What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong

What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong
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Updated 29 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong

What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong

Author: Abigail Williams

Reading It Wrong is a new history of 18th-century English literature that explores what has been everywhere evident but rarely talked about: the misunderstanding, muddle and confusion of readers of the past when they first met the uniquely elusive writings of the period. 

Abigail Williams uses the marginal marks and jottings of these readers to show that flawed interpretation has its own history in understanding how, why and what we read. 

Reading It Wrong tells how a combination of changing readerships and fantastically tricky literature created the perfect grounds for puzzlement and partial comprehension. 


What We Are Reading Today: A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy

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Updated 24 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy

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Author: Richard L. Hasen

Throughout history, too many Americans have been disenfranchised or faced needless barriers to voting. Part of the blame falls on the Constitution, which does not contain an affirmative right to vote. The Supreme Court has made matters worse by failing to protect voting rights and limiting Congress’s ability to do so. The time has come for voters to take action and push for an amendment to the Constitution that would guarantee this right for all.
Drawing on troubling stories of state attempts to disenfranchise military voters, women, African Americans, students, former felons, Native Americans, and others, Richard Hasen argues that American democracy can and should do better in assuring that all eligible voters can cast a meaningful vote that will be fairly counted. He shows how a constitutional right to vote can deescalate voting wars between political parties that lead to endless rounds of litigation and undermine voter confidence in elections.


What We Are Reading Today: The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

What We Are Reading Today: The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary
Updated 22 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

What We Are Reading Today: The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

Author: Hana Videen

Many of the animals we encounter in everyday life, from pets and farm animals to the wild creatures of field and forest, have remained the same since medieval times. But the words used to name and describe them have often changed beyond recognition, starting with the Old English word for “animal” itself, deor (pronounced DAY-or).

In The Deorhord, Hana Videen presents a glittering Old English bestiary of animals real and imaginary, big and small, ordinary and extraordinary—the good, the bad, and the downright baffling.

From gange-wæfran or walker-weavers (spiders) and hasu-padan or grey-cloaked ones (eagles) to heafdu swelce mona or moon-heads (historians still don’t know!), The Deorhord introduces a world both familiar and strange: where ants could be monsters and panthers could be your friends, where dog-headed men were as real as elephants.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematical Radio

What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematical Radio
Updated 20 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematical Radio

What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematical Radio

Author: Paul Nahin 

The modern radio is a wonder, and behind that magic is mathematics.

In “The Mathematical Radio,” Paul Nahin explains how radios work, deploying mathematics and historical discussion, accompanied by a steady stream of intriguing puzzles for math buffs to ponder.

Beginning with oscillators and circuits, then moving on to AM, FM, and single-sideband radio, Nahin focuses on the elegant mathematics underlying radio technology rather than the engineering.


Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn
Updated 20 February 2024
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Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

RIYADH: In his 2016 memoir, “A Life in Questions,” Jeremy Paxman, the prominent British journalist and presenter, outlines how he has been inquisitive his entire life.

The autobiography uncovers Paxman’s early years, interviews with prominent figures, insights into journalistic integrity, political engagement, and the power of asking the right questions.

Paxman takes a humorous approach in recounting past experiences, notably an incident involving Marks & Spencer underwear. He described an occasion when he put his leg through his briefs, causing the elastic to detach from the cotton.

Paxman asked the other people in the gym: “Any of you blokes had any trouble with pants?" His concerns about the quality sparked a media frenzy, resulting in an abundance of underwear being sent to him, even from strangers.

The book showcases Paxman’s recollections over four decades of journalism. However, when considering his interviews, I hoped for more insights into his technique and style. Renowned for his unconventional approach, his interviews often left interviewees feeling unsettled or nervous, as if they were “quaking in their boots.”

At times, the narrative becomes monotonous, particularly in sections where Paxman delves into less compelling aspects of his career, making the reading experience somewhat laborious.

However, Paxman’s recounting of iconic interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes kept me from looking away. A notable interview showing his commitment to getting answers, which was widely praised, took place in May 1997, where Paxman questioned former Home Secretary Michael Howard a total of 12 times about his potential overruling of the head of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis.

The writing style can feel a bit disconnected, shifting between different times in Paxman’s life with abrupt transitions. This might make it a little harder to follow his story. Paxman’s memoir might be more relatable to those familiar with the UK’s political and cultural scene, as it assumes a certain level of knowledge about the figures and events discussed.

Learning from Paxman’s methods can help journalists develop their own style and ensure that they can engage with and extract valuable information from interviewees.

Overall, “A Life in Questions” is recommended for those fascinated by unconventional interviewing styles. It not only tells stories but also acts as a guide for journalists seeking to enhance their interviewing skills.


What We Are Reading Today: Civic Storytelling

What We Are Reading Today: Civic Storytelling
Updated 19 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Civic Storytelling

What We Are Reading Today: Civic Storytelling

Author: Florian Fuchs

Why did short narrative forms like the novella, fable, and fairy tale suddenly emerge around 1800 as genres symptomatic of literature’s role in life and society?

In order to explain their rapid ascent to such importance, Florian Fuchs identifies an essential role of literature, a role traditionally performed within classical civic discourse of storytelling, by looking at new or updated forms of this civic practice in modernity.