What We Are Reading Today: Numbers Rule by George Szpiro

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Updated 06 November 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Numbers Rule by George Szpiro

  • The book explains how mathematical paradoxes and enigmas can crop up in virtually any voting arena

Since the very birth of democracy in ancient Greece, the simple act of voting has given rise to mathematical paradoxes that have puzzled some of the greatest philosophers, statesmen, and mathematicians. Numbers Rule traces the epic quest by these thinkers to create a more perfect democracy and adapt to the ever-changing demands that each new generation places on our democratic institutions.

In a sweeping narrative that combines history, biography, and mathematics, George Szpiro details the fascinating lives and big ideas of great minds such as Plato, Pliny the Younger, Ramon Llull, Pierre Simon Laplace, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John von Neumann, and Kenneth Arrow, among many others. 

Each chapter in this riveting book tells the story of one or more of these visionaries and the problem they sought to overcome, like the Marquis de Condorcet, the 18th-century French nobleman who demonstrated that a majority vote in an election might not necessarily result in a clear winner. 

Szpiro takes readers from ancient Greece and Rome to medieval Europe, from the founding of the American republic and the French Revolution to today’s high-stakes elective politics. 

He explains how mathematical paradoxes and enigmas can crop up in virtually any voting arena, from electing a class president, a pope, or prime minister to the apportionment of seats in Congress.

Numbers Rule describes the trials and triumphs of the thinkers down through the ages who have dared the odds in pursuit of a just and equitable democracy.


What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment

Updated 01 October 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment

Edited by Emily Huddart Kennedy

When we picture the ideal environmentalist, we likely have in mind someone who dedicates herself to reducing her own environmental footprint through individual choices about consumption—driving a fuel-efficient car, for example, or eating less meat, or refusing plastic straws.

This is a benchmark that many aspire to—and many others reject. In Eco-Types, Emily Huddart Kennedy shows that there is more than one way to care about the environment, outlining a spectrum of eco-social relationships that range from engagement to indifference.

Kennedy argues that when liberals feel they have a moral monopoly on environmental issues, polarization results. If we are serious about protecting the planet, we must acknowledge that we don’t all need to care about the environment in the same way.

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What We Are Reading: Status & Culture by W. David Marx

Updated 16 September 2022

What We Are Reading: Status & Culture by W. David Marx

The book from W. David Marx lays out how individuals in pursuit of status trigger the cultural mechanisms behind taste, identity, fashion, art, class, subcultures, and the current state of internet culture.

Marx is a long-time writer on culture based in Tokyo. he is also the author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style.

If Ametora was a specific case study of “how culture happens” and how trends form, this new book is a deep look into the universal principles of cultural change — all with status as the motor.


What We Are Reading Today: Land of Wondrous Cold by Gillen D’arcy Wood

Updated 15 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Land of Wondrous Cold by Gillen D’arcy Wood

Antarctica, the ice kingdom hosting the South Pole, looms large in the human imagination. The secrets of this vast frozen desert have long tempted explorers, but its brutal climate and glacial shores notoriously resist human intrusion.

Land of Wondrous Cold tells a gripping story of the pioneering nineteenth-century voyages, when British, French, and American commanders raced to penetrate Antarctica’s glacial rim for unknown lands beyond.


What We Are Reading Today: Always Faithful

Updated 13 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Always Faithful

Authors: Thomas Schueman and Zainullah Zaki

In Always Faithful, Thomas Schueman and Zainullah Zaki tell the full story of the divergent paths that led them to Afghanistan, the dangerous road they walked together in service to America, and how their commitment to each other ended up saving them both. 

Always Faithful tracks the parallel lives of these two men who each spent their childhoods in fear, peril, and poverty, and turned to war in attempt to build a meaningful future. 

Through their eyes and their experiences, they challenge readers to explore the legacy of the war for American and Afghan citizens alike, as we all collectively seek to understand whether twenty years of war was worth the price.

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What We Are Reading Today:  Play Nice But Win by Michael Dell and Jams Kaplan

Updated 04 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today:  Play Nice But Win by Michael Dell and Jams Kaplan

This book is about the founder and chief executive of one of America’s largest technology companies, and the inside story of the battles that defined him as a leader.

In 1984, soon-to-be college dropout Michael Dell hid signs of his fledgling PC business in the bathroom of his University of Texas dorm room. 

Almost 30 years later, at the pinnacle of his success as founder and leader of Dell Technologies, he found himself embroiled in a battle for his company’s survival. What he’d do next could ensure its legacy — or destroy it completely.

The book is a riveting account of the three battles waged for Dell Technologies.