What We Are Reading Today: The Caucasus by Thomas de Waal

What We Are Reading Today: The Caucasus by Thomas de Waal
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Updated 10 December 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: The Caucasus by Thomas de Waal

What We Are Reading Today: The Caucasus by Thomas de Waal

In this book, Thomas de Waal makes the case that the five-day war in Georgia, which flared into a major international crisis in 2008, proves that this is still a combustible region, whose inner dynamics and history deserve a much more complex appreciation from the wider world.

Waal provides this richer, deeper, and much-needed appreciation, one that reveals that the South Caucasus — Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and their many smaller regions, enclaves, and breakaway entities — is a fascinating and distinct world unto itself. 

The book provides both historical background and an insightful analysis of the period after 1991 and sheds light on how the region has been scarred by the tumultuous scramble for independence.

It delivers a vibrantly written and timely account of this turbulent region, according to a review on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: Horizon Work

What We Are Reading Today: Horizon Work
Updated 27 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Horizon Work

What We Are Reading Today: Horizon Work

Author: Adriana Petryna 

As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, Earth’s fragile ecosystems are growing increasingly unstable and unpredictable.

“Horizon Work” explores how climate change is disrupting our fundamental ability to project how the environment will act over time, and how these rapidly faltering predictions are colliding with the dangerous new realities of emergency response.

Anthropologist Adriana Petryna examines the climate crisis through the lens of “horizoning,” a mode of reckoning that considers unnatural disasters against a horizon of expectation in which people and societies can act. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Soviet Century

What We Are Reading Today: The Soviet Century
Updated 26 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: The Soviet Century

What We Are Reading Today: The Soviet Century

Author: Karl Schlogel

The Soviet Union is gone, but its ghostly traces remain, not least in the material vestiges left behind in its turbulent wake. What was it really like to live in the USSR? What did it look, feel, smell, and sound like?

In “The Soviet Century,” Karl Schlögel, one of the world’s leading historians of the Soviet Union, presents a spellbinding epic that brings to life the everyday world of a unique lost civilization.


Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler
Updated 26 February 2024
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Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

LONDON: Almost two decades after “Mario vs. Donkey Kong” originally landed on the Gameboy Advance, comes a more polished – but almost full priced – remake of the action/puzzle title for the Nintendo Switch.

Widely considered a classic at the time, much has changed in those two decades but for the enmity between Nintendo’s superstar Mario and Donkey Kong. In this instance, Donkey Kong has stolen a bunch of suitable cute “Mini-Mario toys” and has done a runner leaving our erstwhile plumber hero to save the day by setting them free.

To do this, Mario, along with the usual assortment of allies from his gaming universe, must conquer 130 levels of puzzle fun across a variety of worlds. These range from dark volcanic arenas, spooky haunted houses, slippery ice lands, dangerous jungles and more, all presented in the polished colorful graphics you’d expect from a Nintendo platform.

The game advertises itself as suitable for gamers aged three and above but has a choice of “casual” or “classic” style to guide you into a choice of difficulty.

“Observe and act,” advises the game’s marketing team as each puzzle challenges you to think about which switches to hit at the right time to be successful. A generous timer counts down in the top right corner, but it doesn’t feel like there is a huge amount of pressure on you to rush through the arenas. Indeed, when you add in the languid jazzy background music, you get a sense of the game trying to operate at a more relaxed pace than other Mario titles. A nice feature of moving throughout the game is Mario’s gymnastic skills; backflips and walking on his hands to avoid falling hazards from above.

In addition to finding mini-Marios, the game has another nice feature whereby you have to shepherd a gaggle of the tiny red and blue fellows around hazards to get to their toybox. This brings back memories of the famous Lemmings game although far more bite-sized in nature.

Where the game is significantly different from the original is the addition of a two-player local co-op mode. This has been done with considerably thought encouraging genuine challenge for a pair of gamers as opposed to offering the same puzzles with double the human capacity to overcome them.

The format of the game is strong and offers the warm blanket familiarity of iconic characters along with their familiar phrases. There is plenty of quality family fun to be had here, although the cost of the game feels somewhat steep for what is largely a remake rather than a genuinely original.


What We Are Reading Today: Try to Love the Questions

What We Are Reading Today: Try to Love the Questions
Updated 25 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Try to Love the Questions

What We Are Reading Today: Try to Love the Questions

Author: Lara Schwartz 

“Try to Love the Questions” gives college students a framework for understanding and practicing dialogue across difference in and out of the classroom.

This invaluable guide explores the challenges facing students as they prepare to listen, speak, and learn in a college community and encourages students and faculty alike to consider inclusive, respectful communication as a skill—not as a limitation on freedom.

Among the most common challenges on college campuses today is figuring out how to navigate our politically charged culture and engage productively with opposing viewpoints.


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.