What We Are Reading Today: Unraveled by Maxine Bedat

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Updated 08 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Unraveled by Maxine Bedat

In Unraveled, Maxine Bedat chronicles the birth — and death — of a pair of jeans, and exposes the fractures in our global supply chains, and our relationships to each other, ourselves, and the planet.

Take a look at your favorite pair of jeans. Maybe the tag says Made in Bangladesh or Made in Sri Lanka. But do you know where they really came from, how many thousands of miles they crossed, or the number of hands who picked, spun, wove, dyed, packaged, shipped, and sold them to get to you? The fashion industry operates with radical opacity, and it’s only getting worse to disguise countless environmental and labor abuses. It epitomizes the ravages inherent in the global economy, and all in the name of ensuring that we keep buying more.

Told with piercing insight and unprecedented reporting, Unraveled challenges us to use our relationship with our jeans — and all that we wear — to reclaim our central role as citizens to refashion a society in which all people can thrive and preserve the planet for generations to come.

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

Updated 22 min 36 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

Author: Diana C. Mutz

Winners and Losers challenges conventional wisdom about how American citizens form opinions on international trade. While dominant explanations in economics emphasize personal self-interest— and whether individuals gain or lose financially as a result of trade — this book takes a psychological approach, demonstrating how people view the complex world of international trade through the lens of interpersonal relations.

Drawing on psychological theories of preference formation as well as original surveys and experiments, Diana Mutz finds that in contrast to the economic view of trade as cooperation for mutual benefit, many Americans view trade as a competition between the United States and other countries—a contest of us versus them. These people favor trade as long as they see Americans as the “winners” in these interactions, viewing trade as a way to establish dominance over foreign competitors. For others, trade is a means of maintaining more peaceful relations between countries. 

Just as individuals may exchange gifts to cement relationships, international trade is a tie that binds nations together in trust and cooperation.

Winners and Losers reveals how people’s orientations toward in-groups and out-groups play a central role in influencing how they think about trade with foreign countries, and shows how a better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of public opinion can lead to lasting economic and societal benefits.

What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter

Updated 27 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter

In Hoax, CNN anchor and chief media correspondent Brian Stelter tells the twisted story of the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News. From the moment Trump glided down the golden escalator to announce his candidacy in the 2016 presidential election to his acquittal on two articles of impeachment in early 2020, Fox hosts spread his lies and smeared his enemies. 

Stelter spoke with over 250 current and former Fox insiders in an effort to understand the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch’s multibillion-dollar media empire. 

At the center of the story lies Sean Hannity, a college dropout who, following the death of Fox News mastermind Roger Ailes, reigns supreme at the network that pays him $30 million a year. 

Including never before reported details, Hoax exposes the media personalities who, though morally bankrupt, profit outrageously by promoting the President’s propaganda and radicalizing the American right. It is a book for anyone who reads the news and wonders: How did this happen?

What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur

Updated 26 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur

Better to Have Gone is a nonfiction book about the human cost of our age-old quest for a more perfect world.

Author Akash Kapur was very articulate, and it was clear that he spent a great deal of time researching this book. 

He also has a number of photographs in this book about a village in India called Auroville as well which were a real delight. 

“This is a haunting, heartbreaking story, deeply researched and lucidly told, with an almost painful emotional honesty — the use of present tense weaving a kind of trance,” Amy Waldman said in a review for The New York Times. 

Better to Have Gone “ends with an unexpected lightness, even transcendence, as Kapur helps us see what Auroville has given him, gives him still, despite the pain,”  Waldman said.

“In his descriptions of its landscape, made so lush by those early pioneers, as well as of the sphere at its heart, he conveys the internal concord and harmony, the peace, that he finds there.”

Waldman is the author of two novels: A Door in the Earth and The Submission.

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

Updated 25 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

Bringing together reception history, music analysis and criticism, the history of music theory, and the philosophy of music, Beethoven Hero explores the nature and persistence of Beethoven’s heroic style. What have we come to value in this music, asks Scott Burnham, and why do generations of critics and analysts hear it in much the same way?

 Specifically, what is it that fosters the intensity of listener engagement with the heroic style, the often overwhelming sense of identification with its musical process?

Starting with the story of heroic quest heard time and again in the first movement of the Eroica Symphony, Burnham suggests that Beethoven’s music matters profoundly to its listeners because it projects an empowering sense of self, destiny, and freedom, while modeling ironic self consciousness.

In addition to thus identifying Beethoven’s music as an overarching expression of values central to the age of Goethe and Hegel, the author describes and then critiques the process by which the musical values of the heroic style quickly became the controlling model of compositional logic in Western music criticism and analysis.


What We Are Reading Today: Making Peace with the 60s by David Burner

Updated 16 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Making Peace with the 60s by David Burner

David Burner’s panoramic history of the 1960s conveys the ferocity of debate and the testing of visionary hopes that still require us to make sense of the decade. He begins with the civil rights and black power movements and then turns to nuanced descriptions of Kennedy and the Cold War, the counterculture and its antecedents in the Beat Generation, the student rebellion, the poverty wars, and the liberals’ war in Vietnam.

As he considers each topic, Burner advances a provocative argument about how liberalism self-destructed in the 1960s. In his view, the civil rights movement took a wrong turn as it gradually came to emphasize the identity politics of race and ethnicity at the expense of the vastly more important politics of class and distribution of wealth.

The expansion of the Vietnam War did force radicals to confront the most terrible mistake of American liberalism, but that they also turned against the social goals of the New Deal was destructive to all concerned.

Liberals seemed to rule in politics and in the media, Burner points out, yet they failed to make adequate use of their power to advance the purposes that both liberalism and the left endorsed.