What We Are Reading Today: Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch by Svetlana Alpers

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Updated 30 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch by Svetlana Alpers

Walker Evans (1903–75) was a great American artist photographing people and places in the US in unforgettable ways. He is known for his work for the Farm Security Administration, addressing the Great Depression, but what he actually saw was the diversity of people and the damage of the long Civil War.
In Walker Evans, renowned art historian Svetlana Alpers explores how Evans made his distinctive photographs. Delving into a lavish selection of Evans’s work, Alpers uncovers rich parallels between his creative approach and those of numerous literary and cultural figures, locating Evans within the wide context of a truly international circle.
Alpers demonstrates that Evans’s practice relied on his camera choices and willingness to edit multiple versions of a shot, as well as his keen eye and his distant straight-on view of visual objects. Illustrating the vital role of Evans’s dual love of text and images, Alpers places his writings in conversation with his photographs. She brings his techniques into dialogue with the work of a global cast of important artists—from Flaubert and Baudelaire to Elizabeth Bishop and William Faulkner—underscoring how Evans’s travels abroad in such places as France and Cuba.


What We Are Reading Today: Firefighting; The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons

Updated 27 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Firefighting; The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons

Edited by Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson Jr.

From the three primary architects of the American policy response to the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, a magnificent big-picture synthesis — from why it happened to where we are now, according to a review on goodreads.com.

In 2018, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and Hank Paulson came together to reflect on the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis ten years on. Recognizing that, as Ben put it, “the enemy is forgetting,” they examine the causes of the crisis, why it was so damaging, and what it ultimately took to prevent a second Great Depression. And they provide to their successors in the United States and the finance ministers and central bank governors of other countries a valuable playbook for reducing the damage from future financial crises.

Firefighting provides a candid and powerful account of the choices they and their teams made during the crisis, working under two presidents and with the leaders of Congress.


What We Are Reading Today: Keeping At It

Updated 25 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Keeping At It

Edited by Paul A. Volcker and Christine Harper

The extraordinary life story of the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose absolute integrity provides the inspiration we need.

As chairman of the Federal Reserve (1979-1987), Paul Volcker slayed the inflation dragon that was consuming the American economy and restored the world’s faith in central bankers. That extraordinary feat was just one pivotal episode in a decades-long career serving six presidents, says a review on goodreads.com.

Told with wit, humor, and down-to-earth erudition, the narrative of Volcker’s career illuminates the changes that have taken place in American life, government, and the economy since WWII. He vibrantly illustrates the crises he managed alongside the world’s leading politicians, central bankers, and financiers. Yet he first found his model for competent and ethical governance in his father, the town manager of Teaneck, NJ, who instilled Volcker’s dedication to absolute integrity and his “three verities” of stable prices, sound finance, and good government.


What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization

Updated 24 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization

Authors: Deanna Marcum and Roger C. Schonfeld

Libraries have long talked about providing comprehensive access to information for everyone. But when Google announced in 2004 that it planned to digitize books to make the world’s knowledge accessible to all, questions were raised about the roles and responsibilities of libraries, the rights of authors and publishers, and whether a powerful corporation should be the conveyor of such a fundamental public good. Along Came Google traces the history of Google’s book digitization project and its implications for us today.
Deanna Marcum and Roger Schonfeld draw on in-depth interviews with those who both embraced and resisted Google’s plans, from librarians and technologists to university leaders, tech executives, and the heads of leading publishing houses. They look at earlier digital initiatives to provide open access to knowledge,
and describe how Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page made the case for a universal digital library and drew on their company’s considerable financial resources to make it a reality.


What We Are Reading Today: Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record

Updated 23 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record

Author: Errol Fuller

A photograph of an extinct animal evokes a greater feeling of loss than any painting ever could. Often black and white or tinted sepia, these remarkable images have been taken mainly in zoos or wildlife parks, and in some cases depict the last known individual of the species.
Lost Animals is a unique photographic record of extinction, presented by a world authority on vanished animals. Richly illustrated throughout, this handsome book features photographs dating from around 1870 to as recently as 2004, the year that witnessed the demise of the Hawaiian Po’ouli. From a mother Thylacine and her pups to birds such as the Heath Hen and the Carolina Parakeet, Errol Fuller tells the story of each animal, explains why it became extinct, and discusses the circumstances surrounding the photography.
Covering 28 extinct species, Lost Animals includes familiar examples like the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, and one of the last Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, photographed as it peers quizzically at the hat of one of the biologists who has just ringed it.


What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre

Updated 22 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: All the News That’s Fit to Click by Caitlin Petre

Journalists today are inundated with data about which stories attract the most clicks, likes, comments, and shares. These metrics influence what stories are written, how news is promoted, and even which journalists get hired and fired. Do metrics make journalists more accountable to the public? Or are these data tools the contemporary equivalent of a stopwatch wielded by a factory boss, worsening newsroom working conditions and journalism quality? In All the News That’s Fit to Click, Caitlin Petre takes readers behind the scenes at the New York Times, Gawker, and the prominent news analytics company Chartbeat to explore how performance metrics are transforming the work of journalism.

Petre describes how digital metrics are a powerful but insidious new form of managerial surveillance and discipline. Real-time analytics tools are designed to win the trust and loyalty of wary journalists by mimicking key features of addictive games, including immersive displays, instant feedback.