What We Are Reading Today: Widen the Window

Updated 13 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Widen the Window

  • Why an event that is stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another

Stress is our internal response to an experience that our brain perceives as threatening or challenging. Trauma is our response to an experience in which we feel powerless or lacking agency. Until now, researchers have treated these conditions as different, but they actually lie along a continuum. 

Dr. Elizabeth Stanley explains the significance of this continuum, how it affects our resilience in the face of challenge, and why an event that is stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another.

This groundbreaking book examines the cultural norms that impede resilience in America, especially our collective tendency to disconnect stress from its potentially extreme consequences and override our need to recover, according to a review published on goodreads.com.

It explains the science of how to direct our attention to perform under stress and recover from trauma.

With stories from men and women Dr. Stanley has trained in settings as varied as military bases, health care facilities, and Capitol Hill, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, she gives readers hands-on strategies they can use themselves.


What We Are Reading Today: Porcelain by Suzanne L. Marchand

Updated 02 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Porcelain by Suzanne L. Marchand

Porcelain was invented in medieval China—but its secret recipe was first reproduced in Europe by an alchemist in the employ of the Saxon king Augustus the Strong. Saxony’s revered Meissen factory could not keep porcelain’s ingredients secret for long, however, and scores of Holy Roman princes quickly founded their own mercantile manufactories, soon to be rivaled by private entrepreneurs, eager to make not art but profits. As porcelain’s uses multiplied and its price plummeted, it lost much of its identity as aristocratic ornament, instead taking on a vast number of banal, yet even more culturally significant, roles. By the 19th and 20th centuries, it became essential to bourgeois dining, and also acquired new functions in insulator tubes, shell casings, and teeth.

Weaving together the experiences of entrepreneurs and artisans, state bureaucrats and female consumers, chemists and peddlers, Porcelain traces the remarkable story of “white gold” from its origins as a princely luxury item to its fate in Germany’s cataclysmic 20th century. For 300 years, porcelain firms have come and gone, but the industry itself, at least until very recently, has endured. After Augustus, porcelain became a quintessentially German commodity, integral to provincial pride, artisanal industrial production, and a familial sense of home.

Telling the story of porcelain’s transformation from coveted luxury to household necessity and flea market staple, Porcelain offers a fascinating alternative history of art, business, taste, and consumption in Central Europe.