What We Are Reading Today: Credit Nation

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Updated 05 February 2021
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What We Are Reading Today: Credit Nation

Even before the US became a country, laws prioritizing access to credit set colonial America apart from the rest of the world.

Credit Nation examines how the drive to expand credit shaped property laws and legal institutions in the colonial and founding eras of the republic, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Claire Priest describes how the British Parliament departed from the customary ways that English law protected land and inheritance, enacting laws for the colonies that privileged creditors by defining land and slaves as commodities available to satisfy debts.

Colonial governments, in turn, created local legal institutions that enabled people to further leverage their assets to obtain credit.

Priest shows how loans backed with slaves as property fueled slavery from the colonial era through the Civil War, and that increased access to credit was key to the explosive growth of capitalism in nineteenth-century America.

Credit Nation presents a new vision of American economic history, one where credit markets and liquidity were prioritized from the outset and where property rights and slaves became commodities for creditors’ claims.


What We Are Reading Today: Grief Is for People

Updated 29 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Grief Is for People

Author: Sloane Crosley

In her new memoir, “Grief Is for People,” Sloane Crosley works through the death of a beloved friend and mentor.

“Grief Is for People” is Crosley’s eighth book (counting the novel she co-wrote under a pen name and the anthology she edited) and her first memoir.

It is a deeply moving and surprisingly suspenseful portrait of friendship and a book about loss packed with verve for life. 

Crosley is one of our most renowned observers of contemporary behavior, and now the pathos that has been ever present in her trademark wit is on full display. 

After the pain and confusion of losing her closest friend to suicide, Crosley looks for answers in friends, philosophy, and art, hoping for a framework more valuable than the unavoidable stages of grief.

“The book looks at several forms of loss and the grief we experience,” said a review on Goodreads.com.

A two-time finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, Crosley’s work has been selected for numerous anthologies.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka

Updated 29 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka’s novella “The Metamorphosis,” published in 1915, tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a salesman who wakes up one day and discovers that he has transformed into an insect.
His mother and sister are repulsed by his new form, while his father becomes hostile and abusive. Gregor is confined to his room, becoming increasingly isolated from the outside world.
As the days pass, Gregor’s family struggles to adjust to their new circumstances. They take on jobs to make ends meet because Gregor was the sole breadwinner before his transformation. Their lives become consumed by the practicalities of survival, and they begin to view Gregor as little more than a burden.
Kafka explores the absurdity and futility of human existence. Gregor’s transformation is used as a metaphor for the isolation and insignificance that many individuals experience in their lives.
The book also delves into the complexities of family relationships. Gregor’s family initially relies on him for support, but his transformation exposes their own weaknesses and flaws. The novella highlights the strain familial obligations can place on individuals and the potential for resentment and abandonment.
Similar to the majority of Kafka’s writings, “The Metamorphosis” can be read in a single sitting.
Kafka’s writing is renowned for its combination of realism and surrealism, lending his stories a distinct and captivating quality.
The novella, widely considered a literary masterpiece, leaves readers with many unanswered questions.
Kafka’s intentionally ambiguous conclusion leaves room for interpretation and reflection on the themes explored throughout the narrative.
Kafka is known for several other notable works including “The Trial,” “The Castle,” and “The Judgement.”


What We Are Reading Today: To Build a Black Future

Updated 28 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: To Build a Black Future

Author: Christopher Paul Harris

When #BlackLivesMatter emerged in 2013, it animated the most consequential Black-led mobilization since the civil rights and Black power era.

Today, the hashtag turned rallying cry is but one expression of a radical reorientation toward Black politics, protest, and political thought.

“To Build a Black Future” examines the spirit and significance of this insurgency, offering a revelatory account of a new political culture—responsive to pain, suffused with joy, and premised on care—emerging from the centuries-long arc of Black rebellion, a tradition that traces back to the Black slave.


What We Are Reading Today: Horizon Work

Updated 27 February 2024
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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

Updated 26 February 2024
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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.