What We Are Reading Today: Distant Shores

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Updated 07 December 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Distant Shores

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Author: Melissa Macauley

China has conventionally been considered a land empire whose lack of maritime and colonial reach contributed to its economic decline after the mid-18th century.
“Distant Shores” challenges this view, showing that the economic expansion of southeastern Chinese rivaled the colonial ambitions of Europeans overseas.
In a story that dawns with the Industrial Revolution and culminates in the Great Depression, Melissa Macauley explains how sojourners from an ungovernable corner of China emerged among the commercial masters of the South China Sea. She focuses on Chaozhou, a region in the great maritime province of Guangdong, whose people shared a repertoire of ritual, cultural, and economic practices.
“Distant Shores” reveals how the transoceanic migration of Chaozhouese laborers and merchants across a far-flung maritime world linked the Chinese homeland to an ever-expanding frontier of settlement and economic extraction.

 


What We’re Reading: Fluke

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Updated 24 February 2024
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What We’re Reading: Fluke

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Author: Brian Klaas

In “Fluke,” Brian Klaas dives deeply into the phenomenon of random chance and the chaos it can sow, taking aim at most people’s neat and tidy storybook version of reality.

The book’s argument is that we willfully ignore a bewildering but for a few small changes, our lives could be radically different. Drawing on social science, chaos theory, history, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Klaas provides a fresh look at why things happen — all while providing mind-bending lessons on how we can live smarter, be happier, and lead more fulfilling lives.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Princeton Field Guide to Pterosaurs’

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Updated 24 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Princeton Field Guide to Pterosaurs’

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Author: Gregory S. Paul

Once seen by some as evolutionary dead-enders, pterosaurs were vigorous winged reptiles capable of thriving in an array of habitats and climates, including polar winters. “the princeton field Guide to pterosaurs” transforms our understanding of these great mesozoic archosaurs of the air. This incredible guide covers 115 pterosaur species and features stunning illustrations of pterosaurs ranging in size from swallows to small sailplanes, some with enormous, bizarre head crests and elongated beaks.

 


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.