for introducing the Arab world to international authors like James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, John Ashbery, Ali Smith, Michael Ondaatje, John Banville and Claire Messud.

He has also personally translated several English novels. “Paul Auster’s ‘The Invention of Solitude’ is so close to my heart because I was discovering NYC in real life and also discovering it through the literature of this author,” he said when asked to pick a favorite.

But what Al-Ali is probably most known for are his poetry collections. Poetry, to Al-Ali, is the medium best suited to “seeking the truth” about the world.

“I tried in each of my books to illuminate one topic. My ‘Facing Skype’ book discovers having an avatar in social media versus your real persona in real social life. ‘The Drifter’s Guide to NYC’ is about the known and hidden gems of the city written in prose poetry. ‘Lavender, Hotel California’ claims that this life is a ‘hotel’ and tests this claim via various poems,” said Al-Ali.  

The author’s current work-in-progress, a project about oil-hunting in the region, is “a work of poetry, research, translation and editing; it embodies everything I can do.”

But, unsurprisingly, the poet inside Al-Ali is jaded by the current state of the literary world.

“My generation and the younger ones are caught in the web of competitions and awards; they are not seeking anything real. If you don’t realize that there are huge efforts to program people, and that we are in a matrix and you must break through, then what do you know as a poet?” he said.


What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain
Updated 31 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Edited by Nikolas Rose & Des Fitzgerald

Most of the world’s people now live in cities and millions have moved from the countryside to the rapidly growing megacities of the global south.

How does the urban experience shape the mental lives of those living in and moving to cities today? Sociologists study cities as centers of personal progress and social innovation, but also exclusion, racism, and inequality. Psychiatrists try to explain the high rates of mental disorders among urban dwellers, especially migrants.

But the split between the social and life sciences has hindered understanding of how urban experience is written into the bodies and brains of urbanites.