What We Are Reading Today: Black AF History

What We Are Reading Today: Black AF History
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Updated 04 October 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Black AF History

What We Are Reading Today: Black AF History

Author: Michael Harriot

Michael Harriot’s “Black AF History” is a searingly smart and bitingly hilarious retelling of American history that corrects the record and showcases the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans.

Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story.

This long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary. For too long, we have refused to acknowledge that American history is white history.


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.


What We Are Reading Today: AI Needs You

What We Are Reading Today: AI Needs You
Updated 18 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: AI Needs You

What We Are Reading Today: AI Needs You

Author: Verity Harding 

Artificial intelligence may be the most transformative technology of our time. As AI’s power grows, so does the need to figure out what—and who—this technology is really for.

“AI Needs You” argues that it is critical for society to take the lead in answering this urgent question and ensuring that AI fulfills its promise.

Verity Harding draws inspiring lessons from the histories of three 20th-century tech revolutions — the space race, in vitro fertilization, and the internet—to empower each of us to join the conversation about AI and its possible futures.