What We Are Reading Today: Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity

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Updated 02 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity

Author: Walter Scheidel

The fall of the Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest disasters in history. But in this groundbreaking book, Walter Scheidel argues that Rome’s dramatic collapse was actually the best thing that ever happened, clearing the path for Europe’s economic rise and the creation of the modern age.
Ranging across the entire premodern world, Escape from Rome offers new answers to some of the biggest questions in history: Why did the Roman Empire appear? Why did nothing like it ever return to Europe? And, above all, why did Europeans come to dominate the world? In an absorbing narrative that begins with ancient Rome but stretches far beyond it, from Byzantium to China and from Genghis Khan to Napoleon, Scheidel shows how the demise of Rome and the enduring failure of empire-building on European soil launched an economic transformation that changed the continent and ultimately the world.
Awards and recognition:
Finalist for the PROSE Award in Archaeology and Ancient History, Association of American Publishers.
One of the Evening Standard’s Best Books of 2019
One of the Financial Times’ Best Books of 2019: Economics

What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

Updated 09 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

A World on the Wing is a fascinating read, full of facts, maps and statistics about migratory birds and the effect that human-caused climate change is having on their various habitats around the world.
It’s a long book, but it’s packed with information and truly globe-trotting.
“Drawing on his own extensive fieldwork, in A World on the Wing Weidensaul unveils with dazzling prose the miracle of nature taking place over our heads,” said a review in goodreads.com.
Author Scott Weidensaul “tasks himself with communicating to both the knowing birder and the layman the epic scale of what’s happening in our skies every year, the whys and hows, while offering rays of hope through the gloomy storm clouds,” said Christian Cooper in a review for The New York Times.
“The success of A World on the Wing in navigating that challenge rivals the astonishing feats of the birds he chronicles,” said Cooper.
“A World on the Wing finds some of its most moving moments early on, when he charts the development of his own interest in birds.”

What We Are Reading Today: Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

Updated 08 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate.

Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family — Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner — whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the US. 

Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

What We Are Reading Today: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Updated 07 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. 

When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves.

Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone family, and the complicated reality of being a grown up.

What We Are Reading Today: She Said

Updated 06 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: She Said

Edited by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

From the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters who broke the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse for the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, reveal the thrilling untold story of their investigation and its consequences.

On Oct. 5, 2017, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — and then the world changed. 

Over the next twelve months, hundreds of men from every walk of life and industry would be outed for mistreating their colleagues. But did too much change — or not enough? Those questions plunged the two journalists into a new phase of reporting and some of their most startling findings yet.

With superlative detail, insight, and journalistic expertise, Kantor and Twohey take us for the first time into the very heart of this social shift, reliving in real-time what it took to get the story and giving an up-close portrait of the forces that hindered and spurred change. 

They describe the surprising journeys of those who spoke up and so changed us all.

What We Are Reading Today: The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen by Linda Colley

Updated 05 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen by Linda Colley

Over the last several years, citizens of the West have learned that they can no longer take democracy for granted, and the result has been an explosion of studies re-examining democracy’s foundations. 

Linda Colley’s new book, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen, is a helpful contribution to this growing field. 

An eminent historian of Britain, Colley focuses on one critical component of democracy — constitutions.Democracy, Colley points out, requires defining and demarcating the rules and principles of governing authority. 

“Although Colley’s discussion of precisely how warfare precipitated constitutional development is somewhat unsystematic, she does lay out some important connections between warfare and constitutional development,” Sheri Berman says in a review for The New York Times. 

The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen “stresses that constitution-makers in non-Western places did not merely copy existing constitutions but rather adapted them to their own region’s particular needs.” 

Colley both reappraises famous constitutions and recovers those that have been marginalized but were central to the rise of a modern world.